Deferring to Old Masters

Scotland is a nation full of contradictions. The Growth Commission report acknowledges some of them. The line: “Scotland is a wealthy nation, with 1 in 4 children living in poverty” exposes our national paradoxes. But Scotland’s fault lines don’t just manifest socially, they mark our political landscape too. And these are undoubtedly exposed in the report.

Take Sterlingisation. It’s probably the most right wing proposal yet to come to come from what is ostensibly the most left wing government in devolution’s history. Sterlingisation shackles Scotland to the failed economic model that has dominated the U.K. for decades. Without control over monetary policy, we would be at the beck and call of the banks and the financial services industry instead of the needs of the Scottish people. Many of whom are in desperate need of real economic transformation.

Although the outcome of the Growth Commission is no surprise, the proposals clash with 2014’s mood: anti-austerity and anti-establishment. This was a report brought together by the establishment itself. For example, Andrew Wilson, founder of the corporate lobby group Charlotte Street Partners. The Scottish Trades Union Congress and pro-independence think tanks like Common Weal were cast aside in favour of suave corporate interests. In the end, despite the fluff, it is a report for the banks and the boardrooms.

Many people can’t bring themselves to the conclusion that the SNP have anything other than the interests of Scottish people at heart. Of course, in rhetorical terms this is true. But a big problem still lies within. The SNP leaders and special advisors believe, like Tony Blair did, that authentic social democratic polices are a vote loser.

The voices that influence the SNP think that in the end the dogmatic orthodoxies of the crest of the neoliberal wave remain dominant. It is as if the 2008 crash didn’t happen. One might assume by that the authors of the report were put in a locked room for the last ten years, where said orthodoxies are presented as a new path. And yet these ideas have been thoroughly trashed.

You might also assume that when it comes to independence, and genuine autonomy, we are better deferring to our old masters. We would be handing Westminster and the Bank of England total control over Scotland’s Corporation Tax. We would be passing over monetary policy, including bank regulation. We would be cemented to the UK tax system. In the end we would be giving the financial services sector a veto over a future Scottish currency.

What is autonomy and what was it that energised the Scottish people in 2014? They did not face down project fear for more of the same. They did not register to vote, many for the first time in their lives, because they thought nothing would change. Nor did they form their own groups, set up their own public meetings, or indeed save the Yes campaign, because they thought a Yes vote would represent a simple changing of the flags.

Instead this movement was fired up by the possibility of change. In this respect the grassroots was always ahead of the leadership. 2014 turned into a carnival of change. Against austerity, against the Tories and against New Labour. The surge of mass democratic action remains of historic importance.

What was best about the 2014 referendum was the atmosphere that Yes represented the antithesis of everything wrong with world politics today. In Radical Independence particularly, we had respect for the SNP’s role in creating the referendum but maintained a ruthless intellectual opposition to its view on NATO and corporation tax. It was a movement which emerged from contradictions. And that’s what lies at the heart of the Growth Commission: in its exposure of Scotland’s contradictions lies renewed hope for a renewed movement for independence.

In truth, it’s painful to watch the corporate lobby and the Scottish establishment throw dust in the eyes of this process. It’s not that the growth commission fails to advocate our vision of a socialist utopia. That’s just false framing designed to stymie debate. It is that the proposals are so out of sync with mainstream Scotland.

They come at the precise moment when social democratic policies are needed and popular. And yet it is now that SNP leaders decide to turn away from them.

 In truth George Osborne wouldn’t turn his nose up at this report. It grants a huge victory to those who have inflicted austerity upon us for the least ten years by placing the emphasis on deficit reduction.

That is not what an economy that works for the people is based on. We need transformation, we need hope. Hope that Scotland can define its own future – one free of failed dogma that makes the bankers happy, but results in the continuing immiseration of the poor.

It is interesting to see unionist commentators warm towards the report. But this is nothing to do with independence. Instead they feel vindicated about their economic world view. They feel it represents a victory that will shift Scottish economic debates to the right. That is what they are truly happy about. And of course, they are pleased to egg on a fight with the “radical left”.

A debate is a good thing. The 2014 movement showed that unity built on unanimity is shallow and false, and that real unity requires honest, rational criticism. The Growth Commission atleast provides us an opportunity to re-define the progressive approach to independence.

From 2012, our movement for independence broke so many British political taboos. It was very working class and yet very pro-immigration. It was anti-austerity and anti-Trident at a time when that was essentially unspeakable in Britain. The Growth commission maintains the worst of British taboos: the economy works when we deliver it through market forces and financialisation.

In truth our proposals have never been that radical. They only appeared to be because the centre had moved so far to the right. But now that centre is undergoing a political collapse. The SNP leadership don’t seem to realise this. We are trade union members or housing activists or volunteers who help the homeless. The poverty in our society is as ingrained as its alienation. Why would we support a report that seeks to maintain this decaying social order?

Some believe that the 45% who voted Yes last time round are in the bag. This is not the case. If the dynamic in the debates next time is independence plus the economic status quo, versus the union but with a radical challenge to the banks and to neoliberalism, we will lose support where we need to win it.

