Christianity Politics Scotland

Nicola Sturgeons Speech – A Warning for Scotland

I watched with keen interest our First Ministers speech at the SNP conference in Aberdeen last Saturday.   I don’t really want to comment on the ins and outs of a potential IndyRef2, or of Brexit and everything else associated with it.   There has already been enough said on that and I suspect many are already weary. Rather than offer a political opinion I would like to offer some broader observations on what was said – because important although the question of IndyRef2 and Brexit are, there is a danger that we will not see the wood for the trees. So let me try to see the wood, as there were aspects of Sturgeon’s speech which have profound implications, whatever our views on these lesser issues.

  • The negative reaction from some to Nicola and her speech was ridiculous. On the one hand there are those who have an irrational hatred of, and abuse for, her. She is not an evil person and does not deserve the name-calling and threats that she sometimes receives. She is someone who is doing her very difficult job to the best of her ability and as far as I can see, she genuinely cares for this country and its people. We should respect and honour her for that.
  • The adulation for what was at best a mediocre speech, well delivered but with minimal content, was also somewhat disturbing. There is an exaltation of the Leader that has worrying undertones.
  • There was a fundamental contradiction within the speech. Calling for a country that would be defined by inclusion, tolerance and diversity is a nice soundbite, but what does it mean? If we go by the speech itself then it means that there are groups who are not to be tolerated and included in this ‘diverse’ Scotland. Diversity has its limits; above all it excludes Tories – now about 30% of the Scottish electorate – who are beyond the pale.   It was disappointing to see the First Minister go back to the days of using the term ‘Tory’ as a swear word. This was done many times. I am not a Tory but I refuse to write of one third of my fellow citizens as some kind of ‘untermenschen’ and I feel this obligation to defend my Tory brothers and sisters – after all if they come first for the Tories then maybe I might be next! When the government of the day pronounce its Scotland v. the Tories – thereby excluding a significant proportion of the country from being ‘Scotland’ in the name of ‘inclusion’ you know that we are on very dangerous Newspeak territory.

On the one hand we were told that we were to build consensus, with courtesy, understanding and respect – on the other there was a continual dismissal and demonizing of ‘the other’. The mocking of Labour, the Lib Dems and of course, the Tories.  It was always the other who has dug their heels in, the other who have been inflexible and condescending. It’s the other who are putting the interests of their party ahead of the people of the country. Only the SNP are representing the people of the country. This demonization of the other is bad enough when it is done in party political rallies in an almost pantomime style (‘Tories, yah, boo’), but when it becomes the doctrine of the State it becomes really disturbing.

  • We are the People – This doctrine was expressed most chillingly when Nicola cited Canon Kenyon Wright who when asked ‘what do you say when they say we say no and we are the State?’  responded by saying ‘we say yes and we are the people’. This was roundly applauded without people seeing the problem. Because Nicola then went on to imply that the Scottish Parliament was the people, thus conflating State and People. As a searchresult we are moving in an increasingly centralized state towards a position where the State and the People are one. One State, One People, One Leader. Every authoritarian leader talks about ‘we, the people’ and assumes that they, and they alone, are speaking of behalf of ‘the people’.  Pete Wishart in a tweet suggested the coming battle would be the SNP, the Greens and Civic Scotland vs. the Rest. Civic Scotland is code for the media, academic, political, business and arts establishments – much of which is funded by government patronage. If that is true then we are far nearer a one-ideology state than I had thought. Those who don’t go along with the State become Enemies of the People.   Those who don’t buy into the values of the State are going to be bullied and discriminated against by a State that controls academia, employs half the population and has significant influence on the media. The State itself becomes the sole arbiter of values and some almost begin to worship the State. Speaking of values…..
  • The Conscience of the World – We are setting ourselves up as the moral arbiters of the world. Nicola said that we can choose to be a compassionate, open country where the best and brightest from around Europe come from around Europe to make Scotland their home. Incidentally there is a problem there already. Whatever happened to ‘“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”. Now we want the brightest and best and only from around Europe. There is to be no ‘freedom of movement’ from the rest of the world!  Every country or collection of countries restricts and controls movement/immigration in some way, but these niceties of detail seemed to escape the rapturous delegates who it appears envisage Scotland as being some kind of Nirvana where all are welcome.   Meanwhile back in reality. Or perhaps the simplicity of soundbite, virtue-signalling politics.

