2007 - 2021

Devo Max Not; Independence

The Oracle of Delphi was famed for her ambiguity, for prophesies which could be interpreted as proving true whichever of two outcomes occurred. A probably apocryphal tale tells of a man soon to become a father who travels to ask what sex his child will be born.

The Oracle’s answer was “boy not girl”. So off they went and decorated the nursery in gender-stereotyped colours (or the classical equivalent). When the child was born it was a girl. Non plussed, the man returned to the Oracle demanding a refund. But it was explained to him that the prophesy was actually correct – he just missed out the punctuation.

“Boy not; girl!”

And that is where the independence movement stands – “devo max not; independence!”. Hear what you wanna hear, believe what you wanna believe.

I have been commenting for some time now that in the approach to every SNP conference and National Council we suddenly receive a series of nods and winks about independence – which melt into nothingness as soon as the First Minister can escape the ‘grunts’ and get back to hanging out with Britain’s leading celebrities.

This time, I was told by quite a few people, it would be different. No equivocation, no ambiguity – a plan, a clear plan. It would be a great step forward.

Instead we have taken a step back. On independence we got nothing more than a statement of one person’s general view – that there SHOULD be a referendum before 2021. As in my daughter SHOULD tidy her room, the sun SHOULD shine on Gala Day and I SHOULD have learned Spanish when I was younger.

The reason why I think this is a backwards step is because I rather expect the punctuation to fade, for the balance of the ambiguity in this position to shift. Until, before we know it, the position is:

“Devo max not independence.”

The risks are enormous – what happens if opposition parties come forward with radical plans (whether they intend to deliver them or not)? What happens if the only referendum they will consent to has two options – Devo Max or Independence?

The First Minister doesn’t like to polarise but aspires to a kind of ‘mother of the nation’ status. To balance that role with her need to manage the expectation of her parties, she’s put Devo Max right back on an agenda which desperately didn’t need it.

I can’t say I’m happy about this. The opposition parties were stuck in a kind of Ian Paisley cul de sac where all they could do was shout ‘No!’ while the UK fell apart. That was quite a helpful position for the independence movement to fight against. But for some reason the First Minister thought it would be a good idea to say ‘Scottish Labour, you’re lost and irrelevant on the constitution, so why don’t you come over here and HAVE THIS BIG FUCKING PLATFORM”.

If we were previously in a constitutional tennis match we’re now in a game of four dimensional ping pong. There will be so many constitutional options flying around (“Duck! Here comes federalism again!”) that it will just become harder for us to get our message across.

There are three credible directions from here; the status quo, the federalisation of the UK or independence. And since the only federalisation that would work would require England to federalise itself and set up ten regional parliaments with the full devolved powers of a federal Scottish Parliament, and since this isn’t going to happen, there are really only two options. Revisiting the Smith/Calman Commissions is pointless.

And yet here we are again, partying exactly like it’s 1999 and we’ve not road-tested devolution yet.

It’s sobering when you strip back the Delphic ambiguity from the Sturgeon statement. She’s committed to ‘Section 30 or nothing’, but she’s not getting one. So she places a lot of weight on some unspecified change at Westminster which could allow one.

What, some kind of election which means Westminster doesn’t have a pro-Union majority? That seems unlikely, so is this a genuinely-held opinion or subterfuge?

She places even more weight on Brexit. In fact, she’s so far down that rabbit hole now that no light reaches her. It literally matters not a jot what opinion polls say, what her party says, what logic says – independence for her is now framed wholly as an antidote to Brexit.

So are we now supposed to hope that there really IS a Brexit? If there isn’t, can we credibly shift to saying ‘no, actually it wasn’t really all about Brexit after all?’. Will the leadership ever accept that roughly a fifth of the independence vote is pro-Brexit and nothing like that many pro-Union Remainers have shifted the other way?

But let’s assume that Brexit does happen and Sturgeon manages to convert her ‘should’ into ‘will’ – and she asks for a Section 30. How many times exactly do you think it is credible to signal a definite referendum and then fail to deliver? Personally I’d go for zero, but since we’re already at one I would certainly caution against it becoming two.

I’m pretty sure that there won’t be a Section 30 order during Sturgeon’s tenure. What is she leaving behind for her successor – the sheer mess of a multi-option constitutional future? A Section 30 Groundhog Day?

