The options

procrastinationI am aware that many in the SNP and the wider Yes movement want this debate about the timing of a new independence referendum to just stop. Pete Wishart may be one of those who wish it had never started. Or so it would seem from his flat refusal to answer questions about his own highly controversial position or to engage in any way with those responding to his call for indefinite postponement of the referendum. On Twitter, there has been a steady drip of people urging an end to the discussion. Apparently, we’re not supposed to entertain any difference of opinion. Pretty much everybody agrees that timing of the referendum is critical. So critical that we must avoid talking about it. No, I don’t get it either.

Personally, I’m glad the issue has come to the fore. Unlike Pete Wishart, I am more than happy to have an open and frank debate. I don’t see how this debate might be avoided. It’s the elephant in the room. And it’s not easy to sweep an elephant under the carpet. If the discussion gets heated, that’s a measure of its importance. It’s not a reason for closing down the debate, as some wish to do.

If people don’t want to participate in the debate, that’s OK. But don’t tell me or anybody else that we should shut up about the matter just because it makes you uncomfortable. Your comfort is not my concern. And don’t tell me or anybody else to shut up because the debate is ‘damaging the Yes movement’. If the Yes movement isn’t robust and resilient enough to cope with vigorous debate than it’s unlikely to be fit to go up against the might of the British state.

Discussion of the timing of the referendum has been valuable, not least on account of the way it has revealed the attitudes of some of our elected representatives. The British parties, needless to say, have no role in the debate. We are all aware of British Nationalists’ fervent, anti-democratic opposition to the exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination.

We can safely discount the British politicians who exhibit such disdain for democracy, not to mention contempt for the people of Scotland and their Parliament. But what of the others?

Pete Wishart has nailed his colours unequivocally to the spectral mast of a ghost ship called ‘Optimum Time’. Others, such as Chris McEleny, have exhibited a greater sense of urgency. Which, to be frank, was hardly difficult. Now we have Keith Brown, who seems to be telling us that it doesn’t matter how urgent the situation may be, the SNP isn’t ready. Here’s a senior figure in Scotland’s independence party; the de facto political arm of the independence movement, telling us that putting a timescale on the referendum is the wrong priority. Groping for a term to apply to that attitude, the (printable) one that comes most readily to mind is ’lackadaisical’.

It seems Keith Brown expects the tides and currents of politics to cease and desist while the SNP gets its act together. Which makes him a bit of a Cnut. (Note to historians: Cut me some slack, eh! It’s a good line.)

The most sensible comment I’ve heard so far from any SNP politician is Angus MacNeil’s observation.

Some people think you can only ever have two referendums ever. And when you’ve got that into your heads, then you become afraid of having it in case you lose it.

Pete Wishart’s afraid of losing because he thinks the country isn’t ready. Keith Brown’s afraid of losing because the SNP’s not ready. I’m afraid of losing because of what will then happen to Scotland. But I’m just as afraid of what will happen to Scotland if we delay the referendum. Because it’s the same fate either way.

The thing that’s missing from comments about timing of the referendum made by SNP politicians is any acknowledgement of what the British government is likely to be doing while we procrastinate. We have British politicians openly talking about unilaterally rewriting the devolution settlement and powers being stripped from the Scottish Parliament with the threat of further rolling back of devolution. We hear them state their intention to impose “UK-wide common frameworks” that only the terminally naive suppose will be limited to the likes of food standards and animal welfare – although that would be bad enough.

We are told that, in the new ‘One Nation’ British state, “discrepancies” across the four nations will not be tolerated.

We are warned that the British political elite will not allow anything to damage their “precious, precious Union”.

Even if we couldn’t work it out for ourselves, we are now being explicitly told what fate awaits Scotland if the monstrous ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist project is not halted.

And yet our politicians seem oblivious. Not once have I heard any of them address this threat to Scotland’s democracy. I have been deeply immersed in the debate about when we should hold the referendum. I have yet to find any Postponer who is willing to even acknowledge that the British government will be doing something while the SNP sorts out it’s internal organisation and Pete Wishart waits for a burning bush to tell him of the coming ‘Optimum Time’. (Note to Biblical scholars: Give me a break, eh! It’s a nice image.)

