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The ‘Three Scotlands’ and How to Win an Independence Referendum

Scottish politics post-the election and the return of a majority SNP Government have existed in a seeming state of limbo, a kind of political phoney war.

The SNP have won a landslide victory but have yet to produce a serious strategy for winning independence; the unionist parties in Scotland have all been reduced to an existential crisis about defining their purpose and point; while David Cameron’s government (if it ever thinks about Scotland) is of the view that the break up of the United Kingdom isn’t a serious threat and those pesky Nats will soon be put in their place.

This is a strange display of emotions and assumptions by every party which seems to downplay the historic situation that we are in. This is a combination of immediate short-term politics (SNP victory), with the long-term evolution of Scottish politics and fundamental crisis of the British state to make far-reaching change, and Scottish independence, distinctly possible.

The ‘Three Scotlands’ of Modern Times

There are three distinct Scottish futures on offer. The first is from the SNP Scottish Government which proposes an independent Scotland. The strategy, tactics and detail on this might be surprisingly vague, but the direction and intent is clear.
At the moment, the SNP are well-deposed towards having, towards the latter half of this Parliament, in 2014-15, a two vote referendum, offering the Scots a choice on ‘devo max’, a kind of full fiscal autonomy short of independence, and independence. The supposed thinking is to recreate the 1997 devolution feeling of the ‘Yes Yes’ campaign (then for a devolved Parliament with limited tax raising powers) (1).

But the comparison doesn’t hold and many suspect that the Nats are drawn to such an approach because they think independence won’t win, and want to park the Nationalists as part of the decisive Scots majority which exists for greater powers. Thus, the argument goes, getting half of something is better than nothing at all, and thus our historic journey can continue.

Second, there is the position of the unionist parties in Scotland, Labour, Lib Dem and Tory, if we can call their current confused thinking a ‘position’. It is also true that Labour are wary and unsure of joining a pan-unionist front with the dreaded Tories and their partners in crime the Lib Dems, who in the course of a year and a half have fallen from everyone favourite relatives to a national sport in cursing!

With these caveats, the unionist parties are hesitant to take up Alex Salmond’s invitation of defining ‘devo max’, wary that it might be a Nat trap! The Lib Dems with a long proud tradition as constitutional reformers and federalists have ended up defending the indefensible: the union of Tory lexicon, talking Scotland down as a poor, wee defenceless nation which couldn’t afford independence, while reminding Scots of the gorgeous magnificence that was Calman and is the Scotland Bill going through the Houses of Parliament.

There is, within this, little strategic unionist thinking so far, but it will emerge alongside polemic and invective against ‘separatism’. Scots unionism if it has any intelligence left (which despite appearances it does), will recognise that offering a 1980s Tory reprise of no reformed status quo or Calman lite reform against independence is a disaster waiting to happen. Instead, a new union needs to be unveiled north of the border which speaks to Scottish statehood and which challenges the Nats to argue what the extra mileage is from independence, and also makes the issue of the British state and its deformed character central. Is unionism up to this? The jury is out, but the Scots Tories or Scots Labour at their peak would have been. One is a rump worthy of today’s French Communist Party, aged, decrepit and ghettoised; the other, has been so disorientated and made bitter by its fall from grace, that both their judgements have been thrown into turmoil and self-doubt.

Then we have the Cameron Con-Lib Dem coalition government and how they see the Scottish question. Cameron does realise that he has a major ‘northern problem’, one that was made significantly easier by coalition with the Lib Dems, but he does have several other pressing problems on his desk: the anger at hurricane capitalism, the special pleading of the City for exemptions from the consequences of their own actions, the imploding euro, to name a few.

Not surprisingly with this hand Cameron has decided to play a subtle, long game with Scotland, outsourcing to his Lib Dem colleagues the hard, abrasive unionism of lore, while waiting for Salmond and the SNP to define the ground and their argument, so that he can then criticise and challenge them.

Cameron is an instinctual unionist to his core; he believes in the entity that is the United Kingdom; he believes in ‘Great British Powerism’, that Britain’s place post-Empire is to ‘punch above its weight’ through its legacy of influence in the Commonwealth, ‘the special relationship’ and connection to the English-speaking world. He isn’t, as some have suggested, happy to see Scotland leave the union because he loses 40 Labour MPs or can take back the supposed subsidies Scotland gains: a kind of ‘union dividend’ in reverse.
Such language whether of a right-wing fantasy land (hello Spectator Coffee House bloggers!) or a left-wing nightmare kind have come to the fore because the union is in crisis, weakening and fragmenting. Once there was a powerful Tory story of the union, and a Labour account, and now they are reduced to arguing about the figures and furniture!

The Cameron strategy has been challenged by Tory peers such as Michael Forsyth, who as the current Scotland Bill has been progressing through the Lords, have proposed that the Scottish Government be given the legal right to hold an independence referendum, on the condition that a ‘sunset clause’ is put in, limiting the timing of such a vote. What must seem like a wheeze in the world of Westminster, actually north of the border shows what a bind Cameron and his allies are in. This is nothing less than Westminster continuing to play stupid little games, and also reveals the weakness of Cameron, and as with Europe recently, that he is not fully in command of his own side.

These three perspectives, the Scottish Government, unionist parties in Scotland, and UK Government, can be seen to be portraying ‘three Scotlands’, three very different versions of the nation and our future. This isn’t to argue that they are equal in strength, merit or legitimacy, but to recognise that, as we are currently constituted, all feel they have a right to present their views.

These ‘three Scotlands’ represent approximately the Scotland of Scottish identity (SNP), Scottish and British ‘dual identity’ (Scots unionist parties), and British identity (the UK Government). We can see from this typology that the most powerful positions are those of the Scottish and Scottish-British identities, and the weakest, that of British identity. However, if any of these perspectives are to become defining and succeed, they will have to win support from another area. Therefore, if the Scottish Government or the UK Government are to win they will have to claim part of the Scottish-British ground; while if the unionist parties are going to succeed they will need to inhabit part of the Scottish terrain.

The Dimensions of the Scottish Independence Debate

The simultaneous threat and dream of Scottish independence has been an influential driver over the last 40 years. The above stratagems and assumptions from all the political players have to bear this in mind. The pro-independence forces have to carefully choose and prepare their ground, while reformist unionists in the middle ground have to also realise the uses and advantages of having a credible independence threat vis-à-vis the UK.

Some thoughtful Labour commentators such as Ian Smart have understood this (2). Smart has argued that to hold an independence referendum vote and for it to result in too low an independence vote would not really be helpful to anyone, from the SNP to thoughtful unionists, and to the entire dynamic of Scottish politics.
The SNP leadership has some awareness of this; hence the delays, hoping the ground can be prepared, strategy fine-tuned, monies raised, and even more activists garnered. Yet, this is the delay of a dithering army, unsure at its moment of greatest triumph so far, whether and how to pounce. Is there another way?

I think there is. The Scottish dimension, from home rule to independence, is not what is called ‘a salience issue’, but ‘a valence issue’ (3). This means that the constitutional question has never ever ranked high in voter priorities, but has been a way by which voters make sense and join other issues together.

This has led over the decades from the 1940s onwards to Scottish votes being used to influence and have leverage with British governments, the state and Westminster by voting a certain way, for one party or against another, or in some cases tactically. Scots have voted this way, for Tories in the 1940s and 1950s against ‘London rule’, for Labour in increasing numbers from the 1960s to 1980s and 1990s, and then for the SNP in the Scottish Parliament. This also became the way successful Scottish politicians have understood Scotland and portrayed it to Westminster from Tom Johnston in the 1940s to Willie Ross in the 1960s and 1970s, George Younger in the 1980s, and Alex Salmond today.

The best way to win an independence referendum is to position the independence question as part of this long-standing Scottish dimension. We should simply ask the following question: Do you authorise the Scottish Government to begin negotiations with the UK Government on Scottish independence?

Sixteen simple words. Easily understood by everyone. With no doubts about what it means
that is open to claim or counter-claim.

This makes independence part of the Scottish dimension, instead of sitting outside it which would be fatal (4). This increases the prospect of an independence majority. It reduces the threshold that people are invited to cross to vote ‘yes’; it reduces the risk to people voting ‘yes’ by not making it ‘all or nothing’. And it wraps up independence as part of a patriotic, pro-democratic argument.

This completely transforms the prospect of winning an independence majority because it changes the argument from the current context. It places independence as the modern version of the Scottish dimension as a valence issue, of how we best increase our leverage and influence with Westminster, or more accurately, how we, Scottish voters, best equip our Scottish politicians to go south to get the best deal they can for Scotland. It makes the Scottish Government position, Alex Salmond and the pro-independence forces, that of ‘the national interest’. It invites wavering voters and those unsure, in time honoured fashion to back Scotland and support Scottish interests, and makes the unionist position one which is more uneasy and difficult.

The Politics of Winning an Independence Vote

What if any is the downside of the above? There is the issue that a first pro-independence vote would require a second vote on any deal. But once a first vote has been won, a second would become even more part of the Scottish dimension, and thus about supporting Scottish interests. There is also the issue that everything in Scotland, in our politics and in how the British government and state judges us, would be fundamentally altered by that first vote.
This is a very different strategy from the earlier ‘Westminster knows best’ rather arrogant argument put forward by Robert Hazell and the Constitution Unit, and Michael Moore, Lib Dem Secretary of State for Scotland (5). Their arguments were about legality and Scotland being told it had to have two votes unlike anywhere else in the world. This argument is instead about politics, power, process and democracy, and choosing of our own free will to embark on a strategy which is transparent, aids good governance and independence.
We know that thoughtful unionist opinion in Scotland and the UK is extremely disorientated by the current pattern of events.

Part of them cannot really believe events have turned out this way. The Scottish Labour Party looks at its once healthy inheritance of seats, votes and mini-empire, and has seen it all turn to ashes in a decade. Likewise intelligent unionists such as Scottish born Fraser Nelson, editor of ‘The Spectator’, find it increasingly difficult to make sense of Scotland from their Westminster bunkers, commenting without qualification that ‘Scotland would be far worse outside the union’ (6). The worst example is the Andrew Neil McCliche view of Scotland, portraying a land of subsidy junkies with an oversized, omnipotent state power where entrepreneurial zest and energy is stifled at childbirth. Some of us can laugh at such ill-informed prejudice, but they show the weakening of the union, and how British and London media politics have fallen prey to right-wing populist ranting.

The United Kingdom has always been a strange beast, neither completely a unitary state of centralisation or the land of liberty and dissent so beloved of Whigs and their radical friends. It has come to pass in the last thirty years of counter-revolution, as Britain’s ‘world island’ has shrunk in on itself, that the powerful elites of the City and pseudo-business world of accountancy, consultancy and banking have shaped a reality which looks like a mixture of some vulgar Marxist tract mixed with Arnold Schwarzenegger dystopia. The UK which despite the explosion of the Blair/Brown bubble is still one of the richest countries in the world is in Danny Dorling’s estimate, the fourth most unequal country in the developed world (7).

We need to challenge this. Scottish statehood and independence is one powerful challenge to this state of affairs. We can’t believe that a post-Blair/Brown Labour offers any alternative, nor that the Lib Dems after their association with the Cameroon coalition offer anything. Instead, the slow fragmentation and demise of the British state is the best bet for Scots, and for developing a different, democratic, English political culture and space, one Scots will be proud to call our friends and allies, and even engage in political co-operation with.
The dilemma is this: it is a fact that there has not been a consistent majority for Scottish independence. That’s what David Cameron says to himself whenever he occasionally thinks of the issue.

There has been a consistent and massive majority of Scots voters understanding and using their power vis-a-via London and mandating their politicians again and again to act in such a way. Because of this a majority can be won for Scottish independence. The question is do the SNP and pro-independence forces have the guile and wit to dare to seize the agenda and stand tall for Scotland’s interests?
1. David Denver, James Mitchell, Charles Pattie and Hugh Bochel, Scotland Decides: The Devolution Issue and the Scottish Referendum, Frank Cass 2000.
2. Ian Smart, ‘A New Year Prediction: A return to reality’, December 31st 2011, http://ianssmart.blogspot.com/
3. Robert Johns, David Denver and James Mitchell, Voting for a Scottish Government: The Scottish Parliament Election of 2007, Manchester University Press 2010.
4. I am indebted to Nigel Smith, Chair of the ‘Yes, Yes’ 1997 Scottish Parliament referendum campaign for first making this case.
5. Jo Eric Murkens with Peter Jones and Michael Keating, Scottish Independence: A Practical Guide, Edinburgh University Press 2002.
6. Fraser Nelson, ‘Would you bet against Alex Salmond?’, Spectator Coffee House, January 2nd 2012, http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/7540743/would-you-bet-against-alex-salmond.thtml
7. Daniel Dorling, Fair Play: A Daniel Dorling Reader on Social Justice, Policy Press 2011.

Comments (105)

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  1. Ron Wilson says:

    Interesting & thoughtful piece as ever Gerry, but I disagree your core argument re a two referendum strategy. Such a move would immediately put the Scottish government, having successfully won a mandate for indepndence, into a position of immense weakness as it would encourage London to play for time, conjour up all manner of nightmare difficulties and undermine the Scottish government’s authority.
    Scotland will need its government to go into negotiations with a strong mandate and the full legal authority to get the best outcome for the country – and that will only apply to a government that has won a majority of votes cast in a single unambiguous question.

    1. Alex Buchan says:

      Gerry’s point is that the SNP wont have any mandate unless they can neutralise the barrage of dirty tricks that will be employed by the press alone, regardless of how effective the NO campaign turns out to be – and it doesn’t have to be very effective to sow lots of doubts in the public’s mind. This idea that the madate can be taken for grated is delusional. Fortunately Alex Salmond has shown himself to be far more flexible and strategic so we will wait and see what transpires. I’m in the SNP. I know why the SNP are confident, but wining an independence referendum will be far harder than most in the SNP realise.

