Will there be another referendum?

In quantum mechanics, Schrödinger’s Cat is a thought experiment that illustrates a paradox in which a hypothetical cat may be considered simultaneously both dead and alive. We appear to be living in this thought experiment in Scotland, Schrödinger’s Referendum.

On the one hand the SNP have set-aside £20 million for a referendum they plan to hold next year, for which they have been attacked and condemned by the Unionist side. In Aberdeen at the launch of the Progress to Yes Pledge, Stewart Hosie explained the pledge will be adopted by the ‘new Yes organisation’ to be announced soon. This week the Times reported that Nicola Sturgeon unveil a proposal for an independent Scotland with a “scene setter” of her vision for life outside the United Kingdom as soon as next week.

The document we’re told which is expected to be published in the early part of the week, will be the first in a series of papers prepared by under the direction of the first minister and the the constitution secretary, Angus Robertson, as they begin to make the case for a second referendum. Sturgeon’s spokesman also confirmed that a “scene setter” for independence will released before the end of the parliamentary session.

Earlier this week too, the Scottish government released (some) of its legal advice on its plans to hold a second referendum. The two-page document showed that ministers had been advised that they had a “legal basis” to test the question with the Electoral Commission and could begin work on the documents to be published over the coming weeks and months.

On the other hand, sceptics and cynics (take your pick) point to the seemingly endless promises and hints at forever imminent announcements while – on the ground little or no actual progress is made. Movement is always ‘around the corner’.

From inside the nationalist movement, the harshest critics point to the wildest conspiracy, corruption and deception, and argue that the SNP have been assimilated into the British State.

From the left Jonathon Shafi from his Independence Captured substack writes: “Simply put, despite what we have been told over the years, there is no plan. Yes, there are some policy papers to be released to start a “discussion.” When will they be published? According to Ian Blackford, in the “coming period.” It all seems so fluid, and so difficult to pin down. We’ve had so many variations on the referendum theme. A referendum will occur after the “fog of Brexit” has cleared. Or it will happen, “covid permitting.” The people of Scotland will “have their say” in the not too distant future … elasticity is built into the formulation.”

Schrödinger’s Referendum

So what’s going on? Will there be another referendum? If so, when and how?

Unlike Schrödinger’s cat – the referendum cannot be both alive and dead. It seems that the endless elasticity is coming to an end. There are broadly three options.

In the first scenario Sturgeon and her government will put forward the legislation and announce the referendum next year, effectively daring the beleaguered Johnson regime to challenge it in court. This is a potential win-win scenario as it first ‘does something’ and has a get-out of putting the UK government in the corner of actively repressing a vote. The thinking is that this is not a good look for the British government. There are problems with this approach, first of which is that Johnson’s government has nothing to lose and doesn’t really care about optics. Do you think he owes Douglas Ross a favour? The second problem is we don’t know which way a legal ruling would go.

In another scenario, Sturgeon may ignore Westminster completely and treat the referendum as a non-binding mass opinion poll, which would likely be boycotted Unionists. It’s not clear whether this boycott would be effective. The aim would be to undermine the polls credibility but it would also almost guarantee a huge Yes win. Would Better Together risk that?  An adjunct to this may be to argue that the referendum be confirmed at the following election.

The third scenario is that the conspiracists were right all along. In this scenario Nicola Sturgeon and colleagues are unveiled like Scooby-Doo baddies in about October 2023 writhing and shouting “You pesky kids”. In this scenario politicians and an entire political party dedicated to independence would implode completely and absolutely overnight.

Why are we in this place?

Political timidity, over-caution and exhaustion certainly play a part. Assimilation and a rightwards drift are also factors it’s true. Some have called it a “stalemate between social democratic rhetoric and neoliberal economics.” The SNP’s over-centralisation has also had a an effect of introducing sclerosis to the process and mitigating dynamism. The party’s legendary professionalism is both its greatest strength and its Achilles Heel. Plus it’s true, and not to be easily derided, that the Scottish Government have been, you know, ‘governing’. The accusation has been made that they have hidden behind the pandemic but that is to underestimate the scale of the crisis we have all lived through. You can say that they have not been governing very well, and the myriad botched policies and ‘scandals’ have more or less merit and are more or less manufactured or credible. But that’s not really the point. The point is that the Scottish Government have been consumed by the process of governing, often with one hand tied behind their back in terms of not having the full fiscal powers and sovereignty to make genuine executive decisions. This is not a Get Out of Jail Free card or an excuse for (multiple) policy failures, but it is context.

