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The pros and cons of Nicola Sturgeon’s Indyref strategy – Towards Indyref2…

The pros and cons of Nicola Sturgeon’s Indyref strategy

It seems everyone and their dog has advice to give to Nicola Sturgeon on the timing of a second independence referendum.  They range from the credible – Alex Salmond insists now is the time – to the rather less than credible – Jim Sillars urges caution.

Within the SNP ranks at Westminster there is no unanimity.  Angus McNeil wants the mandate won by the party in the 2016 Holyrood election to be deployed soon, whilst colleague Pete Wishart argues it should be delayed until Yes moves ahead in the polls.

Bloggers and elected SNP politicians are falling out.  But who is right?

The answer is nobody knows.  Nicola Sturgeon may be missing an historic opportunity to take on a Westminster political establishment at its weakest or she may be wisely resisting the desire to rush in too early.

What we do know is that Nicola Sturgeon intends to clarify her plans soon.  Most have interpreted her words as meaning a Section 30 request will be re-submitted to Westminster.  But what will that mean?

A Section 30 basically ensures Holyrood can legislate for an independence referendum, that any such referendum will be on sound legal footing and that the result will command the respect of both Edinburgh and London.  Such an agreement would also ensure an independent Scotland would be immediately recognised by the international community.

If and when Nicola Sturgeon resurrects or re-submits a Section 30 it does not follow an independence referendum will be held.  Why?  because Theresa May can refuse to approve the request.

This is where much of the debate within the Yes movement is triggered.  What should Scotland’s First Minister do if faced with such a rejection?

It’s widely believed Nicola Sturgeon won’t call a referendum, but will use the rejection as part of a strategy aimed at growing support for independence.  This seems logical given the problems calling a referendum without a Section 30 will pose.

Those urging Nicola Sturgeon to use the mandate won in 2016 have a point when they say the SNP manifesto commitment should be honoured.  After all, the SNP won more seats in the Scottish parliament than Unionist parties combined.  The party stood on a manifesto commitment that pledged an Indyref should Scotland be dragged out of the EU against its will.

However a Section 30 request would be an implicit honouring of that manifesto commitment.  If Theresa May approves the request then Indyref2 is on.

Calling a consultative referendum against the wishes of Westminster is within the Scottish government’s gift.  However it is also within the gift of malcontents to challenge the legitimacy of such a referendum in court.  Nicola Sturgeon would find herself mired in legal proceedings instead of fighing a campaign.  The malcontents may also win their court case.

Thus, the Scottish government would risk losing a court case and leaving the public with the perception that it had lost the right to call another referendum whatever the circumstances.  Unionists and their media allies would have a field day as they presented Nicola Sturgeon as the SNP leader who tried to hold an illegal referendum.

The more logical course of action for Nicola Sturgeon would be to present Theresa May’s rejection as a Tory Prime Minister refusing to recognise the will of Scotland’s people.  The Tory Prime Minister who, having foisted Brexit on the Scottish people against their will, now compounds the insult by denying them their democratic right.

This leaves the obvious question.  How then would any Scottish government ever be in a position to hold a referendum?

This is where real-politik kicks in.

Brexit isn’t playing out at all well for Theresa May.  Which ever way you look at it it’s a catastrophe.  A Section 30 rejection against this backdrop will resonate with Scottish voters who mightn’t [yet] be Yes voters … but who are looking for a way out of the Brexit mess … and who have just seen London slam a door in Scotland’s face.  These voters are persuadable.

By hammering home the Section 30 rejection, Nicola Sturgeon will hope to highlight to undecided voters, or soft No voters, how Scotland’s voice is ignored time and again.  Meanwhile the Brexit train hurtles towards the cliff-edge.

The strategy requires enough ‘Not Yet Yessers’ to commit to Yes if it is to succeed.  Get these voters on your side and pressure starts to build that Unionists and their media will find irresistable.  The Section 30 wall will buckle and collapse.  A second independence referendum will be held and a Yes vote more likely than it would have been otherwise.

That’s the strategy.  The danger of course is that it fails and the reluctance to hold a referendum in defiance of Westminster allows the 2016 mandate to expire.  By then Brexit has normalised and anger has dissipated.  The moment has gone.

It’s a risk.  But we put our trust in Nicola Sturgeon when we endorsed her leadership of the SNP.  She deserves our support.  Whatever her strategy, we owe it to her and to the Yes movement to do what we can to ensure it has the best possible chance of success.

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21 thoughts on “The pros and cons of Nicola Sturgeon’s Indyref strategy

  1. Alan Crocket

    A referendum under Section 30 consent is a perfectly democratic, legitimate and internationally acceptable method of choosing independence, but it is not the only such way. It should be tried again, not because of any inherent advantage, but because it was by referendum that Scotland rejected independence in 2014, and reversing that decision should ideally be by the same process.