  2. Alex Buchan says:

    An excellent article, possibly your best. It shows the development of your thinking and I agree totally with your analysis and your conclusions. I have always felt that the most important thing is to win the vote and to remove all the possible impediments to winning. I argued for the inclusion of devo-max since last May against virtually everyone else, but I now doubt that any of the unionists parties will campaign for it. You say what you think the unionists should do if they have any intelligence, then ask “Is unionism up to this?” I’m pretty certain the answer to that is no. Unionism has convinced itself that the referendum is Salmond’s Achilles heel; they may not have worked out how, or whether, they are going to join forces, but they feel reasured that they can win. I haven’t checked out Ian Smart’s comments, but his fear is about a low vote for Independence, not about an Independence majority. Any defeat in an Independence referendum would have negative consequences for Scotland, and for progressive change in the UK, regardless of how small the margin of defeat is; just look at
    Quebec. They say that Alex Salmond won the 2007 election by neutralising Independence as an issue by promising a referendum. He needs to be able to do the same now by being open to a second referendum as Gerry says.

  3. Alex Buchan says:

    I’ve just read the Ian Smart article that Gerry references and would recommend that people read it. He is making a serious contribution to the general debate around the referendum, and one which is at variance with the standard Labour position. I think he’s wrong in thinking that the SNP leadership could call off the referendum, but I think his arguments about the difficulty of the SNP countering the ‘No’ campaign’s use of the fear tactic is credible. However, a commitment to a second referendum would neutralise most of the tactics that the ‘No’ camapaign could deploy, by giving the electorate the chance to vote on the outcome of negotiations. Even if they voted no in a second referendum the effect of a positive vote in the first would have major consequences and would probably ensure that some form of devo-max was implemented, as the desire for radical change would have been demonstrated by the result of the first vote. Gerry is on the money with this one.

  4. Stuart Farquharson says:

    Ron Wilson gets it exactly right. Prevarication would be the order of the day for the Westminster government. Negotiations would drag on for years.

  5. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    Agree entirely with Ron Wilson. We may well win an Independence referendum but not if we start confusing our main aim. To quote yossarian in Catch22 “Death to all modifiers!
    There will be an unambiguous question on the referendum voting paper and I am sure the Devo max angle – initially floated by some unionists to cloud the waters- is merely being exposed as a non runner by AS.
    We have plenty of time to indicate the weakmess of a “devo max” which would still leave us dependent, is soley in the gift of Westminster which canalter it or remove it at will and which would leave us with nuclear weapons, illegal foreign invasions and no proper access to oil revenues – ie not worth getting up for
    The SNP should beware of anybody promoting devo max as a consolation prize. Booby prize more like which would leave us further from independence than even a defeat in a yes/no vote would leave us .
    OT . You have no idea what you have done inotroduing Louis Jordan to us. I have now on YouTube stumbled onto a 12 year old Little Richard doing Caldonia

    The SNP should beware voices talking in favour of devo max

    1. MryMac says:

      I also agree. If using independence as a threat to get a better deal from Westminster within the union has been going on, it hasn’t got us a very good deal (apart from the parliament and devolution) Scots are still being used for cannon fodder and we are still a nuclear target. Our oil has been misused by UK government to fund destructive social policies we did not vote for. What a complete waste.

      I think the surge in support for SNP/independence is more to do with democracy. Scots voted Labour majority consistently, but had far right Tory policies enforced on them because of the union. Labour moved right to win Southern vote. Unnecessary to win Scots vote, majority already voted for Old Labour . I think the election of another far right Tory government will be the last straw for many people, who still remember having their lives wrecked by Thatcher policies. English would be better off, too. My understanding is that Tories would have a 61 seat majority in England, if it weren’t for Scots vote. So let the English have the government English want, and the Scots the government Scottish vote for.

      I don’t think Hassan’s article frames the debate in a helpful way. Certainly for me it has nothing to do with identity, although to some nats it does.
      Supporting Indy is the only way to get rid of the far right Tories that me and the majority of people living in Scotland have systematically voted against.


      1. Alex Buchan says:

        How democratic is it to refuse the public a vote on the outcome of negatiations over something that will impact permanetly on their and their family’s future welfare in a more major way than anything else that is likely to happen during their lifetime. It’s a no-brainer and will be made a major issue during any referendum camapaign. The NO campaign are not going to be stupid; they know that this position can easily be made to look indefensible.

  6. The ground rules have changed, the Unionist position has not. They remain stuck in the rut of trying to scare the Scots into submission. It failed in 2007 and back fired completely in 2011 and yet the too poor, too wee, too stupid Scotland mantra remains their core position.

    The unionist parties are slowly putting themselves between a rock and a hard place. Logic suggests that May 2014 is the best time for the referendum with the background of the upcoming celebrations of 700 years since Bannock Burn, a Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the Ryder Cup and a Year of Home Coming planned. A year later and these self same ‘allies’ will be fighting like a sack of weasels for seats in a reduced Westminster.

    Between now and then the unionists have to come up with a credible White Paper on Full Fiscal Autonomy if they want the spoiler on the ballot. The SNP are clear they will allow a FFA option in the referendum but they are only campaigning for independence. It will be up to others to make the FFA case.

    It appears the Scotland Act Ammendment Bill is running out of control as the Unionists plot and counter plot to bend it to their will to stop the SNP. There must be some awareness of the terminal constitutional damage trying to force a bill, without the SNP’s shopping list included, on Holyrood. Cameron and Osbourne know that to give into Salmond will cause ructions amongst the Tories as it will be a betrayal of ‘Britain’ of the, long lost, one nation Tory story.

    The real question is how will a single story of Union be presented as Labour will not share a platform with the Tory’s as they know it will sound their death knell in Scotland. What do Labour believe in in terms of the Union except staying as close to the Tories as possible in policy and approach while pretending to look Janus like the other way?

    Salmond is keeping his powder dry on the referendum issue because it is a canny policy. In the meanwhile the SNP are looking to make further gains in Glasgow and hope they can take over Labour’s last ‘stronghold’ in May 2012. The SNP dogs are starting to bite as Strathclyde Police get into investigations of the misuse of public money by Glasgow Council, the ever present ghost of Louie Rodden and his ties to Glasgow Labour resurface. There is still Mr McAveety and David Mundell yet to have their day in court on expenses issues.

    There is also the question of the UK Parliament’s role in the referendum and the potential breach of UN self determination and Helsinki protocols if Cameron, as head of the current UK Government, is involved in any way in the referendum or the Unionist Parties in Scotland are seen to have overt support from Westminster.

    The European Council of Nations are going to take close interest in this referendum, the EU an even closer overview so I suggest the Unionist side has not considered the impact of an EU rooting for the SNP to win and once and for all solve their problem of Westminster and what they see as perfidious Albion.

    1. Geoff, England (not Britain or 'United' KIngdom) says:

      Shouldn’t ‘Bannock Burn’ be spelt ‘Bannockburn’?

      What about June 2014 for the referendum? June 26, 2014 will be a Thursday and only two days after the 700th anniversary, according to Wikipedia. I assume the referendum will be on a Thursday.

      1. And will also be a nice birthday present for me 🙂

        I think it’s more likely to be 2015, though. By then boundary changes and Labour’s failure to get rid of the totally inert Ed Miliband will more or less ensure another Tory win, which of course suits the independence cause very well.

        The warm afterglow of all the consciousness-raising stuff in 2014 will still be there, and it’ll give for all the nice stats on how they boosted the economy to be published.

  7. allymax says:

    Gerry Hassan at his ‘zol-serchin’ best. Article is rubbish Gerry.

    The geme is up ra poley; Westminster dinnae huv a clue whit’s gaen on.
    Thir Westminster ‘anti-Scotland committe’ huv only cum up wi’ trivial remedies tae spin Scotland tae England, in a vein attempt tae qualify Scotland as part o’ England; oh-dear, Scots winny fa’ fir that ane.
    Scotland will be independent by 2016, it’s God-given actually.
    Let’s not upset God then eh !
    We’re gonna need Him, n’ a; His ‘blessings’ come the independence referendum.

  8. James Coleman says:

    Alex Salmond is the best politician in the UK at this moment so it is ingenuous of some of the commenters on here to babble on about what he should do to attain his goal of eventually attaining Independence for Scotland. Too many on this site seem to believe that a YES vote is in the bag. It isn’t. And every politician (and AS) worth his salt has to consider different scenarios which might occur.

    1. I am sure first and foremost in his mind would be a NO vote, no matter how small the margin. That would set back independence in Scotland for a generation at least. And send Scottish matters onto the backburner in National UK politics.
    2. Even a YES vote will be subject to prevarications by Westminster as it connives and strives quite correctly to get the best deal for the rump of the UK.

    Thus the SNP’s fall back strategy of FFA is good and particularly so if it can get the opposition to propose FFA so that the Scottish Government can disown it if required.
    FFA would just be another step along the road to full independence and in terms of a country’s life span a few years is neither here nor there.
    The biggest problem on sites like this and NNS is that the readers become inbred, get carried away by their own exuberance and start to believe that all Scots think like them. They don’t. Not yet. So get out there and write about the benefits of Independence in all media outlets.

  9. Scottish republic says:

    Good article – you may be right Gerry but I favour a simpler question:

    Do you want Scotland to become an independent country with its own directly elected sovereign government in Edinburgh? YES NO

    Simple – a second referendum for FFA if it’s a NO

  10. John A Thomson says:

    One simple independence question for me as well. Wee Eck has successfully killed off the whole Devomax / FFA road for the unionist parties.

  11. allymax says:

    Rubbish article;
    Point 1.
    “The SNP have won a landslide victory but have yet to produce a serious strategy for winning independence;” The SNP don’t need to ‘produce a serious strategy’, the (majority), voters have already voted for the only ‘independence’ party in the ‘election’, therefore the ‘strategy’ doesn’t really matter at this point. The fact the SNP have a 5 year term to ‘produce’ anything to do with its promise of independence referendum means it’s not ‘serious’ after only 7 months of being re-elected. If after 4 years, (2015), the SNP haven’t ‘produce(d)’ a serious strategy then that’s when the this kind of scaremongering nonsense can be written.
    –Only 45 words into the article and it’s already incorrect.
    ——–Like I said; Article is rubbish Gerry.

    Rubbish article;
    Point 2.
    How can an ‘existential crisis’, be displayed in a ‘phoney war’, with A ‘strange display of emotions and assumptions by every party’ ??? This writing makes no sense.
    –Now 107 words into the article and it’s even more risible.
    ——–Like I said; Article is rubbish Gerry.

    Rubbish article;
    Point 3.
    “three distinct Scottish futures on offer. …The strategy, tactics and detail on this might be surprisingly vague,” OUCH ! Talk about contradictions !
    –Now 184 words into the article and it’s incomprehensible..
    ——–Like I said; Article is rubbish Gerry.

    Rubbish article;
    Point 4.
    “the SNP are well-deposed towards having, towards the latter half of this Parliament, in 2014-15,” What happened to the year 2016 ???
    Ouch ! Ouch !! ..Hey; gonnae no’ dae that !

    Rubbish article;
    Point 5.
    “the SNP are …towards the latter half of this Parliament, in 2014-15, a two vote referendum, offering the Scots a choice on ‘devo max’, …, and independence.” Says who Gerry ?
    –Now 232 words into the article and it’s contradicting, incomprehensible, AND risible.

    Wow, only a Westminster hack can write like this!
    2500 words, and enough tae bring tears tae a glass een.
    Aye, guid farticle Gerry !

    Like I said; Article is rubbish Gerry.

    (John 11;35).

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Abusive comments will be deleted. Feel free to disagree and air your views but can we keep the language moderate Ally? Thanks.

      1. Alex Buchan says:

        Why hasn’t these comments been deleted? If that’s the policy they should be. How can we argue against those who demonise the SNP with the smear about cybernats if we allow cybernat loutish bullying comments.

    2. James Coleman says:

      If Allymax is going to make abusive comments then the least he can do is put his proper name up.

      1. allymax says:

        allymax is my proper name.

  12. Gerry Hassan says:

    Thanks for some of the constructive feedback above and some of the not so constructive feedback.

    I would like to home in on the black and white comments of people like Ally above and challenge it. Ally dismisses the article as the words of a ‘Westminster hack’; similarly a Facebook comments called it ‘unionist’ and posing a ‘unionist trap’ by daring to suggest a different strategy to the ‘Great Leader’. This is dangerous non-thinking; since when did serious debate about tactics and strategy towards independence become ‘unionist’? It is the kind of North Korean siege mentality which we knew from Scottish Labour and which some nationalists seem intent on replicating.

    We cant go down this route. The SNP dont have a serious, thought out strategy for independence; Wee Eck doesnt; they are making up as they go along; and in part, dare I say to some of you, the Nats arent as impressive as sometimes people think, it is just that the current opposition is pants. However, there is a profound difference between winning at party competition and winning an independence referendum; it requires a different appeal and politics.

    It is possible to win an independence referendum, but people like Ally above are going to have to do better than dismiss the need for the SNP to have tactics and strategy – claiming as they do that voters voted for the party of independence. Yes they did, but that is not a mandate for independence, people didnt vote because of independence.

    What I am suggesting is that an independence referendum can be won, but it wont be aided by some of the non-thinking and fantasing above. What has got the SNP to this point of success and its appeal simply isnt enough to win an independence referendum. The case has not been made; and it is no use just hoping that the union is so rotten and decrepit it is just going to fall apart in front of our very eyes. Flawed, imperfect and no longer serving Scotland’s interests some of us might think it, there is no polling evidence that voter attachment to it is just going to collapse.