But none of this really explains-away the torpor and scepticism that permeates much of the movement. As Jonathon Shafi again writes:

“Let’s be absolutely plain. Any party truly focussed on having and winning a referendum next year would have a campaign in place, drawing together a platform of recognisable people and organisations with broad social weight. They would not just be on the verge of, possibly, releasing some policy briefings “in the coming period.” They would have had the argument deployed, and the case strongly made, several years in advance. They would have a clear and identifiable strategy for exactly how independence would be democratically delivered.”

My feeling is that the SNP find it extremely difficult to reconcile their internal forces and the consequences of the tensions therein. Over-centralisation at the top virtually guarantees this. Polling has told them that a new currency is a hard sell, so instead of engaging in that hard sell it has capitulated to a stance that doesn’t make any sense at all. You can’t have Sterlingisation and entry to the EU, a popular trump card by those watching the Brexit debacle unfold. In other policy departments: on climate crisis and energy policy; on access to affordable housing; on drugs deaths; on education; on transport infrastructure and on post-pandemic economic recovery it is caught in endless prevarication and compromise.

From Liminal to Limbo

Despite this – despite lack of movement and policy failure – the SNP remain electorally supreme. Vast swathes of Scotland (either or both) see them as the only option in terms of who should run Scotland – and the only option to opening the door towards independence. That confidence – misplaced or not – does have a shelf-life though. Either from the cumulative effect of so many years in office and a record of inevitable failure that hegemony will be eroded. The problem for the opposition, and for Scotland, is that the SNP doesn’t face a test all. For different reasons neither Labour nor the Conservatives offer a compelling reason to think that they might be better at running the country, or that their constitutional solution – do nothing at all – is convincing. Being lashed to the crumbling wreck of the British state and its attendant failures is still repellent to a multitude of Scottish society.

But we have moved from being a ‘Liminal Land’ to being a land in limbo.

In a liminal space we have the sense that we are moving towards something, out as something and towards something else. In limbo land we just feel Shafi’s endless ‘elasticity’. What’s needed is to reassert independence as rupture, as real and vital change. This process recognises the scale of crisis we face and its multi-dimensionality, and with it the need for radical change. What we need is shock and failure not endless spin and re-positioning. What does this mean? How can failure help?

As the philosopher Richard Rohr writes: “In liminal space we sometimes need to not-do and not-perform according to our usual successful patterns. We actually need to fail abruptly and deliberately falter to understand other dimensions of life. We need to be silent instead of speaking, experience emptiness instead of fullness, anonymity instead of persona, and pennilessness instead of plenty. In liminal space, we descend and intentionally do not come back out or up immediately. It takes time but this experience can help us re-enter the world with freedom and new, creative approaches to life.”

There is no Schrödinger’s Referendum. There either will be one next year or there will not. Either is fine. We will be in limbo no-longer.

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Comments (21)

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  1. Cathie Lloyd says:

    Anyone involved in grassroots mobilising will know that there is a huge overlap between SNP activists and people involved in the Yes movement. In the two areas I know best, it is SNP members who have quietly kept the movement going and continue to organise street events to reach out to people. At the same time they/we try to involve people in other parties or none. While a date for a referendum will be energising, if you’re deeply committed to independence, surely you need no starting gun to encourage you to keep making the argument and updating it as circumstances change?

  2. Antoine Bisset says:

    Is there even a cat?

  3. Axel P Kulit says:

    I am not at all convinces that a referendum in the next year will yield a vote for independence. I need to see high quality evidence to the contrary. I also want evidence that those attacking Nicola Sturgeon on this are not paid to infiltrate and divide the YES movement.

    Salmond said, when he was still coherent, that a referendum is only one way to get independence. I would like to think that Nicola Sturgeon is building up support so that if we declared UDI enough other countries would recognise us to make it work.

    Of course a referendum is preferable but it also carries a hell of a risk if we lose again.

    1. John Bryden says:

      Thank you for this article. In my view the only and main purpose of the SNP must be to gain Scotland’s freedom from England. They should not campaign on what policies Scotland might have after freedom, but on what a future Scottish constitution will BE and hiw that will allow us ro develop economically, poitically and socially into a fully democratic state again. That is what I and many others want to know. If the SNP fails to deliver that, then we will not gain our freedom.