We need the Yes voting areas to vote in greater margins in our favour next time. That is where the road to victory is. It is not through the boardrooms, most of whom will not shift. The anti-establishment part of Scotland still more or less supports independence, but a growing, quiet minority are simply defecting their hopes to Corbyn, and many pro-Indy activists feel a lack of moral oomph in their politics. The type of Independence offered in the Growth Commission isn’t the radical movement it was in 2012. That’s a dangerous position for us to be in.

The Growth Commission’s ideas and ideology are the old ones that we’ve trying to break away from. Written by the old establishment with the interests of the old order at heart, it doesn’t represent the possibilities for an independent Scotland. “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born,” Gramsci famously wrote. To allow the new to be born, we need to break with the old that has held us back for so long.

Comments (64)

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  1. Clive P L Young says:

    Here is the problem with this type of response. It says “Sterlingisation shackles Scotland to the failed economic model that has dominated the U.K. *for decades* (my emphasis)”. This is a blatant and wilful misreading of the report. The report suggests in detail a fiscally restrained “transition period” of 5-10 years in which Sterling is used. Now this may be electorally unpalatable sure but Common Weal suggest a similar Sterling-bound transition period. So 5-10 years suddenly becomes a rhetorical “decades” in which (presumably) democratic scrutiny is somehow suspended and people don’t get to vote on it. This really is very poor stuff. Quoting Gramsci won’t make a new currency.

  2. Dougie Alba says:

    If you don’t think we can achieve a move away from neoliberalism in an independent Scotland then it beggars belief that you believe that move to be possible through Westminster!

    1. e.j. churchill says:

      Moving away from a market economy seems like a horrid, silly and inefficient idea.



      1. Although those polar ice caps are useful?

        1. e.j. churchill says:

          Shrinking caps facilitate ‘the northwest passage’ and lots of new explorable, exploitable landscape.

          The decrease in velocity of the Gulf Stream is more concerning for global climate with no great understanding (or even a fascist curtain-climber’s just so story) as to why.

      2. Wul says:

        I don’t get this polarisation of “Capitalism” V “Socialism” and saying we need to have one or the other.

        Surely it is possible to have a market-based economy (by “market” I mean buying and selling actual, useful stuff, not “derivatives”etc.) which operates under fair and sustainable governance?

        I’m never sure what folk mean by “socialism” but it’s a massive turn-off for most people. I’d quite cheerfully lose a chunk of income for a few years to support an independent Scotland, but I’d still want to live in a country where people have entrepreneurship and can make a few quid from good ideas and hard graft.

        The idea that we either have untrammelled neo-liberal planet rape OR state-control-of-everything is one of the fallacies that creates our current inertia.

        FFS; we live in a resource rich country stuffed full of clever, inventive people where solar power and drinking water fall from the sky every day. We should be able to do something amazing with that, but we haven’t. We should kick out the fuckers who are in currently charge and holding us back, pull the so called “wealth creators” off the tit of state sponsored, unearned wealth and get on with it.

  3. Alex Mitchell says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with what you have written. The report has entirely missed contemporary economic thinking, such as Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics or Paul Mason’s recent work. Being an eternal optimist, I am almost persuaded that the report is merely intended to stimulate discussion.

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      See also Mariana Mazzucato’s ‘The Entrepreneurial State’. Successful progressive states need strong, self-confident public sectors. The Growth Commission charts a course in the opposite direction, towards a shrunken and enfeebled public sector.

  4. Bruce Stuart says:

    Well…I’m honestly undecided. I really don’t know enough to make an informed decision….at the moment. I am open to argument. Having said that there is a meeting organised by Yes Kirkcaldy where Rodger Mullin & Jonathon Shafi will discuss this. I really hope they can shed some light then I may be in a position to make an informed choice. I suppose if the Growth commission was meant to drum up debate – it’s doing it’s job pretty well!

    1. Willie says:

      Never a truer word spoken Bruce when you say you are truly undecided.

      And that is the same for most folks who do not have the technical skills to understand what the benefits and disbenefits of adopting an independent currency are. Timing, the state of the international economy, a country’s internal economy, its debt levels, its trade balances, and much much more play a huge influence that decision.

      The SNP report therefore I think, very wisely, concludes that for the first years of an independent Scotland that it will continue with Sterling.

      Pragmatism to achieve idealism seems a sensible way to go. Rome was not built in a day, Thatcher did not create the neo-liberal economy overnight but rather worked away at it before handing the baton to Tony Blair and New labour.

      But voters are fickle. They voted for PFI, they voted for privatisation of the essential utilities like gas, water, electricity, and are now voting for a health service being systematically being set up for privatisation.

      So we should not get all over emotionally charged with angst that the SNP growth commission is some perfidious neoliberal plot. It isn’t. The SNP, as the authors of this Bella piece say, are the most left wing party in Scotland, and would be more so if they had more economic power.

      Vision and idealism are wonderful, but so is pragmatism. Taking the voters, or the majority of voters with you, well that’s black magic.

  5. e.j. churchill says:

    ‘progressive radical independence’

    How does that work?

    Growth had an (imperfect) economic path, at least … what do YOU have?

    Theoreticians … faugh!

