I suspect AUOB is about to fall foul of the idiotic tribalism which has infected the Yes movement. Getting the seal of approval (kiss of death?) from the SNP may not be the best thing that ever happened to the organisation. Being listed alongside ‘friends’ of the SNP such as the Scottish Green Party and Business for Scotland should cause those running AUOB some unease. For some time the organisation has been panned by SNP loyalists as a front for Alba. Now Alba devotees will lob the accusation back across the tribal divide claiming that AUOB has been ‘captured’ by the SNP.
The rest of us – those who decline to be dragged into the farcical squabbling – have other concerns. Not so much now that the SNP might renege on its “vow” (what cloth-eared dullard chose that word?). That is, of course, still a possibility. What those paying attention hear is not a firm commitment to a referendum in 2023. What we hear are not-quite-promises hung with all manner of escape clauses. Nonetheless, it must be acknowledged that recent rhetoric on the matter of there being a referendum in 2023 would make it difficult and politically damaging were SNP+SGP/Scottish Government to fail to deliver.
What people should be worried about is the exact nature of that referendum. None of the “leaders of the Yes movement” spoken to by The National seem to have realised that it is at least as important to ensure we have the right referendum as it is to ensure that we get one at all. We have no certainty that there will be a referendum. We have no idea what kind of referendum Nicola Sturgeon plans on offering. We are given assurances that there will be a referendum which on close examination don’t really qualify as assurances. We are told nothing whatever about the referendum itself. We do, however, have clues.
Nicola Sturgeon remains committed to the Section 30 process. A process which, if it can lead to a referendum at all, cannot possibly lead to a free and fair exercise of our right of self determination. The very fact of requesting the consent of the British Prime Minister and seeking/accepting promises of honest cooperation by the British state would mean that the process is tainted. The referendum is tainted. A referendum in which an external power is directly involved cannot be a free and fair exercise of our right of self-determination. It just can’t. The ‘self’ in self-determination refers solely and exclusively to the people of Scotland. It does not refer to the people of Scotland plus the governments of whatever other nations Nicola Sturgeon chooses to invite into the process.
Requesting a Section 30 order also taints any ensuing referendum by virtue of the fact that the request necessarily compromises the sovereignty of the people of Scotland. A principle so fundamental as to almost warrant being called sacrosanct. But a principle which our own First Minister threatens to trade for transparently worthless British promises of good-faith and fair dealing.
Realists should also be profoundly worried about what happens if the British Prime Minister declines the invitation to spit on our sovereignty and refuses to give even those worthless promises of cooperation. Sturgeon has sort-of undertaken to hold a referendum regardless of whether a Section 30 order is graciously granted by those she evidently regards as more deserving of her respect than Scotland’s people. Which, we might note in passing, makes the act of asking for a Section 30 order as ludicrous as it is abhorrent. What she has not done is explain how she intends to go about it. And that is massively important even if the likes of Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp and Patrick Harvie don’t see it as a consideration.
What are Sturgeon’s options if a Section 30 order is refused?
She could throw up her hands in dismay, spout the well-worn drivel about how this refusal will only help drive the independence campaign, then sit back and wait for it to do so. Wait in vain, we might add. The British state has done a lot of unacceptable things to Scotland while Sturgeon has been First Minister and according to the polls support for Yes hasn’t changed at all. Largely, I suspect, because however unacceptable the things that have been done to Scotland they have been accepted by the government that was elected to put an end to such things.
She could do what is actually necessary to deliver a free and fair referendum. We know what this is. It was all set out in the original Manifesto for Independence (see below) which failed to get the support it should. This would involve Sturgeon recanting everything she’s previously said about “gold standard” and the only “legal and constitutional” process. She would have to admit that she got that all wrong. So this option seems unlikely to find favour.
That leaves only one other option – unless anybody can come up with another that is at all credible. This is what I fear Sturgeon will do. What we all should fear. What Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp and Patrick Harvie and everybody else who supports Scotland’s cause should be demanding is ruled out right now. She could hold a pretendy wee ‘referendum’ that is actually no more than an attitude survey; that will have neither legal nor political weight; that will not be binding; and that will not settle the constitutional issue but park it where it can easily be vandalised by the British Nationalists.
Be careful what you wish for. Whatever it says on the tin, Sturgeon’s referendum is unlikely to do what we need it to do. It won’t end the Union.
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