Active indifference

People's_Vote_March_October_2018.jpgThere may be sound reasons for opposing a #PeoplesVote. But concerns about a “confirmatory referendum” following a Yes vote should not be one of them. In the first place, we must wonder how likely it is that, having just restored Scotland’s independence, the Scottish people would then change their minds and hand power back to the British political elite.

It is argued that the British government could make the ‘divorce settlement’ so unpalatable as to cause voters to reconsider their choice. But this assumes that the British state has the stronger hand in negotiations such as would allow it to impose a settlement. Even if this were the case, bullying tactics of this sort would surely be as likely stiffen the resolve of voters as to deter them.

And it is wrong to suppose that Scotland would be negotiating from a position of weakness. Simple logic tells us that the British state’s determination to hold on to Scotland implies we have things that they want. They’d still want – perhaps need – those things after independence and this would give Scotland something to bargain with.

Also, any ‘divorce settlement’ which was bad for Scotland would probably be harmful to the rest of the UK (rUK). This at a time when rUK is likely to be particularly vulnerable to political and economic turbulence.

We should not fear a confirmatory referendum. Even if Westminster could demand one – and chose to do so – I am confident it would only reinforce the original Yes vote.

But there is another reason why concern about a referendum to confirm a Yes vote cannot be an adequate justification for opposing a #PeoplesVote. There would have to be a second referendum anyway!

After a Yes vote, one of the first tasks for the Scottish Government will be the drafting of a written constitution. This constitution will have to be endorsed by the people of Scotland in a referendum. It should be easy to argue that this makes a confirmatory referendum redundant.

None of which is to say that I entirely agree with the SNP administration’s decision to support a #PeoplesVote. Or that I wholly approve of the manner in which this decision was taken. There should have been wider discussion of the matter within the party. Had such discussions taken place, I would have been arguing for a position of ‘active indifference’. Not supporting a #PeoplesVote – because Scotland has already voted and our voice has been ignored. Not opposing – because it would be good if rUK changed its mind and brought the whole Brexit fiasco to a halt. And because opposing a democratic vote is never a good look.

I would have advised using the issue of a #PeoplesVote as a device by which to emphasise the fact that Brexit is very much ‘England’s problem’. And to drive home the point that we have the means to ensure that it isn’t made Scotland’s problem.


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6 thoughts on “Active indifference

  1. if scotland held the referendum for the constitution after a yes vote for independence but before a uk imposed confirmation vote how would that work out?

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    1. I would argue that the British state has no right or authority to demand a confirmatory referendum. Just as the British state cannot have a veto on our right of self-determination, so it cannot limit or constrain that right. And if the British state’s authority in such matters is questionable, at best, prior to a Yes vote, how much less legitimacy must it have after the people of Scotland have voted to reject its authority.

      What I find strange, and not a little disturbing, is the fact that there are people in the SNP who appear to accept the supremacy of Westminster. This seems at odds with the fundamental idea of popular sovereignty.

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      1. Peter,

        I agree. Too many people are muddled…it does my head in.

        YES needs to get its language – and its message straight – and quickly. It should have been spending this Brexit period to do this….set the ground work for the upcoming campaign. (I note you and a couple of other bloggers have really honed your messages over that time…but it is not wide spread and the SNP is all over the place)

        Any kinks (inconsistencies) in the YES message will be smashed by the media and used to drive a wedge.

        I fear it will be tears again if YES does not start driving the momentum.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Most countries which have gained independence have not done so under the burden of a referendum. They have held a ratifying vote after independence – a confirmatory one, if you like. Read Alyn Smith’s piece in today’s National to get the full flavour of what a constitutional referendum on independence is like for colonies and for us, as a ‘colony’ of the UK, for Quebec, as a ‘colony’ of Canada and for Catalunya, as a ‘colony’ of Spain. We four, all hell-bent on indyrefs, are trapped in our prisons by those who have a vested interest in keeping us supine and in hock to the Mothership. Scotland is probably the only nation where we cannot tell the truth about our indy vote. Alyn Smith comes very close to letting slip what really prevented us from gaining our independence in 2014, albeit he might not have meant to. It is very similar to the New Caledonian indyref. Only when that is recognised and understood – no resentment necessary – can we move towards a different route to independence. A second indyref will not be granted and cannot be won anyway. I despair at those who still punt it because the pain that would be derived from a second indyref that was lost, would be intolerable.

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  2. What you have written can not be repeated often enough.

    It is a measure of an unjustified anxiety that causes this fretting about ‘a precedent being set’. Some folk seem still to be in thrall to the British State. Take a deep breath everyone. We need a bit of courage and self belief. We the people of Scotland are sovereign. We will decide whether we want a second referendum and, if so, what the terms will be. As you say, a YES in the next independence referendum changes the dynamic and balance of power between Scotland and England. Vince, ‘butt out’.

    It is laughable to think when it is held the terms will be ‘if we (England) do not like the result we will seek confirmation (in an attempt to reverse it). It’s called democracy.’ Bring it on. It will up the YES vote. The corollary will be, I presume, if you vote NO no further endorsement is required and, by the way, we will carve you up like last time but more so. If they try to be sweet with Vow II, who will believe them?

    Courage friends! Courage!

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  3. The peoples vote is not about whether the result of the EU referendum can be reversed. It’s about whether the deal offered is acceptable to the people. If they said no it would be to the deal not to Brexit. So in an independence situation it would be the same.

    The people would have their say on the deal that was struck. If they said no it would just be a case of tweaking the deal not cancelling independence. No-one for a minute is arguing that the peoples vote is to cancel Brexit.

    That said I still would avoid it like the plague as it muddies the waters. The SNP should have said we had the peoples vote and it was 62% remain ,then left the room.

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