If you were to poll us on which of the two signs below we preferred, we’d definitely vote for the one on the left. It’s a lot more eye-catching, it’s easier to read and the strong use of red makes it much clearer that a prohibition is in place.
But here’s the thing: we wouldn’t go to jail over the choice.
Indeed, if you asked us to even write a short email to our MP demanding one be used over the other, we probably wouldn’t. We’ve got other more important stuff to do in the five minutes it would take to find their email address, sit down and type something.
And also, we actually don’t mind ball games. Scotland, and indeed the rest of the UK, is infested with such signs, and mostly they’re just mean-spirited killjoyery. (Obviously in a minority of cases they have a valid safety purpose but in the main they’re just for the benefit of people who hate the sound of anyone younger than them being happy.)
Generally speaking the world would probably be a nicer place, there’d be far less child obesity, and Scotland would definitely have a better football team, if kids were allowed to kick a ball around in the street a lot more.
But that isn’t what the poll asked. It just asked which one was the better sign, and that question is both easy and painless to answer. It takes one second to have an opinion on it, and that’s all we’re being asked for. People mostly quite enjoy expressing their opinions about stuff, but they don’t like being given chores to do.
Which brings us, with infinite weariness, back to this garbage.
We posted our instant reaction to it last night, and having now read the entire piece in The National we want to go back and put our entire instant reaction in giant red bold capital letters with triple underlining and exclamation marks. But nonetheless, Wings readers deserve and have come to expect analysis based on the full facts, so let’s step through the entire “11-point plan” in detail.
In a worrying start, the first five points aren’t points at all.
The entirety of that passage is a extremely padded-out recap on stuff that’s already been done and which has no practical meaningful effect at all on anything. At the very best it’s ONE point – “We did some stuff in the past”.
(For the love of the wee man, how is Point 4 part of a “plan”? It says “we stopped work 10 months ago to do something else”. THAT ISN’T WHAT A PLAN IS.)
It details some past preparatory work. Now, it’s all very nice being prepared for things. But it’s a bit like building a new shelf in your house to hold all your Nobel Prizes in case you should ever win any – it’s pointless unless and until you have a realistic plan to win a Nobel Prize. Indeed, it’s a counter-productive waste of time that you should have actually been spending on doing whatever it was you wanted to win the prize for, or alternatively on fixing the broken window in the kitchen that the wind’s howling through.
So let’s see if it gets any better from Point 6.
Now, in the absolute strictest semantic sense, points 6 and 8 ARE a “plan”, at least in so far as they identify a couple of actions to be taken in the future. But specifically, it’s a plan to do something that’s already been tried twice and failed both times, and which we know will fail again.
The UK government is managing to “sustain” its position on the subject just fine, and has been doing so for almost four years, since a Section 30 order was first requested and refused in March 2017.
Again, points 6 to 8 really just amount to a recap of what’s already been done, and a promise to do it again, but with no suggestion of what might bring about a different outcome. So we still don’t have an actual “plan” in any sense of anything we didn’t already know, and we’re already on point 9 of 11. This isn’t looking good.
That’s literally just points 5 and 6 again.
And so finally we come to the actual “plan”, and it’s just what had already been said in 13 words in last night’s strapline – we’ll hold a referendum without permission from Westminster (something, let’s remember, that Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly promised she WOULDN’T do) and dare them to stop us.
And we dealt with that last night – it’s a total non-starter. Without the permission of Westminster or a clear legal ruling that a referendum is within Holyrood’s powers, councils will refuse to co-operate and there’s not one thing the Scottish Government can do to make them. The UK government won’t need to make a legal challenge, because there’ll be nothing happening TO challenge. It’ll fall at the first hurdle.
(Martin Keatings has already pointed out that during his current court case seeking to establish that exact legal ruling, the Scottish Government’s representative – the Lord Advocate, who is a minister in Nicola Sturgeon’s cabinet – has literally spent the last two days of his life arguing the exact opposite to what the SNP are telling us now. Either he was lying to the court or the SNP are lying to you now.)
