Professor Sir John Curtice is being a tad disingenuous when he says,
It seems that the days when Unionists could claim with confidence that Scots do not want another independence referendum any time soon may have come to an end.
The professor must surely be aware that those days came to an end some time ago. They were at an end long before polling showed 51% in favour of a new referendum at any date. His comments imply that an opinion poll majority is required before a new constitutional referendum can be considered. That is patently not so. For it to be so, those surveys would require some sort of democratic legitimacy and force. However scientific they may be, opinion polls mere indicate the public mood. They do not, and cannot, reflect the will of the people.
In practice, the question of whether a referendum should be held is a matter for the government. Obviously, opinion polling will be factored into deliberations. But, ultimately, it is a decision for the First Minister, taking account of public demand as well as things like the importance of the issue and the need to resolve it occasioned by its overall impact. Opinion polls don’t decide these matters. Nobody elected the pollsters.
Apart from anything else, opinion polls tend to test the wrong thing. The Panelbase survey for the Sunday Times which found that 51% of Scots want a new referendum to be held “either when the UK is negotiating to leave the EU or has finished the negotiations” was clearly asking a rather silly and pointless question. The Brexit negotiations are already finished. They finished months ago. It matters not a toss how much bladders like Jeremy Hunt bang on about negotiating a deal that MPs can agree to, negotiations are already finished. They have ended. There will be no further negotiations. The negotiations that the lying Hunt is talking about aren’t going to happen. Because negotiations are finished. They are completed and concluded. Wound up and terminated.
If the Panelbase poll is to be taken seriously, it must be assumed to indicate that a majority want the new referendum to be held immediately. As in right now! But nobody seriously imagines this to be possible. While it is gratifying to see people realising the urgency of Scotland’s predicament, a sensible date for the new referendum would be Thursday 19 September 2019.
The question never was whether there should be a new referendum. That was always going to be necessary; because the 2014 No vote is known to have been won on a totally false prospectus. Nor is the scheduling of that referendum a matter of public opinion. It is a political decision determined by a combination of circumstances and political judgement.
All in all, this poll is a welcome fillip for Scotland’s cause, but it changes nothing. It may also be portrayed as a blow to British Nationalists. But bear in mind that these British Nationalists have only contempt for public opinion and democracy. And precious little regard for logic, coherence and consistency. They are perfectly capable of totally discounting the 51% in favour of an early referendum whilst simultaneously insisting that the 51% supposedly against independence is absolutely decisive.
I have long maintained that what the Yes movement needs is, not better answers to the questions thrown at us by British Nationalists, but better questions to throw back at them. When we are seeking answers to questions such as whether and when there should be another referendum, it’s because we are allowing the British establishment, its agents and lackeys the privilege and advantage of dictating the agenda. Why the hell are we doing that!?
Why are we not asking the question that Unionists and British Nationalists don’t want asked? The kind of questions that British political journalists are to professionally incompetent and/or intellectually indolent and/or profoundly prejudiced to ask. I will give just one example by way of illustration because it’s time Yes activists started formulating these questions for themselves.
How do Unionists and British Nationalists propose to maintain a political union which is implacably opposed by half of Scotland? What measures are they intending to take? How far are they prepared to go in order to preserve their ‘precious’ Union?
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