I don’t for one moment doubt that, in the early hours of 15 April 1912, there were people standing on the giddily tilting decks of RMS Titanic sagely advising their fellow passengers to wait and see how things turned out even as the fatally broken vessel slipped into the icy embrace of the North Atlantic Ocean.
I was at SNP National Council in Perth. I heard Nicola Sturgeon’s address to a packed roomful of delegates. What I heard strongly suggested that the First Minister is still thinking in terms of a new referendum in autumn of 2018. Perhaps it might be more accurate to say that I got no sense whatever from what she said on Saturday that she had changed her mind about the scheduling of a second independence referendum. Rather, her remarks about publication of the Growth Commission report early next year being a “catalyst for relaunching the arguments for independence” seem to hint at a new referendum campaign beginning towards the middle of next year.
This is, of course, all a matter of interpretation and speculation. There was nothing explicit in what Nicola Sturgeon said. She is well aware of the importance of keeping her options open and recognises that the timing of the announcement of a referendum date is, in many ways, more important than the date itself. It is certainly a matter for fine political judgement. Political theatre is not to be taken lightly in an age of mass communication. A politician of Sturgeon’s ability and experience will be almost instinctively conscious of this. The Dewar’s Centre last Saturday (2 December 2017) was neither the time nor the place for a major announcement.
But nothing a politician of Sturgeon’s ability and experience says is devoid of meaning. Every utterance is measured. Every word is weighed. Every statement is tested. The extent to which this is true becomes strikingly apparent only when the politician makes a mistake. The gaffes of less competent politicians make evident the care and caution and craft that truly proficient political operators make invisible with the practised ease of their public performances.
Not that Nicola Sturgeon is infallible. I can think of at least one occasion when she slipped up rather badly. But, again, the odd instance of misspeaking only serves to illustrate the more usual quality of her work.
My understanding of Nicola Sturgeon’s comments is, as I have acknowledged, a matter of interpretation and speculation. But the speculation need not be idle. And the interpretation may not be ill-informed or prejudiced. There is a certain knack to reading between the lines of political rhetoric. Much of it has to do with taking in a bigger picture. Putting each speech into the context of previous statements and the wider political environment.
The mainstream media are scavengers on the prowl for easily digestible bite-sized morsels they can feed to an audience they hold in sneering contempt. Their purpose is not to inform, but to manipulate. What the British media want are snippets and sound-bites that can be selected and spun to fit a particular narrative. A narrative which is almost exclusively pro-British establishment and increasingly intent upon denigrating Scotland; undermining the Scottish Government; and delegitimising the Scottish Parliament, as well as defending the British state against the threat of democratic dissent. An informed electorate is a dangerous beast. The role of the British media is to keep that beast chained and pacified.
Coincidentally – and very sadly – the shallow, stunted, distorted perspective of the mainstream media is nicely illustrated by a paragraph in this article.
In 2014 the Yes side’s currency position – now regarded as a weakness in the case – was that Scotland would carry on using the pound Sterling. This was undermined when the then Chancellor George Osborne said an independent Scotland could not use it.
This neatly summarises the cosy consensus of the British media. But it bears only the most tenuous and tangential relationship with the reality of that episode. It is particularly regrettable when the newspaper that we depend on to provide a different and more honestly informative perspective on Scotland’s politics, so thoughtlessly presents the view from atop the London village midden.
A more rigorous and mindful analysis of the so-called ‘currency issue’ would look very different. Similarly, a more openly aware interpretation of Nicola Sturgeon’s speech to SNP National Council allows us to discern a continuous thread running through her references – direct or otherwise – to a new independence referendum. A thread which, if we choose to follow it rather than allowing ourselves to be side-tracked, leads to a vote on Thursday 20 September 2018. A thread which, from the perspective of somebody standing on the giddily tilting deck of the sinking British state, looks very much like a lifeline.Views: 5245
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