It’s as if, in the scenarios they consider, the British government ceases to exist. The British political elite is simply disregarded. The British state’s pressing imperative to lock Scotland into a ‘reformed’ Union is just ignored. The ongoing ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist project isn’t a factor. It doesn’t figure in the Postponers’ calculations when they’re considering timing of the new referendum.

Caution may be advisable in certain circumstances. Nobody can sensibly contest the fact that the SNP’s ‘gradualist’ strategy has been successful to date. But the gradual approach has no defined end-point – unless and until you create one. At some juncture, you have to make the final leap. You have to do something bold. You have to act.

All this talk of waiting for ‘optimal conditions’ to spontaneously emerge from the political ether and stopping the political roller-coaster so the SNP can change it’s underpants totally misses the point. The choice is not between going now (September) and losing, or going at some later date (defined only vaguely or not at all) and winning. The choice is between the absolute certainty of the British Nationalist project relentlessly eroding Scotland’s democracy at an accelerating pace, or the possibility of stopping that project in it’s tracks before it can do irreversible damage.

Of course, it’s just a possibility. But it’s the only chance we have. There’s a good reason the Postponers are reluctant to discuss their alternative plan for stopping, or even slowing, the British Nationalist juggernaut. They don’t have one!


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25 thoughts on “The options

  1. Keith Brown should be slightly ashamed of himself. The SNP should never be anything other than ready to fight a referendum on independence and they should definitely be in a high state of preparedness in the current situation.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What is more worrying is that many commentators current comments don’t appear to align with the very specific circumstances that trigger the SNP’s referendum mandate. It is these factors that must be the basis of any new campaign and its discussion…moreover these current circumstances are urgent, and an existential threat to Scottish sovereignty. As such they require constant work by YES to marshal public opinion ready to act as soon as the trigger is called.

      If people are still in the erroneous mindset that this is just a repeat of 2014 issues…of course to them there is no urgency. I fear this misunderstanding of the issues appears to be behind many of the comments that seek to delay the triggering of the mandate.

      I can see some of the big structural moves the SNP is preparing in their policy ideas, but I am concerned they are not helping reinforce the rhetorical framework for the new referendum. The lack of evidence of the essential background work is a massive risk factor for the YES movement.

      Just as many castigate Westminster for lack of planning for Brexit infrastructure (ports customs, legal), Scotland (now aware there may be a referendum) needs to be signalling/illustrating it essential prep work.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s the Treaty of Union. I believe the reason is because the Holyrood parliament is a devolved assembly created by Westminster and not a reinstatement of the Scottish Parliament that signed the Treaty in 1707. Others might have more info than me though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. @Sandyw

        Did you see Grouse Beater’s tweet on his research RE: the final Scottish parliament.

        If the historical documents do show Scottish Parliament (or its proxy) actually sat after the joint Westminster Parliament, and after 1707….with the minutes of its last act being the Scottish Parliament was only “Suspended” ..not “dissolved” as Grouse Beater has potentially found.

        It would be an interesting legal case as to the Constitutional status of the current Scottish Parliament. In any legal case the actual text is so crucial.

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    2. More likely because under Scots Law …Declaration of Arbroath etc. The people are Sovereign and therefore it requires a majority to vote for independence. Otherwise the Scots Gov could simply end the treaty. Note we voted to keep the UK union in sep 2014, it somewhat ties the Scots Gov. hands.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Keith Brown was a Royal Marine who yomped across and fought in the Falklands. What would his Sergeant-Major have said if Keith had told him that he wasn’t ready for combat that day and would he please communicate that to the foe?

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  3. The pussyfoot brigade in the SNP are reckoning that the indy movement has to gather the people needed to the Yes cause by not being confrontational. That somehow that’s going to favourably impress people and eventually a decisive majority for independence will spontaneously appear in the opinion polls. That is not a bad strategy……….it is no strategy at all. It shows a woeful lack of understanding of strategy, of history and of human psychology.

    The achievement of major historical changes are always down to the hardcore among the challengers being in control of the tiller.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Whatever the SNP come up with , I feel it will be events outwith their control that will decide the next indyref . Maybe they could call an early election and make it about renegotiating the Treaty of The Union , or make the election about dissolving the union . Whatever the SNP are up to , it feels like the British establishment are 2 steps ahead at least .

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    1. The Scottish Government cannot call an early election.

