The year of the tipping point

I too believe 2018 “will be a year in which a new Scotland continues to emerge, an emboldened, more confident and assertive nation“. In fact, I am firmly persuaded that 2018 will be a decisive year in terms of securing Scotland’s future as a nation. Reading between the lines, I’m fairly sure Nicola Sturgeon recognises this. I am certain she is fully aware of the constitutional as well as the economic implications of Brexit – even if she appears to focus predominantly on the latter. It is simply not credible that a politician as experienced and astute as Nicola Sturgeon could be so distracted by the blundering economic vandalism of the Mad Brexiteers as to be oblivious to the more surreptitious machinations of the British political elite.

I recognise that it is not easy for the First Minister to even refer to the constitutional aspects of the Brexit process. The circus of UK/EU ‘negotiations’, with all the talk of ‘trade deals’ and ‘hard Brexit’ and ‘soft Brexit’ and ‘transition periods’ and all the bluster and posturing from the likes of David Davis; all of this serves to divert attention from the constitutional implications of Brexit. Implications which are every bit as disturbing as the economic impact. But we’re not supposed to talk about that. We’re not supposed to even notice these constitutional implications. That aspect of Brexit is so well buried under the avalanche of economic commentary that there’s nothing for Nicola Sturgeon to get to grips with. Nothing she can point to and warn about.

The situation is aggravated by the fact that the mainstream media have almost totally abandoned any effort to analyse, explain and inform. Politics can be complicated. Say the word ‘complicated’ to the bean-counters running the media and what they hear is ‘expensive’. Much easier (cheaper) to assume that the audience isn’t interested in the ‘complicated’ stuff and/or capable of understanding it. This provides the justification for ‘dumbing down’ as part of a cost-cutting exercise. The budget constraints then provide a rationalisation for ‘dumbing down’ on the grounds of resource deficiencies, as well as a convenient excuse for intellectual indolence as well as good old-fashioned laziness.

All of which leads to the kind of woeful situation, lately described in scathing terms by Derek Bateman, in which newspapers become mere conduits for the product of political and corporate media relations departments. A situation in which factual political reporting and thoughtful political commentary are abandoned in favour of Freedom of Information requests written up with the desired slant by party spin-quacks and mechanical churning of a vacuous consensus that reduces all politics to the level of a playground squabble.

Woe betide any politician who steps outside the lines defined by the mainstream media. If Nicola Sturgeon were to depart from a Brexit-related discourse limited to the simplistic dichotomy of economically ‘better off’ versus economically ‘worse off’, she would be immediately and mercilessly pilloried by the same traditional media bullies who respond with such bilious indignation to challenges from the democratised media.

Not the greatest, but certainly not the least, of Donald Trump’s crimes against reason has been to provide intellectually impoverished ‘journobots’ with a ready device by which they can deflect criticism of their output. Any challenge to the priesthood of professional journalism is now likely to be met with a barrage of snarled inanities such as ‘Trumpery’ or ‘Trumpism’ or ‘Trumpist’.

If the First Minister were to talk to us about the British state’s intentions for Scotland, and the threat posed by Brexit-related constitutional change being imposed on Scotland,. the media would be on her like sharks in a feeding frenzy. Not because there is no threat, or because the British state’s intentions are entirely benign, but because the traditional media are not equipped to deal with politics in such depth. They can’t cope. For the most part, they lack, not only the financial and physical resources, but also the will and the wit.

The British media are not going to change. They are part of the British establishment, They are embedded in the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. They depend on a passive, tractable audience. The print and broadcast media rely on readers, viewers and listeners being unaware of the methods by which they are being manipulated.

It up to us to become active consumers of media messages. It is we who must become more discerning and demanding. It is up to us to fill in the gaps in our political discourse. We must go to the places where our elected representatives are unable to go because they are effectively fenced off by the mainstream media. We have to initiate and maintain discussion around the topics our politicians are unable to broach without inviting an onslaught from the British establishment’s fearsome propaganda machine..

