The five stages

They’re at it again. We were assured by the unwavering flyers of the red white and blue that the London Olympics and all its oozy woozy better togetherness was going to kill off any hope of independence. Then it was the result of the independence referendum in 2014. Then it was the oil price crash that was going to do the trick. Then it was Ruth Davidson’s election as leader of the Conservatives’ Scottish branch office. Then it was Brexit. Then it was the SNP’s loss of seats in the 2017 Westminster General Election. And now it’s the coronavirus epidemic that’s going to provide the coup de grace on Scotland’s hopes for independence.

In the fond hopes of British nationalists in Scotland, there’s always going to be some external event that will come along and destroy the independence movement without the British state having to change anything about itself. It’s a hope that’s founded in a delusion, the delusion that the desire for independence in Scotland has nothing to drive it except some mythical hatred of all things English, or the equally mythical chip on the stereotypical Scottish shoulder, or that it is entirely a product of Thatessempee.

Yet independence does have a driver, and that driver is the way in which the British state is incapable of being simultaneously the union that it tells Scots that it is, and the unitary state which it behaves as. You cannot be two opposite and contradictory things at once, not even if you believe yourself to be the almighty and uniquely exceptional British state. It’s the tension between those two opposites, between claiming to be a union of nations yet acting as a unitary state and claiming to be one nation, which is what is really driving the desire for independence in Scotland. That is why the only possible way in which the British state will be able to destroy the drive for independence as a serious political force would be by making fundamental root and branch changes to the very structure of the British state itself. It shows not the slightest inclination to do so, and so its supporters are constantly turning to the political equivalent of winning the lottery in order to save them from themselves. They are left forever dreaming of some external event that will radically alter their fortunes for the better without them having to do any of the heavy lifting themselves.

The latest incarnations of British nationalist hopes of winning the political lottery come from Chris Deerin in the New Statesman and John Lloyd in The Times. Well I say the latest, the pair of them have been trotting out the same tired old British exceptionalism for years now. Both of them claim that the coronavirus epidemic has destroyed the previous arguments for independence. Chris wants us to know that it has made the Great British Family of Nations come together as one in joyful harmony all singing Kumbaya and so Thatessempee will have to come up with an entirely new set of arguments for “separatism”.

So for example we’re being told that the government bailouts which this crisis demands “prove” that we need the British government. But the British government is not giving us anything. It’s using the central bank to create money out of nothing, and its borrowing on the international markets. These are both things that an independent Scotland would be able to do. The British state is borrowing money which it’s going to spend in ways which are not necessarily the best for Scotland, then it’s going to lumber us with increased debt repayments and tell us that we’ve got too big a decifit to become independent. We’ve seen this trick before.

However the real problem with the happy family analysis is that it assumes that the British government is going to come out of the other side of this crisis as the beneficiary of public gratefulness for saving us from the virus. That’s an unwarranted assumption since it sadly looks as though the UK is on track to become one of the worst affected states in Europe, with a higher death toll than neighbouring countries despite the UK having a head start in making preparations for the coming catastrophe. A head start which the British government squandered. After we get through the current crisis, there will be a demand for explanations. The British government is not going to come out of that process well.

The way in which this British government has handled this crisis has gone through five approximate stages. Stage 1. Boris Johnson decided that his real priority was to spend time sorting out his complex personal life. We got “Crisis? What crisis?” Even as scientists and doctors warned that an epidemic was on the horizon. Stage 2. We got taking it on the chin and the British state would uniquely stand tall as the only place in Europe that would remain open for business during the crisis. So we got herd immunity and Boris Johnson making speeches comparing the UK to Superman. Stage 3. There was an “oh shit” moment as the government realised that its strategy meant that there could be as many as 250,000 deaths and that it was woefully unprepared. Then we had stage 4, when the British government desperately tried to play catch up. Nothing to see here. We’re following scientific advice and everything is in hand. Vera Lynn. Dunkirk spirit. And now we’re in stage 5. The latest phase of the British Government’s mishandling entails finding someone, anyone, else to blame for the fact that the UK is one of the worst affected places in Europe and where the NHS is struggling. It’s all the fault of the scientists. It’s WHO’s fault. It’s the fault of NHS management. Mostly it will be the fault of some working class people, and not government ministers. Never government ministers. This is not a recipe for a grateful Scottish nation deciding that it’s better off with Westminster.