    ’tis sad


    1. Alf Baird says:

      Churchill, a one-off constitutional referendum on the question of our choice of national identity/citizenship has nothing to do with economics or any other policy area, yet is rather all to do with culture and as Cambridge Analytica might argue, emotion. The pro-Brexit vote proved that no detailed reports of any kind are required in order to win a case; that choice was also essentially a cultural decision, and from which we may deduce that Scottish and English cultures differ markedly, as if we didnae ken (e.g. Scotland used to be a Tory free zone and only population change has altered that). Hence all this stushie about ‘growth’ reports or any reports is largely irrelevant, people will always vote Aye or No to the offer of Scottish citizenship (i.e. independence) on the basis of their dominant culture and heritage, i.e. are thay mair Scottish, or are they more British/English. Therefore the main challenge to independence is from ongoing population change and with it culture change, which has little to do with economics, growth etc.

      1. e.j. churchill says:


        – The cheque is in the mail.’
        – Trust me, I won’t cum in your mouth.’

        Decisions have consequences and tomorrow always comes.

        While I realise avoiding ‘How does that work?’ is essential for a separation & destruction campaign, handwaves are not going to stop questions from serious minds.

        ’tis sad


        1. Alf Baird says:

          ‘In other words’, Brexiteers were voting for British or rather English independence from what they viewed as undue influence from EU laws. That is essentially a cultural/emotional determined choice. Policies, plans, economic or otherwise, post Brexit did not matter in the making of that choice. To those seeking Scottish independence this likewise involves removing the undue influence of UK laws and Scotland’s people will take the consequences whatever that may be. There can be no ‘plan’ for independence, what happens is the Scottish people assume all sovereign powers and can do as they wish with their nation, the important factor is that this is without the undue intervention or influence of another nation.

          1. e.j. churchill says:

            focus, Alf.

            Quit trying to conflate Scotland and Britain. Lugnuts and cricket bats.



      2. e.j. churchill says:


        although there are no more than a handful of true ‘undecided’, SNP got whipped like a red-headed stepchild in 2014, and in order for there to be even a whispered prayer to destroy and rent asunder, SNP/yessir HAS to convince a 100.000 or so NO to turn their coat.

        W/O some kind of ‘follow-the-crumbs’ plan for (econ/fin/mon/fisc) survival, the 2nd go-round will be even more of a public and well-deserved whipping, for there exist a percentage of yessirs who have wit, sense, thinking skills and will want to know, ‘How will that work?’ too..



        1. Alf Baird says:

          It may be rather academic Churchill given the census tells us that ‘No’ voters continue piling into Scotland. Constitutionally of course a majority of Scotland’s MP’s can end the union as it was created, thereby avoiding the need for any referendum. They might do it now if they really wanted to.

          1. e.j. churchill says:

            Demographics are the eventual master of us all, yus.

            I remember hearing 50.000 Brits/year are relocating north and few of them are sinn fein or plaid and it seems there is very little northward draw of B & C migrants. Native-born Scots are a minority, anyhow, I think, and they are not breeders.

            England has plenty of them migrants – most working, of course – but it is constantly curious to me that Scotland only whines about it, rather than go to Job Fairs, Community Centers, etc. recruiting various European emigres.

            ’tis sad


        2. Alf Baird says:

          Cricket, is that a jolly colonial game, like rugby?

  6. Gashty McGonnard says:

    And predictably, the entryists threaten to exit the Yes Movement. You dip your big toe in, you dip your big toe out…

    I agree with some of the points made. I like Jezza too, I wish him well, he’s the current best hope for 90-odd percent of England’s people. Like the OPs, I know some working class socialists who were cursing the ‘red tories’ four years ago, now saying they’ll vote Labour and No. That’s worrying. People whose lives depend on unbroken supply of benefits, pensions or precarious employment (and don’t have great access to digital media) won’t vote Yes again – unless there’s something like RIC actively showing them that Indy is in their interests. The poorer classes should always be the core of an Indy strategy: humans are less risk averse when they’re down… but not suicidal. Indy can’t be won if it looks like a management buyout of Austerity plc. Yes, let’s have a conversation about what could be improved in the Growth Commission report.

    However, I’m sure the authors know that Scotland’s votes have near-zero impact on the complexion of UK governments. They know that all of our neighbours (except the southern) have better health outcomes, longer life expectancy, more democracy, more happiness … and all are small sovereign states. They know that the rUK has severe economic and fiscal woes (financialised economy, 70% of net worth in illiquid value of dwellings, trade deficit, demographics, Brexit, …) that needn’t affect a resource-rich iScotland. They know (deep down) that the best Jez could possibly achieve for England would be reindustrialisation and full employment, at the price of a painful Lexit with low wages, expensive crap food, and plummeting living standards… and that there is no benefit for anyone in Scotland suffering that in solidarity. They always knew that a new smallish country cocking a snook at international finance capital, and launching a new currency on day one, was not a viable option. The know that the beginning of a new state is the time when the constitutional foundations of social justice can really be laid.

    Perhaps the should be be telling those things to their constituency, rather than leaving in a strop.

    1. Jonathon Shafi says:

      Who said anything about leaving?

    2. Graeme Purves says:

      Dream on! It’s the neoliberal entryists and careerists I have no time for.

  7. Big Jock says:

    We lost in 2014 by offering policies which were too left wing. It might be the right thing to believe. However we won’t win over the doubters and middle classes.