There are few things established power fears more than an engaged and informed populace. The mainstream media’s job is to ensure we are distracted and misled.The furious reaction to that Derek Bateman article mentioned earlier demonstrates how afraid the nominally Scottish media are that control of the information flow and the news agenda may be wrested from their jealous grasp.

The alternative media are getting better. Despite the efforts of establishment politicians and cliquish journalists to denigrate social media and demonise pro-independence bloggers, more and more people are turning to sources of information outside the mainstream. There is a powerful and pervasive feeling that 2018 will bring a series of economic, cultural and political tipping points, all tending towards a breakdown of the established order of the British state. One of those tipping points will bring about the collapse of public confidence in the mainstream media in Scotland. another will lead to the declaration by Nicola Sturgeon of a new independence referendum in or around September.

We see the signs. But only if we avoid observing our politics through the distorting lens of the British media. SNP politicians are getting more ‘assertive’. They are more ready to criticise the mainstream media and more forthright in denouncing the antics of the British parties. They are more forceful in defending the record and performance of the SNP administration. This is not mere happenstance. This is an evolutionary stage in the development of Scotland’s independence movement. The Yes movement has matured and its political arm can now be more assured of its support. There is a powerful sense of the pieces falling into place. The feeling that we are ready.

When Nicola Sturgeon speaks of independence being an ‘option’, this must be heard and interpreted in the context of a political direction of travel taking Scotland inexorably towards #Referendum2018.

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18 thoughts on “The year of the tipping point

  1. Big Jock

    I have thought about the timing of indy ref 2 over and over again. It can only be Autumn 2018 if we use logic.

    If she waits until after September 2018. We have to exclude any months from October to April 19. We don’t have elections or referendums in the winter or in early spring. We can have snow and storms and general darkness in those months. There would be no logic in holding it then.

    April 19 is after Brexit in March 19, so April is too late. The run off period is due to expire in December 20. But that run off period is for administration purposes only. The type of Brexit will be known in the next few months. Why wait until what you are opposed to happens and then try and reverse it. Referendum September – win independence = 18 months of negotiating the split from the UK. Meantime we ask the EU to grant us continued membership or special status as we are already members.

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      The UK Government’s final proposals on Brexit have to be submitted by October 2018. It is safe to assume that by then they will have also finalised their plans for unilaterally redefining the UK and Scotland’s constitutional status within the Union. If we wait beyond September, this will be presented as a fait accompli.

      There will be no negotiation with the Scottish Government or other devolved administrations. There will be no debate in any Parliament or Assembly. We will just wake up one day to find that an independence referendum has been made illegal or impossible or unwinnable.

      I, for one, have no wish to find myself trapped in a ‘One Nation Britain’ where austerity is a permanent feature and the likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg might assume high office.

  2. Big Jock

    Exactly Peter, what just happened in Catalonia within the EU can and will happen in isolationist Little Britain 10 fold. The protections that people enjoy as part of the EU set up will only be appreciated post Brexit. Imagine a Spain outside the EU if this is the Spain inside the EU!

    This is a ruthless, brainless angry mob of Tories, who will self destruct for the sake of a flag. Scotland will be ignored, and then power will be stripped from Holyrood brick by brick. Imagine back to the days before the EU what a petty , vindictive little nation state the UK is.

    I hope the SNP understand that the time to act is upon us now, not after we have been stripped from existence and declared an illegal state!

  3. Big Jock

    Johnmc -Yes no bones about it. It’s win or bust or move to Eire. Apparently we will still be allowed to move there without a visa!

    That’s why it’s Hobson’s choice now. If they delay the referendum then we are fucked anyway, so they may as well have it and pray to a higher entity that we can save Scotland. 2018 is a new beginning or the death of a nation.

