Thursday, April 11, 2019

Now is the time to decisively move up a gear in preparations for an independence referendum

I was heartened to see Chris McEleny and Angus MacNeil pressing the case so forcefully today for an independence referendum this autumn.  In the wake of the six-month Brexit extension, we now stand at another crossroads for the independence movement, and as was the case in the early summer of 2017 it's very much time for all of us to "speak now or forever hold your peace".  Once Nicola Sturgeon makes her next statement on the way forward, the die will be cast once again.  The worst case scenario is that she'll say "the expected clarity on Brexit has not arrived, so we'll have to wait yet another six months for clarity".  That would surely be a dreadful error, because it would be doing exactly the same thing we correctly accuse Theresa May of - forever kicking the can down the road.

It's not hard to imagine the reasons Ms Sturgeon's most ultra-cautious advisers will be giving her for thinking that the idea of an indyref this year is a non-starter.  They'll be saying that the endgame of Brexit is the wrong time to get bogged down in potential legal challenges to a Referendum Bill passed without a Section 30, and that in any case the whole initiative might be overtaken by events if a People's Vote is somehow brought about or if (more likely) a snap general election is called.  But there's surely a middle path that can be followed that would leave us with a degree of flexibility while avoiding any deeply damaging sense of drift.

We now at least have partial clarity on Brexit - we have fairly strong indications that the extension to October is the last one of any substantial length that is likely to be granted.  Which leaves us with the binary possibilities of Brexit this year, or complete revocation.  And if Brexit does happen this year, it seems clear that it will be a relatively hard Brexit, because the Tory and Labour leaderships are united in their determination to leave the single market and end freedom of movement.  The sole point of compromise might be on the customs union.  The only way I could see a softer Brexit happening would be if Labour win a snap general election, and pro-EU backbenchers then use their leverage to pull Corbyn in a more moderate direction.  So it would be perfectly possible for Ms Sturgeon to tentatively name a date for an indyref, perhaps early 2020, and make clear that will remain pencilled in unless there is a general election before Halloween, or unless Article 50 is revoked.

53 comments:

  1. I usually agree with most of your posts but here I'm not sure I see that approach working really.

    I don't see how it makes sense to say "well we can't wait for what happens with Brexit any longer so let's schedule an indyref, except we're only going to pencil it in depending on what happens with Brexit". I don't see that as being a very stable, consistent position to take.

    The whole point of not trying to schedule an indyref yet is to avoid any potentially awkward position of rubbing out a pencilled in date precisely because events in WM have subsequently changed the dynamic.

    If we can no longer wait till whatever happens with Brexit happens then we should stop caring about Brexit entirely and push for an independence referendum come what may regardless of the outcome there. That to me is a more appropriate position. We should merely take the view that even if the UK ultimately revokes A50 much of the damage has already been done and the country has been taken to the brink and dragged through political chaos and paralysis for something Scotland did not vote for and was largely ignored over, and therefore it is time to stop supporting a second EU referendum and concentrate all effort on a second indyref such that Scotland can be in a position a where it can control it's own destiny properly.

    "The worst case scenario is that she'll say "the expected clarity on Brexit has not arrived, so we'll have to wait yet another six months for clarity". That would surely be a dreadful error, because it would be doing exactly the same thing we correctly accuse Theresa May of - forever kicking the can down the road."

    To me this has already been happening: Nicola Sturgeon has already been can-kicking because they've already made the mistake of connecting the independence question to the Brexit question. Sure, it's fairly mild delaying not Olympic-level Theresa May can-kicking, but it is can-kicking. It's too late to undo that. Despite saying previously that there was a update coming in March about the independence question, regardless of where we were with Brexit, no such update has been forthcoming and we're still very much in "not until Brexit's clear" territory.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-46905024

    My view is we either should now push for indyref2 regardless of the Brexit outcome and be prepared to make the case even if the UK ends up remaining in the EU somehow, or we continue to wait until it's decided because that's the cul-de-sac the SNP already walked themselves into and can't back out of easily.

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    1. Robert, we wouldn't even be talking about an indyref in the short-to-medium term if it wasn't for Brexit, so no, the SNP haven't made a mistake by linking the two subjects, they were already inextricably linked due to the promise Better Together made that a No vote would guarantee Scotland's place in the EU.

      You appear to agree with me that it's been a mistake to kick the can down the road until now. What puzzles me is that you seem to think that if you're in a hole, you have no choice but to keep digging. There's always a choice. A new extension of six months, and the knowledge that it's the last lengthy extension that is ever likely to be granted, is the natural moment to review the situation and take a new direction. We either have to pencil in a date or keep kicking the can down the road. You say that can-kicking is a bad idea, so why do you disagree with pencilling in a date? It makes no sense.

