Independence-Lite: the Triumph of Hope over Reality

David Torrance speaking on Dragon’s Eye (at 17:42 minutes in) articulated his belief that the SNP’s aim is not independence but instead some form of looser union with England. He also believes that if it is a two question referendum then the choice will not be between independence and the Union but between some form of powerful Scottish parliament within the Union or the status quo. What is driving this idea that the SNP want independence-lite not full independence and that the SNP has become the Scottish Regional Party not the Scottish National Party?

I believe that there are two factors at work here, hope and a failure to understand the two very different routes which will take Scotland either to independence or to government under a regional parliament within the UK. The hope comes from a sense of Britishness and the idea that the SNP can’t really mean it. That independence is only a threat which is used, in the eyes of British nationalists, as a form of teenage threat which is at its heart a bluff. Unless you let me stay out till midnight I’ll leave home. Unless you let me redecorate my room in black I’ll leave home. Unless you give Scotland a powerful regional parliament we’ll leave the Union. The idea of Britain as a unified nation which is more than just a unified state is so strongly embedded within the British psyche that the SNP are regarded not as nationalists but as regionalists. I suspect that in the past the idea of an independent Scotland has been such a ludicrous concept for British nationalists that it has blinded them to the fact that the SNP is not a joke party in the vein of a Wessex independence movement or a Yorkshire independence party and that’s part of the reason why Labour in particular has failed to recognise the threat to their hegemony in Scotland and to find a strategy to keep the SNP out of power in Holyrood.

Now the SNP has won a majority in Holyrood things have changed and in the face of the promised independence referendum the only recourse for those who still find it hard to deal with the idea of an independent Scotland is to decide that the question is not really going to be about independence but about regional autonomy and so the concept of independence-lite has been born along with its sibling full fiscal autonomy and LabourHames fixation on federalism. That failure to grasp the concept of an independent Scotland has fuelled many a post and comment by unionists in which they ask the comfort question of, “What does independence actually mean?”, in the hope that the answer will be that it doesn’t mean what it means in the rest of Europe and that if they continually question what independence really means then eventually on some sunny fantasy day the SNP will turn round and admit that independence really just means devolution.

Quite apart from the difference in power between an independent parliament and a regional parliament, the routes to independence and to regional autonomy for Scotland within the Union are so different that the failure to understand that difference is again almost like a mental comfort blanket. There is a failure to understand that although independence and a strong regional parliament superficially look very alike the route to get to them is as different as they are.
If David Torrance gets his referendum with two questions on it which are not about independence but a choice between more powers for a regional Scottish Parliament or the status quo then who gets to decides on what powers are included in the referendum question because for a regional parliament that is the $64,000 question. Several scenarios present themselves:

1. If the SNP write the regional powers question, as it’s their referendum, and explain in the question that they want Scotland to have control over taxes such as oil revenues what will happen after the referendum if Westminster says something along the lines of, “We have noted the powers that you want but we never agreed to anything before the referendum and we just can’t give them to you”?

2. Or perhaps Westminster should write the question or provide the details of the proposed new powers for Scotland as they are the ones with the power to implement it. But what happens if they refuse to give Scotland its oil revenues under the proposed new regional Parliament and only agree to a set of minimal powers for the new Scotland which are not much more than the status quo?

3. Or perhaps it goes swimmingly. In some alternate universe all three Westminster parties agree to give Scotland a Rolls-Royce regional parliament which includes powers over everything but the kitchen sink and just ask for a proportionate share of costs from Scotland for foreign affairs and defence but in Westminster when the bill is presented the backbenchers revolt and refuse to pass it.

In all scenarios the question is what can the SNP do if Westminster points out that the Scottish referendum was nothing to do with them, writes in a minimal set of powers for a Scottish regional parliament or reneges on the deal and the answer of course is that it can do nothing. When the referendum is about a regional parliament unless the Westminster Government comes up with a bill which details all the powers beforehand then it is really just a ballot paper with a wish list on it. Once the Westminster Government comes up with the bill it still has to go through parliament which may be under a different government to the one who wrote the bill or it may not be to the liking of a lot of back-benchers on the day of the vote. Even if the Westminster Government comes up with a bill which can be voted on in a Scottish referendum there is no guarantee the bill won’t be just another smoke and mirrors Calman excercise.

If Scotland votes for independence then it has legal right to independence under Article 1 of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Both read: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

And there lies the huge difference between a vote for independence and a vote for a regional parliament. On the ballot paper it’s pointless for the SNP to write a wish list for the regional parliament they want because a wishlist is all it would be without the agreement of Westminster to implement it. If the SNP want a regional parliament question on the ballot paper then they have to accept that Westminster defines what powers that parliament will get and that it is in the gift of Westminster to implement it and if Westminster changes its mind about the whole business then that’s it. The UN does not get involved in how countries rejig their local government.

This referendum is a chance to ask Scots if they want independence. If they agree then they have the right to take it. If the SNP simply ask for a regional parliament mark II then there a very good chance that Westminster will just write in Calman+ for the question and then just refuse to implement it fully anyway. The SNP’s only hope in that case is that they can get a majority in the next Scottish parliament to ask the independence question they should have asked in the first place. The idea that the referendum is not going to be an independence referendum is simply not tenable because the SNP will not control any part of the process of creating or defining the powers of a regional parliament and Scotland’s destiny will again be handed back to Westminster. It will not be a question of what Scots want but of what Westminster is willing to give. The only way to empower Scots and Scotland is to take the independence route which hands power back to Scots.

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  1. Great stuff Doug! Thanks!

