Thursday, 30 April 2015

Flawed Logic of Effie Deans


Until recently I had never heard of Effie Deans and, if you haven’t, you can find her blog at Lily of St. Leonards  and her tweets here.  Effie is unionist and, obviously, very staunchly anti-independence and is still fighting the independence battle.  I do not share her political views in any way but, just as I am, she is entitled to her views and to promote them as she sees fit WITHOUT being subject to abuse.  Here I shall not abuse but I shall say what I think about her arguments.

The colour of the government in Westminster is secondary to winning on independence.  Winning, to Effie, is shutting out the possibility of independence, for ever!

The first of her posts which I read was titled, ‘We must attack the SNP at its roots’ and it appears it is for this post that she has been ‘attacked’ on Twitter.  The abuse is wrong and it is pointless and it would still be wrong even if it were not pointless. She wrote this about the background to the abuse.

I questioned the assumption on which the supporters of the SNP base their support. …..  What I discovered last week with my little experiment is that huge numbers of Scots are unable to question the assumptions on which they base their thought. They were unable to respond with reason to my questioning of the assumption and so for the most part responded with fury. I set off a twitter storm that raged because I transgressed a nationalist taboo. Horror of horrors, I had explained logically why Scotland was not really a country. How dare I say that, splutter, splutter! But it is a country, it is! I got an awful lot of assertion. But the majority of minds were quite fully shut and not open to argument on this issue. [Source]


She claims to have explained logically why Scotland wasn’t a country but she didn’t.  Her case is fundamentally flawed. It is her logic alone which should be attacked.


The starting point for her case is this,

There’s only one good argument for an independent Scotland. But it is a very good argument indeed. It can be stated in the following way:

1 Scotland is a country.
2 Countries ought to be independent.
3 Therefore Scotland ought to be independent.

Once you have accepted this argument, then all other arguments will be impotent against it.


I quibble in a possibly surprising but still important way with this argument. I weaken the argument. Effie uses ‘ought’: I wouldn’t.  I would rephrase her three points as,

1 Scotland is a country.
2 Countries have the right to choose to be independent.
3 Therefore Scotland has the right to choose to be independent.


My rephrasing puts power where it should be; with the people of the country.  In September, the people of Scotland chose not to be independent but the power to become independent remains still with the Scottish people.

Despite this, Effie has captured the essence of the debate.  Whatever case one makes for independence it is predicated on those three points.

Being fiercely unionist, Effie continues,

In order to defeat an opponent it is necessary to put forward his best argument and then refute it. The only way to refute an argument is by either refuting the reasoning or the assumptions.


Therefore, Effie determines to refute the reasoning or the assumptions behind her three point argument and it is here that her logic disappears.  Let’s look at her starting point.

The initial assumption “Scotland is a country” must not be allowed, for if we do allow it, the rest of the argument follows as a matter of course.

How then does she achieve this?

Well, she sets up her definition of country.

But the vast majority of countries I can think of are independent, sovereign nation states. It would almost appear that the defining characteristic of a country is that it is independent and sovereign. [Emphasis is mine]

and two sentences later the characteristic has become definite,

Being independent therefore in the vast majority of cases is the defining characteristic of being a country. [Emphasis is mine]

You can see where this is going and Effie drives on either ignoring or not knowing that her logic is taking her closer and closer to a crash.

While Scotland is called a country owing to a quirk of the English language, it is not a country in the sense in which 99% of the countries of the world are countries. As I frequently say Scotland is a country in a similar way that Fife is a kingdom. Fife is called a kingdom, but it lacks the defining characteristic of being a kingdom. It lacks a king. Scotland too lacks the defining characteristic of being a country, for it is neither sovereign, nor independent.


There it is laid out, the unimpeachable logic.

Only a true country can be independent and a ‘country’ is only a true country if it is independent


a ‘country’ which is not independent is not a true country and can never be independent because it is not a true country.


Let me try and put this another way.  Effie’s logic is,

A ‘country’ which is not already independent can never become independent because if it were a country it would be independent already. 

Circular logic!!!


Now, if Effie’s rule is anything other than a device to deny independence to Scotland, then it would apply worldwide and not just today but yesterday and tomorrow.  And if her logic were not already in pieces it would self-destruct here.

Effie’s rule freezes the world!

No country could ever have become independent but we know that countries have, and continue to, become independent. 

But Effie’s rule precludes this!

How could this happen?

It’s quite simple.

Effie’s rule is a logical nonsense dredged up to achieve her desired end of an everlasting United Kingdom.

It is only ever meant to apply to Scotland so that Effie can enjoy her ‘right to live without a continual threat to my country’s existence.


There is no democracy in Effie’s world but there are Effie’s ‘right’s which trump those of all who dare to think differently.


There is no Effie’s rule but there is Effie’s nonsense.


  1. Are you still there Calum? No posts for a while.

    Will stop checking unless the notification systems send me a reply.

    1. Thanks for the email. One starts to wonder when bloggers of our vintage fall silent for a while...

  2. So, by Effie Deans' logic, Norway wasn't a country until 1905. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania were countries between 1918 and 1940 then stopped being countries until the 1990s. The list is Europe alone is fairly long and ever-changing: Finland, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Poland, Irish Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo.

    Being a conservative, Ms Deans doesn't like change, but things change.

  3. Spot on, Ryan, and thanks for commenting.