Monday, September 22, 2014

They "vowed" to thee, this country...

The reaction piece I wrote for the International Business Times on Friday, entitled 'Why a Second Scottish Independence Referendum May Happen Sooner Than You Think', has now been published HERE.  It's also on Yahoo News HERE.  As I said yesterday, my thinking has moved on slightly since I wrote it - for example I said that (barring a UK exit from the EU) the SNP would have to make clear for the next two Holyrood elections that they were not planning to hold another referendum over the course of the forthcoming parliamentary term.  I maybe wouldn't be quite so definite about that now, because there's at least a slight chance that things may look different if "the vow" unravels completely.  However, there are obviously huge risks attached to trying again too soon, and I'm sure everyone involved will be suitably cautious about it.

Meanwhile, Alex Salmond attempted yesterday to break us out of the straitjacket of thinking that we necessarily have to be aiming for another referendum.  That led to cretinous and hysterical claims in the right-wing press and the Labour party (is there a difference between the two?) that the SNP were plotting "UDI" or "a coup".  In fact, all Salmond was doing was pointing out that there are two types of electoral mandate available - one is victory in a parliamentary election, the other is victory in a referendum.  The two aren't qualitatively different, because a mandate at a parliamentary election would only qualify as legitimate if it was made absolutely crystal-clear in advance that a vote for the SNP was a vote for independence.  (Remember that part of the reason the SNP proposed a referendum was precisely that people might otherwise have assumed that a vote for the SNP was for independence.)  OK, you might quibble that there is still no reason why the London government would automatically accept that mandate, but nor is there any reason why they would automatically accept a mandate from a consultative referendum, which is what the SNP were essentially proposing in both 2007 and 2011.  So what is the difference?

It seems to me that Salmond had two distinct purposes in making his remarks.  Firstly, he was trying to reassure Yes supporters that we can still move purposefully towards independence without a referendum in the near future, and that we can do it by securing parliamentary mandates for more powers, until we hopefully get to the point where we're so close to the powers of an independent country that the final step will seem like a trivial one.  Secondly, he was trying to keep the London establishment guessing, because they probably took it as read that a referendum would be the only possible route to independence, and may have had ideas about how to thwart that.  It's harder to hit a moving target, and while there may be differing views about the legality of a consultative referendum, there's no disputing that it would always be theoretically possible for the SNP to stand at a Holyrood election and submit a policy of independence to the people for consideration.  So it's a timely reminder that the options for Scotland exercising national self-determination can never be closed off, no matter what the Jack Straws of this world may believe.

In any case, this kind of discussion simply takes the SNP back to an older tradition.  I recall in the 1990s seeing a young Nicola Sturgeon in the Question Time audience demanding an explanation from Donald Dewar of why Labour had moved away from their previous acceptance that there would be a mandate for independence if the SNP won a majority of Scottish seats at Westminster.  That notion seems rather quaint in retrospect, because of course under the Westminster system a majority can be won on as little as 35% of the vote.  But the fact that it was taken seriously so recently tells you something interesting.  (Archive footage of that Dewar v Sturgeon skirmish would also be fascinating to watch - few would have guessed at the time that it was our first First Minister v our fifth First Minister.)

I suppose the million dollar question is how we actually get to Devo Max, or something close to it, without the leverage of a looming independence referendum. It's going to be tough, but one possible answer is that it might happen through mutual perceived self-interest.  It's quite possible for a London government (either this one or more likely a future one) to honestly conclude that Devo Max is the only thing that will ever kill off the prospect of independence, and to do so at exactly the same time that the SNP are relentlessly pressing for Devo Max because of an honest belief that it would bring independence closer.  We'd only find out who was right later.

A further possibility is that an element of luck might be involved - the SNP could find themselves holding the balance of power in a hung parliament at Westminster.  Obviously the bigger the number of seats they win next year, the greater the chance there is of that happening, but it would still largely be decided by chance.

And here's an option that few seem to have considered - what if the SNP do move to hold a consultative referendum in the coming years, but on the subject of Devo Max rather than independence?  The result wouldn't be binding, but a big Yes vote would certainly put terrific moral pressure on the London government.  OK, that takes us back to the question of whether Holyrood has the legal power to hold a consultative constitutional referendum, but at least it would keep Lallands Peat Worrier busy!

