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Routes to Independence Three: A Collective Transformation

TO answer questions regarding the routes to IndyRef2, we need to grasp the fact that winning Scottish independence is not reduceable to a neat constitutional process. Rather, we are dealing with a political and social revolution. Not a revolution with guns – though there will be more than a few barricades before we’re done. But the shattering of the three century-old United Kingdom will involve major political and economic convulsions well outside the confines of a TV studio debate.

The reason is simple: Scottish independence is only a subset (if an important one) of a general crisis of the British state, its economy and political parties. If Brexit shows nothing else, it is that the British state is falling apart under its own contradictions. British capitalism has ceased to be competitive except for the gigantic tax dodge that is the City of London. Britain’s two main Unionist parties are deeply split internally and incapable of resolving the Brexit imbroglio. Public confidence in parliamentary democracy is at a low ebb. Brexit, as well as threatening economic chaos, has reduced the political system to stasis and reenergised the Irish demand for unification.

There never was a more immediate need for Scotland to exit this dysfunctional economic and political setup by calling a second independence referendum as soon as possible. Partly because it is the only way to safeguard the material and social interests of ordinary Scottish working people. Partly because – with the British ruling elite distracted by its own problems – now is the optimal time to strike for Scottish freedom. And partly because any resolution of the general British crisis will mean a stabilisation of the regime on a more reactionary basis, which will most likely postpone a bid for Scottish independence for a generation or longer.

Given the gravity of the situation, we must recognise that winning an independence majority can no longer be premised on a strategy of molecular acquisition. The 45 per cent who supported indy in 2014 are rock solid. They have already left the UK in their heads and hearts. But in the present critical moment, you will not get over the 50 per cent barrier using uber cautious appeals to individual self-interest – folk are too frightened and uncertain. Nor will presenting independence as a “minimum change” option (pace the so-called Growth Commission) allay these fears.

Instead, the independence message must be collective. It must be radical, popular, transformative and mobilise the mass of working class voters and young people – especially the half million who did not vote in the 2014 referendum. The broad appeal should be to class interest and the future of the younger generation. It will be crucial to stress nationalisation of raw materials and bank, in the public interest, and the introduction of a wealth tax on the rich.

It is certain – in the current Brexit crisis – that the Tory government in London will refuse to agree a fresh referendum and veto a new Section 30 Order. This refusal must be met by a phased escalation of public civil disobedience and Westminster parliamentary obstruction by SNP MPs. Civil disobedience should be peaceful but inventive; e.g. blocking the London subway in the rush hour. The SNP government at Holyrood should rally public support by challenging Treasury control over the Scottish budget; e.g. by breaking Treasury spending rules to subvert the welfare cap.

This strategy of tension will only have an impact when the Brexit crisis is at its height. If it succeeds, an agreed IndyRef2 will open the path to independence. If London remains intransigent, the FM should attempt to engineer an extraordinary Holyrood election, on a mandate to seek immediate independence negotiations. If an independence majority is elected but negotiations refused, the SNP should withdraw its MPs from Westminster, and declare a sovereign assembly on the lines of Dáil Éireann in 1919 (with a confirming plebiscite to follow immediately).

Should it prove impossible to engineer an extraordinary Holyrood election, the FM should fall back – as a last resort – on a consultative independence referendum, even if Westminster refuses to recognise its legality. The Tories will seek to boycott such a poll. Maximum pressure should therefore be put on Labour to recognise the right of the Scottish people to vote on their own future. The ultimate legitimacy of such a consultative referendum would depend on a turnout of more than 50 per cent of the electorate. But if that cannot be achieved then certainly it would suggest the Scottish people are unwilling to proceed with nation-building, even in a systemic crisis.

The consultative referendum should seek a mandate for the Scottish government to negotiate independence with Westminster. If such negotiations are again refused, then the Scottish government should renew the campaign of civil disobedience and Holyrood resistance to London interference in budgetary matters. Ultimately, the route to independence is a test of popular will. But so are all political revolutions. It is a test the Scottish people are up for.



Image credit: @NorrieHarman

Comments (34)

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  1. MBC says:

    Agree with a lot of this. Independence is simply existential. Life is precious. Don’t waste it. Don’t waste a single minute of if. Be all you can be. Find your own way. Why on earth would you want to live somebody else’s life and not your own? Even if you were materially more comfortably off? Or secure? You would not be realising your own potential or following your own destiny. You would only be half alive and would never know who you were or what you could achieve. You would be dead before you’d even lived.