Tim Farron, the Lib-Dem leader, made a similar point at his party conference – the world is divided into those who are open and tolerant and internationalist, and those who are search-1closed and intolerant and nationalist.   This Bushlike doctrine of the good empire and the evil empire is dangerous in its simplistic outlook. Why? Consider this tweet I was sent – “Westminster gov is pure unadulterated evil. whereas Scot Gov is the complete opposite.” Westminster = pure unadulterated Evil. Scottish government = pure unadulterated good. Such fanaticism and irrationality is chilling.

  • What happens when Utopia doesn’t happen? So we are marching to this modern, progressive, outward looking compassionate country in which everyone (except Tories, Transphobes and Traditional Christians) are welcome. There is little doubt that Teresa May will not grant a referendum and that the SNP and others do not expect them to. That is why anti-Brexit media in England and Europe are talking this up (see Tom Gallagher’s interesting article on this). I have real doubts about whether the upper echelons in the SNP really want a referendum that they are likely to lose. It suits the grievance politics to be able to blame the Evil Tories (the Brexiteer Stormtroopers led by Darth Teresa!).   But the trouble is that if you build up people’s expectations, sell them a dream of Utopia and if it doesn’t happen, then the reaction can be fierxiW4OwCR_400x400ce. If you combine that with a demonization of the ‘other’ then you end up with the opposite of what Nicola called for. Instead of respect and rational discussion – you get more abuse, name calling and verbal if not physical violence.

Here for example are only a handful of the tweets I have received from supporters of a significant Yes blogger – Wings Over Scotland.

For some reason he attacked me and when he could not answer my answers he blocked me. Then he continued to attack me to his followers (though being blocked I could not see what he said) who took it in turns to attack me. Apparently they hunt in packs.   Here is a small example of the many messages I received.

A fibbing man of the cloth dear oh dear

stop taking utter rubbish you dickhead, here use this.

A minister who supports austerity, poverty, sanctions, disability cuts?.No thanks

Liar no way u voted yes or snp …. pathetic

He’s also a sanctimonious prick.

And a man of the cloth to boot. He is going to hell for that.

You’re a hateful religious zealot, you may not be intimidated but from this point on you will be mostly ignored and combated when required.

I’m now muting this idiot. His arguments, such as they are, are puerile and his statements contradictory and abusive

Its not so much the abuse, (that exists on all sides and some of it against SNP politicians is ugly), it’s the extent of it and who it comes from. Wings Over Scotland has been endorsed and followed by leading Nationalist politicians and even commentators like Iain MacWhirter of the Herald have sung their praises. They, or rather he (the ‘Rev Stuart Campbell – who incidentally is no Rev) is one of the largest Independent Indy groups. And his influence is seen in the sheer quantity of abuse I got. What disturbs me is the anti-religious aspect; (I have never claimed to be speaking on behalf of Jesus or the Church in my political views, but that does not stop them sticking the boot in); the ignorance and irrationality; and the sheer mob rule hatred. If Nicola Sturgeon wants her words to be taken seriously the SNP must dissociate itself from Wings Over Scotland and other such intimidatory online mobs.   I have been asked by one TV programme to go on their show tomorrow – I have no desire to and I have other things on anyway, but they will have some difficulty getting ordinary members of the public, because people can’t be bothered with the hassle and are scared of the intimidation.

  • La La Land or Reality – a disappointingly small part of the speech was devoted to the real issues. There was a welcome £35 million for more mental health workers, and a doubling of provision of high quality care for nursery children – with an extra £50 million to increase the pay of private nursery staff. But even that seemed to me to be tinkering at the edges. And that will always be the case because of two humanist doctrines that are delusional and dangerous. The first is that human beings are imgID102967907.jpg.gallerybasically good, and the second is that when things go wrong the State can just fix it by spending a little (or a lot) more money and making some laws. As an example of the latter take the Scottish governments announcement yesterday that they are going to criminalise emotional abuse. As Iain Macwhirter points out in this article this is an approach fraught with danger.   The State cannot police marriages and relationships with its all seeing eye!