I’ve spent a career involved in political linguistics, judging whether to describe something as ‘pressing’ or ‘urgent’ to get the tone just right. There is a very fine line between doing it well and doing it badly. When you do it well there is that feeling of admiration, the surprise of ‘ohhhh, they got me’ that you get after a magic trick. When you do it badly there’s a kind of contemptuous feeling of ‘do you think I”m stupid and can’t understand what you actually just said?”.

Setting aside the strategic concerns above, there is one overriding reason why I’m not feeling admiration. I grew up in SNP circles from when I was in a pram. My Proustian madeliene is probably the smell of the dust and old varnish of a cold town hall, of home-baked scones in Tupperware containers, of tea being pored, of wax crayons keeping me busy in the corner. It was the late 1970s, the SNP was energised and those young local men and women fighting for Scottish independence in those local halls inspired me.

It’s 40 years later and they’re not young any more, but they’re still my friends. One I knew well, loved very much and remember as a constant in much of my life; I was at his funeral a couple of years ago.

Since then I have spent much of my life in this new independence movement. All these new faces, sometimes a bit naïve but no less inspiring to me than those people I grew up being babysat by. I have made many new friends to go with the old ones.

I’ve known for about three years now that progress to independence has been utterly mishandled and the results a complete mess. I’ve watched and seen the window for a possible referendum narrow and close. I stopped kidding myself on this was likely to happen pre-2021 almost a year ago.

But I’m an old hand by comparison. I am now watching as gradually the penny is dropping for all these people I care about. They wanted to believe, they wanted to be led. But their leader wanted only their endorsement for her own agenda. And now they’re starting to crash.

That this is happening because those good people were marched up and down the hill again, over and over and all for the cynical purpose of party management, makes the taste all the more bitter for me. (And hell mend you The National for repeatedly announcing referendums as a marketing device.) Hope should not be a carrot you dangle to keep people tame.

Yet here we are, ploughing forward towards the destination Andrew Wilson has been plotting for us – an independence so soft it is actually a Devo Max proposal being cobbled together by Richard Leonard.

The only way to get away with this was to trick people, to let them hear whatever they want without delivering what they actually want. So we now have Schroedinger’s Currency and a Delphic Referendum. Together with a People’s Vote strategy straight from Dr Seuss and a government generating all the excitement of a instruction manual for a tumble dryer, this is what we got for our investment of faith.

I think I’m getting past anger. I think I’m settling down into a state of sadness. Common Weal has fought for the other thing – for a clear plan, for a proper case, for a united movement and for an effective campaign. We’ll keep doing it; there will be no giving up from us (and we’ll always say what we mean and mean what we say).

Hope remains; Scotland will become independent. It’s just further away than it should be and change must come if we’re to get there. For now, let us be strong together and kind to each other. We shall need more fortitude than it was fair or necessary to ask of us.

Comments (37)

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  1. Alex M says:

    I agree with the analysis. It’s either devo-max or independence-light. But the question remains to whom is this “proposal” addressed? We know that a majority of voters born in Scotland voted Yes in 2014, but that 75% of voters born in England voted no. Depending on timing of any new referendum, the EU citizens who were scared into voting No last time, may well not have a vote next time. Unfortunately the present SNP leadership are under the false impression that the English government, and that is in reality what Westminster is, will be conciliatory sooner or later. If we truly want independence we will have to take it, not beg for it.

  2. Alistair Taylor says:

    Ach, don’t be sad, Robin.
    Take a wee break. (Away and walk on a west coast beach with your family in this lovely Spring, or something like that).
    Go easy on yourself, and come back refreshed.
    I heard you speak in Corpach one time. You’re obviously a clever and intelligent person, who has contributed a lot to the independence movement.
    The wheel’s still in spin, (to borrow a snippet from the great Dylan), and there’s no telling who that it’s naming.
    And yes, you’re right, we need to be kind to each other.
    The world needs that.
    For the times they are a’changin’.

    All the best, and thank you for the article. (While i’m here, also thank you Mike Small for Bella Caledonia. I’m not in Edinburgh often, and we’ve never met, but i expect to be in our capital city this week, and would be delighted to drop off a donation to the cause, in your hand.)

    1. Jim Bennett says:

      Very good comment, Alistair.

