The when and the why

So when will indyref2 be held then, asks Andrew Learmonth in The National. I’ll tell him.

The new referendum on Scotland’s independence will be held in September 2018. There is no great mystery about this. Earlier than that date might be better. And may be made necessary by unfolding events. But later is simply not an option.

The new referendum was always going to be held in September 2018. Nothing Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday has changed that. As long ago as September 2014 it was possible to work out that September 2018 was almost certainly the earliest date for the next independence vote. The EU referendum simply meant that September 2018 changed from being the earliest date to being the latest.

It is first of all necessary to understand that another independence referendum was always going to happen. Brexit is just something that has been added to the constitutional debate. It hasn’t altered the essentials of that debate. The case for normalising Scotland’s constitutional status is the same as it always was. Brexit is just further evidence of the British establishment’s contempt for Scotland. Another symptom of the grotesquely anomalous nature of the political union. Another example of the intolerable democratic deficit. There is nothing new, here.

A new referendum was always going to happen, not because of Brexit; and not even because of the way the British establishment behaved during and since the first referendum, but because something in the region of half the people of Scotland find the present constitutional settlement totally unacceptable. And another substantial part of the population want some kind of constitutional reform. A new referendum was always going to happen so long as the democratic process was allowed to run its course. Which, not at all incidentally, is why British nationalists want to obstruct that democratic process.

And that is what makes September 2018 the latest possible date. While analysts and commentators obsess about what Nicola Sturgeon is saying – or being dishonestly reported as saying – a huge red, white and blue elephant in the room is developing a complex due to being so assiduously ignored. The crucial factor is not Brexit, or whether the polls say a referendum is winnable. And certainly not how much time has elapsed since the previous referendum. What matters is the fact that the British political elite is not sitting idle while all of this is going on. The crucial factor is the imperative driving the British establishment.

They want Scotland back in its box. They want Scotland brought into line. They regard the Scottish Parliament as a threat. They all too evidently see the SNP as ‘the enemy’. They recognise that a tide of democratic dissent has risen in Scotland which has the very real potential to break the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. They are inconvenienced and embarrassed by the distinctive political culture which has developed in Scotland. The imperative is to crush the democratic dissent and destroy the distinctive political culture.

Every minute of every day some significant part of the British state’s very considerable machinery is devoted to finding a ‘solution’ for the Scottish problem. And the Brexit process allows an unmissable opportunity in this regard. As part of that process, the UK will require to be constitutionally redefined. We can be absolutely certain that the intention is to seize on this as a chance to lock Scotland into political union.

There will be no negotiation with the devolved administrations. There won’t even be any consultation. The UK will be redefined unilaterally. From the British state’s perspective the ideal would be that we don’t even know about it until after it has happened.

The UK will cease to be a member of the European Union in April 2019. Talk of “negotiations being extended to last another year or two” is just silly. This would require the agreement of all 27 continuing members states. There is not the slightest reason to believe such agreement would be forthcoming. What possible reason might they have for letting the UK off a vicious hook of its own making? What might the EU gain from going easy on the quitters?

Similarly foolish, and for similar reasons, is talk of ‘soft’ Brexit . There is no such thing. There is only Brexit. There is only being worse off. The extent of the damage will be nothing to do with anything the UK Government can negotiate. If the harm of Brexit is mitigated to any extent at all it will be solely because this suits the purposes of other actors in the process. The UK’s interests will not be a consideration.

Given this, it is plainly ridiculous to imagine a Brexit ‘deal’ that might negate the arguments for honouring the democratic will of Scotland’s people. Or the case for bringing Scotland’s government home so that the democratic will of the Scottish people can never again be overruled by a government that those people have decisively and repeatedly rejected.

We don’t need to wait and see how Brexit will impact Scotland. We already know it will be very bad in economic terms. We already know that it will be completely intolerable in terms of our democracy.

And we know that, unless we take steps to defend and protect our democratic right of self-determination, that too will be ripped from us in the same callous, contemptuous manner as our relationship with Europe.

