2007 - 2022

Routes to Independence 2: If Not Now, When?

In the second of our Routes to Independence series Ruth Wishart argues on the need for a consultative referendum now.

It is in the DNA of the political journalist that he or she will endlessly enquire of the First Minister when she will announce plans for a second independence referendum.

And it is in the nature of our shrewd, but temperamentally cautious First Minister that she will respond with a holding quote. Usually that’s been a variation on “when the fog of Brexit clears”.

In truth I have some sympathy that the FM should be currently leading the charge for a second people’s vote on Brexit, most especially as the leader of the official opposition in Westminster is getting skelfs in his backside from spending over long on the fence.

Sympathy too with the view that if the UK seems likely to career off the cliff with a helpless Holyrood in tow, then the struggle to avoid that catastrophe has to take temporary priority.

None of which alters my view that the announcement of a second Referendum campaign has to be sooner rather that later. There is still a huge tide of enthusiasm in the wider Yes camp running in its favour and that has to be taken at the flood. Otherwise constant disappointment and delay may dissipate the energy needed for a full-hearted campaign.

In 2102 Alex Salmond and David Cameron signed the Section 30 Order which did two important things. It amended the Scotland Act to give the Scottish Government Westminster’s permission to hold the 2014 poll, and it bound both parties to respect the result.

Many people take the view that without another such order in Council, indyref2 can’t take place. But of course it can. It can be held legally on a consultative basis. That does not give the same binding commitment to respect the result, but it would hold exactly the same advisory status as the 2016 Brexit vote. The result of which the UK government insists must be respected.

The sacred will of the people and all that. Except that whilst 17 million people voted Leave on what was manifestly a fraudulent prospectus, 16 million voted Remain, 18 million couldn’t vote, and 13 million chose not to. In addition to which almost two thirds of those Scots who went to the polls voted to Remain.

It makes sense to lodge a formal request for another section 30 order. Not least since the expected refusal would do no harm to the Yes cause; we have surely travelled well beyond going cap in hand to a lame duck Prime Minister of a shambolic administration and allowing her to put us back in our box.

The legitimacy of any such second poll is often questioned. The Private Fraser tendency – “we’re doomed, all doomed” – frets variously that there will be a mass boycott, that the result will be trashed, that we’ll lose again and forever forfeit the chance to be a nation again.

Let us then remember that the Scottish Government came to power with a mandate to hold another referendum vote should circumstances materially alter “such as being taken out of the EU against its will.” Not only have these circumstances altered beyond recognition, but our negotiators and those of the other devolved administrations have been locked out of any meaningful decision making.

It seems our Brexit secretary found out that the start button had been pressed on article 50 from a BBC report. Meetings with the Joint Ministerial Council, when they’re not cancelled or postponed, are little more than window dressing. And those new Scots Tory MP’s who have largely risen without trace have just suggested that Scotland should be locked out of any future trade negotiations.

This all goes beyond a lack of respect, and a failure to deliver inclusion. We are not talking about a couple of paragraphs in any fisheries deal, but the future of the Scottish economy and everything dependent on it. These are the biggest stakes we have ever played for. Do you want May, or Johnson, or Gove, or Rees Mogg taking our seat at the table?

There is too the question raised of voter fatigue, of the polls not having shifted favourably enough for long enough. In 2014, after an admittedly long campaign but in the teeth of a ferocious media onslaught, the Yes vote went from 28% to 45%. And it has remained there or thereabouts every since. It will shift again.

Anecdotally many No voters, in particular those warned that Yes meant leaving Europe, have changed camps..

You don’t win self determination with anecdotage. But neither is it on offer to the faint of heart, or those whose glass will forever be half empty.

Nor is it about Salmondites v Sturgeonistas as one commentator ludicrously suggested. It’s about tactics, timing, and self belief.

In 2014 we were advised that strength and stability lay in the union with England. Who could seriously argue that now?


Comments (11)

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  1. Gary Elliot says:

    Don’t know if it has been published today but I sent a letter to the National saying pretty much the same thing. I suspect though that any attempt to run a consultative referendum might very well go the same route as the EU Continuity Bill to the Supreme Court. Fair enough IMO because if the result is to say “It’s legal to run the vote but the result is non-binding” then that’s a level of legitimacy that would be hard to argue against & makes it far more difficult to mount a boycott of. Time to bite the bullet, be bold and take this route if T May says No to a S30 order.