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    2. I don't agree with just pencilling in a date, if we're then going to have to rub it out because Brexit worked itself out in a way that is incompatible with indyref2. That would be damaging for the case of independence, the classic marching halfway up the hill to march back down again.

      If we can only know if indyref2 is definitely going ahead for sure once Brexit is resolved either way, and can only upgrade pencil to pen at that point, then we might as well wait for it to be resolved first anyway. Pencilling a date in would be trying to have cake and eat it, about potentially trying stop indy supporters drifting away from both Yes and SNP out of frustration in the meantime, but still waiting to see the result of Brexit nevertheless anyway.

      If we want to stop kicking the can then let's push for indyref2 regardless of the Brexit outcome and not making it conditional on other things that might effectively nullify trying to justify it in the first place. If it's got to be about Brexit and nothing else, then we have to wait for Brexit to be clear.

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    3. I suspect the real point of difference between us is that you think an early indyref in the absence of Brexit is a credible option. If you agreed with me that it's not, I doubt you'd still be saying that kicking the can down the road is somehow preferable to the only serious alternative - which is naming the day on a conditional basis, and decisively moving the narrative forward.

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    4. I think an early indyref in the absence of Brexit is AN option, particularly if the alternative seems to be that we have to do something now even if it still ultimately means waiting for the resolution of Brexit to actually confirm anything.

      Is it a credible option? Probably less so than one post the UK leaving the EU - but not massively less so, unless it was a no deal exit.

      Do I expect the SNP to go for an early pre-Brexit indyref as an option? No.

      They will wait and see if anything comes from the May-Corbyn talks, and if (when) they fail then they will wait and see if anything comes from the government-led indicative votes, and if (when) nothing comes from them then they will wait and see how the European Parliament elections go, and only in the aftermath of all that do I expect them to seriously consider announcing their next move, I don't think we'll see much of anything before that lot. I don't think I'd necessarily agree with that, but it's what I'm expecting at the moment. I won't mind being proved wrong at all, I'm as desperate for the next indyref being confirmed as most folk here.

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  2. We need brexit, preferably a bad one, to maximise our chances of winning. So it stands to reason that a brexit delay also means a delay to indyref2.

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  3. If iref#2 is justified because of Scotland being taken out of the EU, then really you do need to actually have that happening. It's not entirely clear that's the case; it's quite possible that England is just going to keep chickening out for the foreseeable, can kicking until it can find a way to completely backtrack.

    If that happens, it's hard to say 'We should be independent so we can be in the EU' when it looks like the UK isn't leaving.

    So, if the UK just keeps can kicking, you need to change accordingly and say 'This can kicking is damaging Scotland and it can't go on. Brexit or not, Scots need to decide if they want to live in limbo, or end it and move on, letting England work out itself what it wants'.

    So I agree with Roberts point.

    I think the SNP have underestimated just how fucking useless the Brits are these days. I'm happy to admit I saw a mess coming, but I didn't see how utterly pathetic and week the UK would be in the face of brexit. It's just collapsed into a gibbering, half naked racist drunk that smells of wee, pathetically begging for another last can 'just to get its head sorted out'.

    Nobody knows what to do. All our neighbours are looking on utterly aghast.

    I can't say I'm a macron fan, but at least he's standing up and saying 'This can't go on; we need to kick the UK in the erse a bit because that's probably the only thing that will do it any good. Just letting it sit there getting even more pished isn't helping'.

    SNP need to get the finger out too now. They've done the required waiting. There's no more to be done. Time to move on.

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  4. disagree on delay being last. lots of historic agreements never get finished. Korean war is still technically on. Texas can "split into five states.". England has seen little resolve to honor agreements made with Scotland three years ago ago or to Honor Good Friday Peace deal: see attempts to prosecute former IRA members SPECIFICALLY exempted. I could go on. If i were Europe I would just keep extending into oblivion.In the fall their will be another excuse. they will wring hands. then it will be "there is an election!!"

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    1. Even if the majority of EU leaders end up favouring another extension after October, President Macron will be in a much stronger position by then to simply say no, especially if Britain has just wasted the intervening six months in the way it's wasted the last four. And remember France alone can veto an extension. 26 countries voting for an extension, and France voting against, would mean no extension.

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    2. That is why the UK should leave as was determined in the referendum. Scottish remain politicians are not representative of all the Scots. The Scots who voted Leave must be appalled at the crawling Scottish politicians who are prostrating themselves to the EU corrupt Mafia.

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    3. It's actually Britain prostrating itself in front of the neighbours right now.

