I'm not sure how much impact Andrew Wilson's article in The National on indyref timing will have, because we all know where he's coming from, so his views are already factored in - a bit like Jim Sillars (not that there's much comparison between the two men in any other sense). But I do think it's important to challenge the specific arguments for a potentially indefinite delay whenever they are put forward.
There's always a question mark over the motivations of those who wouldn't mind the indyref issue going away for the foreseeable future - is it because their real interest is in maintaining the SNP as a party of power within the devolved system (and they think pushing for independence makes that harder), or do they genuinely think that waiting will maximise the chances of Scotland becoming independent in the long run? If we take Andrew at his word and assume it's the latter, what's missing from his article is an acknowledgement that using the mandate for a pre-2021 referendum isn't just about pragmatic considerations of when independence is most likely to be won. It's also effectively about honouring a contract with voters, who were invited to vote SNP in both 2016 and 2017 on the specific basis that they would be given a choice on Scotland's future in the event of Brexit. Giving people the choice at the time they asked for it, not at a far-distant time that might suit certain politicians better, should be regarded as a good thing in itself. What people do with that choice is up to them.
Then we come to the hoary old point about whether we need to have 60% support for Yes in the polls before calling a referendum - an arbitrary and utterly unattainable target figure that is effectively an argument for never holding a referendum and for Scotland never becoming an independent country. Andrew is rather elliptical on that point in his article, and that's probably intentional. On the one hand he makes the entirely sensible observation that "the polls will lag until the question is ready to be put", which on the face of it is an acknowledgement that any large shifts of public opinion are only likely to occur after a referendum is actually called, and that therefore sub-50 (let alone sub-60) showings for Yes in the polls should not be used as an argument for delay. But then he moves straight back to utopia-chasing by saying that "our focus must turn to those who need persuaded to get the coalition for Yes comfortably over 50% and towards 60% and beyond", which sounds very much like "we must not act until that happens", and which amounts to "we must not act at all". Of course, he could be saying that we should be ready to push towards 60% support once the campaign is actually underway, but why would we need to do that, when 50% + 1 is enough? It doesn't make sense.
So on balance this does look like another outing for the "60% threshold for calling an indyref". If so, I'm not surprised Andrew shied away from stating it directly, because it really is pretty silly.
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The Telegraph said yesterday that the SNP had secured a majority for their Budget with the help of the "hard-left Greens". That echoes the words of Willie Rennie a few weeks ago, who said that the SNP were turning to the "hard-left" rather than reaching a sensible deal with a mainstream party like the Liberal Democrats (ahem). But this ignores the fact that the SNP were open to doing a budget deal with pretty much any party, and that the unionist parties made that impossible by setting ludicrous conditions. The Lib Dems themselves, for example, laid down an absolute precondition that the SNP would have to temporarily take their push for independence off the table, which is a bit like telling the Lib Dems they have to temporarily stop believing in liberalism, or telling the Tories they have to temporarily stop believing in free-market capitalism.
It's really simple, guys: if you think a "hard-left" deal is bad for Scotland, negotiate in good faith and don't leave a deal with the Greens as the only remaining practical option. The unionist parties are effectively the midwives of this deal.
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Scot Goes Pop fundraiser: If you'd like to help this blog continue during what could be an epic few months ahead, just a reminder that last year's fundraiser is still very much open for donations, and hasn't reached the target figure yet.