      It is inevitable that the British establishment will be “2 steps ahead”. That’s the way the Union is set up. But it doesn’t mean our elected representatives can’t be ahead of them in terms of planning. Being two steps ahead isn’t such a great advantage if your opponents can predict well in advance and with great confidence what those steps will be.

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      1. I had no idea the Scottish Government couldn’t call an early election , was that part of the Scotland Act ?

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      2. There is provision in the Scotland Act (Section 3) for the calling of an extraordinary general election by the Scottish Parliament, but not by the Scottish Government. In other words, the Scottish Government cannot precipitate a general election simply by resigning.

        The British parties would probably not cooperate with any move to call an extraordinary general election. Instead, they would almost certainly come together in a ‘grand coalition’ to form a new government.

        We would then be fucked in every conceivable sense of that term.

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      3. Follow up , if the Scottish Parliament decides to dissolve for an extraordinary general election it would need 86 votes to do so , the Presiding Officer then proposes a date and parliament is dissolved by a monarch . Would the British National parties agree to do this ?

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  5. Peter,

    I fear for the YES movement.

    There is a glaring tell in the “Postponer’s” language and arguments that they subconsciously see the current drive for independence as a re-run of 2014…Not as a vote to overcome an new existential threat to Scotland and its sovereignty. This is a huge mistake.

    ……………The surest way to lose is to fight the last battle not the current one…………..

    I concur with your summation. Too many YES/commentators are dangerously (and mistakenly) assuming a future that is lineal from the present. (i.e. Everything will be the same only there will be a vote for independence when the Yes movement wants it.). This was the case for 2014 Indy-Ref and hence why I suspect many “Postponer’s” are deep down still in an Indy-Ref frame of mind.

    This time the constitutional and sovereignty issues for Scotland are radically different…only exacerbated by a sickeningly fast approaching time limit on any action to protect Scotland’s sovereignty.

    Scotland now has a different and compelling case. In the BREXIT vote England and Wales left the shared path the UK countries were collectively on….as such it can now be argued that England and Wales left the Union and the other UK countries have the right to decide their own direction. I.e. the Union is now no longer agreed at a fundamental level about its member’s functioning role in the world.

    This referendum is about sovereignty and who has the right to speak for Scotland.

    This is no longer the Indy-ref issue of Status-quo v. Independence…Brexit means there can be no Status-quo. There are over 19000 laws to be re-written and the question is not what the Scottish Government’s position is on any of those laws….The question is do Scotland’s people get to decide those 19000 positions for themselves. Can Scotland set its own priorities and its people vote in and out governments to deliver those priorities? Fundamentally does it sees its priorities as the same as an isolationist England?

    YES must set the terms for this new debate…and stick to them. It cannot fall into the trap of using the language or rationale from 2014. It has been gifted a rational that is urgent and compelling and it should avoid muddying that drive with ideas that don’t carry the full impact of it’s idea.

    To its benefit Scotland now has gained the valuable ability to push back against Westminster’s foundational argument that Scotland gets to participate in the UK parliament. The 2015 General Election (where the SNP had 56 of the 59 seats) is proof to all Scotland that it is not possible to effectively express Scotland’s sovereignty through Westminster. This landslide independence majority did nothing for its securing of promised rights…”the Vow” has fully evaporated as the apparition it always was.

    Scotland has also been warned of what is waiting for them if they stay with England and Wales. Westminster has already set in play events that will radically change the ground rules from under Scotland’s feet (you listed many but not all of them). Once Scotland put its head above the parapet in 2014 and chose not leverage it sovereignty for independence, it appears Westminster now aims to consume it. I get a sickening chill every time I see the attacks on Scotland the brand, devolution, funding, Scottish law.

    I have yet to see anyone define which institution legally speaks for Scotland’s sovereignty (as sovereignty is held by the Scottish people as I understand it). Is it:
    * The Scottish parliament?
    * The majority of its Scottish Westminster MPs?
    * The First Minister?
    The answer to this question is critical, as it will ultimately define the processes of constituting a valid Independence process (one Scotland determines not Westminster). It is also essential as it is possibly the holder of the final fail-safe…UDI.

    There is a small window to act. The actual date unknown but the legal/constitutional window is clear and I suspect it is fast approaching too late for Yes to fully mobilise.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. You have articulated the situation superbly Tom. I don’t know though about it approaching too late to mobilise. But I think it’s approaching too late for the SNP leadership to claim to be the engine of the Yes movement. Unless they’ve got something up their sleeve. But I doubt it. They reek more than a bit of managerialism now and that is no use in the political emergency Scotland is in.

