What both sides of the SNP’s Indy schism get wrong

Until recently, the “Sturgeonite” mainstream position within the SNP has been that Westminster will be cowed by the unstoppable abstract and non-physical force of the ‘democratic mandate’ produced by another victory at Holyrood, and concede a Section 30 order of its own will absent any other forces coercing it to do so. That is to say, the British state would willingly concede its very own territorial integrity with no resistance. The example of 2014 is frequently invoked to demonstrate that the British state is willing to do so. Needless to say, this is utter fantasy. Cameron agreed to the 2014 referendum not out of any hallowed democratic principle, but because of an overconfidence swayed by polling at the time which suggested that “Yes” was a fringe proposition, and that defeating it by a landslide at the ballot box would effectively put the issue to rest forever. That history would go on to prove him wrong is ultimately his own failure of judgement, not a demonstration of the British establishment’s magnanimity.

Regardless, this fantastical position has continued to remain the official party line despite endless interrogation from critics, who have failed to secure so much as a word of what the plan is when (rather than if) No. 10 says no. The SNP leadership have simply used sleight of hand by throwing democratic buzzwords around and at the very most, teasing the prospect of vague legal challenges. However, a recent interview of Nicola Sturgeon gives us an inkling of what her real thought process may look like. When challenged on BBC Breakfast, she addressed Boris claiming:

We see across the Atlantic right now what happens to leaders who try to hold back the tide of democracy – they get swept away.”

This explicit reference to Trump – addressed to “Britain Trump” – is in equal parts both mystifying and illuminating. The common wisdom among fleet street politicos is that Boris Johnson’s career – owing to his unpopularity, multiple failures, Tory division and family issues – doesn’t have much shelf life left. But few think he won’t make it to the end of the parliamentary term. In other words, he’s not going anywhere until 2024, and Sturgeon is putting all eggs in the basket of hoping that whoever replaces him in 2024 – the likeliest successors being either Keir Starmer or Rishi Sunak – will be more willing to entertain a referendum than he was. This is in large part what is also informing Downing Street’s “just say no” strategy – it’s not a strategy. It’s just stonewalling until 2024, until Scotland becomes Sunak or Starmer’s problem.

Why does it matter that the personally Jock-baiting, pugilistic, polarising right-populist Johnson will be replaced by somebody of the centre in 2024? Both the microwaved Blair tribute act Starmer and slippery, effortlessly Cameroonian Sunak have very respectable approval ratings in Scotland – especially the latter, whose popularity far outstrips that of his party and any other Tory politician north of the border. Polling overwhelmingly suggests that the surge in support for independence has also come primarily from ‘No 2014, Remain 2016’ crossover voters and middle-to-higher income earners in the ABC1 social categories. On an institutional level, support for Yes has also grown among the white collar sectors of ‘civic Scotland’ that were traditionally beneficiaries of British patronage – higher ups in the public sector, academia, certain elements of business, arts and culture, the legal profession, the ‘third sector’ and NGOs etc. Although not certain, it is highly possible – even likely – that a return to the centrist consensus at Westminster, accompanied by a revised devolution settlement that permanently entrenches the interests of civic Scotland’s discontents currently flirting with separation, could douse the passions roused by disgust at Boris, Brexit and COVID and allow the middle classes of Kelvingrove, Stockbridge and Rubislaw to “go back to brunch”, as their class-ideological counterparts across the pond in the US are doing now that the Bad Orange Man is on his way out. Think of it as the global “great reset” of the centre, but engineered in the imaginations of Charlotte Street Partners and Reform Scotland.

What makes Sturgeon’s US election comparison truly baffling is the fact that Donald Trump clearly isn’t bending to the popular will in any way whatsoever. Since losing, he has launched a barrage of lawsuits trying to have results invalidated, spread baseless conspiracy theories and tried (to no avail) to have other Republican officials and legislators in battleground states override the electoral process. Unlike many panicked left-liberals, I am of the view that these attempts are laughable, unserious and not worth dignifying with apocalyptic terror at the prospect of a “coup” or anything such. Nevertheless, it is not some abstract democratic will that is nudging Trump out of office and facilitating the transfer of power to Biden – it is the American state itself. Donald Trump has always had an uneasy relationship with the actual sources of power and authority in his party and the US state apparatus – especially the security/intelligence deep state, the military-industrial complex and public bureaucracy. Even before the news agencies had called Pennsylvania for Biden, the US air force had already begun to implement a No-Fly-Zone above the Biden home city of Wilmington, Delaware. Trump’s four years have greatly scrambled the coordinates of the US state apparatus, while Biden has triumphed as a restorationist who will bring back its coherence and unity. This falls completely flat in a British context, where the SNP will always be forced to occupy a fundamentally anti-state position, and the Tories (and Labour) will always be its effective vanguards. To believe that an abstract sentimental ‘respect for democracy’ will be enough for a section 30 order is magical thinking.

On the other side of the aisle, the intra-SNP dissidents of various stripes who believe that the leadership isn’t doing enough to advance independence correctly identify the reality that Boris Johnson is unlikely to concede a legally binding referendum, and that this reality must somehow be worked around. Unfortunately, the dominant counterproposition – “Plan B” of a unilateral referendum or proxy indyref achieved through a Holyrood victory – contain the same pitfalls. To believe that the UK government will somehow recognise the result of a wildcat vote and earnestly accept negotiations for the division of assets and transfer of sovereignty is every bit as much an example of magical thinking. Both plans are devoid of serious analyses of where power lies in the British state, what levers can be wedged against it and the strategy necessary to do so.

