A guest post from the very popular writer Peter Young who runs IndyScot News from his base in Denmark.
There’s something intoxicating about sea air and pine trees. And the cycle path between Hornbaek and Elsinore can certainly get you tipsy, if not drunk. The path itself is almost unbroken for those of us on two wheels. There’s either a broad cyclist-only lane, or half the pavement is shared with pedestrians. So, all in all, you’re pretty safe to ‘close off your mind, relax and float downstream’.
It was on this part of a long-ish ride that I spent a lot of time devouring audiobooks during the Covid lockdown period. Now, I would not normally recommend biking with in-ear headphones in traffic, but on dedicated cycle lanes it’s not a problem.
As a freelance working from home, Covid actually affected me very little. Work-wise, I was busier than ever. The worst part of it all was that my son had just been promoted from Denmark to a huge office block in the concrete and glass jungle of La Defense. He knew no one, and within months he was locked down and isolated in Paris. Lucky for some you might think, but restrictions there were severe. But hey, we Scots have exile and geographical displacement sewn into our DNA. He found a way to see it through, probably because he really enjoys his work.
Oddly enough, it was Mia’s article on this site that got me thinking about all of this. In her piece of the 16th of September she continued her debate with Graeme. The word ‘Sturgeon’ occurs 14 times in the piece, and at no point is it synonymous with anything remotely complimentary. In fact, the very first paragraph outlines a litany of failure attributed directly to the current First Minister.
By the way, I should add that sea and pine are not the only scents on the northern coast of Sjaelland. During the summer months there’s a strong scent of ‘Hyben Roser’ (‘Rosehip Roses’). These are wild roses with a very powerful scent that you’ll find near to many Danish and Baltic coasts. The ripe rosehips are packed with vitamins, and are good for jam making, so I’m told.
Anyway, scents and Sturgeon aside, it turns out that during lockdown, I had, among other things, got through three trilogies by Len Deighton! This surprised even me, as I’m really not into fiction at all. Still, needs must when the devil drives, and the Covid virus, origin unknown, that had found its way to our immune systems had turned into a particularly nasty form of evil. Thankfully, level-heads in Danish government were driving most of the big decisions. Lockdown restrictions were at no point near draconian. Difficult, yes, but when government ministers see no need to use pandemic briefings to massage their egos, or attack political opponents, common sense prevails and the experts are allowed to make decisions and give the briefings.
So, cycling around the north-east corner of Sjaelland was an opportunity to start with Deighton’s ‘Berlin Game’. I knew of Deighton from that Cold War classic ‘Funeral in Berlin’ — a tale of double cross and triple cross. His later work I was unaware of though, before listening to an interview about the Berlin Game trilogies.
Berlin Game is based in the 1980s, the era when, on a couple of occasions, nuclear war was narrowly avoided. The Soviets were rather paranoid about a US nuclear first strike, and not without reason. As far back as Eisenhower and Kennedy, elements of the US security establishment were actively agitating for a first strike. Kennedy flatly refused, appalled by the generals’ plan which involved the US accepting tens of millions of dead in return for wiping out the Soviet Union. As we now know, Kennedy turned into a peacemaker, something that James W. Douglass in ‘JFK and the Unspeakable’ alleges was the motive behind the assassination in Dallas.
Back in the 1980s, with Regan stoking Cold War tensions for all he was worth, the Soviets are reported to have created Operation RYAN. This was an acronym for ‘Raketno-Yadernoe Napadenie’ — ‘nuclear missile attack’. Agents abroad were on the look out for any behaviour or early-warning signs among Western politicians and any anomalous military activity. Those of us alive at the time, remember only too well the headlines about Perishing II, ‘SS-20’, and the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp and their protest against US cruise missiles there.
During NATO’s ‘Able Archer’ war games in November 1983, the Soviet Union believed, for a number of rational reasons, that a pre-emptive strike was being prepared. In response, planes in Poland and East Germany were loaded up with bombs, and 70 SS-20 ballistic missiles put on high alert. Aye, for the second time in just over two decades the west of Scotland faced nuclear annihilation, because it’s a ‘British’ target. Scotland in Union, ye cannae beat it.
But to be fair to the Russians, and not many are, if the US felt threatened by nuclear weapons on Cuba in 1962, why wouldn’t the Soviet Union fear Pershing II missiles in NATO states close to its border in 1983? It seems that nuclear submarines were sent under the Arctic ice in preparation for the coming atomic conflict. Soviet forces were only stood down when Able Archer 83 ended. It was with understandable relief, that the late Michail Gorbachov welcomed assurances that NATO would not move ‘one inch eastward’ in the post-Cold War new order of ‘peace dividends’. Whatever happened to those?
In the world of Deighton fiction, London develops an incredibly elaborate plot to insert an agent into the East German security services. This agent is manipulated into a position of influence, at the very top of the power ladder. From there the plan is to undermine the system from within. Without giving too much away, the agent destined to cause so much havoc is a female. She completely blind-sides those who trust her. As fiction goes it’s a great story and re-creates places and situations convincingly. It goes perfectly with a safe cycle ride, and a few pit stops for coffee and cake.
