SIC: A broken umbrella?

The Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) has the superficial look of an obvious successor to Yes Scotland. In fact, it seems to already have appointed itself as the ‘official’ umbrella organisation representing the entire Yes movement. Which is problematic. Not only because SIC, quite inexplicably, includes elements which pose a real threat to the reputation of anyone who associates with them, but for reasons of democratic legitimacy.

What is the basis of SIC’s authority? How representative is it of the Yes movement as a whole? What mandate does it hold? How can it possibly acquire such a mandate? How likely is it that the rest of the Yes movement will accept SIC’s self-declared status?

Some of these issues have been raised by GA Ponsonby on IndyRef2. Particularly the fact that the SIC board appears to be dominated by the very clique of passionless technocrats, supercilious intellectuals and dogma-bound radicals which has recently sought to claim ownership of the Yes movement to the exclusion of any and all who decline to embrace their narrow agenda.

Personally, I now harbour grave doubts about the Scottish Independence Convention. I am concerned about the judgement of those who have invited onto the organisation’s board groups whose provenance is questionable and individuals whose character is dubious.

I have great difficulty seeing how SIC can credibly speak for the grass-roots Yes movement when it is so predominantly given over to a relatively small but inordinately assertive faction founded on a simplistic belief that ‘radical’ is synonymous with ‘righteous’.

Most of all, I worry that SIC has no popular mandate; nor any means of acquiring one. I worry, too, that the SIC – and thereby the aforementioned faction of ‘righteous radicals’ – intends to ‘piggy-back’ on the electoral mandate of the SNP in a way that will be found unacceptable by the party’s membership and considered inappropriate by the general public.

In order to succeed, the independence movement needs effective political power. In order to be effective, that political power must have democratic legitimacy. It is not obvious how SIC might achieve this. It’s not even clear that the importance of democratic legitimacy is recognised by those in charge of SIC.

As a member of the SNP, and with the greatest of respect to both Alex Salmond and Elaine C Smith, I could not possibly agree to party funds being diverted to the Scottish Independence Convention as it is presently structured.

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42 thoughts on “SIC: A broken umbrella?

  1. bringiton

    I completely agree Peter.
    The case for independence is firmly rooted in the principle of democratic accountability,or rather lack of in Scotland.
    The SNP,despite the carping from the sidelines by so called radicals,is a democratic party (unlike many others) and decisions about handing over members’ cash to other organisations must be taken by the membership.
    Unlike the radical left we are not an organisation of prima donnas and our leadership is absolutely accountable to us for their actions.

  2. Brian Allan

    And the BritNats will only shout ‘the SIC is just a branch of the SNP’ and undermine what’s supposed to be a grass roots organisation. The SNP could fund specific research areas to rebut the mis-truths that will deluge the campaign.

  3. MacGillieleabhar

    Surely if SIC are promoting themselves as being representative of the whole “Yes” movement they must have enough support to raise funds without depending on the SNP?

    1. Jockanese Wind Talker

      Surely the members of the Radical And Right On Clique who claim to speak for us should donate the ‘fees’ they make from the BBC and other Unionist Media sources to SICs fighting fund??

      1. Peter A Bell Post author

        It would be more accurate to say that we have no certain knowledge of SIC having requested funding from the SNP. Maybe they did. How would we know?

  4. Malcolm P

    Absolutely agree about the democratic necessity. I am firmly of the view it has to be SNP until Indy. My concern is that “some” supposed Indy supporters now put Labour at the top of their priorities. If that takes hold Indy will never happen, let alone another referendum.

    1. Nick Edmunds

      SNP until Indy. #SNPuntilIndy This should be a rallying call. Despite gripes, girns, and faults, SNP is still the only real Independence Party with any clout and should be supported by all who want #Independence . When we are independent we can bicker democratically.

    2. Peter A Bell Post author

      I agree, Malcolm. If the movement has to coalesce around a single organisation it is only logical that it be the organisation which is most crucial to the campaign. And that has to be the SNP. At the moment, we have a crazy situation where people are acknowledging how vital the SNP is, but refusing to support it.

