JAMES Kelly does excellent work when he’s wearing his psephologist’s hat. When he swaps it for a political analyst’s headgear, however, things start to deteriorate (This is a stunning poll result which ought to really give Labour and the Tories food for thought, February 6). There is something quaintly naive about a world view in which British political parties regard polls as “food for thought” and “liberal commentators down south” have consciences for the pricking.

Here in the real world, if a British politician is shown polling results indicating large numbers of people in Scotland think the UK is not democratic, their first thought is to wonder why they are being shown this. If they have a second thought it won’t be about fixing the broken democracy. It’ll be about manipulating perceptions of democracy.

But why would they even have that second thought? Scotland is in the rather odd position of being both essential and irrelevant. It is essential to what Kelly refers to as the UK’s “self-image”. Or what I prefer to call the British political elite’s conceit of itself. That self-image – or conceit – is complex. But elements of it are hinted at by notions such as Westminster being the “Mother of Parliaments”. What is often remarked upon as snobbery is, in fact, the self-assurance of exceptionalism. The notional country of “Great” Britain is held to be the source and exemplar of democratic governance. It is definitively democratic. So much so that it doesn’t actually have to act democratically in order to be democratic.

There’s also all that hang-over stuff from the age of Empire which has Great Britain strutting the world like a retired British Army colonel complete with swagger-stick and ill-fitting uniform, barking orders at taxi drivers and observing incessantly that “it wasn’t like this in MY day!”. Except that they still think it’s “my day”. And possessing Scotland is vital to this self-delusion.

Scotland is absolutely crucial to that “self-image”. Without Scotland, the notional country of Great Britain collapses under the weight of its own ridiculousness. The delusion evaporates. The conceit is punctured. The self-image becomes unsustainable.

This is why Kelly gets it so horribly wrong when he says: “If the facts on the ground are in conflict with that self-image, a tension will arise that could eventually bring about political change and an end to the wall of intransigence.”

Which is his way of saying that if Scots complain enough about the democratic deficit then the British political elite will respond by rectifying, to some extent, that deficit. But the democratic deficit doesn’t stem from the British Tory Party, as he seems to imagine. The democratic deficit is a function of the Union. It is “hard-wired” into the British political system. Which is why however essential Scotland is to the Great British Conceit, it is also irrelevant.

British political leaders don’t care about public opinion in Scotland because they don’t have to. They don’t have to because the Union ensures that Scotland is always subsidiary to England-as-Britain. (Or Borissia, as I really enjoy calling it.) As essential as Scotland might be, that fact can never be reflected in our nation’s status and power because the Union is there to ensure that it can never be reflected in any concrete way.

James Kelly is immersed in the same folly that has all but submerged our First Minister. The foolish idea that the democratic deficit enshrined in the Union can be fixed by getting the British political elite to change. The fallacious notion that what Scotland is depends entirely on what Britain does and NOT on what Scotland does. The ludicrous belief that Scotland’s independence can be restored by somehow using the democratic leverage that the Union denies us to force the British to yield to the leverage that we don’t have, and give us the leverage which we can’t have because of the Union which the British can never put at risk, by giving Scotland the leverage which the Union was designed to deny to Scotland in order that Borissia might exist.

This isn’t a numerical conundrum or a mechanical problem. It is entirely a political issue. A deep political issue. Politics isn’t bound by mathematical rules. Politics doesn’t operate on the basis of mechanistic cause and effect. That’s because politics is a people thing. You can know all there is to know about numbers and everything it’s possible to know about engines, but if you don’t get people you don’t get politics.

Peter A Bell
via thenational.scot

LESLEY Riddoch’s timely comment highlighting Boris’s starring role in the pantheon of buffoons should give us pause for thought as to the character of the person occupying the highest office in the land (Boris Johnson’s buffoonery is ramping up case for independence, February 6). A dictionary definition of a buffoon is “a ludicrous figure: a clown: a gross and usually ill-educated or stupid person”, and the British Prime Minister is demonstrably all of those things. Because of his background youth spent in Eton and Oxford it has become common-place to describe Boris as intelligent and well-educated, but, as I have written in The National before, there is a significant difference between being intelligent and well-educated, and being well-schooled. Boris is living proof that attendance at Eton and Oxford guarantees neither intelligence nor an education. That he has been well-schooled, is obvious, but he is just as obviously ill-educated and a quite ludicrous and stupid person.