    This journey is all about the destination. If we don’t get to the destination then the journey is wasted. Personally I just want independendence above all else. Because with that I know that Scotland will then decide it’s future.

    Arguing about right and left before independence is pointless. This is about taking control of our destiny first and foremost.

    Scotland will make the right choice once it’s independent. I am absolutely sure of that.

    Let’s not lose sight of the destination because we don’t agree with some of our fellow travellers. It’s bigger than any ideology, it’s our nation.

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      That is not the case. The Scottish Referendum Study clearly shows that higher earners weren’t the problem. It was with older and female voters that the Yes messaging was least effective. Neoliberal anti-spending messages are unlikely to win these groups over.

      1. e.j. churchill says:

        From the survey, Graeme, you’re right abt age and women breaking NO – and there is no reason for that to change.

        The Social/Economic Status had some marked (but logical when you think about it) differences. Figures are rounded:

        top earners 53% No
        middle 56% No
        low 58% No
        bottom 56% Yes

        homeowners 65% No
        social renters 62% Yes

        working class 54% Yes
        middle class 58% No

        Those with skin in the game want no upsets. Unsurprising.

        I never saw how the survey measured the SES categories, but common understanding/usage would be reasonable, I suspect: 20k£, 30k & 40k.

        The survey makes interesting reading this go-around, too. Other than more Brit emigres, I don’t know how much SES change can be expected in 4yrs.


        1. Alf Baird says:

          The survey ignores the key determinant of any Yes or No vote – i.e. culture and heritage, and emotion, or in other words whether one thinks of themselves primarily as British or Scottish. And we should not expect any indyref2 until at least a decade from the last one, which will allow for another half a million or more No voters to pile in. Game over. The SNP only has one option – to use a national election and seek a majority of seats in Scotland as a mandate for independence and forget any more wide open dodgy franchise referendums in which anybody and their granny from anywhere with an address in Scotland is allowed a vote to block Scotland from becoming a state, i.e. where people from other countries are allowed to thwart the self determination of Scots which is itself an affront to democracy.

          1. e.j. churchill says:

            The report did an adequate job of cultural factors, it appears, but I think the very obvious issue haunting the yessirs is the desire for independence is a minority position.

            The Eastern European plebicites were 70-80-90+%. Scotland’s 20-30% stinks up the joint, and that is with all the hatred and spurious grievance generation that Sturgeon can muster.

            With devolution, Scotland and the Scots have a good deal, and the majority know it.

            ’tis sad


  8. Derek says:

    My view on the currency is that we’re going to need it, so we may as well have it from the get-go. If it’s well thought-out (as was the Euro), then its projected value will be there or thereabouts. I think that a lot of time was wasted arguing about using pounds; that would be something to remove from any further negotiations.

    1. e.j. churchill says:


      unless/until Scotland makes a *credible move & effort to address debt & deficit, and makes a *credible move to build visible T1 & T2 reserves, a Thistle/Groat/Nessie/SO£ in denominations of less than 10.000.000 is a forlorn hope.

      What’s worse (if you can believe it) is listed corporations could easily be rendered valueless in the blink of an eye and all mortgages & consumer debt would be in GB£, US$, JP¥, TCH, EU€.

      I think the Growth board’s estimate of 5-10yrs to halve deficit (and begin building currency reserves) is very optimistic, but that’s the path that HAS to be trod.

      Anybody that says differently should never be believed about ANYTHING.

      ‘[tis sad


      1. Me Bungo Pony says:

        I notice you have raised this nonsense again churchy. I also notice you didn’t have an answer when I illustrated how wrong you were on a previous thread. I’ll try again.

        In the transition period between the vote to leave and independence day, over £40bn could easily be raised through a negotiated share of the UKs currency reserves (which Scotland would be entitled to) and the issuing of bonds among other things. The reserves necessary would not be a problem.

        As to the actual setting up of a new currency, how is it that a newly independent Slovakia managed to get their successful new currency set up and running in 6 weeks? A currency that served them well for nearly two decades (before they voluntarily joined the Euro) and grew in strength throughout that period.

        According to you, none of this is possible. As I mentioned on the previous thread, perhaps we should just ignore the financial experts and the evidence of history and just believe what you tell us.

        Or perhaps we should just accept you for the shit stirring troll you are.

        ’tis typical

        1. e.j. churchill says:


          that you have neither Econ nor Finance is clear, however that you’d attempt to compare lugnuts and fenceposts is more than passing strange.



        2. e.j. churchill says:


          The total GBP is circulation is £72bn-ish.



          1. Me Bungo Pony says:

            So no answer then churchy. Thought not. Just meaningless rhetoric.

            ’tis expected

          2. Me Bungo Pony says:

            As to your usage of only £72bn GBP in circulation as evidence … your self proclaimed financial wizardry takes somewhat of a dent.

            Financial reserves are made up of the FOREIGN currency reserves each country holds, among other things u gold reserves. Currently the UK has around 164bn USD in reserves. Finland has only 10bn USD in reserve.

            Scotland’s share of UK reserves would be about 14bn USD which would put us on a par with the UK per capita. That about 40bn could be raised fairly quickly is icing on the cake and more than enough to cover Scotland’s liabilities including the new currency.

