This week the First Minister of Scotland announced to the Scottish Parliament that Scotland would have an advisory referendum on independence on October 19th 2023. There would be a few routes that this could take, let’s use letters to label then.
A S30 from UK Gov to mirror precedence of 2014 Indy Ref with the Edinburgh Agreement 2012 B Referendum Bill from Scottish Parliament C Plebiscite Westminster election at next General Election
The details in the announcement were, I’d assume, deliberately vague and most certainly caught the opposition parties and media unprepared.
Pronouncements on Plan B were made mainly on the sequence of events with Lord Advocate proactively seeking a ruling from UK Supreme Court on the competency of Scottish Parliament to legislate, being widely reported as a ’curve ball’. This led naturally to our engaged independence movement’s questions and scrutiny. We can speculate as to the pros and cons and rationale, given our experience of following Martin Keatings, Forward As One, Peoples Section 30 case decision and we absolutely should. Details on Plan C even seemed to create confusion between FM and DFM!
However, regardless of where we sit on the cynicism scale with the, now tiny, inner circle of SNP, you have to recognise Tuesday’s announcement as a catalyst for renewed action and enthusiasm in an otherwise stagnant political movement for real change. Progress has been glacial from a political body distracted by policy that seems determined to divide, not coalesce Scotland as required on a plan for safe change to the betterment for all. The people have stayed committed to independence as the key to real change so we need those we elect to deliver to keep us ‘in the loop’ on progress.
If the bold announcement of a longed for date does nothing else, it puts Scottish independence back on the news cycle and that’s the national conversation we need. In no small part thanks to our unionist politicians and UK MSM who are shrieking from the rooftops that,
”Scottish Parliament have no powers to!”
”How dare the Scottish Government speak for the people of Scotland!”
There’s a veritable choice for Scottish Independence Campaigner of the month, and none of them actually want independence!
Those of us who have more than a cursory interest in Scotland’s constitutional future are enjoying the political popcorn created by unionists this week while we scrutinise the actual announcement from the FM.
Now it may be the Greens influence rubbing off but there does seem to be more than a little, ’reuse, recycle ♻️ ’ going on as many of us have seen all these ideas before, just not from the FM but that’s for another blog!
So, what do we know for sure and where are the gaps?
Well we know fundamentally that Scotland having an independence referendum agreed by U.K. government is legally and constitutionally possible as we’ve done it before in 2014.
We also know that an agreement signed by both governments to facilitate the smooth running of this democratic process is possible as we have the Edinburgh Agreement 2012 as proof and precedent.
We also know that 8 years have almost passed since Scotland’s people were asked on 18th September 2014, “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
We know that much has changed in this timeframe, much of it material change, even to the constitutional position of the UK that Scotland chose as status quo option in 2014. This illusionary ’status quo’ of Westminster along with our devolution settlement has failed to protect Scotland from Brexit, hostile immigration policy, brutal Tory austerity that Scotland has never voted for is failing yet again, with abundant renewable energy, to utilise our precious natural resources for the common weal of our people.
We know that without any other written definition in UK or Scots Law, that a political generation is defined in Good Friday Agreement 1998 as 7 years, co-signed by UK, Ireland and USA. If UK is a union of equals, why would Scotland not have the same time definition as NI to determine our constitutional future?
In reinforcement, we know that the post Indy Ref, Smith Commission, Nov 2014, in paragraph 18, leaves subsequent democratic decisions on Scotland’s constitutional future, to the people.
Para.18 “It is agreed that nothing in this report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future if the people of Scotland so choose.”
The most recent jigsaw 🧩 piece is the democratic mandate given by the people of Scotland when they elected an independence majority into Scottish Government in May 2021. The SNP were elected by majority of 62/73 in the constituency vote and combined with 2 list seats and greens 8 list seats, formed an independence majority of 72/129. The list votes were just over 50% to pro independence parties.
Given all the unquestionable positions on the board, what moves can UK Government make to beat this democratic checkmate while under international scrutiny? As UK feel their way to find their place in their post Brexit world, with only bravado and trading on historic reputations for ‘Mother of Parliaments’ can the UK really afford to have their undemocracy for Scotland questioned? How will that play with potential trade partners, even those without a large Scottish Diaspora?
With all the media and political commentary on the feasible the Scottish Government’s plans B & C, have we missed the importance of plan A as UK’s Achille’s heel?
Robin McAlpine spoke at IndyX Fife on the necessity to have plan A, B, C etc., as part of an overall strategy as we’ve no time to go back to start point if a ‘component part’ fails, we must be flexible, proactive and ready to segway if and when the game changes. That’s strategy folks!
Those of us who play chess♟may be at an advantage to see any strategy at all in seemingly contrary actions. It may not even be deliberate by the SNP leadership but that matters not, once the energy from our movement takes hold and runs with it.