Lesley makes two cogent observations about this creature when she tells us that “Boris isn’t learning” and “a Prime Minister this petty and obtuse is really not going to worry about offending Scots”, and that is an accurate description of Boris; insensitive and dull-witted, the antithesis of an educated mind. An educated person does not conduct themselves as this Prime Minister does, brazenly lying, deceiving, and humiliating themselves and the nation they represent on international platforms. One of the definitive characteristics of an educated person is the ability to admit they are wrong. When faced with opposition an educated person does not round on their opponent with insults and scorn but asks them why it is that they disagree? They seek to understand and do not foster animus and contempt from those they are required to negotiate and trade with. Someone who is genuinely educated is reflective and cautious because they are deeply aware of their own limitations. The educated person does their homework, they research to justify their positions and analyse the possible outcomes of their proposed actions, instead of barging in like a bull in a China shop making things up as they go along.

Education should foster humility because it forces you to fully understand, not how much you know, but how much you don’t, and an educated and intelligent person is aware of the duties and responsibilities of public office and the perils of demeaning that office and their own character, qualities that are completely absent from the British Prime Minister. An educated person seeks to earn trust and respect, practices tolerance with people who they disagree with, and does not seek to humiliate and denigrate and cause the people who intimately know and work with them to caution others that if you make a promise they should demand it in writing because you are completely untrustworthy, as was graphically demonstrated this week.

A buffoon is one thing, but a nasty and vindictive buffoon is something else and the most damning verdict on his character is his complete absence of integrity and an ethical compass. As such he is the perfect leader of the Tories. However, I welcome Boris and look forward to his No-Deal Brexit because he has been rumbled by the Scottish people, who will consign him to the history books as the uneducated and vindictive oaf who destroyed the United Kingdom. He is indeed a buffoon.

Peter Kerr
Kilmarnock

I NOTICE in your esteemed pages a degree of nit-picking by some contributors of the quality/capability of the SNP Government. Can we please get things into perspective?

Politicians, like police officers, doctors, bus drivers and brain surgeons are just human being and therefore fallible. There seems to be a tendency towards the Football Manager Syndrome whereby if you blunder, you go. Everyone makes mistakes, and there is a gulf between a “boob” and gross incompetence. When (not if) we become self-governing, we can elect any party or none to run our country. We can devise our own electoral system, etc ...

Whatever happens it’ll still be operated by fallible humans with no guarantees of success.

Life doesn’t come with guarantees (other than its physical termination), Mackay’s “foolishness” doesn’t alter one jot the principle of self-determination for the Scottish nation, nor should any hiccup on the way. Sadly, you’ve received several comments from people who appear to have “spat the dummy” because things aren’t moving at the pace they think they should be. Perspective ...

I can remember when an SNP candidate was delighted at saving their deposit, never mind winning. The much-lauded victory of Winnie was quickly reversed at the following election. We were “a protest party” who only won by-elections. That’s how far we’ve travelled, and will continue to travel. Rocking the boat won’t accelerate it.

Barry Stewart
Blantyre

THE declaration on February 4 by the Boris Government that they intended to ban petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035 is a dangerous piece of political posturing. They don’t even have anyone remotely resembling a scientist, let alone a climatologist. One should be employed there immediately in the place of Dominic Cummings, who is redundant as anti-EU bigots are no longer needed. The closest any of them have come to understanding “positive feedback” is when someone else sets up a microphone for them to spout lies into.

How it ties in with accelerating melting of glaciers is incomprehensible to them.

That living lie laughingly called the “Conservative Party” had spared no effort to please “Green” initiatives, filibuster one bill after another, promote fossil fuels and nuclear, and now, suddenly, they’ve seen the light?

It is sickening because it comes against the backdrop of the 75th anniversary of the Yalta Agreement, when the Polish resistance army were destroyed by a similar set of idiots that are in power today. Who was left to fight for freedom, democracy, and self-determination? No-one.

Henryk Belda
Penicuik

I CAN’T help thinking, that if the SNP had adopted Chris McEleny’s Plan B, would we not be independent by now? Or at least have a referendum to look forward to? And when we do have a referendum, there is no need for it to be anything as divisive as a one-off referendum. We should negotiate a settlement similar to the Northern Ireland Agreement, whereby every seven years, if the Scottish Parliament has a majority of pro-independence MSPs at that point in time, then another plebiscite on independence will be sought. We should not be held as prisoners of democracy, we’ve had over 300 years of that!

Solomon Steinbett
Glasgow