Not just any referendum! Not just any campaign!

Perhaps Nicola Sturgeon will listen when John Curtice tells the SNP they need to fire up the independence campaign. She has turned an arrogantly and obdurately deaf ear to the pleas and demands of the Yes movement. When a highly respected polling expert such as Professor Curtice tells her she’s letting support slip away for the want of action on the constitutional issue maybe his voice will be heard when all others have been shut out. Dare we hope?

There are certainly some worrying indications in the Sunday Times poll which prompted John Curtice to issue this caution and advice. Worrying, but not surprising to those who declined to get carried away with the notion that Nicola knows best. Some of us have been warning for a year or more that the poll boost occasioned by the First Minister’s highly competent handling of the public health crisis should not be mistaken for firm support for independence. Some of us foresaw that poll improvement evaporating as the pandemic became old news. We warned that this fresh boost would go stale if not properly exploited – just as opportunities to progress Scotland’s cause have been squandered on so many previous occasions. Where is the momentum the Yes movement had in the immediate aftermath of the 2014 referendum? Where is the further impulse provided by the 2015 election? Where is the ‘Brexit boost’? Where is the ‘Boris boost’. For more than six years we’ve watched and wept as all that energy was allowed to dissipate. Resigned disappointment turned to uncomprehending frustration and then righteous anger as we saw Sturgeon fold one winning hand after another. The entire SNP seems oblivious to the growing anger. Maybe John Curtice can get through to them. Dare we hope?

His message is certainly explicit enough. It’s almost as if the reality of the situation has just been brought home to him by his reading of the poll results. At least he doesn’t seek to blame the setback on those who have long sought to inject the sense of urgency that he now commends to the SNP. We can be sure that the party loyalists will do just that. When the polls show increased support for restoring independence all credit goes to Sturgeon. When there’s a dip it’s all the fault of nefarious bloggers, ineffectual rivals and assorted malcontents. As a scientist, Professor Curtice takes a more dispassionate and therefore more realistic view. He has a very good understanding of the political dynamics that polls seek to identify, measure and track. Those party loyalists who have shouted down all dissenting voices would do well to heed the good professor’s words. Dare we hope?

Let’s suppose our hopes are realised. Let’s suppose Professor Curtice has provided the jolt needed to kick Sturgeon into action. Let’s suppose his words actually get through to her and her colleagues in the party and the government. Let’s suppose that at least some of those party loyalists are awakened to the need for urgency and the poverty of the ‘Sturgeon Doctrine’. Am I content? Should I be? Should we then regard the problem of the SNP’s failed approach to the constitutional issue as solved? I’m afraid not.

For the past while I have been troubled by the thought that it is not enough to persuade Sturgeon out of what has all the appearance of complacent lethargy. It’s not just a matter of getting her to actually do something. In fact, we might come to regret convincing her to make an effort on behalf of Scotland’s cause if that effort is as seriously misguided as is suggested by the ‘Sturgeon Doctrine’. It is entirely possible that the something she does is worse than the nothing she’s been doing. It’s not enough that we have a referendum. It must be the right referendum. It’s not enough that the SNP launch a fresh independence campaign. It must be the right campaign. As things stand, we can expect neither from a Sturgeon-led party or government.

It doesn’t matter too much that John Curtice thinks “the party needs to embark on a campaign to persuade more Scots of the merits of independence”. It matters a great deal if Nicola Sturgeon imagines this is all that’s required. What we glean from statements by Nicola Sturgeon, Mike Russell and others is that were the SNP to launch a fresh campaign now it would be an attempt to replicate as precisely as may be possible the campaign of ten years ago. There is no sign of any fresh thinking. In fact, the SNP leadership has exhibited a strong aversion to fresh thinking of any kind. In a manner all too familiar to non-partisan observers, the SNP leadership has meekly accepted the British state’s framing of the issue as independence being something Scotland must qualify for – with the British political elite both setting and marking the tests.

As with the campaign, so with the referendum itself. Just as the SNP leadership has without any evident reflection embraced the framing of the constitutional issue which presents the Union as ‘normal’ and independence as a risky enterprise that must be justified, so they have assumed the submissive position that the referendum must comply with British rules. Worst of all, they have conceded without resistance or reluctance that the British state is entitled to an influential role in Scotland’s exercise of our right of self-determination. Action taken on this basis is bound to have regrettable effects and unfortunate consequences.

To date, the main purpose of those who reject the ‘Sturgeon Doctrine’ has been getting the Scottish Government to act. For some of those dissenting voices – and to some extent for all of them – the aim has been to overcome the hyper-cautious inertia and self-satisfied lassitude that has left us no closer to restoring Scotland’s independence today than in 2011. We must now stress that this alone is not enough. We must be mindful of the urgent need to reframe not only the independence campaign but the entire constitutional issue. We must be aware that this is not going to happen if Sturgeon et al are left to their own devices. They must be required to rethink the approach to the constitutional issue which has so self-evidently and so woefully failed by all but the self-serving standards of professional politicians intent on preserving their status and power.

