The Yesurrection and Indyref2

cropped-Untitled1.001.jpegIt 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.

yes crowd

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.

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8 thoughts on “The Yesurrection and Indyref2

  1. Kevin

    Excellent, well thought-out piece of logic. Some good ideas in here; Lesley Riddoch would be tailor-made for this as she’s brilliant, level-headed and likable. it also makes pleasant reading to see an olive branch instead of a bloody big stick. This is more like it.

    Good-stuff, GA

  2. Sandy

    As well as considering who would lead a new Yes campaign, consider who would lead the opposition. They can’t exactly wheel out Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling again, so they’d likely have to get by with Ruth Davidson. Scottish Labour must be cautious, to say the least, about joining a campaign that needed them to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Tories.

  3. Sunshine on Crieff

    Lesley Riddoch? Mm, she has, on occasion, been guilty of the sort of ‘sniping’ at the SNP mentioned in the article. Someone a bit more diplomatic is perhaps needed, and the more radical elements of the campaign will need to temper their radical ambitions just a touch. While some of the ideas coming from the likes of RIC (and others) during the first campaign were inspirational, winning independence is the priority.

    A normal, sovereign country, governing itself, playing its part on the international stage like any other, is within grasp. Narrow political goals are secondary. And the sniping has to stop.

    1. Kevin

      It’s not the SNP’s ba’. Yes, Lesley has sniped once or twice at SNP, but the whole point of the Yes campaign is to be inclusive and across the board and NOT to be the possession of the SNP. independence is for everyone.

      More diplomatic? Really, who could be more diplomatic than Lesley? She’s smart and approachable – she’ll answer ‘ornery folk’ on Twitter. She’s a fantastic ambassador and I wouldn’t disagree with her her in that role.

      Yes, ideas from RIC etc were indeed inspirational. I can’t remember seeing such a floral-burst of art, writing, music, comedy (Imperial Masters) and visually-stunning representation in my life; we’ve got it in abundance, and ‘Wha’s like us?’ should be a genuine and proud exclamation rather than ‘Ach, we’re nae-good’, which is what those who would ‘keep us down’ want.

  4. Richard Anderson

    I think that the ex editor of the National would be a good figure to lead a modernised Yes campaign. He might not want to do it but his perspective and experience would be useful. However, I believe we are leaving things late and missing opportunities to widen support for the possibility of independence.
    We need a broad based movement that explores and exploits ex-pat support, cultural activities and a programme preparing the ground in the press and with local structures. Of course none of this can be achieved without WFI, RIC and the myriad of Yes groups that still exist in one form or another today. One plea I would make though. Please don’t return to the ‘no Tory’ line. We really can’t afford to alienate people because they happen to believe in a different kind of politics.
    If we wait until indyref2 is announced to get this rolling it is too late.

  5. John

    Cards on the table I’m a committed Unionist but enjoyed this well written and thought out article.

    However, I just want to point out you’ve said 10% of No voters would have to be converted – it’s actually 10% of the entire electorate (I’m assuming you mean bumping the 45% Yes vote up to 55%) – this conversely means getting the No vote from 55% to 45% – closer to needing about 20% (about a fifth) of No voters to switch. Maybe a bit pedantic but worth pointing out the mountain to climb is actually twice as high.

    Plus a couple of things that will make the case for a Yes vote harder – oil is practically worthless to the Scottish economy now (contributing just £35 million in the last year in tax receipts because of the very low oil price) and the “once in a generation” card obviously couldn’t be played this time.

  6. schrodingers cat

    i dont agree entirely peter

    the launch of yes2 cannot be another snp campaign, until indyref2 is actually declared, the snp will need to step back, that way, nicola can claim, “its nothing to do with the SNP”, any attempt at conflating the snp and yes by the ukok media will be ridiculed.

    a-political, cross party, yup defo peter. yes2 requires no manifesto, no white paper, leave the political parties to produce “scotlands future” documents. yes2 doesnt need a collection of ideas. the only requirement is to support indy. if you want a currency union in an idy scotland, feel free to argue for it, same if you want a scottish currency, euro or bitcoin etc.

    the real problem is not who should be on the yes2 commitee or who should lead it, its how does a grass roots organisation choose? you and i can both propose lesley riddoch, but how do we propell her into becoming the leader or commitee member peter? by what mechanism. in a grass roots organisation, our 2 voices are just that, 2 voices

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