      1. 220614 says:

        The infrastructure of a future independent Scottish government is currently being developed by the current bureaucracy under the current ministers. The future constitution of Scotland will be how it’s currently being constituted in advance of independence so that we can hit the ground running, and that constitution is still essentially the Westminster system. Only after independence will we discover that we’ve been sold a pig in a poke.

  4. Radio Jammor says:

    I am genuinely surprised that you regard the SNP policy in currency as “a stance that doesn’t make any sense at all”. There is a debate to be had on it, but it certainly makes sense.

    SNP policy on currency is to have one, “as soon as practicable.” It’s purposely vague, but it makes sense. The view is that Scotland will transition to its own currency within a few years of gaining independence. This will solve the joining the EU issue you raise. Which also forms part of the argument for having a currency; we need to have one to join the EU. And as debate going on elsewhere is showing, EFTA isn’t a stepping stone. We need to go join EFTA or the EU; we can’t be in both. EFTA might be quicker, but may not happen at all if we intend to then leave it to join the EU later. We get more with the EU, even if it takes longer to fully join (it’s a gradual process, as Anthony Salamone likes to remind us, not an in/out thing).

    You touch on some of the issues with regard to the current inability of the SNP in Gov to implement things as a devolved Gov, of having to come out of a pandemic prior to any of this, and that it will remain hamstrung until day one of independence. With all that in mind, it seems perfectly reasonable to make the process a transitional one. It’s hard to start running on day one when you’ve only just had the shackles removed.

    Beyond that, there is argument about details, which is fine and good. From there we can get a solution which won’t be required until, what, 2026 at least, in the event of a Yes vote? Sure, we want a solution for a campaign, to counter Unionist BS, but on some things we need to accept a little bit of reality, that some of the fine detail will come later than we might like.

    I think you’re suffering from frustration and it’s just showing a little, here.

  5. Paddy Farrington says:

    Thanks Mike, your interesting and balanced article touches upon some issues close to my heart. I apologise in advance for the length of this post.

    When supporters of the Yes group I am involved with were in danger of destroying it through endless attacks on the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon, they justified their behaviour by appealing to the sense of frustration they felt at lack of progress towards independence. This is an oft-repeated mantra: just name the date, and we will act. This carries the unstated corollary that until such a date is set, nothing can possibly happen. A variation on this is that ‘there is no plan’ and that ‘no preparations have been made’.

    I wonder whether this attitude – which is a recipe for political passivity – is a product of the very same dependency culture that our campaign for self-determination challenges. It finds expression from both left and more conservative strands within the national movement, who are united in their clamour for ‘leadership’, that is, for others to ‘do something’, be this set a date, produce a plan, or undertake preparations. This focuses resentment inwards, rather than placing to onus on us all to act locally and develop alliances ourselves – or, to put it less grandly, to talk to people – in our own communities.

    I can’t think of a single movement for liberation that worked to a pre-set date, nor even in most cases a detailed ‘plan’ as seems to be required by our home-grown critics. This is not to say that leadership does not matter: of course it does. But Scotland is not Cuba, where the leadership of a handful of revolutionaries was able to dislodge a dictatorship within a few years. Here, the discussion about independence must permeate all strands of civil society to build consent, and this can only happen through patient persuasion at different levels, from the grassroots up.

    I worry that this indicates that Scotland’s independence movement lacks autonomy, and that this, not failure of leadership, whether real or perceived, may be its Achilles heel. As a long-time leftie, it pains me to have to recognise that nowhere is this limitation more apparent than on the left, as evidenced by the repeated failure of most left pro-independence campaign groups to build a sustained presence: RISE, Now Scotland, even RIC, have not blossomed. This, surely, cannot be blamed on the SNP, the Scottish Government, or Nicola Sturgeon. So perhaps a little more self-awareness from critics on the left about the leadership failures of others might be in order. In contrast, the more centrist Believe in Scotland, to its immense credit, is laying the groundwork for a sustained campaign, by placing the focus where it should be: to evolve and support the widest possible alliance at the grassroots.

    We should reflect our commitment to self-determination in everything we do. The independence movement is not an abstraction: it is you and me. And it is up to us, together, to help it grow. We can get going on that today, plan or no plan, leadership or no leadership. Will there be a referendum next year? I don’t know. Does that matter? Not really: what is important is not to lose sight of the fact that we also have a part to play in making it happen. In my own Yes group as in others, post-pandemic, we are now getting back into the streets, talking to people, and getting ready for more.