These beliefs, coupled with with the dream of a Utopian State or Union of States, is really no use to the people of Scotland. In my day to day job I speak to worn out teachers, worried medical staff and weary social workers, who are struggling to cope with the many demands society makes on them, whilst they are both under resourced and over burdened. Long term solutions, preventive measures and critical thinking are ditched in favour of league tables, management targets and short term sticking plaster measures which end up being more expensive and less effective.

Incidentally if we are to build this brave new compassionate society with opportunity and equality for all, then we can ill afford to have our politicians spending two days debating about something when the result is already pre-determined, and the effects will only be negative.   This new society does not come in a package from the EU (or the UK) – we have to work at it ourselves. All of us. We all need to get on with the day job!

  • Scotland’s Future will be in Scotland’s hands. We were told that one of Scotland’s values was self-determination. “an unshakeable belief in the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to determine our own future. “ Leaving aside the contradiction involved in taking sovereignty back from Westminster on one hand, and giving it to Brussels on the other, I need to ask how true is that? There are surely things outwith our determination? If the Euro goes belly up, or Donald Trump decides to take on North Korea, or ISIS emerge in another form, or…..or…..or….
  • Just as our personal lifes are full of unknown factors, so our national life cannot be self-determined.  But the illusion that it can is dangerous.   The notion that ‘we the people’  (aka the State in the form of the SNP, Greens and Civic Scotland) can control everything is a delusional concept that has Orwellian consequences.   The SNP already controls its own politicians and party in an authoritarian manner that prevents dissent and disagreement. My fear is that it will try to run the country in the same way. The intimidation of the State/Civic Scotland Establishment, backed up by the intimidation of the mob is a powerful and frightening combination.  This is especially true when there is significant control of the media – a control that goes beyond spin.   My view is also that this is not just a danger for the SNP – its something that the EU anti-democratic establishment headed by Juncker delights in and it is a temptation for any political party.     The main lesson from history and from knowing human nature is this – those who think they can control the future, always end up being authoritarian and despotic.

Where the Real Sovereignty lies

The great advantage in believing that God alone is sovereign is that you end up with greater political, personal and economic freedom.   Samuel Rutherford’s great challenge to the authoritarianism of the King, Lex Rex (the law is King) was a significant factor in the development of real democracy both here in the UK and especially in the USA.   My fear is that we are returning to the view that the King (i.e. the State ‘the people’) is the Law. Therein lies the path to tyranny. Beware.

I believe that Nicola Sturgeon is genuine in wanting a country that is characterized by compassion, freedom, equality and tolerance. The danger is that the way she is going about it, will ensure that does not happen. If you get rid of the roots (removing the Christian heritage and basis of our culture) you will eventually lose the fruits. Replacing belief in God as sovereign, with the belief that the State is the all-powerful sovereign, will inevitably lead to some kind of tyranny.  The fact that you call it democracy and ‘the will of the people’ does not make it so – any more than calling war ‘peace’ makes it peace. The fact that your intentions are good, does not make your law and actions good. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. We need a greater awareness of what is going on, more critical thinking, and we need to preserve in reality our basic freedoms – freedom of the press, freedom of the family, freedom of conscience, a free political process and the one on which they are all based – freedom of religion.
David Robertson

St Peters Free Church


March 22nd 2017







  1. Thank you David for another excellent post. The rapid decline in standards and values in our country has been profoundly disturbing. When God is omitted there is not a vacuum, as someone or something else is put in its place. What is quite sobering is that many people can quite rightly express concern or alarm at what is happening in … [quite a lot of other countries] that we did not anticipate, but fail to notice the same trends at work here in our country.

  2. Agree with a lot of this article, David, but have a few points.

    Firstly I’m not sure why you​ seem to have a problem with​ the democratically-elected Scottish parliament representing the Scottish people publicly declaring that it represents the​ Scottish people.

    As for mobs on twitter this is unfortunately the way twitter works. You need​ only looked the aggressive way nationalist figures are targeted if they dare question the authority of the great JK Rowling. It is wrong and unhelpful to debate but happens on all sides and am not here there is a way to avoid it with the anonymity afforded by twitter to these idiots.