Taking comparisons with autocrats abroad to the next level is the highest profile advocate of ‘Plan B’, Angus Brendan MacNeil. Last week, he responded to news of Belarusian dictator Lukashenko’s imminent resignation by proclaiming it as an example of how “the ballot box rules”. Lukashenko of course, ran a highly rigged election and imprisoned or exiled all of his political opponents, making the ballot box a cheap rubber stamp for his regime. He was forced to announce his resignation by waves of millions of citizens taking to the streets to rally against him, creating blockades, clashing with security forces, organising mass industrial action such as strikes, and generally making the country ungovernable. The lesson to take from Belarus is not the strength of democratic norms, but of mass power and organisation.

The emergent possibility of an independent pole within the movement, around a mass democratic non-party organisation modelled on the Catalan ANC or YesCymru, offers a path forward. If we follow the leadership ‘Plan A’, move past a refused Section 30 order and wait until 2024, momentum may stall and Westminster may regain the initiative by offering a devolution deal that sates the civic Scottish establishment and middle class, making independence impossible for the foreseeable future. ‘Plan B’ will add the extra step of an unrecognised wildcat referendum unaccompanied by other mobilisations and reach the same dead end. Ultimately, the only thing that can force Downing street to concede either a binding referendum, or recognition of a unilateral one, is to threaten it with a far worse alternative such as making the country entirely ungovernable, the way Belarusian and Catalan masses did. Such a threat cannot be fashioned out of thin air, it must be underpinned by popular grassroots institutions of the kind that the nascent ‘Yes Alba’ promises to be. Whatever happens to that one organisation, this ought to be the direction that the wider independence movement travels in, one which renders the artificial ‘Plan A’ vs. ‘Plan B’ divide irrelevant.

Comments (64)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Daniel Raphael says:

    Anyone who recognizes the essential lawlessness of the Tory regime should be able to see that mere public sentiment–in the form of elections, or otherwise–cannot compel the English state to allow its putative partners to depart of their own will. Thus, an effectively organized mass-based movement prepared for direct action, is a wise step to take well in advance of the anticipated moment of collision (or break). This is political common sense.

  2. Jacob Bonnari says:

    This is a good critical analysis of the situation.

    I’m reminded of the fact that several Church of Scotland ministers took part in the anti-nuclear protests at Faslane, and were arrested for their civil disobedience. Those ministers believed so much in their goal that they would break the law and be prepared to go to jail for what is a political as much as moral view.

    I don’t see anybody in the SNP leadership who ever took part in those protests and showed that level of commitment to peaceful civil disobedience. There needs to be such a leader, male or female it doesn’t matter, as that sends the message that the leader is prepared to stake their liberty for a peaceful political goal.

    1. ANDREW SANDERS says:

      One ,of many , problems is that the right-wing are equally capable of launching a civil disobedience campaign. In fact I have a feeling that some indigenous groups as well as some from N.I. would have caused trouble had we won the 2014 referendum. I’m not opposed to civil disobedience, indeed I was arrested at Faslane a number of years ago, but a strategy for that course of action is also required. In short, I’m impatient for independence ( at 82 I have my reasons! ) but am unclear as to our best route.

      1. Jacob Bonnari says:

        Thank you for the reply.

        I agree that the objective of any civil disobedience needs to be clear and achievable, tokenism just won’t do. I’ve read some stuff from Commonweal on what might be done and the first thing I’d like to see is for the SNP MP taking procedural steps to make WM a sticky place “I spy strangers etc”. Even Michael Hesletine swung the mace and disrupted proceedings.

        But right now, there’s no courage in the SNP leadership of this sort.

        1. Mary McCabe says:

          I agree that inside the House of Commons s the best place to start a civil disobedience campaign.

          The civil disobedience has to be London -based. If it happens in Scotland those in power won’t notice it or if they do will use it to paint the Scottish Government as incompetent.
          Our MPs are in London anyway and so you’re not asking activists to give up their jobs and lives and families indefinitely. The many archaic rules of the House of Commons are dear to the UK Government’s hearts and disrespecting them will cut them to the core. If the Speaker throws our MPs out so much the better – anything’s better than being ignored. And the only other time they tried it SNP membership shot up.

          Far more effective than boycotting the place – a ploy which REALLY gets you ignored.

          Ian Blackford (on one of the rare occasions Parliamentary civil disobedience was suggested to him) said it wasn’t as easy to filibuster Parliament as it was in Charles Parnell’s time – they had tightened things up. But the real reason, as you say, is a lack of courage and a feeling of awe at being allowed into these hallowed chambers – the “imposter syndrome”.

      2. Roisin Murphy says:

        Hi Andrew,
        It was great to read your comment on Faslane and your being arrested there. You were part of that great movement at that time. So committed and underlooked.
        Do you remember Billy Wolfe?
        I read about him – sitting in the middle of the road- demanding to be handcuffed and taken to prison – and he was in his 80’s too!!!
        More power to you, pal.

        1. ANDREW SANDERS says:

          Thanks, Roisin. I also remember going down to demonstrate at the Holy Loch. In fact someone took a photograph of me standing beside Lord MacLeod ( twice my height ! ) I often wonder if people ask, “Who’s that standing beside Andy Sanders?” Incidentally, I meet up with my two cellmates every year ( had to miss this one) on the anniversary of our arrest. You definitely meet a better class of people in scottish cells !