  2. good article dug. Can I add though, -David Torrance is a good journalist, but a self confessed Tory and Unionist – he wont be deciding anything for the SNP, except at the margins, But his and your observations are pretty accurrate.

    the big issue for me, as a supporter of full independence, but quite deliberately NOT a member of the SNP is , Who is the SNP? Because if you. like me ,think Labour is a top down leadership dominated party, it is positively libertarian compared with the SNP. Where does all this talk and spin “independence lite” come from? The parties Holyrood and especially its Westminster leaderships. Put it to an open vote of the SNPS membership and it would get booted out in 15 minutes in favour of an INDEPENDENCE NOTHING LESS filly soveirng Scotland, THEN and only Maybe -. leasse some power back to some pan British bodies, but from an unequivocally sovereign position – if they dont work, we pull, not needing the permission of nobody. The view of and off of near every thinking nat i have met, best articulated, ironically but significantly, by expelled formed Vice President Margo MacDonald. But the current leadership will never allow such an open debate or certainly an open vote in strategic options. At best it will present the part with a single strategic option – independence light – for endorsement on a back it of sack Eck ultimatum.

    Jjust look at he way in which the leadership monoeved its own party DURING AN ELECTION CAMAIGN WHRE THEY COULD BUT NOT AGREE into the “wait until 2015 for a referendum” position, Never discussed or voted on by a single party forum, but now mainstream policy, Mandelson sque!!!!, But without even the sort of token, and at times to be fair fierce, opposition form the rank and file Mandy always have to factor into his calculations, Because the SNP not only has a n authoritarian leadership but a docile and id say in large part none too bright rank and file for whom waving flags ,wearig klts and voting SNP every now and then is enough, Its in this context all discussions on SNP staregy needs to be consider, Because the SNP as a party is not strategic at all, If it has a strategy its “leave it to our leaders” – now stronger than ever given the current leaders have delivered big victories in recent times, But victories at what cost – by becoming a sort of Scottish Labour Action, an organisation i helped found, in 1987, But a super devolutionist, not a pro independence faction, one designed to save the Union and Labour, – stop 5th May 2o11 happening!,

    But times – and me – have moved on, Yet the SNP as a party remains as centralist as ever and its rank and file – with a few honpr able exceptions – and docile as ever, And if the rank and file ever gets active it is near always to defend it leadership from “splitters!!” ie people who ask difficult questions!

    And finally, then there is the issue of Special Branch/ Mi5 /NATO/CIA infiltration of the SNP at the very top, These has just got to be at least one long term sleeper in there – we are taking about the END of the British State, the loss of the UK UN Veto, and a NON NATO non nuclear state in NATO’s Atlantic gap if SNP policy is to be believed. , If M15 /CIA etc did not have their guys in there, they would not be doing their jobs. A hazard for any radical movement that challenges the Britrish state, but particularly hazardous in a top down leadership driven organisation where the leaders, almost , by definition, are right.

    For me its not a question of IF the SNP leadership sells out, Just a question of when and precisely how – and how, if t all, we counter. Connolly had this all sussed arround 1910 when he founded the 1CA.

    1. DougtheDug says:

      I’m a rank and file member of the SNP and I wouldn’t call myself particularly docile. The current leadership of the SNP has taken the party to a majority in the Scottish Parliament and the control required to hold an independence referendum.

      So far they’ve done a good job and all the talk of independence-lite is not coming from the SNP.

    2. Indy says:

      This is delusional nonsense.

  3. Cowaldude says:

    The game has changed forever, Dont be so feart! The whole Westminster construct and its media collusionists is now so ridiculous that every rational and thinking person I speak to – nationalist or otherwise – genuinely believe that the whole enterprise is corrupt (News International!!), of no added-value and should be scrapped. The very notion of Britain is a joke and redolent of Gilbert and Sullivan – i.e.the House of Lords..what a bunch of plonkers!

    Then you have the Ministry of Donkeys (MOD).. you could not make up the incomparable incompetence of this (Dis) organisation…their track record of total f**k up goes back for decades – Blue Streak; TSR2; carriers-no planes— and their latest wheaze! – Can’t account for £6billion –yes “billion” – worth of equipment; their response? We have not lost it…we just dont know where it is! *************What a bunch of idiots!
    Scotland…as usual…has to lead the way and scrap the entire venture. We should have no truck with worthless Wastemonster. We cant afford it; we dont need it and we need to scrap it. Get some cojones and take control of your lives and dont consign it to the Cameroons and Millipedes and there Hampstead sandal clad Nouveau- Brits!! The British Flag and all it entails is a disgusting throwback reflecting a narrow imperialist and worthless concept. We – Scots, English and Welsh ( The Irish are already doing their own thing, rightly or wrongly), can do things better by recognising our differences and the poisonous British pastiche, BUT working together in a different and better way. Above all it means scrapping Westminster, sorry Wastemonster!!

  4. Alex Buchan says:

    Doug thanks for the link. I think if you watched it again you’ll find that David Torrance did not say that there wouldn’t be a question on independence, he said that if a third option on fiscal autonomy were included then Salmond can’t lose. I think his phraseology indicates his thinking. He assumes that Alex Salmond does not think he will win a straight vote and therefore he will have some plan to secure public support for greatly enhanced powers. He also knows that the leader of the Quebec independence party has gone on record saying that their advice to the SNP is that you don’t hold an independence referendum unless you know you can win it.