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    1. Just as the Postponers constantly and consistently fail to explain how they would address the consequences of delaying the independence referendum, so those who make foolish assertions about the SNP not being the de facto political arm of the Yes movement never quite get around to telling us what their alternative might be.

      Much like the Postponers, they tend to be very keen on diverting from such pertinent questions with straw man arguments and faux indignation over imagined ‘abuse’.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. @westminster is england

      Thanks for the kind words.

      In relation to the comment:……”its approaching too late to mobilise”…..

      I was working back from the window for a referendum as i see it. The timing of the referendum will require all of SNP’s nous. The First Minister is canny but history shows there is always an element of testing your luck with these decisions.

      I have based my reckoning that the best time would be between:

      1… Before UK leaves the EU (nominally 29 March 2019). NOTE: this is the Brexit date & not the end of any transition…and this may be much earlier than 29 March 2019 if Westminster crashed out and walks away

      2… Before the UK changes any legal frameworks.

      3… Before any en mass EU citizens departing

      4….I would like to say once the Withdrawal agreement is known. However, Scotland can no longer rely on that criteria given the risk of UK crashing out. Note: this is not the final trading deal as the transition period could extend that indefinitely. It is possible that this criteria should really be the draft Withdrawal Agreement and that has already been released.

      …………………………………………………………

      The EU has stated that it will take 6 months for all member states to vote on any deal. As such, the Withdrawal Agreement needs to be finalised by September 2018….6 MONTHS FROM NOW!.

      To be safe, I would suggest that Scotland hold its referendum to ensure that any major constitutional independence issues are not affected in the wake of Westminster legislating leaving the EU….beware of those Henry VIII powers. They are insidious and scary as they do not appear to have limits on their effects. As such, I would imagine the vote to be before any of the EU countries vote on the withdrawal agreement….So my guess would be early October 2018.

      If we work on the best case scenario where Brexit goes to schedule: This is what the dates look like:

      13/04/2018 – today
      29/09/2018 – UK/EU WITHDRAWAL AGREEMENT FINALISED
      07/10/2018 – SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM
      29/03/2019 – BREXIT DATE

      Scotland now has to do in less than 6 months what it took 2 years to organise for the 2014 indy ref. Think about it. In a best case scenario, there is less than 6 months to:

      1…Legislate and politically secure a referendum
      2…Budget allocation, voting procedures/mechanisms,
      3…Voting roles and ensuring these are secure and the public is signed up
      4…Define the ballot QUESTION
      5…Construct a campaign for YES
      6…Construct viable Indépendance positions (at least outlining how it will transition to an independant country…giving the population confidence it is able to ramping up institutions to carry out basic functions for an independent country.)
      7…Yes Groups organised and active….Scotland still needs to push the support to over 50%…Potentially much higher to be safe
      8…Organise communication channels to counter Westminster/External narratives

      ……………………………………………………….
      DANGER
      If the UK crashes out or moves its legislative agenda against Scotland forward, a referendum may need to be called much earlier. I.e you could be left with only months or weeks notice.

      In the very worst case, (which unfortunately has a possibility of coming to fruition) what would Scotland do if the only way to protect its sovereignty was to issue a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI). Has the SNP got its legal/constitutional ducks lined up? Has the movement got itself into a position that it can ride the wave of events to push support for independence to over 50%? Has the movement ever thought about organising mass rallies needed to push its case at a moments notice if there is no time to call a referendum.

      This is what I mean, working back from the known….time is slipping away and as Westminster is increasingly signalling it will not countenance what it sees as a rogue authority that hinders it….That cliff edge is looking ever more terrifying by the day.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ramblings of a hysterical agitator. “I attend meetings across the country where activists agree with me” you declare. Er, maybe because you’re preaching to the converted. Do you think you know more than politicians like Pete Wishart who have actually fought and won elections? Think they may know just a tad more about this than you.

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    1. Why would Pete Wishart’s opinion on the timing of a new independence referendum be more valid than mine, or anyone else’s? What additional useful knowledge might he have gained from having fought and nearly lost an election?

      Liked by 2 people

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