    A serious, nuanced case for independence has to be made, and this implies maximalising our tactics and strategy as indicated above, positioning Scots independence as part of the Scottish dimension, making independence the patriotic, democratic position. That would be a defining and realigning moment. But to get there and move the debate, we need to have open, honest debate which some contributors here and elsewhere either dont want to have or cant, instead seeking refuge in calling the slightest deviation, ‘unionist’. Name calling and labelling at this moment in our nation’s history simply isnt good enough. Dare I say it isnt good nationalist politics or manners!



    1. bellacaledonia says:

      As always a reasoned thought-out approach Gerry. I worry that too many cybernats even now still resort to abuse (albeit mild in form), derision and bipolar entrenched positioning when calm, reasoned exploration of ideas is the most constructive way forward. Those days are over for any widening inclusive Independence movement. And in the past they should remain.

      Bella is a many things to many people but a stomping ground for bipolar abusive cybernats isnt one of them. If anyone can explain how being rigid dogmatic and belligerent will further the cause of Independence then I’m all ears.

      As Gerry correctly infers the battle of ideas has not yet been won. That means entering into a concentrated period of constructive open dialogue with many, many people who may not buy into a battle of identity politics; who (unlike myself) don’t really care about the minutae of Scottish history; and crucially (and this may be the big one) may not yet be intellectually or emotionally connected to the social, economic and democratic possibilities where Independence trumps the Union.

      Theres a lot of spade work to be done and time is not necessarily in great supply. The way we communciate our thoughts and counterpose ideas can either hinder or help that work.

      Kevin W

      1. allymax says:

        Hi Kevin, (Bella Caledonia), I think we have just seen a rigorous and frank exchange between Gerry and myself; nothing more. I expect journalists to be ‘called’ on their writings and articles; we can’t just allow salacious articles to roam free over the politics of Scotland. If Gerry is going to write mis-truths, exaggerated assumptions, and generally confused preponderance, then I am going to call it rubbish. I don’t see how that’s anything other than good manners !

        I like your site for the ‘flexibility’ it has to expand on issues like this, and I commend Gerry for stepping up to the plate too; He’s gone up in my estimation for that, but if you are going to ban me for speaking the truth, then so be it. Also, I don’t take kindly to being ‘moderated’; try not to do that Kevin if it’s absolutely not necessary. Other than that, I like your site.
        Thanks, allymax.

      2. Marga says:

        “I worry that too many cybernats even now still resort to abuse ” – in fact we have had just one instance of robust/abusive language in 19 replies, hardly warranting comments like “too many cybernats” etc. As someone else has said, if abuse is construed, it should properly be deleted, editors leaving it then issuing blanket complaints about their parish of commentators is editors not doing their job. No offence intended.

      3. MryMac says:

        Biopolar? Please leave people with mental health problems out of this. Having a mental health problem does not make someone ‘crazy’ or frothing angry either for that matter. I’m surprised Bella thinks its ok to insult those living with mental health problems in this way.

        I’m sure it doesn’t do Hassan any harm to realise how angry his writing makes some people.

        I personally think the debate is over. Unionists have not been able to make a positive case for the union. I would be delighted to hear it, if and when they come up with one. The problem is getting that across to Joe Public, given the bias in the mainstream media. I wouldn’t waste my time trying to convince people
        who only use debate to muddy the waters.

    2. James Coleman says:

      There was me being if not complimentary then at least supportive of some of your views and then you come out with guff like “Great Leader” and “wee Eck” to discredit only yourself.
      Notwithstanding that, as I said earlier AS is currently the best politician in the UK and it is naive of you to assume that the SNP does not have a strategy for the referendum just because you haven’t been told of one. The SNP is quite right to keep its cards close to its chest and to play a waiting game. There is nothing to be gained by jumping the gun and putting your best ideas on show early just to give the opposition years to shoot you down. The unionists are doing very well for the SNP at the moment constantly shootibg themselves in the foot while AS stands above it all.
      Lastly it is a long time politically till 2014/15, near the end of the Government’s term of office, and a lot could go wrong. On the other hand a window of opportunity (I hate that cliche) might open up for an earlier date when a referendum could be won. I’m sure AS is well aware of that.

      for Independence

    3. allymax says:

      First of all Gerry, thanks for the ‘challenge’; this shows maturity and confidence in your vocation.

      Now, just in case you thought I was, I’m not the ‘retort’ on Facebook; I never use Facebook, and I don’t suppose I ever will.

      Next, you refer to First Minister of Scotland and the Scottish Parliament Alex’ Salmond as the ‘Great Leader’; obvious overtones of North Korea and their Communist totalitarian oppressive political society. Gerry, hardly appropriate language to be discussing Scottish politics, even though Westminster are the horrendous oppressive mammon. Can’t you be a little more respectful to Scotland overwhelmingly elected First Minister?

      ‘replicating .. Labour’ Gerry?
      Moreover, i think you ‘presume’ authority to call all those who voted SNP ‘nationalists’; you should refrain from using subconscious cues of subliminal indoctrination because it’s not nice to do that to those who read your writing.
      SNP are hardly replicating Labour, the SNP are quite prosperous in their government in Scotland, that’s why they have been re-elected by a huge majority of the Scots people.

      “We cant go down this route.” Says who Gerry?
      Since when did you get elected as First Minister?

      “The SNP dont have a serious, thought out strategy for independence;”
      Again, says who Gerry?

      “The SNP dont have a serious, thought out strategy for independence; Wee Eck doesnt; they are making up as they go along;”
      How do you know all this stuff Gerry? Please show us the evidence.

      “the current opposition is pants.”
      Yes, Gerry, even the ‘opposition’ know that !
      Can you please tell us something we don’t know?

      “However, there is a profound difference between winning at party competition and winning an independence referendum; it requires a different appeal and politics”
      Now ye’r talkin’.

      “people like Ally above are going to have to do better than dismiss the need for the SNP to have tactics and strategy”
      Gerry, I’m not ‘dismiss'(ing) anything of the sort, all I said was it’s too early, after only 7 months, of a 5 year term, to be hounding the Scottish Government on this issue when there are more important issues to get on with. Like what Westminster have done to all of us!

      “(Ally), claiming as they do that voters voted for the party of independence. Yes they did, but that is not a mandate for independence, people didnt vote because of independence.”
      Sorry Gerry, ye’r simply, and totally wrong on that one.

      “What has got the SNP to this point of success and its appeal simply isnt enough to win an independence referendum. The case has not been made;”
      First-of-all Gerry, I think the absolute reverse to what you have just said, and, moreover, I would like to know how you justify your premise, ‘that it’s (horrendous Westminster oppression), not enough to win an independence referendum’ ? Please elaborate Gerry; I’d luv tae ken whit ye’r talkin’ aboot.

      “the union is so rotten and decrepit it is just going to fall apart in front of our very eyes. Flawed, imperfect and no longer serving Scotland’s interests some of us might think it,”
      Yes Gerry, we do think that; hence the massive majority for SNP.

      “there is no polling evidence that voter attachment to it [union] is just going to collapse.”
      Forget the polls Gerry, the polls 3 days before the May election told us Labour and SNP were neck-n-neck. Ha !

      “A serious, nuanced case for independence has to be made, and this implies maximalising our tactics and strategy as indicated above,” ‘our’ Gerry? Since when did you crossover to ‘our’ SNP?

      “positioning Scots independence as part of the Scottish dimension, making independence the patriotic, democratic position.”
      Gerry, Scottish independence has ALWAYS been a ‘Scottish dimension’; I know that for certain from living and growing up in Scotland. Fae a wee laddie, a’ kent weel Scots n’ ra English didnae get on. Thon horrid wummin Thatcher did us wrang, so-she-did. Sumbdy shooda telt thon tae ye.

      “But to get there and move the debate, we need to have open, honest debate”
      Whit? Ye dinnae deal wi’ Westminster like that; Westminster a the world’s best at psychological warfare; Bruce kent weel that wan !

      “some contributors here [Ally] and elsewhere either dont want to have or cant, instead seeking refuge in calling the slightest deviation, ‘unionist’.”
      Ahem, Gerry ye’r the wan callin’ us ‘nationalists’ !
      N’ ye’r gettin’ paid fir it !

      “Name calling and labelling at this moment in our nation’s history simply isnt good enough. Dare I say it isnt good nationalist politics or manners!”
      Que sera sera….

      It’s been nice Gerry, thanks for the (ahem), ‘challenge’.,

      1. Alex Buchan says:

        Stop trying to justify yourself. Your comment was abusive. Admit it,

      2. MryMac says:

        I think this post puts your point far better than your first one. Hassan’s writing also makes me feel angry, and your post has clarified the anti nationalist jibes hidden in the text.

  13. bellacaledonia says:

    Gerry’s absolutely right, and what Bella is all about is creating a space for dissenting difficult voices and exploring issues to create a strategy that can win and transfrom Scotland. Talking amongst a group who all agree on everything is a pointless exercise and there’s no doubt there’s issues to be thrashed out and strategy and new ideas to be explored. Let’s do it.

    I think Scottish Republics counter question has real merits.

    1. Galen10 says:

      I agree that the counter question has real merit, although I’d echo some of the earlier posts about timing being key. Perhaps the SNP leadership are being canny and keeping their cards close to their chest; there is definitely something to be said for not giving the Unionists too much information.

      On the other hand, I do have a lot of sympathy for Gerry’s point that there has to be some “beef” in there somewhere, and that the SNP and “independistas” more generally have to make a positive case for the benefits of a “Yes” vote.

      To some extent the Unionists are making our case for us (Michael Forsyth as a poster boy… seriously?) as other have argued, but don’t for a moment think that it is a foregone conclusion, or that AS and the SNP and their juggernaut have an open road. I agree with Pat Kane in his Thoughtland piece that a lot more effort has to be put into “educating for independence”.

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        In a recent piece in The Spectator, Alex Massie has suggested: ‘Douglas Alexander and Alistair Darling will play a role. So too should Gordon Brown. But so must David Cameron. It would be ridiculous for Cameron to duck his responsibilities simply because he’s an Englishman. His position demands he be at the front of the unionist campaign.’

        An interesting crisis faces Labour in Scotland as to whether to join with the discredited Liberals and the still-toxic Tories on a shared platform.
        I find it fanciful to think of Douglas Alexander (responsible for the Holyrood lection fiasco a few years back), Alistair Darling (who preceded over financial regulation meltdown) and Gordon Brown who had some sort of communications seizure during his short term as PM as the pro-Union dream team. But, if that’s the best they can do, sounds good!

      2. Marga says:

        The only thing, Galen10, is that people have a strange resistance to being “educated”. Even demonstrated truth seems to hold no power for the entrenched, though chipping away over the years can make inroads.

        It will probably take a key event at a critical moment to make the difference, a “road to Damascus” scenario shifting the balance of power. With the dimension the issue is assuming country-wide, odds are that one of these will happen in the not too distant future.

  14. Brian Ritchie says:

    “The SNP dont have a serious, thought out strategy for independence; Wee Eck doesnt; they are making up as they go along”
    Rather a big assumption that and, I believe, a totally wrong one. I believe they do have a strategy, and we will see it unfold in the coming months and years.

  15. vronsky says:

    “it is no use just hoping that the union is so rotten and decrepit it is just going to fall apart in front of our very eyes.”

    But that’s exactly what’s been happening in front of our very eyes for at least three decades now. You seem to understand that support for the SNP does not imply support for independence, but then lose interest in what exactly is forcing SNP support. It’s not enough to explain it as the opposition being ‘pants’ – they’ve been pants for generations, while support for the SNP was near zero. I suspect it wouldn’t matter if the SNP were pants too – they would still be out ahead. And ask yourself: why are the opposition pants? I was predicting this situation twenty years ago (it seemed to me then that it had already arrived) where the unionist parties are consistently and continuously forced to defend the indefensible, to their own terminal damage. Salmond’s greatest advantage is his freedom to tell the truth, an option not available to the unionists.

    One cannot defend a union as an abstraction somehow worth preserving for some lofty principle: a union of necessity involves another partner, and it matters who that partner is and how they behave. The usual unionist metaphor of a marriage might assist you in understanding this. What’s driving SNP support is the Westminster plunge into neo-conservatism: Lab/Lib/Con are now welded into one homogenous right-wing product, becoming more reactionary and authoritarian with every tick of the clock. There is no evidence that this process is going to stall anytime soon – quite the opposite – it is gathering pace. It will pump ever higher octane fuel into the engine for separation.

    Personally I would not be a member of a separatist party on any grounds other than that the alternative – the Union – was utterly unrescuable. I find I am a very common sort of nationalist, and I suspect that many here – a leftist site – only sympathise with separatism to the extent that the other option has become unconscionable.

    1. Galen10 says:

      I agree with much of what you say, but there are dangers in thinking that the reasons you give for SNP support (or perhaps more broadly disaffection with the concept of the Union) will be enough in and of itself to deliver a yes vote when the day comes. The days of trying to cow the Scottish voters into submission with warnings of the possible negative effects of voting for independence (too wee, too poor etc..) may be gone, indeed people may even be prepared to vote yes if they would be slightly worse off as recent polls suggest, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to a majority for outright independence.

      There is a danger of the Quebec scenario discussed above, which makes it even more important for those in favour of independence to foster the narrative that we are better off on our own rather than shackled to the corpse of a polity which is travelling ever further from the kind of social and political model most Scots want. I really hope the SNP do have a cunning plan…. but we shouldn’t bet the farm on it!

  16. Brian Ritchie says:

    Agree that we can’t just sit on our hands; there is convincing to be done and I believe it will be done. As far as the the question goes I agree with those posters who imply that timidity is wrong. We should make it plain that independence is what’s required and then work heart and soul to present the facts to demonstrate it.

  17. Donald Adamson says:

    Excellent analysis. I agree with Alex Buchan that this is one of Gerry’s best articles, at least in the blogosphere.