    I think you are stretching it putting his comments down to unionist inability to take the SNP seriously. Alex Salmond’s own comments on the day he met Nick Glegg, have perhaps more to do with it, because, talking about the referendum, he said that, even though no political party has full fiscal autonomy as their policy there is an argument for it to be given recognition. Maybe you need to take your point up with Alex Salmond. The SNP has hardly been active killing off all this talk. After the banking crisis Alex Salmond said on TV that there had to be an acknowledgment that independence was off the agenda for the time being, or words to that effect. Prof James Mitchell’s article in the press on independence lite just after the election in May was based on his interviews with many leading figures inside the SNP.

    1. DougtheDug says:

      Hi Alex, perhaps it was unfair to David to single him out because he’s not the only one asking the, “what does independence mean?”, question and talking about independence-lite but this clip does have him on video ask the question and also articulate his belief that the SNP aren’t really going for full independence any more but for some form of looser union which is independence-lite. Whether he takes the SNP seriously is not something I can say for definite but the independence-lite concept is a unionist defence mechanism which has only surfaced after the SNP win in May.

      You’re right that David Torrance refered to an independence question on the ballot paper as well as a second question but I have it in my head that a two question referendum is Independence or the status quo and a three question referendum is independence, more powers in the union or the status quo. However on his own blog he has stated his belief that the SNP’s best option will be a one question referendum which will be Home Rule (independence-lite) or the status quo which I suspect also coloured the way I heard the conversation on the clip as I read his article about a fortnight ago.

      “So it makes sense to ask just one question which, if he’s (Alex Salmond) feeling brave, he’ll call “independence” or, if he’s a more cautious frame of mind, he’ll style in some other way, perhaps calling it “sovereignty” or, even more cleverly, “Home Rule”. Now, if you’re one of the many Liberal Democrats who voted SNP last month, are you honestly going to vote against Home Rule? More to the point, how will the other Unionist parties argue against what is essentially just fiscal autonomy with knobs on?”

      Wrong-footing Unionists, and other referendum matters…

      With an SNP majority in the Scottish Parliament there is no need to put a second question on the referendum ballot paper as a bargaining chip to get the referendum bill through the parliament. Therefore the only reason to put a FFA question on the ballot paper would be to act as a spoiler for the independence question which means that if the SNP don’t really want independence then they’ll put an FFA question on the ballot paper. If there is to be a FFA question or something similar on the ballot then everything still applies. Who writes it, who implements it if is chosen and what happens if Westminster simply balks at the whole concept after the referendum

  5. Alex buchan says:

    I have also read what David Torrance has on his blog, but that’s not what he says in the clip which was the springboard for you piece. Just one more point. There’s a lots of the kind of comment you made i.e., “what LibDem voter will not vote for Home Rule”? Or “lots of Labour voters support Independence”, as if that’s it then, it’s in the bag. The reason I think all this kind of thinking blinds us to the very big challenge of winning a vote on independence is because independence is not a constitutional issue for most because it involves the biggest ‘bread and butter’ issue there is, which is what is the best option for me and my familie’s future. So people are not just going to say “oh yes Home Rule that sounds right”, they are going to want to know how much worse or better off they will be, everything else will be well down the list.

    In that context there is a chasm of a difference between Devo Max and Independence Lite and to think that the voters don’t know this is to fool ourselves. Independence, whether lite or otherwise, in the voter’s minds, carries big risks, they don’t see any great risks linked to devo max (maybe they’re wrong in that assumption, but there it is). It’s this issue of economic risk, more than anything else, that keeps the poll figures for independence down, and this is borne out in the latest social attitudes survey. Being a competent government will do little to assuage that concern, so the SNP really need to find some way to start eating into this doubt over economic and welfare state concerns. I agree with you that Independence Lite gets the SNP nowhere (and I don’t understand why those leading figures in the SNP said those things to Mitchell) precisely because it doesn’t really address the basic issue that the public has with Independence, precisely because its still independence.

    1. DougtheDug says:

      Hi Alex, the springboard for the piece is that unless Scotland votes for independence and a separate Scottish State and makes a clean break with the UK then any powers which are voted for in a referendum are in the unreliable gift of Westminster and may or may not ever be given.

      Independence-lite, Full Fiscal Autonomy and Devo-Max are terms for undefined powers for a Scotland which stays within the Union and the closer these powers are to independence then the less likely they are to be given to Scotland by Westmister. Independence-lite is a term that has been adopted wholeheartedly by unionists as a roadmap which they believe will keep Scotland in the Union.

      There does need to be a clear economic case for independence as you say but Professor James Mitchell in his article neither quotes nor identifies any of those he talked to so I’m not sure what was said or who said it. The article itself is not as contentious as it’s made out to be.

      Just to be clear, the “Home Rule” quote wasn’t a comment from me but a quote from David Torrance’s article.

      1. Indy says:

        From what I have read I think Independence Lite is actually a different thing from Full Fiscal Autonomy and Devo-Max. I suspect that Independence Lite is the description of where the SNP stands – but based on the realisation that independence is not “separatism”. So it is more about the fact that some commentators have had a false perspective on what the SNP is about – largely because they have never bothered to read any of the many documents and discussion papers that have been published. In the same way the whole “but what does the SNP really mean by independence?” tack is just a distraction. Independence is not difficult to understand nor does it mean errecting a giant barbed wire fence along the border and shooting anyone who tries to get in or out!

        Full Fiscal Autonomy/Devo Max on the other hand is a kind of midway position which we are told has majority support at present. A lot of polls have shown this so there is no reason to question that. But there are a couple of problems with including a question on this option on the ballot paper. Firstly, the problems that Doug has pointed out. And secondly no political party or organisation supports it. I just cannot see how there could be a referendum which included an option which has no organised support. How would that work? I just don’t think it would. Of course it could be that over the next year or so the Labour Party, Lib Dems and/or Tories will come to adopt that position. But at present they are very far from doing so and I can foresee some quite major splits if there is a move to adopt Full Fiscal Autonomy/Devo Max by elements within the unionist parties. That would be strongly resisted I believe.

