Abbi Garton-Crosbie has had a busy week. By my count she has four pieces in today’s Sunday National all dealing with the SNP’s commitment to a new referendum and independence. Three of those articles look at the paper’s research exercise which examined SNP politicians’ Tweets over the period around the Scottish Parliament election looking for mentions on terms relating directly to independence. This research reveals a clear drop in mentions of independence once the election campaign is over. While hardly conclusive the research lends credence to the allegation that the party only uses the constitutional issue as an electioneering device, returning the fight to restore Scotland’s independence to the back burner as soon as the election is over.
The fourth of Abbi Garton-Crosbie’s articles involves yet more research, this time involving a trawl through Scottish Government responses to Freedom of Information (FoI) requests in an effort to glean information about plans for a new independence referendum. Abbi draws no firm conclusions. Which is understandable given the necessarily tenuous nature of the ‘evidence’. But what came across quite clearly to me is the lack of any fresh thinking on the constitutional issue. It is plainly evident that to whatever extent the SNP/Scottish Government has actual plans for a new vote, what they envisage is a replication of the 2014 referendum. The only novel thought in evidence is a suggestion that the question might be put in Gaelic as well as English.
No! The earth didn’t move for me either!
We learn that the Scottish Government hasn’t yet returned to preparations for a new referendum the civil servants who were redeployed to pandemic-related work. Which ties in with the widely held impression of the referendum having been postponed indefinitely while still being used to tantalise voters. An impression the SNP has only lately sought to counter – without notable success.
Other discoveries of Abbi’s research underline the woeful paucity of fresh (or any?) strategic thinking within the sealed citadel of the SNP leadership. The hints uncovered by Abbi all suggest a group of people stuck in some kind of time-warp where it’s always 2013/14. Sturgeon et al seem convinced that all they need do is dust off Alex Salmond’s playbook for the first referendum and rerun his campaign with only essential updating and token alterations – such as tossing in a bit of the Gaelic. An idea I personally welcome if only because it is likely to provoke Stephen Kerr MSP to a fit of apoplexy such as might cause his head to explode. I do hope the event is televised.
What we learn is that whatever language it’s in the question will be the same as that on the 2014 ballot paper – ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?‘. There are powerful arguments against reusing this question and at least as powerful arguments for a question which make the Union the contentious proposition rather than independence. None of these hard-headed arguments seem to have made the slightest impression on the SNP leadership. It’s as if they hadn’t even heard them. Which is unsurprising given the effort they’ve put into silencing dissenting voices and closing down any debate that looked like questioning the ‘Sturgeon doctrine’.
We learn that even when there were civil servants working on matters relating to the constitutional issue all they were doing was things like tinkering with the so-called ‘white paper’ Scotland’s Future, presumably in an effort to make this document relevant today in a way it wasn’t a decade ago when it was first published as part of the 2014 referendum campaign. Again, a complete absence of fresh thinking. There is no evidence of any thought being given to the possibility of a campaign appropriate for the situation as it is now rather than what the situation was in 2011/12. Who can sensibly deny that these two situations are markedly different? Well! Nicola Sturgeon, apparently!
Depressing as all this surely is for anyone committed to the restoration of Scotland’s independence as a matter of urgency, it’s the final part of Abbi Garton-Crosbie’s article which threatens to induce terminal despair.
The Government intends to play by the book, as one piece of guidance states: “The Scottish Government is committed to a and which will be recognised both here at home and by the international community including by the EU.
“That will ensure that the decision people in Scotland make, should they vote in favour of independence, is given effect.”
How can there be any question that a decision made by the people of Scotland would be given effect? Why the hell is our government making a choice made by the sovereign people of Scotland in a free and fair exercise of our undisputed right of self-determination conditional on the approval and consent of a government we don’t elect? What is this “book” that the Scottish Government intends to “play by” other than the legal and constitutional framework constructed by the British state to protect the Union and thereby ensure that Scotland’s interests will always be subordinate to the dubious priorities of the British ruling elites?
It defies comprehension that even after all that has happened since the first independence referendum, Nicola Sturgeon is still utterly and immovably determined to pursue Scotland’s cause by a process which relies critically on the goodwill, good faith and willing cooperation of a British government which by definition cannot cooperate with a process which threatens their ‘precious’ Union, far less do so in and honest and principled manner. It is sheer insanity to suppose that we can possibly have a free and fair referendum when it is subject to interference from what in this context must be regarded as a foreign government. A foreign government which moreover is implacably opposed to the restoration of Scotland’s independence and which has already demonstrated how low it will stoop to prevent the normalisation of Scotland’s constitutional status.
A foreign government which not only has no right to be involved at all in the exercise by the people of Scotland of our right of self determination, but is expressly prohibited from interfering by the very “international community” Sturgeon hopes to impress by inviting that interference. Did I say insanity? This surely goes beyond mere madness. This borders on the criminal.
And stupid! Stupid in a way that is as astounding as it is deplorable. There is no such thing as “a referendum which is beyond legal challenge”. It is debatable whether anything is ever beyond legal challenge such is the litigiousness of our society. What is certain is the the British ruling elite will resort to any means to preserve their ‘precious’ Union. Going to the courts is fairly low on a scale of escalation which some see as including violent methods of repression such as were used by the Spanish government against the people of Catalunya. Rather than preparing for the inevitable legal challenge Sturgeon fantasises that it can be avoided if she plays by the very book which makes that legal challenge inevitable.
None of this is news, of course. Sturgeon’s delusional approach to the constitutional issue has been evident for some time. What Abbi Garton-Crosbie’s article does is give us a timely reminder that it is not enough that we should compel Sturgeon to honour the promise of a new referendum. We also have to ensure that what we get is a free and fair referendum. The Section 30 process to which Sturgeon is obsessively wedded cannot possibly result in a free and fair and therefore decisive referendum. The Sturgeon doctrine is a recipe for constitutional catastrophe.
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