    As someone who has supported independence since 1973, and who is more of a ‘fundamentalist’ than ‘gradualist’ – though circumstances have dictated that we’re all ‘gradualists’ now – I find the substance of Gerry’s arguments here persuasive. The referendum question that is suggested here is not only thoughtfully conceived but, as is argued, provides a plausible strategy that might prove more successful.

    Given the context in which Gerry outlines this strategy – an increasingly dysfunctional UK that has no coherent crisis-management strategy, either politically or economically – unionists are giving the impression that they are determined that Scotland will become independent, if only by default. Here, Gerry’s emphasis on the world events currently preoccupying the Tories at Westminster, is politically important.

    In the old days, Tory statecraft would have taken care of all this. But today, Tory statecraft is a distant memory, although I agree with Gerry’s implication that no-one seems to have communicated this to Michael Forsythe or Andrew Neil. More substantively, too much has changed in the intervening decades to the extent that, today, the damage-limitation options available to unionists to halt the momentum of the SNP have never been narrower.

    Here, I have a lot of sympathy with those more enlightened members of Scottish Labour who would dearly love to campaign for full fiscal autonomy. But, apart from the fact that FFA is a non-starter with the UK Treasury, I can’t see British Labour buying it either. After all, even the limited pre-Calman devolution settlement has created numerous conflicts and resentment (on both sides of the border) and has heightened the crisis of the British state. FFA, in spite of what its proponents argue, would surely only compound these difficulties, though it would be a long and painful process. And, of course, FFA would have no impact on the location of Trident, or British military adventurism, among other things. In any event, it’s clear that the unionists are running out of drawing boards.

    Where I would disagree with Gerry, is when he says of the “delays” of the SNP leadership that, “…this is the delay of a dithering army, unsure at its greatest moment of triumph so far, whether and how to pounce”. I think that this is a misreading of the SNP. Gerry is right to say of David Cameron, in light of the world events he is currently preoccupied with, that, “Not surprisingly with this hand Cameron has decided to play a subtle long game” but I would argue that the same logic should be extended to Alex Salmond and the SNP. We need to remember that they, too, are affected by these world events (and not only because of cuts to the Scottish government’s budget).

    More importantly, it is the prospects of both Labour and Conservative parties at Westminster in the 2015 British general election that must surely be informing part of the SNPs strategy. This is also why unionists are desperate for the SNP to hold an early referendum. Rhetorically, unionists support this demand with the argument that delay is creating uncertainty. This would be credible were it not for the fact that we are living in a world which, this year alone, may see, among other things, a second global capitalist crisis (perhaps the start of a depression), the collapse of the euro, war with Iran, Britain losing its triple A credit rating, a right-wing lunatic in the White House (another one?), not to mention the impact of the Tories’ budget cuts and so on.

    In reality, Salmond knows that if the ‘coalition’ at Westminster survives the next eighteen months it will probably survive until 2015. And who knows, long before then, given the extended time-horizons of the deficit and debt reduction plan, the Liberal Democrats may announce that, if elected, they will form another coalition with the Conservatives after 2015. But even in the absence of such an announcement, the anticipation of an extended Tory-Lib Dem coalition after 2015 will surely dominate the perceptions of both the Scottish and British electorates in 2015, with potentially disastrous consequences for Scottish and British Labour. If any of this transpires, Alex Salmond really would look like a political genius!

    And isn’t this a potentially fundamental issue that might partly explain the SNPs strategy as we anticipate the referendum. For it’s easy to understand why Tory voters in Scotland will vote No in an independence referendum. They will, after all, be getting what they want from Westminster. But, circa 2014 say, with a Tory government at Westminster and with the prospect of more Tory governments at Westminster until 2020 (if not beyond), what exactly will Labour voters in Scotland be voting for if they vote No in the referendum?

    Having said that, Gerry is surely right to draw attention to the broad issue here. That is, if the perception that the SNP does seem to be “dithering” gains traction in the Scottish electorate, this could halt the SNPs momentum. But there’s another issue here also, and that is the political direction of the SNP. But that’s another story.

    This was an excellent and thought-provoking article, though, and hopefully one that will find a wider readership.

  18. Galen10 says:

    I think that Scottish republics proposed 1st question is more direct and clearer, I suppose it’s a matter of what happens if the vote is “No”..? Should there be a second referendum (or would that have been kicked into touch…?), or would it be better to have the “devo-max” question on the ballot, and how would that work?

    I suppose if the vote was no, and it was the only question on the ballot, then it would be up to the parties to position themselves for the “OK..then waht now” sceanrio?

  19. Scottish republic says:

    I have to say, in general, this has been about the most interesting thread I’ve read on this subject – and like all here – I’ve been around.

    Gerry’s article has spurred interesting thought.

    I do believe the SNP got taken a little by surprise by the size of their victory – I wasn’t (neither were the SNP that surprised – they have best political machine and new what was happening – they just wisely do not play a dumb game).

    It was clear at the start of January to me that Labour was heading to an utter disaster that would have made May 5th look like a Xmas present BUT somebody (Murphy I think…) told them their policies were a hopeless voter turn-off collection of fatal garbage. Curse Murphy for that… still it is what it is, the victory the SNP has.

    It may have taken them by surprise a bit but it would be odd to imagine that the smartest group of politicians in the world today don’t have a good idea of what they want. Salmond, Ferguson, Sturgeon, Swinney,Neil, McNeil, Wishart… the list goes on. If they don’t have a fully realised plan yet, then they have ideas and will spend the coming year deciding the path to take.

    As long as the path is sensible – that is to say – offering a clear, strong economic argument then the SNP will win. The SNP will be obliged to unite behind the FM and present the argument – the argument I like best at the moment is = £1,000,000,000,000

    TRILLION – sounds nice and I think it’s time that was pushed all over the place and contrasted to the debt hole we find ourselves stuck in with the UK

    1. Marga says:

      Maybe this proves the “conversion on the road to Damascus” theory – you could argue that Scottish voters have already experienced one – the appearance of a majority SNP government without the media or pollsters apparently picking up the vibes in advance. To mix metaphors, the Labour campaign in particular revealed that the emperor (Labour) had no clothes, nothing to offer.

  20. Alex Buchan says:

    I’ll venture what the national narrative in 2012 Scotland is: most Scots like Alex Salmond, (though many loath him). They like him because he doesn’t chow tow to the London establishment and the likes of Jeremy Paxman. They also like him because he has kept council tax frozen and abolished bridge tolls and prescription, and hospital parking, charges. For that reason they think he’s on their side. But probably the majority are at the same time open to the prevalent media and opposition view that he is slippery and not necessarily to be trusted. They want to be consulted (who doesn’t) on Scotland’s future in a referendum and they are not really aware of the danger to Scotland of a no vote – they haven’t given it much thought, and it’s in none of the parties interests, for different reasons, to spell this out. They generally want Holyrood to have the maximum powers possible but they don’t really like the idea of risking the present set-up of pensions, benefits and jobs.
    So support for independence is extremely soft, apart from a minority who support it on principle. That is the most important political reality we have to start addressing. The question is: how do we relate to that soft vote for independence? We can chap on doors have the best electoral software package and run the best campaign on the ground, but all our efforts could be undone by scare stories about pensions and benefits in the press. It may be true that the old unionist message of too stupid, too wee, etc, has lost its bite, but in the privacy of the polling booth people still vote on the basis of a calculation of how their personal interests are best served. In such a situation the NO campaign doesn’t have to prove people will be worse off, they only have to sow doubt.
    One of their ways of doing this will be to portray Alex Salmond and the Scottish Government as not being honest or democratic. They will say Alex Salmond can’t tell you whether you will be better off or worse off because a lot will depend on the outcome of the negotiations and he isn’t going to let you have any say on whether you accept or reject that outcome. All this is pretty predicable and self-evident. My position is simple the only way to decisively win over that soft vote for independence is to allay their fears and neutralise unionist tactics. My view has always been that logically the best way to do that is to say that they will have a vote on the outcome of the negotiations. I wavered when David Steel and Michael Moore pushed this seeing it as a trap but Gerry’s article has helped me to think it through, it’s only a trap if you see everything in 19th cent, one leap to freedom terms. If you see everything as a process where the most important thing is to win the battle in front of you and proceed then such an approach is more likely to succeed than the alternatives.

    1. Marga says:

      Negotiations led by Team Salmond and Team UK – that image alone focuses the mind on the wisdom or otherwise of the 2-vote idea.

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        Careful with that assumption. Team Salmond may have given the Scottish opposition the run around but when negotiating an Independence settlement it wont be political numpties they will be up against.

        Team UK will consist of the the heads of the armed forces, an army of senior UK civil service bureaucrats and Whitehall mandarins, the governor of the Bank of England, the heads of MI5 and the police chiefs, the UK judiciary and an army of legal bigwigs, the Crown Estate, the Foreign Office, the hedge fund managers of UK pension funds, and an assortment of banking and corporate interests all hardened defenders of the status quo.

        These are the people who will be represented at the opposite side of the table during any Independence negotiations. If these lot of suits dont get there way they can and probably will obstruct and prevaricate till the cows come home. Bluster and bravado wont win the day. It may need a coherent public strategy rather than secret discussions.. and balls of steel to face the British establishment and not come back up the M1 with a botched half-arsed thats-as-much-as-we-could-get type settlement.

        What MAY help would be for Team Scotland to go armed with a draft Scottish Constitution which spells out exactly what Independence is… before the first referendum takes place .. thereby negating the need for a second confirmatory referendum.

        This is something that needs serious discussion and debate throughout the Independence movement as soon as we know the wording of the Bill and the proposed date of the referendum.

        Independence is a process yes but those invloved in participating in that process are going to have to up their game, and their understanding of what Indpendence actually involves. Scotland like the rest of the UK is still a constitutionally illiterate country and that will need to change pretty damn quick.

        Kevin W

        NB MaryMac – my use of the word bipolar was not connected to any mental health usage but was used to describe two diametricaly opposite political positions arguing it out as if there was no common ground between them worth exploring. My sincere apologies if it seemed to infer something diferent.

      2. MryMac says:

        Re Bipolar Not at all Kevin. My apologies for taking what you said the wrong way. I also think this is the best thread I’ve seen on BC for ages. 🙂

  21. allymax says:

    It’s clear Gerry’s article has stirred a ‘strange array of emotions and assumptions from’ (not the party’s, but) those in the politico sphere; in-deed, we see a second-guessing geme going on with those that are, well, frustrated.
    I wonder why?
    I mean, aren’t we, Scotland, performing better than the rest of the UK?
    Aren’t we, Scotland, managing the Westminster-caused financial crash, crisis, and calamity better than any other part of the UK per-capita?
    Isn’t the people and nation of Scotland firmly supporting their own Scottish National Government?
    Are those that deviate to dissension, wanting to cause destabilising riots and retribution among Scotland and Scots’, simply to flay us with Westminster indoctrination?
    Isn’t that how Westminster have ‘managed’ their UK ‘colonies’ so well in the past; through divide and rule?
    The answer to these questions is Yes.
    Why should we bother about what Westminster, (and their Westminster-led journalists) say?
    We are not Westminster, we’re not even the country of that government & parliament; we’re Scots, of Scotland, with our own Scottish National government, and parliament. And we’re doing very well in comparison considering the mess being yoked to this horrendous Union is concerned.
    Scotland is doing the best; simply because we, Scotland, have a mature, honest, responsible, accountable, and morally mature SNP Scottish Government, led by Alex’ Salmond who is one of the two best politicians in the world. Obama the other. So, as for the articles coming from journalists, that are not privy to the best intentions, and the future of Scotland, and Scots’, yes, the journalists will tend to stretch for strategies, and stoochies, lurching from one colluding crisis to the next, all because they have to ‘justify’ their ‘keep’.
    It’s been a long long time since Scotland had any real journalistic content as far as politics goes; and when an article like Gerry’s is slipped into the politico mainstream, then it causes a fight-fest on ideals, of who’s right and who’s wrong. Who’s ideas are better than others. How we, (and them), should be doing this, or doing that; calm doon lads n’ lasses, only now are we seeing the journalists, (that were led completely by Westminster), peering out of the mainstream media (msm) machine, to try and posit their own (anti-news-speak), ideals on politics. So, without taking sides on who’s right, or who’s wrong, let’s try and keep it civil please. We don’t have to agree with each other, but let’s not try to force others what and how to think.

    Me, personally, honour, family, and integrity mean more to me than money. I would fight for an independent Scotland today, tomorrow, and forever; even if it meant me living in a poor estate way. A’ mean, a’m a’ready as poor as a’hm gonnae get onywhy; (it’s the Westminster way), so at least a’ cuid die an independent Scotsman.

  22. Alex Buchan says:

    Kevin W
    Can you clarify how this draft constitution of what independence is helps in the negotiations and negates the need for a second referendum? As this is the only really new idea to emerge from this thread it would be good to know what it means. I can’t quite see how it does those things as the nature of independence will only be relevant in some areas of the negotiations i.e. over the issue of Trident, but not others which will have a very direct impact on the public’s attitude to independence such as financial issues. I also can’t see why the UK government is obliged to pay any attention to it unless it has either been sanctioned by the Scottish Parliament (but as constitutional issues are reserved I can’t see how the Scottish Parliament could do that), or in a referendum. If the SNP suggested they were going to use a blueprint in their negotiations they would lay themselves open to the criticism of being high-handed in thinking they could unilaterally propose a constitution.

    I’m also not sure how this would meet Gerry’s point of making the referendum more winnable. This is the whole point of his article. It is instructive that the unionist parties are very alive to Gerry’s point and have been going out of their way (most recently in Lammont’s acceptance speech) to try to hammer away that independence is totally opposed to the historical process of gaining more home rule. They are clearly aware that this is where the real heart and minds battle lies; in whether this is a patriotic continuation of the struggle or the obsession only of nasty small minded separatists. I’m not sure how a draft constitution fits in here. The whole point is to make it easier for the middle ground of soft support for independence to take the step of committing against a likely barrage of worrying stuff about the safety of their pensions or their jobs or their benefits, and let’s face some people will lose their jobs due to Independence, even if lots of other opportunities will be available.