  3. Tom Ultuous says:

    Good article Tejas. It’s a pity smug Dave (the man who gambled his country for the sake of a commons majority) hadn’t went the logical route and had an English independence referendum instead of an EU one and we’d already be home and dry. Totally agree with the way you see it.

    1. Axel P Kulit says:

      There seems to be a growing demand for independence from England. If Brexit is cancelled or postponed for a long time, we should tell the English that it was Scotland influenced WM who chose the Union over Brexit. While this could backfire, with a call to abolish Holyrood, it its worth a try

      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        Agreed although I suspect Johnson intends to take the ship down with him.

        1. Axel P Kulit says:

          I think it is worth telling Leave.eu and similar FB groups that Brexit would have been completed long ago had Scotland not been in the UK. Alternatively to say that it would have been completed had England not been in the UK

          1. Tom Ultuous says:

            To say nothing of Ireland. If there’s a no deal Brexit the chaos at ports and airports will render the “UK” mainland an open goal for the IRA. The English will be crying out for independence.

  4. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

    ‘… a mass democratic non-party organisation…’

    Aye, in your dreams!

    1. Ian says:

      Are you suggesting it is not possible to create such a movement?

      1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

        Yes. Event organisers (‘activists’) might be able to muster a goodly number of evangelicals and enthusiasts that will, Faslane or Extinction Rebellion style, disrupt the traffic and generally annoy the public while enjoying a good day out, but they won’t be able to mobilise Middle Scotland into a mass movement for Independence because:

        a) Middle Scotland (today’s liturgical equivalent of the old ‘masses’ of industrialised society) is too divided (more or less right down the middle on the issue of Independence, not to mention among all the various ‘identities’ by which its constituents seek to distinguish themselves from one another) to form a coherent ‘mass’ organisation on the old socialist model, and

        b) outside the activist bubble, Middle Scotland is massively too conservative and apolitical to be overly bothered by much beyond the bread-and-butter problems of modern family life.

        It’s for these reasons too that I understand the urgency of getting a second referendum done and dusted while the swingometer of the opinion polls is pointing in a favourable direction and before ‘a [possible, perhaps even likely] return to the centrist consensus at Westminster… douses the passions roused by disgust at Boris, Brexit and COVID and allow the middle classes… to “go back to brunch”.’

        1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

          Hooray! I’m able to post again. The gremlins have been defeated.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Foghorn Leghorn, on gremlins: if you comment a lot to this site, you may find that each post adds some new piece of data to your browser’s associated cookie file, which is posted back with each comment, until it is so large it exceeds the site’s acceptance threshold, and you get shown an error (which may be technical and difficult to interpret). Then you may have to go into your browser and clear out the cookie file for bellacaledonia.org.uk (leaving all other cookies untouched). This might lose you a couple of saved settings or so (if you use the “Save my name and email in this browser for the next time I comment” option, say) but next time you may be able to comment without error. You can test if the problem affects only one web browser by trying another (or another device).

            For example, if you are using Firefox, here is the official instruction page:

            Of course, I recommend you check with someone web-knowledgeable if you have doubts. And this is only one of I-don’t-know-how-many possible reasons for comment-posting difficulties (albeit one that sneaks up on frequent commenters).

          2. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            Thanks, SD. I set all my browsers to clear all cookies when they’re closed as a matter of course; so it can’t be that. The experience of being occasionally prevented from posting isn’t that big a deal for me. I journal what I write anyway, which is the object of the exercise; I only miss the feedback.

        2. I’m not sure if everyone shares your reality and your complacency, nor am I so sure that the economic upheaval that has come with covid (maybe you aren’t affected in any way?) and the coming socio-economic crisis heralded by the Brexit fiasco won’t impact on the previously comfortable.

          1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            I’m sure not everybody does, and we can always hope for the worst with regard to the economic consequences of Brexit, our response to the pandemic, and their political management. There’s nothing like a bit of suffering to wake people up a bit.

            Meanwhile, I’ve had to put up with the inconveniences attendant on the measures put in place to mitigate the risk of our health services being overwhelmed by the pandemic as much as the next body; although being retired has so far insulated me from the economic changes that the natural phenomenon is occasioning in our environment. I’ve also lost neighbours and more casual acquaintances to the disease – my nearest neighbour, Jack Dunlop, a fine man who could turn his hand to anything and had in spades the great Scottish virtue of ‘botherin naeb’dy’, was an early causality during the first wave. And the pub’s shut! And you’ve got to queue outside in the rain for a fish supper.

            But I’ve also had to put up with my mother regaling me with Pythonesque stories of the 1920s, ‘30s, and the years of war and reconstruction, when death and income insecurity were a constant, the moral being that, nowadays, we don’t even know we’re living.

            No doubt, the challenges of Brexit and our recovery from the pandemic will conspire to produce a further period of (likely more severe) austerity economics. But as my mother defiantly asserts, with a wee set to her jaw and a wee shake of her fist: we haena deed a winter yet; this too shall pass.

            Political indifference among the less leisured classes. That’s what… I say, that’s what you’re up against, son. Which is why you’d better get that anti-establishment protest vote won before the wind changes again.

            And, in postscript: isn’t it interesting how the second referendum is increasingly being marketed as a vote AGAINST this, that, and the next thing rather than one FOR anything? Basically, the case for Independence has become little more than an appeal to jump out of the frying pan.

            Such positivity!

          2. Axel P Kulit says:

            “And, in postscript: isn’t it interesting how the second referendum is increasingly being marketed as a vote AGAINST this, that, and the next thing rather than one FOR anything? Basically, the case for Independence has become little more than an appeal to jump out of the frying pan.”