So it’s all come down to point 11. It better be an absolute belter.
Oh. “If there’s a referendum we’ll campaign in it.” Great.
So there is in fact no “11-point plan” at all. At the most generous assessment possible – and it’s a very generous one indeed – there’s a ONE-point plan, which is the same as it’s always been: beg Westminster for another Section 30 and then sulk and stamp our feet a bit when they say no.
But we told you that last night. What does it have to do with ball games?
The irredeemably gullible among the SNP’s support – the fanclub squadron of “I’M WITH NICOLA” doughnuts currently running around on social media frantically trying to convince themselves and anyone else willing to listen that the “11-point plan” isn’t just the same stinky old turd spraypainted a different colour – have an answer ready to the question “What do we actually DO when the UK says no?”
Absurdly, that answer is apparently “civil disobedience”. Nobody’s ever very clear on what it actually means, but they appear to dream of some sort of vague peaceful mass protest where everyone stops paying their taxes or something and the UK government crawls sobbing on its hands and knees begging Scotland to stop and just caves in.
But the last time there was anything CLOSE to a campaign of mass civil disobedience in Scotland was over the Poll Tax, more than 30 years ago. Public opposition to the tax was overwhelming, encompassing voters of every party except the Tories, and there were large and violent demonstrations
But even then, the highest estimate for those who refused to pay the tax was around 20%, and there is no “No Indyref Tax”. So the only possible way to lodge a protest of a similar nature would be to withhold ALL your taxes, and most people don’t have that option because their taxes are deducted from their wages at source.
So immediately your mass civil disobedience movement is down to the 15% of the adult population who are self-employed, and statistically roughly half of those will be Unionists, so really maybe 8% max – just over a third of the number who withheld their Poll Tax payments.
But – and here’s, finally, where that NO BALL GAMES sign comes in – how many of those people actually care enough to go through the incalculable, exhausting misery and struggle of being chased by HMRC for years on end and dragged to court and having their assets seized and their businesses destroyed?
(Even that’s really a moot point, because unlike with the Poll Tax there’s no possible way to credibly distinguish non-payers on political grounds from people who just aren’t paying because they don’t want to or can’t afford to, so the whole thing is completely useless as a political protest anyway.)
If you’re reading Wings Over Scotland, the chances are that you care MASSIVELY about Scottish independence, like we do. But not everyone does. A sizeable chunk of the population will pick one option or the other if you specifically ask them about it in a poll, but they’re not really all that bothered.
The constitution regularly comes way down the list of voter priorities. One poll last year, commissioned by two pro-independence former SNP figures, found that just one in seven Scots even ranked it among in their top three priorities.
So the idea of a mass uprising against the injustice of a refusal of indyref2 just isn’t a remotely realistic one. To most Scots independence is a fairly abstract proposition, whereas the Poll Tax hit people in their pockets in a direct and identifiable way. They’re not going to take to the streets with pitchforks and flaming torches just for the chance to put themselves through ANOTHER political campaign. Most of them are pretty fed up of elections and referendums after a decade packed solid with them.
(Since 2011 we’ve had three UK general elections, two Scottish general elections, two European elections, two Scottish council elections, two UK-wide referendums and a Scottish referendum that went on for three years by itself and has never really stopped since. 12 major campaigns in 10 years. Normal people are sick to death of politics.)
The 11-point plan isn’t even really a one-point plan. It’s no plan at all, because it isn’t designed to succeed. Its only true purposes are to try to placate the dumber elements of the SNP’s membership over five wasted years of total inaction on independence, and draw attention away from the unfolding disaster of the Salmond inquiries.
(The latter of those explains the extraordinary timing, whereby the “new” “plan” has been revealed one day before the SNP’s National Assembly, which was supposed to be discussing and debating indyref strategy but has now been presented with a fait accompli – the result announced before the game even kicks off.)
So we can pile up as many polls as we want. We can win over former No voters by the thousand. But none of it will count for anything unless we do something concrete to make independence happen. And folks, this ain’t it.