  3. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    Hi Robin,

    I like most of your pieces but I’m sorry this time I think your way-off-beam, in fact, a load of rubbish sadly. I see Nicola’s tactics as doing everything possible to save ‘Brexit’ so that the yoon press will be unable to accuse us of using ‘Brexit’ as a lever to further the INDEPENDENCE CAUSE. Think about for a while and I’ll think you’ll agree, you know the old and very wise proverb, “Act in HASTE, regret at your leisure.

    1. Stevie says:

      The only thing the SNP have done since the Brexit referendum is try to use the result to crowbar in something legitimate about independence. The reason they’ve had to do so was they put in that ridiculous “material circumstances” clause in their WM manifesto and it came back to haunt them unexpectedly.

      I think the plan was always to be indyref post 2021 but the momentum has been toed right out of the movement over these long years where that energy was used to repeat re-inflate a burst party political baw

  4. Jack collatin says:

    “For now, let us be strong together and kind to each other.”
    Except Nicola Sturgeon? What a contrived nasty wee dig at our FM
    It’s all her fault?
    What a tired narrow view of events.
    The choices are not ‘the status quo, or independence’.
    There is no status quo, Brexit has seen to that.
    We get it: Andrew Wilson’s view of the world is a Capitalist Plot whereas Robin McAlpine’s Common Weal is Socialist Heaven.

  5. Josef says:

    Forgive my intrusion. I am an American, but I have been following events in Scotland closely since 2014. The social ferment of your independence referendum reminded me so much of the Pacific Northwest in the months before the WTO meetings in Seattle in 1999, that it captured my attention. In both, the people were educating themselves and each other, becoming their own experts, organizing in their own communities and workplaces, and feeling political agency for perhaps the first time. I recognized the scent even from 4000 miles away.

    The SNP appears to me to be a party caught on the horns of a dilemma caused by their own post-referendum success, and they don’t know which way to jump. It’s a Party that contains both conservative folk who just want the Capital moved to Edinburgh and a two-color flag, and also people who want independence in order to affect some sweeping social change. The party hierarchy contains some folk who are happy just to make a career out of the SNP, and really don’t care whether Scotland becomes independent or not.

    It must be hard to balance such diverse interests, in order to continue to win elections. But even if they represented more coherent interests, political parties are reluctant vehicles for social change.

    I read a book once called *Weavers of Revolution: The Yarur Workers and Chile’s Road to Socialism* by Peter Winn. Far from being a raging Communist, as reactionaries like to portray him, Chilean President Salvador Allende was more of a mild, social-democrat committed to a cautious revolution from above. But the process that culminated in his winning election set off a popular enthusiasm for immediate social change that he and his party could not contain.

    It was the workers of the Yarur textile mill and (much more significantly) the copper mines, and supported by the general populace, that forced his hand. The workers occupied the mills and the mines and demanded that they be nationalized. Allende had been wary of offending the powerful American copper giant Alcoa, but was swept along by social movements from below that he could not resist.

    Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas is still revered for nationalizing the oil fields in the 1930s. But in this case also, the President only acted after the oil field workers had struck the US-dominated industry and demanded that it be taken into public ownership.

    The Zapatistas have a phrase: *mandar obediciendo*, “to lead by obeying” that expresses their idea of the proper relationship of the people and their representatives.

    My reading of history suggests that Scots may have to drag the SNP to edge of independence and push the frightened horse in. In any case, I wish you all best of luck in your struggle for an independent, more just, and democratic Scotland.

    1. goodgollymissmolly says:

      There is no need to apologise for any (most) comments, particularly such informative ones.

    2. Jim Bennett says:

      Very welcome and useful contribution, thank you!

  6. Andrew Sharp says:

    He’s got a point.
    Two days ago Nicola made a speech in which she stated that a second referendum should take place in the event of Brexit.
    Robin has stated his view of mealy mouthed words like “should”.
    I don’t know Robin; ; but I share his view on this.
    “Should” is passive, weak, and gutless.
    Nicola, try “necessary”, “vital”, “essential”.

    Anyway, to the point.
    What if Brexit is delayed?
    What if it is kicked to death in another general election?
    Or if there’s another referendum and the decision to leave is reversed?
    Well, as a logical progression from Nicola’s speech, there would be NO second referendum, and don’t kid yourselves that the Unionists didn’t note that with glee.
    Where the hell does that leave us?

