On the constitutional issue, there are two statements in the Alba Party local election manifesto. There is the claim that “Only ALBA is prioritising Independence in this Election”. I suspect the First Minister would dispute this. Once again, Nicola Sturgeon is making all the by now mind-numbingly familiar noises about independence and a new referendum. That’s how we know there’s an election looming. I’ve no doubt the SNP would also claim to be prioritising independence. Supposing we were voting solely on the basis of which claim was most credible, which might we choose?
What does it mean to be “prioritising Independence”? It’s certainly prioritised by both Alba and SNP in terms of their electioneering. The constitutional issue has featured more prominently than I recall being the case in previous local elections. This reflects the fact that the constitutional question is the single biggest issue in Scotland’s politics. Independence is a priority whether the parties choose to make it so or not. They are not due any great credit for having it at or near the top of their manifestos. It would be decidedly odd if they didn’t.
Can we judge which between Alba and SNP best demonstrates this prioritisation of independence in terms of action taken or proposed rather than mere electioneering rhetoric? Certainly not in terms of anything tangible that either of these parties is actually doing. Neither is actually doing anything. I challenge anybody to identify a single thing done by Alba or SNP that has been effective in taking Scotland’s cause forward. Both parties talk about persuading people by making the case for independence. The polls tell us that this has completely failed. So, if that’s what they say they’re doing then they’ve been doing nothing that’s effective. The only difference between them is that The SNP has been doing nothing effective for considerably longer. Does Alba get points just for being newer? If so, what happens if an even newer party comes along?
If we can’t separate the two on action, what about proposed action? The SNP is proposing to hold a referendum in 2023. It would be accurate to say that they are promising this referendum rather than proposing it. But whether promise or proposal it’s a vague and tenuous thing. Given that they’ve had nearly eight years to prepare, one might reasonably expect some progress on that front. But the only thing we know with anything like certainty is that the starting point for the SNP is yet another ‘demand’ for a Section 30 order. We really have no idea what they intend after that. We don’t know what they mean to do if a Section 30 order is granted – with all the problems that brings. We don’t know what they intend if as most people expect, the ‘demand’ is snubbed by Boris Johnson. We are expected to simply take it on trust that Nicola has it covered. Well, that’s what I thought eight years ago. Can I be blamed if I’m now very dubious?
There is, of course, a very great difference between Alba and SNP in terms of what each CAN do. But we’re talking here about what they say they WILL do. So that kind of puts them on a level playing field. The SNP says it WILL hold a referendum – no further details are available at this time. In its second manifesto statement regarding the constitutional issue, Alba says it WILL,
Take real action on Independence through the establishment of an Independence ConventionAlba stands for Scotland – Alba Party local election manifesto
Quite how Alba will do this remains a bit of a mystery. We do know that the intention is to invite “MSPs, MPs and Councillors, as well as representatives of civic Scotland, trade unions and business”. That has to be at least 2,000 participants. There are 1,227 councillors alone. By the time the three on the list are included, the actual number could be 3,000 or more. So, there are some practical issues that Alba neglects to address.
More importantly, however, there is the far from small matter of democratic legitimacy. As things stand, even if this independence convention was something Alba could actually do, what might it achieve? It could be no more than a pressure group. Potentially a powerful pressure group. And that might be a good thing if only it could be kept focused on the constitutional issue. Experience tells us this is unlikely. Let’s say no more than that for now.
That’s it! On the one hand, a proposal for a referendum which may or may not happen and which may or may not be a proper exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination. We have no way of knowing. On the other hand, we have a proposal for an independence convention which may or may not be possible and which may but almost certainly will not lead to effective and timely action to restore Scotland’s independence.
If we are choosing between Alba and SNP on the basis of what prioritising independence actually means for each of them then we are no further forward. Neither party has identified the specific actions that need to be taken (see below). And both envisage the process starting with a ‘demand’ for a Section 30 order. On that basis, neither deserves the votes of people who really do regard independence as an “immediate priority”.
- Repudiate the Section 30 process as an illegitimate constraint on Scotland’s right of self-determination
- Assert the primacy of the Scottish Parliament on the basis of its democratic legitimacy and the sovereignty of Scotland’s people
- Recall Scotland’s Members of Parliament from Westminster to sit on a National Convention with Members of the Scottish Parliament and such representatives of civic society as are deemed appropriate by the Scottish Parliament for the purpose of overseeing the drafting of a Constitution for Scotland
- Propose dissolution of the Union with England subject to approval by the Scottish Parliament and ratification by the people of Scotland in a referendum
- Hold a referendum on a proposal to dissolve the Union under the auspices of the Scottish Parliament and subject to oversight and management by the National Convention and such bodies as may be appointed by the Scottish Parliament
If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.