The Scottish Independence movement is at a cross roads as regards strategy and tactics (not the same thing). In March, members of the SNP will meet to debate and determine future strategy for the cause of independence. On the 25 and 26 of February the Aberdeen Independence Movement will host a major Progress to Yes event (tickets here). There are a multitude of other projects under way. The first few months of this year will be pivotal in deciding strategy and tactics in going forward.
Over this time Bella will be interviewing key organisations, activists, writers and organisers to host this discussion. We do this with an open mind and invite readers to submit articles and express their own views. We have contacted and commissioned dozens of voices from across the Yes movement and will be publishing their views by interview, podcast and article in the coming weeks.
There are clearly tensions within the SNP as within the wider independence movement about strategy and there is a significant change from the position of the consensus from when the plan was to ‘win a referendum and then win that referendum’. Writing in the Scotsman Stewart McDonald has written:
“One option that has been widely covered since the Scottish Government’s decision to go to the Supreme Court last year is that of a de facto referendum: using the next UK General Election as the platform to settle Scotland’s constitutional future. Such a departure from the referendum option that my party has long held would be a major one, and one that must not be taken lightly or birthed out of frustration.
Indeed, the combination of the court judgement and Westminster intransigence must not force us into seeking an answer to the wrong question, or down paths that won’t ultimately allow independence to be lawfully delivered.
Our debate between now and March must be wide-ranging in its consideration and go beyond the sole issue of process. The independence movement’s overarching task remains the same as it was before Lord Reed declared the court’s unanimous verdict: building majority support for independence.
If we approach the present quandary with the sole motivation of settling the independence question as swiftly as possible and only on our own terms, with no regard for the flexibility that politics demands, that will be a mistake. It would carry little appreciation of where public opinion stands on independence – which has shifted just over and under the 50% mark over the past year or so – and would risk undermining one of the pillars upon which an independent Scotland must be built: that of loser’s consent.
For many years we have separated a vote for the SNP and a vote for independence. If we are to ditch that patiently crafted position – central to delivering 16 successful years in government and mainstreaming our cause – then we should do so only on sound, solid merit, not a throw of the dice. It will be difficult to get back if we lose.
When we convene in 10 weeks time, we are not doing so to discuss party or government policy for the next parliament, but to author a new path forward in which we hope the country will give its consent. We should do so with a deep reverence for Scottish public opinion but always have the courage to lead.
We are debating Scotland’s future. That two-word phrase is one which rolls a little too easily off the tongue and should inspire more pause for thought than it often does.
Scotland will only become independent when a majority decide that Scotland should be independent.
While we have been driven to this conference by the die-hardism of Westminster, we must approach our great task of building a solid cross-country majority for an independent Scotland in a way that is deliverable, because it enjoys public consent.
Let us not lose sight of that as we seek a fresh way forward.”
This is a very interesting statement which suggests that there are very real tensions within the upper echelons of the SNP and the coming debate will not be characterised by the centrally controlled narrative of absolute unity.
The way forward is not clear and there is not consensus. Yet the idea that the independence movement is riven by deep divides or that the case of independence is faltering or over is also massively overplayed.
There are the following ideas on the table:
- A de facto referendum played out by the next UK General Election.
- A de facto referendum played out by a Scottish election.
- UDI, with various versions
- Lobbying for a Section 30 Order with the momentum of consistent pro-indy high polling
- Independence is dead as an option, either due to SNP intransigence or other factors
We could add to the above the tactics of mass disobedience, civil disorder, non-violent action, withdrawal from Westminster, though these on their own don’t immediately bring the change required they may legitimately be part of a ratcheting-up of pressure.
Within options one and two there are variations of ideas that there should be a ‘single ticket’ for pro-indy parties and there are clearly advantages and disadvantages to either option. In option one there is a much clearer outcome/result from the FTPT system. In option two there is the control over the franchise (16 and 17 year olds and overseas residents could vote).
Everything has changed.
We are now in the phase of ‘Anglocentric British nationalism’ as described by Ciaran Martin here.
The goalposts have been moved.
What is the best way forward?