Brexit: Known knowns and known unknowns

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Image caption Donald Rumsfeld made his famous "known knowns" comment at a Pentagon briefing in 2002

As US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld offered the following verdict upon our troubled planet:

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."

When he uttered these remarks in 2002, he drew a certain amount of satire and contumely. His comments now appear a model of precision and certainty by comparison with the chaos and confusion surrounding our political world.

Facing Holyrood questions, Nicola Sturgeon spotlighted the endemic uncertainty within the body politic. We didn't know the terms the UK would seek from the EU. With a faint shrug, she noted that we did not even know the name of the prime minister who would be pursuing those terms. (Hint: it won't be Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.)

But amid this guddle, amid this bourach, Ms Sturgeon detected one fixed point. The Tories were to blame.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon was clear that she believed the Tories were to blame for Brexit

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Brexit aftermath: Drawing on the words of thinkers

Irish President Michael Higgins Image copyright PA
Image caption Irish President Michael Higgins addressed the Scottish Parliament

Ideas and action. In general, it is sensible if one precedes the other. For the avoidance of any doubt, I am suggesting that thought might usefully come first.

Today, in Edinburgh and Brussels, we have had copious examples of both. More precisely, we have had a range of ideas - and, just perhaps, the first stirrings of action.

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Independence hangs over Holyrood Brexit debate

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Image caption MSPs were updated on the government's plans in the wake of the UK's vote to quit the European Union

It was not, said Nicola Sturgeon, a statement she wanted to make. Her party, her government had not sought a referendum on the European Union nor did they seek the result which followed.

Nevertheless, she delivered said statement with panache and deliberative control. It was not, she implied by her demeanour, a time for fire and passion.

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Could the Scottish Parliament stop the UK from leaving the EU?

  • 26 June 2016
  • From the section Scotland
Media captionNicola Sturgeon: Scotland could veto Brexit

To recap. The Prime Minister has resigned. The leader of the opposition is resisting pressure from senior colleagues to follow suit.

And, lest we forget in this temporary focus upon party leadership, the people of the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union after 43 years of membership.

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Is the time right for Indyref2?

  • 24 June 2016
  • From the section Scotland
Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ms Sturgeon said a second independence referendum was "highly likely"

It looks "highly likely", says Nicola Sturgeon, that there will now be a second referendum upon Scottish independence.

Is she enthused by this prospect? Does she thrill at the notion? Is she buffing up her best lines from 2014? The answers to those questions would be no, no and, once again, no.

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EU referendum: Doing what you feel in your heart

  • 22 June 2016
  • From the section Scotland
Eleanor Roosevelt
Image caption Eleanor Roosevelt was the US first lady during her husband's four terms as US president

In her lifetime, Eleanor Roosevelt prompted a range of responses. As first lady during FDR's four term US Presidency, she brought to the role an influence and status it had never had before and seldom since.

As an aside, her relationship with that other great wartime leader, Winston Churchill, was occasionally cool.

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EU referendum: Who'll be rushing out to vote?

  • 21 June 2016
  • From the section Scotland
Runners Image copyright Thinkstock

According to Nigel Farage, the more avid supporters of Brexit would "crawl over broken glass" to vote to leave the European Union.

As far as I am aware, suffrage qualifications of this nature no longer exist in the UK. Electoral participation involves no particular hazards - other than enduring dusty town halls or schools, with relentlessly cheerful canvassers at the door.

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EU ref differences less marked in Scotland

EU, Saltire and Union flag

A referendum engenders an intriguing range of issues - and curious allegiances. Even more than in a General Election where most follow Disraeli's advice: "Damn your principles, stick to your party."

Political parties, of course, are all coalitions of the more or less willing. But, again, when they are presenting themselves to the voters at election time, they commonly contrive to subsume most of their differences.

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EU debate dodges Holyrood purdah

Media captionPresiding officer Ken Macintosh told the chamber he had sought advice on the matter

It is trite - but nevertheless true - to say that politicians are not crucially important in this referendum.

They are not up for election. In any case, the future prospects of individual politicians and their parties matter far, far less than the key question.

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Strange liaisons in the EU referendum campaigns

George and Alastair Image copyright PA

Intriguing times, strange liaisons. Driven by a test of voters' views which is, lest we forget, a referendum, not an election designed to disclose partisan allegiances.

Alistair Darling smiles benignly as the Chancellor, George Osborne, warns of an emergency budget - with tax hikes and spending cuts - in the event of Brexit.

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