For Scotland, being subordinate to Westminster has meant that we were forced to remain tightly aligned to the British government’s handling of this crisis. The result has been that Scotland has already suffered a higher death rate than other northern European nations of a comparable size. The price of union has been paid in human lives. Scotland did attempt to deal differently with the crisis within the constraints of the devolution settlement, yet even those limited and partial attempts to do things differently were subjected to a torrent of criticism and threats from the British government and its cheerleaders in the British media.

None of this is a convincing argument for the so-called union. Indeed, it’s a powerful and compelling argument for independence. If we had been able to deal with this crisis without having to contend with British exceptionalism or the UK government’s disastrous herd immunity policy and its failure to test and trace, and even now its failure to test travellers arriving from abroad, we could have done a whole lot better. And that means that some of those people who have so tragically passed away might still be alive today.

Right now there is a willingness on the part of the independence movement to put campaigning to one side to focus on the issue at hand. British nationalists confuse that with capitulation at their peril.

And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…

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18 thoughts on “The five stages

  1. There’s also that invisible stage, well not to us independent folks, of delusion. Pure unadulterated delusion.

    Oh, and ‘pass the buckerism’. Now that is a doosy!

  2. Just watched Nicola Sturgeon give answers to questions being
    Put to her in Holyrood.and giving honest and transparent answers
    to the questions but that is not good enough.not good
    Enough for Carlaw.leonard Rennie or harvey.these disgusting items.
    Everything has to be SNPBAAAAD.these Individuals should
    Hold their heads in shame.Scotland handling the situation better
    Than.England.Wales.or N credit whatever from this lot.
    SNPBAAAAD.all the anyone can vote Tory.Labour.or libdem.
    In Scotland is beyond me.a shower of nasty disgusting.Britnat unionists.
    Lets get rid of this lot.independence.the quicker the better.

  3. The SNP need to remove the gloves , These Unionist party’s , all English based don’t give a monkeys about death and the real crisis going on out there , They are going all out to cripple the SNP , who gives a f/k about the total shambles the English Tory government are handing this when there is a slight chance of scoring a hit , they should be treated as a subversive hostile aggressive enemy . The SNP need to treat them that way , no cooperation just basic facts .

    • Robert.just watching channel 4 news just now.showing you the disaster
      That England is with the Coronavirus.but no. up here it is. matter what it are correct Robert that shower are
      Not interested in what the virus is is just keep kicking the SNPBAAAAD.
      That lots day will come.and the sooner the better.lets get out of this
      Discredited union now.

  4. One of the effects of this crisis will surely be the loss of faith in so-called experts standing beside UK ministers who have revealed themselves to be as compromised as the politicians.

    In particular, one Dr Jennie Harries who was supportive of the government’s laissez faire attitude when the crisis was beginning to bite. She memorably stated that there was no harm in holding the Cheltenham festival since there was little chance of transmission outside. Photographs of people packed close together at that event as well as enjoying the indoor catering at such an event should horrify anyone lay or professional. How accommodating to the virus to have crowds of human hosts standing close enough to share space with so many others.

    She also dismissed the WHO’s advice as only applying to poor countries without proper health services unlike our exceptional situation where we could simply ignore that advice. Germany meanwhile, certainly not poor or lacking in sophisticated health delivery, had health experts who did follow WHO advice as well as using the experience of other countries in fighting the virus. It isn’t just slippery politicians who believe in British exceptionalism. But medical experts ignoring what other countries have to teach? It is irresponsible. These people are beyond belief.

  5. Which is even worse is that the media, with the notable exception of The Sunday Times this weekend past, hasn’t challenged that shambles of a London Government at any step of its “progression”. Whereas the Scottish branch of the selfsame media is constantly moaning at the FM because she has done her level best to make all the relevant stats available instead of being in denial that any of it is happening. Apparently she is like Santa, and has to personally deliver everything to everybody. Right away.

