Gin we’ve lairnt onyhin fae the lest twa elections, then it’s shairlie that, firstlie, polls are gey doutsome, an voters gey ragglish. Jist whaur did that stamagast o a UK Tory majority come fae in 2015, or the brawer surpreese o an SNP launslide in Scotland, e’en takkin seats fae Labour high-heid yins in places whaur votes yaised tae be wechtit insteid o coontit? An whaur’s yon SNP majority awbody said we were guaranteed tae hae in Holyrood in Mey? Saicontlie, an gaun some wey tae explainin the lest pynt, we’ve learnt tae oor peril that the best-laid schemes o tactical votin gang aft agley. Readers o Bella will weel hae mynd o the lang an birsie stushie atween those committit tae #baithvotesSNP/#wheeshtfurindy an thaim fecthin fur a RISE or Green vote oan the list, aften takkin fur grantit that the SNP wid hae a siccar majority fae constituency seats alane. Noo altho the SNP undoutitlie wan the election (despite whit ye micht hear fae some fowk), an altho we still hae an overaw pro-indy majority thegither wi the Greens, the SNP’s oweraw majority wis tint, RISE wan nae seats, unionist pairties tak seats aw ower the kintra, an the Tories e’en becam the offeecial pairty o opposition. Whae saw that cumin?
We’d dae weel tae tak tent o aw this as we swither ower hoo tae vote in the forthcomin EU referendum. It luiks fairlie siccar that Scotland will vote tae stey by a guid hantle, but aw polls maun be takken wi a pinch o salt. Whither votin remain tae increase Scottish distinctiveness fae thon anti-EU English, or, wi the same goal in mind, takkin a Scottish stey fur grantit an conseederin a tactical leave vote tae cowp the rUK vote ower tae leave, baith rely oan nairrative an nummers whilk can bi nae means be presupponed. Ower stressin the ‘Scotland guid, England bad’ nairrative micht lea no jist the pollsters luikin a wee bit doitit oan 24 June, but aw thae Scots whae chukkit awa thir vote oan a shooglie bet, insteid o votin oan principle, an aw.
E’en wur we tae get awa wi securin the ettled efter numerical ootcome (Scottish stey, rUK leave), hooiver, the ettled efter poleetical ootcome (a saicont independence referendum an a free-staunin Scotland) micht no follae. Firstlie, on whit sort o turnoot? An by hoo muckle a difference? Enough, on baith accoonts, tae justify haudin a saicont referendum? Forby whit if the majority whae vote tae stey in the EU in Scotland (let’s e’en assume oan a guid turnoot an by a guid hantle o votes), an whae noo fin thirsels luikin at bein takken oot o the EU agin thir will, still dinnae want a saicont independence referendum, ne’er mind a free-staunin Scotland? Pollin hus been shooglie oan this maitter, whiles seyin thur wid be overaw support fur a saicont indy-ref, whiles sayin thur widnae. An ICM poll at the end o lest month, fir exaimple, shawed that 48% in Scotland wad be agin a post-Brexit vote on independence, wi anelie 44% fur it, an 8% whae didnae ken. The maist recent Scotland anelie poll, meanwhile (the Ipsos-Mori telephone ane set furth oan Wednesday) hud 47% in favour o, an 45% agin, a saicont referendum within twa year in the event o a Scottish stey vote alangside a UK-wide Brexit.
E’en assumin that we makkit it as faur as a braw Scottish stey vote thegither wi braw strang support fur a saicont indy-ref, there’s still nae certainty whitsaeivver that we’d win that referendum, an indeed muckle tae suggest that we widnae. We ken that support for independence hisnae chyngned in ony hertsome wey since September 2014, an that we certainlie dinnae hae clear majority support for independence. Assumin that a Scottish stey vote thegither wi an rUK leave vote is gonnae gie us thon majority ower nicht is an awfie shooglie peg oan whilk tae hing oor hopes. Gin onyhin, the picher an stramash that wid result fae sic an ootcome wid mak it in some weys e’en mair trauchlesome nor it wis in 2014 tae mak the case fur a free-staunin Scotland, as haes been pyntit oot by SNP high-heid yins sic as Humza Yousaf an Marco Biagi. The same ICM poll referrit tae abuin also speirt fowk hoo they wid vote gin a saicont indy ref wur tae tak place – wi 44% backin an aye vote, 47% a naw vote, an 8% whae didnae ken. Noo, this is no tae say that this poll is ony mair reliable nor ony ither, but simplie tae pynt oot that the nairrative o ‘Scottish stey leads tae saicont indy-ref leads tae a free-staunin Scotland’ is gey doutsome.
Maist importantlie, hooivver, the problem wi tactical votin is no jist that it aften doesnae wark oot the wey we want, but that it stops us votin oan principle, oan whit we believe in, baith in terms o oor thochts aboot the EU as weel as oor thochts aboot a free-staunin Scotland.
Regairds the first, it is a muckle deceision we hae afore us nixt Thursday, an there are pooerfu airguments baith fur an agin the EU. We shud be makkin oor deceision based oan thir, no oan whit’s mair likelie tae lead tae a free-staunin Scotland. As tae the latter, thaim amang us whae paissionatelie believe in an independent Scotland shairlie want us tae get there wi gallusness an integrity, no tae be birled intae it throu external events ootwi oor ain control, relyin in this case oan an rUK leave vote tae gie us a saicont chance tae debate oor future, an e’en then wi nae guarantee it’ll gie us the majority fur independence that we want. As Robin McAlpine has been seyin an screivin fur a guid while, aw this talk o ‘triggers’ fur a saicont indy-ref lats on a fundamental weakness, implyin that we dinnae believe that we can mak the case fur independence oan oor ain, an in oor ain positive terms.
The pynt o this is tae threap at us aw, whitivver wey we vote nixt Thursday, tae dae sae wi gallussness an wi integrity, an no sleekitlie ettlin fur a saicont Scottish indy-ref. Principle maun aye take precedence, whither decidin oan the EU, or oan hoo we get tae an independent Scotland.