    I also think you’re over stating the strength of the UK position in the negotiations. If the Scottish Government has a mandate from the Scottish electorate then the UK government will be obliged to negotiate reasonably, given that all three of the Westminster parties have1) acknowledged the right of the Scottish People to self-determination and 2) acknowledged the SNP government’s mandate to put the question. The outcome of the negotiations will need to be seen to be 1) legal i.e. abiding by international norms and respecting Scotland’s existing territorial boundaries including sea boundaries and 2) be seen to be reasonable, given that the outcome will be made public and will be commented on widely.

  23. allymax says:

    Kevin, since we’re asserting to ‘assumptions’, on the independence negotiations’, then I would like to outline a few things. “Team UK …will consist of….armed forces, …UK civil service …Whitehall mandarins, …Bank of England, …Foreign Office”; these are the ones out of those you mentioned that will have anything to ‘negotiate’ with. The others, “UK civil service… MI5 …police…judiciary… Crown Estate… hedge fund managers… banking and corporate interests”; all are non-consequential to Scotland’s interests upon independence. Therefore I cannot see how they would qualify to ‘enter-into’ ‘negotiations’ with Scotland.
    Moreover, since Scotland holds all ‘their’, (those mentioned that do have qualification to negotiate), interests in Scotland’s hands, i would expect Scotland’s post-independence negotiations to go very well; and in considerable favour to Scotland also.

    “and balls of steel …and not come back up the M1 with a botched half-arsed …settlement.”
    Really Kevin ! And you’re the moderator; I think I’m going to like this politics site.

    “What MAY help would be for Team Scotland to go armed with a draft Scottish Constitution which spells out exactly what Independence is… before the first referendum takes place .. thereby negating the need for a second confirmatory referendum”
    (I can see I’m up against it here. I’ve strayed over politico ‘battle-lines’, but I’ll plod on anyway.)
    Why would Scotland, need to show England, any sort of Scottish constitution, ‘to negate a second referendum’ ? Scotland already has a constitution; The Declaration of Arbroath. That’s what the constitution was at the Act of Union of Crowns 1603, and the Act of Union of Parliaments1707. Besides, who says there’s going to be a ‘second referendum’ anyway?
    Scots won’t fall for that deception; we’re much too clever for that.

    “Scotland like the rest of the UK is still a constitutionally illiterate country”
    Sorry Kevin, I completely disagree with you on that one too.

    Although I doubt I’d agree with Alex Buchan on anything else, I do agree with this one statement he’s already made to you Kevin; “I also think you’re over stating the strength of the UK position in the negotiations. If the Scottish Government has a mandate from the Scottish electorate then the UK government will be obliged to negotiate reasonably,”.

    Quite frankly Kevin, after all the money Westminster have stolen from us Scots, and spent lavishly on themselves, (and still do), I expect a refund, or some kind of recompense for Westminsters misappropriation of care-of-duty’ to diligently run our United Kingdoms..

    (Exodus 22;8)

    1. Dave McEwan Hill says:

      Is there some confusion growing here. Any form of enhanced Devolution, devo max, FFA or whatever you want to call it will require complicated negotiation and would afford opportunity to Westminster to really create long term mischief.
      Independence however places as much of the Executive power into hands of the Scots as it does to London. I would think we would hold the stronger hand.

      I would also make it clear that every SNP administration in Holyrood will hold an independence
      referendum until we win (though I am increasingly confident we willwin in 2014/2015)

      1. Alex Buchan says:

        I would also make it clear that every SNP administration in Holyrood will hold an independence
        referendum until we win (though I am increasingly confident we willwin in 2014/2015)

        That’s just bluster. If the SNP lost this referendum untold damage would be done to their reputation in the UK and abroad. There’s no guarantee they will even have an outright majority again. This referendum has to be won there can be no second chances.

    2. James Coleman says:

      I very much agree with you Allymax (and I would still like to know your family name and given name.). Kevin, whoever he is, is well overstating the negotiating powers of any rump UK committee. After all, it was Westminster and the so called London Oxbridge based elite who caused the cock up in 2008. That doesn’t say much for their intellectual power. And if there is a YES vote and too much prevarication there would always be the option of threatening to just declare Inpendence. But I repeat, you and too many others believe that the argument is over and won when it is not. And for others’ to talk of a constitution at this stage is nonsense when we still have to convince a majority to vote for YES

      1. allymax says:

        Hi James, my family name is Bruce; my given name is allymax.
        If you want to know anything more about me, just search the internet for allymax. I’m the political activist for Scottish independence. James; yer cringe is showing !

        “you and too many others believe that the argument is over”, James, there is no argument; tell me exactly what the Union offers, what its arguments are, and why should I believe anything coming from Westminster anyway? Isn’t it the same Westminster in 1746, as it is today? Westminster are liars, cheats, deceivers, and not to be trusted; Westminster is the Mammon we don’t need.

        There’s absolutely nothing Westminster could say or do that could make me turn against Scotland; I’ve already said, (that for me), I want to draw my last breathe in an independent Scotland, and as a free Scotsman.

        1. Dave McEwan Hill says:

          Alex Buchan

          Disagree with you entirely. A week is a long time in politics and political movement is sometimes startlingly rapid and unstoppable.
          The difference between 1974 and 1980 illustrates this – or the last two Elections in Scotland – the Westminster one and the Holyrood one
          It has to be firmly established that we are not going away, that we will continue if we don’t win this time,, that the raison d’etre of the SNP remains intact. I believe we will win – and this belief will be
          greatly strengthened if we make it plain that we are not going away. It is a war we are engaged in, not one battle

  24. allymax says:

    No confusion Dave, I’m not even going to discuss anything other than independence for Scotland.

    And I agree with you that independence is not a ‘one-off’ issue; every SNP Scottish Government will hold an independence referendum every time they are elected into Scottish Government. But I also agree with you that this SNP Scottish Government, with Alex’ Salmond as First Minister, will win the independence referendum in this 2011-2016 term of office.

    I would like to add that I also think Alex’ Salmond, will see ‘the promised land’; he hasn’t ‘smote’ that ‘Rock’, and I don’t think he will neither.

  25. Alex Buchan says:


    I wanted to add that you are absolutely right in saying that the UK government are in a totally different category to the political numpties of the Scottish opposition. I don’t believe Gerry is right in thinking that Cameron doesn’t have a strategy for the referendum and a very clever one at that. My point was that after a yes vote for independence London loses much of its present advantage because essentially it will have lost the most important battle and the Scottish government will have a democratic mandate they will not be able to question.

    The strategy of the UK government was spelt out on the BBC website on Dec 23th under the heading “Special Clause gives Holyrood Right to Run Referendum”. Whitehall sources told the BBC that they were considering introducing a clause to give the Scottish Government the right to hold a referendum (there is some confusion here on the BBC website that Lalland Peat Warrior explains about why this isn’t part of the current Scotland Bill). This means that, to avoid a legal challenge in the courts, instead of being restricted to wording (similar to Gerry’s) about opening negotiations, the Scottish government could (unlike at present) hold a referendum along the lines suggested above by Scottish Republic i.e. “Do you want Scotland to become an independent country? YES NO.

    You can start to see what I mean about them not being numpties. How could the Scottish government object to this? But object they must. The reason that the UK government has decided to pursue this route, of giving the Scottish government this power under what is called a Section 30 order, is because it achieves two objectives. The first is that it would be more difficult to get a yes vote because, unlike opening negotiations which can be seen to be a continuation of the historical process of getting powers, such a referendum would be seen as a unique departure thus meeting the unionist’s aim of separating independence off from devolution as an extremist party’s demand (note Glegg yesterday saying that the SNP are extremists – this is in keeping with Labour and is all part of the overall strategy). The NO campaign would also not feel constrained by such wording to still base their campaign around the idea that it would be like voting for a pig in a poke and far too risky because of not knowing what the outcome of negotiations would be.

    The second reason why the UK government is pursuing this approach is because they can insert a sunset clause of, say, 2016. Now how could the Scottish government object to that, surly that meets the Scottish government’s election commitment to holding a referendum in the later part of this parliament. But this would set a precedent that referendums on Scottish independence could only happen when the UK government agreed to a section 30 order. If the SNP government objected on these grounds the UK government can use that to say see we told you they are extremists they won’t accept the democratic expression of the Scottish people, they want a neverendum. In contrast this allows a Tory UK government to appear ultra-reasonable which is designed to pave the way for Cameron to be an able to participate in the campaign. As I say they are far from being political numpties.

  26. John Souter says:

    How do you win a referendum on independence?

    Gerry as usual intellectualises [sic] the debate and by doing so misses the mark.

    There are not three Scotland’s but approx 5.6 million Scotland’s or, in an effort to ease consensus, around 1.5 million households all with variations on what being Scots and living in Scotland means to them.

    For most politics is an anathema. A game played with little relevance to their daily grind of existence or the practicalities of making ends meet, let alone the luxuries of hope and aspiration. Few will be aware of Bella Caledonia and even less would take time to read it or its commentaries and less again give some thought to them, with perhaps a dribble of the few remaining being motivated let alone inspired enough to spend some time exposing their hope and aspiration to the cruel blast of irrelevance.

    I don’t blame them for this. It isn’t as some claim apathy but in fact anger that has solidified into frustration in order to be contained and subsequently ignored; a condition covertly recognised by the politicians who analysed it as mannah from failure then exploited it by corruption. Corruption so endemic and insidious it reduced democracy to an irrelevant PR function for any ‘ism’ or ‘archy’ you care to choose.

    These are the force that will decide the battle of independence and for that to happen the proponents of independence must encourage them to crack free of the shell of disenfranchisement and re-build their faith and they and their nations value to a better democracy using the building blocks of honesty and integrity bonded by trust. Do that and the battle is not ours to win but for our adversaries to lose.

    Succeed, and we can leave the intellectuals to ponder, debate and philosophize on how the process can be advanced once the objective is achieved.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      So, no to thinking? Okay, got it.

      1. John Souter says:

        Ridiculous riposte. No, in fact universalise the interest and motivation.

        Or do you place the vanity of the view ahead of giving purpose and value to the many?

  27. Galen10 says:

    @ Alex Buchan

    The Cameroons may not be numpties, but they and their Unionist friends both south and north of the border are probably not as clever as you seem to think either. I’m more inclined to agree with some of the other posts here and elsewhere to the effect that they are between a rock and a hard place. They are no doubt quite sincere in their desire to preserve the Union, and honestly believe that it would be better for Scotland, but they have been comprehensively outmanoeuvred by the success of devolution, and the appetite of the Scottish people for more.

    As knee jerk centralists, one would expect little better from the Tories of course; but now the LD’s have self destructed, and Labour appear like a rabbit caught in headlights, what is a poor Unionist supposed to do? Interventions from Westminster will hardly play well in Scotland, but the only force capable of mounting a real opposition to the SNP is Labour…. and how are they going to do that without shackling themselves to the corpse of the Coalition? If Labour lose control of Glasgow in the upcoming local elections, it will surely make matters even worse for them. They could try to campaign for FFA, and spell out why it would be better, and what it would mean; but that would presuppose them answering some tough questions about how they square devo-max with retaining all their MP’s at Westminster.

    I’m not an SNP member or supporter, but I do see independence as desirable and the right thing for both sides. If the SNP are smart, they just need to keep their campaign positive, emphasise the potential benefits of separatism, and carry on presenting their opponents as anti-Scottish, in thrall to a Westminster system which is corrupt, unconscionable, and going in a direction that most Scots want no part of, and as hopelessly divided. If Scottish Labour won’t even share the same platform as the Coalition pro-Union side, and they can’t point to a realistic alternative, independistas (whether SNP or not) have the right… in fact the duty… to demand that they explain how they can justify supporting the status-quo, or how they plan to bring about further devolution and how they can demonstrate that will be better.

    I don’t think they can demonstrate it, or indeed that they have the calibre of people to make the case assuming it existed. Pointing out how things can be better still in the future, whilst referring back to tuition fees, prescriptions etc is potentially a very powerful message.

    1. Dave McEwan Hill says:

      John Souter Spot on. We are on the front foot and we must drive forward when we are in the ascendancy. The further we drive forward the more ground the oppsition has to try to claw back if we lose momnentum at any point.
      An analogy would be a football match in which one team is in complete control and the manager foolishly decides to adopt a defensive formation because thing might just go wrong and a result lets the other team take the attacking initiative and eventually the match.
      We have to hammer the independence message relentlessly without modification.
      We must not appear to be drawing up a modified Devo Max position as a fall back position. If the unionists can come up with a devo max proposal we will be able to pull it to bits- but this is merely another form of dependence and its up to them to describe it – not us.
      I would rather lose a straight yes/no inde/pendence than lose to a devo max which could tie us
      up a lot longer in the union than the status quo ever would. What is rarely mentioned is that a devo max vote is just a likely to split the vote and produce the status quo as the winner as to cut
      any other way

      it any other way
      To return to the analogy the ball is at our feet,we are miles ahead, why would we think of settling for a draw when we are in a position to win.

      What is very encouraging is tha thtere is very surely a vigorous debate going on inside the |labour Party a the moment

    2. James Coleman says:

      Here, here!

      1. James Coleman says:

        I meant here, here! to Alec Buchan

  28. DougtheDug says:

    I suspect that the reason that the SNP have not produced a serious strategy for winning independence is because they do not want to give that strategy away a long time before the debate kick-starts with a fixed referendum date. As you say yourself, “Cameron (is) waiting for Salmond and the SNP to define the ground and their argument, so that he can then criticise and challenge them.”