    Lastly, I was not born during the years of Thatcher and cannot claim to have any first-hand knowledge of it. However, I grew up in an area devastated by her policies. I watched Ravenscraig being demolished. I can walk around the towns where i grew up and see the direct effects of her reckless economic policies which is still largely to blame for the unemployment and depression in manufacturing towns around Scotland. I know the unfairness of siphoning Scotland’s​ oil wealth and asset-stripping the UK North of London to cut taxes and deregulate the city of London. I have lived through the neoliberal horror show of Cameron and Osborne where the poor and disabled were made to pay for the criminality of bankers. As someone who purports to be left-wing I am sure you do not disagree with where I am coming from.

    The point is that Scotland did not vote for these people. We have contributed either one or no Tory MPs to Westminster in the last 20 years. Only 23% voted for Tories at Holyrood (yet Davidson and Mundell have the ball to tell us what we can and cannot do at Holyrood). Right now every one of the 27 EU states are getting to decide Scotland’s future except Scotland, thanks​ to Mrs May’s high-handed imperial stance. Perhaps this is why ‘Tory’ is still something of a bad word to many in Scotland. I am not saying it should be used as such, but surely you are not unaware of the reasons why it is like this? In democratic politics there will always be division as long as we live in a fallen world and suffer from the greed of man.

    1. Calum – if you read the article again you will see why I have a problem. Representing ‘the people’ is one thing – equating yourself with the people is another.

      The ‘both sides do it’ is one that I used to accept but now think at best it is limited. The fact is that the abuse from Cybernats is horrendous and greater in quantity. I have never met anyone who says they are scared to admit they voted SNP – but I have met plenty the other way. Incidentally I had ITN in here this morning and they said the same thing – that people were reluctant to admit voting Tory.

      You have a strange list of villans – why miss out Blair and Brown>?

      And please don’t says ‘Scotland’ did not vote for these people. Scotland as a whole did not even vote for the SNP by a clear majority. Some of Scotland did vote for ‘these’ people – and your cavalier dismissal of one in five (perhaps one in three) of your fellow citizens is precisely what I was writing about.

      And its incredible how the SNP tweet out a new mantra every week – and every week it gets repeated. Every one of the 27 EU states is not getting to determine Scotlands future – and Scotland does not exist as a nation state as a member of the EU. We are a constituent part of the UK and as such we get as much, if not more say, than Greece, Estonia or Denmark in our own future.

      Your post indicates precisely what I was talking about. We need a more nuanced discussion….

    2. Nicely written, however you completely ignored the Bliar years in your write up or offered anything positive to have come out of a decade of SNP rule.

      No I can’t think of anything either.


  3. David, reading the above is uncomfortable , more so than any Wikipedia entry over the Soviet state or any of it’s satellites. Your dissection of the path the SNP have apparently (I use that term as they flip flop around so much it’s like a smokescreen) chosen to follow makes chilling reading indeed. What next, wee tartan books?

    Keep up the objectivity.

  4. David, an interesting article but I think your second paragraph gives Ms Sturgeon too much credit.

    As First Minister she’s presiding over a country failing in many, many ways but puts her cause before her job as First Minister. Her comments on many items to do with the economics details of independence show her to either be ignorant of the facts (which I do not believe she is) or taking advantage of those who are ignorant or uneducated as to the implications of the proposed courses of action. Her comments are clearly made to engender further support from those who do no know any better, but will suffer if the proposed actions come to pass. With behaviour such as this I think it’s impossible to say she “genuinely cares for this country and its people”.

    1. I came on to make a similar comment to this. “She is someone who is doing her very difficult job to the best of her ability and as far as I can see, she genuinely cares for this country and its people.” It would certainly appear that the people of the constituency that she is supposed to represent do not think so. She has one overriding ambition – to separate Scotland from the rest of the UK. From my distant perspective, there is a lot to back up the request: “Get on with the day job”!

  5. In regards to Twitter: if you ever notice an unusual name trending it always turns out to be a footballer. Twitter users have a certain demographic. You can see it in the very pro unionist tweeters. Nearly all have a reference to Rangers FC on their profile. On the nationalist side it seems to be the sort of people who caused trouble at the Bannockburn Rally in years gone by. Both are fringes really and probably best ignored.