    But London’s refusal of consent would open the way for other means, equally democratic, legal and acceptable, such as an election under a clear manifesto of independence, on which London would have no say whatsoever. Notwithstanding the fixed-term nature of Holyrood, the Scottish Government could use procedures under the Scotland Act to bring about an election at a time of its choosing.

    Accordingly, if and when the Scottish Government seeks consent for a fresh referendum, its request should include a statement that if consent was not forthcoming within a certain time, the alternative route of an election would be taken.

    That would be unimpeachable, so much so indeed, that the warning itself might be enough to bring London around.

  2. Ken

    At the heart of this is a “union” where one partner needs permission from the other to even consider dissolution.

    The myth of partnership has gone.

    The irony is that many in England view leaving the European Union as regaining their independence. Farage repeatedly used those precise terms during his appearance on the Jeremy Vine show last week.

    English independence, good. Scottish independence, divisive separatism.

    Many in Scotland will continue to support this farce until the rocks melt with the sun, but as you rightly say there are others for whom this will not stand.

    We don’t need a huge swing to achieve our goal, hence the panicky clamour from all sides of the unionist cabal.

    They will lose and they know it.

  3. Alan Johnson

    One really does feel for Nicola and I do wish that Alex Salmond would keep out of it. While he is entitled to hold his view, the timing of Indy Ref 2 isn’t his decision to make, he is no longer First Minister, he is presently embroiled in potentially damaging controversy, and Nicola should not be forever in his shadow. That is so very unfair. I trust Nicola’s judgment much more than that of the bombastic Mr Salmond!

  4. Alexander Wallace

    If May refuses a section 30, we then should stand as a National party at the next general election. Our policy England & NI, Scotland, Wales independent.

    I think that threat may focus there attention.

  5. Proud Cybernat

    If May continues to refuse S30 request then it will be seen – and rightly so – as subjugation of the sovereign people of Scotland. A petition to the ICJ and UN while rUK is trying to negotiate trade deals with other countries would not be a good look and the rUK could very find itself being boycotted by the international community for their subjugation of the people of Scotland.

    1. Dave Llewellyn

      I agree but it would have to be the Scottish government who made that request and to be honest I don’t see the hunger for them to go that way under the present leadership.

  6. jeans-jacques

    The political Union with England has always been akin to a protection racket with the implicit threat of violence (read for ‘we won’t share the pound’ , ‘we will smash your economy’).
    The current narrative about ‘Scotland trades more with England than the EU’ being more of the same.
    Of course the reverse argument is never heard, if Scotland was in the EU and England was’nt and if England errected trade barriers with the EU then the English economy would be crushed.
    As far as scenarios for Scottish independence I now fear there are only two, Prague 1968 or the Baltic States 1991. It will be determined by how much disintegration is experienced by the English State.

  7. twathater

    What strikes me about all this is the question ? Are we a sovereign nation or not , if we are then no one has the right to restrict our ability to hold ANY referendums demanded of the elected government of Scotland by its sovereign people

    Are we in a union of 2 kingdoms where each kingdom is equal , yet one country within that union asserts dominance over the other and insists that the other countries wishes are subjugated , that is not a union of equals that is ENSLAVEMENT

    We the sovereign people of Scotland elected by a majority a SNP SG , a political party whose manifesto included the condition , that in the event that Scotland were dragged out of the EU against our will we would have a choice via a referendum of the sovereign Scots to determine if we wanted to remain within that union or to remain/ rejoin the EU ,

    That SNP SG along with the Green party won a vote in the Scottish Parliament to hold that referendum against the combined forces of british nationalist registered parties , why are we even considering whether a section 30 order is required or needed

    The westminster government ONLY asserts their dominance over Scotland because we allow it , the SG should be taking this continued dominance and colonisation to the international courts NOW to highlight and expose the many infractions of the treaty of union committed by our supposed equal partner

    It is now more apparent than ever that due to our previous governments in Scotland , who consisted of british nationalist registered parties , who were quite content to accept the subservient mantra that the nation of Scotland has been betrayed

    Scotland and the Scottish nation needs to assert its sovereignty and to TAKE BACK CONTROL via the international courts , not pander to a foreign government whose interest is in keeping us SERVILE AND IMPOVERISHED

  8. Terence callachan

    I think that if brexit goes ahead ,in any form, Nicola sturgeon will call a Scottish independence referendum.
    If another brexit vote goes ahead Nicola sturgeon will go along with it and if the result is still as it was , a majority in Scotland for remain and a majority in UK for leave she will call another Scottish independence referendum.
    If brexit is cancelled forget about another independence referendum it just won’t happen just now or in the near future, another crisis will have to unfold before it comes back on the table.
    If a general election is called forget about a Scottish independence referendum this year and if the tories win brexit will still be on the cards for the next couple of years perhaps after that has been decided a Scottish independence referendum will happen.
    If labour win the general election they will have another brexit vote and the result will be different to what it would be if held by the tories ,I reckon it might even be a remain win.
    If that happens forget about a Scottish independence referendum until the next crisis occurs in Westminster.