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42 comments:

  1. Listen-lets get this clear from the outset, there is NO WAY on gods earth that london will grant anyone on these islands but them, a penny from the whisky, oil, corp and personal taxation which presently wings its way southwards.

    They have been having a ball down there, spending present and future revenues keeping their pals in the city happy, dishing it out on illegal wars, royalty, banks, and their good selves, whilst giving the other natives of the uk a bit o pocket money to keep em happy.

    And, to cap it all, they now have the audacity to say we are living in austere times and your bock grants will be cut further!

    How stupid do they think we are? (I have to admit though, my belief has now been confirmed that 55% of Scots ARE indeed thick, as demonstrated at the referendum.)

    A strange race, indeed, the Scots are. No other nation on earth constantly denigrates its own peoples, and laughs at the thought of them making their own decisions. These same people are apparently happy that Scots decisions are taken outwith its borders.

    I do not see Scotland progressing one iota as long as the Scots think the way they do.

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  2. One cursory sentence on BBC scotland 'news' referring to this absolutely unprecedented political earthquake.


    Peter Murrell ‏@PeterMurrell 39m

    18,002 new @theSNP members in 96 hours. Welcome one and all. Be part of it, join us now and help make a difference https://my.snp.org/join


    The BBC announcer also looked as if was about to burst into tears as he said it. :-D

    The 45 and the fightback is most definitely on.

    You think anyone's told 'scottish' labour yet as they posed awkwardly at the labour conference with gormless little Ed?

    LOL

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  3. .... hold a consultative referendum in the coming years, but on the subject of Devo Max rather than independence?

    Interesting idea James. Clear definition of Devo Max as full fiscal autonomy (taxes all come to Edinburgh who then send funds to Westminster to pay for 'Central Services' - defence etc).

    Should command a big majority, neutralises pretty much all the scare stories (currency, EU etc) and puts real political pressure onto the London parties how to respond.

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  4. Lib Dem Voters ‏@LDvotersforIndy 10m

    The SNP are literally a handful of members away from being larger than the entire UK wide Lib Dems.... That truly is astonishing

    Triumph for calamity Clegg! :-D

    I note with VAST amusement that Clegg was stripped of his responsibility for constitutional reform by Cammie and it was handed to William Hague to try and keep the kippers at bay in Clacton using EV4EL.

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  5. susan wighton ‏@Lillithsusili 5h

    Tesco probe into £250m profit error TESCO also sent all Scottish staff vote NO letters #the45 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-29306444 …


    Muir T Smith ‏@muirtsmith 9h

    Tesco execs suspended during inquiry - and these were the sort of people telling US what to do ! #the45 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-29306444 …


    GRL ‏@wotanson 6h

    Glad you voted No on Tesco financial advice? They can't even add up. Too busy interfering with democracy. @BBCScotlandNews #indyref #the45

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  6. If DevoMax was achieved, is there anything that could be done to neutralize the currency problem? Assuming Westminster would try the same currency argument again.

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  7. With actual Devo-Max rather than the recent call-any-more-powers-at-all-Devo-Max?

    Yes, the SG could start building a sovereign oil fund and also establish a track record of borrowing to produce a decent credit rating.

    Proper Devo-Max would make the jump to Indy pretty minimal.

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  8. I think the SNP know that 1.6 m would vote for them in 2015 on a clear ticket of independence. Given that there is usually a 63% turnout. That would equate to more than 50%. Think of that as a motivation. Vote SNP get independence.

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  9. You might be right, but on a clear ticket of independence, the turnout would be up to 85%+ again as the BTNT "I'm alright Jack" mob rock up to put the block on again.

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  10. I can understand the difficulty of the SNP position. There has to be some realisation that immediate calls for another referendum risk alienating some of the 45%.

    However, I would also argue that the current time scale being talked about - up to 10 YEARS before another Referendum takes place risks a far greater weakening of an enthused and engaged pro-Independence movement.

