Given that participants are being vetted by Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, and that a ‘code of conduct’ is being prepared for those who are approved, there doesn’t seem to be much possibility of any fresh thinking coming out of this Scottish Independence Congress. If there is one thing Scotland’s cause desperately needs it is fresh thinking. Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, for all his other qualities and attributes, is hardly known for his openness to fresh thinking.
Apparently, the provisional agenda includes “discussing the route map to independence, considering questions such as where the campaign is now and how to get to a Yes victory”. I seriously doubt that anyone will be permitted to offer an honest and objective assessment of where the campaign is now. While the SNP/Scottish Government and its apologists wave a favourable poll and chant “We’ve never been closer!” and party loyalists believe with the fervour of religious fundamentalists that Nicola Sturgeon has overseen an increase in support for independence, any honest analysis of polling figures over the period of her tenure indicates that support for Yes has not risen at all.
Can you envisage anyone attending this Congress pointing out the rather salient fact that Scotland’s cause has been left like some old car resting and rusting on breeze blocks in an unkempt front garden for eight whole years and counting? To do so would be to condemn as failures all those who claim to have been continuing the campaign over that period. I really don’t see anyone being permitted to do that.
There will be much talk of ‘routes to independence’ at this Congress, as everywhere else. But in order to plot a route it is essential to know as precisely as possible not just where you’re going to, but where you’re starting from. But with the possible and rather tenuous exception of Alba Party, it is not in the interests of any of the likely participants for it to become generally known “where the campaign is now”.
Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp’s thinking on the form of the Yes campaign is firmly fixed and very much aligned to that of Nicola Sturgeon. Any discussion of campaign strategy and tactics is sure to be overwhelmingly dominated by those who are committed to basically rerunning the campaign for the 2014 referendum. It can hardly be otherwise given the list of invitees.
In a referendum, the form of the campaign is determined by the question on the ballot paper, I’m not aware of anybody among those so far mentioned as potential delegates to this Congress who has demurred at Nicola Sturgeon’s insistence that the question in a new referendum must be the same as that which was put to voters in 2014. Any serious discussion intended to produce fresh thinking on the form of the Yes campaign would start with the question. But that has already been decided without any discussion at all.
Uniting the Yes movement is essential. If we think no further than that, this proposed Congress is a good idea. But surely not if the purpose is to unite the Yes movement behind a failed and failing approach to resolving the constitutional issue. We must be honest with ourselves if we are to be honest with the electorate. If Scotland’s cause is to make progress we must break away from old thinking and allow space for new ideas. At first blush, the Congress seems designed to further entrench the thinking that has seem the independence campaign becalmed for the best part of a decade for want of the breeze that stirs when critical analysis meets open minds.
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.