  5. John Brown

    I agree with your view on funding at this point in time. I think all convention members should bring funding (pro rata) from their own organisations.

    I believe the convention could have a co-ordination & information (exchange) role during the active stages of our indy campaign.

    As for forming the policy, tactics & leadership of the indy campaign? No thanks.

    Talking shop currently.

  6. Roddy Macdonald

    If the powers that be in the SNP decide to play along with the SIC, I’d be content if each affiliated group is required to provide funding in proportion to its voting power on the Board.

    Therefore the SNP should provide twice whatever the 3 or 4 folk in RIC / Bella / Common Weal etc, are able to muster. Bearing in mind of course that it’s the same 3 or 4 folk in RIC, Bella and Common Weal etc.

  7. Hugh Wallace

    I had doubts about the SIC when it was first launched after I saw who were on the board & held offices within the organisation. There are some people who I have great respect for & others I hold in deep contempt & unfortunately there are more of the latter. Now, with this demand that the SNP hand over cash & keeps its mouth shut (as an SNP member I do not agree to money being used in this manner) I want this organisation to disappear. I fear that it is going to be divisive & a major source of infighting in the forthcoming campaign. After all, recent weeks have shown just how ‘inclusive’ some of the people closely associated with the SIC really are. Haven’t they?

  8. Alan Johnson

    Well, I’m sorry, but I disagree with you all entirely. We badly need such an umbrella body as the SIC, and Alex Salmond, without question has done more by a mile to profile Scottish Independence and make it a near reality than anyone on this somewhat restricted forum has. We should evaluate people by what they do and achieve in the wider world, not by what they choose to say on minority internet sites such as this. So please take your gripes elsewhere.

    1. Tony Little

      Alan, I agree that some form of “umbrella” organisation might be a good thing. But what it does and its role in a future campaign need to be far more clearly stated.

      I also wonder why in this organisation that supposedly supports the wider YES movement, rather than a narrow political agenda (wholly Inappropriate in an Independence campaign) where the voice pf the YES supporting centre-right is?

      The next independence campaign is NOT about specific policies, especially not “radical” left-wing policies, which a large proportion of those whose votes we need abhors, but about simple principles of self-determination. his “board” of self-appoints chateratti and “coffee-house intellectuals” do not speak for me.

      While I may well vote for radical policies and a party that proposes them AFTER Independence, we will not get there by effectively denying a voice and a means of expressing it, from the rest of Scotland who DON’T see radical leftism as the way ahead.

      I also echo some of the comments already made about who some of these people are, and their real devotion to Independence as a goal, rather than a movement as a means to get their egos inflated and massaged.

      I will watch with concern how it goes, and try NOT to find myself thinking of “Brigade 77”, “Agent Provocateurs”, “BritNat Black Ops” “Media Manipulation” and all the other means available to the Establishment which have been employed in the past to ensure they retain power as long as possible. Let’s just say, I am not as naive as I used to be.

    2. Peter A Bell Post author

      I have the utmost respect for Alex Salmond. But I don’t for a moment imagine he’s infallible.I don’t doubt he had his own reasons for suggesting that the SNP fund SIC; perhaps to start the discussion that you pompously insist we shouldn’t have.

      1. Barbara Naughton.

        I suspect that Alex salmons suggested it , because as far as I could tell , most of us t the last sic convention are snp members. Looking forward to the next one in Edinburgh on the 4th Nov.

  9. Scott

    No comment on this story but I thought this interesting.

    Row over Jo Swinson election spending in East Dunbartonshire

    It has not taken BBC Scotland long to put this story down the pecking order.

