Now is the time

The point about independence being the subject of the first clause in the SNP’s constitution is a fair one. The aspiration to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status really does infuse everything that the party does. Although, of course, it must these days concern itself also with matters relating to its role as the party of government.

The decisions have already been made. The electorate has granted the current SNP administration a mandate to hold a new independence referendum and this has been approved by the Scottish Parliament. All that is left is to declare the date. And that is a matter for Nicola Sturgeon. she was elected leader because the membership trusts her judgement. We gave her the job. Now we must let her do it.

Which is not to say that SNP members and the wider Yes movement shouldn’t be offering Nicola Sturgeon every ‘encouragement’ to act as a matter of some urgency. Indeed, a public clamour for a new referendum is just what the First Minister wants and needs. But a conference resolution specifying a date for the vote – which is what some people seem to want – would diminish the authority of the elected party leader. Even if carried such a motion could not possibly be binding on Ms Sturgeon. She cannot be forced by conference to act against her own judgement. If she was unable to accept the date set by conference, she would placed in the situation of having to defy the conference or resign.

The place for word on the new referendum is in Nicola Sturgeon’s address. And there really has to be something meaningful and substantial about the referendum in her speech. Back in June, I was rather critical of Nicola Sturgeon’s speech to the Spring Conference in Aberdeen. I pointed out that there was something missing.

What many of us did hope for was some sense of awareness of the precariousness of Scotland’s situation and the need for urgency in addressing the threat to our Parliament and our democracy. At the very minimum we expected an acknowledgement of the rising power and presence of the Yes movement. We were given neither.

When Nicola Sturgeon said that we should not focus on the when of independence, that felt like a rebuke to a Yes movement which is increasingly concerned that the the consequences of delaying the referendum are not being recognised or appreciated by the SNP leadership. Those concerns most certainly aren’t being addressed by senior SNP politicians. And those who hoped for better from Nicola Sturgeon must now be feeling extremely disappointed.

I fully recognise that this is a difficult decision. Whatever date Nicola Sturgeon chooses for the new referendum she will have to face, not only the virulent condemnation of the British establishment, but also an onslaught from those within the Yes movement who can’t resist the urge to tell the world that they think she’s got it wrong.

Nonetheless, this is a time to be bold, decisive and assertive. Among all the factors Nicola Sturgeon is required to consider, she must take account of the fact that the independence cause desperately needs some strong and positive leadership right now. And I mean, right now! Whatever Iain Macwhirter may say (The SNPs legendary party unity could be finally about to crack), the patience exhibited by members suggests that party solidarity is holding up very well. That the party and the Yes movement are prepared to wait until October – despite being poised for action – demonstrates just how much Nicola Sturgeon is trusted.

But there is a limit. The power of the Yes movement cannot be contained indefinitely. Nicola Sturgeon would be well advised to keep this in mind as she writes her speech for the SNP Conference in October.

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8 thoughts on “Now is the time

  1. Lets hope she does what’s right for Scotland. I fear the Tories are going to posture until November. It just gets closer and closer to Spring 19. October would be a good month to call a referendum for the spring.


  2. Well, Sturgeon did say back in 2015 that it’s for the people to decide the timing of the next Indyref. A lot has happened since then.

    But back last year and maybe before, it seemed a lot of people in Scotland were sick of elections and referendums, or even hearing about them, there had been so many. And my “advice” was not to talk about it, which is what Sturgeon and most of the SNP seem to have done. This was to give the non-activist public time to get over all those ballots, and even move themselves, after the EU Ref, towards a YES vote, without any interference, whether help or hindrance.

    It’s not easy though, you do wonder if Indy is being kicked into the long grass, and a few of the SNP bods have talked about doing just that (after 2021 is the long grass). So naturally there’s a lot of unrest in the YES movement, and it’s hard not to share it.

    Ultimately though in around October we’ll all know if our faith in Sturgeon has been correct – or not.


  3. This ‘election fatigue’ is a media-generated myth. And, to whatever limited extent it might be real, we shouldn’t be any more accepting of it than we are of other manifestations of voter apathy. How many is “so many”? It works out at about one vote per year. Hardly an onerous imposition. The Swiss have referendums every year. Sometimes more than one. And that’s on top of the various local, regional and national elections.

    But, of course, we must be less capable than the Swiss. Because the papers say so. Oh aye! There’s the odd poll. (Funny how there’s never any suggestion of ‘poll fatigue’. But then, there’s money to be made from polling.) Polls which asked loaded questions of people already persuaded by the media that ‘election fatigue’ is a genuine phenomenon that they are expected to have experienced.

    Politics doesn’t stop. The only way to stop hearing about politics is to totally isolate oneself from reality. Is that a viable option? Should we be encouraging – or even tolerating – that level of detachment from the democratic process? Or should we be telling people to grow the fuck up, get off their arses, and make the minuscule effort required to haul that arse to a polling place once a year?

    “Time to get over all those ballots”!? FFS! You’d think people were being asked to run a bloody marathon and climb a mountain every time they vote! At most, it’s a ten-minute walk to the polling station and make a mark on a piece of paper with a pencil. It’s not even a very heavy pencil!

    I despair at how easily people are manipulate by the British establishment’s propaganda machine. The political elite don’t like it when the people exercise their democratic power. As well-managed as the whole process is, there’s always the risk that the plebs might vote the wrong way. So it stands to reason that they will want to minimise that risk by keeping elections to the absolute minimum. The last thing the political elite needs is for people to actually want to vote. So they have the media portray it as hard work. Established power is presented as doing us a favour by not asking us to vote. And the sheeple fall for it.


    1. It’s not the actual votes Peter, it’s having wall to wall politicians practically every day of the year. Some of us might breathe politics, to others it’s pollution.


      1. Where we differ is that you accept this portrayal of political discourse as “pollution” and advocate that we pander to it by backing away from political activism, while I insist that we must confront this urge to apathy and forcefully impress upon people the importance of engagement with and participation in the democratic process.

        We must fight the British state’s effort to alienate people, rather than aiding it by parroting their propaganda about “election fatigue”.


      2. It’s not state propaganda Peter, I’ve heard it from people with my own ears, several times. Though maybe they’re like that because of state propaganda, who knows!


  4. Proves the propaganda’s working. Think about it! Established power is obviously served by limiting the extent to which democracy actually works. while it just as self-evidently is NOT in people’s interests to forego or forfeit their democratic power. There is no naturally occurring tendency for people to want to reduce their opportunities to vote. That tendency must be induced.


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