The confident idiocy of David Torrance

By Al Harron

In many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.
– “We Are All Confident Idiots”, David Dunning

Every time I read a David Torrance article, I think of the Dunning-Kruger effect: a cognitive bias where one has an inflated sense of knowledge or skill in a field compared to their actual competence. This is a malady many people suffer, not just those in the political commentariat.

But the first step in getting better is in admitting you have a problem. Hopefully I can help Mr Torrance address the battle of confident idiocy so many of us struggle with in our daily lives.

The Prime Minister sounds like Alex Salmond in talking of the UK as a “fully-independent, sovereign country”

Mr Torrance here displays either a lack of recall, or a lack of knowledge, of the many times Ms May has talked of the UK in similar terms to Mr Salmond, be it as part of a European “union of sovereign member states”, as “our country,” or as “a nation of 62 million individuals.” Perform a quick Google search for Theresa May and “nation” or “country” and see how many of those are in reference to Britain.

… fundamentalist Nationalists urge their party leader to be cautious…

Presumably these are the unnamed “senior SNP figures” so beloved of the press.

… and Ruth Davidson suddenly has “confidence” in Boris Johnson.

ruth_borisWell let’s be fair to Ms Davidson, she had enough confidence in Mr Johnson to give him a big hug at the end of a debate.

The SNP, true to form, has attacked the UK Government for lack of clarity. On Saturday the First Minister tweeted that news of a “Great Repeal Bill” enshrining all existing EU law simply stated “the obvious” and demanded “more detail on the nature/timing” of Brexit.

First of all I’m not sure it was “obvious”, for some Eurosceptic Tories won’t like the fact this makes it harder to undo certain EU regulations, while Ms Sturgeon got what she wanted when it comes to both the nature and timing of Brexit.

Let’s see if I can help, Mr Torrance: I think it is “stating the obvious” because the vast majority of UK Parliamentarians are not Eurosceptics, and that not all Eurosceptics want Hard Brexit. The idea that the retention of all existing EU law on a temporary basis would be scuppered because of a minority within a minority in the UK Parliament somewhat stretches credulity to me, especially since that same hypo-minority is already getting the ‘Hard Brexit’ they clearly desire.

Secondly, no, Ms Sturgeon didn’t get what she wanted, because stating the trigger of Article 50 will take place before March 2017 means simply that. There is no date for actually leaving the EU – nor, for that matter, an actual date for Article 50. Ms May could trigger Article 50 tomorrow, and it would still technically be before March 2017.

Besides, why would a 2,800 word speech by Theresa May be more than sufficient for Brexit, yet a 600+ page white paper was not sufficient for Scottish independence?

In her article, the First Minister gamely defended the Scottish Government’s 2013 White Paper, maintaining that it was the “most detailed blueprint for an independent country ever produced”. That might be so, but that’s not the same as it having been either credible or convincing.

– “Confusion and fudge at the very heart of independence movement,” David Torrance, 19th September 2016

Presumably detail does not equate to credibility in Mr Torrance’s world.

And given the SNP leader’s repeated framing of EU/single market membership as a “red line”, it’s difficult to see how she gets beyond this week’s Conservative conference without moving things on.

I can see why easily – because, yet again, Article 50 has not yet been triggered. There are 179 days between now and 31st of March 2017. That’s 179 days for the UK Government to change their mind, even on fundamental issues like the single market, free movement, and other “red lines.” It isn’t as if the UK Government hasn’t made significant about-turns on policy in shorter time periods before: the Edinburgh Agreement drew a line between Independence and Status Quo, only for the UK Government to suddenly “promise” Devo Max within the Purdah period.

As I’ve written before, the First Minister can either push forward with a second referendum or fudge it, attempting to buy time until the UK formally exits the EU, perhaps in the spring of 2019. But such an approach is subject to the law of diminishing returns, although judging by yesterday’s round of media interviews the game-playing has already begun.

Strange, then, that the Secretary of State for Scotland, the leaders of the first and second largest opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament, and the Prime Minister herself have explicitly ruled out any option for indyref2.

As for “the law of diminishing returns,” surely the demographics of every poll in the past few years suggest it is in fact the United Kingdom which is running out of time?

That David Torrance, no friend of Scottish independence, seems to think Nicola Sturgeon should be pushing an early indyref2, strikes me as more than a little bit suspicious – except for the fact that the other UK parties seem to want the exact opposite.

Nicola Sturgeon is fond of claiming that, during the first independence referendum, Scots were repeatedly assured by senior Unionists that the UK was a “partnership of equals” and therefore the fact Scotland voted Remain had to be recognised in the forthcoming negotiations. Now it’s a superficially compelling point, but in reality those campaigning for a No vote back in 2012-14 said no such thing.

