scotland-map-web21We asked five commentators for their responses to yesterday’s announcement about a second referendum.

A huge historic decision – Joyce McMillan

The first thing to say is that I think Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to call a second independence referendum, some time between autumn 2018 and summer 2019, is both a courageous move, and a constitutionally correct one.  Courageous because it’s absolutely clear that in calling for a second vote within 5 years, Nicola Sturgeon is risking a defeat that could wipe Scottish independence off the political agenda for decades, seriously damage her party, and end her own political career; indeed there are so many uncertainties along the road to spring 2019, in this period of absolute upheaval in global politics, that no-one could possibly be sure what result will emerge, either way. Constitutionally correct, though, because only the most diehard unionist could possibly argue that the Brexit vote of last June, combined with Theresa May’s decision to pursue the hardest of “hard” Brexits on the strength of that wafer-thin popular majority, does not represent exactly the kind of material change of circumstances which the SNP described in its 2016 manifesto as justifying a new independence referendum.

As the First Minister put it in her immaculately-argued speech on Monday, announcing her decision, the truth is that if she did not seek another referendum now, she would effectively be deciding – given Theresa May’s apparent intransigence on any special arrangements for Scotland – that her country should be taken forward into a deeply damaging hard exit from the EU, despite the fact that 62% of Scottish voters explicitly rejected that option just nine months ago; it is hard to see how she could possibly have made or defended such a decision. This coming referendum will of course be a much bleaker and more serious matter than the vote of 2014, when the EU still held us all in its wider legislative and regulatory embrace.  But Scotland now has a huge, historic decision to make about whether it follows the UK into a new age of right-wing Atlanticism, or seeks to remain part of the European community of nations; and I think the First Minister is right to argue that that decision should finally rest with the people.

6a00d83452241169e2017c33f6bcea970bBe the Candle not the Darkness – Pat Kane

For those of us who think that indy in the EU is both an economic and social necessity, and a huge opportunity to launch Scotland as a nation-brand across the planet, I am delighted that Nicola has decided to go for a Scottish referendum before the Brexit negotiations conclude. The arguments against the Union are stronger than they’ve ever been. However I think the sense of realism about how much work an indy Scotland will be in the early years is also now generally understood.

But this time, it’s the ultimate choice.

If we don’t win this argument for indy, faced with the extreme inequalities and harshnesses that Brexit will bring, then we can certainly put the constitutional question to rest in Scotland, for this generation at least.  I think it will be won, though. Work by Common Weal has shown exactly the preparation and strategy we need to have for issues like a separate currency, or the independence process itself.

I also believe that a ‘growth’ agenda is a deeper concept that just competitive advantage. It remains the case that no country has ever had a better opportunity to make a creative, dynamic success of independence – on all fronts, and connecting up all the domains of resource and excellence – than Scotland in 2017. We can do great and noble things – for ourselves, and also for the world. As for how pro-indy people should conduct themselves in this referendum?

Be the Scotland you wish to see. Take the high road. Be the candle, not the darkness. The world needs some good news about modern democracy. Let’s give them it.


Stop seeing ‘them’ as something to ‘woo’ – Darren McGarvey 

Stuff you should stop doing if you want to ‘woo’ people: stop seeing them as something to ‘woo’; stop viewing the people with alternative opinions as no more than obstacles or enemies; see the opportunity to learn from them; stop using sequel hastags like ‘indyref2’ or ‘yes2’. This just triggers No voter PTSD. Remember that many of us actually made a running joke of the things No voters were concerned or afraid about and, while we saw ourselves as a big carnival of democracy, it was also quite loud and intimidating for a lot of people. This isn’t a re-run….because in a re-run…we lose again. Stop calling the First Minister ‘Nicola’. You may feel very familiar with her, may even have met her, but to other people its a a bit nauseating and servile and, well, New Labour.

Drop the moral arguments about nukes, militarism, capitalism etc and focus on either a realistic forecast of the economics or an argument based on self-determination/democracy. Accept that there are as many moral reasons for voting No as there are for voting Yes and that our own moral reasoning is a bit self-serving when you really scrunitise it: ‘Oor oil’ was not a moral argument, is was based on self-interest. ‘No nukes’ is a platitude that makes no account of the complexity of the situation or the fact the Yes movement thrives within a UK democracy partly protected by nuclear weapons. You may not agree with any of this but these are valid ways of looking at it. Drop the idea of Scots being an oppressed class of people. Drop the idea of Scotland being a moral nation. Hide your flag. Be humble enough to recognise we actually lost, no coz BBC or SNP bad, but because we took a gamble and tried to win based on vague moral platitudes about hope and social justice that tapped into working class anger at the system, without ever addressing how we would change the system in any meaningful way.

That’s not enough for people who have something to lose.

Radical Independence Conference Gather In GlasgowScotland’s own elites are against people power, too  – Cat Boyd

The Tories could have avoided this referendum. All they had to do was show Scotland’s voters and institutions a morsel of respect. But when the time came, they couldn’t bring themselves to do it. They wanted to see Scotland punished and humiliated, just as they’ve punished and humiliated the unions, just as they’ve punished and humiliated families fleeing torture and death squads, just as they’ve punished and humiliated women, students, disabled people and the unemployed.

That’s why this referendum is unavoidable. Because in Britain, you’ll never have a voice unless you’re a billionaire with a couple of tabloid newspapers on hand to spout your lazy opinions.

In 2014, we inspired progressives all over the world with a radical message that took on Cameron, Osborne and Clegg when they said cuts were inevitable. We said Britain is for the rich, and Scotland can be ours. We were right to say it. Theresa May talks about the working class, but the Tories are still imposing cuts and they’re still cutting taxes for the rich. If we stay in Britain, we won’t have a choice.

If we stay in Britain, we’ll have to apologise for leaders who cosy up to Trump and to the dictators who buy from our military industries. In Britain, nuclear weapons will come before hospitals. In Britain, politicians will hound you out of the country if you’re the wrong colour or religion.

Scotland can do so much better than this. Once again, the world is watching us: but let’s not forget that Scotland’s own elites are against people power, too. Only when workers and citizens are organised can we challenge the powerful here at home too. If we’re going to do it this time, let’s do it right.

scotlandBring Back Downtown Abbey – Peter Arnott

I’ve never been gung-ho about a new referendum.  There was always going to be one…but before or after the Brexit deal? I was agnostic, leaning to caution. But maybe as with pregnancy, the “right” time was never going to come. The timing of the announcement today, for example, was everything.  The Brexiteers were totally blind-sided and it has been mighty entertaining to watch the spluttering and outrage, best expressed in the Telegraph headline that Sturgeon was “spoiling” Brexit, as if this intervention was chiefly culpable as an intrusion on some “Bring Back Downton Abbey” fantasy of honey still for tea and all being right with The Empire on Which the Sun Never Sets.

As for the Unionists in Scotland, I do wonder what on earth kind of co-ordinated Better Together Campaign is even concievable given the chaos that Brexit has already stirred  (ie Corbyn) in the crumbling corridors of pretend power. (The Dilapidation of Westminster metaphor is rresistible.) Again, given the “hands tieing” that an unruly Scotland represents in the forthcoming EU negotiations, there must be a terrible temptation just to turn North and scream “No, Bugger You!”

Am I looking forward to it? That’s probably going a bit far. The ugliness of an Empire rotting away from the inside is not going to be a sight I am looking forward to seeing. Britain stood for something once.  And there is still a bit of me that regrets that it will stand no longer than the Spring of 2019.