    1. Thanks Paddy, I’ve said elsewhere – and perhaps should have here – that I agree the tendency to focus all complaints ‘up’ can be disempowering. There is an irony from those arguing that there is permanent inertia – that around the country people are self-organising and campaigning. I was a huge event in Aberdeen the other weekend and Yes Highlands & Islands just added Yes Shetland, Yes Cowal and Yes Islay to its network of local Yes groups spanning one-third of Scotland, declaring: “SALTIRE blue tsunami” has hit the Highlands and Islands.” One of the most inspiring things about 2014 (and beyond) was the self-organisation and also the multiple sources of leadership that sprang up.

      I don’t think its true that RIC didn’t blossom. RIC held massive ambitious events the likes of which Scotland had never seen over years and mobilised tens of thousands of people.

      I agree also that self-determination is absolutely key and that “not to lose sight of the fact that we also have a part to play in making it happen.”

      But I don’t think any criticism of the leadership is disempowering, in fact, critical thinking is essential. I agree that the idea that you just ‘name a date’ and everything flows from there is ridiculous and I am in no way convinced that a change of personnel at the top would make any difference at all. This feels like a fantasy.

      Some of this is about the complexity of our predicament and part of this is about the lack of imagination and energy and vision from the current leadership. ‘Leadeership from below’ is the answer, but we could kind of do with a hand?

      1. Paddy Farrington says:

        I would not disagree with any of that, Mike. Certainly, the 2014 campaign was remarkable for its inventiveness and self-organisation, including from RIC; and yet the movement’s national leadership then was not exactly visionary, as I recall, which sort-of underlines my point. My comment about the lack of sustained blossoming on the left was aimed more at what has happened since then, and particularly during the last two years during which constructive criticism has so often degenerated into sterile attack. But yes, I would not for one moment deny that we could do with far greater vision, energy, and imagination from the top just now. Nor should any leadership ever be above criticism. But none of that exempts us from taking our own initiatives, and from campaigning at the grassroots, as indeed is happening again now.

  6. Malcolm Kerr says:

    This is a welcome post, opening rational discussion on how we progress towards independence. My own view is that there will be no referendum next year, and we ought to be relieved, because ‘we’ would surely lose. Why? We have had seven years from the 2014 referendum in which to make the case, and sort out the big contradictions, while keeping the movement open and inclusive. We’ve done none of that. Instead, the SNP has promoted grotesque centralization, both in relation to the Party machine, and also to public policy in government. An ‘independence task force’? ‘Scene-setting? ‘High level talks’? WTF? So, yes, I’m critical of the current leadership. Axel P Kulit is seeking evidence that, as a critic, I’m not ‘paid to infiltrate and divide the yes movement’. Here it is for me, anyway: I was an active member of the SNP from 1967 to 2021, but, like many people I know, was hounded from the Party over issues which have nothing whatsoever to do with independence. I’ve never been paid a cent for what I’ve done in over 50 years and I’m now politically homeless. From its inception in the 1930s until 2011 the SNP fought every general election on the platform of independence, with the expressed intention of seeking an electoral majority (a ‘prebicitary election’). The SNP membership has never has the chance to discuss the merits and drawbacks of the 2011 change. It is now derided as unrealistic by professional politicians who are heavily invested in the status quo. Yes, there is the drawback that a majority of parliamentary seats doesn’t necessarily constitute a majority of voters. The advantage of this approach, however, is that a chance to make the independence case arises every two or three years. Elections are familiar and recurring. What we would need, however, is a leadership that clearly understands the principles of political momentum, the need to seize opportunities, and accepts the Law of Requisite Variety as it applies to political strategy (‘don’t paint yourself into a corner’). By the way, we need to stop calling ourselves the ‘Yes’ movement: it assumes that a referendum is the only route to self-government, and also that we know how the question will be worded.

  7. Schweiz Tony says:

    “In another scenario, Sturgeon may ignore Westminster completely and treat the referendum as a non-binding mass opinion poll…”

    I’m afraid this scenario does not exist.

    Referendums in the UK are all non-binding. Implementing the result of any referendum requires primary legislation yet nothing can compel a government to introduce a bill to parliament and nothing can compel parliament to vote for it. The only force to implement a referendum is political force.