Above all, we must not allow Sturgeon to compromise the sovereignty of the people of Scotland as will inevitably be the case if she is permitted to not only tolerate but invite British interference in a matter that is rightfully for the people of Scotland alone. The referendum must be entirely made and managed in Scotland. Sturgeon must be made to acknowledge this. She must repudiate the Section 30 process as an illegitimate constraint on Scotland’s right of self-determination.

The SNP must launch a fresh independence campaign. But it must be fresh. It must take due account of a reality which has changed dramatically since the first referendum. It must be a campaign which takes the lessons of that earlier effort and combines them with new thinking to create a campaign for today rather than simply reusing the strategy and tactics that were deemed appropriate a decade ago.

A rethought campaign implies a reimagined referendum and vice versa. Together, they constitute a major reframing of the whole constitutional issue and an explicit rejection of the framing promulgated by the apparatus of British propaganda. This task should have been undertaken several years ago. That it wasn’t is a failure for which Nicola Sturgeon and her associates should be held to account at some point. But not today! Today, it is enough that they act. So long as they do it right.

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26 thoughts on “Not just any referendum! Not just any campaign!

  1. At the risk of repeating myself. Nicola sees independence as her Waterloo.
    Win and she’ll have to give up being first minister
    Lose and she’ll have to give up being FM.
    Losing also puts her into obscurity in some respects, and if she polls lower than Indyref1, it’ll be damning for her attacks on AS.
    I suspect she will be quite happy administering in the hope she can hold on for one more term after this one.
    I think the indy movement should start finding the next leader and it won’t be Fat Bob (IB) or Soapy Souter (AR) either. I’d like to see JC, but suspect the Trans Rights Bullies will block that.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Just for the moment, too many vested interests that come before independence. They have to be purged. That can be done only with a new leader, but done properly, within the constraints of the party constitution. All the deserters who could no longer stomach the party need to be brought back, too, with a merging of Alba and the SNP, with one aim only – to achieve our independence. To kickstart it, we need to use the Treaty now and place the ball firmly in Westminster’s court. For that to happen, the pseudo ‘wokerati’ need to be excised, as do the ultra gradualists, but, again, not by totalitarian methods, but within the party constitution, and with precision. They are a drag on our future and serve no purpose but their own. This can be done without harming anyone’s human and civil rights, but with the proviso that no one group’s human/civil rights are superior to any other group’s. Utilizing the Treaty would also be a statement of intent, while promoting Scotland’s human/civil rights. Fourteen years in government and umpteen mandates shriek our right to independence, and the imperialist Unionists can put their counter-argument.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Two problems make your comment seem like wishful thinking. Which, come to think of it, is all it really can be given that neither of us has the ability to realise any of the things we wish would happen.

      The particular problems in this instance are Sturgeon’s popularity and the fact that the party’s constitution counts for very little now. There is no significant movement to oust Sturgeon. Most members think she’s doing a great job. And even those who are unhappy with her failure to progress Scotland’s cause are reluctant to get into a leadership contest which would just be one more thing dividing the party.

      A new leader would have to be elevated at conference. Conferences are now so tightly ‘managed’ that the matter wouldn’t be allowed to arise even if there was significant demand for change. And even if it did happen – which is a close to impossible as makes no difference – we’d only end up with the ‘elite’s’ choice of leader. Angus Robertson? Would that be progress?

      I notice over the last few days a few people coming to the conclusion that there is no way forward other than to somehow force Nicola Sturgeon into a change of approach. My response to that, as you may imagine, is along the lines of WTF kept you!? I came to that conclusion a long time ago. It’s hardly a difficult conclusion to reach given that there are no other viable options.

      It is, as I’ve always said, going to take something quite extraordinary in terms of pressure to move Sturgeon. Nothing less than the entire Yes movement speaking with one voice. Attempts are being made to achieve this now. But as with so much in the independence campaign it’s at least two years late. And it’s meeting resistance from those who insist we need unity, but only on their terms.

      Again, time is a major consideration. If this pressure is to serve any purpose then it has to be successfully applied before the next conference. What chance is there of that?

      The Yes movement is stumbling from one unmet time-critical event to the next. The past six years is littered not only with the failures and failings of the SNP but by possibly just as many failures and failings on the part of the Yes movement.

      It’s a mess.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The truth is that the SNP has been stolen from its members and the leadership clique will never relinquish power voluntarily.

        As long as people believe that they can get the party back on course they will be led by the nose, and 5 years from now the same arguments will be circulating with the same lack of effect.

        Hope can hold us hostage more effectively than any bonds or locked room.

        Building up Alba or any other alternative party would take decades and the SNP would fight them tooth and nail.

        The only way forward is to bring down the SNP. Attack Sturgeons leadership with indy arguments and nothing will change.

        Attack it over the gross failures in everything from ferries to education, council funding to childhood poverty and maybe, just maybe her iron grip on the party will be loosened.

        Only when Sturgeon and her acolytes are gone will the membership regain control.

        I doubt on in a thousand have the courage to admit it but sometimes things are broken beyond repair and all you can do is tear down the mess and rebuild from scratch.