            If you are such a financial wiz, how come you don’t know any of this?

            ’tis strange

  9. florian albert says:

    ‘They come at the precise moment when social democratic policies are needed and popular.’

    Social democracy is a different political philosophy to socialism – though they are often lazily conflated.
    Social democracy involves retaining and restraining a capitalist economy. Socialism involves replacing a capitalist economy.
    Since the authors of this article have loudly proclaimed their support for socialism, have they had a change of political philosophy ? A change which would be more radical than the one the SNP is proposing between the 2014 White Paper and the recent Growth Commission Report.

    1. Jonathon Shafi says:

      The point being made here is that the SNP appear to be moving away from “social democracy” towards neoliberalism.

      1. florian albert says:

        ‘the SNP appear to be moving away from “social democracy”‘

        I do not think the SNP was ever a social democratic party. (Scotland’s social democratic tradition consists of John P McIntosh and not much more.)
        Social democracy is built on the pillars of a productive economy, a strong welfare state and a willingness to work hard to eradicate social problems.
        The SNP, under Salmond , sought to create a productive economy by making Scotland another Ireland – a tax haven. That was never going to work. Nicola Sturgeon abandoned that plan but has nothing to replace it with.
        The Growth Commission is simply a recognition of reality; of Scotland stuck as a low growth, low wages and low productivity economy.
        There is – at present – no social democratic alternative. Scotland is not alone in this predicament.

        1. e.j. churchill says:

          Social Democracy is VERY expensive, meaning there has to be near universal buy-in by the populace: left, center and right.

          I cannot envision any scenario where that would fly in Scotland.


  10. Frank says:

    In my mind there is a blurring of the grounds between socialism and social democracy, especially given the dominance of neoliberalism. I think its possible to have socialism within capitalism; social democracy is the best of socialism (high public spending, wealth re-distribution, public ownership) with the best of capitalism (entrepreneurialism, competitiveness, wealth creation and so forth). Those that want a complete alternative to capitalism are best described as communists than socialists.

    Returning to the Growth Commission ‘Sterlingisation’ is not without its problems but it’s a political decision as opposed to an economic one based on the fact that arguing for a new currency will alienate many small C-conservative Scots. Scotland is not a radical country and never has been, which is why we need to proceed with caution in terms of advancing the arguments for indy.

  11. SleepingDog says:

    There is a view that a pure form of capitalism implies optimism about the future (investors might only see profits years down the line), but this is questionable for a number of reasons, and in any case our prevailing political-economic model has (as the article says) already successively failed and had to be bailed out by socialism, defended by militarism and glamourised by journalism.

    Those best placed to predict future systemic failures often have the insight of insiders, but prophets of doom tend to share the curse of Cassandra not to be believed until it is too late. Nevertheless, threat models can be persuasive by focusing on usually-neglected features and commonly agreed theories and data, and now be packaged into user-friendly game-like simulations (like Plague Inc. Evolved).

    It may well be that many neo-capitalists are not only confident that the world will end in fire but are actively creating the chaos (never anarchy) that provides the fuel and matches (both oil and arms sold at profit), which I think is the point Naomi Klein makes about disaster capitalism.

    One of the great analyses of competing ideologies on a planetary scale was provided by Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (a Brian Reynolds designed computer game), where ecological destruction brings only pleasure to the Morgan Industries player as they attempt to claw their way to economic victory. Many other ideologies are available.

    So this growth report may be a tactic that serves some strategic interest of the SNP to get financiers on board without committing to anything. In future, such a report without the backing of playable, online, digital, data-transparent models may seem unforgiveably old-fashioned and consigned to the nearest paper-recycling receptacle unread.

  12. oroboros0 says:

    I doubt very much that the SNP will adopt all or even most of the Growth Commission Report. I don’t believe the membership will allow that to happen, no matter if the party leadership did lean that way, which I doubt. The fact is the report is a discussion document. Its proper place is in the mix along with the excellent work being done by the Common Weal team.

    I heard a member of the Growth Commission indicate that this report was intended as a discussion paper and it’s certainly started a lot of debate. The same person also indicated the report was targeted very specifically. I don’t think its main purpose is to persuade the wider Yes Movement. Perhaps to limit the anticipated opposition from the usual suspects going into the coming campaign proper?

    In any event, the main strength of the Yes Movement is that it is pro-independence and for all sorts of reasons including the fundamental right to self-determination. It absolutely isn’t answerable to or led by any one political party or even one political leaning, although it clearly is more of the left than the right. In my experience, loads of folk would prefer our own currency and our own Central Bank from Day One. However, this is a preference, not a pre-condition. Reality will probably be more nuanced at the start.

    Right now we have a government formed by the SNP. We’re certainly not going to get independence with any other party in government at Holyrood. But, only the British Nationalists want people to believe that the SNP will be in power from the day we take our independence for evermore. Most of us are just looking forward to the new parties that will form when we’re independent. That will inevitably even include at least one party from the right. But that’ll be democracy in action.

    Exciting times ahead.

  13. voline says:

    Warning: ambitious careerists may now be disguised as “progressives.”