    It is simply unthinkable to me that a 10 year time scale is needed to return to the independence referendum unless Full Devo Max is granted and granted before the 2016 Holyrood eleciton. I would also see it as very dangerous to the SNP at Holyrood as the budget cuts will be biting and the success of the SNP as a party of government at Holyrood will be undermined every single year that passes.

    It is prudent and realistic that a "Devo Max Now" campaign for Westminster in 2015 is a workable solution for that election. But if it is not delivered (as it never can be for purely financial reasons by Westminster) then Holyrood 2016 must be fought for another Referendum and I would suggest on an "SNP Candidate / Green List" basis

    While I admit there is risk there -if the SNP vote did weaken it risks letting Labour back in. However, if it worked, Labour would be wiped at Holyrood.

    And if it didn't it would be a Labour administration at Holyrood which had to deliver 5 years of utterly devastating austerity with no plan to get out of it.

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  11. I think Alisdair raises a very important point. The Westminster elite are vicious, but they aren't stupid. They are not going to devolve more powers, allow the Scottish parliament to protect people from austerity and therefore become increasingly popular in relation to an alien and cuts crazed London. They are savvy enough to know where that particular road leads.

    We have to be aware that their political strategy over the next year or so is going to be to devolve, if they can, enough power so that they can claim the 'vow' has been kept, but not so much power that oor diddy parliament can actually protect the people and increase its popularity.

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  12. "The Westminster elite are vicious, but they aren't stupid."

    Au contraire Callum. Exhibit A - The Vow


    We know perfectly well what their strategy is but what they don't seem to realise is that who gets the blame is contingent on trust. Who do you think the scottish public is going to blame for austerity, Nicola or Cameron/Little Ed? An out of touch westminster elite or their own scottish parliament?

    The corrupt westmisnter establishment are going to get heartily sick of seeing the phrase "Better Together" all the way up to 2015 and beyond.

    Their only hope would be to have a competent government that cares about all the people and wasn't fucking obsessed with endless triangulation to win the SE and middle England.

    You couldn't have had more stark proof that's a complete pipe dream after watching the hapless Balls today piling it on with more austerity on the way and the response to his child benefit cap.

    They give us diddy powers and we'll make damn certain the scottish public know precisely what they involve and the gaping chasm between them and DevoMAX.

    *DevoMAX - All powers apart from foreign affairs and defence.

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  13. How about all pro-independence parties standing in the 2016 Holyrood elections on the basis of FULL DevoMAX (inc oil,whisky etc), and if Westminster refuse we declare UDI?

    And then we all vote SNP, then Green or SSP for the list.

    But Scotlands public services would have to be excluded from TTIP, and it would still leave us with Trident :(

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  14. Would DevoMax not be a poisoned chalice? The right to tax ourselves more highly without the benefit of oil revenues, without the moral leverage of getting rid of Trident, and with complicity in the Upas Tree (Checkland) of ongoing warmongering and its associated perversion of the economy.

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  15. "Would DevoMax not be a poisoned chalice?"

    Well to be fair Alastair the 'thinking' behind Devolution in the first place from Labour was that it would "kill nationalism stone dead". Not so.

    Do I think Trident and warmongering is acceptable? Not in the slightest and it would take very few years of seeing it isolated to provide incredible pressure to extend DevoMAX to full Independence. Devolution is a process which is why they are now terrified of giving us real and meaningful powers. The fact of the matter is we all know that they have no intention of giving us DevoMAX anyway. Despite all the talk from the corrupt westminster media and unionists of it in the run up to the referendum.

    *DevoMAX - All powers apart from foreign affairs and defence.

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  16. "The fact of the matter is we all know that they have no intention of giving us DevoMAX anyway."

    So do you believe a campaign based on DevoMax or we declare UDI, would result in Independence or DevoMAX?

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  17. Remember that Tavish Scott back in 2011 told the people of Scotland that if they want Independence then vote SNP.

    It has been accepted for decades by the English parties that if the SNP get a majority of MPs then they have a mandate for UDI.

    A rigged vote and the best efforts of the BBC change nothing. Sovereignty rests with US not THEM!


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  18. I personally don't think the 1.6m are interested in Devo Max. It won't get rid of Trident nor will it secure our oil revenues.Devo Max is just another name for more devolution. Its independence and control of everything that is the 45s aim.I couldn't care less about more tinkering with devolution.