Nicola Sturgeon is not unaware of all this. As First Minister, she obviously can’t come right out and accuse the UK Government of plotting against Scotland. But she has to know that this is precisely what is happening. It’s all far too obvious to be missed. But there’s nothing to prevent us talking about it. So why aren’t we?

Why aren’t we explaining to people why the new referendum must happen no later than September 2018? Why can’t we be honest with people about what is at stake?

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26 thoughts on “The when and the why

  1. SandyW

    With you Peter. I’d have preferred yesterday’s announcement to be a bit more combative, calling out Westminster for a prompt response on the Section 30 order and setting an expected date. That way we could put to bed the ‘no second referendum’ nonsense, get the Unionists started on defending the ‘benefits’ of the Union and start our own campaigning to move the 45% above 50%.

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      I’m with you on that. I wrote about what I thought possible/preferable yesterday. But I also understand that such preferences have to be weighed in the balance with many other considerations by the FM. I reckon she got it about right.

      The important message, as far as I am concerned was Nicola’s thinly-veiled request that we start building demand for a new referendum. Basically, she’s left herself the option to set pretty much any date prior to the implementation of the agreement with the EU. (Or, to put it more honestly, the imposition of whatever terms the EU has decided on.) she has a mandate. She has the approval of the Scottish Parliament. the one thing she needs is a massive show of support from us.

      1. SandyW

        Agreed. Interested on thoughts as to what would be a massive show of support (both in actuality and in the eyes of the media – although I suspect the answer on the media is ‘nothing’). Marches are great, but don’t get reported. Putting up posters and canvassing is difficult without that firm date as an objective.

        1. Hugh Wallace

          Aye and No.

          India won its independence without a date of a referendum to campaign for, as did many other nations that were once part of the British Empire. We on the Yes side need to get away from referenda as the only means by which we gain our independence and put Independence front and centre in our thoughts, words and actions. The best means available to us right now may well be IndyRef2 in September 2018 but that date is not the point, an independent Scotland is. So lets campaign for that and not simply winning a vote on a particular day next autumn.

          1. Geacher

            I spy a small flaw in your argument…. Scotland is part of the UK, nor part of the empire.
            You can thank me later.

  2. Big Jock

    If Nicola comes back to parliament in autumn 18, which is September. How can the referendum also be in September. It could be no earlier than November 18. The process takes at least a few weeks surely!

    Unless as I suspect the UK is going to crash out without a deal. That would mean the date could be named immediately.

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      Nothing is carved in stone other than our right of self-determination. If Nicola Sturgeon stands up in Holyrood in three or four months and declares there will be a referendum on Thursday 13 September 2018, who is going to make a fuss? Other, that is, than the British nationalists who would be making a fuss anyway?

      The First Minister will have to make a judgement, as she herself stressed. We put Nicola in that job because we trust her judgment. If she has reason to believe that the UK Government is behaving or planning to behave in a manner that is contrary to Scotland’s interests then the FM has a solemn duty to act. she cannot be bound by any ‘timetable’. Especially if this means a delay that would be seriously deleterious to the nation.

      Nicola Sturgeon knows full well that she will have to take steps to defend Scotland’s right of self-determination when this comes under threat from the British state – as it surely must. There can be no constraints on her authority to do whatever is necessary under these circumstances.

  3. bringiton

    Absolutely correct Peter.
    The hysterical demands from the London based parties that independence be taken off the table (forever) says it all.
    Brexit may not be the sole reason for a differentiated Scottish solution but it will convince many who will see the hit to their pocket just to satisfy England’s xenophobic tendencies as the final straw in the Better Together narrative.
    The London based parties know this which,of course,is the reason for their current hysteria.

  4. Alan Crocket

    Accepting your view of British state intentions, and wishing that we were indeed heading for a referendum in September 2018, how does that fit with what Sturgeon said on Tuesday? Her earlier statement of 13 March had promised a referendum in the six months leading up to the UK’s exit in March 2019. That is gone from her new statement, which now only offers us a further statement within that period. In other words, no referendum till after we’re out of Europe. That is a retreat, whereas you speak of an advance. I prefer your take to hers. Could you maybe have a word in her ear?