    –  Graffito from Paris, May 1968

    1. Who are these careerists Voline?

  14. Jack collatin says:

    Did Lord Darling write the first paragraph?
    You lost me at :-
    ‘The SNP leaders and special advisors believe, like Tony Blair did, that authentic social democratic polices are a vote loser.’


    Nicola Sturgeon as Tony Blair?
    It takes a deep level of misunderstanding to come out with this nonsense.
    Divide and conquer. Are the authors May’s little helpers?
    Replies on one side of an A4.

  15. Doug Daniel says:

    “Some believe that the 45% who voted Yes last time round are in the bag. This is not the case. If the dynamic in the debates next time is independence plus the economic status quo, versus the union but with a radical challenge to the banks and to neoliberalism, we will lose support where we need to win it.

    We need the Yes voting areas to vote in greater margins in our favour next time. That is where the road to victory is. It is not through the boardrooms, most of whom will not shift.”

    I’m not sure what’s worse here, the analysis or the strategy.

    Nobody believes the 45% are “in the bag” (even “corporate lobbyists” don’t think that, in fact). However, the strategy outlined here rather sounds like it’s assuming the 55% who voted No are in the bag for the No side. I know there’s some thinking (and perhaps that’s not what’s being said here, but it sounds like it) that the key to victory is to convince non-voters from 2014 to vote Yes this time – I’ve certainly seen such a strategy being put forward at an SIC event. That would require a level of turnout that, in any other circumstances, would be raising eyebrows.

    I’m sorry, but as much as I would like to get as many folk voting as possible, any strategy that is based on getting turnout much over 85% is simply asking for trouble (especially since so many people on the Yes side have become obsessed with postal vote conspiracy theories).

    Not only that, but even if the strategy worked, it sounds like a recipe for a narrow Yes victory based on huge Yes majorities in the likes of Glasgow and Dundee just managing to outnumber No majorities everywhere else. We need only look at the Brexit debacle to see how that will go down. Although I’ll be taking 50%+1 as a win, we should be aiming for much higher. We should be aiming to make independence the settled will of all/most of Scotland, not just a few bits.

    Therefore, we need to be converting people who voted No in 2014. It’s simply not happening otherwise.

    I’m someone from a “No voting area”, and I work with and congregate with people who narrowly voted No last time, or who could certainly have been persuaded. I can exclusively reveal that these people are not “the boardrooms” or “the establishment” or whatever other immature crap folk want to sling at them. Some of them don’t even earn all that much. But they felt they couldn’t trust what we said last time, because they felt we never really addressed their concerns, preferring instead to just redirect conversations onto more comfortable ground. They just want us to be straight with them, so they can make an informed decision weighing up the risks of leaving versus the risks of staying.

    This report will speak to people like that. It will allay some of their fears from last time, opening the door for us to promote our other messages to them. This is how we win.

    But the most striking thing about this article is the complete dearth of any alternatives being proposed. There’s the usual highfalutin rhetoric, the obligatory mentions of “bankers”, but I’m not seeing much in the way of detail, just a sort of “be like Corbyn” vibe. It doesn’t seem to be anything other than “IndyRef2: IndyRef Harder”. I wish I could say I was surprised.

    1. I’ll let the authors respond themselves Doug but I don’t see these strategies as being entirely distinct i.e. a) convincing people who didn’t vote last time (in any area) to turnout and b) persuading people who voted No last time to vote Yes. I’d imagine to convince people in group A you have to put across a compelling case that things could and would change. I’d imagine to convince people in group B you’d have to impress the multiple ways in which voting NO failed them (of which there are dozens of examples).

      Neither would be convinced by the sort of politics being espoused by the Growth Commission, in my opinion.

      You do have to consider as well, the very real possibility that previously inspired people would simply not vote or even vote No if they were given some kind of right wing prospectus.

      I dont detect the Indyref Harder approach but I agree that would be a mistake.

      1. e.j. churchill says:

        In general, while I take your first two points, I think alternate explanations fit the data better:

        a) the yessir’s GOTV campaign was pitiful and embarrassing to any (read: American) ‘political pro,’ for they are the gold standard for winning campaigns. Any Public Policy (PPE in the UK) intern KNOW that maximising YOUR vote in YOUR areas is 1 & 1a of having a chance to win.

        Glasgow was 65% yes. Dundee was less. They needed to be 80-85+%. Pass out buckie and fags, back a fleet of ambulances up to care homes, turn 10 cars/block into free rides, …

        b) ‘What was not good.’ for Cultural a/o distrustful NOs is not going to turn their coat.

        For the remaining baseline NO: women, old folks, a-cultured Brits and aspirational lower class, there is no imaginable inducement to flip them.

        “You do have to consider as well, the very real possibility that previously inspired people would simply not vote or even vote No if they were given some kind of right wing prospectus.”

        Neoliberalism is a dogwhistle pejorative with zero positive features.

        Pointing out the benefits of market capitalism (right wing?) is a powerful antidote to the poisoned chalice – esp in a time of rising taxes and shrinking services.



        1. Aside from your disgraceful “pass out buckie and fags” line – I think you underestimate the extent to which NO voters feel appalled at the state of post-indref British shambles led by a coterie of shysters and conmen. I do agree there is a sizeable amount of a-cultured ‘Brits’ who are unconvinceable, however your casual throw-in of ‘women’ and ‘aspirational lower class’ (sic) is pathetic. Why don’t we wait and see how much of a success Global Britain and Brexit runs?