    Last time I checked we were a party of independence.
    How does that speech help us attain that end?

    We are now well and truly painted into a corner.

    Then, today, Nicola comes out and says that there might just be another referendum if the UK stays in the EU.

    Question; if you have to backtrack or explain a speech just two days after it was made, then who the hell was doing the thinking when the original speech was made?
    A really, really bad tactical error, and major questions need to be asked about the advice that Sturgeon is getting here, and indeed the motivations behind it.
    Big questions.
    The speech stank of spin doctor; of “let’s be careful and keep our options open”, but it could have been also written by a black flag unionist operation to keep the troops quiet without committing to anything.

    We also need to stop being so bloody naive about our relationship with Westminster.
    They are not going to give us another referendum willingly, so why are we even talking about one within the bounds of Section 30? It ain’t going to happen.

    Happily, there’s an answer.
    Every General or Scottish election from this point on should be fought on the agenda of independence, with the statement that a vote for the SNP is primarily a vote for independence.
    That’s it.
    Independence first, last and always; and none of this crap about us forgetting it for ever if we lose another referendum.
    It’s not a game; the concept of “two strikes and your out” is fatuous and infantile.

    OK, it might work; it might not.
    But our current road is doomed to failure.

    We must fight every major Scottish and UK election on the principle of independence.
    we only have to win once.
    The unionists have to win every time.
    I won’t insult you by referring to Bruce and the spider, but the concept of keeping on trying is sound.

    Westminster is more than happy to watch us playing at being a government, as long as they hold the real power.
    They are happy to watch us playing their game.
    It is time we fought elections on our terms, and started being bold; fighting elections on our basic principle of independence, because right now we look like we are feart.
    Feart of what, do you think?
    The media? The establishment?
    I have news for you; we will never win them over, so to hell with them.

    It is time to put them to one side, to have faith in ourselves, ignore the arrogance, the condescension and put downs from London, and to follow our beliefs, and if there are any in the SNP who prefer to wallow in the sandpit of grievance and limited powers, and indeed “devo max”, then they are in the wrong party.

    1. David Allan says:

      Andrew please have a read at a previous Bella article by Bill Wilson 16/6/17 “A Peeliewally Campaign—” it’s archived under Opinion.

      it’ll sound familiar !

      I agree with yourself, Bill and many others.

  7. goodgollymissmolly says:

    Devo-Max is a 75% winner at a future referendum and Robin is correct to say that pro-UK parties could introduce it (via a referendum) before Indy2 and steal a march. In practice, if such a thing were offered to Scotland it would likely need to be offered to the other devolved parliaments; this would require cross-party manifesto commitments in a general election.
    Did Sturgeon offer to enter into such discussions? Maybe. Robin is also correct that Federalism is a non-starter and that change via ordinary legislation is the only realistic option.

  8. James Mills says:

    Robin ,
    Some rather nasty and demeaning comments about Nicola Sturgeon which were completely unnecessary and do not sit well with your previous polite demeanour . You encourage all of us seeking independence to remain respectful and courteous to our opponents – so , is this how you treat your ‘friends ‘ ?

    You are entitled to your view of the FM speech – I did not hear it in the same negative tone that you have appeared to do so , but none of us has the gift of prophesy so we will have to wait and see what comes from it .
    Despite your closing remarks , your whole article strikes a note of despondency that I do not understand given that so much is in the mix vis-a-vis the struggle for Independence .
    Keep the faith , Robin , that you claim to have been cherishing for the last 40 years . I will too !

  9. John McLeod says:

    While I respect Robin’s views, as one of the leading thinkers and commentators on Scottish politics, I heard different things in the First Minister’s speech to the Parliament. It was not a speech that moved me. There are others in the Independence movement who are better at moving and energising people – Alyn Smith, Mhairi Black, Chris Law come to mind. I heard the First Minister say a lot about consensus. I believe that is a good message to get across. Those of use who read BC would support independence under virtually any conceivable set of circumstances. We share a detailed and positive image of what a new Scotland might be like. But there are many others who cannot imagine what it will be like, or have scary images of what could happen. Tangible and concrete examples of consensus politics – Citizen Assemblies and post-Brexit planning (along with all the other types of everyday consensus politics that routinely take place at Holyrood) – all of this lets such people see for themselves what the future will be like. It will be a normal Northern European democracy that does its best to accommodate all points of view. It will not be like a Westminster democracy where one party is allowed to impose its view, while the others just carp from the sidelines.