        So at present the “Devo Max” position is actually what is contained in the Scotland Bill. That is the maximum that the unionist parties are prepared to concede.

      2. Indy says:

        I think the issues that James Mitchell identifies are very real and the language is crucial. I have canvassed voters who have told me that they are against independence because they don’t want to break up Britain or because they have relatives in England or because they just don’t like the idea of separation. Then you ask them if they would favour the Scottish Parliament having more powers and they say oh yes definitely – take it a bit further and they actually want Scotland to have all the powers. So they DO actually believe in independence – but they don’t like the idea of separation. I am sure you have experienced the same thing, every SNP activist probably has.

        So it is absolutely crucial for us to campaign for independence in a way which does not equate wth breaking up Britain or separatism. The unionists will try and push us onto that ground over and over again because they know people will resist the idea of separatism. And rightly so – I would resist the idea of separatism. I have friends and family down south too, I don’t want to “break up Britain” or damage the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK. And that is not what independence means! Independence would improve our relationships with our neighbours not damage them and that is the point that we have to get over.

      3. DougtheDug says:

        Indy, independence-lite is one of these concepts which have become well know while at the same time undefined. If it’s not quite independence then what is it?

        I understand the fears of those who feel that independence for Scotland will somehow result in a “Berwick Wall” across the border or financial ruin but unless Scots vote for independence then every permutation of devo-max, full fiscal autonomy or independence-lite which doesn’t result in a Scottish passport will be in the gift and whim of Westminster.

        Once Scotland is independent then negotiations to form partnerships on any subject under the sun can begin but it’s got to be done from the initial stand point of independence. The SNP can campaign for independence on a platform of friendship and partnership after independence but to mix social/financial/defence negotiations and independence together in an independence-lite campaign would be a disaster if independence-lite actually means a separate passport.

        All the unionists would have to do is half-way through a campaign is to change their minds on some important social/financial/defence plank of the campaign and as a result kick the feet out from under it.

  6. Scotsfox says:

    Independence is an absolute. You can’t be partly independent, or kind of independent, you are either independent or you’re not.

  7. douglas clark says:

    Doug the Dug,

    You have nailed the fundamental point. Without a complete split anything gained can be lost again. So all these other options are just nonsense for anyone invested in independence.

    1. DougtheDug says:

      Hi Douglas,
      Everything given by Westminster can be taken back but the difference between independence and the various forms of government within the Union starts even before that.

      Independence can be taken by Scots but everything else has to be asked for with no guarantee it will be given. Choosing independence puts Scots in a position of power but for everything else they are just supplicants at the court of Westminster.

  8. Dug

    Thaks for you reply yo my earlier post and indeed to you replies to others, But to me you assert “all the talk of independence-lite is not coming from the SNP.”: That is not my understanding of what is happening, and as former political journalist how thse things work, and know lots of current jounos I can tell you for near certain what you condidently assert is NOT the case. Indeed if the SNP leadership wanted to kill stone deal the media speculation all that is needed is one speech by Alex, or indeed one news release from the medai officie which is spinning indy light in the first place,

    I note neither you. or I think anyone else has taken up my quite provocative assertion that there has just got to be at least one M!5 sleeper in the leadership ranks of the SNP. Hs what I say just been discounted as the ramblings of a leftist nutcase? A big mistake to make, For sure there is at least one, the only thing I’m not sure of is how many more, and who?

    For a party that is trying and is pretty close to breaking up the British stare, and with it potentially the US-UK grip on NATO the UN and so much more, the SNP is full of remarkably naive people. Independence Lite is the last resort deal NATO-MI5 is offering, And its being spun for them by their long term operataives IN the SNP. The Herald, Scotsman and SoS just would not just make this all up, or splash it on the basis if a tip off from a rank and file member of, say, Falkirk SNP. They only print when they have sources, and solid high up ones who have sat them down and briefed them.
    That how it works, I know, cause i’ve seen it done

  9. ReasonableNat says:

    The SNP would be mad, INSANE, not to include a third option in a two question format. Even just the suggestion of it might reap results over the next few years before the referendum takes place. If they can manouver the unionist parties, and ideally the Westminster establishment, into being publically clear that Calman/ScotlandBill is as far as they will go – even if Scots vote for devo-max in a referendum, then that option disappears from the table, and that’s a good thing for the nats because we’ll be right back into – denying the will of the people territory and support for independence will continue to grow as resentment of this situation builds.

    If the unionists remain vague, and the SNP loses the independence referendum, but devo-max gets a ‘yes’ (as so many polls already suggest it would, easily), there are two general possibilities. Either Westminster agrees to it and sets it up, or it doesn’t. If at this stage we have the latter then again we’re right into that denying the will of the people territory, and all the resentment that goes with it. Perhaps another six months and a second independence referendum is all it might take…

    If we get devo-max then we’ll be in a much easier position to argue for independence from. The vast majority of our institutions will have been divided up already, there’ll be an utterly unambiguous financial position, and we’ll be able to analyse the cost of defence (for example) on a basis of value for money – could Scotland defend itself for less than the cost the UK requires us to pay? Lastly, we’d be asking the question, between the powers handed up to the EU, and the vast powers handed down to Scotland, what would the UK government actually be doing for us? We wouldn’t be asking, “what is the point of breaking up?” we’d be asking, “breaking up what?”