  2. William Habib Steele says:

    Your proposal has somthing in common with Craig Murray’s. “My preferred route to Independence is this. The Scottish Parliament should immediately legislate for a new Independence referendum. The London Government will attempt to block it. The Scottish Parliament should then convene a National Assembly of all nationally elected Scottish representatives – MSPs, MPs and MEPs. That National Assembly should declare Independence, appeal to other countries for recognition, reach agreements with the rump UK and organise a confirmatory plebiscite. That is legal, democratic and consistent with normal international practice.”


    I think that the Scottish Parliament, as the only parliament democratically elected by the Sovereign People of Scotland shoud revoke the Treaty and Act of Union, and then negotiate with the English government the terms of the dissolution of the Union.

    1. Alex M says:

      I agree that we must use the democratic decisions of the Scottish Parliament to resile from the “Articles of Union” , the Treaty.

      The “Act of Union” is merely the Act passed by the English Parliament, and that has been altered many times. That Act in theory meant that the English Parliament ceased to exist, and was replaced by a new Parliament of Great Britain. However right from the start the English claimed continuity, and broke the terms of the Treaty.

      It is utterly absurd and humiliating to concede that Scots must ask the English for permission to hold a referendum on secession. I cannot find a parallel anywhere!

      1. Richard Dido says:

        The Articles of Union are indeed our way out. Surprised this is not being talked about at all!

        1. Lorna Campbell says:

          Well, Richard Dido, I have been trying to get this route recognised for four years and I meet a blank wall every time, but I would never claim that I’m the only one. In the end, it will become our only, our sole, legal and democratic route out of this mess; the alternative is not to be contemplated. It has always been our only route out, but it will take even more wasted time to get the majority of indy supporters – and, not least, the SNP government and the wider independence movement. After 2014, it should have been obvious to everyone that another indyref is a non-starter. I appreciate that so many are wedded to this one way of achieving independence that they are in denial. The four recent indyrefs held pre-independence have been failures (Quebec twice) and is now the least likely route to independence for any nation that has had even a passing acquaintance with colonialism and its even more evil twin, imperialism, and that is as true for Scotland as it is for Quebec (British), Catalunya (Spanish) and New Caledonia (French). Although there were YES/Leave voters in Scotland, the majority of eave voters were previous NO voters, and if anyone can reconcile this two positions with anything approaching rationalism and economic wisdom, he or she is a better political anorak than I am, Gunga Din. We entered this Union by means of a legally arrived at international treaty and we will go out of it via the dissolution of that legally arrived at international treaty, not least because one ‘partner’ has unilaterally broken almost every article, through a time scale of almost from day one right through to the present, the most recent being the trade articles.

          1. Lorna Campbell says:

            Apologies. Lines four and five should read: and, not least, the SNP government and the wider independence movement, who both seem very resistant.

          2. Alf Baird says:

            You are right Lorna, much as you have been for the last 4 years, at least. Scotland has already elected Nationalist majorities of MP’s and MSP’s (i.e. de facto independence) and should be able to use these democratically elected majorities as necessary to revoke the Treaty of Union as it was established, and as the ECJ recently confirmed in that any party to a treaty has the right to unilaterally revoke it. This seems the simplest and cleanest and legal and constitutional way to end the union and consistent in terms of the way the joint UK parliament was originally established. A second referendum will never be permitted by an ‘administrative Power’ that is in reality constitutionally Scotland’s servant given where Scotland’s ultimate sovereignty lies and given the Treaty of Union itself yet the UK Government and its Parliament considers itself to be Scotland’s superior, which it is only politically and that only by force of MP numbers. Given the UK’s dubious track record any Yes vote would most probably never be recognised, and even if independence were ever to be enacted it would leave 600 MP’s from other countries and their HoL (with no Scottish Nationalist in it) to determine precisely what an independent Scotland looked like, which would be anything but pretty and would never fairly consider Scotland’s interest and rights. Scotland’s democratically elected Nationalist representatives need to walk the walk, as George Kerevan and Craig Murray advocate and yourself too, and this was always inevitable. My recent suggestions for anyone uncertain of the route proposed would be to test its legality in a Scottish court and this might best be crowdfunded as with Wightman et al. though if the Scottish Government were really a Nationalist administration it would have surely already done this by now.