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  19. Correct Anonymous. Westminster is sovereign. 50% of the vote = mandate for independence and we simply declare it. The SNP have nothing to lose at Westminster and should go for it head first. Its mana from heaven if you are a depressed yes voter.

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  20. Mick. The links to the Tesco story are broken... or the pages have been removed by the BBC?

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  21. The unionist parties all vehemently opposed putting DevoMAX on the ballot. End of story.

    Those who didn't understand "holding their feet to the fire over promises of more powers" would do well to rid themselves of the preposterous notion that we can do anything other than campaign with that at the forefront mere DAYS after a No.

    We focus like laser on keeping the 45 and the Yes parties together and continuing the fightback. NOTHING matters more than that right now.

    We campaign on exposing the lies and that will obviously involve pointing out that they lied about DevoMAX just as much as they lied about the vow.

    Nor do we stop there. We make damn certain every campaign promise and pledge from the westminter elite gets the precise same treatment as "the VOW".

    We also highlight every single example of just how "Better Together" we are in the 2015 run up.

    We use the colossal rise in the Yes parties membership to FULL effect to get rid of as many corrupt and out of touch unionist party MPs as we possibly can.

    Then and only then can we look towards 2016. Whoever wins the bunfight at westminster has it all to prove on more powers and will be judged on them somewhat harshly by the scottish public should they fall lamentably short. (and they WILL)

    Talking in certainties about UDI right now is pretty much pointless. The notion the the SNP or any of the Yes parties have somehow given up on Independence is also absurd. We work with what we have not with hypotheticals for the distant future. Right now we self-evidently can't go on Independence so we go with holding the westminster parties feet to the fire on more powers while exposing their lies and revealing the utter hypocrisy inherent in the "Better Together" slogan.

    You don't need to agree with it but, rest assured, I for one am convinced that will be the strategy for the foreseeable future and I happen to agree with it.

    *DevoMAX - All powers apart from foreign affairs and defence.

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  22. Sorry Tris. Occasionally tweet links don't work as they should, but here's a link that should work.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-29306444

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  23. Yougov continues to be interesting. Check oot SNP share of the UK total over the past few weeks.

    40% in the subsets too this morning, and that's with a 44 to 28 down-weighting. 28% for Labour.

    On Sunday, Ed got 15% sat vs 80% unsat in Scotland. Nice.

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  24. @Scottish_Skier

    Surely little Ed will fix his jawdroppingly bad ratings today with a 'barnstorming' speech telling all scots how 'Better Together' we are with his proposals to to raise the retirement age, end the winter fuel allowance and cut child benefits?


    Derek Scott ‏@DerekScott1984 1h

    Voted NO for Labour? Now they want to cut child benefits http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/11112088/Labour-faces-accusations-of-u-turn-after-pledging-to-cap-child-benefit.html … Quit the #RedTories and join the SNP https://my.snp.org/join

    Nice wee reward for the No voting (majority) Pensioners of Scotland - Ed and Wee Jimmy K... http://tmi.me/1eL9kw pic.twitter.com/fZgpVz278D




    I also don't seem to recall this part of the THE VOW from the lying and corrupt westminster establishment.

    Times Headline today.

    Cameron to cut public funds for Scotland


    How now Brown Vow?


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  25. Is there any proof that Scots would object to a consultative referendum a few years down the line, especially if/when the Vow proves a sham, Scottish funding is slashed, and Cameron gets in again?

    It could even be held on the same day as an EU referendum in 2017.

    Pros for this date:

    -- "We're answering two great constitutional matters on the one day"

    -- The electoral infrastructure would already be in place for the EU vote so there'd be no valid complaints about wasted money.

    -- Folk will be experiencing EU campaign fatigue anyway, so the independence ref. would take less flak for that.

    -- Yes would avoid the Armageddon stories this time round as the the Eye of Media & Business Mordor would be on Farage.

    -- The No politicians/apparatchiks/bloggers/Orcs would also have to dissipate their energies elsewhere.


    Cons?











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  26. I was at New Deer to hear Salmond speak.