            Just as fear motivates people more than hope, discontent with WM is more likely to generate a YES vote, once it overcomes fear of change, than hope for the future.

            Once it gets personal for the complacent apolitical middle classes there will be a landslide. If, as the Tories want, Holyrood is abolished, there will be landslide for YES. How that is implemented is another question.

          3. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            Another wee thought:

            History evolves aimlessly, like a market, driven by the innumerable material decisions we make in our daily lives, frustrating any attempt to regulate it or bend to any programme the democracy of the general will that is continually emerging from and dissolving back into the constantly shifting global aggregations of our individual behaviours

            The idea that we can somehow engineer our futures and be the masters of nature and that part of nature we call ‘human history’ is an Enlightenment prejudice, the ideological character of which has long since been unmasked. (As Žižek proclaims from the Hegelian depths of his Marxism: everything is ideology.)

            Bourgeois political activism, which seeks to at least influence the power of the state in its modern regulatory role, is on a hiding to nothing, since the state is impotent as a historical agent. Historical agency lies instead in the fickle general will that emerges, like evolving life itself, from the global indeterminacy of the innumerable.

            The curse of the Independence movement, why it will ultimately founder, is its desire to foresee and guide the course of events. What we’ll get will be what we always get, and what Scotland needs: a great upwelling of the impredictable and incalculable, Adam Smith’s unbridled market forces.

            That’s what my old anti-bourgeois, anti-politics Stoic of a mother would say anyway if only she had the words. As it is, she just dips her hand into the poke of pan drops she keeps tucked down the side of her armchair, glours scornfully at the political ‘cairy-oans’ on her telly, and growls through the rattling of her wallies that ‘they s’ud awa an wirk’.

  5. David says:

    A lot of support for independence goes no further than marking yes for independence on a referendum ballot paper. I think the current unionist government believes that Scotland does not have the bottle or potential for civil disobedience on the scale that would be required to bring about the right to have another legally binding vote on independence supported and facilitated by both sides. The unionist establishment knows that conceding a vote now is very likely to end the UK but they also quietly know that there are many strategies and ideas that they can deploy to delay that vote. If independence is going nowhere it it will be because the passive majority, who hold the biggest share of the yes2 votes that we need, will continue to prioritise a quiet life over any political act beyond the cross on the ballot paper.

    1. Jacob Bonnari says:

      This is correct. I agree.

  6. Ian says:

    Excellent article.

  7. Graham King says:

    I believe Unionist politicians do take the threat of Scottish independence seriously.

    I believe that is part, maybe a major part, of the reason behind Boris Johnson’s recent announcement of a massive planned rise in Forces expenditure.

    That is meant, I reckon, to (1) intimidate and deter any assertion of independence, and (b) equip the rUK for forceful suppression if – or rather, when – regardless, Scotland’s independence is declared.

    Far-fetched? Look how brutally Spain – an EU member – treated the Catalonians, merely for holding and voting in a referendum without Spanish state approval.

    And what consequences has Spain suffered?
    So why should a UK goverment that has left the EU shrink to do similarly?

    1. Al Sutton says:

      We are a neighbouring country, not a province. Invasion may be viewed a bit differently than policing.

  8. Josef Ó Luain says:

    An excellent analysis, but your conclusion, it saddens me to say, is unimaginable in a society lacking a hungry middle-class and a tradition of direct-action.

    1. Wul says:

      “….in a society lacking a hungry middle-class….”

      Let’s see what Brexit’s “Sunny Uplands” of March-April ’21 bring. There could be plenty of hunger to go around.

      Spring is always the hungriest time of the year, and the next one could be very lean indeed. “More turnip darling..?”

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Wul, I wonder what flags will be on the famine-relief bags of flour and pasta then?

      2. Foghorn Leghorn says:

        We may live in hope, Wul. Roll-on the bad times!

  9. Robert Hughes says:

    Excellent article , with which I wholly agree . Also agree the current SNP leadership manifestly lacks the spirit of defiance that will be required when the blatantly ineffectual ” strategy ” of expecting the scraggy tabby to change it’s spots fails to materialise . Not so sure of the accuracy of some comments here regarding the complacency of the Scottish people , sure , it’s probably fair to say the majority of Independence supporters would much rather avoid the scenes of violence meted out to Catalan Independistas , but it could be a completely different scenario when the devastating impact of ( particularly a No Deal ) Brexit kick-in , exacerbated by the present and continuing financial damage wrought by C19 and people start experiencing real hurt to their standards of living and prospects . We may not have a history of mass public protest – not in recent times anyway , but we’re living in tumultuous times where unexpected events are becoming much less surprising .

    1. Daniel Raphael says:

      Good comments (yours and generally, in response to this article). The “quiet life” is indeed desired by most people, and even when that quiet masks quiet desperation and no small amount of suffering, there is hesitation to enter into the uncharted realm of major societal upheavals. Even in revolutions, it is safe to generalize, most people are not “at the tip of the spear” when it comes to risking all for the sake of urgently desired change. A lot of the support for change is a matter of shadings of degree of attitude and of activism, all the way from those who are always quiet, to those variably willing to help and even to risk, depending on their own situation and appreciation of overall conditions. If it helps to mention it, in the revolution that produced the United States, some of the colonies recruited more loyalists who supported the British crown than rebels who opposed it. I mention this only to illustrate that whatever circumstances apply at the time, active support will be variable both as to numbers and degree. That’s to be expected. Generalizations about “the Scottish people” are accordingly just that–generalities necessarily highly protean in character, and subject to radical alteration and even reversals. The conclusion, of course, is not just to anticipate or try to analyze it…but to (as the Star Trek captain liked to say) “make it so.” And that’s where the matter of how and what to organize as a vehicle and resource for mass direct action comes in.