  3. Andy Anderson says:

    I agree entirely with this approach by George. Now that the May Government has managed to get itself stuck firmly in a bog over Brexit it is time for us to advance and fight for independence. I use the term ‘fight’ not to suggest, or imply, physical violence, but to underline George’s point that the ruling Unionist elite will not give up their hold on Scotland without a fight. So we had better be prepared to give them one.
    I remember back in 1995 when the new PFI Skye Bridge opened with the local community facing the highest tolls in Europe, the small community on Skye were confronted by a real struggle. We decided then to fight, but to do so in a non violent way. The other side used force and violence against us, but we stuck to our non violent struggle. I was arrested many times I was held in police cells and put in prison, but we maintained our non violent fight. It took us a wee while, but in the end, in spite of their power we won a complete victory and got the tolls off all bridges in Scotland. George is right now is the time to fight for our independence. We have a right under the UN charter to have our independence so lets take it now and if they try to hassle us we can hassle back.

    1. Alastair McIntosh says:

      I applaud your emphasis on nonviolence, and note that not only was it effective, but it left behind none of the ongoing rancour of bad blood.

  4. Blair says:

    Indyref2 should be an option but only after considering alternative possibilities. Bella Caledonia has played an excellent role so far in raising and maintaining public interest since Indyref1, what is required now is to engage the SNP ASAP with the aim of changing political minds on the way forward.

  5. Block says:

    “The 45 per cent who supported indy in 2014 are rock solid. They have already left the UK in their heads and hearts. ”

    In 2017 Nicola Sturgeon campaigned on the idea that a vote for the SNP was a vote endorsing IndyRef2. Result: SNP vote share fell to 36.9%. So I don’t agree with this assertion. Of the 16 opinon polls conducted in 2018, only 3 showed “Yes” at 44-46%.

    “It is certain – in the current Brexit crisis – that the Tory government in London will refuse to agree a fresh referendum and veto a new Section 30 Order. This refusal must be met by a phased escalation of public civil disobedience and Westminster parliamentary obstruction by SNP MPs. Civil disobedience should be peaceful but inventive; e.g. blocking the London subway in the rush hour. The SNP government at Holyrood should rally public support by challenging Treasury control over the Scottish budget; e.g. by breaking Treasury spending rules to subvert the welfare cap.”

    ^This is sheer lunacy.

    1. Kenny Smith says:

      Awrite Block( head ) how much are you on at SiU. Give Swiss Tony a high five for me!

      The fact of the matter people who would never have dreamed of voting yes before are now considering their position we have already had a fair few high profile people come out and say so. If another no vote was a given then they would have no problems having one. There was many who gave the union one last chance, they won’t do so again. It’s a shame in a way, I was never anti British as such but the Tories are totally ripping us apart and now I can see no way to save it.

      1. Block says:

        “The fact” you just claimed is a fiction; the polls indicate no change in Yes voting sentiment, and the number of undecideds are in the single digits.

  6. Darby O'Gill says:

    Very well put George Kerevan. There are many reasons why we need to gain independence, but for me the needless misery that’s being inflicted daily upon thousands of our fellow citizens and their children make it imperative that we start trying as soon as possible – win or lose. Count me in.

  7. john burrows says:

    Non cooperation worked for the Mahatma, but I don’t remember the Congress Party ever organizing protests in Trafalgar Square.

    There are enough organs of British rule available in Scotland. Mundell’s bunker in Edinburgh should be target one. Every public event should be focussed on this clown. He is the best advertisement for Scottish Independence bar none.

    It is our fellow Scots we must persuade. If the B grade movie playing out in London doesn’t convince them of the idiocy of the Union, nothing will. Anyone who disagrees with this statement has already drunk the cool aid.

    Forcing Scots to troop down to London to make symbolic gestures in front of bewildered commuters is just another way of asking for permission. And coincidentally, a boost for their local economy, as we wouldn’t be likely to impact traffic anymore than a truck blowing a tire.

    1. john burrows says:


      Anyone who uses the tiresome trope that the SNP are a’ single issue party,’ don’t fail to inform them that Brexit has turned the UK into a single issue nation. In their case though, they will never be rid of it.

  8. Bob says:

    Peaceful disruption is inevitable and would add to that a North Korea style leaflet drop and release of balloon messages to break through Westminster influenced state media control.

  9. Swiss Toni says:

    Can you not simply accept that in spite of having every advantage: high oil price; choosing a loaded question; extending the vote to 16 year olds – you list by a clear margin in ” once in a lifetime/generation” referendum.

