Big but

Ian Blackford says he wants a new constitutional referendum to take place “in a timely manner”. I have to inform him that he’s too late. The “timely” ship sailed in September 2018. It might just be possible to justify there being no new referendum earlier than this. But every day that has passed since September 2018 cannot sensibly be viewed as anything other than procrastination. Whatever is said about the first half of the seven and a half years since the first referendum, the second half has been needless, damaging delay. There is now no possibility of a “timely” referendum. There can only be a referendum which is late. We can only hope that it is not too late.

If, indeed, there is to be a referendum. Recently, I have been dismissive of suggestions that there might not be a referendum. My concerns had turned all but entirely to the matter of what form the referendum might take. I could not see a way for Sturgeon to put off a referendum yet again without risking a backlash serious enough to threaten even her. Blackford’s remarks in an interview with the PA news agency suggest I was wrong to doubt the SNP leadership’s capacity for coming up with excuses for not doing what their party was elected to do.

I do not doubt that there may be circumstances beyond the control of even the SNP’s control-freaks that would make progress on the constitutional issue problematic. What grates most jarringly on my nationalist sensibilities is that it seems any major event anywhere is enough to make Sturgeon et al. throw up their hands in despair and proclaim the task impossible. Perhaps I need to moderate my expectations, but it seems to me that the first response of the self-styled ‘party of independence’ when there is an unfortunate conjunct of shit and fan is to declare themselves determined to find a way of maintaining the fight despite whatever difficulties the shitstorm might present. Do Blackford’s remarks speak to such determination? Have we ever heard any senior figure in the SNP make an unqualified commitment to pursue the restoration of Scotland’s independence? Have we ever had from them a promise that was not so hedged with conditions and caveats as to be all but meaningless?

Listen to Blackford!

I want that referendum to take place in a timely manner. I want us to be able to execute the mandate that we have

To those that are expressing a desire for us to get on with our job, of course, we will do so, but we have to be mindful of where we are.

The emphasis is mine. But the qualifier is all his. What I want to hear from the politicians we are depending on to get Scotland out of the accursed Union is something more like,

We recognise that [enter name of major event] presents us with difficulties. But we are absolutely determined to restore Scotland’s independence regardless of any difficulties and to do so as a matter of urgency.

That ‘but’ sounds very different now, doesn’t it?

Language matters. What is said matters. The way it is said can have great significance. What is not said may be of just as much consequence as what is said. What Blackford’s language says to me is that the restoration of Scotland is not important. It remains an aspiration. It may even qualify as a commitment. But it is not important enough to supersede whatever else is going on in the world.

What is not said is why this should be. Blackford doesn’t explain why events in Ukraine should put a new referendum in doubt. Just as the SNP never explained why Brexit necessitated postponement of a referendum. Just as they never explained why the pandemic meant all work on the campaign for independence must come to a halt. We have never had an explanation as to why it is always and only Scotland’s cause which is impacted by whatever is happening in the rest of the world. Elections can proceed. Big international events such as COP26 can go ahead. Only the independence campaign needs to be parked for the duration. Until another excuse comes along.

Even as Blackford is trying to ‘manage expectations’ about a referendum in Scotland, the Danish government announces its intention to hold a referendum on Denmark’s opt-out from EU defence policy in the light of Russia’s imperialist assault on Ukraine. In Denmark, the invasion of Ukraine is regarded as a reason to act. In Scotland, the same invasion is seized on as an excuse for continued inaction. Why?

Sturgeon maintained that the pandemic made it impossible to hold a referendum. Yet all over the world including Scotland and the rest of the UK elections and referendums went ahead – interfered with only to the extent that precautions were put in place to combat the spread of infection. Has anyone in the media even asked Sturgeon why she thinks Scotland is so uniquely incapable of implementing the necessary precautions?

Brexit should have made the restoration of Scotland’s independence both more urgent and more achievable. But the SNP again took the contrary position that Brexit made a referendum impossible and/or unwinnable. For the SNP, Brexit meant abandoning the independence campaign to instead pursue an always forlorn effort to overturn England’s vote to leave the UK. Independence was outranked in the SNP’s priorities. As it has been ever since Sturgeon became party leader and First Minister. As it remains even now.