  10. bowanarrow

    If a political party knows that its political shelf life will run out
    after it gains independence,where is the motivation to attain
    independence. We need another group, maybe it is the SIC
    maybe not, but we need an all encompassing organization that
    has Scotland’s well being first. Don`t forget the SNP politicians
    are professionals they are not volunteers this is their living
    they will be giving up if they really do gain independence, if we
    are to believe all the comments saying that they will be voting
    for some other party after independence. Where is the
    motivation to attain independence if their is not another
    organization there pushing it to the forefront.

    1. Hugh Wallace

      I think you are being a bit too harsh on many of those who hold office in the SNP but I do accept the point that we need to be aware that some individuals’ personal goals may get in the way of them actively trying to achieve independence. I agree that there needs to be some sort of non-SNP umbrella organisation to head the broader Yes movement but what I’m not at all convinced about is that the SIC is the appropriate body to perform that function. There are far too many people & organisations embedded within the SIC that appear to place their personal agendas ahead of actively striving for independence & some very important voices which appear to have been excluded from it too (I’m primarily thinking of WOS here).

    2. Peter A Bell Post author

      What a magnificently ridiculous comment! The SNP is the only political party which is unequivocally and unconditionally committed to independence. It’s right at the top of the party’s constitution. And at the top of its agenda. The idea that the SNP is not ‘motivated’ is risible.

      As is the daft notion that the SNP is going to just disappear after independence. Evidently, you completely failed to notice that the SNP is now the main party of government in Scotland. There is absolutely no rational reason to suppose that it will cease to be a significant player after independence. If you foolishly imagine the SNP to be a single-issue party then perhaps you need to take a look at one or two of its election manifestos.

      I’d also be interested to hear your explanation of how a single-issue party gets to form three successive administrations.

      I really don’t know why some people find it so difficult to understand the dual role of the SNP – as both a party of government and the political arm of the independence movement. There is nothing incompatible about these two roles. It’s perfectly possible for the party to be two things. We know this to be true because it is precisely what the SNP has been doing. One the one hand, it has been a remarkably effective administration for the past decade. One the other, it has played a major part in taking the independence movement further than most people of my generation thought would happen in our lifetime.

  11. jimmock

    The number of people “lending” their vote to the SNP until independence is probably not large. The first election after independence would certainly make the SNP the largest party. They would then be judged by the electorate on how they performed with the full powers of an independent state.

  12. RICHARD ANDERSON

    If I reflect on the 2014 campaign (I’m not sure if we have done enough hard thinking on that), I believe that the unionist forces successfully linked Salmond and the SNP in a negative campaign that isolated it from the wider Yes movement. By making it a party issue, the MSM could then, legitimately, run a 3v1 agenda and personalise its campaign. The central Yes campaign was, in my opinion, next to useless in addressing key policy issues and failed to engage sufficiently with the wider Yes movement in shifting the argument from a defensive posture on the White Paper. I believe the rumours that have surfaced, of Key elements of Indy supporting groups being sidelined by Yes HQ, shows a worrying lack of democratic accountability of those that somehow (how?) found themselves running (or not) the Yes campaign. Blair Jenkins was a political nonentity (although a nice guy). It could be argued that we managed to get close despite this and the beauty of a genuine grassroots campaign at a local level, that flourished despite Yes HQ rather than because of it) is something we should genuinely be proud of. In that respect it is essential to acknowledge the successful activities of RIC, Women for Indy, labour for Indy and multiple other groups.
    The EU campaign should provide lessons for our future efforts. I believe that there is a need to run with 1 campaign body that includes all the parties and organisations committed to independence. That should include Yes groups that still exist along with political parties. That body needs to have a strong political and media presence and needs the support of all activists in my opinion. It needs to be raising funds now, nationally and internationally (expats can really contribute here). We also need to be engaging with the European politicians who, post Brexit vote, began to expose the efforts of the Uk government to suppress discussion of independence within the eu countries. I’m in the SNP and I believe that we can’t rerun the last campaign. We need someone that we can agree on to lead the campaign. I think that the ex editor of the National might be someone that we could get behind but I’m open to ideas. My reasoning is that he is someone that many people across the parties and groups might recognise as not being strongly aligned with any party but someone who has a sound understanding of the issues allied to an ability to front up a campaign in the press. In short, I’m not allergic to running a single campaign group and I’ll happily give funds and support to it AS WELL AS giving my support to the snp. If SIC is that body it’s not perfect but by getting behind it now, we can help shape it into a decent political fighting force.