  10. Gerry says:

    Frustrating as it is I do not agree. I am 70 yrs young and believe me I want Independence now but to say the UK Gov will not grant Sect 30 is wide of the mark. The UK and Scot Govs know full well that to refuse by 20/21 will prompt a constitutional crisis and will likely sway public opinion, further damage the ‘equal Union’ and thus secure Independence by default. Especially if a no deal-Brexit happens which is still likely and as predicted the Scottish economy nose dives it will be difficult the refuse. They will use this to press home their false belief that Scotland cannot stand alone. No the best option for Westminster is to agree and continue to use the dirty tactics that have served them well in the past. We must not forget that this indeed will be the last opportunity for Scotland. Another ‘NO’ vote will scupper this for a generation or more and I guess NS is right to be cautious and too a large extent is relying on the Labour/Tories imploding further and the hit to the economy which will tip the scales. NS can then say how the two main parties have failed Scotland leaving safety of the EU the only sensible option.

  11. Me Bungo Pony says:

    I generally have a lot of time for what Mr McAlpine has to say. But he is wrong here.

    It is easy for him to stand on the side-lines and holler about what the FM should (sic) have done. He does not have to deliver on anything he says. He has no responsibility for delivering the referendum and winning it. It is doubtful any of the “should haves” and “needed to’s” he issues will be remembered (if ever listened to) after the referendum is run. Meanwhile, the FM’s every utterance, strategic decision and expression will be scrutinised, recorded and thrown in her face by ALL (“friend” and foe alike) who disagree with her; and the end result will be her legacy for the rest of her life and beyond.

    The FM has to persuade the “No’s” and “Don’t Knows” of the efficacy of independence to improve their lives and Scotland’s lot in general. She has to take that into account when she formulates policy. She will be judged if it fails. Mr McAlpine has no expectations of him. If he or his tactics “fail” he will not be judged, abused or destroyed politically (and/or personally). She has everything to lose while Mr McAlpine has nothing to lose. She does not deserve his ordure.

    1. Willie says:

      I think MBP that your comments about Nicola Sturgeon having a lot to lose personally, whereas Robin McAlpine doesn’t, illustrate the problem of the careerist sinecure politicos now inhabiting the SNP heirarchy .

      When politicians care more about their personal positions than the vision of independence then you know those politicos are not the ones that will deliver to independence.

      And that is why there is a growing disconnect between the SNP membership ( and independence supporters ) and the current leadership .

      I never thought I’d see the day when the SNP went soft on independence .

      Especially when base line support for independence is sitting at 49%, without a campaign.

    2. Jack collatin says:

      excellent. Perhaps Mr McAlpine should put himself forward for election, or form a People’s Republic of Scotia Party and commit to administering Scotland for the many, not the intellectual Left Wing Elite and navel gazers Few.
      Sturgeon is by any measure a remarkable public servant who is accountable to all Scots for her actions, not just the Red Brigade revolutionaries who can’t be bothered getting their hands dirty in day to day politics.
      Many of us could cobble together a book on our Angela’s Ashes childhoods, believe you me.
      Spare me the professional doomsayer who would perpetuate the Struggle for decades to come racking up guest newspaper columns dosh, TV appearance money, and book deals.
      Sturgeon has to actually run an Administration, while others enjoy a long lie, get up, and split semantic hairs as evidence that their way is the only way, while our children starve, and Davidson returns, a born again Madonna and Child (you can bet on it) champion of the two child cap, the rape clause, and disabled people dying of Red Blue and Yellow Brit Nat Tory assaults on society imposed by Mother Treeza and her BF Ruth.
      Brexit will blow up in their faces, very soon now.
      I’m too old now; I’m Corbyn’s age, a lot younger than Vince, but too old, as are they, to stand and fight.
      The McAlpines of the chatterati are young,
      Put your mouth where your convictions fear to tread. The hustings.

      1. Dear jack – not every political effort has to be expressed as standing for office, Robin McAlpines efforts for the cause of independence have been remarkable, so lets not pretend otherwise.

