Those Scottish Elections, and What Happens Now

Well, there is no denying an overwhelming SNP victory, with an increased vote, increased seats, increased percentage and double the support of the next largest party. Together with the Greens there is a substantial pro-Independence majority in the Parliament, so that matter is settled. Personally I would welcome an SNP/Green coalition with a guaranteed pro-Independence majority of at least fourteen (depending on who is presiding officer). It would remove the Tory jibe that there is not a majority government. But I suspect the SNP will prefer to go it alone again.

The dominant question is Indyref2. It remains my fear that Nicola does not want to actually move for Independence, and will merely continue to make pretend moves in that direction. In the campaign she continually hedged around with not just after Covid, but after the effects of covid, and then the final resort piece of hedging that a referendum must be “legal”.

Let me spell out my fears. I do not claim I am right, because it is impossible for me to know either Sturgeon’s mind, or the future. But it is my best prognostication based on my own assessment of the public indications, and information from sources including several SNP MPs and MSPs.

I expect no serious steps towards Indyref2 to be taken before 2023, on the excuse of Covid, except possibly some more meaningless “enabling” legislation with no dates, to keep the troops believing.

In 2023 I expect Sturgeon to ask Johnson for a S30 in the full knowledge he will refuse, and I expect an answer to be stalled until 2024. I expect that then Sturgeon will be happy to see the matter go to the courts, at the behest of one side or the other. Sturgeon knows very well that the UK Supreme Court will state that the Westminster parliament is ultimately sovereign, because within the UK it is sovereign. That is why we need to leave this union.

It is very probable that Johnson will amend the Scotland Act specifically to preclude a referendum without Westminster permission. By then we will be at the next Scottish parliamentary elections, and Sturgeon will stand in 2025 or 6 on the basis that a referendum must be legal, we must ask Johnson for a S30, and for him to refuse would be a “democratic outrage”. Which game can go on forever, with no real intention of achieving Independence.

I realise that there are many very good, decent people within the SNP who believe that I am wrong, and that Sturgeon has a genuine commitment to Independence, and has some kind of secret plan which is much more radical than I have outlined.

Well, we shall see who is right.

The worrying thing is that I have been saying this since 2016 and would think five years of inaction have proven me right already. I have a horrible feeling that if we arrive in 2026 after five more years of inaction, Nicola’s followers will still believe her. I see a continuing role for Alba for those who are actually serious about Independence, despite its frankly disastrous electoral debut (the causes of which were largely not Alba’s fault, but that is for another day).

Nicola and the SNP have of course it firmly in their power to prove me horribly wrong. They can prove me a complete fool by using this mandate to take bold and genuine steps and achieving Independence. In which case, not only shall I acknowledge I was a complete fool, I shall be delighted to do so.

I think this is a good time to utilise again one of the few decent things from the Guardian, its daily Covid graphs.

I have broadly supported lockdowns, aside the odd specific illogicality, and strongly advocate vaccination. But the facts are unanswerable – despite some people’s addiction to fear, they have to face it is just about over. Despite politicians’ addiction to the heady combination of increased personal exposure and popularity, plus increased control over the population, it is just about over. Vaccines have licked it in the UK. The risk of death to a non-geriatric healthy person is now as close to zero as makes no difference.

Oxgangs library has been turned into a Covid Testing Centre. I sat on a wall this morning and observed for half an hour as nobody went in and nobody came out, and the young man on the door tried to find ways to relieve his boredom. The time will shortly be with us when the public appetite will fade for daily briefings that say six people feel slightly unwell in Elgin.

England and Wales have enjoyed seven consecutive weeks of negative excess deaths (I can never find the Scottish figures on this). That means this spring is very possibly the least dangerous period you have ever lived through, in terms of the chance of you dying.

As the vaccine programme goes ahead, it gets ever safer. At some stage, the public are going to notice. We have had attempts to boost the fear factor by successive claims that the South African or Indian or Brazilian strain had arrived in Britain and was massively more deadly, massively more transmissible, evaded the vaccine, killed more young people. All of these arrived in the UK and none of the claimed disasters happened.

