You’ve been conned!

Nicola Sturgeon is careful these days to avoid explicit mention of the Section 30 process. It would be surprising if she was unaware of the growing opposition to inviting the British state to interfere in Scotland’s exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination. But other than not using the actual words the rest of her language tells us that she remains immovably wedded to the Section 30 process. Which is disturbing.

The Sturgeon/SNP loyalists will doubtless be quick to point out that the First Minister has also stated that she will deliver a referendum even if her grovelling for Boris Johnson’s consent is snubbed, as most people suppose it will be. What she has not done is explain how she can logically concede the need for a Section 30 order by ‘demanding’ one then as soon as it is refused start insisting that it is not needed at all.

Nor has she explained how she intends to go about things if/when the Section 30 order is refused. What process does she have in mind which does not involve a Section 30 order but is “legal and constitutional” by the British standard that she has accepted and which is “capable of delivering independence”? Does any such process even exist?

SNP/Sturgeon loyalists may be able blithely to disregard the confusion and illogic and contradiction and inconsistency in the FM’s position, but thinking people will have great difficulty doing so. I find it impossible to ignore the fact that the position is nonsensical. I lack the unquestioning faith required to turn a blind eye.

The other thing she has failed to address is what happens if her ‘tactic’ of compromising the principle of popular sovereignty in return for worthless British promises of cooperation in the process actually succeeds. It may be unlikely. But there is still the possibility that the British Prime Minister will grant her obsequious petition. Of course, he will only do so with conditions attached and with the intention of using the power afforded him by Sturgeon to sabotage the entire process. What does she do then?

If she refuses to accept the conditions she will be proclaimed to have turned down the chance of a referendum. She will be ridiculed by British Nationalists and condemned by that part of the Yes movement which is stupid enough to suppose that any old referendum will do. If she accepts the conditions she will be condemned by the more thoughtful part of the Yes movement who see where it will lead while the British Nationalists will be orgasmic with glee.

The Section 30 process is, as some of us have been saying for many years, a trap. And Nicola Sturgeon is walking straight into it.

So is her predecessor. It may come as a surprise to those who have been taken in by the rhetoric, but Alba Party’s position on the referendum is almost indistinguishable from the SNP’s. Alba supporters have worked hard to give the impression that their party is offering something different. There is much talk of the urgency of the situation and even more denouncing of the SNP’s pusillanimous procrastination. But in what way does Alba differ on this matter? A single line from the party’s 2021 election manifesto suffices to answer that question.

The Scottish negotiating position should include, but not be restricted to, a formal demand for a Section 30 Order.

Alba – A manifesto for Scotland (PDF)

Alba devotees make much of that qualifying clause. But anyone with even basic language skills can see exactly what that line means. It is actually two statements.

The Scottish negotiating position should include a formal demand for a Section 30 Order.

The Scottish negotiating position should not be restricted to a formal demand for a Section 30 Order.

This cannot mean anything other than that Alba would start with a “formal demand” for a Section 30 order. This is a carbon copy of the SNP’s policy even down to the words used. The second statement also precisely echoes the SNP’s position. It is just another way of saying that if the “formal demand” is rejected then they’d do something else. With no further detail on exactly what that something else might be. Just like Nicola Sturgeon.

On Thursday, many people will cast their votes with the constitutional issue foremost in their minds. You may disapprove. You may wish that people would vote in local elections solely on the basis of local issues. But the constitutional issue looms so large in Scotland’s politics that it is bound to be a factor in any democratic exercise. The same may be said of other major national issues, and it is doubtless the case that many (most?) people will be influenced in how they vote by a complex mix of factors. But I am here addressing only those who to any extent are intending to vote for Alba Party candidates for the purpose of registering a protest against Nicola Sturgeon’s approach to the constitutional issue. Those people need to be aware that if they think they are voting for a different approach by voting for Alba then they have been duped – just as were those taken in by the ‘supermajority’ nonsense at last year’s Scottish Parliament elections.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t vote for Alba candidates. Only that you should make informed choices. Frankly, I don’t care who you vote for. Barring a massively unexpected result, the outcome of the council elections is unlikely to have any significant implications for the constitutional issue – that being my greatest concern. Even Alba’s dishonesty is not sufficient reason to reject them in favour of the SNP or any other party. None of them is totally honest. I just think it is right that people are given the information they need in order to deal with the dishonesty as they see fit.

Very few people are deluded enough to imagine that Alba Party is an alternative to the SNP in any practical sense. But if you’ve been led to believe that Alba is an alternative in terms of its approach to the constitutional issue then you have been badly misled. Do with that information what you will.



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11 thoughts on “You’ve been conned!

  1. Thanks for the article Peter but I dont believe that Nicola Sturgeon will fall into any trap. I still believe that she has a plan that will bring a referendum that wont be bringing glee to the unionists.