    1. DougtheDug says:

      ReasonableNat, I think the offer from Alex Salmond to put a Devo-Max/Lite/Full Fiscal Autonomy option on the ballot paper was a good one, and here’s the important point, as long as he’s sure no-one will come up with one. With that offer he’s shown himself to be a reasonable man willing to negotiate but in the end with no other options on the ballot paper the electorate will know that independence is the only way forward. Since Cameron has already said he simply wants independence and no other options on the ballot paper I think we’re in fairly safe territory.

      The idea that the SNP should unilaterally put a Devo-Max/Lite/Full Fiscal Autonomy option on the ballot paper is a non-starter. If Scotland votes for the Devo-Max/Lite/Full Fiscal Autonomy option then Westminster has several options:

      1. Take the risk and refuse to do anything. They had nothing to do with this referendum. There will be no time to set up another referendum and the SNP will need to get back into power to do it again and that might not happen.

      2. Set up a commission to look into it which will take years and by that time with any luck the SNP will be out of power.

      3. Give Scotland a limited set of tax raising powers to finance the parliament to keep the Scots quiet which can be manipulated over the years with UK economic policy to show how bad independence would be.

      4. Give Scotland everything it wants. (The fantasy option)

      The SNP will put the Devo-Max/Lite/Full Fiscal Autonomy only if it wants to lose the independence referendum. What that option does is give the unionists two options on the ballot paper, the status quo or Devo-Max/Lite/Full Fiscal Autonomy and the nationalists only one, independence.

      1. ReasonableNat says:

        I think we’ll have to agree to disagree, Salmond can put this on the ballot paper if he so chooses and there is nothing whatsoever that Cameron can do to stop him. You’re quite right about all the options that Westminster would have, in choosing a response, but anything short of 4. would bring us right back to the pre-devolution situation of a people who want something, and are being denied it – the only difference being that they’d also have voted for it in a referendum. I can think of absolutely nothing more likely to breed as much resentment in Scotland as a Tory PM that knowingly, deliberately, and publicly denies the what they’ve voted for in a referendum.

        If, as the referendum draws closer, the polls show independence out ahead, then maybe I’d agree that devo-max shouldn’t be offered. While independence is so far behind it represents the ideal insurance policy in so many different ways.

      2. Alex Buchan says:

        I just want to say that I think that ReasonableNat is making an important point and that it is a flaw the nationalist movement in Scotland and in Scottish blogging generally that these important points generally gets shouted down without any consideration to his wider point on the best tactics for the independence movement. The fact that his thinking is quite similar in many ways to the approach taken by other independence movements, like the one in Catalonia, is conveniently never acknowledged. Or perhaps people just don’t realise that the idea of holding a referendum you’re not sure of wining is unique to Scottish nationalism. You give lots of scenarios if Scotland voted for Devo Max/etc., but you omit what your scenario is if, in a two option referendum, Scotland votes for the union, as even you would have to concede is a real possibility. It’s the fact that you and others see all such discussion as verging on treachery and refuse to discuss all the possible outcomes that gives this discussion the feint whiff of a witch hunt against all non-true believers.

      3. DougtheDug says:

        Hi Alex, I’ve got a different viewpoint from those who believe that the SNP writing in Devo-max or similar on the independence ballot is the best way to go forward and as far as I’m aware I haven’t shouted down anyone here. The problem with the SNP putting the Devo-Max option on the ballot paper is that Westminster has no legal obligation to do anything about it if that option wins. Labour, the Tories and the Lib-Dems have nothing in their manifestos about Devo-Max and the referendum is not legally binding on anyone in Westminster. An SNP Devo-Max or whatever option on the ballot paper is just an SNP wish list which diverts votes from the independence option.

        I actually think that the gradual route to independence has some merit where Scotland gains powers until it eventually leaves the UK and in some ways that is an easier option than a sudden break. The problem is that the Labour, the Tories and the Lib-Dems have absolutely no interest in giving Scotland a gradual and easy route to independence so they will have no interest in giving Scotland Devo-Max and a helping hand to independence whatever the result in an SNP run referendum. Only the independence option has the legal traction to get Scotland what it chooses in that referendum.

        Catalonia is not a good model for a route to independence because it’s not gained independence, voting for Devo-Max is voting to stay in the union and since both yourself and ReasonableNat want independence I can’t see how you’ve labelled a difference on opinion on the way to get there as an accusation of treachery.

  10. Alex Buchan says:

    Doug I actually admire your forensic approach; just as you demonstrated the illusory nature of Scottish Labour, you are hounding down this thing called independent lite and correctly pointing out that unionist journalists are rolling devo-max and indy lite up into one big cop-out by Alex Salmond. But even though I feel that kind of exposing of things is useful, what it doesn’t do is address the fact that in politics it’s what you can convince the public of that counts, even if there are contradictions in your position. For instance, everybody, but you, lives with the fact that the press and the public accepts that Scottish Labour exists, and, frankly, if you just denounced them as a branch outfit it wouldn’t get you very far and makes the SNP seem tribal, and anti-English. Similarly, in this case, as Indy says, ‘Independence lite’ is the name the unionist press has given to a strategy the SNP leadership has adopted to try to counter the separatist tag. Stephen Noon had a blog on it arguing why the SNP are not separatists at the time, so you can’t claim its all made up by the press.

    The fact that those unionist journo choose to mix it up with devo-max and present it as a cop out is just a fact of political life that you have to have a strategy to deal with. Pretending it’s all a unionist conspiracy is not one I’d go for personally. The fact that the SNP feel they have to address the public’s concerns reassures me at least that they are trying to work out a strategy for winning the argument over independence. I happen to disagree with how they are going about it, because I feel that talk of joint military bases and joint embassies feels too remote from the public’s concerns as Indy outlined them, and, as you say, the UK parties can very easily torpedo this tactic by saying that it’s a cope out and the SNP are admitting they can’t set up a fully functioning separate state.