  2. Blair says:

    Nicolas Sturgeon will not pursue an Indyref2 until she can show the people that there is another choice available via a grassroots change to the systems of government via their elected politicians. Test opininion at UK Government level then via Indyref2 but first she and her SNP Party must first listen and choose (something they have failed to do to date). The system changes required are ready to adopt and implement, the people of Scotland are ready, they just need to be given real choice for the future not Project Fear and not a rehash of Indyref1. With BREXIT we will be free from any European restrictions which may have impeded us.

  3. w.b. robertson says:

    Forget about the timing while one other item sits sizzling away on the back burner. Before any future referendum (consultative or otherwise) the SNP will have to tell the voters about the monkey on its back…the party`s policy on Europe. Do we want independence from Westminster and replace it with our masters in Brussels?. I think we should be told.

    1. R Smith says:

      Who says the SNP would form our first government. Whether that was elected on a manifesto to join the EU or indeed to stay in the SM and CU or go for the Norway option would determine what happens.
      We can’t stay in the EU automatically.
      The issue is independence from the Westminster shambolic Administration.

      1. Richard Easson says:

        To me one thing is sure and actually feels good and that is, in any Scottish Government that you mentioned, as it stands there would be no Conservative (and Unionist), no Labour and no Liberal party representaion since these are all *British* parties registered with the Electoral commission as it stands. There would have to be stand -alone independent parties formed with preferably no Unionist nonsense, working for the good of my Country.
        The SNP and Greens are actual Scottish parties unlike the ones above at present which begs the question …why are *alien and Foreign* parties actually sitting in the Scottish Parliament at the moment?

        1. John B Dick says:

          My neighbour voted YES “in the hope that after Independence I wouild get a Conservative Party that I could vote for.”

          Of all the hopes and all the fears for post-independence Scotland, that is one of the more likely to be realised.

      2. Alasdair Macdonald says:

        I think you have answered w. b. robertson’s question pretty well. Given the situation in Westminster, I think that Mrs May’s deal (or something very like it) will go through even though a large majority do not like it. But, in the narrowed list of options remains, I suspect that a majority will decide it is the least worst and prevents ‘no deal’. So, Scotland, as part of the UK will be going out of the EU, although we will be in the single market and the custom’s union. This would mean, that an independant Scotland would probably be able to move quickly into EFTA. Our size relative to the other members would be more harmonious in a way the rUK (including all,part or none of NI) would be.

        Post independence I expect there would be a plurality of Scottish parties representing the spectrum of opinion. An SNP might exist in some form, or parts of it might have parted. Whatever the Scottish constitution is a way would be found to decide if we wished to seek to rejoin the EU or remain in EFTA.

        The question posed by w. b. robertson could be seen as a distraction to the key issue: do we want to be an independent country?

    2. Wul says:

      WB. Robertson,

      Your question about SNP/Europe etc. is irrelevant and obfuscating. The only question is: “do you want to live in an independent country?”

      If that question is answered “Yes”, then the independent country of Scotland can have a conversation with itself about Europe and decide what Scottish people want. That is the whole point of independence.

      At the moment, in the UK, the answer to your question on Europe is; “who gives a fuck what the Scots think, they don’t matter”

      Which type of country would you rather live in; one where you matter or one where you don’t?

  4. Block says:

    “It makes sense to lodge a formal request for another section 30 order.”

    Given that the current leader of the Independence movement and its former leader are locked in a court battle, and that one of them has just been charged with 2 counts of attempted rape and the public are wondering how much the other one knew about it and whether or not there was a cover-up, an Independence Referendum just now would be suicide.

    1. Bob says:

      A wealthy country such as Scotland and the people who live here, work here, have children here make Scotland a great place to bring up a family.

      But things are changing where influences from outside our country are threatening our way of life and it has become apparent that our parliament of 2 Scottish political parties – SNP and Greens – has 3 other parties from outside Scotland – Conservative, Labour, Lib Dems – trying to take control without being elected.

      Rather than get caught up in partisan argument where the non-Scottish parties at Holyrood have most of the media behind them, also run from outside Scotland, we must not be distracted from correcting this wrong at risk of losing our way of life.

  5. Ann McAlpine says:

    It’s about timing, tactics and self belief – absolutely!

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