      Whatever you do, be a bit kind to yourselves–no one has a formula or analysis that’s going to please all. It’s not necessary, and you have a good case for independence. Being prepared, mobilizing *now*, is the key to success.

      1. Robert Hughes says:

        Agreed Daniel . Thanks for your comment . Insightful as always

  10. Axel P Kulit says:

    I hate to say it but I agree with this article. Waiting till 2024 could kill off independence support.

    Civil disobedience might work but as you say needs to be planned. Expecting Scotland to rise up and hack Westminster’s computers and clog their system, for example, is daydreaming. Expecting mass protest ( and the indy marches have only energised a tiny fraction of the population) is unrealistic

    Suppose Brexit is cancelled, Johnson vanishes and Sunak, as PM gives us effective home rule ( so no blaming WM for Scotgove mistakes) and makes Holyrood genuinely permanent, making sure they cannot abolish it by a series of statutory instruments. And suppose he gives Scotland/Scotgov much more money. What happens to Indy support then? We have to rely on demographic change and a long memory of the years from 2014 to 2024.

    Kicking Brexit into the Long Grass with a 3 or ten year transition period extension would have much the same effect as cancelling it. For Johnson this would create a threat from Farage.

    Suppose we do exit, it is a disaster, we wait till the rich brexiteers have made their gains and JRM starts campaigning to rejoin the EU (for example). Suppose we then rejoin, with Bozo and the Brexiteers (safely out of politics with their gold plated pensions) taking the blame for the problems that bankrupted the UK. We will be back to where we started with a lot of soft yes and no to yes voters swinging back to no and sighing with relief. Can we be sure enough will remain YES?

    I must confess I am beginning to think the dream of a Gold Standard consultative indy ref will not work. Unfortunately I can not see any alternative that will work.

  11. MBC says:

    Scotland is only UK territory because we allow to share it. We are not prisoners of England. We entered freely by treaty in 1707 and may leave freely if we wish to do so. We just have to want to. Scotland is not the UK’s territory by their right but by our consent.

  12. Allen Mark Gordon says:

    Christ on a bike, whilst it is a grammatically outstanding Article: Johnson won’t give Scotland a referendum, they’ve had one already but whoever is trundled out after BJ has gone might, you never know. A political science paper if I ever saw one.

    1. Axel P Kulit says:

      England will agree to a referendum if
      (1) They think they will win
      (2) They want to get rid of Scotland but want to blame the Scots.

  13. Mark says:

    Guid luck gettin the hoity toity middle class yuppies tae organise and go on strike. Be fun tae swatch.

    1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

      Hear! Hear!

  14. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    I don’t think I have ever read a less persuasive piece of fancy for quite some time. Appears to be based on the premise that Boris Johnson has something like supernatural powers over all our democracy and that the UK, an original signatory on the UN Charter and a member of the Security Council of it, will stand in front of the world (while looking desperately for friends) by defying the compelling democracy that forms that charter.
    The real situation is that Boris Johnson’s is redundant, his time is up and he will not be PM next year so the whole piece is entirely without any sense. We will probably be facing the heavily promoted Sir Keir Starmer who has already conceded we have the right to have a referendum. It is entirely possible that there will be a vote of no confidence in this government brought about by a rebellion in the Tory ranks which is being manufactured and is showing signs of growing. Gove against Starmer? Should Starmer backtrack on his position on our right to choose the Labour Party in Scotland will collapse.

    1. Thanks Dave – I also disagree with Tejas’s analysis of Johnson’s powers. I don’t agree that they will forever reject a referendum. I believe this from analysis of how Britain works over time. They will resist change and suppress democracy for as long as possible then they will crumble under the pressure of overwhelming pressure. I do however agree with the writers view that the campaign should include peaceful NVDA and symbolic protest.

  15. Dave says:

    Good article. Which highlights the “potential reality”. I believe this is how it is going to go. The only way, that there could be a different outcome is as you alluded to is if the SNP adopt a more radical offensive (forward) approach. This doesn’t look likely. Instead, we are playing the usual hard done by ala Ian Blackford attitude and the subservient supine stance whenever Westminster says “No”. If there is nothing 100% definitive from the SNP next year then the same approach will be adopted by them..for another few years. There will be indignation for the next few years. Inertia will settle in…and the days, months and years will trundle on. Again, unless something more radical is done..which is unlikely as appeasing the establishment is now the game to appease the centre right and basically most of middle England.

    A Question(s) that should be asked to all of those with “faith” in the SNP to get us independence is ..
    Q. Do you believe that the SNP will get Scotland an Independence referendum next year.
    Yes or No.

    Q. If No, when or how long will you give them.., or is it an indefinite period ie the next 15 years you believe we will be independent?

    1. Paddy Farrington says:

      We need to get away from the passive attitude to the SNP portrayed here, in which you either attack the SNP or “have faith” in the SNP. The SNP is a key player in the electoral field, and I will be working to secure an SNP majority for independence in the next elections . This has nothing to do with “faith”: I believe in collective action, one part of which is electoral action.