        As for his being left leaning – he is. This is a left wing magazine he was writing in and you were reading in, so I’m not sure why this has come as a such a terrible shock to you?

        1. Jack collatin says:

          He’s not running the country and facing a diurnal attack from a vapid Red Blue and Yellow Tory Fifth Column and their obliging Fourth Estate.
          His article has elements of a cheap shot, that’s all.
          I am aware of Left Wing leanings, and recall Thatcher and Scargill, twa fleas of the same Them and Us Dug.
          Both died well off.
          Spare me left wing right wing battles.
          I am neither, and from the polls, it appears that I am in the majority.
          There is a Middle Way.

  12. David Grant says:

    Well-stated as always, Robin. Thank you.

  13. MBC says:

    It’s true that the SNP are trapped by Brexit, and that the FM is playing canny. But it is increasingly apparent that she is not a leader but a manager. A very capable manager, who dodges bullets and keeps the ship steady in the mayhem of Brexit. But where is the ship going? She is keeping it steady, no mean feat, but it is going round and round in circles. That was fair enough for a while, but it can’t continue.

    Today sitting near the front row of the main hall at the SNP conference watching the front team on stage and Ms Sturgeon, I was suddenly filled with a great sadness. I can’t really explain it. It was spiritual. On stage the FM looked great, smiling, capable, cheerful, open hearted as she mixed confidently with well wishers and posed for selfies with the crowd. A guy in a kilt wore a T shirt with Nicola’s Army blazoned on it, a devotee. Though she looked confident, capable, professional, sincere, and beamed goodwill, and genuine good humour, I can’t explain it, but against all appearances to the contrary it just felt empty.

    The great sadness I felt was not really about the present scene before me but it was like I experience a kind of historical deja vue; a distant echo and memory of the foreigner Charles Edward Stuart who found himself landed at Moidart and catapulted into the head of a campaign he was no longer interested in spiritually but had to go through the motions of it anyway because it was what he was raised for and it was simply expected of him. There were poor meagre people in a distant land whom he felt no connection with at all and did not know or understand culturally who were willing to give their lives for him and he didn’t actually care. It was guilt at being unable to reciprocate. Those lives so willingly sacrificed meant nothing to him. It was something about the preciousness of life, the generosity of sacrifice, the meagreness of the lives willingly given, and the terror and guilt and sadness that suddenly engulfed him that these lives had meant nothing to him for he felt no connection emotionally to them or their hopes and cause and the campaign he led, was a charade. But I just felt a powerful sense of disconnect between the hopes and faith of the followers and the emptiness of the leaders. It was just a very powerful feeling of guilt and pointless sacrifice of poor people who gave up life, gave up everything for nothing. It was a kind of tragic unrequited love thing, whose pathos was in the meagreness of the people giving up life for a cause the leader did not believe in. Something about a vision lost, a path, a people lost and fading away. And huge guilt, barely named, barely admitted, because the deception was too awful and had not exactly been engineered by the leader, but by the movement. There was the sense of the deception not really being that conscious or witting, just of somebody who found himself in a situation he had inherited and was expected to carry out, and the realisation, too late, that he wasn’t really that interested in it after all.

    And now we are tied to the six tests. As if self-determination was like a mortgage application, an economic transaction.

    1. Me Bungo Pony says:

      Very eloquent MBC. But self indulgent. The SNP now endorse moving to a stand-alone Scottish currency as soon as is practical. It’s a pity about the Six Tests thing but I wouldn’t get too hung up on them. Whether they are strictly adhered to will be a matter for the newly independent govt and the pressures exerted on them. With the Common Weal’s currency plan waiting in the wings, which is not a million miles from the SNP’s new policy, the currency issue looks pretty well nailed down.

    2. David Allan says:

      I’ve been underwhelmed before . Experiencing that “the coin finally drops moment” . And empathise completely .

      Nicola has often stated that she will be judged on “closing the educational attainment gap” that say’s everything you need to know.

      Robin McAlpine articulates the views of many Independence supporters. (I’m not an SNP member)

      Alas Caution and Hesitancy are not qualities that inspire wider support – Commitment ,Passion and Creativity are absent in the SNP Leadership.

