Asked and answered

My regular readers will be well aware by now that my preference is that questions should be fired at unionists rather than at Nicola Sturgeon. My hope and intention is that the arguments of the anti-independence campaign should be subject to the kind of scrutiny that simply didn’t happen previously. I have spent the the last year or more urging anyone in the Yes movement who would listen – however reluctantly – to stop undermining the cause by parroting the questions posed by British nationalists. Questions whose sole purpose is, not to seek information or clarification, to create a fog of frightening confusion and an air of corrosive uncertainty.

I have argued that we must not only address the British establishment’s propaganda, we must destroy it. We must utterly demolish the notion that being part of the UK offers security, stability and certainty. We must get away from the idea that the British state represents some sort of ideal standard against which any other constitutional arrangement must be assessed, and inevitably found wanting.

We must challenge the anomalies and deficiencies of a devolution settlement that has nothing whatever to do with democratic principles, good governance or addressing the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people and everything to do with preserving the structures of power, privilege and patronage which serve the interests of established power at the expense of justice, equity and humanity.

I’d rather it was the British establishment being interrogated. But perhaps we need to address the distraction of Peter Curran’s questions first.

I’ll take questions one and two together. The timing of an announcement that there will be another independence referendum is a matter of political judgement. We elected Nicola Sturgeon to the position of party leader and the role of First Minister precisely because we have confidence in her judgement. Confidence built on the solid foundation of her performance to date and not on the shifting sands of fleeting celebrity or charismatic appeal.She has earned our trust. So let’s have faith in her and in our own good sense in putting her where she is.

I’m happy to let Nicola Sturgeon pick the moment to declare #indyref2. She is entitled. It comes with the job.

I say this in the sure and certain knowledge that, whatever moment she chooses, some will insist that it is the wrong moment. It would be gratifying to think that none of this carping would come from within the Yes movement. But I despairingly accept that this is surely a forlorn hope.

There is no need for the First Minister to specify a date for #indyref2 at the time of announcing it. Indeed, it would be better if she didn’t. Options are a very valuable commodity in politics. She would be wise to keep as many as possible.

Not specifying a date shall, of course, provoke a storm of righteous indignation from the British parties and the British media. So what! Is there anything the SNP administration might do that wouldn’t be the cue for a theatrically hysterical reaction from those who consider it an outrage that Scotland should have a distinctive and powerful voice? They will pontificate about the ‘right to know’ and conflate this with a need to know. There will be much talk of Nicola Sturgeon ‘keeping us in the dark’.

But if they weren’t getting worked up about not knowing the date, they’d be getting in a lather about whatever the date was. Whatever date is chosen, we can be absolutely certain of a clamour insisting it’s the wrong date.

It would be gratifying to think that none of this carping would come from within the Yes movement. But I despairingly accept that this is surely a forlorn hope.

Question three is puzzling. Why should Nicola Sturgeon have to “decide on the SNP Government’s position on Scotland’s EU membership in the referendum campaign”? That matter is settled. It is settled both for the party and for the country. The SNP’s policy of independence in the EU has been repeatedly and decisively endorsed by the party membership. There is no practical way in which this position could change for the coming referendum campaign. And it would be massively damaging to attempt such a change.

Even if the party could alter its stance on EU membership, there is no way the SNP administration could justify disregarding the will of the people as indicated by the EU referendum. A referendum which basically endorsed the SNP’s position on Scotland’s membership of the EU.

It is simply wrong to say that the SNP has already “rowed back” from its 2016 manifesto commitment. What Peter Curran refers to as “progressively diluting that commitment” is actually just a show of reasonableness and willingness to compromise put on for the benefit of a EU leaders who would react very negatively were the Scottish Government to be perceived as openly using Brexit to leverage independence.

There is no question about the Scottish Government’s position on Scotland’s EU membership in the referendum campaign. It would be unfortunate in the extreme if dispute about this were to be allowed to become a distraction from the Yes movement’s primary task. It would be potentially disastrous if parts of the Yes movement were to put their efforts into sniping at the SNP administration over a matter which is effectively settled until after independence. We can be absolutely sure the British establishment will exploit any such weakness.

Peter Curran is unquestionably correct when he says that “here is no need for EU to feature in #indyref2 campaign”, other than as one of the many policy issues on which there will inevitably be diverse views within the Yes movement. But he is wrong to suggest that the SNP should commit to a post-independence EU membership referendum. He is wrong for the very same reasons that the EU should not feature in the #indyref2 campaign. Neither the SNP nor the Scottish Government has a mandate to commit to an EU referendum after independence. On the contrary, both have been explicitly told by the membership and the electorate that the question of EU membership has been asked and answered.

There is a democratic process by which referendums come about. Neither the Scottish Government nor the SNP has a right to circumvent that process – no matter how politically expedient some might think it. If people want an EU referendum then they must campaign for it the same as anyone else. They must demonstrate a level of public demand. They must get the policy adopted by a political party. They must work to get that party’s candidates elected. And they will have to do all of this in accordance with the provisions of Scotland’s written constitution.

There is no way to justify giving those who want an EU referendum a free ride on the back of #indyref2.

Peter’s fourth question is arguably the most interesting of all. What to do if the UK Government tries to deny Scotland’s democratic right of self-determination? Either by refusing the legally required authority, or by taking control of the referendum away from the Scottish Parliament so as to effectively rig the process in favour of the British state.

Once again, I would urge everybody to trust Nicola Sturgeon and her team on this. Ask yourself, is it really credible that this possibility has not occurred to them? Is it possible to believe they haven’t planned for just such an eventuality? Then ask yourself the most important question of all. What can I do to support the First Minister and the Scottish Government as they fight to defend the democratic right of Scotland’s people to determine their nation’s constitutional status?

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4 thoughts on “Asked and answered

  1. Sam

    Good article Peter.

    A lot of the problems we will face in the next Indy. Ref. Would evaporate if the Unionist message was undermined by the YES movement exposing how their messenger the State Broadcaster and the printed press lie.

    Burst this bubble and Independence is there for the taking.

    Flyers simply and clearly addressing the lies behind one of two chosen attacks showing front page headlines would do the trick. Get them out at the beginning of the campaign.

  2. Robert Graham

    very good assessment of the views offered , this constant need to introduce fog and confusion only helps one side , who needs it well they do , Let the Union if its so bloody perfect make their case , and the answer will be very interesting , lets start with their VOW hows that working out ? oh i forgot it isn’t is it .

  3. bringiton

    London is currently threatening action against HM press should they report anything they want kept secret during the EU exit negotiations.
    Presumably they do not want Scots to find out that deals are being done for various sectors in England but not for Scotland.
    However…….they will be dealing with a hostile EU who will have no interest in keeping this quiet.
    Scots will need to start reading European newspapers if they want to find out how we are being sold down the river (in secret) again.

  4. Mungo

    Aye this, I think, is the major problem. How do we get our message across to the people we need to change their minds. In my opinion there was plenty of sound, convincing information available to make a strong argument for Yes the last time. But, we’ve seen how the MSM media work with the BBC in unison. The MSM create the story and the BBC then report the MSM. Always firing questions at the Independence Movement and forcing it into a position of continual response, rather than allowing it to set the agenda or ask questions of the NO campaign.
    I know this post is a little negative but I’d like someone to suggest how we effectively counter this next time? We can, and do, have the most sound and convincing arguments for YES but without the means to counter the BBC and MSM, who target those we need to change, what use is it?

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