Saturday, March 10, 2018
Thursday, March 8, 2018
Regular readers of the Herald will be aware that Iain Macwhirter has rarely missed an opportunity in his recent columns to state, supposedly as an established fact, that there isn't going to be another independence referendum any time soon. I believe he's wrong about that, although obviously I would be foolish to completely exclude the possibility that he knows something the rest of us don't, because he's very well-connected. However, I thought it was interesting in his most recent piece that he seemed to be relying mainly on gossip from the Westminster side of the equation - ie. that the UK government have convinced themselves that Nicola Sturgeon doesn't have the "authority" to push for a referendum. Why doesn't she? Perhaps because she "only" leads a minority government. (Just as Theresa May does without fretting for a moment about "authority".) Or perhaps because the SNP lost 19 seats at the general election. (An election the SNP nevertheless won by a 1987 Thatcher-style landslide majority.)
If it's true that the London Tories have got carried away with the bogus narrative of Nicola Sturgeon losing her capacity to act, that could explain the seemingly insane decision today to curtail negotiations with the Scottish government and unilaterally press ahead with plans to reduce the Scottish Parliament's powers, thus driving a coach and horses through the Sewel Convention, which has been faithfully upheld for nineteen years. They must truly believe that they can get away with just about anything without having to worry about triggering an independence referendum.
In that they're mistaken. My own guess (and it is only a guess) is that Nicola Sturgeon has always been genuine about the possibility of a pre-2021 referendum. But even if by any chance it turns out she hasn't been genuine, it would still be the case that she and the wider independence movement have their breaking-point. The idea that Scotland can be dragged out of the EU, the single market and the customs union against its will and the Scottish Parliament's powers can be reduced in defiance of the Sewel Convention and the UK government can go to court to get a law of the Scottish Parliament overturned and all of the above can happen despite the Scottish government making efforts in good faith to reach a negotiated settlement...SNP members will be screaming to themselves "if that isn't the change in circumstances that demands a second indyref, what on earth would be?" The pressure on Nicola Sturgeon to act would be overwhelming, and I doubt if she'd even want to resist it.
We now have a precedent of a Bill being introduced in spite of doubts over the Scottish Parliament's competence to pass it. There's no reason why a Bill to legislate for a consultative independence referendum couldn't be brought forward in similar circumstances, with the SNP content to try their luck in the courts. The current constitutional crisis could well be taking us in that direction - unless, ironically, the Supreme Court or the House of Lords step in over the coming weeks to save the Tories from themselves.
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
And yet...do you remember something? A major strand of the Smith process which followed on from "The Vow" in 2014 was about supposedly putting the Sewel Convention on a statutory footing. The convention, among other things, forbids the UK government from removing powers from Holyrood without consent. If that principle had been meaningfully written into law as promised, it would have been possible for the Scottish Government to go to the Supreme Court to block the power-grab. Instead, the British government are somehow able to go to the Supreme Court in an attempt to effectively enable the power-grab. It's utterly grotesque - and that's what betrayal looks like.
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
1) Wings Over Scotland: 215,900 unique visitors in the last 30 days
2) Craig Murray: 128,000 unique visitors in the last 30 days
3) Bella Caledonia: 112,200 unique visitors in the last 30 days
4) Wee Ginger Dug: 75,500 unique visitors in the last 30 days
5) Scot Goes Pop: 74,200 unique visitors in the last 30 days
6) CommonSpace: 59,800 unique visitors in the last 30 days
7) Indyref2: 30,800 unique visitors in the last 30 days
In all honesty I'm a bit sceptical about those figures. I use Google Analytics, and the figures I get there are significantly less than an average of 74,200 per month. Admittedly there's some traffic that Analytics doesn't pick up, but even so. It's also intuitively difficult to believe that CommonSpace, a multi-author site that is updated far more frequently than Scot Goes Pop, and that gets free advertising on the mainstream media of the sort that the rest of us can only dream of, is only in sixth place. Possibly the above figures are just ballpark estimates with a very wide margin of error. Nevertheless, I can certainly believe that Scot Goes Pop is at least competitive with the likes of CommonSpace and Bella, which is pretty incredible for a one-man operation.
*Self-indulgent post ends*
Monday, March 5, 2018
I think on its own merits the #Referendum2018 thing is harmless enough. It's pretty obvious that its adherents are heading very shortly for a 'Free by 93' moment, but that's not the end of the world. However, it becomes more problematical when anyone who doesn't sign up to the 2018 date is told that they effectively oppose an early referendum. That creates a needless split among people who are essentially on the same side of the debate about timing. The real debate is between those who think the SNP's mandate for a referendum before the May 2021 election should be honoured, and those who either don't think that or are extremely sceptical. A unity of purpose among the supporters of a pre-2021 referendum is important, because as we've seen, we'll need to make our case against at least a few well-known and influential people within the SNP who are minded to allow the mandate to expire. The last thing we need is some artificial division among ourselves over the exact date. I also worry that Peter is getting himself so boxed in with his insistence on the absolute necessity of a September 2018 vote that he might give up on campaigning for a referendum when he finally accepts his preferred timing isn't going to happen (and that moment can't be far off). He might even react angrily towards those of us who are continuing to push for an early referendum, which could be rather unhelpful at a time when the prize may be closer than ever.
#ScotRefBefore2021 is just a suggestion, and it may be too unwieldy. But please, let's come up with a more inclusive hashtag than #Referendum2018 - one that we can all get behind full-bloodedly, and hopefully get trending.