Options and priorities

As I have said on many occasions, the most valuable thing a political leader can have is a range of options. I have also acknowledged Nicola Sturgeon as a worthy pupil of one of the most astute politicians of our time – her erstwhile mentor, Alex Salmond. So I find it totally inexplicable both that she should discard options for taking forward the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence and that she should do so by choosing a route so fraught with potential pitfalls.

Unlike many other SNP members and a good number of my fellow Yes activists, I was perfectly content that the MacNeil/McEleny ‘Plan B’ resolution was rejected. I won’t go through all the reasons for this here, but they included the First Minister’s concern about distraction as well as recognition of the difficulties involved in making an election work as a substitute for a referendum. And the fact that a conference resolution isn’t needed for Plan B. The SNP can just stick in their manifesto for any election a declaration that a favourable outcome will be taken as a mandate to start negotiations. Who’s going to object? Apart from the usual suspects

I suggested then that Angus MacNeil and Chris McEleny might have had more success putting forward an amendment to the resolution in the names of John Swinney and Maree Todd, which they have now done; although I don’t for one moment suppose my words had any bearing on that decision. Besides, I also advised that they should drop their ‘Plan B’ and instead submit an amendment advocating a greater sense of urgency from the Scottish Government and exhorting the First Minister to keep her options open on on the matter of process rather than insisting on rigid adherence to procedures established by the British government. Obviously, Angus and Chris have not heeded this part of my advice.

I take the view that getting Plan A right is vastly more important than having a backup plan. Not least because, should Plan A fail, it’s unlikely that there will be an opportunity to resort to Plan B. If the British establishment is aware of the potential of Plan B, and how could they not be, then they will have a countermeasure ready to be deployed.

Nicola Sturgeon is absolutely correct in sating that focus must be on her plan. Where I part company with her is that I insist this focus shout take the form of critical scrutiny, rather than obedient acceptance.

I suggest that the four SNP MPs now backing a Plan B route to independence would serve Scotland’s cause better were they to take the lead in questioning the efficacy and wisdom of following the Section 30 route.



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3 thoughts on “Options and priorities

  1. “…So I find it totally inexplicable both that she should discard options for taking forward the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence and that she should do so by choosing a route so fraught with potential pitfalls…”

    You echo the misgivings of so many of us, Mr Bell. However, and I may be wrong here, I believe that many are afraid to take any action that does not accord with the ‘rules’ because a) there is no wish to alienate people who deserve to have their utterly selfish NO) vote challenged properly; and b) the Catalan situation has concentrated minds. A letter in The National recently claimed that there is little substantial difference between the Catalan situation and Scotland, and, although I absolutely support the Catalans in their bid for independence, and agreed with much in the letter, there is, indeed, a very real difference between the Catalan situation and Scotland’s. The greatest one is that the Catalans have refused to accept the ‘rules’ set by Madrid, while Scotland, with by far the best hand of cards, refuses to do otherwise than accept the ‘rules’ set by Westminster. It would be laughable if it were not so sad and serious. I sometimes feel that the SNP leadership is determined to follow the second Quebec referendum example. What is the point of not alienating people because you want them to remain in Scotland if you never get an independent country where they contribute to Scotland, rather than to the UK, as a whole, and when you are being dragged out of the trading alliance that has thus far allowed you to adhere to the ‘rules’ set by Westminster because that trading alliance has not been deliberately trampled on (yet) to be replaced (they hope) by another that is bound to damage you? Something is not right here. Not right at all.

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    1. It’s probably just as well I didn’t see that letter claiming that “there is little substantial difference between the Catalan situation and Scotland”. Beyond the fundamental right of self-determination, the two situations are different enough to make a nonsense of any direct comparisons. The most significant difference is not that Catalunya “refused to accept the ‘rules’ set by Madrid” but that the ‘rules’ themselves are totally different. The constitutional circumstances are not in any way similar. Given that it is a constitutional issue, this is rather crucial. Had I seen that letter, I’d have felt obliged to put the author right in no uncertain manner.

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      1. I probably would have but I did not have the time, Mr Bell. The two situations are, indeed, constitutionally diverse. I think the author was claiming that, in reality, we might face the same reactions as the Catalans did. That may be so, but the two situations remain very different. Sometimes, I despair at the willingness of even independence supporters to just accept what they are told. We have to question everything and that includes the so-called British constitutional rules by which the SNP appears to be determined to work within. Aaaarghhhh. It drives me up the wall.

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