Threat and response

Should Nicola Sturgeon call for a second referendum on Scottish independence to happen before the United Kingdom exits the EU?

filthy_handsThis question, posted on Quora, isn’t really sensible. There can be no doubt that Scotland must have a new independence referendum before the UK exits the EU. Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t have a choice in the matter. Circumstances dictate the absolute necessity of a referendum no later than September 2018. The only issue exercising the First Minister’s political judgement is the timing of the announcement.

It is important to understand that Brexit is not the principal causal factor in this. There was always going to be another referendum. While accepting the result of the 2014 vote, we also have to recognise that it did not settle the matter. The No vote was won on an entirely false prospectus and by methods which were dubious in the extreme.

Restoration of Scotland’s rightful constitutional status remains the determined aspiration of something close to half of Scotland’s population. Much as British Nationalists might wish it, the Yes movement isn’t going anywhere. Democracy is a process, not an event. There was always going to be another independence referendum because the democratic process demands it.

Having said this, it cannot be denied that Brexit is a major aspect of the context within which that democratic process is taking Scotland inevitably and inexorably towards a new referendum and dissolution of the Union. The fact that Scotland is being dragged out of the EU despite a decisive Remain vote (62%) stands as a glaring illustration of the fact that Scotland’s interests cannot ever be adequately represented within the UK. Brexit exemplifies the fatal flaws in the current constitutional settlement in a particularly forceful manner.

There must be a new independence referendum because the alternative is to accept that the democratic will of Scotland’s people counts for nothing. This conflicts with the First Minister’s solemn duty to the nation. That conflict can only be resolved by a plebiscite which affords the people an opportunity to assert their primacy and reject a political union in which the principles of democracy are always subordinate to the whims of a British political elite.

Just as Nicola Sturgeon has no choice but to honour the democratic will of Scotland’s people, so she is duty-bound to defend Scotland’s interests in all things and at all times. The office of First Minister requires her to stand against any threat to Scotland’s economic, democratic and social well-being. The role demands that Nicola Sturgeon do all in her power to protect Scotland’s economy, democratic institutions and essential public services. All of these are menaced by the imperatives of the British state.

Driven by those imperatives, the British government will seek to exploit the circumstances of Brexit in order to ‘deal with’ what is perceived by the British political elite – with perfect justification – as a challenge to the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. Leaving the European Union necessitates the constitutional redefining of the UK. The British government will seize this opportunity to unilaterally redefine Scotland’s status within the UK – effectively locking Scotland into a political union without reference to Scotland’s people or our elected representatives.

As part of this effort to neutralise the wave of democratic dissent risen in Scotland, the British government will systematically strip Holyrood of its powers, transferring control from the democratically elected Scottish Parliament to an unelected and unaccountable shadow administration at the Scotland Office.

The so-called ‘Brexit power grab’ is the thin end of a very nasty wedge. Anybody who imagines that it will stop at powers relating to animal welfare and food standards is dangerously naive. There is every reason to expect that the ‘UK-wide common frameworks’ being touted will rapidly extend and expand until even Scotland’s precious public health service is in the hands of those who regard it as an asset to be stripped.
We know that these things will happen because British politicians such as David Mundell have made no secret of their intentions. We know that these things will happen because they are already happening.

We can be sure, also, that while emasculating the Scottish Parliament the British government will also introduce measures for the purpose of making an independence referendum ‘unlawful’ and/or unwinnable. If the democratic route to independence is likely to be used, it must be closed off. If the people of Scotland might presume to exercise their democratic right of self-determination, that right must be denied.

Nicola Sturgeon must be aware of the threat. As First Minister, she cannot ignore that threat. She must also know that the threat is not from Brexit, but from the political union which allows a British political elite to dispose of Scotland as may be expedient and with total contempt for the democratic will of Scotland’s people. The obvious and only solution is to dissolve that political union. A measure which must be ratified by Scotland’s electorate in a referendum.

Finally, we cannot disregard the matter of electoral politics. As well as be First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon is Leader of the Scottish National Party. A party which is unequivocally and unconditionally committed by its constitution to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. A party which has also become Scotland’s main party of government. She has a responsibility to the SNP’s 120,000+ members and all the voters who have given the party a mandate to govern Scotland. This mandate, and her duty as party leader, oblige Nicola Sturgeon to call a new referendum.

To squander that mandate and disrespect the principal aims and objectives of the SNP would be unthinkable. Almost certainly, it would also be electorally disastrous. Sturgeon must have at least half an eye on the Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2021. She is certainly cognisant of the precarity of the pro-independence majority at Holyrood and, therefore, of the SNP administration.

As an astute political operator, Nicola Sturgeon will have realised that one of the aims of the British establishment is to get the Scottish Parliament back under the control of the British parties, as was always intended. Only a relatively tiny decline in the SNP vote in 2021 would allow the British parties to take power – even if they had to form a ‘Grand Coalition’ in order to do so.

Failure to hold a new independence referendum would be catastrophic, not only for the electoral fortunes of the SNP, but for the status and authority of the Scottish Parliament.
Taking all of the foregoing into account, it is clear that Nicola Sturgeon must act. This leaves only the question of the form which this action takes and the timing of a public declaration.