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      I got as far as the claim that not enough “hard thinking” had been done about the first referendum campaign and was tempted to give up at that point. Why do people persists in coming out with such trite drivel? How could anybody even remotely involved with the Yes movement have failed to notice the extended postmortem that followed the 2014 result?

      For at least the whole of 2015 and well into 2016, any time two Yes supporters got together it was the first and often the only topic of conversation. I personally spent 18 months or so touring Scotland visiting various SNP branches and Yes groups and the only things anybody wanted to talk about were (a) why did we lose; and (b) how do we win.

      And this was not merely idle whining or blame-mongering. This was, almost entirely serious, considered debate. It was “deep thinking”. And lots of it. Arguably, too much. To claim that there was not enough is, frankly, just plain ridiculous.

      The hard thinking has been done. The problem now is that too many are reluctant to accept the conclusions. Too many say that we “can’t rerun the last campaign”, then go on to insist that we do just that. Too many refuse to acknowledge that the SNP is the key.

      The most important lessons of the first referendum campaign are to be learned, not from looking at what the losers did. But from looking at what worked for the winners.

      1. RICHARD ANDERSON

        I was closely involved in the Yes campaign locally. Did you come to Helensburgh? If so I never saw or heard of you. I never took part in any systematic review of the Yes campaign nationally or locally and I’m not clear that we have reached agreed conclusions. I joined the SNP and was, fir a while, a branch office bearer. I never saw any review that provided any degree of significant engagement with the wider membership.
        With respect (and I want to emphasise respect), I don’t agree with what you believe are the most important lessons.

  13. yesnef

    i think Peter raises a very important point, ie, what mechanism exists to propel any group or person into this position?

    hint, there isnt a mechanism.

    do we actually need one?

    the national yes registry enables the different groups to organise across the various local groups when required. it imposes no political ideology on anyone.

    ayemail supply all the merchandise, flags stickers etc, that the grass root organisations need.

    talking heads will talk on tv shows whether there is a replacement for yes scotland or not.
    jeanne freedman was best performer on the DP when she tore andrew niel a new one. if AN wants to invite tommy sheridan onto this week during indyref2, he will do.

    local hustings will again be organised by the local groups, selecting the talking heads most suited to the area where the hustings take place, eg st andrews is probally more suited to have craig murray rather than tommy sheridan as a speaker. the no campaign wont participate in such hustings.

    indyref2 will be a much shorter affair when it comes, the only people who leafleted or canvased in my area during indyref1 was our local yes group, not yes scotland. this will be the case in indyref2.

    all of the pieces are already in place so i ask again, why do we need an umbrella organisation? and again, how do we go about selecting a group/leader for this organisation?

    1. yesindyref2

      I think there needs, as far as the Electoral Commission is concerned, to be a lead group, the “official” campaign.

      Tempted to say more, but I’ll hold my counsel.

      Oi! Lemme go!

      1. yesnef

        lol

        i think you are right but many others were declared for election expensis reasons during indyref1, including wos
        most of the BT groups were astroturf orgs.

        also, once indyref2 is over, no one will care what is spent if we win. see the libdems etc

  14. yesindyref2

    Interesting. From their website: “The Scottish Independence Convention, the umbrella body for the Scottish independence movement,”

    Who says? And apart from the 4 you find on their “about us” page, who else is in it?

    Peter, you and I are going to cross swords numerable times over the next few about a range of issues, but thanks for this article, most at least which I agree with, and thanks for making me look very carefully at this. There’s an article in The National today as well. Mmm, makes you think. Where’s the grassroots?

    One thing is for sure, YES belongs to everyone, including those not yet YES.