      A key factor missing from Tejas’ analysis is the whole question of balance of forces. At present, the pro-indy side stands at around 56% in the polls. The higher that number, the more chance of success we have: our first aim must be to build on that. We need to make the idea of independence hegemonic, in Gramscian terms. This involves several levels of engagement. One, denied to us just now, is canvassing, campaigning, talking to people. Another is building strategic alliances: getting the Labour movement, the STUC, key opinion formers, onside. Eventually, this may lead to effective direct action with popular support, but the groundwork needs to be laid down first, and this won’t be done through social media but through grassroots campaigning. Including within the SNP and the Greens.

      But there are other levers we can seek to use. If Westminster do end up denying democracy, it is up to us to ensure that they pay the full political price for it, and not just in Scotland. Our movement will need to become very visible outside Scotland. We have several avenues open to us which we have, as yet, barely explored. One, example, is building alliances internationally, which both the SNP and Greens can play a key role with, notably in the wake of Brexit: already we are hearing much more positive noises from Europe towards independence. The UK Government should be constantly reminded of their democracy-denial wherever they go, to the extent that it begins to hinder Britain’s foreign policy. Another dimension is working on public opinion in England: far too many potential allies there just do not understand the issues, and reject independence as mere nationalism. We have much work to do there, especially within the English left.

      Yes, the Westminster Government has the power to deny democracy – but only for a time. This is their strength: but let’s make sure we use it against them.

      1. I agree Paddy. Whilst there’s much in Tejas’s analysis I agree with I find the idea that Plan A is a waste of time strangely disempowering. It suggests we have no collective agency or power and I dont believe that at all.

        I also agree with you about the need to be building soft power and alliances internationally.

  16. Graham Ennis says:

    I have been silent on here for a long time, and therefore feel compelled after a lot of thinking on this to lay out the grim possibilities.
    The SNP is a strange party not based on the UK model of class, but of objective. But within it, and because of this, it cannot act except in a general way within the present system. It is following the Irish historical route of the main constitutional party of the time, prior to independence, and will end up in the same situation. The london Government until 2024 is a right wing reactionary party with little or no understanding of the real situation in either Ireland or Scotland. it is also deeply unionist. So the attempt to get a second vote on Independence is doomed, more or less, from the start, as it was in Ireland. There will be an outright refusal, and various issues will be used to try and convince the Scots that they are going nowhere. This leaves the SNP in a constitutional situation where they are trapped in a legal and electoral situation where, quite literally, they are going nowhere, unless they choose the Catalan route. To “Catalanize” the situation is going to lead to the same response as that of the Spanish Government. The Parliament will be suspended, under crown law, and various things will happen to repeal the most dangerous parts of the devolution settlement and leave a powerless Scottish Government unable to act.
    At that point, things get interesting. again, I see the Irish route of the Scots, as inevitable. The constitutional route of the Present Scottish Government will prove to be completely unable to have any real effect on the situation.
    What happens then is a section of the Nationalist population will break away from peaceful constitutional politics and prepare themselves for an armed struggle. Given the number of highly trained and long serving scots in the UK military, and the fact that there would be support from a small but significant part of the population, (as in France under occupation), then violence is inevitable. Quite a few in Scotland would be very unhappy about this, but when such things happen in a crisis, the logistics and the skills of a small group could kill stone dead any further effective action by the constitutionalists. Once violence starts, the UK government would respond as they did in Ireland, and the nascent armed struggle, with all of its horrors, would dominate the politics and the social reality of Scotland. The SNP, unless it came out in support of the armed struggle, would end up like the Irish constitutionalist parties. If it did support the struggle, it would simply face the declaration of a state of emergency, be shut down, and if it did not, it would be regarded as at best not relevant, at worst as collaborationist, as Vichy was in France. I am being brutally frank here, as everyone needs to realise that unless the existing Scottish Government is able to mobilise mass support, (The Catalan route) which would fail and be suppressed, as in Spain, the main political process would be one of repeating Irish history. This would be inevitable. in such a situation, given the balance of forces, the long drawn out conflict that the irish were able to sustain, and the eventual forcing of the UK government into peace negotiations, Life in Scotland would be very bad. We are talking here of a conflict with violence and deaths on a scale of the recent Irish war. Everyone needs to look at what that led to. it matters not that a majority of Scots would not support the violence, would matter not in the least. A small and well organised violent resistance would be able to operate regardless of that. The rest is a replay of Irish history. The only hope of avoiding this would be some as yet unthought of method of resistance, along the lines of the recent events in Eastern Europe. Such oppositions usually arise from the Grass roots, as a faction of the population decide that “Enough is enough”. Constitutional politics get side-lined. Given the nature of the English deep state, and the ruling clique there, I think it would take great political skill, and luck, to avoid armed resistance and a political settlement. I am saying all this not to incite such violence, but to point out that at the moment, it looks inevitable, with all the horrors that spring from this. The SNP political leadership are going to be crushed, in such times, by events. They have no clear plan of how to gain independence in such a situation. At that point, as irish history shows, the violence becomes inevitable.

    1. Axel P Kulit says:

      I have felt for a long time that this was a likely development. Hopefully independence will occur without violence, but the historical parallels suggest a build up of tension that is likely to explode at some point.

    2. MacNaughton says:

      This “Irish route” of your sounds more like a fantasy in your head than anything else…

      The international context is completely different today in Scotland than it was a century ago in Ireland…
      A century ago, the UN didn’t exist and the Geneva Conventions weren’t on the Statute Book…
      All of the countless international multilateral forums which exist today hadn’t come into being either…
      The British Empire a century ago was still intact…Ireland was the first colony to rebel against English rule..
      People like Churchill thought the Empire was going to last for centuries…yet it didn’t even last another 50 years.
      There was no welfare State, no universal suffrage and no universal and inalienable human rights .