    I feel what’s needed is a grass roots based campaign with Scots in England who support independence getting involved in a face-book type campaign to counter the argument that independence would mean separation of Scots in England from home, and vice versa. Similarly English people who want an end to the UK should be encourage to link up and do a similar campaign showing that many English people see Scottish independence as a positive thing. One could think of lots more grass roots initiatives such as those Scots with relatives in England and elsewhere who support independence could campaign to counter the idea that such people would be separated off from their family and friends in England and elsewhere. These are just ideas off the top of my head but my point is you’re not a traitor to say that there is a need to do something; Winning support for independence will take more than just chapping on doors.

    1. Donald Adamson says:


      I don’t want to re-open the debate between you and Dug other than to say – and it won’t surprise you to hear this! – I agree with much of what Dug has said. What I do want to comment on, though, is your last paragraph which, I would argue, is the kind of direction that the independence movement (as opposed to just the SNP) needs to take. I’ve long believed that the SNP cannot and will not deliver independence on its own and that what you refer to as a “grass roots based campaign” is the key to securing a Yes vote. I really like your idea about recruiting people for a facebook campaign to extend the ‘reach’ of independence, for example.

      It’s this point about a grass roots campaign that the independence movement needs to address and engage with though. I’d go even further, we need to politicize independence. What I mean is, part of the so-called ‘de-politicization’ thesis in political theory is that mainstream political parties have clustered around the ‘median voter’, treating voters as rational agents who have clearly defined sets of ‘preferences’ on a narrow range of salient policy issues – the NHS, education, defence, pensions, law and order and so on.

      Effectively, voters are treated as consumers and elections are treated as a marketplace. This has not only contributed to the eviction of ideology and core identities from political parties, it has built in a conservative (with a small ‘c’) bias into formal politics. The neo-liberal capture of the state has accelerated this trend with the consequence that an increasing proportion of electorates in liberal democracies are disenchanted with parliamentary politics and, as a consequence, become disengaged. Why bother to vote if nothing really changes? Or, in the words of Ken Livingstone, “If Voting Changed Anything They’d Abolish It”.

      The problem for the SNP is that any voter who is disenchanted with the SNP ‘brand’ (for whatever reason), in this electoral marketplace, is going to transfer that disenchantment into either a No vote or an abstention in the referendum, unless the independence movement can devise ways for enough Scottish voters to claim ‘ownership’ of independence. The challenge for the independence movement then, is to do this in a way that politicizes’ independence. I don’t want to say too much more here as these are some of the issues that I’ll come back to later in the summer but I think you’re right, it’s going to take more “than just chapping on doors”.

      On reading your post, one idea that occurs to me is to use FED as part of such a campaign. Because of work commitments I can’t make FED tomorrow but I hope that it will become an annual event at least. But I wonder if we could be a bit more ambitious here? I haven’t run this by anyone at Bella yet, as I’ve just thought of it, but we could plan a series of ‘FED On the Road’ events where we could travel around various communities in the country using various media and drawing on the wide range of skills of Bella’s contributors and others who might be interested, not only to disseminate arguments for independence but, just as importantly, to get feedback from ‘real’ voters – their fears, hopes, expectations etc – which could be used to ‘fine-tune’ the campaign for independence.

      Obviously, this would be more expensive and would require more organisation than a facebook campaign and, given that, as well as Bella’s limited resources, I wonder if it’s something that the SNP itself would be interested in sponsoring. The broad point is, I would argue, that although independence is a big idea, it’s not enough. If independence is to be ‘claimed’ by the Scottish people, or enough of them, the campaign has to promote independence as a means of social empowerment, so that individuals and communities ‘own’ it, so that they become advocates of it themselves. If this doesn’t happen, then, in the independence referendum, the SNP will be appealing to those ‘rational’ preferences of voters in that ‘marketplace’ again and, in these circumstances, independence would be just another option on a de-politicized menu that many of these voters could be forgiven for rejecting.

      1. Alex Buchan says:

        Donald, I won’t be able to attend FED either due to family commitments. I agree with all of the above, and think taking things round the country in whatever form is possible is important. The fact that things are always in the central belt is a real disincentive to me. But maybe we need some more momentum in the campaign before we do, but perhaps not. Although it was off the top of my head, I do think different Facebook campaigns involving different groups as I indicated around a common theme of ‘coming out’ for independence could be a powerful political statement. ‘Coming out’ potentially could be a very powerful label because its cotemporary, and points out the taboo nature of support for independence that Doug’s piece is in essence referring to.

        The more groups ‘come out’ for independence the more momentum grows. The list of potential Facebook groups is limitless, we could have lawyers for independence, school kids for independence, mothers for independence, gays for independence as well as Scots living in England for independence, etc., each of these groups themselves could organise their own initiatives as well as contributing to the overall effort. Not sure how these things are initiated, I’m pretty illiterate re social media, perhaps others with more experience could take this up.

    2. DougtheDug says:

      Hi Alex, it’s nice that someone’s noticed my campaign against the imaginary Scottish Labour Party. It started out in 2005 when I tried to find out how much autonomy the Scottish Labour Party under its leader Jack McConnell actually had and found out that I was hunting the snark because there was no such thing. I initially believed it existed and that he was the leader because that’s what the media had told me for years. What’s now interesting is that the fact that there is no Scottish Labour Party or leader has become mainstream and out there. The electorate is much more sophisticated than you make out and the current Labour review in Scotland is all about how to make the party in Scotland more autonomous and for it to actually have a regional leader because Labour think the lack of a proper Scottish identity was a factor in losing the election. Not of course that having a Scottish region helped the Lib-Dems where the electorate saw through their oft-repeated claim to be somehow separate from the Lib-Dems in the rest of the UK. In a personal capacity I’m not sure how repeatedly pointing out over the years that Labour are a British party with no Scottish leader makes me anti-English.