    Peter Piper

    1. Jed

      Re who’s on the ctte – as per the National article you cite – the political reps
      are – for the SNP – T Sheppard MP and MSP I Mckee – M Chapman for the Greens –
      what’s of most concern to me are the number of people who’re also on board of or
      work for Common Weal.

      Both SNP reps/M Small/the press person listed/I Lindsay/Pat k – P Mcoll was and of course R McAlpine – who has rather more influence than one CW vote – and there may be others.

      Also of interest the people who were included in the group who met NS and PM – my intel – the conveners listed – prob a women for indy rep – R McAlpine and poss M Small.

        1. Jed

          Ah – not seeing details of who was at the NS and PM meeting etc – was merely attempting to add actual information. But seems you’re seeing detail on their website not evident to me.

  15. Brian irwin

    SIC is not a good enough acronym for starters. SICScotland? I don’t think so. Unionists and the media in general would have a field day.

    A few of the organisations and individuals concerned are too knee-jerk reactionary to be given SNP funds as well.

  16. Bob

    Every time i see SIC i’m reminded of ” Let’s Get The Band Back Together ” quote.
    Smacks of ” Here’s An Opportunity ”
    Why ..Because in case anyone has forgotten ” The Band Never Went Away “.
    Numerous groups & Individuals have done more since 2014 to keep the Indy debate alive.
    Remember crowdfunding sites for YesRegistry, 1,000 Flags etc. Those crowdfunding for those issues & many others were not doing it for nothing you know. They had a plan & that plan as Yesnef so rightly says is already in place.
    It doesn’t take SIC to ” Get Back Together ” to put that plan into full swing but Scot.Govt to give green light on Indyref2.
    I.m.o. SIC is nothing more than a talk shop…If we become Independent we can be this or do that. Which to a degree is right but also wrong. Right in the fact that in iScotland we have opportunities that are open to us that were never available to while under UK rule.
    Wrong in the fact that unless you are in Govt you cannot do this or be that.
    Putting out a vision for an iScotland is what SIC should be about not putting out policies.
    Policies are what Political Parties or Govt’s do… Unless of course SIC has other ideas.
    Which asks the Q what is the ulterior motives behind SIC. A fair Q in light of recent events concerning some of it’s backers.
    As for Richard Walker leading campaign, forget it.
    You cannot have a person who criticises a section of Yes voters & at same time advocates being respectful to journalists (media in general ). I was at that Convention in Glasgow & that left a sour taste in my mouth. PISH or SHITE was the word i used to reflect his speech to the Convention. Funny how the media always defend themselves.
    As for SNP party Funds being used by SIC forget it also. I give my fees to SNP to help fund the SNP as a political party in it’s fight against Unionists in Scotland, not for other organisations to use as they see fit.
    If SIC is so in need of financial assistance then do as other YES groups have done..Crowdfund.
    If SIC is as important to the Indy movement that some think, then it will have no shortage of backers & reaching it’s target will be a breeze.

  17. Sindy2yes

    My confusion is this: The SNP are the party globally recognised by all effective officialdom as the ‘party’ who seek an independent Scotland and who sought and gained an independence referendum vote for Scotland. The only way Scotland can viably be recognised as seeking independence is if the electorate in Scotland vote for the SNP at any election.

    At the last General Election – that vote, for whatever reason everyone can deliberate on the fact is the vote split and the natural and logical conclusion of particular advantage in perception terms to UK and global political observers was that the Scottish electorate did not return a full-house of SNP MPs to Westminster – 21 seats were lost – other parties gained seats. Whatever anyone feels about that – the global perception logically is that fewer people maintained an ‘obvious’ and ‘recognisable’ commitment to ‘the’ globally recognised and accepted party seeking and ‘of’ independence for Scotland.