Of course, there could one day really be that super deadly variant. Equally, there could be an entirely new pandemic disease. But we cannot live our lives locked and cowering against these eventualities. For now, we should come out – vaccinated – into the sunlight again. The emphasis should be on border control and firmly restricting international travel until the rest of the world catches up. It should also be on overseas aid to help the rest of the world catch up. Biden has shamed our Tory government by his support for voiding patents on Covid vaccines, but the Tories have always seen the pandemic as personal profit opportunity.

But meantime, the strongest temporary border controls. As long term readers know, I am very strongly opposed to mass air travel anyway, only made possible because of disgraceful international complicity in not taxing fossil fuel for aircraft. Nobody actually needs a £30 ticket to Ibiza.

There is another issue where I doubt that Sturgeon genuinely believes what she says, or intends to act speedily, and that is trans rights. Here she will be under enormous pressure to deliver GRA reform very quickly, and that from her closest allies.

This is going to be interesting. Trans rights have been a very useful wedge issue for Nicola and extremely effective against her most dangerous internal rival, Joanna Cherry. Broadly similar issues, like gay marriage and abortion, were intensely controversial until carried into law, and then the matter was effectively settled as a matter of public debate. I expect trans rights might be similar and that Nicola has no real interest in settling the matter because she does not want the controversy to die down.

Personally I am extremely frustrated at the extraordinary alignment between

Never-never Independence supporters and trans rights,

versus

Independence Now supporters and trans exclusion

There seems no logical connection between the two, yet these strange alliances have become the most important dominant fact in the politics of Scottish Independence. My own opinion – which upset huge numbers of staunch Independence Now people on twitter – is that Alba’s strong identification with excluding trans women is one reason for its electoral failure.

Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist has become a pejorative term, but it seems to me a precise intellectual description of where an especially vocal section of Alba support was coming from, and voters found it rather weird and bitter.

I was considering founding a party which supports trans people, but at the same time wants Scotland to achieve Independence irrespective of any legal or political efforts at veto from London. But I fear there would only be me in it.

So the trans wedge issue has become so important to Nicola politically, I suspect she has no real interest in ending it. Besides, legislation is difficult. The current proposal is ridiculously over-simplified, as demonstrated by Gordon Dangerfield. I support self-ID and I extremely strongly uphold the principle that people should be who they want to be, and unlike Gordon I really don’t care about their genitalia and don’t see why anybody else should either. Mind your own business. But I can see that in certain rare and specific circumstances, like elite sport or people involved in criminal justice proceedings, there may be a need for some kind of arbitration of genuineness or good faith of a gender change; with good faith being the presumption that has to be overturned.

I might add that I particularly dislike the jibes at “women with beards” and the social media posts making fun of the physical appearance of trans people. There has been far too much cruelty flying around. I count Stuart Campbell and Chris Cairns as friends and allies who genuinely want Independence. But I cannot approve of this kind of cartoon, and I feel obliged to say so. How would it make you feel if you were a trans woman?

[Update I am told it is not Chris Cairns but is signed Stella. I had presumed that was part of the “joke”, but if it is not Chris I of course apologise to him].

It is of course also true that pro-trans activists are far too rude to people who disagree with them, with a small and defined group seriously nasty and out of control, including threatening violence. That group is closely connected to SNP leadership figures. This is all quite appalling. Frankly both sides of the debate need to find tolerance and empathy.

What is my prediction? I think the trans issue will be shelved, and Nicola will seek to placate Ms Blackman and her ilk by the abolition of jury trials in cases of sexual assault, as a first step, to be followed later by the abolition of jury trials in other crimes against women. Why all of that is an appalling idea I shall expand further one day, though I find it rather shocking that anybody would need that explained.

One thing I am sure of; we will see decisive action from Nicola on the abolition of juries long before we see any real movement on Independence. I would bet my life on that.

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