How is the SNP leadership getting away with this? We let them! That’s why! Nobody is putting any pressure on the SNP to prioritise the process by which Scotland’s independence will be restored. That process must happen in the Scottish Parliament. Only the Scottish Government can initiate and manage the process. Only the SNP is the party of government. There is no prospect of the SNP being ousted, and no time to wait for such a prospect to become realistic. The incontrovertible logic dictates that the only sensible course of action is to bring such massive pressure to bear on the SNP+SGP/Scottish Government that it must act as required. But logic be damned! There is no such effort.

The SNP is not alone in having priorities that outrank independence. Most of what used to be the Yes movement has similarly deprioritised Scotland’s cause. What was once – and sorely needs to be again – a mass movement united in a common purpose is now a roiling broth of factions and agendas and ambitions and jealousies. All will insist that independence remains their principal aim. As with Ian Blackford, however, there is always a ‘but’.

The people are sovereign. There should be no ‘but’ at the end of that sentence. It seems that in Scotland there always is.

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9 thoughts on “Big but

  1. The SNP positioning since November 2014 has not made any sense:

    Brexit was a reason for accelerating Independence so that we could avoid the economic calamity. Covid likewise, so that we could close our borders as and when it seemed necessary and the Scottish government could provide financial support to businesses and people as required while the pandemic raged. So too regarding Russian invasion of Ukraine since, whilst the FM has expressed the laudable wish to accommodate conflict fleeing refugees, there is nothing that can be done in this respect (other than providing financial aid via donations) whilst Scotland is subservient to UK foreign and immigration policies.

    So the SNP argument implying that we should delay until a “proper” time is utterly illogical.

    If they are serious about restoring Scotland’s statehood Ian Blackford and his cohorts should cut out the ‘buts’.

    If not they should butt out.

    Liked by 9 people

  2. The SNP under the current leadership has absolutely NO intention of pushing for independence and will use any and every excuse to delay any such referendum. Sadly far too many SNP supporters still think she/her will deliver ‘when the time is right’. While such people persist in large numbers to believe their carrot dangliing tripe it will be impossible to bring enough pressure to bear on the party. ‘She’has time on her side apparently. Scotland doesn’t.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Take a look at Irish history Peter, the original party of independence was NOT the party that achieved independence. The same is true of other independence movements too. SNP2 might be the party to achieve it though, but it wont be the Scottish Devolution Party, SNP2 already exists btw.


  3. In Denmark, the invasion of Ukraine is regarded as a reason to act. In Scotland, the same invasion is seized on as an excuse for continued inaction. Why?

    Simple – the Ukraine crisis is now, EU members are responding strongly to the invasion of Ukraine, there are attempts to create divisions, and Denmark joining the CSDP shows solidarity, as well as helping to deter further aggressive action by Russia. Members still keep control over their armed forces whatever the Express will try to tell people, it’s more a structure to enable working together,

    Sweden and Finland meanwhile are thinking of joining NATO, moving themselves from neutraility. There’s even mounting pressure in Ireland to join as a full member, rather than a Partner for Peace (as is Russia by the way).

    So THAT Danish referendum needs to go off now, whereas there is no change needed to the apparent timetable for Indy Ref 2, as that seems to be in 2023 and so far, is unaffected by Ukraine. Indeed, some think that might help Independence.

    Meanwhile, with the SNP having had a shoogly peg on defence, a reason for some voting NO in 2014, they are now impressing strongly, and removing defence worries as a reason for some to vote NO. Sturgeon’s doing that, MacDonald is doing that, even Smith and Robertson are doing that, and Blackford is doing that ably. And by the way, I’m the opposite of a fan of Blackford normally.


  4. SNP no doubt will continue to delay the Referendum Ad Infinitum. We can all try to put pressure on NS but if she’s not for turning then what? Let me ask again – then what? I’ve no idea how we can put a rocket up them. I received an email this week from Mike Russell indicating how they would like to help the Ukraniens but those bad annoying people at Westminster are getting in the way. Oh and by the way we’re doing well in Govt and did you know the Scottish Elections are coming up. I stopped reading at that point. The answer is simple Mike. Deliver Independence. It’s why we elected you. 7 years and so far zilch has been done. I see nothing to convince me anything will change. Russell Sturgeon Robertson Blackford all a waste of space. I think we’re all being taken for mugs.

    Liked by 1 person

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