Just another ‘initiative’?

I have been perusing the shiny new agreement cooked up thrashed out by the SNP/Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party (SGP) rather clumsily titled Working Together to Build a Greener, Fairer, Independent Scotland. I confess to having only skimmed the sections on shared policies in areas such as climate change, economic recovery etc. There seems to be nothing either surprising or seriously controversial there – although I reserve the right to return to these matters as and when it is appropriate to do so. I say that I see nothing here that is likely to feed the tribalism which has infected the Yes movement. But I am ever mindful that it is the nature of such tribalism to discover or invent dispute where none necessarily exists. We’ll wait and see what arises over the coming days.

As readers would expect, my attention was focused on the section dealing with the constitutional issue. Promisingly, this is given priority being the first chapter. But is their anything new here? Is there anything to inspire confidence that the people of Scotland will have the opportunity to exercise our right of self-determination in a free, fair, impeccably democratic and timely referendum? Or is this just another of those tedious and ultimately pointless ‘initiative’ which the SNP is notorious for deploying as a way of placating the Yes movement while kicking the constitutional can ever further down the road?

Obviously, the agreement is (or will be if ratified) rather more than the last of these. There is no doubt that this is serious political business. It is a bold move from a First Minister and SNP leader not exactly renowned for her boldness. The price is a couple of cabinet positions for SGP. Few will think that exorbitant. In return, short of an actual coalition – which was never on the cards – the agreement creates a pro-independence bloc in the Scottish Parliament such as we have not seen since the SNP’s stunning election victory in 2011. Surely that must have implications for Scotland’s cause. If it does, they are not apparent to me.

Two portentous questions hang over the matter of a new constitutional referendum. Will the referendum take place in time to preempt the malign intentions of the British government? Will the referendum be formulated and administered such as to ensure that it is a legitimate and conclusive expression of Scotland’s right of self-determination?

What I have christened the Sturgeon doctrine – the approach to the constitutional issue favoured by Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP/Scottish Government offers no assurance whatever on the first of these questions, and an explicit negative on the second. The Sturgeon doctrine is too vague and ambiguous on the scheduling of the new referendum for us to have any confidence that it might take place in time to rescue Scotland from the “undermining and erosion of the devolution settlement and the powers of the Scottish Parliament by the UK Government” acknowledge in the draft agreement as being in progress now. Bearing in mind that the Union affords the British state the legal/constitutional power (although not the rightful authority) to do what it will in relation to Scotland.; and that there are numerous ways by which the British political elite might close down all democratic routes to independence; and that there is now a regime in London so contemptuous of Scotland and democracy as to be willing as well as able to lock Scotland into a ‘reformed’ political union without consultation or consent; and that the British state has the capacity to accelerate the process of subsuming Scotland into the homogenous mass of Boris Johnson’s imagined new ‘Great Britain’, initiation of the process by which Scotland’s independence might be restored has to be regarded as a matter of the utmost urgency. There is nothing in the Sturgeon doctrine which reflects such a sense of urgency. There is nothing in the new SNP/SGP agreement which departs in the smallest degree from the Sturgeon doctrine.

The concern remains as live as ever that Nicola Sturgeon supposes it possible to have a satisfactory referendum that enjoys the consent and honest cooperation of the British state. And that she is set upon putting off the referendum until such time as this has been obtained – apparently oblivious to the potentially catastrophic hazards of further delay in addition to the seven years already contrived. I find nothing in the agreement which alleviates this concern in any way. Whatever the true purpose of the pact it most certainly is not to address troubling indications that Sturgeon simply isn’t prepared for the confrontation with the British establishment entailed by any meaningful move towards ending the Union. We might have hoped that securing a strengthened pro-independence bloc in the Scottish Parliament might have emboldened Nicola Sturgeon. But there is nothing in the agreement to indicate that this is the case.

Which brings us to the second of those questions hanging over the much promised but even more postponed referendum. Just as important as the timing of a new referendum is the form that it takes. To date, all indications have been that the Sturgeon doctrine dictates an attempt to replicate as far as may be possible the 2014 referendum. Which would be pure folly! This is something I’ve addressed at length elsewhere. Here, we are asking only whether ‘Working Together to Build a Greener, Fairer, Independent Scotland‘ indicates or suggest some change in Sturgeon’s ‘thinking’ on the matter. It does not! Which would be a massive disappointment had I been expecting some change.

What the agreement certainly does is to further secure Nicola Sturgeon’s control of both party and administration. The loyalist faction shall, needless to say, hail this as the most stupendous thing since the Big Bang. They’ll greet the agreement as a work of political genius. And they may be right – at least to some extent. There’s no doubt it’s clever. The questions aren’t about the cleverness but the purpose to which that cleverness has been bent. Is it for the benefit of Scotland’s cause? Or is it for the benefit of Sturgeon herself. Loyalists shall, of course, insist that these are the same thing. That what’s good for Sturgeon is good for independence. Those disinclined to such unquestioning devotion to a leader and/or party rather than what Alex Salmond called “the beautiful dream” will note the pusillanimous procrastination of the last seven years and wonder how such a faith-position can be maintained. I can enlighten them on that. It can be maintained because it is a faith position.

