I had an opportunity last night to speak briefly with a ‘senior figure’ in the SNP. I asked him if he and his colleagues in the Scottish Government were aware of the growing clamour among grassroots independence activists for a commitment to something “meaningful” in the party’s manifesto for the Holyrood election in May. When asked to expand on that I said that my preference would be a firm undertaking to assert the primacy of Holyrood on the basis of the sovereignty of Scotland’s people and the democratic legitimacy of the Scottish Parliament.
He showed no signs of having heard, simply rattling off some boilerplate about the 11-point plan. Although he did seem a little taken aback when I pointed out that what I was suggesting was what the 11-point plan proposed anyway and I was merely asking that it be made explicit. Made so that people could have confidence in it.
What I pointed out was that the 11-point plan (I don’t like calling it a ‘plan’) proposes to go ahead with a referendum when the Scottish Government has exhausted all the ways to humiliate itself and thereby us – not to mention compromising the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. Any referendum that is held not having been sanctioned by the British Prime Minister must be sanctioned by the Scottish Parliament. To do that the Scottish Parliament would have to assert its competence in constitutional matters (UDI in all but name.) Which is exactly what we want.
The ‘senior figure’ seemed a tad nonplussed by this observation. He certainly didn’t respond in any meaningful way.
So, why is the SNP so reluctant to state clearly and unambiguously in its manifesto that this is what it intends to do? Why do they balk at promising to assert the democratically legitimate authority of the Parliament that we actually elect?
The suspicion must be that the bit of the 11-point plan that says the Scottish Government will go ahead with a referendum having exhausted all that was mentioned above and the tattered remnants of my patience, is merely a ruse. A bluff which they hope will force Boris Johnson to grant a Section 30 order – which itself would be disastrous for the independence campaign. If, as it seems, they haven’t even considered the stuff about asserting the competence of the Scottish Parliament then the suspicion must be that they haven’t thought it through because they’ve no intentions of actually doing it. They have no intention of holding a referendum without Boris Johnson’s consent.
Boris Johnson isn’t the only one being bluffed here.