      You just can’t compare the rights of an Irish person back in 1916 with our rights today in Scotland…

      As if all of the above weren’t enough , it is generally acknowledged by experts in the field of terrorism that the 9/11 attacks in New York were decisive in definitely bringing to an end any real possible future use of violence for political ends in Europe…

      So, to put it bluntly, I think you’re talking complete b*llocks and scaremongering for who knows what reason…

      1. MacNaughton says:

        Biden’s victory is very important for Ireland and for Scotland and likely to pile more pressure on Boris Johnson’s shameful government…
        The EU will be well disposed to another referendum…
        There are plenty of avenues for soft power to be exercised and for embarrassing recalcitrant English Tory rule in Scotland, and they really don’t like that…

        The SNP have opted for the strategy they have – wrongly in my opinion – but there really is no point wasting a single minute looking back at what might have been in May’s Brexit parliament.

        We now must all get 100% behind the SNP govt in the run up to the May elections…

      2. Arboreal Agenda says:

        Couldn’t agree more. It’s drivel.

        This poster has said all this stuff several times before and clearly actually wants civil war to happen. Presumably so he can enjoy the deathly violent spectacle from his English south coast home.

        1. Graham Ennis says:

          Dear Mr Arboreal, thank you for your trenchant comments. You have at least responded and others have as well, so now we have an actual dialogue.
          Such a dialogue is not in any way “b*llocks” as you say. Its an online dialogue, non-violent, and taking place in cyberspace, peacefully, so as to look at the painful issues involved. I do this from my warm and comfortable English South Coast Home, as an Irish Citizen and complete with passport, partly due to my ongoing severe post traumatic stress trauma, still going on after 30 years, and the need to come to terms with what is now happening in Ireland. I am awaiting events in both Ireland and Scotland, and will probably leave for Ireland, if the situation there becomes impossible for Ireland, as I wish to support the final act. I do that as my Family have a 400 year old history of Irish patriotism, starting with my ancestor who commanded the Irish troops at the infamous “Battle of the Boyne” and who had to flee almost certain execution. (The Irish equal of Culloden”. ). Perhaps you might like to share your ancestors activities in 1745?. Or not.

          To my certain knowledge, certain Scottish armed wing supporters have already made certain plans for all eventualities and outcomes, and will be stalwart, if required. So my game planning is to discuss, openly all possible scenarios to minimise the violence, short its possibility, and inject some hard truths into this very important truth into things. I regard that with horror. But we must plan to minimise it, maximise the non violent path, and activate SNP practicality, and eradicate their “Twee” ideas”.Perhaps people will tell my why more radicalisation of the SNP will be a bad thing?. Answers please. As Churchill said, Jaw jaw beats war war.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Graham Ennis, your proposed violent conflict will be anathema to those who want to leave the Union to avoid and prevent unnecessary wars, and (if my guesses are correct) greatly counterproductive in terms of net support for Independence.

            As MacNaughton has rightly pointed out, times have moved on, lessons have been learnt (and it was hardly a military victory in Ireland but its opposite). Basically, the British imperial state is geared up for all kinds of violent conflict, political policing and counterinsurgency. It would have no scruples about infiltrating (as it probably already has) any Scottish paramilitaries (which would also attract thugs, nutters, career criminals and the politically-illiterate), and guiding their actions towards public outrages, or just committing false flag atrocities with its own wide range of secret services and death squads.

            Meanwhile, non-violence is not a soft option. People die at hands of states in non-violent actions. But it works better than armed conflict against states who maintain that they are democracies. Whatever one’s views of Gene Sharp, he did not invent the methods he lists but describes and categorises them, and presents a model of state vulnerability to non-violent campaigns that seems to accurately represent and go some way to explain their historical successes.
            Bearing in mind bad (and foreign) actors can get in on this action too. But then they can sometimes more easily interfere with a violent civil conflict too.

          2. Axel P Kulit says:

            I sincerely hope for a peaceful transition to independence.

            However, as WM had doubtless done, we must consider the scenario where the transition is violent as well as the likelihood of false flag atrocities.

            Saying it won’t happen because things are different today sounds initially like whistling in the dark

          3. Arboreal Agenda says:

            If it is to ‘your certain knowledge’ that ‘certain Scottish armed wing supporters have already made certain plans for all eventualities and outcomes, and will be stalwart, if required’ then you should report them to the police as they may be planning to commit heinous crimes. You claim to want to minimise violence and that would certainly be the way to do it. And how do have such knowledge? Who is the ‘Scottish armed wing’?

            If you really are being genuine about this then posting on here about it is hardly the best way to deal with such a threat.

