Another year. Another announcement from Nicola Sturgeon concerning the constitutional issue. Another flurry of breathlessly congratulatory and unreservedly supportive comments from Nicola’s claque. Another crashing disappointment for all those who see the announcement for the hollow humbug that it is. A promise (political) of preparation of the draft of a plan to do something sometime. It’s like waiting for Christmas and getting World Town Planning Day.
We really have heard it all before. Almost word for word. Over the six years since the first independence referendum there have been almost as many promises of action on the constitutional issue as there have been missed opportunities to take action. Now we have another to add to the pitiful collection. Another to add to the pocketful of burst balloons.
I have questions! What action is being promised? How will it be delivered? When can we expect delivery? Why this action and this promise?
To say that the ‘when’ is vague is to lend it a substance it is signally absent. The Scotsman’s headline declares,
Bill to set out timing of Scottish independence referendum to be published within a year
Although the article goes on to say a Bill will be unveiled before the next Holyrood elections in May. Which is only nine months away. Mind you, that’s well within the British media’s margin of error. Which is as wide as it needs to be.
The National, somewhat predictably, interprets the statement as implying a much shorter timescale, assuring us that,
Plans for a second independence referendum – including when it will be held – are to be unveiled in the next six months…Independence: Nicola Sturgeon to publish new plans for a second referendum
But this raises questions of its own. Six years! It’s been six years since the first referendum! And this is the SNP just getting around to drawing up plans for #indyref2 now!? What have they been doing all this time? It’s not as if the situation has changed in such a way as to need a brand new plan. As turbulent as the last six years have been, the facts governing the essentials of the next referendum have been known since early 2015. A plan devised ahead of or immediately following the 2015 UK general election would only need the dust blown off to be ready at any time since.
What plan did Nicola Sturgeon have in mind on all the other occasions when she’s led us to believe a new referendum was “highly likely” (June 2016) in the “not too distant future” (November 2018)? Surely when she “called for a new Scottish independence referendum in the second half of 2020” (May 2019) there was some kind of plan in the pipeline at the very least. What happened to that plan? Is it really necessary to start from scratch every time? It must be very frustrating for those charged with drafting the plan to be repeatedly told to go back to the beginning and start again.
To be fair, nobody with a functioning intellect took that last one seriously. Even before the pandemic entered the picture that 2020 referendum was never going to happen. There wasn’t even a pretence of preparing for it. Nonetheless, this should be included in the ‘Big Diary of SNP Disappointments’. I just hope there’s still space for this latest announcement.
Let’s bear in mind, also, that what we’re talking about is an undertaking (maybe too strong a term) to start preparing for a process that will take us well into 2022. Perhaps far enough into the year after next that the referendum will have to be pushed into the year after that. Which would be 2023, for those of you who’ve lost track. Given that Nicola Sturgeon insists “she alone will decide when the time is right for a second independence referendum” (April 2016), she will surely choose the best time of year for going to the polls. September seems favourite. September 2021 would have been acceptable – albeit solely out of desperation. It’s an improvement on the indefinite postponement that was intimated by the FM when she said (July 2020),
As long as I need to be focusing on the coronavirus crisis and the economic legacy of that crisis that will have my 100 percent focus.Barrhead Boy: Fight or Flee?
September 2022 is too late. It is only acceptable to those who are oblivious to what the British government is doing and intends to do in the far less distant future. The entire month of September 2023 might as well be cancelled for all the use it is to Scotland’s cause.
What I’m saying is, let’s not get too excited. Certainly not as excited as retiring MSP Richard Lyle.
Excellent I joined the SNP in 1966 and I have supported our aim for Scotland’s Independence since then and I now look forward to supporting. I’m sure opposition parties will again say we are “Too Wee Too Poor” I say bring it on.!!!!! https://t.co/TFwmalqqBs— Richard Lyle MSP (@RichardlyleSnp) September 1, 2020
And, of course, if history is to be our guide then the big day will never arrive at all. The soundtrack to the SNP’s treatment of the constitutional issue is the clatter of a can being repeatedly kicked down an endless road.
What’s in the can? What is it that Nicola Sturgeon is proposing to promise to prepare to plan? From her statement it would appear she remains wedded to the Section 30 process. Nothing she said offers hope that she might update the SNP’s approach to the constitutional issue in the light of the political reality screaming in her face that her approach to the constitutional issue has to change. There gave no reason to believe that the question will be different from that used in 2014 – Should Scotland be an independent country? This is crucial. Because the form of the question determines the form of the campaign. If Nicola Sturgeon intends to use the same question then this means she intends to run the same Yes campaign as for the 2014 referendum. But it isn’t 2014 any more! Things have changed! Pretty much everything has changed except the SNP’s approach to the constitutional issue!
It’s not good enough! To the extent that we can know or be justified in assuming what Nicola Sturgeon is promising, that’s really all there is to say about it. It’s not good enough!
My advice to Nicola Sturgeon is that she should think again. If she ever intends to add some content to the empty Kinder Egg she’s now holding out to the Scottish people then she really must ensure that it is a pleasant surprise. She must put something of worth inside the flimsy shell of a proposal mentioned in her Programme for Government statement. There is still time for the SNP to change its approach to the constitutional issue. But time is running out.
Scotland’s situation demand’s bold, decisive, assertive action by our elected leaders. The time to promise that action is now!