    I don’t see that there are either three distinct futures on offer or that there is a distinction between the unionist parties north and south of the border. The future the SNP offers is independence, the future the unionist parties offer is a continuing union and although there is an increasingly unlikely chance that they may offer some enhancement of devolved powers within that union it is still a continuing union.

    To talk about the position of the unionist parties north of border as being different to their position south of the border is to treat the Scottish regions of the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Lib-Dem Party as if they were autonomous parties who have the power to create policy on devolution in isolation from their leadership which is south of the border. To make a distinction between the policy of Johann Lamont and Ed Milliband, Ruth Davidson and David Cameron and Willie Rennie and Nick Clegg is to introduce a boundary which simply isn’t there.

    The issue of Devo-Max in general is one which is confused, full of wishful thinking and a simple ignorance of the facts. The SNP can offer to put it on the ballot paper but they can neither write its definition in terms of the executive, legal and revenue powers it will consist of nor can they implement it. Alex Salmond has, “invited”, the unionist parties to define it because the SNP has no power within a continuing Union, (which is what Devo-max is), to define or implement Devo-Max. It’s not an invitation it is a simple pointing out that if the unionist parties want Devo-Max on the ballot paper they will have to both define and promise to implement Devo-max within Westminster because that’s the place where it will be decided on and SNP have no power there. The SNP cannot unilaterally declare devolution and if it isn’t on the ballot paper it then it is a simple statement that the unionist parties cannot offer it and that only the SNP can offer any change in Scotland’s governance and status via independence.

    The holding of two referendums, one on the principle of independence and one on the negotiated settlement, is again on the surface a simple and fair way to achieve independence but is as ill-thought out as the idea that the SNP can unilaterally put a Devo-Max option on an independence ballot paper.

    The first problem is that two referendums load the dice in favour of the Union. The nationalists have to win both, the unionists only have to win one. The second problem is what will happen if the first referendum is won and the second lost? If there is a single second referendum what options will there be for those who want independence but believe that the settlement negotiated before the second referendum is weighted too heavily towards the Rump UK (RUK)?

    Will be there only be one second referendum or will everybody go round the table again to renegotiate the settlement if the second referendum is rejected by the Scots because though they want independence they don’t like the terms on offer? If there is to be renegotiations who many second referendums will be held until it is decided that negotiations are at an end?

    A second referendum, as others such as Ron Wilson have pointed out, gives those negotiating for the RUK, who will almost inevitably be unionist, a huge incentive to make the negotiaions as difficult and as biased as they can against Scotland to influence the outcome of the second referendum.

    South Sudan only needed one referendum so why does Scotland need two?

    1. Galen10 says:

      Assuming for the moment that there is a “No” vote in a 1 question referendum (which I hope doesn’t happen, obviously), I don’t see why you assume the game is then up? Given the state of the Labour party, even if the SNP loses a str8 independence referendum, they might still beat the hopeless Labour party. As pointed out, plenty of people voted SNP without being pro-independence, and I don’t reckon they will all suddenly stop doing so.

      As others have also noted, there is nothing to stop the SNP, as long as they continue to enjoy a reasonable level of popular support, continually tabling independence referenda until they get the result they want; why not if they have the votes?

      There is danger for the Unionists/Devolutionists in “slow rolling” negotiations over “devo-max” too; if they are seen to be unreasonable, tardy or veering toward the “too wee, too poor, too stupid” agenda, then they risk being punished by the Scottish electorate, and stoking the fires of total separation.

      Of course, Unionists also have to be mindful of the effects of their “devo-max” plans on their Westminster position; reducing the number of Scottish MP’s in Westminster, or instituting an English parliament… how does that work exactly? That isn’t in the gift of any Scottish party, and is something the SNP should zero in on remorselessly, as it is yet another thing which is in the gift of Westminster.

      It’s simple; one referendum with a str8 unambiguous question on independence YES/NO. If it’s no, then we can worry about a follow up, or the terms of devo-max, and plan for the next time. If it’s yes, then all that is needed is to discuss the detail; countries wee-er, poorer and stupider than us have done it!

      1. DougtheDug says:

        It’s simple; one referendum with a str8 unambiguous question on independence YES/NO. If it’s no, then we can worry about a follow up, or the terms of devo-max, and plan for the next time.

        A simple YES/NO referendum is what it’s going to be because even if they wanted one there is no time left for the Lib-Dems, Labour and the Conservatives to negotiate a Devo-Max proposal which they can guarantee will make it through the next Westminster parliament with the support of all three unionist parties if it is chosen in the referendum.

        If the vote is NO there will be no Devo-Max. In fact additional devolved powers above those already in place will simply not be given and some may even be taken back. If the independence threat is gone then Scotland will get no favours at all from any of the the three unionist parties.

        In terms of a referendum the next time may be problematical. By the time of the next Scottish elections Westminster may have legislated to ensure that the voting system in Scotland is even harder to beat in order to gain an overall majority or it may have legislated to ban the Scottish Parliament holding referendums at all and even if neither of these likely events occur the SNP still has to ensure it gets a majority in a voting system which is designed to ensure that this does not happen.

        I’m of the opinion that this may be the only shot we ever get a referendum on independence.

    2. Alex Buchan says:

      Do you know anything about South Sudan? I do. I had a good friend from South Sudan exiled in Taiwan because it was too dangerous for him to be in South Sudan. He told me about the terrible and brutal repression of the Islamic Sudanese government of the largely Christian South Sudanese. And that’s the problem with the SNPs policy of holding a referendum on Scottish independence; there is no example of a successful independence referendum apart from in countries that have experienced repression.

      We have come to see the SNP’s adoption of a policy of having a referendum as a brilliant piece of political footwork. It helped the SNP to breakthrough in the 2007 election by parking independence as separate from voting for the SNP as a government, and this formula has helped the SNP to go on secure an overall majority. But that success has had the effect of diverting attention away from the issue of why it has never been tried elsewhere in Europe and the answer to that is simple: it’s axiomatic in politics that you avoid calling a referendum unless you are sure that you are going to win it.

      I want to make a more general point. Independence is supported by people who vote for other political parties. There are many who vote labour who would vote for independence. There are SNP members, however, as this thread has shown, who think that no one has the right to discuss independence unless they are strictly following the SNP line. It is not heresy to say that winning a referendum on Scottish independence will be incredibly difficult. That’s not defeatism that is having an adult discussion, some on this thread seem to find that difficult to cope with.

      It’s all very well rubbishing the inclusion of Devo Max in the referendum and rubbishing a second vote, but you have not produced any credible answer to the question of what the SNP should do when the NO campaign tell people that the reason why the SNP don’t want a second referendum is because they know people won’t vote for it once they know the outcome of negotiations not just with the UK government but also in terms of the conditions the EU will lay down for Scotland’s accession. How also will the SNP be able to sell independence positively during the referendum campaign when most of the details will depend on the outcome of those negotiations, and how do you propose to stop the refusal of a second vote from becoming a major issue during the campaign.

      If there was a commitment to a second vote virtually all of these obstacles would be removed. Yes there would be problems afterwards, but if you believe the UK State could survive unshaken a yes vote on independence in Scotland, then you don’t know as much about politics as I always assumed you did. We would be in entirely unchartered territory because there are no historical precedents for such a situation. We may not achieve independence in a couple of years, but regardless of what happened afterwards, the UK days would be numbered and everyone would know it. Even if you could give one example of a successful referendum somewhere where there hasn’t been repression then at least we could study how it was done but you can’t do that.

      1. DougtheDug says:

        Hi Alex,
        I’m not sure if I understand the central logic of your argument here. You say that no nation has ever achieved independence with a referendum when it has not been the subject of repression but you think that two referendums are the way for Scotland to achieve independence?

        If you avoid calling a referendum unless you are sure you are going to win it then the desperate desire of the unionist parties to avoid a referendum on independence over the past five years is a pointer to the fact that they thought they’d lose it whether or not that view is correct. Their demands for a referendum right now are only aired in the light of the fact that a referendum is inevitable and they are simply trying to control the timing.

        I’ve no illusions that winning the referendum on independence will be difficult. If I thought it was going to be a cakewalk I wouldn’t have been out on the street today doing a door to door survey of voters, I’d have had my feet up with a cup of tea in front of the television.

        I haven’t rubbished the inclusion of Devo-max in the referendum, I’ve simply pointed out the truth that the only parties who can define Devo-max and implement it are the unionist parties. Devo-max has to be defined before it can be included as an option and it will be pointless putting it on the ballot paper unless that the legislation enabling it can be guaranteed to be passed in Westminster. The SNP cannot unilaterally put Devo-max on the ballot paper as they can neither define nor promise to implement Devo-max as they simply do not have the power to do either.

        The electorate are sophisticated enough to understand that a second referendum is a trap and a single referendum is simple and easy to understand. As I’ve pointed out above the unionists only have to win once but the nationalist have to win twice with two referendums.

        The split of government and public assets will be done on the basis of population which is not difficult to understand by anybody and unless the SNP have been really lazy the conditions of entry to the EU will be well understood and the EU won’t want to lose its biggest fishing grounds and oil fields. It will be a gamble but the idea that everything can be defined and nailed down before independence is ludicrous. I don’t know of any new state in Europe which refused to contemplate independence until its conditions of entry to the EU were nailed down beforehand.

        If the SNP lose the independence referendum, whether if it’s via one or two referendums, then the UK’s days will not be numbered. The UK state will not allow such referendums to happen again and the only remaining route out for Scotland will be a large majority of SNP MP’s followed by a declaration of UDI. If that scenario can ever be achieved.

      2. James Coleman says:

        To Alex Buchan
        I regret supporting you earlier. The above is mainly a load of bollocks. Off the cuff I can say that Switzerland has referenda regularly, the UK has had three or four in the last 40 years. Describing them as successful or not depends on what you wish for.

      3. Vronsky says:

        “Even if you could give one example of a successful referendum somewhere where there hasn’t been repression”

        Just off the top of my head, Norway. And what happened to all the Commonwealth countries, now independent? Harold MacMillan had a bit of a fire sale of independences, as I recollect, no referendums required – they were just defenestrated.

    3. James Coleman says:

      To doug the dug
      ‘The SNP cannot unilaterally declare devolution’
      The Scottish Governmentt could if it wins an Independence referendum.

      1. DougtheDug says:

        If the Scottish Government wins an independence referendum then devolution is redundant.

    4. Donald Adamson says:


      I agree with you about the strategy of the SNP. If we’re prepared to credit the British state with the capacity to act strategically on the referendum, the least we should do is extend the same credit to the SNP who are, after all, driving this process. This doesn’t make the SNP infallible, of course, and it doesn’t assume that it (the SNP) will get it right, but isn’t that one of the underlying points that Gerry is making here?

      I also think that you’re right to draw attention to the SNPs position on devo-max/FFA – “The SNP cannot unilaterally declare devolution”. Nor should they, apart from anything else, why on earth should the SNP do the unionists work for them? But even putting this to one side, as I said above, FFA is a non-starter with the UK Treasury and this is one of the reasons why none of the unionist parties are advocating it. The position that the unionist parties seem to be in now is to hope for a No vote in the referendum and if that succeeds, hope that, in the interim period, the tide then turns against the SNP. If it doesn’t, then hold out the possibility to the Scottish electorate of some minor concessions in the future (Calman plus rather than devo-max).

      As for Gerry’s typology, isn’t his point here that, of the two most dominant “identities” of this typology (“Scottish” and “Scottish-British”), the campaign that wins the referendum will be the one that captures enough of the other constituency to secure victory? This, in itself, is a fairly harmless observation but it’s the conclusions that Gerry draws from this that, for nationalists, are more controversial. As I said previously, I find his supporting arguments persuasive, particularly those that he compresses into the two brief paragraphs that follow his referendum question.

      But I would make two points here. Gerry’s reference to independence not being a “salient” issue has only been true in the past, because it has been crowded out by Britishness, a Britishness that has all too comfortably capitalised on its appeal to both the “Scottish-British” as well as the (weaker) “British” identity in Scotland that he identifies. The 2010 British general election result and the SNPs emphatic victory in May 2011 have changed everything, not simply because these have created the conditions for the referendum campaign and vote but because of their likely impact on Scottish-British identity. The referendum will make independence a salient issue and, in the process, it will confront this Scottish-British identity with the most serious challenge it has ever faced. As I said earlier, the real dilemma here is for Labour voters in Scotland.

      The second point I would make is that no-one, as yet, has considered the issues that Gerry identifies here, or for that matter, the referendum itself, in a broader context. I’m not criticising anyone here, just making the observation. One of the core drivers of change in all societies is human agency and, critically, members of societies coming to the belief that they have the capacity to change their society. The reason this is so important in the context of the referendum is the timing.

      For example, the current crisis has created a widespread feeling of helplessness, powerlessness and the perception that our fate is in the hands of others, be it markets, investors, the British government or, more abstractly, globalization and so on. But the crisis has also created an appetite for change in many countries. For many of these countries though, there is, as yet, no obvious means for their populations to channel these aspirations, and realise the power of human agency, the Arab Spring being an obvious exception. The independence referendum provides such a means, indeed a unique opportunity to the people of Scotland. And it’s here that the strategy of the SNP as well as the timing of the referendum take on an added significance. This, incidentally, is why I would argue that, in spite of my broad agreement with most of Gerry’s arguments here, it would be a mistake to reduce the “salience” of independence to the issue of identity only, important as that is. Much will depend on whether the SNP and the broader independence movement can excite the interest of a sufficient majority of the Scottish electorate to see independence as the best, indeed the only, means to realise their role as agents of change in Scotland.