  6. “We need a greater awareness of what is going on, more critical thinking” We can all agree with that.

    But to refer to “the contradiction of taking sovereignty back from Westminster on one hand, and giving it to Brussels on the other” is a hardly an example of critical thinking. Does Brussels control our defence, foreign affairs, broadcasting and above all taxation and the budget by which our government operates?

    The European Union can be criticised for its policy on matters such as agriculture and fisheries, but it provides a framework of regulation to a greater or lesser extent in fields such as manufacturing, road safety, communications, competition, the environment and intellectual property. These help to ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens and to facilitate trade among its member states. They do not control our lives to anything like the extent that Westminster does.

    The basic freedoms which you list at the end – “freedom of the press, freedom of the family, freedom of conscience, a free political process and the one on which they are all based – freedom of religion” are all protected by EU treaties such as the European Convention of Human Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Leaving the EU would mean the latter would cease to apply to the UK. What we have above all to contest is the Brexiteers’ suggestion that the ECHR, which Britain originally promoted, should cease to be part of UK law.

    1. Thank you for your comment but I disagree with both its substance and its perjorative tone.

      Depending on who you refer to – Brussels would control 50-74% of our laws. It is much more than just a regulatory body for manufacturing, road safety etc. I for one think that it is possible that we might be able to provide our own regulation for that! Given that Brussels would largely control the economy and great aspects of taxation and budget. The ECHR and ECFR are not adequate protections. Take for example families in Germany who wish to home school their children – they are banned from doing so and are regarded as criminals. I’m afraid that you missed the wood, because you seem a wee bit obsessed with a couple of the trees!

  7. Ragbin,

    Could I suggest you look at one of David’s older posts about democracy:

    An Open Challenge to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP Leadership
    Posted on February 21, 2017. It would be good to hear your considered views on that and the link within it.

    You may already be aware of this but it is repeated for emphasis and relates to government, governance, democracy and the EU:

    This is from Alex Salmond yesterday on BBC Radio 4, prog 11:00 am “Can the Centre hold” min !4:30 -15:40

    He reveals the heart of the SNP is based on a strong sense of National identity AND an anti-establishment message.

    “The hard-headed aspect – a trait of our (national) character balanced with social redicalism was the basis on which I shaped the SNP – challenging the establishment, the Labour party in Scotland and Tory party in Westminster, “AND THAT DEFINED THE SNP ROLE AND OUR SUCCESS WAS BASED ON IT BEING A NATIONAL PARTY”. (the left found it -national identity- a difficult notion) AND SCOTTISH IDENTITY HAS BY AND LARGE BEEN COMFORTABLE WITH ITS ITS (EUROPEAN) HOME IN THE ANCIENT NATIONS OF EUROPE.”

    Is there any wonder that there is what you describe as “so much bitterness and passion” when the SNP identity is based on anti-establishment, a party whose main ethos is protest and rebellion, rather than a governing party. Now it is “the establishment ” will it self destruct? And where will anti-establishment take them if they were to become part of the non democratic EU as a separate Nation?

    So far, has the SNP established itself as more than a party of hectoring and anti-establishment , as a party of government. As many have said on here, they should get on with governing.

    As for substantive government, I’d be deeply concerned at proposals for emotional abuse laws. How about first bringing their supporters into line over internet abuse, and the emotional abuse to David and through it, the mocking of Christianity.

    As for freedom of religion in the EU you’ve clearly not read David’s post on the recent EU Supreme Court decision (see below).

    Somone has said that most people can withstand adversity, but if you want to test them thoroughly give them power.

    1. I’m sorry, but is this reply meant to be addressed to me? My post contains no reference to the SNP, nor to bitterness and passion.

  8. Some of it was cut and pasted from my comment on what David said in Quantum 102, below, with some additions, as it is relevant to what you have said.

  9. At last it has been revealed, by Donald Tusk, today – the “sovereignty of Europe.”

    This is a weird sovereignty based on the “sovereignty of bureaucracy”, not democracy. It’s nothing like the federal US democratic system or the UK.

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