    Question time at the daily briefing has become like voting in the Eurovision Song Contest, just an amusing interval to discover who is revealing their prejudices more. Border TV, for example, no matter the questioner, never fails to mention Alister “Union” Jack. (Who is apparently something to do with the London Government, but it’s anybody’s guess what. I think its something to do with disappearing Scotland, but he only seems to have succeeded with himself.)

  6. The comparison between the cool , competent handling by Nicola Sturgeon of her daily ‘interrogations’ by the ”Scottish ”MSM is in sharp contrast to the shifty , often dissembling answers given by the UK ministers to woefully tame questioning by the UK MSM .

    I suspect that many UK citizens furth of Scotland who see her undeniable openness and frankness in dealing with this pandemic will be frankly horrified at what the UK Government has to offer with third-raters like Rabb , Patel and Hancock ( the less said about Gove the more chance that our food will remain in our stomachs ).

  7. “… it has made the Great British Family of Nations come together as one in joyful harmony all singing Kumbaya and so Thatessempee will have to come up with an entirely new set of arguments for ‘separatism’.”

    I posted this BTL here a couple of days ago but worth repeating: I think examples of this kind are worth having to hand when the ‘family of nations’ stuff comes up.


    Amongst several examples of co-operation across nation-state boundaries, it is reported that Brigitte Klinkert, head of the local government of the Haut-Rhin administrative district in France asked for help in responding to the pandemic from local politicians in Germany and Switzerland. Following their positive response she said this (it’s a good quote!):

    “”Of course we work very closely together and are great friends with many connections, but this was an incredible demonstration of cross-border cooperation — of European solidarity. In more normal times, our regions are completely interconnected. It’s really emotional for us to see this chain of solidarity with Germany, Switzerland and the rest of France.”

    Co-operation and solidarity between communities across independent nation-state borders? Surely this cannot be true!

  8. Nicola Sturgeon by not engaging in politics is winning the political argument and winning it by a mile
    No matter how hard, no matter how provocative, no matter how overt in their questioning the so called journalists are to the FM she resists playing their political shenanigan games, so much so they’re forced to misquote her to invent news which she slaps down almost instantly with the most polite accuracy

    It’s no wonder the UK establishment fear her and no wonder the haters in Scotland are hating her even more, she is meticulous in her work ethic and she knows her brief inside out, because the simple fact is she’s a grafter

    Independence has not gone away it’s just in the other folder with notes being placed in it every day as this experience continues, to be brought up and used later

    With due respect to Alex Salmond he could not have handled such as this as well as Nicola Sturgeon, she has shown herself to be studious reserved caring and powerful at the same time, and her team selection has been first class as is evident from the respect each of them is showing her

    Going forward Nicola Sturgeon is set to be the kind of force for reality in political leaders such as any country rarely sees

  9. Thanks for that WGD. Enjoyed the Family Lockdown Boogie too.
    Regards the oft mentioned “Dunkirk Spirit “. I must be one of thousands for whom this phrase means sod the Jocks. My mum’s dad was one of the many thousands of Scottish soldiers left behind in France at the insistence of Churchill to save his English. Thousands of these Scots died and my Papa was one of thousands more Scottish soldiers captured and imprisoned for years in a Stalag camp .
    So please be reminded that Dunkirk Spirit it a euphemism for England’s willingness to kill Scottish people if it suits their aims. It sounds extreme, but it is what we are and always have dealt with.

  10. John my dad fought in Burma.used to say words like the forgotten army.
    Witnessed men taking their own lives.what these soldiers went through
    No one knows.what my dad did say to me.and has always stuck in my
    Mind.was that very many people over the years praise Churchill.and Montgomery.
    My dad said that.that pair should have stood they sent thousands.
    Of men to their death.with a snap of their fingers during the they
    Are no heroes as far as I am concerned.

  11. Pingback: The five stages | sideshowtog

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