      On the issue of Sudan, I take you to mean here also that if one referendum was good enough for the UN and other multilateral institutions then it will be enough for Scotland. If so, fair point. Having said that, I’m wary of nationalists who adopt such arguments and others like it, for example, the ‘Quebec syndrome’ as well as the argument that the ‘Nordic’ experience can be transplanted to an independent Scotland. Even though it’s true that nationalism or, rather, nationalisms are often driven by the demonstration effects provided by other countries’ experience, such arguments do a disservice not only to the historical, cultural and other specificities of those countries but to the specificity of Scotland as well.

      1. DougtheDug says:

        Hi Donald,
        I thought the point that Gerry was making was that the independence referendum question should be phrased in a way which places it firmly within the context of how the Scottish electorate have voted over the past decades. He also is of the opinion that two referendums are needed when the question is asked this way.

        I agree with you that Devo-max/FFA or whatever the current buzz-word is, is a non-starter. The problem for both these terms are that they have never been defined in terms of executive, legal and revenue powers and are currently just back of a fag packet terms which in their vagueness could have been dreamt up by a marketing department.

        Devo-max is the maximum amount of devolution that London is willing to grant to Scotland. In the light of the minimal dead-cat-bounce powers offered in the Scotland Bill and the lack of even a single party draft of a Devo-max option for the referendum ballot then it would appear that we have already achieved Devo-max in Scotland and that the current settlement plus or minus the Scotland Bill is what Devo-max actually is. For those who support Devo-max, enjoy it because it is already here.

        What Gerry said in his article was, “These ‘three Scotlands’ represent approximately the Scotland of Scottish identity (SNP), Scottish and British ‘dual identity’ (Scots unionist parties), and British identity (the UK Government).” My point is that there is no distinction between, “Scottish-British”, and, “British”, especially in the context of the political parties.

        The driving factor in the Scottish independence movement is one of identity but I agree with you that it has to be expanded out to include economic, social and aspirational arguments.

        Your correct that I cited Sudan as an example where the international community did not see a need for two referendums to consider an independence vote valid but that is the only point I intended to make with the reference.

        1. Dave McEwan Hill says:

          It is intersting to note the process to independence of our three baltic neighbours. Latvia achieved it through a referendum while Lithuania and Estonia achieved it through a parliamentary vote.
          There is no single recipe for achieving independence but it is only viable if a very apparent majority of the electorate support it as was very obviously the case with the three above small states. i am sure the SNP leadership is fully awake to this.
          Interestingly in all three of these states a substantial proportion of the imported Russian citizens
          supported independence which has obvious parallels with Scotland.
          I have always held that a referendum is only one potential route to independence. A national election at which the SNP gains an overal majority of parliamentary representation and a demonstrable majority of the votes cast on a straightforward proposal of independence is as equally valid in my opinion and has been the route followed by many nations.

  29. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    Strange things started to happen to my text in the last post. Meant to conclude by saying that there is a very real debate going on about the relevance and suitabilty of independence inside the Labour party in Scotland at the moment and now is not the time to to appear hesitant

  30. Alex Buchan says:


    Just give me one example of a successful referendum where there wasn’t repression. And Norway doesn’t count as the referendum was called after they had effectively broken off from Sweeden, so it’s in no way comparable. And if you can’t find an example, then explain why anyone should have faith in the strategy as it stand.

    1. DougtheDug says:

      The strategy so far has been for a single referendum in which Scots choose to become independent or remain in the Union.

      I’ve got a couple of questions on your new two referendum strategy.

      (a) the second referendum a second independence referendum where there is an opportunity to vote on independence again with information on the break up settlement this time?

      Or is:
      (b) the second referendum a referendum purely on the break-up settlement which is either a confirmation of the negotiators’ terms or an instruction to the negotiators to go back and re-start the negotiations?

      If it is (a) then it is a perfect opportunity for the unionists having lost the first independence referendum to load the second independence referendum with as much pain as possible in order to stop Scottish independence. In this case the new strategy is worse than the old strategy as it requires the nationalists to win twice and it also gives the rump UK a huge incentive to make the break up as painful as possible in the hope it will save the union.

      If it is (b) then there will have to be some limit on the number of times the referendums are held with a final recourse to an outside arbiter if negotiations break down. In this case the first referendum confirms that Scotland will become independent. The second referendum or referendums are simply a chance for the general population to have a say on the terms. It does give the general population a say in the negotiated terms of the settlement but it will be hugely expensive and time consuming to hold a series of nationwide referendums.

      Which scenario is the one you mean?

      1. Alex Buchan says:

        Well Doug I am indebted to your ever reliable legalistic frame of mind. I want the referendum to win. I see you haven’t come forward with any examples of a state being established by referendum in circumstances analogous to Scotland’s for the reason I’ve indicated below. This is well known, definitely known to those in Whitehall tasked with defining the UK’s strategy, and I would assume known to Alex Salmond and his team, who may not have thought they would find themselves in this situation.

        What I would like, and I hope they are eves dropping, is for the SNP to declare that in an independent Scotland the people will be sovereign not parliament as is presently the case in the UK. I want them to spell out what that will mean in practical terms, and included in that what I want them to spell out is a commitment to consulting the people every time it is necessary, after the initial consultation of the referendum on independence. So the first referendum on independence is the decisive referendum, and I’ll take up your offer and see the second referendum on the outcome of the negotiations as not nullifying that but as being part of the new dispensation. I would also like them to include the outcome of the negotiations with the EU while they are at it.

        Now Doug I know you well enough to know that your natural inclination will be to clinically dissect this for any perceived arguments you can make to show that it is absurd, but I would ask you whether it wouldn’t be a good thing in itself, regardless of whether it helps win the referendum, if the SNP were to be seen to be out-doing the unionists, because all the runes tell me that the unionists are trying to manipulate the political agenda to appear to be the ones pushing democracy against an SNP who they will want to portray as undemocratic because as they will argue the SNP will go on asking the same question until it gets the answer it wants.

        So its a win, win situation for the SNP. It also strengthens their hand in any negotiations because they can say to the UK government we can’t accept that because the people will never vote for it. One thing I hadn’t quite realised about you was that you don’t tend to understand the underlying weakness of the UK state formation due to its archaic nature. This became obvious when you seemed to think the UK government and unionist parties didn’t want a referendum because they thought they might lose it. Of course they have never thought they would lose it (until maybe recently) for the reasons I’ve given below. Wendy Alexander thought she would be clever and go public about that fact. What she didn’t realise is that was not why there wasn’t to be a referendum. The reason was because the UK is a house of cards. It is not a nation and this is something that in its DNA it tries to cover up. A referendum on Scottish independence, even if it wins it, is destabilising because it rips the veneer of nationhood of Westminster’s claim to represent the nation. That’s why it would never recover from an initial vote for independence, even if it could reverse it in a follow up referendum, because England would never again settle down to all the idiocies of Barnett, West Lothian and all the rest. In England they don’t believe Scotland really means it. After a yes vote that could never be believed again, regardless of what would happen later.

  31. Alex Buchan says:

    James who you support is up to you. I want examples of referendums used to free nations from larger units, in situations where there hasn’t been repression or authoritarain regimes. I haven’t ever heard of any but I haven’t done a search so I could be wrong. I hope I am wrong, because we could then learn from their experience. So I rather hope he could come up with a hithertoo unheard of example But I’d be very surprised, and all the examples cited by Doug, when he’s been arguing against two referendums, as he’s done on various occasions, have had no bearing on Scotland because they have been from states where there has been repression, which tends to show that his arguments are not well thought through.

  32. Alex Buchan says:

    Perhaps I need to spell it out. Only people who have endured oppression tend to vote for the upheaval involved in breaking up a state. People in liberal democracies are reluctant to vote for such upheaval. Czechoslovakia proves the point, the poll there showed there wasn’t popular support for separation, even though the politicians on both sides were for it. I make this point purely to point to the Emperor’s New Clothes quality of the debate on the referendum is Scotland. Just because the SNP have adopted a referendum as their strategy doesn’t mean we can’t question its effectiveness and if there is evidence to suggest that it’s highly problematic to then look at how it could be made more likely to succeed, which was the whole point of Gerry’s article. My point all along has been that one of the few ways round this is to give the electorate the reassurance that they will be able to vote on everything including the outcome of the negotiations. Other than that it’s a very tall order, and as I say unprecedented.

    1. Vronsky says:

      “Only people who have endured oppression tend to vote for the upheaval involved in breaking up a state.”

      I rather thought that that was what you were getting at. It takes your argument close to simple truism though – people don’t vote for independence if they don’t want it. Agreed, nem.con.. I don’t see any point in adding other examples of non-oppressed countries taking independence (Malta?) as you seem quite comfortable with the‘no true Scotsman’ (http://tinyurl.com/informal-fallacy) type of rebuttal.

      You are in the illustrious company of Robert Mugabe, who said that he did not expect Scottish independence because the people had not suffered enough. I agreed with this at the time – guiltily, as I felt that wishing independence for Scotland might be tantamount to wishing yet greater misfortune on my countrymen. You have used words like ‘oppression’ and ‘repression’, but there are degrees of these things, and it seems you believe that Scotland has not yet reached the Mugabe Point. Stay in the Union, and it will.

      My general view of people and society is that we never avoid disasters – Titanic always hits the iceberg. Some societies survive the collision, many do not. But against all experience, my hope is that we have the sense to exit our unfortunate alliance with a proto-fascist state before incurring all that suffering. My personal experience over the past two years has been that there is a growing awareness that the Union with a polity like England is dangerous – there are now very few people in my (large) extended family and circle of friends and work colleagues who would certainly vote ‘no’ to independence, where recently I was a lonely eccentric.

      1. Alex Buchan says:

        Hi Vonsky

        First of all I’d like to say that your response has made me realise that in trying to point out the scale of the challenge I’ve given the impression that it’s impossible, which is ironic because I’ve been keen on a referendum since I advocated it at a seminal meeting in Edinburgh in the 1980s. The reason I have been keen on it is because, (until the rise of the SNP) unlike Ireland, Scotland’s politics have always been fully integrated with the rest of the UK. UK general elections are dominated by UK wide issues and by the UK media, so electing a majority of SNP MPs has always been well neigh impossible. But I despair of those who think that we have got the unionist parties on the run and that a yes vote is inevitable. Gerry’s article has a reference to an article by Ian Smart. In it he says:

        And, finally, there is the central economic argument. Truly, most informed opinion here concludes that a snapshot comparison of the revenue/expenditure performance of the British and Scottish economies turns on the price of oil in any given year. But there is no way the actual argument will be conducted in that way. Under the status quo, your taxes are what they are; public services are what they are; the welfare state is what it is. Sure, under Independence they might be better, but they are generally, currently, regarded as adequate (at least by the vast majority of the public). Faced with a choice of them perhaps being a bit better against siren voices asserting that they could be a great deal worse, there is only one rational conclusion.

        There is however one absolutely clinching argument in this area. Asked if they would favour Independence even if Scotland were to be, short term, worse off as a result, most Nationalists would reply in the affirmative. That very answer however fundamentally undermines any attempt to make an apparently considered argument to reassure the undecided.

        Now, the Nationalists will say “But we’ll have another three years to make our argument”. This however simply won’t wash. They are already very good at making the argument. There are big holes in it: over currency, Europe, the Monarchy, national institutions like the BBC or the DVLA, even, it appears from the report on the Scotland Bill, an ignorance over how much income tax is actually paid in Scotland.

        The unionists are not as stupid as we make them out to be. The emphasis in the SNP’s campaign is going to be far superior feet on the ground chapping on doors, but there is a big difference voting for an MSP than voting in an Independence Referendum. The crucial determiner will be at the level of the national campaign and Smart is right its stacked against the YES vote because it has everything to prove, the NO vote merely has to sow doubt and they’ve learnt to avoid attacking Scotland as too poor, wee, etc, now they will say Scotland could easily be independent but do you really want to lose your job, benefits, pension etc . While at the same time the newspapers will be backing this up with a constant supply of scare stories.

        This is why my real issue is that people need to waken up and smell the coffee and consider how we begin to neutralise this. Gerry’s article was an attempt to try to start devising a way of understanding the contest and how we could turn things more to our advantage. Part of that was making the initial vote merely the start of a process where the public would stay in control with a veto over the settlement if they didn’t like it. The other issue I have is that nationalists tend to see the UK government as some sort of devious all powerful foe. The truth is that the UK state is structurally weak. It has been blocked from developing legitimacy in the way modern states do. If Scotland ever voted YES, even if that were reversed, there is no way the UK state could then continue unaffected. Many in England are already pushing for change and a committee has just been announced to look into it. The implications of all this is that Scotland only needs to get the ball rolling, it would not take much to bring the whole rotten edifice down, but it does require that decisive first vote on independence. By the way Malta only ever voted on whether to be integrated into Britain, not on independence.

        1. Dave McEwan Hill says:

          Your initial thoughts gave me the wrong impression.
          The point I would make is that in the 50 plus years I’ve been at this I have never been a gradualist but I always recognised that our progress would be intermittent and gradual.
          Others have made the point that the Devo-max option is in fact a trap for the unionists. We can let them fall into the trap,as they look like doing, but the minute we start promoting Devo max or any other “fall-back “position is the moment in public perception that we start backing down.
          And perception is a critical component in opinion forming
          I am certain that our leaders are very well acquaint with the nuances of this and are well ahead of this debate.
          Let our opponents produce their devo max if they can. I doubt it, but the flying of this kite has carried us to a position at which a majority of Scots now support the proposition that Scots should control Scotland’s finances. We are only a kick in the arse away from being able to point out to them that such is not actually possible except provided by independence

      2. vronsky says:

        “By the way Malta only ever voted on whether to be integrated into Britain, not on independence.”