    3. Graham Ennis says:

      A further thought. The BREXIT is going to lead to an internal UK state of emergency being declared at some point. This, bluntly, means rule by decree, suspension of inconvenient laws, and also the restart in the North of Ireland, of the armed struggle, at some point. All of this bought about by the sheer racism, stupidity and right wing extremism of the English Tory Party. We live in interesting times, and ancient Chinese curses come to mind. All of this is probably beyond the skills of the present head of Scots Government to deal with, and I say that sadly, as she would lose the party, or split it, if she deviated from a constitutionalist position. A split would be inevitable. As in Ireland, where the radicals split from the main Irish party. (and called themselves, “Ourselves Alone” to make things quite clear. )
      Read Irish history, from 1916 to 1924.
      Some further thoughts are that the radicals, and their small but deadly armed struggle wing, would continue whatever happened, even if it led to disaster. (in the sense of the Northern Irish 30 year war). The UK Government, if this happened, before 2024, would be intransigent. An incoming Labour Government would not necessarily be any more reasonable, if events were prolonged, beyond 2024. (See the result of labour’s policies during the Northern war. )
      The remaining path would be a difficult one. That is for massive and sustained civil disobedience, civil disruption, and massive protests that would make World News. Since 1968, the World has changed. The support externally, especially in the EU, would be strong. There might even be foreign sanctions. The American Government would be under massive pressure from the huge and influential Irish and Scottish community there, and its well organised lobbying. I say that as all of this is going to have dire consequences for the Irish North, which will be dealing with its own BREXIT crisis.
      But the combination of an armed struggle by an uncontrollable minority and the massive protest and action to make Scotland ungovernable, as in recent events in Eastern Europe, is going to create a horrible situation in the UK. There are also a large Irish and Scottish community in the UK, who will behave in interesting ways.
      all of this is not me inciting events, but me setting out a possible and likely alternative time line for the near future of Scottish history. Having experienced the Irish struggle, personally, and with great grief, I am writing this so that Scottish shrewdness and cunning can try and navigate a path to independence. I am predicting that a bad BREXIT, imposed unwanted on Scotland, will in any event tip the scales. Its inevitable.
      So, therefore, how to minimise the horror, and the violence, and start to plan for what is to come? ,
      Ideas, brave and open discussions, and smart thinking over the next 12 months are urgently required.

    4. Tom Ultuous says:

      Would there be any need for the sort of violence seen during the troubles? At risk of being boring I’ll repeat a post I made a while back below.

      If there’s a no deal Brexit Westminster will have effectively trashed the 71.1% “will of the people” Good Friday Agreement and on top of the logistical mayhem at the ports a resurgent IRA could easily have the “UK” mainland on lockdown. Craters on port roads, bombs on lorries, drones over airports, foreign lorry drivers refusing to cross British ports and the same game of shell and pea that produced the pre-ceasefire headline “for the price of a few phone calls the IRA have brought the city of London to a standstill”. Anyone who would vote No to separation under those circumstances would surely be sectionable.

      Prior to Johnson’s “deal” being passed in parliament I submitted a petition to https://petition.parliament.uk/ warning of the above and calling for the English to be given an independence referendum. It was the obvious solution, the English leave the “UK” and the rest of us decide our own fate. It’s where we’ll all end up in any case. After 8 weeks (they normally take a week to approve a petition) my petition was rejected on the grounds that it was a joke. It will certainly be funny to the rest of the world.

      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        It’s a pity we didn’t have the facility to install free broadband for all. NOTHING scares the English more than free broadband. Not even Pennywise in No 10.

      2. Graham Ennis says:

        Dear Tom,
        Your posting was exactly the sort of careful, reasoned post that is needed. I thank you for it. More please.
        It is urgently needed. Please everyone, this is a vital issue.
        I also say that none of my posts have in any way been approved, or supported by Bella Caledonia and its excellent people.
        I do so as a place to “Host”, in the name of this urgent dialogue. We have only until January, before BREXIT tips over the apple cart.
        That is something that has my heart felt thanks to them . If my posts continue, I am not taking that as either agreement or consent. Merely free speech.
        So the chances of an unstable situation in Northern Ireland in January are now high. Its just 11 miles from a place called ALBA. Think about it. At the same time, a lot of Scots are going to be angry about the BREXIT situation. What could possibly go wrong. Does anybody have any clues to the possible response of the SNP ruling group to a refusal of a referendum,?

    5. Foghorn Leghorn says:

      The Corriesesque idea of a popular uprising in Scotland is even more risible than that of a mass mobilisation of civil disobedience in Scotland against the UK government to engineer an independent Scottish government.

      Though, from a purely democratic point of view, it is depressing that some folk in both ‘camps’ (as the militaristic imagery goes) are seriously fantasising about imposing their will on society generally, whether through overt violence Irish-style or through the more subtle tyranny of majoritarianism.

      1. Having peaceful protests in support of a democratic demand supported by circa 60% of the population is a bad thing?

        Surely that’s just an expression of democracy?

        1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

          Everyone should have a right to protest their will, irrespective of whether its the majority will or not, but not to impose that will on the generality by force, whether through the ballot box or through the proverbial barrel of a gun. Such tyranny is to be resisted. That’s why Americans reserve and defend the right under their constitution to carry arms.

          1. Axel P Kulit says:

            “Everyone should have a right to protest their will, irrespective of whether its the majority will or not, but not to impose that will on the generality by force, whether through the ballot box or…”

            I am no clear how you can impose your will through the ballot box by force. By mass deception, yes and I think we have seen examples of this. But force? somehow that escapes me.

          2. Foghorn Leghorn says:

            @ Axel The state claims a monopoly on violence and enforces our obedience by the use of violence or the threat of violence. The idea is that you capture state power through the ballot box by getting a majority of voters to vote for you, then you and your party can use its monopoly on violence to impose your values and policies (arguably, the majority will) on the generality of society (the general will).

            That’s how we left the EU. That’s how Scottish nationalists hope we’ll be leaving the UK – except, of course, those who fantasise about driving the English out at gunpoint to a chorus of ‘FREEDOM!’

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.