    If the referendum legislation makes reference to the constitution, there is scope to challenge it under the scope of the Scotland Act no matter how it is phrased.
    If the challenge succeeds we will simply not have a referendum because returning officers will not perform unspecified duties and definitely not without legal authority. I suppose the charade of democracy in Catalonia could be repeated but what would be the point? We know that leads nowhere.

    1. Radio Jammor says:

      ““In another scenario, Sturgeon may ignore Westminster completely and treat the referendum as a non-binding mass opinion poll…”

      I’m afraid this scenario does not exist… SNIP

      Perhaps you should go read the draft legislation, Tony, if you haven’t already (https://www.gov.scot/publications/draft-independence-referendum-bill/). And maybe check out other relevant cases like Keatings (https://www.judiciary.scot/home/sentences-judgments/judgments/2021/02/05/martin-keatings).

      The court heard the case and ruled that it did not have legislation in front of it to consider, and would need to do so to be able to act. This should be taken as promising, as it means that they believe it is possible for legislation to pass muster so long as it is worded correctly; that they could not determine from the Scotland Act alone whether or not Scotland can hold a referendum – which to be fair, you do allude to.

      So we need legislation that does not interfere with the constitution. Which is, as far as I am concerned (caveat: not a legal expert but have followed all this), is what we have with the draft legislation.

      A referendum does not change or affect the constitution. To say it does is just false, and to say it could is presumptuous (or premature). It would still be a matter for the UKGov to alter its constitution to reflect Scottish independence following a democratic act and subsequent negotiations.

      How would a Yes vote alter how the UK Governs? In itself, it does no such thing. What it does do is tell the Scot Parly whether or not a majority support independence. It is a democratic vote which Scot Gov can then take to the UK Gov and say, “The people of Scotland have spoken”. They have already accepted that this is a matter for the people of Scotland (and refuse to accept petitions to UK Parly on the matter on such grounds).

      The UK Gov is obliged to recognise a democratic vote, whether it likes it or not. This is the real reason they don’t want a referendum. The UK can’t pretend it is a democracy and ignore a vote like this. Nor has the UK ever rejected a country’s desire for independence following a vote. Then we move to negotiations on a Withdrawal agreement, which will determine much of what we all want to know about details.

      Gove said (hardly reliable, I know) that the UK would not resort to the courts. What I take from that is that they don’t believe the Supreme Court would strike down the draft legislation. I suspect the legal advice to ScotGov basically says the same; that this draft would appear to pass muster – but the caveat would be that they can’t presume the outcome of a Supreme Ct decision. Legal arse covering, which means you can spin it either way.

      I suspect ScotGov will ask (for a third time) for a S.30 order sometime soon. I expect it will be rejected (or ignored – ScotGov should put an expiry date on such). Then this legislation will be put to ScotGov and with the majority there it will pass. We will then see if UKGov challenges it or not, or if it will let it pass. If not, we will end up at the SC. If they don’t, it goes for Royal Assent. Then it is law. If challenged, and the SC does not strike it down, it is law.

      If the UK Gov does not challenge it, it could still be challenged by, “any punter with a sufficient interest” who, “can raise a judicial review petition in the Court of Session, arguing one or more provision in the Act is outside legislative competence” (HT PeatWorrier).

      This would however be a dilemma for opponents, as they would be effectively be going against both the UKGov and ScotGov on the matter, and it could well end up in front of the SC to decide (same caveat above applies). But if UKGov has let it go by, the likelihood is a challenge would fail and Unionists would have wasted our time and their money.

      If we get to a place where the legislation does not pass muster, it is hard to see how any legislation could. It would effectively confirm that Scotland’s people do not have the right to decide their own future, despite all the rhetoric about it being a matter for such. We then see how much of a democracy we have left, as what must be demanded then is a legal route to do so.

      This is conversely why I believe the Supreme Ct would, if the law allows (which I firmly believe it can and does), be inclined to enable the democratic operation of the Scot Parly. It has been careful to emphasise that its place is not to over-ride democracy but to ensure that the law is followed that enables it to function. I don’t see there being a reason for the Supreme Ct to rule the intended legislation as being beyond competence (see Referendums (Scotland) Act 2020, for example) and/or impinging upon any UKGov legislation and interfering with the role of UKGov, as it stands (hence why Lord George Foulkes wants new legislation). It would still be for UKGov to legislate for that, following negotiations on a withdrawal from the UK.

