WHETHER they use soup, slow walking or powder paint, I confess that I lack the rageful response to Just Stop Oil’s various sabotages and desecrations.

Their most recent attacks display quite a cultural reach. A spattered Stonehenge, then Taylor Swift’s private jet (though wrongly identified) turned orange. Two octogenarian rebels hacked the Magna Carta display box in the British Library, then held up a sign saying: “The government is breaking the law.”

In 2023, among scores of other events, Just Stop Oil (JSO) orange-blasted a Tekken computer game competition, George Osborne’s wedding, the Chelsea Flower Show and the green baize tables of the World Snooker Championship. Do you get the gist? Wherever the British public is at its most comfortable and leisured, confirmed and entertained, is exactly where JSO want to be annoying us. You may hate the messengers, but they trust you’ll receive the message: no new oil and gas explorations, given the interlocked catastrophe that their contribution to climate warming would bring.

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I wonder whether it’s my punk (and post-punk) background that makes me relaxed with JSO’s disruption of normality. The punk symbol (from the Sex Pistols’s biggest hit) was a spray-painted anarchy icon, the circle and the A, readily scrawled on any surface or clothing. The orange powder of its day.

“I wanna destroy passers-by”, snarled Johnny Rotten. This was a much higher ante than discomfiting folks on their commute, at their front-row seats or in their TV lounger. I would sometimes ask those turning their ruddy faces against JSO to remember their own gap-toothed extremism – all those teenage kicks so vigorously pursued in their youth.

What’s interesting, if you dig into the chatter of the JSO scene, is that these cultural disruptions are a response to the failure of more structural actions to cut through the media.

There’s a fascinating report by Sam Light, published on the Waging Nonviolence site, which talks to a range of JSO activists and strategists.

It’s rare to hear these voices directly. One representative said: “I’ve been told so many fucking times: Go to Parliament Square, go to an oil refinery or whatever. I’ve locked myself to an oil tanker for 36 hours. Nothing.

“I was just at Parliament Square for three days with 60,000 people, nothing happened. But my best friend throws soup on a fucking Van Gogh and we’re in the news for months.”

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Another voice: “With the infrastructure [for example, picketing oil depots], it was brilliant because we shut that shit down. The problem was nobody reported it. Nobody heard about it. It didn’t get out there because the media won’t cover you if they can’t vilify you.

“We hate having to rely on the media, but right now we need our messages in the heads of as many people as possible”, they continued.

“And that doesn’t happen without the media being used as an amplifier.”

So it turns out that JSO, and the right-wing media that reliably loses its rag over their antics, are mutually dependent. Light reports that many of the activists hold to the “radical flank” theory.

This theory holds that extreme actors/actions raise general awareness about a crisis, if that crisis – and its remedy – are clearly articulated. (The dynamic between the Black Panthers, and more respectable civil rights movements in the 60s, is often quoted.) A “moderate flank” is thereby intrigued enough to join Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace, or vote for parties with strong green agendas. It’s about mobilisation and recruitment, not necessarily about building a broader consensus.

Is their theory working? Hard to say.

The Extinction Rebellion and JSO co-founder Roger Hallam is academically trained in social movements. He seems convinced that the more climate “arrestables” there are in the justice system, the more destabilised and susceptible to reform the whole system will be.

Certainly, one of the system’s responses to radicalism is to ratchet up laws that constrain forms of protest and assembly (like the 2023 Public Order Act – applicable in England and Wales, not Scotland – which can prosecute against “disruption of infrastructure”). Under such a jurisdiction, the numbers of the “arrested” will certainly increase.

This all gets tricky when it comes to the independence movement and its various political strains. Is there going to be a head-on clash between JSO’s form of radicalism, and the lead party and government of independence?

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The current SNP campaign line on the commissioning of new oil and gas fields – which, to be accurate, is continuity-Sturgeon – is that each field should be assessed on a case-by-case basis, according to criteria like “climate compatibility” with net-zero carbon targets.

BUT there’s also an “energy security” consideration (listen to Putin’s sabre rattling in the background here) as well as an assessment of whether skills and facilities needed for new renewable energy system aren’t lost, in a too-hasty transition.

“It’s complex”, say John Swinney and Kate Forbes. In this week’s Question Time leaders debate, the FM was deriding the hundreds of oil and gas licenses being proposed by Rishi Sunak as destructive of climate goals. But he left himself the possibility of expert review leading to the opening up of new fields.

So will an SNP-led Scottish Government, on the basis of its energy pragmatism, find itself at loggerheads with this nothing-left-to-lose generation of radicals (most young, but some old too)?

I’d hope not. If there are plans out there for Scotland’s transition to a new energy regime that doesn’t depend on the egregious opening-up of new fossil fuel fields, we need to hear them.

I know, from experience, that the transition is on. In my other musical life, Hue And Cry did a celebration gig, on-site, for the renewables company Haventus recently, up on the Moray Firth, near Inverness. It’s a massive port-building exercise, for the assembly and launching of off-shore windfarms.

There are some challenging issues here. It’s headquartered in Houston, not Scotland, so is susceptible to the charge of being yet another “branch plant” operation. It’s also part of a “greenport” zone, with all the fiscal murkiness involved in those set-ups.

But I couldn’t repress my essential admiration here.

The optimism of the staff, and the sheer engineering scale of the operation, gave me a rare sense of a whole industry shifting between mighty paradigms. And that it can be done, and is being done, in Scotland.

I think the pressure point might be the science itself. On his digital channels, Hallam is pretty meticulous about the scientific papers he brings to his fight.

As an answer to a journalist’s inquiry about the Stonehenge incident, Hallam tweeted a paper from Science Advances, claiming that the Gulf Stream – part of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) – is 40% likely to collapse in the 2030s, as freshwater from melting ice-caps disrupts its flow.

The consequent winter temperature cooling (between 10 to 30 degrees) would destroy European agriculture, and set many millions on the move. The OECD’s 2022 Tipping Point study, and COP28’s Global Tipping Points Report, only compound the point: global warming as a result of ever-rising fossil fuel use imperils us all.

So when you see the next Just Stop Oil stunt – its reminder that any sense of calm normality we enjoy has future catastrophe and destruction running underneath it – let them guide you to the scientists at least.

And let’s get this damned electoralism out of the way so that the case for independence puts Scotland on the right side of climate crisis. And of history.