  4. cailean

    Peter, I agree with the general thrust of your piece BUT for me as someone bitterly disappointed & dismayed by the 2014 result, there is always the barrier of Tory, and in particular Teresa May, intransigence. There should be a STRONG statement accompanying the announcement of the projected referendum that it will go ahead irrespective of the reaction of the Westminster Government because of the utter contempt and disregard shown by them towards Scotland.

  5. Scott

    Peter A Bell can I say that this dates will used by Westminster for all its worth this year it now being 2018

    28 July 1914 – 11 November 1918

    I don’t mean to use this in anyway about the people in this conflict but it will be used by the other side.

  6. faolie

    I simply don’t see the point of waiting. If the EU timetable for final proposals is October 2018 in order to let the EU27 vote, then the terms of Brexit will be known for everyone.

    But if we wait until after March 2019, then at what point do we call the referendum? What more information will we have that we didn’t already have the previous October? And by that time of course, as you say Peter, who knows what Henry VIII legislation Westminster will have used to prevent any further referendum anyway?

    We’re sitting at 49% Yes, if the last Wings poll is anything to go by. If we can’t get over the line now with that baseline support and a looming Brexit disaster, then we’ll never do it.

    Has to be October.

  7. Carole Horton

    A referendum in the spring in Scotland means campaigning through snow and ice and gales.
    Best have it in the autumn and campaign through the summer months.

  8. ScotsCanuck

    I agree, Nicola must call for IndyRef2 this year to trigger the Ballot in the Spring of 2019 …… we may (no pun intended !!) be Damned if we do …… but we sure as Hell will be Doomed if we don’t !!

  9. Donald McGregor

    All of this logic rings true, as does the huge challenge of getting the great mass of ‘unengaged’ people to give any lingering consideration to the idea of another vote about even more change. ‘We’re only just now getting clear about this Brexit crap – why the hell would we march off into another, unknown, pile of future crap?’
    I can hear them now, and I am unsure if my greatest hopes lie with the creation of a new, resurgent and surprising popular yes movement, or with the possibility of a collective shrug and this a reduction in the no vote by dint of absence of engagement.
    There’s a big mental difference between persuading people to set off on an adventure as was 2014, and harrying them into the lifeboats, as we may be in danger of advertising this next vote.

  10. Big Jock

    My guess would be September 2018, not October. Can’t remember the last time we ever had a referendum or election in October. It gets dark earlier and it can be precarious with the weather. Same for March 19. No way you would run a referendum campaign through the winter and Christmas period. Again can’t think of an election or referendum previously held in March.

    Sturgeon and Scotland have a lot of friends in Europe. The difference in us and Catalonia is that Spain is not leaving the EU and taking Catalonia with it. The UK is leaving and taking Scotland down with it. The EU want Scotland to remain.

  11. Brian Powell

    The media think there is another end to all this for them, where they emerge into sunny uplands of contented Unionism.
    That doesn’t exist, they stood with the Brit establishment that’s where they will fall. Not only with Scottish Independence, there is what remains of Brexit rUK and all that follows, those who dragged the UK there will be judged together.

  12. Silver Darling

    Why a six month delay between passing the Bill and the vote?

    Pass the bill now which enables the referndum to be called when needed.
    There is more than ample justifcation for this as the UK government has fallen behind schedule consistently, quite delibeately in some cases.

    We should not be tied to the Brexit timetable

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      We are not tied to the Brexit timetable. But it is unavoidable. We can’t just pretend it isn’t. And we don’t know how long it will take to get the legislation through. There has to be a sufficient window to allow for all eventualities.

  13. Tommy Aikenhead

    “our latest survey records a 5% swing away from independence. If this is the case, the First Minister will soon be looking for yet another reason to keep indyref2 in the long grass in which it currently rests.”

    Professor John Curtice Jan 2018

    The thirst for a 2nd independence referendum is clear from all correspondence, I also note with interest an admission that failure would leave the independence movement ‘fucked’.

    Nicola sturgeon would be off her head to even consider calling for a section 30 at the moment, did no one learn anything from the last election?

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