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      I think you may need to re-read the statement. As you do so, bear in mind that the FM has opted to continue the strategy of being eminently reasonable and open to compromise. Some of us are of the opinion that the time for that is already past. But it’s not our call. And there’s certainly no harm in what Nicola is doing.

      A breaking point will come. The Tory regime in London will cross a line. When it does, all bets are off. Yesterday’s statement will be seen to have value only as evidence of the Scottish Government’s good faith. It’s there so Nicola can point at it and say that she tried. She cannot be bound by any part of that statement if her approaches are all rebuffed, as they have been and doubtless will continue to be.

      1. Alan Crocket

        Are we to regard her statement as a sham? If not, how are we to take the omission of her earlier promise of a referendum before the UK’s exit, and substitution of the promise of a mere further statement? Don’t such things matter, or are we free to interpret them as we wish, to the extent of imputing to her the opposite of what she actually said?

    2. Robert Graham

      Just in case you missed it her name is Nicola Sturgeon First Minister of Scotland , I suggest you read or listen to her statement before spouting MSM Guff .

  5. Big Jock

    If it’s true the Rep of Eire are going to block any Brexit deal involving a deal with the DUP. then that leaves May with two options. Carry on with the DUP deal and crash out of the EU without a deal. Alternatively she could resign and the Tories could call an election.

    Scenario B is very unlikely as the Tories know that they only have a couple of years left in power and would lose that in an election. So it looks increasingly likely that there will be no deal and we could be out by Christmas.

    In that scenario it becomes an emergency referendum for damage limitation.

  6. Geach

    This is batshit crazy stuff, it really is. There is more chance of me marrying Pamela Anderson than there is of a referendum being held next year, and there are many reasons for this and I will give you three. First Sturgeon said quite categorically yesterday that she would “reset the plan I set out on March 19th”. Secondly if any 30 was granted, it would take almost two years for the necessary legislation to pass through Parliament, just as it did in 2012-14. And finally, the PM has said that the referendum ain’t gonna happen…remember “now is not the time”?
    So if any of you guys STILL think that there will be a referendum next year, give me a call, please do. I have a bridge I want to sell you.

  7. Vestas

    I’m not sure what the point was of delaying legislation for indyref2.

    Doing some groundwork (legislation) for something which may/may not happen dependent on Brexit negotiations which England & England only decides on seems eminently sensible to me.

    So why not pass the legislation now?

    I don’t see what game plan there is which requires legislation to be deferred. As we all know legislation passed does not have to be enacted until the govt decides that it should be.

  8. manandboy

    The time for Strong Voices for Scotland has surely come – and yours is undoubtedly one of them.
    Excellent piece today, attracting some naysayers, midgies on an elephants back.

    Please do keep going. Stand up for Scotland, for Nicola, for the Yes voters and supporters, for self-determination and for Independence.

    Scotland has many enemies, but none greater than those who live here but vote for Westminster rule. Sadly, most of those are simply brainwashed through daily exposure to British State propaganda, courtesy of the British Brainwashing Corporation (BBC) , and brain-branded British as a result. They will need time – and another strong Independence campaign.

    Best wishes

  9. Angela

    I am sick of all this, and all the lies we get told, all the games the MPs play with us stuck in the middle……. wish there was a way out for Scotland without a referendum

    1. Donald McGregor

      Indeed. Can’t we just have our own election at an appropriate time and side step the ref. ?

  10. Kat Hamilton

    Agree angela……getting weary myself of the way Westminster operate….it must occur to the no voters now they were stitched up like a kipper, holyrood powers, brexit , dup deal…all stinks to high heaven, yet no boost in the polls…I just can’t get my head around that…why..Pleased though that nicola has taken off the kid gloves with davidson..loved the camouflage trousers aside..had me in stitches…perfect retort to the classroom bully..

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