    Perception is absolutely everything in politics – the mere whisper of any movement is the vital indicator as far as the markets and potential investments are concerned – and as far as Westminster seeks proof of the mood in Scotland with regard to a sustained ‘want’ for an independent Scotland or not. No matter how many intellectual or rigorous debates can be held on the result of that vote – the fact is that THE recognised party of independence for Scotland was not supported sufficiently as an indicator that the Scottish electorate are still as strongly compelled by independence as Westminster consistently feared they might be.

    This happenstance was a genuine loss to the entire Yes movement, which is perhaps not fully recognised or which some refuse to accept. But PERCEPTION outwith Scotland regarding sustained support for the SNP is vital and always will be. No British Government or Westminster individual or affiliated body will be seen on College Green being interviewed by the perception makers – the BBC, the Andrew Neils, the Andrew Marrs – as being of more import to the future of the Union than the status day to day of the SNP. No other body or political party is perceived by anyone as having the legitimate potential to achieve constitutional change for Scotland which can only, at this time, come from electoral commitment via the legitimate result of a democratic electoral vote. That is the factual status of the ‘getting’ of a referendum on independence for Scotland – which will not come about by perception – but by crosses on a legal ballot.

    I do not in any way undermine any aspect of the SIC. Their role – as I understand it – is to educate, encourage and inform the electorate in Scotland as to a better alternative for all of Scotland – which, from our viewpoint, IS independence. BUT – if the SIC do not also promote the need, at this time, to vote consistently for the SNP in order to present unequivocally that the Scottish electorate DO want another independence referendum – Scotland is not going to be given that opportunity unless Westminster clearly has that message presented to them not put Westminster in the position where it is clearly and unequivocally certain that the majority of the Scottish electorate desire or demand by will of the Scottish people – another referendum.

    Without sustained support for the SNP giving evidence by way of every ballot – Scotland does not show proof that it truly desires either another independence referendum nor independence. Sorry that this seems to be a casual case of trying to teach granny to suck eggs – but at this point in time – whilst it is not necessary to claim the SNP are the answer to any visions of a Scottish Utopia – getting the vote to the SNP is vital. If people have to hold their nose to again ‘lend’ that vote – then holding their nose is vital at any forseable election. Every vote against the SNP at this time – dilutes the perception that independence is still legitimately desired.

    Whilst I understand the attraction of voting for Jeremy Corbyn – of course I do depending on the genuine commitment of those who appear to make it – it dilutes the cause for genuine independence for Scotland. At the end of the day – it is a vote given to Westminster – and as Purcell said – he feels there is a very very large group of 2014 Yes voters who see Corbyn as the way – not to Scottish independence – but to what they feel will be a better option for Scotland within a federal UK based on McDonnell and Corbyn’s ‘vision for Scotland’.

    Personally, I cannot divert any financial subscription to a body where there may be a considerable number of genuinely socially conscious individuals whose priority is ‘radical’ change – (whatever that means in their terms – it isn’t clear to me as far as policies and people and practicality of achieving it are concerned) – who would want to use my financial support to further the vision for Scotland to be merely within some form of federal United Kingdom with legislation forthcoming yet again from Westminster.

    I’m not being small-minded about this. I very much support Lesley Riddoch’s visions, Elaine C. Smith and some others – but I fail to see how any pursuit of a federal ‘arrangement’ equates to any kind of independence for Scotland, nor how it would guarantee the continued existence – absolutely guarantee – of a Scottish Government outwith the yoke of Westminster.

    Sorry that’s so long – but this is my confusion as to the make-up of the SIC and lack of clarity and what honest direction every member body of the SIC wishes to see Scotland headed in.

    Other than that – I’d hold back any judgement at all at this early stage and be positive about every effort by everyone to commit to independence for Scotland.

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  19. Dave McEwan Hill

    The vehicle for independence is the SNP. That ensures a discipline and a campaign around agreed and decided positions.
    Unless the SIC realises that and sees its place mainly as a vehicle to feed in information and possible political positions for consideration to be part of an agreed campaign it could create indecision and at worse division.
    I think many of the leading members of SIC understand that and understand that very close cooperation with the SNP is very important.

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