          You feeling confident about that?

          1. e.j. churchill says:

            Hi, Mike,

            You seem to regard flip, casual, informal communication as suspect and possibly/probably without basis and likely inaccurate? why?

            I am certainly confident abt GOTV mechanics – including the distasteful (but successful) ones like getting bums & winos to the voting booth; delivering postal voting envelopes to care homes and ‘assisting’ their vote, having a ‘donut’ party before everybody mounts the shuttle cars.

            For the rest (and especially the ‘aspirational’ middle & lower SES) peek at the Scottish Referendum Survey. (hint: 56 & 58% NO)

            I do not doubt the number of Brexit-disgusted citizens, which, however, is not nearly the same thing as turning your coat.

            ex: May I assume you are a yessir?
            The face, leader and theoretician of Separation is NS.
            She is an immoral, unethical, demonstrable, provable, open & notorious liar and hypocrite who would lie when the truth sounds better.

            On that basis, are you considering voting NO?

            Brexit and the ultimate downstream effect is t.b.d., but if it does not ‘feel’ much different than today, no, I don’t see a sea change. Do you? Britain seems to muddle through things AND the present economic boom is irrefutable.

            A question for you, pls: snap election …what point delta are you placing on whose nose?

            ’tis sad,


          2. “Britain seems to muddle through” – is about as inspiring a rallying cry as “UK:OK”. Despite the shrieking PM’s insistence that “Nothing has changed, nothing has changed!” the evidence seems otherwise. I have no doubt that Gammoaner* self-disgust is a tricky thing in and of itself but the presentation in 2014 of Britain as an open multicultural pluralist rock of stability fronted by Mo Farrah and Co seems a little unlikely to play now given Windrush, Hostile Environment and, er, food shortages.

            I’m not sure you’re ‘aspirational’ folks are going to like being tied to a basket case. More likely to be jetting back from Tuscany to vote Yes as fiscally prudent Europeans.

            * Neologism: Gammoaner, angry porcine chopped Brexiteer facing the realisation that they voted for a shambles but unable to reconcile themselves with the prospect that their xenophobic fantasy will lead to food shortages and an inability to access their medicine.

          3. e.j. churchill says:

            and your point is?

          4. e.j. churchill says:

            The issue, I think, is turning coats, yes?

            Even granting your thoughts to be valid & unopposed, I still think I see way more yessirs NOT VOTING than I see many NO-to-YES flips.

            While the new footpath & timeline is worlds better than WP2014, Yassir L, R & C find serious faults, and this is BEFORE SNP cherry-picks the utopia-bits they think will calm Yessir grumbling.

            I still don’t see anything for NO to grasp and ‘ Yep, iScotland is going to be a QUANTUM better. ‘

            At BEST, maybe an increment better or a margin better and that’s not nearly good enough.

            Yessir needs at least 100k changelings, and that looks like a six sigma proposition.

            Do you see anything other than a generalized Brexit disquiet that can find more than a handful of line-crossers? Serious question.



          5. Me Bungo Pony says:

            Can we really take anything Churchy says seriously? He’s a fantasist whose intent is to troll, misinform and insult. His self proclaimed financial wizardry falls apart under the slightest of scrutiny, so why should his grasp of demographics be any sounder?

            Having said that, his Col.Blimp persona is quite amusing and is handy as an example of just how out of touch the No campaign is. Hopefully he is a fully paid up member of Scotland in Union. If that ever came to light the embarrassment for them would be priceless 🙂

    2. Alf Baird says:

      I am also someone from a No voting area Doug, in which a majority of these No voters are not Scottish, and I would say there is absolutely no chance of changing these No’s to Yes. You can’t change someone’s culture and heritage in 4 years and that is what a referendum on an individuals perception of their national identity is ultimately about and dependent on. Maybe 40 years, or 400 years, but not 4 years, and certainly not against the constant British msm cultural bombardment. In addition, most No voting areas have seen an influx of even more ‘cultural’ No voters in the past 4 years, as per the census trend. Scotland must therefore consider a more ‘standardised’ voting franchise if we are to have any chance of securing a Yes vote in a national referendum. Scotland is simply far too altruistic and blasé with its national voting rights (based merely on residence) compared to all other countries, more especially on the fundamental matter of Scotland’s very existence as an independent state. Colonists do not generally vote for de-colonization, as the recent referendum in the Falklands/Malvinas proved, which is why the UN refused to recognise that result as valid.

      1. Doug Daniel says:

        Actually Alf, voting rights are still based on nationality rather than residence. However, that’s on the way to changing, which is exactly how it should be.

        This “English people shouldn’t be allowed to vote” nonsense needs to stop. That’s not the country we want to be, and even if we did this, it would do far more harm than good. Those Yes/No switherers are not going to vote for a country that thinks those not born here are lesser people than those who were. It would actively turn people off.

        There is not a chance in hell of the franchise being defined this way. You can use whatever metaphors for English people you like (cultural No-voters, colonists, whatever), everyone can see what you’re about.