        (quote, emphasis mine)
        On the return of the Labour Party to office, a request for integration was made to the British Government with Maltese representation at ‘Westminster. When the British cooled to the idea after evincing an initial interest the Labour Party went to the other extreme and insisted on Independence, and the Church was accused of having undermined the Integration plan by insisting that its ancient privileges be safeguarded; the acrimonies that followed were to cost the Labour Party many votes.

        The Constitutional Party, the original pro-British party, died a natural death, its mission having been accomplished. In the wake of fresh elections and >b>confirmed by a referendum, Malta achieved Independence within the Commonwealth on 21st September 1964 with the Queen of England as the nominal Queen of Malta.

        Under the next Labour Government. Malta was declared a Republic with Sir Anthony Mamo as it’s first President.



      3. Alex Buchan says:


        Firstly, you seem to have a problem with anger.

        Secondly, Wikipedia only mentions one referendum, the one on integration with Britain. Your source is obviously more accurate.

        Thirdly, since when did Malta’s independence involve the break-up of an existing state (given that integration with Britain was never implemented).

        Fourthly, if Scotland succeeds it will change the assumption of political science and we could see in Western democracies other stateless nations inside larger states starting to go down this route.

  33. Castle Rock says:

    Some excellent comments in response to a thought provoking article.

    My gut instinct is to go with one question on a yesno answer to independence (however it may be phrased) but after considering some of the comments and looking at some of the statistics I think we need to give more thought on what our fallback position may be if the vote goes against us.

    It’s all very well putting all our eggs in the one basket but if we don’t get the vote that we want then where do we go next? I’m certainly not comfortable not having a fallback position and I would like some further clarity on this before committing myself to a straightforward yesno question on independence.

    As a side comment, it sickens me that I’m called an extremist (Nick Clegg) or a Nazi (various ‘Scottish’ Labour MP’s) just because I believe that my country, or indeed, any country, has the right to self determination. Yes, we can rise above the name calling and abusive language but if people bite back when the Unionists use that kind of smearfear then please don’t expect pleasantries in return. I find it sad sometimes that people pick up on the tiny minority of Nat nutters but say nothing of the more prevalent Brit NatUnionist nutters who abuse Scotland all the time.

    Finally, we do need this kind of political dialogue and debate before we go out and campaign in the independence referendum, without clarity of thought or a clear way forward we will end up playing into the hands of the Unionists, nuff said.

  34. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    We should not even be discussing a “fall-back” position.
    The perception if we do that is of a lack of confidence and will be seized on as such by the opponents of independence.
    As has been pointed out the SNP CANNOT put Devo max or FFA on a referendum as these are entirely in the gift of Westminster.

    I smell mischief here.

    What we should be doing is establishing is that at the next UK election the SNP will be seeking a majority of Scots MPs on the platform of such a majoity being a mandate for independence negotiations as there is a distinct possibility that the next UK election could precede our referendum.
    We must not make the mistake of making ourselves irrelevant in a UK election as we did in 2010

  35. Alex Buchan says:

    Dave @9.57pm

    In all three Baltic States the communist system meant that the USSR, being totalitarian, did not require nor did it have popular support, and it certainly wasn’t a liberal democracy or a consumer capitalist society. I had first-hand experience by spending time in Czechoslovakia in 1985. There was no vegetables in the shops and everyone told me that the whole society was sham as everyone knew what was going on but nobody was allowed to say anything otherwise their careers would be finished. Scotland is a liberal democracy and a consumer capitalist society and there is still allegiance to Westminster as demonstrated by the outcome of UK elections and opinion polls.

  36. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    Alex Buchan

    Exactly. What is your point? I don’t see that any of that has anything to do with whether we should have referendum or not.
    To achieve independence legitimatelywe have to provide popular majority support for it one way or another. A Referendum does this. So can a parliamentary majority achieved on that platform

  37. Here’s a wee thought:

    While doing research on the legality of any independence referendum and Westminster’s rights or wrongs I understand that under both the UN and Helsinki agreements where a recognised prior nation seeks to regain independence the head of government of the ‘superior’ state is not allowed to canvas to prevent or procure independence. As the UK Government is signatory to both Cameron (as head of Government) will be in breach if he campaigns for or against.

    Further the implication appears to be that only parties active in the independence seeking state or nation can campaign for or against the referendum. This suggests that any Unionist campaign can only be carried out by the Unionist Parties Scottish proxies any attempt to ‘import’ non Scottish MPs, for example, to campaign could also be a technical breach of the UN and Helsinki Agreements.

    Finally both UN and Helsinki agreements are clear the only people allowed to vote in a referendum on the issue of independence are those in the prospective seceding state or nation.

    Let us also not forget the interest the Council of Europe and the EU are increasingly taking in Scottish moves towards independence.

    Now if I can find this out, you can bet your bottom dollar the SNP have. Of course UK main media will keep on with the myth of ‘What Scotland can’t do.’ and pretend the SNP are ‘friendless’ in Europe. Yet the real hole is the one the Unionist parties are not addressing with any seriousness that the majority of Scots, in poll after poll, desire for a UK confederation highlighted by the preference for Full Fiscal Autonomy. An option which is solely in the sphere of influence of Westminster. The current Scotland Act Amendment Bill is dead in the water as it fails in all respects to meet any of the Scottish electorates wishes for Full Fiscal Autonomy.

    Clegg has just shot the Libdems, yet again, in both feet to referring to those Scots who seek independence as extremists (some 39% of the Scottish electorate in a recent poll, 60% where it could be shown there was a clear economic benefit in independence) – the Unionists just keep giving to the SNP with every tired utterance they conjure up on the too poor, too wee, too stupid Scotland line.

    The evidence is the Unionists do not have a strategy or message to counter act the SNP, there in lies their weakness. As they have no strategy or message the SNP simply knock them down with a positive message of how much better Scotland is getting but how it could be better if we were independent. Of course BBC Scotland and other MSM ignore all this just as they continue to ignore the seepage and stench of corruption emanating from Glasgow Labour over the last umpteen years – Halls of Infamy, anyone?

    The SNP have come this far and ca’in canny is a deep Scottish trait – as is social democracy – and the SNP are the only party offering Scotland both at present.

  38. Donald Adamson says:


    You’re right, that is the point that Gerry makes. But it’s his supporting arguments (including his justification for the point you refer to) as well as the conclusions he reaches that I was drawing attention to. Where we seem to disagree is on this distinction between “Scottish” and “Scottish-British” identities. Your position seems to be that there’s no distinction between “Scottish-British” and “British”. I think that, politically, there is. This is why I argued that “British” identity (the third type that Gerry identifies) is the weakest of the three types. It is this third type that is losing its capacity to mobilise Scottish voters which is why unionists in Scotland have increasingly been on the defensive since devolution, and the construct of a Scottish-British identity is a core part of this defence mechanism.

    I can appreciate the point you’re implying that this “Scottish-British” identity may be a convenient political position for unionist parties, but surely the key issue here, politically, is the issue of perception and whether the unionist parties have been able to make the perception of this “Scottish-British” identity stick as well as render it politically meaningful. You and I may not feel Scottish-British but, clearly, this isn’t true for everyone. Devolution answers the question about the success of unionists in making it politically meaningful. But if this is correct, then isn’t Gerry correct, in turn, to argue that, given that ‘pure’ Britishness is losing its capacity to mobilise the Scottish people, the SNP needs to appeal to this residual Scottish-British constituency to win the referendum?

    This is why I think that Gerry’s original point that you refer to is correct but with the caveat that I argued in the previous post, that is, I think that Gerry overstates the importance of “identity” in determining the “salience” of independence in the referendum itself even though, historically, he’s right to argue that this has been the case. In that sense, past voting and the associated (British) salient policy issues have comfortably eclipsed independence as an issue. That leads to Gerry’s point about the status of the “Scottish dimension” as a “valence” issue. What seems to be key here in Gerry’s argument is whether, in the negotiations that are to be conducted in a post-referendum environment, this necessitates a second referendum. There are some of Gerry’s arguments here that will stick in the craws of many nationalists, not least because it seems counter-intuitive to argue that there is a “downside” to a Yes vote for independence.

    On the issue of two referendums, which is the most controversial of Gerry’s arguments, I’m trying to be open-minded. However, as others have pointed out, whatever form the referendum question takes – assuming that it’s a question that invites a straight Yes/No response – if it’s a Yes it will be a mandate for independence and it will authorise the Scottish government to begin negotiations with the British government. Given this, in spite of Gerry’s argument about the likelihood of a Yes vote enhancing the Scottish dimension into a valence issue in a post-referendum environment, I’m not wholly convinced that a second referendum is necessary as the British will already be clear about Scottish intentions, that much, surely, will be non-negotiable.

    One final point I don’t want to lose is the point about agency. What I was referring to here wasn’t just a general broadening of the debate beyond identity. I suspect that, like you, I’d take that as a given. What I was arguing here was how critical the context of the referendum is, not only in a British context but in the context of world events, and how unique the opportunity of the referendum is for both the SNP and the people of Scotland.

    The ongoing financial crisis has provoked a variety of responses in populations across the world – anger, betrayal, loss of trust, powerlessness and so on. Across the world, there is an appetite for change, for alternatives, a desire to find a means of articulating and demonstrating these. The timing of the referendum provides this means to the people of Scotland. It’s this that the SNP and the broader independence movement need to capture and channel into broadening and deepening support for independence.

  39. bellacaledonia says:

    I’m enjoying reading all the thoughts and ideas in this thread. The main conclusion I’ve come to is that we’re heading into uncharted waters and there’s very few, if any, precedents that can work as a blueprint for Scotland over next few years.

    I intend to return to the question raised earlier in the thread about the value of a draft or even an agreed Scottish Constitution prior to the Referendum. Like Gerry (who did the book blurb) I’ve read Elliot Bulmer’s “A Model Constitution For Scotland; Making Democracy Work In An Independent State” (which will be officially launched by Luath Press on Burns Night) and will review it here on Bella that week. I would imagine few people reading or taking part in this discussion will have ever read a draft or “model” Scottish Constitution. It is thought-provoking document. I’d urge Bella readers and contributors to try and get hold of a copy from Luath Press prior to the week beginning Mon 22nd Jan and let’s have a serious informed debate about whether an agreed Scottish Constitution would help or hinder the process of winning a Yes vote in 2014.

    As for the much mooted Devo Max/FFA/Independence Lite Second Question of course Alex Salmond is leaving the door open there, and quite rightly so (from a tactical point of view). But not necessarily as a fallback position as most commentators have claimed but possibly as a Divide-The-Opposition tactic. If so this is very canny thinking.

    Think about it: who exactly is going to propose such an Ammendment to the Referendum Bill when it comes before the Scottish Parliament? I’ll tell you who won’t be including it in the legislation: the SNP. So which of the Unionist parties will frame a legally watertight and fully defined “Second Question”? The Tories? Aye, right. The LibDems? Calman Lite is as far as Clegg and Co. want to go. Which only leaves The Labour Party. Ms Lamont and her party will have to do some serious political somersaults to go down that road and that may tear apart their own campaign strategy in the process. It cant be ruled out they will opt for a Second Question Ammendment to the Bill that falls short of FFA. But it is still problematic and it would still risk dividing the Unionist oppsition into a No-Yes camp and a No-No camp.

    Therein lies the tactical nous of Alex Salmond and the Scottish Government in keeping the door open. The door is a trap door! Either way it puts him, them, us, the SNP, and the Yes vote campaign in the driving seat from the off. Which is one way of saying let’s not get too hung up about whether a Second Question appears on the ballot paper. That’s not our problem. 🙂

    Kevin W.

    1. Vronsky says:

      The draft constitution will indeed be an important document. I have never considered indepndendence an objective in itself, simply seeing membership of the union as an obstacle which needs removed – but on the road to where? That bit of map-making is a role for the left, even if that ‘left’ is just another cloud in cyberspace. I’ve ordered a copy and facebooked the link – suggest you place the link prominently on Bella.

    2. Dave McEwan Hill says:


  40. John s says:


    *** Scotland referendum: Cabinet to discuss potential vote ***


  41. Colin Dunn says:

    Gerry Hassan on January 6, 2012 at 9:20 am said:

    “The SNP don’t have a serious, thought out strategy for independence; Wee Eck doesn’t; they are making up as they go along”

    This seems a very naive thing for an astute political analyst to write. Or are you just throwing a rock into a pool to watch the ripples?

    I’m not an SNP member, but the strong impression I am getting is that the SNP has spent the last 4 years (maybe longer) brainstorming, and prepared a complete flowchart of the possible stages that debate and political manoeuvring will go through in the runup to the referendum. As circumstances change they trigger the correct response, and the plan is then tweaked and modified it as required.

    Maybe I’m wrong, and I’m hugely overestimating the SNP savvy, but I don’t think so.


  42. MryMac says:

    Here is a link to the draft constitution for Scotland from the SNP. http://bit.ly/uQNq7X According to @joanmcalpine, anyone can suggest alterations or additions. This is an entirely open process. Although @kennyfarq suggested on Twitter that he would prefer contributions to be limited to keep out ‘the hard left, the unemployed, OAPs, and loons.’ That’s very democratic of you, @kennyfarq.

    1. allymax says:

      MryMac, what have you done to your kitty-cat ?
      It looks like a rock-star.

      1. MryMac says:

        The Kiss make up was done in photo shop. No kitty-cats were harmed during the making of this photo 🙂

        1. allymax says:

          “No kitty-cats were harmed during the making of this photo :-)”
          I’m sure there weren’t.
          No-worries there; besides, what could peoples say when parents get their kids face-painted with lions and saltires etc?
          It’s just a bit of fun.

          I just thought it was funny; that’s all.

  43. DB says:

    The question proposed in the article is likely too vague to put to voters.
    ‘..to achieve Scottish independence’ would be clearer.

    I would prefer a two question referendum with a YES / YES vote, similar to the devolution referendum. A YES-YES message inspires a positive uplifting campaign.

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