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  2. “… Alba Party’s position on the referendum is almost indistinguishable from the SNP’s… ”

    That, I’m afraid, is true, and of deep concern. If ALBA is to succeed, it must offer a very different agenda from that of the SNP, and it must be very radical – a complete departure from everything that has gone before. I fully understand why Alec Salmond does not want to upset the apple cart: he hopes that voters for ALBA will give the SNP a bloody nose, but not so much of a bloody nose that it is disabled; on the other hand, he wants to keep SNP voters on board; and he does not want to rock the boat too much with Unionists. It is about putting crosses against independence parties to get the full benefit. Frankly, I think the time for worrying about what Unionists will think is long gone, and it is equally risky to alienate SNP voters for nothing. We must start to use the constitutional tools we have, including a plebiscite election on independence, not on party loyalties. If that is too much for either the SNP or ALBA, then the voters do not actually want independence. It is time to tell all leaders of all parties that we want to leave the UK for very good political, social, economic and health reasons; we cannot delay any longer.

    Perhaps you hadn’t heard of that Nicola Sturgeon has offered Angus Brendan a debate on his Plan B – in 2024 – AFTER the supposed referendum of 2023? Either she is in expectation of being turned down by Westminster and wants to have a second avenue of manoeuvre or she has no intention of holding a referendum next year at all. Either way, it’s a non-starter. Any debate in 2024 will be too late for independence if the GE is held in that year, but just in time to stave off a defeat in the 2025 SE. I really don’t believe that I have ever seen such a chancer in the leadership position of the SNP before. I don’t believe any leader of the SNP has ever taken the membership and voters so much for granted before by leading them a merry dance around the maypole, up hill and down dale and everywhere in between. It’s not clever. It’s deceitful and cruel. Either independence is embarked upon with determination very soon or it will fester to the point of explosion – and anyone who believes that the Scots are the exception are sadly mistaken. The same people who are screaming for Putin’s blood on behalf of Ukraine either don’t want to, or can’t, comprehend that, if they dither and dilly-dally on independence forever, they are going to create the perfect storm right here. That goes for independence supporters, devolutionists and for Unionists equally.

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    1. It has to be said, Lorna, that Alba Party gets marked down as yet another missed opportunity for the independence movement. It could have been so much more. In fact, it is nothing at all. The best we might hope for is that it won’t do too much damage.

      You’re quite correct about Alex Salmond’s juggling act. But as I’ve said elsewhere, he’s juggling the wrong things. His whole enterprise is misdirected. He should be thinking in terms of building a movement behind Alba instead of thinking like an SNP politician – for whom it is ALL about winning elections. Alba is NOT going to become a political force by the electoral route. Certainly not in time to make a difference. It COULD become a political force by becoming the gathering place for all the dissenting voices in the independence movement. By, as you say, being truly radical on the constitutional issue Alba could attract both support and media attention. Which means both more support AND influence. It’s just not happening. Although many Alba devotees have convinced themselves it is.

      I had not heard about Nicola Sturgeon’s offer to debate ‘Plan B’ with Angus. It’s nonsense, of course. There was an opportunity for that debate in 2019. Chris McEleny was disgracefully booed off the platform at the conference and my point of order was never dealt with. That was when I knew that the membership had entirely lost the party. The clique had it.

      Again, you make a good point. I find it all too easy to believe that Nicola Sturgeon’s mind is more on future elections than on Scotland’s cause. I reject the silly notion that she has turned against independence or no longer wants it. But it certainly looks as if it has ceased to be a priority for her.

      The clock is ticking.

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  3. I had intended to cast my vote for ALL parties who are in favour of restoring Scotland’s statehood. Or at least those ones who are theoretically, as per their constitution and/or manifesto, in favour.

    As it turns out there were only 2 candidates standing in my ward that match my views on the constitutional issue. So, in my postal ballot, I voted for SNP (#1) and Green (#2). I have no great enthusiasm for either given the performance or the approach taken by either at a national level. (I also have extreme misgivings on GRA and Hate Crime as well as the machinations around trials of Alex Salmond, Craig Murray, Mark Hirst etc).

    However, I view these votes as a kind of ‘placeholder’ so that I can register a vote that cannot be interpreted as a vote in favour of the Union, as those malicious mainstream media would be quick to portray it as. (Knowing how the STV system works I did not vote for any of the Unionist parties as I view them as equally anti-democratic and anti-Scotland so I did not wish to indicate preference, or provide advantage for, one of these British parties over the other – that would be sending the wrong message).

    My hope is that this ‘placeholder’ can be utilised once/if the SNP returns to its senses and pursues its raison d’etre in a full-throated way.