  9. Richard Dido

    Nobody has mentioned, AFAIK, of dissolving the Union using the Articles of Union. That could be employed if a vote on Independence was held by ScotGov.

    1. Alan Johnson

      That’s quite true, but the same question arises – would a majority of Scots support such a move? I would need to be put to the Scottish people in a vote, and with support for independence in Scotland overall still marginal at best, a campaign would first be needed to change hearts and minds sufficiently.

      1. Jams O'Donnell

        If it was included as a manifest commitment by the SNP at the next available election that would do the trick.

  10. john burrows

    To be honest, I don’t think the FM has any choice but to press forward with her current mandate, for her own survival.

    If she once again waffles in her coming ‘update,’ she will only signal to the independence movement, and our opponents, that she has weakened in her resolve to fight for independence.

    She is currently only using independence as a threat to secure concessions towards having another EU referendum. A bizarre strategy given the antipathy of England towards the SNP as a whole, and herself in particular.

    The image of a leader of the SNP throwing herself into saving the UK is comedic at best and self defeating at its worst.

    Meanwhile, in Scotland, her primary domestic policy appears to be virtue signaling her feminist credentials.

    A path that has led her into destroying her former mentor and erasing his presence from the SNP’s web forums. A form of revisionism which only demeans us all while at the same time signals an acceptance of guilt were none yet exists.

    Whatever the outcome of the case against AS, she will be seen to have been a willing pawn in the hands of Whitehall. Her actions may still prove to be fatal to her continued leadership within the party, and the wider independence movement.

    I think it is time Mike Russell took over the reigns of leadership.

    He seems to be far more focused and far more committed to the ultimate prize.

    1. Alan Johnson

      Some interesting thoughts here, and not without substance. People are certainly getting impatient with the troops being “led up the hill and own again”, and the SNP seem to have lost focus on their main objective – of securing Scottish Independence, and as soon as possible. So bring it on!

  11. john burrows

    The simplest solution is non cooperation. It worked for the Mahatma.

    Let the factors of the Union bluster and squeal. That’s all they will do anyway. It’s all they have ever done. Fabricating nonsense about Scotland is their modus operandi.

    The FM should revoke the BBC’s charter in Scotland, found a Scottish civil service, create a National Finance ministry, found a National bank, hire an accounting agency and publish a real statement of Scotland’s finances. Set the tax rates, start collecting them and spend them in Scotland. Invite the UK to remove its Trident base and bill them until they do so. Stop imposing Westminster authority and have a National referendum. We have the votes in our Parliament. Use the bloody thing.

    Who cares if it is contrary to their imaginary constitution. They change the latter at will to suit their own ends. They don’t just ‘change the goal posts.’ They don’t provide any for us to shoot at. Why do you think they want to resurrect Henry VIII powers? To bring back leggings and funny hats?

    Invite the Tory government to make the fatal blunder of abolishing the Scottish Parliament. They want to do it, and they will do it eventually. Don’t let them choose their own timing.

    On a side note, the spectacle of ‘Scots Tories’ demanding the Scottish government not be consulted on trade for Scotland is simply surreal. Particularly considering that the Scottish governments civil service is really based in London. Speaking of which, WTF! Wales and NI have their own civil services. I guess we need special care. Given their recent record, it’s a wonder we haven’t run them out of the country on a rail.

    Finally, just accept that the UK government are never going to agree to grant another referendum for 3000 years, much less 300. There is no legal route or argument that we could prefer, that they will ever accept, that would force them to do so. The last ref frightened them half to death and they’re not going to do that again, if they can help it.

    Not one politician in England wants to best David Cameron for ineptitude. That is why they fear us. And their fears are our best weapon against them. They are currently irretrievably divided and demonstrably incompetent.

    Forcing the issue is the only useful strategy we have available. They are off balance and mesmerised by their own idiocy. Non cooperation will push them over the edge. Political collapse is inevitable. Any one with half a brain can see it.

    Perhaps England may finally wake up, smell the coffee, and recognize that its ruling class is suffering from an advanced case of Alzheimer’s disease. Maybe it can place them all in extended care. Financed by a dementia tax on their palaces and estates. Stranger things have happened.

    But just waiting for independence to happen by itself is a pointless delusion. If we want to be an independent nation we should start behaving like one.

    For the moment, Independence parties in Holyrood and Westminster represent the ‘peoples will’ in Scotland. What the hell are we waiting for?

  12. Jams O'Donnell

    It seems to me that staying bound by Westminsters self-preserving rules is a recipe for never having another referendum. As John Burrows says above we have to find a way round May and the tory parties intransigence. A manifesto commitment by the SNP to renounce or annull the Act of Union if elected by a majority would do that. After all, the tories allowed the ‘Claim of Right’ to be passed unopposed, so they accept that the Scottish people are sovereign in Scotland, and therefore would have to accept the fulfilling of such a commitment as legal and binding.

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