      1. Jo says:

        “Alas Caution and Hesitancy are not qualities that inspire wider support – ”

        Just a small point David. I agree on the hesitancy part but I think caution is vital when that is what’s required. I don’t see it as a weakness. The wise person knows when to be cautious.

        Hesitancy, on the other hand, suggests uncertainty and that, obviously, isn’t very inspiring.

        1. David Allan says:

          The SNP exercise a little to much caution, bordering on timerity as in timerous .

          A bit of temerity however would sometimes be welcome and appropriate.

          Boldness is necessary.

          1. Jo says:

            I’ll agree to differ.

  14. Derek Henry says:

    Just wait until you fight the SNP over the EU Robin.

    The time is fast approaching Robin when the Common Weal has to get off the fence and explain the truth about the EU to the Scottish people. Why France is on fire, Greek people set themselves on fire in the streets, Italy has been awashed with a wave of populism and voters across the Eurozone are turning their backs on the neoliberal globalist project in their millions.

    The SNP’s choice of wanting to be at the heart of Europe and tying that to Scottish Independence will go down as the biggest political blunder in our lifetimes. A faux independence built upon a faux idea as the SNP replace one currency slave master with another.

    When you remove from yourself from the fence. To explain to Scottish voters the truth that Scotland can have an independent currency and be sovereign, but still remain a currency slave and locked into an EU prison via the treaties. It will be too late. You will have missed the boat.

    It will be too late because, If you thought it was hard yesterday getting a fudged proposal through by 52 votes on the currency and 6 tests issue. The SNP and the Indy movement who have been fooled by the EU will steam roll right over the top of you. As they march head on into the European Union with the momentum of a 1000 tonne juggernaut that can’t be stopped.

    The SNP have managed to replace……

    Life long Indy supporters who have wanted to leave the EU ever since the Mastricht and Lisbon Treaties.


    People who have never wanted independence but want to be ruled and owned by Brussels.

    Quite and achievement Robin. Whilst all along our opponents haven’t moved an inch. The small “C” conservatives, the Dyed in the wool unionists, the fishing communities just have one decision to make. Do they vote for the Brexit Party or the Tories.

    One day soon I hope you write an article about your own personal view that is open and honest about what you really think about the SNP spending 2 years trying to overturn the Brexit democratic referendum result. Reguardless of how Scottish voters voted on it. Scotland is still part of the union Robin the SNP should have respected the result.

  15. Derek Henry says:


    The Common Weal can’t attack the Growth Comission and the 6 tests.

    Then completely ignore the stability and growth pact, the 6 pack, the 2 pack and the excessive debt proceedure and what’s embedded within the EU treaties like a stick of Blackpool rock.

    After all it is where Andrew Wilson got all his ideas from for the Growth comission. It was neoliberal central and the train is leaving the station. The Common Weal have to start holding Nicola to account on her position on Europe.

    2 years ago, was the time to stop speaking out of 2 sides of the same mouth and saying different things before it is too late before Scotland ends up in the centre of the neoliberal globalist mess the EU has created.

    That’s where it is all heading and you won’t be able to stop it. No matter how hard you try. You are years behind the curve on this one it’s time to wake up.

  16. w.b. robertson says:

    the movement was on track…then along came the EU train. the SNP leaders are on this roller coaster and can`t get off. I am a Yesser and a Leaver. Like a lot of Scots who don`t want their country to be free of WM – but under the rule of Brussels.

    1. David Allan says:

      like myself I hope .

      Still a Yesser and hoping the EU membership decision becomes an issue to be resolved after another Independence is achieved.

      Full membership or a Norway Style or any other options being left to be decided by Scot’s after Indy. Not by the SNP before Indy.

      1. David Allan says:

        Typed in haste -you’ll get the gist!

  17. Me Bungo Pony says:

    The thread is full of those who believe the demise of the EU and the subsequent decline into a mass of squabbling states fighting against each other instead of working together will usher in some kind of Socialist/Right Wing (take your pick as both sides seem to relish the prospect) Nirvana. They are deluded. Trump, Putin and Xi Jinping would relish the thought though, as Europe dwindled into an irrelevant back-water ripe for the picking.