By my reading – and I stand ready to hear rational arguments to the contrary – the SNP/SGP agreement changes nothing. The need still exists for a popular rising to demand immediate action on the constitutional issue and a total rethink of the whole approach to the matter of ending the Union and restoring Scotland’s independence. So I still intend to be outside Holyrood on the afternoon of 31 August to shout #UnionNoMore!



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19 thoughts on “Just another ‘initiative’?

    1. Agreed Peter – Sturgeon will kick the can down the road and this coalition is just IndyRef2 hot air that she can spout. Yes standing on Holyrood’s doorstep demanding swift appropriate action will have a bigger impact. We have to make her feel as uncomfortable as hell. Let’s see if she has any moral backbone. I hae ma doots but you never know.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Excellent piece Peter. Often I disagree with you, but not here. Spot on.

    I think you miss something out, although you may have done so deliberately. The extent to which this deal or not coalition or whatever between the Greens and the Sturgeon “doctrine” will embolden a particular ideology. I am one of several of your readers who bang on about this at great length.

    There is something pernicious about the way the SNP in government is wielding power not only by its continuous kicking into touch of the “constitutional issue” but its often surreptitious introduction of policies based purely on a misguided and incoherent ideology, that are already having direct effects on the lives of the next generation. It is no longer possible to indicate the sex of a child on a birth certificate. Teachers are not obliged to share a child’s chosen gender identity with their parents. Etc. The long game, if that is what it is, would seem to involve a quite profound social engineering. What will become of children brought up under these circumstances?

    Nice to see your happy face looking out at me from the morning paper. This thing is growing. Well done!!!

    Health permitting I shall be there. For the interest of other readers and by way of explaining what I mean by health permitting:

    https://duncanspence.blog/2021/08/18/the-kings-seat/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re right. I body-swerved the controversial policy implications so as to focus (as always) on the constitutional issue. I did so confident that those policy implications would not go unnoticed. I was right.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. This section from the Theory of Moral Sentiments seems apropos.Both north and south of the border we are in a time “of public discontent, faction, and disorder” ruled by political speculators, sovereign princes (and princesses); and those “apt to be very wise in his (and her) own conceit”. Time for the “dangerous spirit of innovation”.

      http://knarf.english.upenn.edu/Smith/tms622.html

      Liked by 2 people

  2. An Independence referendum might be the first item in this agreement but the important aspect of this is that there is no deadline with the parties stating on page 6 that they will “secure a referendum on Scottish independence after the Covid crisis. This would be within the current parliamentary session on a specific date to be determined by the Scottish Parliament. If the Covid crisis has passed, our intention is for the referendum to be within the first half of the five-year parliamentary session.”

    Meanwhile they will “reform the Gender Recognition Act in a Bill introduced in the first year of
    this parliamentary session. This will ensure the process by which a trans person can 32 obtain legal recognition is simplified, reducing the trauma associated with that process.”

    There’s your priority right there – it couldn’t be clearer.

    One quarter of the Green political representatives get an uplift in salary and pension benefits, a ministerial limo and prestigious status that goes with being a cabinet member. Plus their top priority given top billing in the list of aims and objectives. Not a bad return for having 8 MSPs.

    Agreement?

    More like Sturgeon sellout.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. “… Whatever the true purpose of the pact it most certainly is not to address troubling indications that Sturgeon simply isn’t prepared for the confrontation with the British establishment entailed by any meaningful move towards ending the Union… ”

    In the end, if we ever see it, of course, is not that the British State will crush us – they will try, and that is a given. The real problem exists within Scotland, right in our midst, the Unionist population being augmented even as we speak. It is delirious to think that rUK voters who voted by three-quarters to stifle our aspirations to independence in 2014 will suddenly, their numbers swelling every year, decide to vote YES. It’s Cloud Cuckoo Land, and it is the reality that so few will even embrace. It has nothing to do with so-called anti Englishness; it is bald, unadorned fact that a second referendum, even if we actually get to one this side of the millennium, will be lost. That was the actual, real lesson from 2014.

    Anyone who has read Irish history and the attempt by Michael Collins – a realist and pragmatist rolled into one, and the greatest loss that Ireland suffered in those early years – to overthrow the Unionists in the North, but institute free expression of religious beliefs, as subsequently happened in the South – he was called off by de Valera and others. In hindsight, it was very likely that he would have secured the North and avoided partition.