The key point is the march back down the hill just can’t be allowed to happen this time. We must ensure we overtop the hill we’ve climbed so many times in 8 years and this time ensure that our collective momentum sustains and builds to make independence inevitable.
To do this we must capture the peoples’ imagination, enthusiasm and breathe life into a vision for a new Scotland, for the betterment of all of us.
To create a peoples’ force for change we must have a singular commitment to our common goal: to deliver independence. To do this we must remember what created our 2013/24 grassroots movement and put any political party hats down to focus on our goal. If we’re to create an unstoppable peoples’ force, we must not allow the drag of day to day government to distract and derail progress. We must decouple indy movement from political parties and at the same time, all our politicians must step up now to raise the bar in personal, party and policy standards. This is a critical role they must play to demonstrate capability and build trust. The wise politicians will get on board or risk getting left behind.
Joanna Cherry QC MP is very well placed to demonstrate both legal and political credibility and show safe hands for Scotland in a UK Parliament where she is respected. Now as Acting Chair of the esteemed and critically important Joint Committee on Human Rights, she must surely play a pivotal role? Her recent call for an independence alliance will be heard well beyond Scotland to further normalise the reality that independence is a question for all the people of Scotland and not restricted to SNP party policy.
Point to note, for our politicians, is that our Celtic cousins on the island of Ireland give no deference and spend exactly zero time discussing mechanism of persuasion of the British to their position. ALL focus is on their own people and convincing them that they goal of united Ireland should happen (most importantly at this stage) WILL happen. This is what leads to international recognition that they are following the will of the people.
They are normalising change, which in itself changes mindsets from fear to opportunity: we must do the same in Scotland. Wales are breathing fresh energy into their constitutional conversation with new voices being raised. Many in England are also questioning their place in a post Brexit world with Mick Lynch throwing a bucket of cold water over UK media and politicians with his fearless, consistent messaging on workers rights, seemingly forgotten by the Labour Party that was founded on this principle!
The normalisation of change should be the key focus to build the necessary pressure that Robin McAlpine spoke about at IndyX Fife, to put UK into a position that it’s easier to have another Edinburgh Agreement than not to.
Egos MUST be put away now as this opportunity is too important to squander by navel gazing and ‘one up man-ship’. You don’t have to believe in someone to take an opportunity they’ve created (deliberately or otherwise) and run with it. What someone does to us isn’t in our control but how we react to it absolutely is!
To optimise any force it’s imperative we keep our component parts tightly together or energy is lost through the gaps. This applies equally in a political movement as it does in physics. How we square that with facilitating different ideas and embracing other views is something that needs serious attention now.
The ONLY way is to connect on common purpose: Scottish independence and allow autonomy on all else.
What is independence for if not empowerment of democratic self determination for our people on all decisions affecting them? Focus on where we agree and build our campaign as a rich, diverse, organic movement of ideas and a passion to make a better Scotland democratically and respectfully of all views.
We must all set an example to those that will try to make this a single party initiative. It’s not and can’t be if we are to have certainly of a result. We need to start as we mean to go on with a Scotland for everyone if we’re to build trust in our independent future, even amongst those who won’t vote for it.
There is lots to do in the weeks and months ahead but some key things are:
- Focus on where we agree: Scottish independence
- Change IS happening across these islands in Scotland, Wales and the island of Ireland, England must also have a conversation on its post Brexit future
- Focus on Scotland’s democratic right to choose
- Call out UK law breaking domestically & internationally
- Precedent of Edinburgh Agreement
- Importance of Nation Conversation
- Need for Constitutional Convention
- Need for Citizen’s assembly
- Need for a Nation Building Conversion to capture the nation’s pulse & ambition for what happens in Scotland, in transition to independence and 5 years, 10 years, 20 years on from Independence Day
These are the tools to make independence normal, democratic and inevitable.
Now is not the time to burn down political houses but to shape consensus on potential with ambitious vision and future the necessary establish democratic checkpoints to build a new nation based on trust that the people can and will decide.
A new political environment will emerge organically, just as Indy grassroots did in 2013/14 and this should be embraced, not feared by our body politic in Scotland.
Politicians who have continually asked the people of Scotland to trust them to deliver an independent Scotland must now trust the people to be core to shaping their future. As our people who make their lives here, will make our Independent Scotland a place that’s worth all efforts to achieve it!
So how will a UK Government, chastised by ECHR on illegal immigration deportation policy and embattled with EU over breaking international law over NI Protocol, respond to the democratic challenge laid down by Scottish Government?
We must, while focusing on Scotland, be alive to the external influencing factors on UK’s position, of power dynamics in Ireland, an increasingly vocal Wales, RMT agitation for workers rights across UK, being a third country to EU, ECHR scrutiny, UN observation on Rights of The Child, all culminating in what must seem to UK Government a democratic pincer movement!
Scotland and our democratically elected Scottish Government must hold our collective nerve and keep laser focussed if we are to look UK Government in the eye as equal partners as we announce “checkmate” ♟