    James is effectively singing from the same hymn sheet

    I agree that Devo Max is what we should be pushing for.

    The Unionists signed up to a blank paper for more powers, let's fill it in for them.

    Devo Max...we know there is a majority of the scottish public that want it, it's the 10 - 20% of no voters that did so because they are getting more powers, it's important not to alienate them with the 45% stuff.

    P.s. there is also nothing stopping the scottish parliament from having a consultative referendum on trident ; )

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  27. @chalks

    It's going to be pretty amusing watching the out of touch westminster elite try to object to referenda when they've already had one on AV and Cammie and the tory party are adamant about having another one on IN/OUT of Europe.

    Some lib dems are already using the WLQ and IndyRef to try to push for new referenda on House of Lords Reform/devolution elsewhere or PR.

    I've even heard some chatter that labour might eventually look for a way out of the WLQ/EV4EL trap they are in via a referenda of some form tabled for a future date. Far, far into the future I suspect. LOL

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  28. Yeh, I know, when is the trident legislation being signed off? I think it would be clever of the SP to do a referendum on the day of it.

    Can you see Labour winning in 2015?

    I just can't see it, they are up now but support will grow for the Tories, I am sure they will also put sweeteners in the Autumn budget as well.

    Anything we can do to get it through to the scottish people that we are a country and should have a choice in everything that affects us, is the main thing I reckon.

    There are going to be a few scalps in 2015, some of the majorities are wafer thin, whilst others will take a big hit, but probably survive.

    The interesting thing about pursuing devo max is that 60 - 70%of the electorate want it. If the Yes Alliance or SNP make it a focal point, then the unionists are going to get it hard, for 2 years they've put us in a vice, now it's time to turn the tables.

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  29. "Can you see Labour winning in 2015?"

    Not if enough of the kipper tories bottle it and switch back to stop little Ed.

    Obviously not all of them will but enough could. A huge number of them will want that EU referendum while actually looking at Farage as someone to run a country rather than a protest vote will focus their minds just a touch.

    Little Ed is also god awful in a campaign situation. Look at the pattern for the Locals and EU elections. Labour vote drops sharply when he's out and about. Only time it didn't was when Osbrowne gifted labour a surge after the tory budget omnishambles.

    The debates between little Ed, calamity Clegg and the fop Cameron look like being comedy gold as well.

    Be very intersting to hear the excuses for not letting the SNP and Nicola in this time around considering the SNP are now the third biggest party in the UK and all that 'love bombing' about how the scottish people's voice was 'respected'.

    Again a golden opportunity to point out just how 'Better Together' we are in scotland if they shut us out of the GE debate.

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  30. I somehow don't think THIS was what little Ed expected or wanted to see on his 'big day' at the Labour conference.


    Simply breathtaking.

    https://twitter.com/PeterMurrell/status/514377856139661312/photo/1


    @theSNP 50,000 strong!!

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  31. James - just added my wee bit to the fundraiser. 'Scotland' not an option when 'country' is asked. Suppose I cannot complain :(

    Anon says: If DevoMax was achieved, is there anything that could be done to neutralize the currency problem? Assuming Westminster would try the same currency argument again

    Anon - probably a massive collapse in the value of the pound will do the trick - we don't have to do anything except sit back and wait for the fundamentals to reveal themselves.

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  32. We use the colossal rise in the Yes parties membership to FULL effect to get rid of as many corrupt and out of touch unionist party MPs as we possibly can.

    Yet without a clear pathway on Independence the risk is the SNP will lose both the enthusiasm and then the participation and then the membership it has gained.

    I don't see any of the new 25k joining the SNP as doing so to "ensure Devo-max", they are doing it to drive forward towards Independence (unless you have data saying otherwise of course).

    What possibly harm is there stopping this avoidance of the question on Indyref 2 and just stating that the SNP will campaign for Devo-Max in 2015 and if it's not being delivered *consider* another Indyref if elected in 2016?

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  33. Alasdair, exactly what I've just said on Wings.

    It's the most logical way and the voters we'll gain from pushing for devo max will also be switched on to see that when it doesn't happen, the only alternative is indy.

