Wasted years

Yes Scotland, the official campaign organisation for the Yes side in the first Scottish independence referendum, was launched on 25 May 2012. Almost eight years ago. By that time we had known for fully a year that there definitely would be a referendum on account of the SNP landslide victory in the Scottish Parliament elections. Assuming the SNP had not done any preparation for the referendum in the previous 77 years of its existence, that means the party has had almost nine years to develop a campaign strategy. Nine years plus the experience of an actual independence referendum campaign. And here we have Angus “Rip Van” Robertson proudly telling us how busy he’s going to be in 2020 working out the best way to convince No voters to back independence.

Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this picture?

I don’t claim to have all the answers. But what I can say is that before September 2014 was out I had started to seriously think about the next referendum. I had tentatively worked out a date and put significant effort into consideration of what lessons learned from the campaign just past might inform a new campaign. By early 2015 I was ready to engage in meaningful discussion about a plan for the new independence referendum; from the arguments for having a fresh vote through the framing of the referendum itself to the basics of the Yes campaign strategy.

Of course, there were developments over the intervening years that had to be taken into consideration and much to be derived from discussion and debate with other independence campaigners. But I had things worked out well enough that when the EU referendum came along in 2016 I was already pretty clear about how it would impact plans for a new independence referendum in September 2018.

I say all this, not to brag – I may well have made fatal errors in my analysis and my plans could have been quite useless. The point I’m making is that it was perfectly possible to start planning for a new referendum immediately the result of the first one was known. Even if some wound-licking time was required there has been at least five years in which the not inconsiderable resources of the SNP could and should have been devoted to developing at least the bones of a campaign strategy. But here we are in 2020, with supposedly only months to go before the launch of a new referendum campaign, and the party is just now working on “understanding how and why people are changing their minds about Scottish independence”.

It would be gratifying to think that this was just a matter of putting the final touches to an already well developed plan. Or maybe adjusting details in the light of events. But nothing of what I’ve heard and read from the SNP in recent times gives me any confidence that the party has any ideas beyond simply re-running the old campaign – with added gentleness. And whatever confidence I might have had instantly evaporated on finding Angus Robertson looking to former Labour politician Douglas Alexander. That’s right! The same Douglas Alexander who made a total arse of running the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections. The man who was part of Gordon Brown’s inner circle at the time of the election that never was. The man who played a significant role on the anti-independence side of the 2014 referendum campaign.

Actually, that last might be the only thing that could possibly qualify Alexander as someone you would look to for advice about campaigning. He was on the winning side, after all.

What Angus Robertson has done with his column in The National today is remind us that it is not only in the matter of getting a new referendum that there are serious concerns about the SNP’s approach to the constitutional issue. There are also questions to be asked about the party’s preparedness for a campaign which we are assured will start in as little as six months time. Questions which, if recent experience is any guide, will remain unanswered.

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8 thoughts on “Wasted years

  1. You put into words what I have been increasingly feeling and thinking since September 2014 Peter. The SNP was created to achieve Independence then became a protest movement, then it moved on to a party of government and now our raison d’etre is sidelined and the leadership manage Independence expectation. I wish sometimes I was like others and had the faith of a child. But I’m a gey hairy arsed child

    Liked by 3 people

  2. You had made plans for us winning Indyref2 in September 2018? Well thank God you’re not a politician and your crazy plan never came to pass because we would have lost it.


    1. How can you be so sure? A campaign to inform the Scottish public of the the inadequacy of the GERS figures, the theft of our oil, and the probabilities of independent Scotland being do much more advanced than the UK ( = Greater England) in So many ways from social justice to immigration may well have convinced the majority of people to vote for Scottish Sovereignty in fact as well as in theory.


  3. The SNP became a British Party that fielded candidates for the English Parliament of the UK only in Scotland, and is the Party of devolved Government in Scotland. Trying to save the UK ( = Greater England) from Brexit was a major reorientation from Scottish independence to British salvation. I do not forgive them for that.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I was going to take a break, as by the end of January we’ll know if they’re messing us about or are for real. But while waiting for the filters on the hoover to dry (no suction!), I posted this there:

    “In 2020 a new schedule of polling and research will be conducted to better understand the opinions of people who are open-minded or undecided.”

    Yes, it’s called “Indy Ref 2” as in #indyref2020

    You’re not with the program Angus, this is not a sinecure for life, it’s not a pension topup scheme for failed politicians, only a few of you get paid for it, the rest of us – it costs us money. So just do it, get on with it, stop procrastinating, get your finger out.

    No more excuses.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There seems to be an early New Year succession of “wets”. It only needs Keith Brown now to post pictures of his umbrella and I’ll be demanding all my votes for the SNP since 2015 be returned to me.

    I’m usually happy for you to do this stuff Peter, and even “pull you up” on details. To keep the balance. And I am usua;;y optimistic, I think Sturgeon means it when she says “Indy Ref 2 this year” to paraphrase #indyref2020 – her hashtag.

    But if this wetness gets a hold unchallenged, we’re all wishy washy macaskill sillars smith drowned. There will be no majority for Independence in 2021 because unlike the silly band of nincompoops we’re seeing, many of us will have jumped ship and left the Titanic to slap itself on its self-important back and crash and burn.

    So what’s wrong with mixed metaphors? Better that than mixed messages.


  6. They have confused the legitimacy of the 2016 result with unhelpful drivel at further elections about ‘strengthening the mandate’, ‘a triple mandate’ and so forth.

    Either you have a mandate, and proceed expeditiously on that basis, or you act as if you don’t, offering the electoral carrot of spurious ‘enhanced mandates’ that don’t mean a damn.

    They make the Tories life easy for them, and the refusal of a section request – for those that own the UK media – a breeze.

    I seriously believe the damage can only be repaired by a referendum to the Scottish people about whether they wish a further vote.

    Its the only – albeit protracted – way to ensure the will of the Scottish people is made crystal clear within the U.K. and internationally. And would bind any 2021 parliament to respect the people’s vote.


  7. Peter

    SO TRUE.

    How can YES/SNP not be ready to go now? Where are all the plans/roadmaps NS repeated said she was about to announce over 2018/19.

    It has all the signs that YES has been played into stagnation when the moment was ripe for success. The big question for every YES to ask is:
    …If the SNP won’t deliver Indy, can it still be the party of indy?

    Liked by 2 people

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