  18. Rentaghost says:

    An interesting article, and one that places McAlpine in the same camp of opinion as Stuart Campbell regarding the intent of the FM and the wider SNP leadership over a referendum. Unsurprisingly both want to see a far more concrete strategy in place for moving towards a definitive referendum. Campbell as far as i can tell wants the SNP to try the S30 case at the supreme court. I don’t think it’s that easy, I think there is a significant amount of acting going on just now.

    Neither side want’s to test the S30 issue at court. Presently we have Schrodinger’s interpretation of politics: testing it in court would force a collapse of states down to one side or the other, and neither will risk being on the losing side of that.

    We must assume an S30 order would never be granted. Or if it were, Ruth Davidson would need to be the First Minister and the question on the ballot would be “Do you wish to remain in the bountiful land of Hope and Glory or will Nicola Sturgeon spirit your first born away in the dead of night” We only got the last one because Cameron was an incredibly arrogant person with a penchant for gambling. Perhaps the SNP could horsetrade away their votes over Brexit for an S30 order, but that’s a dangerous game to play on two fronts: One, that the Prime Minister you make the deal with is still around to give you your S30, or at least that their successor would honour such an agreement. Secondly, that you make the SNP look like political opportunists who will say and do whatever is necessary to get their way, which undercuts any attempt by them to persuade others of the merits of independence.

    So, a consultative referendum then. However, how do you vault above matters of legitimacy. How do you prevent Unionist led councils boycotting the process entirely? How do you get Westminster to respect the result? I suspect the only way you can do that is by trying to bring as much of the country behind the idea as possible. In that respect, both the Citizen’s assembly and the platform for the other parties makes sense. There is no way round this but to play it with a straight bat as they have with Brexit. It has to be basically the last option standing: We tried to save the UK from Brexit, we tried to work with the other parties to limit the damage and enhance devolution, we canvassed as much opinion as possible…. Now it’s this version of the UK forever, or our independence.

    The UK is not Spain. With a radically different history behind them, I don’t think Westminster wouldn’t respect a vote for Independence, at least under a narrow set of circumstances. If it looks like a narrow SNP interest, then Westminster can block it. If it looks like the popular will of the people, it’s far harder to ignore. Getting to that stage is the hard bit, but in doing so you’d basically win the referendum before it was held. Which we kinda need to do anyway. I suspect after the mess with Brexit, no one wants to try their luck with a 50% + 1 type of strategy. We’d need to win the next one big, so as not to invite challenge.

    Where I do agree with McAlpine is that I’d dearly love to see the other options numerated, but we aren’t going to get that now. With no set date, no written down strategy then the idea of the next referendum becomes somewhat faith based, presently. We fucked up the first one, so that’s our penance I guess. FWIW I don’t think Sturgeon’s speech came across as half hearted. She’s clearly trying to march her troops up that hill, and to do so knowing your only going to march them back down is not something I think she’d do, either as a political operator or even just in her personality. She is a reasonably straight shooter.

    I still think we will see that referendum pre-2021. However it will require significant hand holding of the country before that, unless an opportunity at Westminster suddenly arises. I think it won’t have an S30 order attached and because of that there are significant political and PR issues that can only be overcome by effectively offering everyone their say first, by continuing to play brexit with a straight bat and to try become a popular movement again above and beyond party dynamics. This site asks us to behave as if we’re already living in the early days of a better future. That’s precisely what we have to do, to campaign like there is a referendum tomorrow, now. To make it an inevitability in the hearts and minds of the country, so that the politicians can only follow.

    1. Jack collatin says:

      Christ, this is ‘what have the Romans ever done for us?’level comments.
      Imagine Ruth Davidson and Miles Briggs running the country.
      Or James Kelly as Finance Minister.
      Hot air never fed or clothed or housed anyone.

  19. Jo says:

    Well, who’d have thought! We don’t see or hear Ruth the Mooth for months and then….wham…. Indyref2 is mentioned and there she is, on BBC Scotland resurrecting the slogan that served her so well during the 2017 GE….”NO INDYREF2!”

    Ruth, who was probably dreading her big return because of the shambles unfolding at Westminster and the sheer incompetence of her Party, was smiling broadly. She was back in her happy place….avoiding the carnage that her Party has caused over Brexit and kicking lumps out of Indyref2. It’s like she’s looking forward to getting back to work after all.

    1. Jack collatin says:

      Jo eats shoots and leaves

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