        1. Thank you Doug, couldn’t agree more.

        2. Alf Baird says:

          Actually Doug, voting rights in the Scottish referendum were/are based on residence not nationality – e.g. citizens from other EU states are allowed to vote on whether Scotland is or is not a state, as are people from other UK countries, and those from already independent sovereign commonwealth countries also, i.e. ex colonies. So, basically anybody and their granny almost can vote to block Scotland’s right to independence if they wish, just so long as they have an address here. This is not reciprocal in any way; in all other EU states a British national would not be permitted to vote in their national elections or in national referendums. I am not ‘about’ anything, I am merely informing you and others that all other countries take a rather different and considered approach when it comes to their voting franchise for national elections and for referendums. I suspect that were England to have a referendum on its independence there would likewise be a different arrangement from what you and others advocate for Scotland, i.e. Scots living in England could well be excluded, much in line with Westminster’s EVEL philosophy despite a ‘joint’ UK parliament? In Scotland’s referendum Scots are therefore being unnecessarily altruistic and indeed flippant with their land and nation and people, much as we have been for the past couple of hundred years and look where that has got us. Perhaps it is in our culture to freely give our assets (including our people) and our nation away. Wha’s like us? Naebody else it appears. And unlike all other independent states who do actually focus on thair ain fowk, a Scotland dependant on a wide open franchise will surely remain a colony until it is subsumed entirely, which will not be very long.

  16. SleepingDog says:

    Various framings have been used to explain independence/unionist preferences, from cultural determinism (vote independence you feel Scottish) to loyalty (changing one’s mind equates to turncoats as betrayers).

    Perhaps this is indeed how some people think, but from political philosophy there is also the notion of a social contract between ruled and ruler. If the ruler or state is seen to fail in its duties, the ruled or people can withdraw their consent to be governed. If the UK has become systematically dysfunctional and cannot be fixed by the usual processes (a general election), then people are entitled to look for alternatives.

    It seems that people can rationally decide for themselves if the grounds for their support for the unionist model has changed since the last independence referendum (without implying any further action), based on their trust that it kept to its side of the contract being eroded by subsequent events. People are supposed to monitor their own governments and resist lapses into tyranny, injustice, and so forth, or face reasonable condemnation by outsiders. Deference cannot be an excuse (at least, British cultural norms do not accept it from Others).

    1. alf.baird says:

      As polls show, politics, like economics, is largely guff compared with the overriding power and influence of culture when it comes to the emotional choice of maintaining or changing our preferred national identity and national citizenship, which is what the vote on Scottish independence is ultimately asking people to do. Our culture, which is developing within us throughput our lives from not long after birth, involves many variables, not least language, class, socialization, symbols, propaganda, myths, norms of behaviour/attitude etc. On the issue of nationhood or nationality it matters little how good or bad a government or its policies are, people will not alter their nationality for administrative competence or for incompetence. Just think of the Brexit vote which was in large part a vote for British/English independence as opposed to the EU alternative, and was voted through irrespective of the political or economic consequences.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @alf.baird the point I was trying to make has nothing to do with the (in)competency of a single administration, it was whether an entire political system could be seen as in breach of its contract with the people whose lives it governs. For social contract theory to be useful, it is only needed that people act as if there were such a contract, not that one exists.

        Possibly the simplest examples are whether a state is seen failing protect its people against some foreseeable large-scale harm (war, pestilence, famine; environmental or economic collapse), or whether a state is no longer seen to serve the people but some other group or groups (like corporate capture, serving foreign masters of its rulers, acting on behalf of the few at the expense of the many).

        These are commonly grounds for revolution or other forms of civil disobediance.

        I would disagree with your characterisation of politics (and economics) as guff that are low down in people’s priorities. When the opportunity presents itself (often when there is an uprising against tyranny or a power vacuum), ordinary people (literate or not) throughout history have proved capable of discussing complex political problems of the day. You can find plenty of evidence from the English Civil War onwards, for example.

        In fact, when I studied politics one of the most striking observations was that the UK was quite unusual in Europe, let alone the world, in its high degree of centralisation, low local and regional autonomy, and high levels of political secrecy including about how government actually functioned. Much of UK state effort is directed to suppress the open scrutiny of politics. If this state of affairs was rectified, a healthier and more productive climate for real political discussion might ensue.

        1. Alf Baird says:

          The Anglo Saxon and Anglicised-Scot cultures accept all of this, and more, to maintain their one-nation ‘Britain’. You could put up a monkey for UK PM, or BJ even, and RD for FM, they would still opt for that instead of Scottish statehood. All the oil in the North Sea would not alter their cultural mindset, and it didn’t.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Alf Baird, but Saxe-Coburg and Gotha family had to rebrand as Windsor in case the populace rejected an obviously German monarchy, and Nazi-friendly Edward was similarly deemed too toxic for the masses. Previously the notion of absolute monarchy had been violently ended, and monarchs of an unpopular religion rejected. Margaret Thatcher was forced out while still Prime Minister, as was Neville Chamberlain.

            I think there always has to be limit to deference beyond which consent to be governed will be withdrawn, trust is broken, the establishment scrambles to find an acceptable replacement or accommodation. What is not necessarily obvious is which straw (or combination of crises) will break the camel’s back.

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