    I am realistic enough to know that the present (bloody-minded) leadership of the SNP is unlikely to achieve the goal set out by its founders in 1934. My wish is simply to keep the prospect of the return of Scotland’s statehood alive for the future, even if the British state are presently closing off opportunities for achieving it whilst our supposed leaders dilly, dally and dither.

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    1. I reckon that’s a healthy attitude. I like the idea of voting SNP/Green as a “placeholder”. Alba might serve in that respect also where they have a candidate standing. The fact of the matter is that while all three of these parties are nominally pro-independence and so able to do a turn as a “placeholder” vote, none of them offers a credible plan to restore Scotland’s independence. None of them is a party I would vote for in the conviction – or hope – that they were going to take the required action or even press for that action to be taken.

      We have been unforgivably let down by the entire political class. With only tragically few exceptions, they are a disgrace.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Thanks, Duncanio, for that view of a situation not unlike the one I face, with four unionists candidates (2 LibDems), a Green and an SNP.
      I had been considering writing ‘none of the above’ on the ballot paper as I feel that none of them can be trusted to put the interests of Scotland first, but your idea of voting for a place-holder has some merit.
      As I will vote in person, I have time still to weigh up my options.

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  4. Hi Peter, well stated. My guess is that the scetion 30 will be granted as a gift and of course with that franchise and the power of them it will be lost by a few margin. Unless new snp has time and find a clever way to depoliticised the Constitutionnal issue. But time to do so will certainly means that the Union won’t grant the section 30 order. Not fool and no time anyway.
    I am an Alba member since day one in opposition to the new snp ( when i say sething i do it and i expect the same from others, especially when they act on my behalf with my vote) knowing well that if they wanted to take the “classical party route ” they would just look like another governing party and not in total opposition to the situation. Playing in that game is a really masochistic move. Lots of Alba members even the devotees are saying or agreeing that the best route is not the referendum but like me have hope in Salmond, like me were disgusted with the way they try to break him down… I had hope in Sturgeon for a certain amount of time as well.
    I have waited for months to see something different from Alba, now my patience had reached its limits and after the elections i will unsusbscribed. I will not even vote, i don’t want to be part of the circus anymore. Will i vote in an Indy referendum under the present circumstances knowing that the game is tricked, knowing that the only political vehicle to Indy is in agreement with the fool play. Honestly i doubt it, what is the point of having so much hope during few hours, what is the relevance to believe that a magic wand will overturned hundred of years of Unionist bad spells and finally discover that i had lied to myself during those few moments of my life. This is not Hope : this is Desperation. The mass Scottish Stockholm Syndrom should be adressed then Hope could be considered.

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  5. Peter wrote; “What she has not done is explain how she can logically concede the need for a Section 30 order by ‘demanding’ one then as soon as it is refused start insisting that it is not needed at all”.

    Not at all. She has not “conceded the need for a S30” simply by offering the UK Govt the opportunity to get on board with the move to a referendum. All it does is show the Scottish people, and the world at large, that the Scottish Govt has been more than willing to include the UK Govt in the process. The expected refusal just leads to a “well, we tried” shrug of the shoulders and a unilateral decision on the process to be followed by the Scottish Govt.

    Peter wrote; “But there is still the possibility that the British Prime Minister will grant her obsequious petition. Of course, he will only do so with conditions attached and with the intention of using the power afforded him by Sturgeon to sabotage the entire process. What does she do then”?

    There is risk in all of this. For Johnson as well as the Indie cause. Just acquiescing to the S30 would threaten to rip the Tory Party apart between those utterly opposed to the very notion of Scottish independence, those supporting the UK Govt no matter what and those keen to be rid of the “Jock Subsidy Junkies”. Even if he did try to “sabotage” the process while attempting to keep the tattered remnants of his Govt together, he risks an outraged backlash from a Scottish electorate already sickened by UK Tory shenanigans. Worst of all, he could grant the S30, get all the little caveats you fear …. and still lose (as Cameron did on Brexit).

    Of course, there is no reason to believe that a granting of the S30 would be accepted by the Scottish Govt if it was too compromised by UK Govt insistence on ridiculous caveats. Holyrood would run the risk, as you say, of being cat called by Unionists if it refused a S30 under those circumstances. But it could still cite the caveats as the reason to refuse it and carry on with their own referendum process regardless.

    As I said, there is risk in all of this. Even if the Scottish Govt follows the idea of simply ignoring the S30 process altogether and ploughs on with its own referendum process, it runs the risk of many sympathetic Scots seeing it as “illegitimate”, along with the wider World, and having to fight it through the courts for months or years. They could even face jail-time over it (see Catalonia).

    I was “accused” on this site of never seeing things as “Black and White” but only as “Shades of Grey”, as if it was a bad thing. I do so because I am a realist. The World is “Shades of Grey”. You either accept it and work with it, or deny it and endure a life of constant disappointment.

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