    “The British state is falling apart”

    “The broad appeal should be to class interest”

    “Civil disobedience should be peaceful but inventive”

    Using such language suggests that you are far more interest in keeping a small minority of radicals hyped up than in reaching out to Middle Scotland.

    1. john burrows says:

      I would strongly suggest that several lifetimes of stupidity have been condensed into the last two and a half years alone.

      And forgive me, but your statement there was “a high oil price” in September 2014 is pure mendacity.

      Oil prices saw their greatest collapse in the history of this commodity in the run up to the referendum. Indeed, it was a significant factor eroding the case for independence in many eyes.

      If you wish to be taken seriously, you should try and avoid re-writing history to suit your narrative.

      1. Swiss Toni says:

        The oil price started to fall in second half of 2014, it was at historic highs north of $100/bbl in the first half of the year.

        The SNP White Paper in 2014 promised that tax revenue from North Sea oil be in the range from £6.8 to £7.9 billion.

        Can you show me any examples of YES supporters acknowledging in 2014 that the reduction in oil price would have a hugely damaging impact on the finances of an independent Scotland?

        1. Alex M says:

          It has been established that a majority of those born in Scotland voted yes. The referendum was lost because the majority of English incomers voted no. I would like to hear constructive suggestions on how we deal with this. Frankly we gave a vote to people living in Scotland, but without an identication as Scots.

          1. Richard Dido says:

            For some reason I cannot reply to the troll ‘Swiss Toni’. Toni – stop twisting the narrative. Just accept that one day, soon, Scotland will gain its independence. And there’s SFA you will be able to do about it, other than whine.

    2. Graeme Purves says:

      But might it just be that you are not the authentic voice of ‘Middle Scotland’, but simply a devotee of a misguided British cargo cult?

  10. Willie says:

    Couldn’t agree more with your assesment George

    In 2014 under huge pressure from the establishment and the promise of more powers and remaining in Europe, the people voted narrowly to retain union with the UK.

    Thereafter a couple of years later Scotland voted nearly two thirds to remain in Europe.

    And now with the powers of the Scots Parliament under threat and Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its will, Scots are expected to sit and take it.

    Well the time is certainly now and it is time we take independence. The people do not want this chaos, they want to be part of Europe, they want a government that reflects their wishes

    Reading the Sunday Times today their front page article is that ‘ Salmond Crisis has sunk hope of Independence ” whilst on the second page another article is headlined that ” UK ready to declare martial law to avert no deal chaos ”

    The anticipation and planning for troops on the streets to put down dissent and anticipated civil disobedience does not in anyway suggest a mature democracy. Rather it suggests a military state run by items and against the people.

    Derry Northern Ireland or Sharpesville South Africa? These are not examples of states that I want to live in but that is where we are headed unless we choose our own path as a confident independent nation participating in s free and open Europe.

    The time is indeed right. There is no time to loose and if they do not give us independence, as they will not, then we must take it.

    The disaster of 1939 to 1945 could have been averted if Hitler had been stopped in the early years. We must do the same and leave and resist being an annex to Fascist England.

    Democracy is too previous to lose.

    1. bringiton says:

      HM press treat the independence movement,and the SNP in particular,as if it were a cult.
      Hence their idea that by discrediting the leadership (or attempting to) they discredit the driving force behind the movement.
      Independence is normal for most countries,it is dependence which is abnormal and that is what should be regarded as a cult.
      How do we wean those who are addicted to the British state away from that malignancy?
      Always difficult with addicts.

    2. Dan Watson says:

      The Tory Government supported by the DUP is threatening to put troops on our streets.
      A very incendiary situation.
      It could be construed as a right wing coup.

  11. Dan Watson says:

    Where there is clear evidence that the Act of Union has been broken, this must be communicated to the Scottish people.
    It must then be raised with the British Govt and if a settlement cannot be reached the Scottish Govt must take action to dissolve the Union.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      The proposed ‘Irish backstop’ (whether ‘temporary’ or not) represents a clear breach of Article VI (Regulations of Trade, Duties etc.) of the Treaty of Union:

      “That all parts of the United Kingdom for ever from and after the Union shall have the same Allowances Encouragements and Drawbacks and be under the same prohibitions restrictions and regulations of Trade and liable to the same Customs and Duties on Import and Export And that the Allowances Encouragements and Drawbacks prohibitions restrictions and regulations of Trade and the Customs and Duties on Import and Export settled in England when the Union commences shall from and after the Union take place throughout the whole United Kingdom “

  12. Lena Hyena says:

    It’s good for people to throw up ideas regarding the move towards reclaiming Scotland’s independence but what’s contained here is a wish list based on shaky foundations.