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  34. "Yet without a clear pathway on Independence the risk is the SNP will lose both the enthusiasm and then the participation and then the membership it has gained."


    Well let's just look at that in the cold light of day shall we? That's 25,000 members we didn't even have a few days ago and you're seriously implying that we should be spending all our time worrying about a theoretical risk way into the future? Nah. I think we'll take is as read they didn't join on a whim and it's a pretty safe bet they have confidence in the SNP to represent their interests against a corrupt and lying westminster establishment. A clear pathway will be found when the time is right. Days after a No is hardly that.

    The far bigger 'risk' was trying to enthuse and mobilise on only 25,000 but that's certainly not something we have to worry about now. :-)

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  35. "and the voters we'll gain from pushing for devo max will also be switched on to see that when it doesn't happen, the only alternative is indy."

    I'm fairly sure I've been saying exactly that myself as well on previous threads.

    But it's hardly out of the question to do so while focusing on maximising the electoral gains while hammering the unionist MPs where we can beat them in the 2015 campaign. In fact I would consider both to be complimentary.

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  36. Well let's just look at that in the cold light of day shall we? That's 25,000 members we didn't even have a few days ago and you're seriously implying that we should be spending all our time worrying about a theoretical risk way into the future? Nah. I think we'll take is as read they didn't join on a whim and it's a pretty safe bet they have confidence in the SNP to represent their interests against a corrupt and lying westminster establishment. A clear pathway will be found when the time is right. Days after a No is hardly that.

    It is a risk none the less. Especially with the way it comes across when SNP politicians are interviewed in the media during the part few days. It comes across as defeatists and accepting that Independence is off the agenda for the media decided period of 15 or 25 years depending on the interviewer.

    I do not see a risk of alienation in making it clear that an Independence Referendum is ONLY off the agenda if All Revenue Devolution is provided by Westminster.

    But there is a risk in not saying so now, then saying so in three months and have the Unionist parties question why the possibility of another Indyref if they fail on All Revenue Devolution wasn't mentioned.

    Outside of politics as a supporter of independence, I feel the need for re-assurance, I'm sure I'm not alone. It is up to the SNP politicians to make this clear, to provide hope.

    If not them, who?
    If not now, when?

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  37. Alasdair : I certainly agree that the SNP must be careful not to allow the media to define the timescale for them. Alex Salmond failed to correct Andrew Neil when he defined a political generation as "20 years".

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  38. Mick, I think we are agreeing on the same things.

    I do not agree with Alasdair saying that we'll lose support.

    Far from it, we only need to look at the Scottish Social Attitudes Surveys to see what the electorate regularly think.

    This isn't tories that want devo max, it's labour voters.

    Going for devo max is the best way to win as many labour seats as possible.

    You only need to consider the 25% of no voters that voted that way because they wanted more powers.



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  39. Interesting times ahead, James, interesting times indeed.
    JimnArlene

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  40. "Alex Salmond failed to correct Andrew Neil when he defined a political generation as "20 years"

    But Salmond did make it clear that it was only "his view", and since he's about to be a backbench MSP, his "view" no longer binds anybody in the nationalist leadership.

    Personally, I think we'd lose another indyref in the next 10 years, simply because there would be a backlash to having one, and it would be easy to say that were 'ignoring' the first result. Of course, matters could intervene in the next 18 months to 2 years that could alter that calculation (anoter fucking Tory government we won't have voted for EU and a Brexit).

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  41. I certainly agree that the SNP must be careful not to allow the media to define the timescale for them. Alex Salmond failed to correct Andrew Neil when he defined a political generation as "20 years".

    This is exactly my concern and its not without foundation because this was the core weakness of the Yes campaign for the SNP.

    The campaign run was magnificent, their ideas were excellent, the very fact they had a Conversation Pack to download for GenYes to go talk to Granny on the Sunday before election was - WOW. Just fantastic and a great example of how well they planned and ran the campaign.

    But, the core weakness they had was allowing the media to set the agenda in those "one of each side" interviews where the BBC et al allowed No to pitch without interruption or question and then put the Yes spokesperson on the defensive. They needed to fight back at that point, right at the start and didn't.

    My concern is that the way interviews are going with Yes people just now echoes this weakness.

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