      My main problem with, “independence-lite”, is that no-one has told me what it actually means but if the unionists take it to mean that there will be no Scottish passport then their interpretation, correct or not, is instructive into where they think the SNP’s ultimate ambition lies. Alex Salmond didn’t talk of joint military bases, he talked about shared facilities. If the remainder of the UK wants to use of an airfield in the north of Scotland then that’s fine though of course there will have to be a quid pro quo, financial or otherwise.

      You are correct that an independence campaign will have to have a grassroots component but it also has to have a strategy and leadership and I’m surprised that you feel that you will be regarded as a traitor for pointing out there is a lot of work to be done in the next few years.

  11. douglas clark says:

    Doug the Dug,

    Perhaps I am not understanding this right or something:

    “Independence can be taken by Scots but everything else has to be asked for with no guarantee it will be given. Choosing independence puts Scots in a position of power but for everything else they are just supplicants at the court of Westminster.”

    So, why is anyone talking about anything short of full independence? There is clear international law on self determination. As far as I know there is no international law on independence lite.

    1. DougtheDug says:

      Douglas, You understand it right. If Scotland stays in the Union and there is no Scottish passport then all devolved, federal or lite forms of government are simply a reorganisation of local government within the UK and their powers and even implementation is under the control of Westminster. UN conventions on self determination don’t apply to local government.

      “So, why is anyone talking about anything short of full independence?”
      Your guess is as good as mine.

      1. Angus McLellan says:

        Well, I’ll hazard a guess.

        ReasonableNat thinks it is best to have an IndyLite/Devomax/FFA option on the ballot because otherwise we might get stuck with the status quo. That is, if push comes to shove on a straight ballot on independence, people who want more powers will choose the status quo in sufficient numbers to make a No vote assured. That’s certainly possible, but losing wouldn’t be the end of the world. Quebec had two referendums and Puerto Rico has had at least four.

        But try looking at it from the other side. In practical terms Scotland is infinitely closer to independence than at any previous point in my lifetime and only one hurdle – a majority in the referendum – has to be crossed. There’s a chance that, if conditions are right, people who’d prefer more powers will vote Yes when faced with a choice between independence and the status quo. Looked at this way, it’s not really a surprise that David Torrance and others find these alternatives much more attractive than independence. After all, a referendum is asymmetric in its consequences. If the Yes campaign loses, it’s a matter of go away and wait until it seems like the right time to try again. If the No campaign loses then there are no second chances. “[W]e only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always.”.

        For myself, I’m quite happy to see these alternatives discussed, if only to see the Unionist parties being put on the spot and asked to define exactly what they mean. Every power and responsibility that they agree could be devolved is one less on which we would need to convince undecided or wavering voters come the referendum. My message to David Torrance, John Major, Lord Foulkes and all the rest would be “Carry on with the good work chaps”.

  12. In stilll waiting for a an answer from Doug – or anyone – to his absurd assertion that “no one in the SNP” had anything to do with the media led discussions on Independence light . Like the media just invented it all for no apparent reason? ( can someone also tell me? – is there a difference between Independence light and devo max ,If so what is it? – Im kind of lost)

    And y other totally unanswered asserton – that there is near certainly got to be an MI5 plant or two in the higher echelonds of the SNP , LIke what do you and other SNPers think M15 does? , Infiltate every radical organisatin there ever has been except yours? – the one that wants to terminate the sate they are dedicated to serve? Ot is it beause “all our people are too nice to be plants” – as if special branch would helpfully infiltrate the SNP with people you don;t like and are suspicious of

    In case you ain’t all foliowng my drift, here i am suggested the plants are likely the people pushing the indy light debate on instructiosn of their minders, scared shitless the `snp might stick to its guns offer up a straightforward indendece yes or no referendum, and scots migjht actually vote for it, Well that assertiion- scots voting for it – which is I conceindepatrable is in acceo debateable, What s not is ths – have an open debate in the SNP on strategy and an ovewhelming majority would opt for the independenc “yes or no: option over every other, Why such a vote will never take place.

    1. DougtheDug says:

      Hi Citizen Smart/Scottish intifada, I’ve tried to find a quote from anyone in the SNP which shows that the SNP are now going for independence-lite rather than independence but I’ve failed. If you’ve got an actual definition of what it means and a reference to an SNP spokesman or high heid yin in the party who’s publicly espoused independence-lite I would like to see it so I can then phone them up and ask them what the hell they are playing at.
      “Like the media just invented it…”. Well, since I haven’t found any sources from the SNP who have espoused independence-lite and since over the years my trust in the veracity of both the media and journalists has steadily fallen I think that pretty much sums it up.

      The state security system in the UK monitors pretty much every group which is not establishment but I’m doubtful if there are any, “sleepers”, in the top ranks of the SNP. The SNP was never meant to get a majority in the Scottish parliament so the threat of independence was always there but not an immediate threat. A much more dangerous threat is GCHQ monitoring all electronic communications emanating from and going to the SNP. Not that the SNP is anything special there because GCHQ does that to pretty much everyone. However if the top ranks of the SNP are discussing or passing sensitive information about their independence strategy across any electronic medium whether it is voice or data then they are both naive and stupid.

