Context and process

Nicola Sturgeon’s response to suggestions – or hints – regarding alternative ways to take forward Scotland’s independence project will doubtless be portrayed by the British media with lurid headlines proclaiming a ‘major split in the SNP’. The first thing to, therefore, is to ignore the British media. Which is almost always good advice anyway.

Restoring Scotland’s independence will always require a referendum. As far as I can make out, nobody has suggested differently. What is being discussed is, not the requirement for a plebiscite, but the form of the process leading to a vote, and the nature of the proposition to be voted on.

Mhairi Hunter implies that winning a referendum is the only possible way to start the independence process. She appears to believe that a fundamental constitutional issue can hinge on relative trivialities such as opinion polls and party policy. This hardly seems realistic.

And it places wholly unnecessary constraints on the independence movement. Why should we be slaves to the polls? Why should SNP policy limit our thinking about ways to realise the aim of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. Surely, the independence project is too important – and now too urgent – to be hobbled in this way. Surely, we must be prepared to explore every possible avenue in our effort to rescue Scotland from the scourge of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism.

A referendum cannot be the start of the “independence process”. The 2014 referendum came after years and decades of campaigning. It could not have happened without the Scottish Parliament being reconvened and the SNP’s landslide victory in 2011. These things, and more, were as much a part of the independence process as the referendum. They were prerequisites for the referendum just as winning the referendum would have been a prerequisite for the negotiations which would have followed. It’s all part of the process.

We have to be prepared to examine that process to see if things could be done differently. We cannot be fixated on doing things in a particular way just because that’s how they were done before. I don’t doubt that the process followed by Alex Salmond for the 2014 referendum was appropriate – and probably necessary – at the time. But times have changed. Circumstances have changed. The entire context of Scotland’s independence campaign has altered dramatically in less than a decade. It is simply not reasonable to suppose that the same process must remain appropriate. We must be prepared to at least consider the possibility that it may be entirely inappropriate.

Angus MacNeil tweeted, “No UK Government stood in the way in 2014 … Same again with this positive call from the FM”.

No UK Government stood in the way in 2014 … Same again with this positive call from the FM— Angus B MacNeil MP (@AngusMacNeilSNP) December 3, 2018

This is not strictly correct. The UK Government fought tooth and nail to prevent any Scottish independence referendum ever taking place. They only relented after the voters broke the system and elected a majority SNP administration in the 2011 Holyrood election. And because they thought they couldn’t lose. Neither of these things is true today. The SNP’s majority was wiped out in 2016 due to the combined impact of the independence vote being split and tactical voting by British Nationalists. And the British establishment is now all too well aware that its grip on Scotland is more tenuous than at any time since the early decades of the Union.

These two factors alone represent hugely significant changes to the context of the independence campaign. And that’s before we start to consider things such as EVEL, Brexit and the power-grab. Not to mention the increasingly blatant contempt for Scotland being exhibited by the British political elite.

Reading Nicola Sturgeon’s remarks, I get a distinct sense that the First Minister is intent on adhering to the process followed by her predecessor. In my view, this would be a fatal error.

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3 thoughts on “Context and process

  1. Its like YES wants to re-fight the last battle.

    Too many see independence through the 2014 lens. That world is gone…gone forever. What now faces Scotland is a different risk.

    How can the SNP lock their position about the process to independence without regard to changing threats and legal standing? A referendum is one answer – it was also the one to the preceding prevailing set of circumstances…but it is not the answer to all circumstances.

    Just to illustrate that Independence does not always demand a Scottish referendum:
    – if England wanted to leave the union – do you really expect Scotland to get a referendum vote?
    – If England egregiously and fundamentally breaks the Act of Union…are you really of the position that Scotland must wait for Westminster to give a Section 30?

    Why does this discussion never start from Scottish legal and sovereign rights…before jumping to the outcome? With the fundamental changes England is driving circumstances are changing rapidly by the day. This is changing the Sovereign issue to be asked by Scotland.

    If Scotland can’t stop behaving like a colony instead of an equal member of a union (one with sovereign rights)…sadly its fate is sealed.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Leading up to Indy-ref 1 . The polls showed support for independence at barely 28%. So this idea that we can’t have a referendum until the polls show a majority is ludicrous. The majority will come if we lead the campaign properly. You go when you have a mandate, or if staying in the UK threatens our democracy and parliament.

    So the SNP can’t wait until they get 60%. That was not in their manifesto! It said :”If Scotland is taken out of the EU against it’s will”. Well it looks like exactly that to me.

    Have the SNP actually requested a section 30 since May said now is not the time?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Increasingly I am off the view that while Nicola Sturgeon is a superb First Minister & Scotland could not hope to have a better political leader, she is not the leader Scotland needs in order to gain independence. This should not be a surprise as rarely do revolutionaries & leaders of independence & freedom movements make good political leaders once their campaigns are over so why should we expect those who excel at working within the system to be adept at breaking that same system? The SNP has become a party of (excellent) government but I fear that they are too process oriented to achieve the goal of independence any time soon. Please, please, please prove me wrong…


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