There is no question that there will be a new independence referendum. Currently, there is a heated debate within the SNP and the Yes movement concerning the matter of when this referendum should be held. There is no debate about whether it should happen. On one side of this debate there are those who are concerned about the consequences of failing to secure a Yes vote in the referendum. They want to postpone the referendum indefinitely. Or, to be as fair to them as is possible, they want to defer the referendum until some some ‘optimum time’ which remains undefined, probably undefinable and certainly impossible to predict as would be required.

On the other side of the debate are those who recognise the threats described above. They are aware of the serious and imminent jeopardy facing Scotland. and they know that the consequences of the Yes side losing in the referendum are functionally identical to the consequences of not holding the referendum at all. In either scenario, the same fate awaits us. The only difference is that not holding the referendum makes that fate a certainty.

The imposition of a repugnant, anti-democratic ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist agenda can only be avoided by dissolving the Union. Nicola Sturgeon must begin this process with a view to having the dissolution affirmed by the people of Scotland in a referendum to be held no later than September 2018.


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14 thoughts on “Threat and response

  1. Peter – have been following your conversation with Peatworrier, and it’s as fascinating as it is frustrating.
    I’m sure ‘The Law’ will effortlessly accommodate whatever constitutional arrangement becomes apparent following Brexit and/or a Yes vote in Indy2, but there will be no change at all unless we make it happen. I can see Andrew’s point (fundamentally, it’s one which acknowledges the importance of his profession, and that’s understandable, aye) but laws are not immutable, and no-one can say for sure, right now, how the people of Scotland will react in the event of indyref2 being thwarted or somehow ruled illegal.
    One of the most basic facts in this debate – and one which I frequently have to remind myself of – is that the current constitutional arrangement is so *un*Democratic. The Scottish people were not consulted about the 1707 treaty. There was no ‘vote’, and the unrest which accompanied announcement of the ‘Union’ is well documented.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The support for change in referenda usually goes up during a campaign.

    As is well known, when Salmond called the independence referendum in 2012 Yes was at around 28% and that increased to 45% in the vote in 2014. Yes up by 17% in the campaign.

    The support for independence for Quebec increased by around 12% during the campaign in 1995 and Yes fell short by just a fraction of 1%.

    In the Scottish devolution referendum in 1997 support for having a parliament and for it to have tax varying powers both went up by 10% during the campaign.

    In the EU referendum Cameron called it when support for Leave was just 35%. By the actual vote that had increased 17% to 52%.

    Change is usually the beneficiary during a referendum campaign,and often by double figures in percentage terms.

    One of the times when the support for change fell during a campaign was the 1978 devo referendum in Scotland. That can be explained by the troubles and bad publicity the Callaghan government was having during the winter of discontent just prior to the vote. A vote for Yes was seen by many as a vote for the government and made many reluctant to vote for devolution. The change camp generally sees support rise in referenda campaigns nevertheless.

    With Yes support at 47% or 48% there is no clear reason for the independence movement to shirk a second indyref. Especially given that Brexit and the devo power grab means there is no status quo on offer for the conservative with a small c minded.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent and timely article.
    No fuss, no waffle. Just a well argued case to name the date of the referendum before it’s too late.

    We may have had differences in the past Peter, but you have my total agreement on every word.

    Like

  4. An irrisistable, clear and concise argument demanding another referendum in 2018. The people of Scotland must decide, or lose their parliament and status as a Nation. #Referendum2018

    Liked by 1 person

  5. If any of you guys seriously think that there will be a referendum this year, then you are dafter than I originally thought, and I originally thought you were very daft. The latest Times Poll shows support for Indy has fallen to 42%… hold any referendum anytime in the next couple of years and you will lose and destroy your indy dream, and the SNP along with it. At least Wishart realises this, and alongside Mhairi Black there is the first rumblings of dissent in the separatist ranks, a realisation that under Sturgeon (at least) the indy movement is moribund.
    Toot! Toot! The gravy train is coming to a halt!

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    1. Polls don’t show anything. The word show used as a verb implies that something has been proved. And a single opinion poll is never incontrovertible proof.

      Anyway, even in the unlikely event that that poll is not an outlier, 42% would still be a good starting line for Yes in a referendum campaign.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Yer Man ‘Geacher” would be well advised to discontinue his deployment of the term ‘daft’; reading his post, it appears that said term has something of an autobiographical slant to it… SAOR ALBA GU BRATH.

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  7. Oh my, some people are annoyed. Good.
    If anyone on here thinks that the support for indy at 42% is a “good starting line ,” then you are, well…daft. Sheppard has been on the naughty step for many months, soon to be joined by Wishart and Black… you cannot disagree with your Dear Leader in today’s SNP, no way, or one’s arse is grass.
    Under Sturgeon’s watch, the SNP have lost their majority in Holyrood and 21 seats plus 480,000 votes in Westminster… even Kerevan is having a pop…. but the natives are restless, more and more coming round to the view of Jim Sillars.
    It’s over guys, face up to it.

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  8. I think there’s a danger in drawing arbitrary lines like 60 percent. It’s unrealistic and I think unnecessarily cautious. The disagreements feel like a symptom of the growing restlessness people are experiencing, and I do worry that we can’t keep people under starters orders forever.
    We also need to recognise that however underhand the ‘No’ campaign’s tactics were in 2014, it will be as nothing compared to what will happen this time round.
    On the positive side, at least the ‘stay with the UK and everything will be fine’ is a line that really won’t fool too many people this time round…

    Liked by 1 person

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