What if that other voice we all know so well responds by saying, ‘We say no, and we are the state’? Well, we say yes ─ and we are the people.Canon Kenyon Wright (Scottish Constitutional Convention, 1989)
There will almost certainly be a referendum in 2023. Failing that, the SNP proposes to declare the next UK general election (probably in 2024) a ‘de facto’ referendum on the constitutional issue. Regardless of the fact that neither of these democratic events can serve as a formal exercise by the people of Scotland of our right of self-determination, all who aspire to the restoration of Scotland’s independence must always campaign for the outcome which best serves Scotland’s cause. We must campaign for a Yes vote in the proposed referendum, despite the fact that this vote would have no legal or constitutional effect ─ and doubtful political or practical effect. Likewise, if there is a plebiscitary election, all independence supporters must campaign for the result which best serves our cause.
The foregoing may seem like a statement of the obvious. But Scotland’s independence movement is in a lamentable condition at the moment. Pretty much every ailment or dysfunction that might afflict a political movement is to be found with variable severity in some part of the movement. Division, conflict, confusion and delusion are rife. In such circumstances, it is invariably useful to return focus to the fundamentals. Statements of the obvious can be helpful. So here is another one.
The common factor in all the problems besetting to Yes movement is the SNP. To be more precise, the current SNP leadership. It is with the heaviest of hearts that I say this not on account of any deep affection for or abiding loyalty to the party but because I recognise how crucial the SNP is to Scotland’s cause. It is yet another statement of the obvious to say that one can be non-SNP and an independence supporter but one cannot be anti-SNP and an independence supporter. If our independence is to be restored within the applicable timeframe then there simply is no way this can be done without the participation of the Scottish Government and therefore the party of government. If you can’t get your head around that political reality then there is little point in you reading beyond this point.
Those who are still with us need to face yet another aspect of our political reality. The Yes movement can be split into three parts each of indeterminate size but each too substantial to ignore. Firstly, there are those who are totally comfortable participating in a campaign under the direction of the SNP. Then there are those who feel they are quite unable to participate in such a campaign. In between, there exists a spectrum of reluctance to work with what will be the official Yes campaign. What this means is that when it comes to active campaigning, a large part of the Yes movement will either not participate at all or will do so through a proliferation of small efforts. Clearly, what is needed is a way to combine those small efforts and re-engage those who would otherwise opt out. What is required is a second campaign organisation to run alongside the SNP-led ‘official’ Yes campaign for the 2023 referendum
It is also worth noting that should it come to a plebiscitary election there will be no ‘official’ SNP-led Yes campaign because it is first and foremost an election and each party will be obliged to concentrate on getting its own candidates returned. It would be useful, therefore, to have a non-partisan organisation running a campaign to encourage people to vote in the manner which best serves Scotland’s cause. In many cases this will mean effectively assisting the SNP campaign. But not necessarily, as there may be constituencies where some other voting strategy is best. The problem for the SNP in this situation is that, as a party, they are obliged to campaign for their own candidate even knowing that this would not best serve Scotland’s cause. I must stress this point ─ the SNP can only campaign for its own candidates. It is prohibited by its own constitution and by electoral law from campaigning for candidates from another party. The utility of a unified, non-partisan campaign organisation in this situation should be obvious. The organisation set up to be the alternative Yes campaign in the referendum could also take on a vital role in a plebiscitary election.
That is the situation stated as plainly as it might be. It could be taking stating the obvious too far to say that time is of the essence. But there! I’ve said it! If a new campaign organisation is to be formed which pulls together what we might call the non-SNP part of the Yes movement, then we must act now. The first step is to invite expressions of interest. This must be done immediately as while individuals can make up their minds at once, groups and organisations will require time to discuss their participation. To this end, I have taken the first steps in setting up an organisation provisionally called The People Say Yes! ─ taking inspiration from the quote at the start of this article.
I have registered the relevant domain ─ thepeoplesayyes.scot. If you or any group or organisation that you represent might be interested in being part of The People Say Yes! please email email@example.com giving full contact details. I will take on the task of compiling an initial list with a view to inviting representatives to attend an inaugural meeting of some kind. Hopefully, this can take place before the end of September.
Most importantly, I would ask that this article be shared as widely as possible in the hope of reaching all those who may be interested.
Let’s see where this goes.
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