      2. Well, she might be very popular right now, but when the GRA reform starts to filter through, anyone who actually, truly and sincerely wants independence – not the pretendy ones who don’t give a damn so long as their agenda is pushed through – will have the chance to make a difference. If he or she doesn’t, no excuse; we will reap what we have sown, and, unfortunately for the independence movement, we might have sowed a desert with Nicola Sturgeon. Not even the biggest con artist ver can con everyone all the time.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You are behaving like you know best, and if only you were in charge, everything Indy would be straightforward, such is your ego…

        Or if only you, an unelected blogger, would be listened to by the democratically elected Scottish government of Scotland (BY SCOTS) when your hero Salmonds party, and his ‘indy plan’ was electorally eviscerated by pro indy Scottish Voters….

        Meanwhile, in the real world, the SNP/GREENS put forward their referendum plans to the electorate, and the electorate delivered that plan, an increased pro indy majority.

        Your problem, and your fellow FM/SNP haters, problem, is that you want indyref done YOUR way, and any other way is wrong.

        And that way was totally rejected by all but 1.6% (less votes than a Hampden full house).

        The SNP/Green indy plan delivered majority, mandated, support at the ballot box, so it is only legitimised show in town, and rightly so, if democratic choice means anything.

        Keep up the whining though, its what you lot do best.


  3. Now you have given me something else to worry about – would a campaign run by the present SNP leadership be worth the effort?
    Since the current FM has managed to turn the Section 30 from an enabling device to a block on achieving our aims, I’m not hopeful.
    When was it decided we needed Westminster’s permission anyway? When Alex Salmond was FM, he just went ahead and did it!
    Now we have an FM who wants us to jump through as many hoops as Westminster do.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Quite right, Anne. A lot of people don’t realise that Alex Salmond never requested a Section 30 order. It is interesting to speculate how he might have responded had he been told he must. But he didn’t have to. David Cameron provided the Section 30 order for his own reasons. As you say, Nicola Sturgeon has taken that and – with a lot of help from Unionists – made of it a British veto over our right of self-determination.

      Westminster can always make more hoops than you can jump through. So best to decline the invitation to jump through the first one. Because jumping through that first hoop tends to put you in a place where the only way out is the next hoop.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. I have zero faith in Sturgeon. She’s not on the same page as the rest of us. She’s following her own agenda. Whatever that might be. She’s no friend of Indy and hasn’t been for a few years now. We need to find a way without her. have long lost patience with her.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “…. It is entirely possible that the something she does is worse than the nothing she’s been doing…”

    Bravo: she’s that “mis-guided missile” of the movies where the corrupted software now targets its own launch site…

    Liked by 3 people

  6. ….. Very real and sobering thoughts!

    Put plainly in a rundown like this, it becomes super clear that Sturgeon is absolutely not going to be the person Scotland needs to action independence, not now, probably not ever.

    ….I sincerely wish Salmond had NEVER given her the reigns!


  7. Are the contents of your blogs now totally dependent on the contents of the blogs of others? One after another. Scraping the bottom of the barrel? Lazy, lazy, lazy … really lazy Peter. A journalistic low. Sitting on your fat erse in front of your computer letting rip. Wow. With tripe. The mind boggles. No thoughts of your own anymore? Changed days indeed. Changed to the point that you’ve become a happy clappy guy for the BritNats. Why on earth did that ever come about?


    1. This is the only comment on here I can read. Most of the
      Comments sound like George Galloway has written them. Some seem to be advocating getting rid of the SNP to win independence WTF????? Pushing for a referendum right now plays right into unionist propaganda of of disruptive Scottish party jeopardising the covid recovery. Don’t play the Tory misinformation game.


      1. Explain what it is about Covid that is specific to a referendum in Scotland. It doesn’t stop elections or football tournaments, But it makes a referendum in Scotland impossible. It doesn’t stop referendums in other countries. But it totally precludes a referendum in Scotland.

        Don’t give me that facile shite about helping our opponents. Nothing serves the British Nationalists better than indefinitely postponing a referendum that they want indefinitely postponed. Try putting together a real, grown-up argument for the benefits of doing nothing.


      2. “Don’t play the Tory misinformation game…”

        Galloway is an arse on his home turf but to your shame still has a wider vision than the SNP. Your hero Sturgeon is deeply sold on the broader “Tory misinformation game” or more properly the elite UK/US colonial game. Selfies with mass murderer Alastair Campbell? really? promoting NATO loons like Stewart McDonald & Alyn Smith to support imperial UK policy? really? her approving eulogies of fucking Kissinger of all people? seriously? I could go on.
        I used to despair when my father told me the SNP were “Tartan Tories”: well, if foreign policy is anything to go by they certainly are now: abject worshipers of the UK status quo and aggressors to the world at large, but what have they done at home? A tandem two step with Westminster over covid and absolutely nothing on anything other than promoting Idpol nonsense as a distraction.

        I have supported Independence all my voting life: I’ve had beers with Billy Wolfe & met both Salmond and Sturgeon and I for one jeopardise nothing by saying this because nothing is what is actually on offer from her SNP. One day you will realise this, but as Peter would point out: just too late.


  8. Pingback: Peter A Bell

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