    I’m not suggesting such a thing here; it would be impossible anyway because rUK residents are scattered and ‘woven throughout’ Scotland’s population. What I am saying is that we need to win an election (2024 GE?) on a manifesto that a majority of seats, a majority in the parliament, resiling the Treaty and holding a ratifying referendum will ensure independence, with our declaration of indolence being given on the very next morning after the polls. Any pre independence referendum is doomed to failure. The numbers simply do not stack up, and, failing a miracle, we will lose again. But, hey, I’ve been known to be wrong, sometimes badly so, so there you are.

    The SNP-Green loose coalition never voted for in any election? You (Greens + SNP pseudo ‘wokerati’) help us push through gender woo woo and we’ll (SNP + Greens) push through another referendum which can’t be won, anyway. Heads we win, tails they all lose because a referendum will not be won. It’s a gamble, of course, but NS is always willing to take a risk that might consolidate her own power base; it’s just on the constitutional front that she backs off from confrontation.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Ah, here it is on page 6, first item in the big grey background box, easy to miss I guess:

    “secure a referendum on Scottish independence after the Covid crisis. This would be within the current parliamentary session on a specific date to be determined by the Scottish Parliament. If the Covid crisis has passed, our intention is for the referendum to be within the first half of the five-year parliamentary session.”

    https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/agreement/2021/08/scottish-government-and-scottish-green-party-shared-policy-programme/documents/scottish-government-and-scottish-green-party-draft-shared-policy-programme/scottish-government-and-scottish-green-party-draft-shared-policy-programme/govscot%3Adocument/SG%2BSGP%2BTalks%2B-%2BDraft%2BPolicy%2BProgramme%2B-%2BFINAL%2B-%2BOFFSEN.pdf?forceDownload=true

    within the first half of the five-year parliamentary session

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, partly being a smart-arse (I was brung up to be honest), but also to frame and provide context.

        Seems to me, knowing what the SNP / Greens are planning for timing, you still think they don’t appreciate the urgency, and you want on 31st August to make sure they DO know how urgent it is.

        Who could argue with that – and it could get more support than any chant from a minority of “Nae doot – Sturgeon oot. GRA – Sturgeon away”. Or something like that.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Your response stumbles at the word “planning”. If we are being honest we’d have to qualify that as “appear to be planning” Or “would very much like to be perceived as planning”.

        I’m surprised to find a spark of optimism yet lives in my should despite all Nicola Sturgeon’s effort to extinguish it. I have a cautious good feeling about the #UnionNoMore demo on 31 August. Interest seems to be growing. The idea appears to have struck a chord. We’ll only know on the day. I wouldn’t even hazard a guess as to how many people might turn up.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes ( you are a numpty) Indyref2.

      and yes I have attended plenty of independence marches and I have listened to Peter Bell outside The BBC in Glasgow.

      And yes people like you should be chanting on independence marches what do we want “independence” when do we want it – “not now. ”

      You are a numpty and a coward – hiding with your fellow numpties on WGD abusing people.

      I’m not manky jaiket but you certainly are a coward.

      There is no detail in that policy document about independence but plenty about all manner of other policies. Independence does not even have its own named section. It’s people like you that Sturgeon must be pissing herself laughing about – a complete numpty.

      Like

      1. Well, IQ21, out of 8 comments on SGP, 6 of them are yours, and 4 of them are about WGD or me. You subjected Scottish Skier to the same level of obsession over a period of months until he gave up. Are you intent on ruining Peter’s blog as well now with your obsessive irrelevant drivel?

        Like

  5. I agree. Nothing new here. This is all about Sturgeon securing control.

    I think it is very unlikely we’ll see her push for an Indyref in any serious way. And if she did, I would have to wonder if she and her cronies would be clever and motivated enough to help rather than hinder Scotland winning its independence. And if Scotland did win, we’d be asking the same questions you ask here: “The questions aren’t about the cleverness but the purpose to which that cleverness has been bent. Is it for the benefit of Scotland’s cause? Or is it for the benefit of Sturgeon herself?” I think a win would be a half-way solution to the constitutional issue. It would get us out the corrupt and undemocratic UK but, after the events of the last couple of years, anyone who thinks Scotland would inevitably get transparency, accountability, proper checks and balances, and a democratic constitution worthy of the name from the crowd occupying Holyrood is dreaming. To paraphrase a statement above: “there are numerous ways by which the Scottish political elite might close down all routes to proper constitutional reform”. If the purpose is genuine constitutional reform, winning the next Indyref would amount to winning a major battle but it wouldn’t be winning the war. No one should kid themselves that Scottish politicians and elites are inherently any more virtuous and less self-serving than British ones.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. ….. Yeah, and not to mention the SG’s absolutely woeful past record when it comes to producing well-constructed, practical and effective legislation, whatever the subject matter. (… think OBFA, Named Person….)

    Liked by 1 person

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