      I am more concerned about the role of the electoral commission and the now enabled gerrymandering of its role, than I am any of the above.

      To recap, Tony is right insofar as we cannot have a scenario where Unionists have a genuine reason to boycott a referendum. It’s either ‘legal’ and happens or ‘illegal’ and doesn’t. That will be determined before any such vote.

      And if all goes against us, then it will be chaos because it will confirm we are not in a functioning democracy and there is no legal route to independence and they have mislead us all these years about it being up to the Scottish people. I don’t think the more undecided or fluid of voters on the matter would appreciate that predicament; that their right to choose either way has been removed.

      But it will open up alternatives, because then it won’t matter so much how it happens. What will matter then is that having demonstrated there is no legal route for an entire country to claim its independence from the UK (especially after so many others have), is that international feeling will be on our side.

      The UK should be looking to avoid this scenario. If it was smart and prepared, it would grant a S30 and fight. But it isn’t either.

      I appreciate the frustrations, and we do need to start pulling things together now for a campaign, but we should actually be upbeat and determined now.

      1. Schweiz Tony says:

        There is nothing positive in the Keatings ruling. There is also nothing negative. The court would simply not give any opinion on the question put to it. It questioned the standing of the litigant – he could not benefit from any remedy so had no standing. It pointed out that its role is to rule upon law that is about to reach Royal Ascent and refused to intervene in an ongoing political process. It even refused to reveal how it would react to the same question put to it by an MSP being asked to vote on future legislation. The only thing of value we learned from the Keatings litigation is that Keatings did not understand his own litigation and wasted £250k on a vanity project he should have given up as soon as the court issued its early observations.

        The following remain true:

        1) All referendums in UK are non-binding. There is nothing special about the one proposed. In a strictly legal sense, it will be as non-binding as the 2014 and 2016 refs.
        2) It doesn’t matter how the legislation is worded because it can be neither more nor less legally binding than the 2014 ref. If it references the constitution, then it is challengable.
        3) If challenged, courts will make up their own mind. We cannot guess at their response to questions they have never answered. There are no clues at all in the Keatings ruling because the court simply refused to answer the question.
        4) UK parliament is supreme. If it doesn’t like a court ruling, it can and will overrule it.
        5) The UK government is not forced to recognise the result of any referendum. Nothing can compel a government to introduce a bill to parliament and nothing can compel parliament to vote for it.
        6) The Scottish people have no automatic right to a referendum.
        7) None of the above makes a referendum more or less likely. This is a political problem, not a legal one.

        1. RadioJammor says:

          I can somewhat agree with your take on Keatings, except for the pessimism you seem to attach. It was a folly but a useful one. They didn’t dismiss him out of hand and listened to the case. If the matter was clear-cut, they could have decided that without hearing him. You’re refusing to take anything from it is a little absurd. It was quite instructive on how it views such matters and left the door open to the possibility that referendum legislation could be fine, but the SC would indeed need to have such before it to decide that. That is why it did not offer a view on whether any such would pass muster. It couldn’t, therefore it wouldn’t.

          That in itself should tell you that it is feasible that there can be such, otherwise, what’s the point? We have a Referendums Scotland Act, so why would a specific referendum not pass muster, when in itself, it does not change anything, as you appear to somewhat at least acknowledge? As I have pointed out already, it would still be for UKGov to change its constitution related laws to reflect democracy and whatever agreements arise from it. Therefore, whilst the caveat remains about the Supreme Court, there is no reason to be pessimistic or even neutral on the matter. I mean, for goodness, sake, can’t you trust that these people that have drafted this have been working on this for years and that they have every reason to believe that this can and will work?

          You seem hung-up on ‘nothing compelling the UK Gov to act’. Well, how about democracy? How about the precedence of never refusing to accept a vote on independence? That they took the Brexit vote as meaningful? How about the at least pretence that the UK is a democratic state needing to be upheld? I think you greatly underestimate the power of a “Yes” vote and are hung-up on having a Section 30 and Edinburgh Agreement apply.

          “UK parliament is supreme. If it doesn’t like a court ruling, it can and will overrule it.” Assumption. And if the Supreme Ct rules in our favour (if it gets that far), it won’t have the time or opportunity to implement such and backdate it. It would have effectively been told, ‘this is fine and legal’. It will go for Royal Assent and be law.