Anyway, back to Mia’s blog and those 14 mentions of Sturgeon. Personally, I’ve heard the word ‘betrayal’ used more than once about the FM and her inner clique. But obviously, it’s outrageous to suggest that the current leader of the SNP is a ‘kompromat’ or long-term ‘agent of influence’ for a foreign government. It’s probably paranoid to even consider that having started as a benign low-level informant, she gradually worked her way up into a position of power. That really is a bit too Len Deighton, isn’t it?
It’s also no doubt merely co-incidental that the reverse democratisation of the SNP occurred on her watch, and that a very small group of individuals now controls every aspect of SNP policy and action — or inaction, as the case may be. It’s clearly just more bad luck, that the party’s focus has moved to hugely divisive gender issues, and that its former leader was taken to court on the basis of an absurd series of manufactured and embellished charges. It was probably just an oversight that the supermajority idea was not taken seriously. After all, what right thinking independista would not wish a decrease in Unionist representation and give Holyrood the numbers to call an election at a time of its choosing. That get-out-of-jail card would have been more than useful.
Mia wrote about, “Sturgeon’s appalling waste of majorities, time and resources preserving Westminster’s perceived supremacy over Scotland for 8 years instead of terminating it”. To be fair, Sturgeon’s era began with great hope and no small amount of adulation. After all, she was Alex Salmond’s anointed successor. Murphy’s Law aside, what could possibly go wrong?
Unfortunately, the warning signs and red flags were everywhere, and I for one did not see them. Did you? For me, living abroad is no excuse. I read the same newspapers, press releases, saw the same news coverage, FMQs, and observed the same election campaigns that you all saw.
Truth be told, the rot had set in already in 2015. We now wonder how a vote for the SNP could not be a vote for independence. This is, after all, the entire basis for the existence of the party. And yet, with an SNP landslide in sight, the new FM decided to announce it would not be a mandate. Tommy Sheppard only confirmed this with his obsequious grovelling to the chair during his maiden speech. In essence, he said the ’56 had no mandate for independence, then added quite inexplicably, “neither did we seek one”. Another red flag that went unnoticed by most.
Of course, the short money rolling into the SNP was a nice little earner, as long as they remained at Westminster. There was, allegedly, enough ‘lovely moolah’ for the Westminster top dog (Angus Robertson) to award himself a leader’s allowance. In fact, questions are still being asked about what’s become of the £8m-plus in short money. But in the NuSNP asking probing questions is an entirely useless pastime.
We know from the FM’s social media feed that she likes a bit of fiction. So it’s perhaps not surprising to learn that there’s the plausible outline of a fictional plot under her very nose in Edinburgh. It involves the subversion of a popular ‘separatist movement’ in a resource rich colony of the British state. This colony, although portrayed as a poor subsidy-junkie state, is in fact the goose that lays the golden eggs for London and post-industrial England.
Elements of the story, entirely made up of course, include the idea of placing an MI5 agent in charge of the Crown prosecution service in Scotland. In a shocking development, top British civil servants get away with blatantly perjuring themselves at a Scottish government inquiry. It also encompasses members of the First Minister’s close inner circle, whom she clearly does not know — as Rene Artois might say — who are deeply involved in an attempt to destroy the former, avidly pro-independence First Minister. Another key element involves the current leader not only retaining, but promoting failed civil servants, close advisors, and ministers who support her contrived inaction on independence. It ends with ultimate success, as even when her hand is forced, she manages to opt for a route to independence that is most likely to fail.
On second thoughts, this is all so barely plausible that no one would ever believe it could actually happen.
You’ll still find hyben roser blossoming in September. Now and again they evoke a fragrance of summer as I cycle by. But as the leaves fall on the cycle paths they add another charm for two-wheel travellers as Keats’ season of mists and mellow fruitfulness arrives.
Currently, I’ve left the world of fiction for that of political reality. It’s clear that things are happening outwith career politicians and their self-perpetuating re-election bandwagons. The people of Scotland are awakening, debate is flourishing on free social media and in wee halls across the country. That the Union is a millstone around Scottish necks has never been more apparent. Our ancient constitution received the prominence it deserves during recent royal events. it’s now clear that there are routes to independence available to us that do not involve political popinjays, egomaniacs, and grifters. That’s not fiction, by the way, that’s fact. Can I appeal to you all to sign up for liberation.scot — it’s time we Scots and our gallant allies abroad took matters into our own hands.
Prosperity to Scotland and no Union
Peter maintains his high quality of writing which I know is appreciated by so many readers of this blog. I note the optimism at the end of the article as he discerns the new found confidence and activity occurring outwith the Party setup and being driven by grassroots members of the Yes movement. I share that optimism which is so necessary when the political leadership have been such failures.
I am, as always
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