  13. douglas clark says:

    Scottish Intifada,

    I can’t see any difference between devo max and independence lite either. I suppose all political parties, except maybe the Tories, are infiltrated by the spooks. It is perhaps legitimate for the government to know whether or not a political party is a facade for something more sinister.

    Hizb ut-Tahrir have been walking along the edge of being banned for years have they not? If no-one knew what they were saying to each other then they’d be free to keep recruiting without oversite.

    It would be interesting to know who in the SNP is advocating the devo max / independence lite mash up. Although I feel your concerns are perhaps overblown I too will be furious if we don’t get a straightforward yes / no independence question. If the unionists wish to advocate the devo option then that should be the ‘no’ box….

    For the status quo is not an option.

  14. Dug and Douglas ( who comments i largely support)
    As I understood “devomax//indy light” pre 5th May 2011, it was primarily a means of attracting the arithmetically needed, lib dem, labour left support for a Referendum bill. As such I could oppose the flirting with it by SNPers , but also concede that maybe “needs must” , take our chances the indy option would win, but a least if not we got devo max. –

    BUT NOW – now we goat an absolute majority just why is the snp leadership flisting with it big time? . AND SORRY, DG – BUT TALK ABOUT NAIVE? Because you cant find no reference to SNP leadership support for devomax , I am guilty o idle speculation. a slur of the snp;s association with it DO YOU EXCEPT THEM TO OWN UP TO IT SAY “ITS OUR IDEA” – despite it being totally against party policy and likely to see anyone that advocates it – even Eck – stock fall in SNP circles like a brick out a high rise!!! MY WHOLE POINTS IS IT IS A COVERT, DISHONEST OPERATION….and involves SPIN, high level and strictly off the record confidential unattributable briefings to ever willing media hacks, Hacks who near all are themselves devo max supporters, Cetainly Robbie Dinwoodie, Ian McWhirter, Kenny Farquarson, Ian Bell, Benard Ponsonby ,,,,i could go on and an, But all fol;ks broadly supportive of the snp as a party, …Its just that litte matter of INDEPENDENCE to puts them off a little. So when some SNP hi heif yin come to them and says….”you are right . but you understand we need some help to manouver the party “fundie” and “unthinking” rank an file towards the postion, I I come out and say this now, Ill be internal snp toast, Il lstep in later in public when the time is right, you media toes have softened things up, crated some space”

    If I am talking mince, How does the snp counter me and folks like me, but more specifically force editors to stop caring long features linking the SNP to on devo max/Indy light and hosting think tanks on it etc. By SNP party HQ doing – what it most definitely aint done – and issue a statement/ news release or letter to all editors – ta the snp will NOT HAVE an thir optioninit Referendum bill, ans vote down any “third option” or the like using its now 100% cast iron ability to do it. That the next 4 years should just ignore all half way houses and focus on the pros and cons of indpendence, because there aint gonna be any thind option in any referendum Act THen have ths position publically endosed by every Cabinet Secretary level MSP PLUS your Westminster Leader, Mr Devo Max himself.

    This really is quite simple Dug, You now got the numbers, the mandate, the party policy and…..the credibility to the devo max parties – nulab and libdem – that they had te chance for the devo max referendum option for the fist 12 years at holyood, but baulked at it. Indeed in just quote then the labour and lib dem case AGAINST an indyreferendum intse year – they hav no mandate for one. Go win a mandate in the 2016 Holyroof election – if there are any!!! – then we might talk. A 100% cast iron position

    And that position is the very direct BENEFIT of the absolute majority we gained on 5th may

    But now, we seem to want to give it away, Firstly, offer maximum “speculatuon time”. by delating introducing a Referendm Bill for the longest possible tome. And Secondly give a big leg up to the unionis best “stop : Independece option – devo max, The preferred choice Scotald two AlMOST DEAD IN THE WATER parties. Almost…….so why offer them life support. And NONE of this ever discussed openly any party forum, let alone voted on ….instead ,all done covertly by a tiny ledership cabal.

    My view – a crazy position for anyone who wants independence

    But the position I’d be arguing were i working for Special Branch

    , Have I misread this? Am I being unfair? – Just someone expain to me why snp indulgin their bitterest enemies and in effect – though their silence and failure to totally dismiss – give legs the main danger to securing a YES vote to independence, namely the presence of a third, middle of the road, attractive but inadequate soft option option on the referendum ballot paper? , Because let’s get real, Winning a “yes” vote in a two choice referendum will be real difficult, In a three choice one id say near impossible – cause we will never get a 50% plus vote in a first ballot , and surely by all logic, status quoers and devo max supporters – the faces of unionist – wil near to an man and women fall in behind the best sole remaining Unionist option and boot our cherish aim of independence into oblivion? Why make us all wait 4 years and even then, give us two hurdles to cross. and in so doing give every unionist two bites at the same STOP INDEPENDENCE cherry.?

  15. Der Rechtsanwalt says:

    Hey Doug,

    Very interesting article. Just wanted to note that your last point is not entirely correct. Although the UK Parliament is endowed with legislative supremacy over Scotland, a constitutional convention has developed whereby the Scottish Parliament can effectively veto any Westminster Bill which has an effect on devolved matters. It is called a Legislative Consent Motion. Moreover, the UK Parliament cannot enact legislation which either increases or decreases the powers devolved to Scotland without the Scottish Parliament first giving its approval through a Legislative Consent Motion. It is this convention which effectively gives the SNP (with their parliamentary majority) control over the future of the Scotland Bill. Accordingly, so long as the Westminster politicans do not go the way of Jacob Rees-Mogg and throw constitutional propriety out of the window, the SNP will have the final say on any referendum that gets put to the Scottish people.

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