          What do you think would happen if the UKGov did as you suggest and try then to block it still, after being told by its highest court that this is legal?

          That’s just fear talking. You want certainty. Well, there isn’t any.

          “6) The Scottish people have no automatic right to a referendum.” That’s a meaningless statement. There was no right to a Brexit referendum, neither. So what? Doesn’t mean you can’t make it happen.

          And yet you conclude with something I can agree with: This is a political problem, not a legal one. Or at least, it should be. And that is why the UK will have to deal with independence if we vote for it. Anything short of doing so would be a democratic outrage.

          And that most certainly is politics.

    2. Laurie+Pocock says:

      Unionists have a simple answer to this 2nd referendum, ignore it completely just as in Catelonia and make clear that a vote which is held has no legal value whatever.

      1. I don’t think this really works. The danger for Unionists is that they just guarantee the result of a poll by an elected government in favour of Yes. The No side may not have consensus on this.

      2. RadioJammor says:

        That works for me. Unionists can ignore it. They can consider it illegal. They can continue to demonstrate just how well they understand the Scottish Parly and how laws are passed in Scotland and how much they know what they are talking about.

  8. Papko says:

    “There is no Schrödinger’s Referendum. There either will be one next year or there will not. Either is fine. We will be in limbo no-longer.”

    What’s wrong with Limbo -land?
    Its working out just fine.

  9. Joshu's Dog says:

    “….elasticity is built into the formulation.”

    A fragment of spin doctor talk which will make a perfect epitaph for the Scottish nationalist project.

    Telling to see Bella acknowledging that the cranks(sic) (whom it is not necessary to enumerate) have always had an entirely plausible argument about the SNP being a new “colonial administration.” Perhaps a sign that the suspension of disbelief under-girding the Sturgeon leadership qua independence is faltering.

    Where I would disagree with the piece is the assumption that once the indyref 2 empress is finally revealed to be naked this will automatically lead to “implosion” come 2023. Instead there will be a pivot to emphasizing the SNP’s implementation of a social-liberal agenda as the “real achievement.” I notice plenty of activists already humming the melody. They say things like, “anti-austerity and independence was the right agenda for 2014, but now we live in a time of resurgent Fascism. when Nationalism per se is fraught.”

    The “populist” fringe of nationalism will be re-cast from an irrelevant laughing stock to a hugely dangerous threat and an alibi for the failure of the independence project, as well as an example of why a doubling down on the social-liberal agenda ought to be the main or sole priority for the SNP, and the only serious metric by which the leadership is judged.

    Yet it’s also necessary in fairness to say that a certain violence is still being done to the arguments of the populist cranks(sic), The key point: Sturgeon with her “personalistic regime” ( a lovely phrase apparently coined for Putin ) has “become the story” as Alasdair Campbell would say.
    She has optimized for her personal electoral popularity, but _failed_ to build the mandate for independence over the most calamitous six years for the British state, arguably, since 1945.

    It really is academic now whether she calls a referendum and/or inveigles her way to actually getting one in any form, because the smart money is not on her winning. In any likely eventuality, although the party will implode it will will be an extremely controlled demolition with top leaders such as Sturgeon going through revolving doors to international corridors of power ala David Milliband or Tony Blair. Meanwhile loyalists will keep admiring her representing social-liberal plucky small nationism on the “world stage.” Not that this will do a goddamn thing for impoverished people in Easterhouse etc. So the real elephant in the room is that not only Sturgeon but people like Stewart McDonald and Alyn Smith are ideal alumni for the Davos Class, and those are fatal incentives for any politician with notional aspirations to rocking the boat. Yes there are cranks in the Yes movement. The fatal mistake is reflexively assuming that they were and are entirely wrong…

    1. Two quick things.

      You write: “the assumption that once the indyref 2 empress is finally revealed to be naked this will automatically lead to “implosion” come 2023” – I actually mock this idea rather than endorse it.

      Second you write: “It really is academic now whether she calls a referendum and/or inveigles her way to actually getting one” – I mean this is the democratic mandate of a country not just of one woman.

      1. Horace G Skian says:

        Unfortunately we are being led up the Garden path here.

        Not for nothing is the relative of the first minister posting about ‘narcissistic personalities’.

        As usual with such cases, we should expect a period of sudden illness that draws a great amount of sympathy from the gullible.

        There will be no referendum.

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