    Room for manoeuvre towards independence is tightly constrained within the British state (intentionally.) The call for SNP MPs to withdraw from Westminster echoes what’s been said on social media for some time but as little as the notice that is taken of them in parliament in London and by the British media their presence there does provide opportunities for their views to be heard to some extent and more so than if they abandoned the green benches.

    By suggesting Scotland should follow Ireland’s example in 1919 – well, in 1919 the world had just emerged from wholesale slaughter and was undergoing worldwide political upheavals that deeply impacted on lives providing an edge to political actions that is missing today. As worrying and wrong as Brexit is it’s hardly in that league.

    As for hoping for a campaign of civil disobedience I really don’t see that happening unless an even more extreme rightwing party comes to power in England, either Labour or Conservative, and we are seeing signs of extreme xenophobia and racism there including in the mainstream media which could lead to deeper divisions in society and perhaps counter expressions in Scotland might emerge.

    It would be great to think Scots would wish to extricate themselves from this intolerant and unequal union so much they would actively pursue that end but even the simple act of supporting the SNP and Greens by leafleting and chapping on doors is only carried out by a tiny minority of party members and other supporters of the cause. I simply can’t see this lethargy being replaced by highly motivated and active people on the streets. Further the SNP, the main standard bearer for independence, is a reformist party, albeit more radical than the Labour Party (also a reformist party) so there would be no or little backing for civil disobedience coming from that quarter.

    I’ve no idea how independence can be achieved and as I said at the start it’s good to discuss such matters but if there’s one thing the British state is very good at is preserving the status quo.

    1. Lorna Campbell says:

      I would have to agree with much of that, Lena. The problems you have highlighted would appear to be shared by all four of the pre-independence referendum parts. Nothing about neo colonialism simply creates an enervating ennui. Colonialism per se has usually/usually created(s) a resentment that translates into action. In the West, in particular, those who oppress us no longer do so militarily or even with over-zealous aggression most of the time, although, if pressed hard enough, I am sure they would find their mojo in that direction very quickly. Far from economic factors being the main reasons for the large NO vote in both the Scottish Unionist and rUK groups, I think the main reason was and remains neo colonialism, and a brain-washing adherence to ‘British’ values. That is why there has been little movement in the polls for independence (in reality, not just wishful thinking): many of those previous NO voters also voted, by a majority, for Leave. Yes, there were YES /Leave voters, but they were not the majority. This says two things: 1. those voters will never agree to independence through the ballot box; 2. they do not care that Brexit will be economically onerous for most because, for them, it is all about British and English Nationalism. The SNP leaders must know this is the truth and that a second indyref is likely to be lost as was the first. More so, because last time, Westminster and Whitehall did not believe so many of us wanted independence. Now, they do know and the boys and girls from the Thames Embankment will be called to duty, if, that is, they are not already on duty. Bearing that in mind, I am at a loss as to why the most obvious and most efficient, and most likely to be successful route has not been investigated, at least. We see with Brexit that the UK is pulling out of a treaty, and, while it is not universally applauded – far from it, and with the UK in a far less confined situation that Scotland – no one in the international community questions its legality. I am not criticising the SNP leadership because I think they know all the drawbacks, but we will have lost the moment if we do not move soon.

      1. Lorna Campbell says:

        Not with it today. Nothing about neo colonialism should read: something about neo colonialism… Apologies. Could we have an edit button?

        1. I’m your edit button. Fixed.

      2. Alex M says:

        There are steps that can be taken directly. A land tax could be initiated by Holyrood. This can be as simple or complicated as desired. The only iron rule must be non-payment is followed by seizure. Compensation can follow, but not necessarily quickly. Calculations have shown that such a tax if carefully implemented can meet a substantial part of Scottish expenditure. Not raising much, but making a point would be the re-introduction of business rates on sporting estates. Scots need to see what an Independent country can do, and begin to feel the benefits. Demonstrations in London would not affect Scots, and the media would not give much if any attention. Whilst Banking is a reserved matter, we could have a huge Credit Union similar to the German Sparkasse Banks, which could offer a real service to the community. There are lots of ideas out there.

  13. John Kay says:

    Where was this picture taken from. Keir Street or Lauriston Place or George Heriots School.

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