It was Donald Dewar who said: “There will be a second referendum … I like that.”
OK, Dewar said no such thing. The made up quote is a play on Dewar’s actual well known quote: “There will be a Scottish Parliament … I like that.”
Just as Dewar was correct when he said there was going to be a Scottish parliament, it is also true to say there will be a second independence referendum.
Nobody who follows Scottish politics and is honest with themselves doubts this. Even Jim Murphy realised it after he led the Scottish branch of his party to a humiliating defeat last year.
Last week’s Scottish election result has ensured a pro-independence Holyrood majority. Should Nicola Sturgeon deem the time to be right then there is no possibility of the Unionists being able to block an indyref2 bill. As James Kelly of ‘Scot goes Pop’ revealed the day after last week’s election, the sixty strong combined Unionist contingent at Holyrood isn’t even enough to out vote the SNP’s sixty three MSPs.
The debate isn’t whether there will be a second independence referendum, but rather how it will arrive. In the weeks after last May’s general election the talk was of Scotland being forced out of Europe. Brexit could trigger a second independence referendum. The Scottish election campaign saw Nicola Sturgeon cool on that idea. The mantra now is one of ‘let the people decide’. That is of course code for ‘wait till we know we can win’.
The Scottish election is out of the way and Sturgeon is very clearly not backing away from the idea of indyref2. Indeed we know there is to be a fresh push launched by the SNP this summer with the specific aim of persuading just enough No voters to reverse their indyref1 stance to provide a clear Yes majority. Reach and maintain a 55% Yes result in opinion polls for long enough and indyref2 will be called.
Will Cameron oppose? Of course he will. But this is realpolitik. The longer the Tories are seen to be blocking the will of the Scottish people, the stronger the majority will get. Indeed it may even result in an increase in support for independence. The Conservative dam will eventually give.
But is an SNP campaign enough to push ten per cent of the electorate who backed No to switch to Yes? The answer is no. The first referendum saw Yes climb from twenty five per cent to forty five per cent because of its inclusive make-up. People from all parties and none joined in a festival of democracy. If we are to persuade enough No voters then we’ll need the same colourful alliances again.
This is where we need to tread carefully. Any attempt to resurrect the Yes movement must include all of the major players from indyref1. That includes the Scottish Greens, the socialists, the a-political and the SNP.
There must also be an open door for those within the Unionist party ranks who wish to participate. Alan Grogan caused considerable panic within the No campaign during indyref1 when he launched Labour for Independence.
Ground rules should be agreed. There must be no party-politicking of any description. Everyone would have to agree to abide by a code of conduct. A Yes movement that descended into the kind of SNP sniping we witnessed during the Scottish election would collapse before the year was out.
Who would head this resurrected Yes campaign? The head of Yes Scotland during the first referendum was Blair Jenkins. Jenkins had no political profile to speak of and managed to steer Yes Scotland through the stormy constitutional waters without a blow being landed on his reputation. Jenkins’ successor has to come out of the same a-political and unimpeachable mould. A woman leader would be inspired. I wonder if Lesley Riddoch would be up for the job?
The last referendum witnessed the Unionist media launch a determined campaign aimed at presenting Alex Salmond as the ‘head’ of Yes Scotland. Salmond was of course a divisive figure in Scottish politics. The tactic of demonising Salmond rubbed off on the official Yes campaign he didn’t actually control.
The media can play no such card this time around. Nicola Sturgeon is as bullet-proof a political leader as it is possible to get.
The First Minister is an asset to any future Yes movement as is her counterpart in the Scottish Greens. Sturgeon and Harvie have that rare quality of being able to counter a point robustly without turning an audience against them.
Yes Scotland mark II has the advantage in that we already know what the Unionists will throw at us. Indeed much of the arsenal deployed by the No campaign last time round has been proven to be false. Steel jobs anyone? EU membership? Shipbuilding?
Independence is there to be won if we have the patience and discipline to achieve it. Rushing into indyref2 too soon would have set the cause of independence back at least a decade. Thankfully there are no voices in the Scottish parliament to indulge in this kind of impatient and counter-productive mischief.
My only concern regarding a ‘Yesurrection’ is the unpredictable radical element who have been champing at the bit to hold another referendum. These fringe mavericks could cause problems for the wider Yes movement if they decide to launch a radical equivalent to Yes Scotland 2.
My concern grew on Monday when Holyrood magazine published comments from Jim Sillars in which the veteran activist claimed to have been informed of plans to reconvene the Yes campaign.
My hope is that this is the all-inclusive cross party/no party campaign I have described above. That this plan was revealed by Jim Sillars is causing me to worry. I hope my concerns are unfounded.Views: 7158