Since Indy X in Dunfermline, what progress do you think has been made in advancing the Independence movement?
Progress in advancing the independence movement. Sadly, I think there has been very little progress in the last 6 months. The SNP Government has come up with a date for a referendum in October 2023, which should have focussed Yessers’ attention on our target, but unfortunately few people believe this is achievable in the timescale.
The alternative of a plebiscite election ( if the Supreme Court rejects a Scottish parliament referendum bill) has not been worked out in any detail. The Scottish Government has produced 3 papers on independence: a comparison with independent European countries, democratic deficit, and the economy, including currency, but lots of questions surrounding independence remain unanswered. This makes on the ground campaigning difficult.
Non party expert groups within the movement have done much good work on currency, the constitution, taxation, defence and other areas, but there has been little or no dialogue with the Scottish Government/SNP. This lack of dialogue reflects disinterest from the Government.
Various books have been produced by the movement, making the case for independence, discussing how it may be achieved, and what a future Scotland will look like. Getting across a positive vision for an independent Scotland is vital.
Actual on the ground campaigning is still fairly sparse and very variable, despite the best efforts of groups such as Believe in Scotland and local Yes groups.
What has your group or organisation added in the last six months that should be featured?
What has your group added in last 6 months? My own local Yes group is largely inactive, but the regional Yes network, Yes Edinburgh and Lothians, is active in a coordinating role. Some local groups in Lothian are very active: Yes Musselburgh is an exemplar of the ideal Yes group, covering its own area and spreading out into neighbouring areas, while Yes for EU has been actively pushing the ‘ independent Scotland in EU’ message all across Edinburgh, including an excellent rally at the Mound recently, which was well attended.
The Scottish Independence Foundation (SIF) of which I am Treasurer remains active with the object of raising money and distributing it to local Yes groups across Scotland. SIF has awarded grants to the tune of £40k in the last 6 months (> £250k over 4 years) but most money recently has gone to larger groups (Believe in Scotland, Common Weal, AUOB, Constitution for Scotland, Europe for Scotland) for large projects. Very little has been requested by or awarded to local Yes groups. However, SIF has supported some local events, including Manniefest in Golspie, which could be a prototype for other local events.
What next steps do you think we need to take as a movement?
Next steps. In the absence of political leadership on independence, there is a need for cohesive leadership within the movement. The movement has fragmented in the last few years, with new groups forming, and some disappearing.
There is a need for the various campaign groups to cooperate and work together. To that end the Independence Forum was formed to promote dialogue and cooperation between groups, with some limited success.
I think the movement has to discuss and agree plans and policies for independence rather than await edicts from on high from the SNP , Scottish Government or indeed other political parties. To achieve that, I think an Assembly of the Movement is required next year to firm up the case for independence, setting up a new independent state, and initial policies on key issues (currency, borders, Europe etc), given that there is no clear lead from Government.
If there was one key message you wanted to share and focus on, what would it be?
Key message. Scotland has huge potential to be a successful, self-governing country. We have a long history of being an independent state, and even post-union we have developed distinctive Scottish institutions which have stood the test of time despite the pressures on them from the union.
These institutions encompass religion, the law, medicine, finance, and education. We have had a parliament again since 1999, but unlike the pre 1707 parliament, it is subservient to the UK Parliament, and is under constant attack. Indeed the whole country is being denigrated on a daily basis by the media and politicians from outwith and also from within Scotland.
To be successful, there has to be a unifying force, a sense of coming together and working together to make our country the best it can be. This is not just in relation to independence, it includes community projects, addressing global issues such as climate change, cultural and sporting events and national celebrations. However, without independence and a national media, it is unlikely to happen. I believe this ambitious future cannot happen as long as Scotland remains in the UK.
Success also requires a Scottish Government which listens, takes advice and speaks to the nation as equals, promoting open discussion and decision making. We, the people, need to take ownership of our country.
Any other message or point you would like to make?
It is essential that we consider the implications of not achieving a valid referendum (eg due to Unionist and media boycott, or an inappropriate franchise) and issues surrounding a plebiscite election ( what does the result mean), and look at other approaches, for example to the United Nations or International Court of Justice if referendum or plebiscite election routes are blocked. Work on these issues must continue in the background.