All of this from Pete Wishart, Tommy Sheppard and others might make some kind of sense if anybody was actually pressing for an immediate second referendum. Or if the Scottish Government’s ability to call another referendum was critically dependent on a manifesto commitment to a specific timetable. Or even if talk of a “once in a generation” undertaking wasn’t the vacuous nonsense that it is. Inexplicably, these people are allowing the British establishment to dictate the narrative. And I suspect I am not alone in being both disappointed and thoroughly pissed off.
Let’s deal with the most obvious fallacy first. I am, frankly, appalled that a politician with Pete Wishart’s experience should make a statement to the effect that the SNP had committed to an independence referendum being a “once in a generation” event. I can only assume that he’s read this so often in the British press that, like so many others, he has been duped into accepting it as fact. But, not only was no such undertaking ever given by the party, it would be utterly meaningless even if it had. As Nicola Sturgeon has very firmly pointed out, the whether and when of a second referendum is entirely a matter for the people of Scotland. We tell the politicians. They don’t tell us. Individual politicians may offer their personal opinions on the matter, but only the people of Scotland have the legitimate authority to decide.
Pete Wishart needs to pay closer attention to what his boss is saying.
But that is not the only aspect of the unionist narrative that is being echoed by SNP politicians who really should know better. The idea that the manifesto must contain a detailed commitment to a second referendum in order for that to be possible is every bit as fallacious as the “once in a generation” nonsense. The wrong-headedness of it is exposed by a set of simple logical statements.
THE SNP IS COMMITTED TO INDEPENDENCE.
THE SNP IS COMMITTED TO ACHIEVING INDEPENDENCE BY MEANS OF A REFERENDUM.
THEREFORE, THE SNP IS COMMITTED TO A REFERENDUM.
Absent a manifesto statement explicitly ruling out a referendum in the period of the next parliament, commitment to the principle of a referendum is absolutely implied.
And there is going to be no such ruling out of a referendum. Again, Mr Wishart and his colleagues need to listen to the party’s leader.
Our manifesto will set out what we consider are the circumstances and the timescale on which a second referendum might be appropriate, but we can only propose.
It’s then for people in Scotland, whether it is in this election or in future elections, to decide whether they want to vote for our manifesto and then if there is in the future another independence referendum, whether that’s in five years or ten years or whenever, it will be down to the people of Scotland to decide whether they want to vote for independence or not.
So at every single stage this is something that is driven by and decided by the people of Scotland, not by politicians.
Nicola Sturgeon has precisely seized upon the essence of the issue. Instead of responding to demands for an immediate referendum that are all but entirely a product of the British establishment’s propaganda machine, she is acutely aware that the real issue is our right of self-determination. It is the right of the people of Scotland to be the ultimate authority in relation to the constitutional status of their nation that must be affirmed and defended.
I am at a loss to understand why Pete Wishart is taking his lead from the unionist narrative rather than from a party leader who clearly has a firm grasp on the situation. I accept that it is necessary to emphasise the SNP’s standing as the only credible party of government in Scotland. But I see no reason why this should require talking down the party’s role as the political arm of the independence movement.
The people of Scotland are not stupid. They are perfectly capable of understanding this dual role.
If the SNP is to be the spearhead of the independence movement, it’s senior figures should not be confirming unionist drivel about a “once in a generation” promise. They should be treating it with the derision it deserves.
They should not be allowing unionists to set contrived constraints on the Scottish Government’s right to demand a referendum on behalf of the people of Scotland. They should be forcefully arguing the case that a democratically elected Scottish Government ALWAYS has that right.
They should not be allowing that the right of self-determination can be limited by the text of a party election leaflet. They should be insisting that this right is absolute and inalienable.