Sure, there was lots of talk about the UK being a “family of nations”, but that isn’t the same thing as arguing that Scotland and England (and indeed Wales and Northern Ireland) somehow occupy the family home on an equal basis. The only senior Unionist to use the phrase “partnership of equals” was the former prime minister Gordon Brown, but he was talking about his (unfulfilled) proposals for a quasi-federal UK rather than the status quo.

In fact the two politicians who used that phrase most frequently were Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, usually to describe how they envisaged Anglo-Scottish relations post-independence, but subsequently the line has been attributed to their opponents, so successfully that many of my Unionist chums genuinely believe that David Cameron, Nick Clegg, et al described the UK in those terms.

It’s at this point where you have to wonder if this really is the Dunning-Kruger Effect in action, or that Mr Torrance is fully aware that what he’s saying is absolute nonsense.

The overwhelming majority of Scots believe in the UK and want to remain part of this 300 year long equal partnership.
– Ruth Davidson, 5th November 2011

There is more that brings us together than tears us apart. A future in which Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England continue to flourish side-by-side as equal partners.
– Theresa May, Scottish Conservative Party Conference, 24th March 2012

Today we are equal partners in the United Kingdom.
– Alistair Darling, John P. Mackintosh Lecture, 9th November 2012

If a backbench opposition MP is a “senior Unionist,” then what are the UK Government’s party leader in Scotland, the leader of the official No campaign, and the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom?

No country, be it Brexit Britain or an independent Scotland, can ever be “fully independent”. And beyond the theoretical “equality” between sovereign nations, there will always be big states and small, more or less powerful countries. Just as Scotland can’t be “equal” to England by dint of geography, population and economics, nor can Ireland or Denmark be “equal” to Germany and France within the EU.

And yet the smallest country in the UN has the same number of seats at the United Nations General Assembly as the largest country. The smallest country in the EU has the same number on the European Council, the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission as the largest. Evidently there are some situations where a country’s size really doesn’t matter.

The debate that “no country can ever be fully independent” is meaningless semantics, because there is clearly a divide between a nation which is considered to be sovereign, and a nation which is not. Arguing that nations are equal is not any more or less “theoretical” than arguing the same of people. Is Mr Torrance going to argue that a person can’t be “equal” to another with greater skills, fitness or ability?

Yesterday the SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson had a pop at Tories for indulging in “post-Empire fantasies”, and he had a point, but then Nationalists, whether British or Scottish, are prone to fantasy, it being easier to conjure up future visions of greatness rather than deal with the here and now.

This, right after Mr Torrance refers to “Brexit Britain” as a “country.” The definition of British Nationalism is the assertion that Britain is a nation, as opposed to being a union of multiple nations.

But following the Prime Minister’s speech it’s now got to the point where the First Minister has to stop commentating on events via Twitter and actually say how she’s going to respond to the UK Government’s intention to take Scotland out of the EU and single market in two years’ time. She has her own conference speech in just 12 days – will she follow the logic of her own “red line” arguments or attempt to buy more time?

Given we’ve seen that Mr Torrance seems to have a problem understanding his own internal logic, I have the feeling that even if Ms Sturgeon turned up to conference clad in full plaid, blue-faced, and led the party faithful in a rousing chorus of “Scots Wha Hae,” he would interpret that as more stalling. The question is whether he truly is that deluded, or whether he knows fine well that indyref2 is coming rather sooner than his fellows may have hoped.

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7 thoughts on “The confident idiocy of David Torrance

  1. Pingback: Some Partnerships Are More Equal Than Others | A Wilderness of Peace

  2. David MacGille-Mhuire

    Nailed it, his faux argument, and him for his lazy, ill-researched discombobulations.

    Keep ’em coming, please.

  3. iain taylor

    What is going on a lot of the time in rags like the Herald is folk writing for their readership, so that unionists who want some “factual” basis for their opinions have their positions reinforced by lies like Torrance’s.

    They want to believe that no-one ever said the union is one of equals, so Torrance writes it, and their positions are justified. After all, they read it in the Herald…or heard it on the BBC… a man said so on Call Kay(e)…

    Then they take that off to their pals at the golf club, or the Rotary club, or the Ludge, or the chamber of commerce, and so the lie is perpetuated.

  4. Gordoz

    Avoid reading Torrance, there is a sad overbearing sense of finger on the pulse assertion that never quite materialises.

    Waste of time wading through his boundless gibberish.

    Not sure he is as level headed as the msm and tv channels think either.

  5. David McCann

    AS somebody once said “Stupidity combined with arrogance and a huge ego will get you a long way.”

    In Torrance’s case it seems to work.

  6. Dan Huil

    The only thing keeping people like Torrance employed is the britnat media. Britnat regurgitation for the politically retarded. The so-called united kingdom is built on fear and lies.

  7. Pingback: Wasted Years | A Wilderness of Peace

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