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    4. No, no wait, I see Scots unionists are also prostrating themselves, begging again for our banknotes not to be shoved back in our faces in England.

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    5. Bill is right - it won't be the last extension because the impasse is not going to be resolved between now and October. Macron won't be happy about it, but we can surely expect the display of EU unity to continue.

      There isn't a majority in the house of commons for a people's vote, so it won't happen this year.

      There isn't a majority in the house of commons to bring about a general election, so that won't happen this year either.

      Brexit could go on for years.

      The sooner Scotland has a referendum the better.

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    6. "Brexit could go on for years."

      For sure. Ongoing steady economic decline. The continued mass emigration of EU workers.

      And, crucially, incessant 24 hr news coverage of England's great navel gazing for many, many years to come.

      Even if the exit agreement finally passes, we just move onto the bit that will cause even more arguments; i.e. the multiple trade negotiations with the EU and beyond the UK will need to undertake.

      I hope Scottish unionists, particularly remainers and business owners, find this attractive.

      If we are really lucky, we might even get Bozo as PM. That or Abbot for FS.

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  5. Time has come to bite the bullet and call it.

    Would be interesting to see if any progress on Brexit would have been made if it wasn't for Scotland's MPs voting against it.

    As things stand if it comes to it are Leavers so desperate that they'll agree to indyref2 in order to shift the result if it ever comes to EUref2

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  6. She should harden her stance and go for another independence referendum regardless. Brexit has shown that the UK government can't be trusted to look after Scotland's interests. What's the worst that could happen? We get soft Brexit and the SNP leadership is persuaded to call off the referendum, subsequently losing face? Scotland's future is much bigger than the SNP's medium term electoral prospects.

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  7. SNP on 5% UK wide in the latest Kantar UK poll, which would put them on at least ~45-50% in Scotland. No separate Scottish breakdown however.

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  8. I will return to the parliament following the Easter recess to set out the steps that the Scottish government will take to progress the will of parliament." Nicola Sturgeon 2017

    “I’ll set out my thinking on that after the Easter recess"

    Nicola Sturgeon 2019

    With greatest respect to her but I have very little confidence that she will not be saying the same thing at Easter 2020. Can kicking needs to stop.

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    1. On the flip side she well could argue that her policy of not doing anything is working, SNP vote is up and her personal polling is not dropping that much, what she is doing is clearly popular with the SNP voters, you don't vote for parties whose strategies you don't support

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    2. Sturgeon has positive sat ratings in the latest poll (I'm aware of) a few weeks ago. That's nothing short of a miracle after 12 years of being FM/DM.

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  9. Nothing wrong with caution as long as it does not become an obvious excuse for ongoing inertia.
    Remember if we lose Indy 2 it will not come back for 30-40 years.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. That's not true. Ten years is an eternity in politics. It's never, ever possible, in any circumstances whatsoever, to say that something like independence is off the agenda for thirty or forty years.

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    3. It will no doubt give you comfort young James knowing that not many present Unionists will be around in 30/40 years or indeed ten years. Perhaps the Scots will all have gone!

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    4. No doubt Cordelia will still be here and screeching with rage in 30-40 years' time.

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    5. ...and if we do nothing we don't get an indyref for however long we do nothing for, so where's the harm in calling the indyref now? Don't do it now, wait decades. Do it now and lose, wait decades. Do it now and WIN...

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    6. Anonymous, if I am around in 30,40 years then you can believe in jesus.

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    7. Nobody alive today will be around fir 30 or 40 years. The 3 b's will see to that then I'll have the last laugh. I'll be aughu g all the way to the bank. There's a hint...

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    8. I believe that Cordelia's poisonous hatreds will keep it going. My religious beliefs or lack thereof are irrelevant.

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    9. Who the hell are you? A nobody hiding behind a fake name. Nonny Mouse. Squeak squeak squeak. Piece a cheese for Nonny Mouse please. Squeak squeak.

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    10. As if Fat Dod is Cordelia's real name.
      It really should lay off the Domestos.

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    11. Yes, but he is a fat dod. Sitting fading away in Kilwinning, just like his rancid tattoos.

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    12. Fit only for our mockery. I hope it lives a long life.

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  10. Another piece of the puzzle is that a new session of Parliament has to start this year and from what can tell latest it can start id Nov 1st. Also read that the DUP /CON C&S agreement has a renogation /break clause in it that has to be negotiated to get their support for the next session, could quiet easily see the DUP pulling their support for the next session.

    Could well find the the Government not able to pass its own Queens Speech. Don't know what the exact process would be under FTPA but would certainly result in a GE.

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  11. To me the issue (and the main failing of the SNP to date) is the lack of actual legal preparation (and clarification) that would allow us to be able to hold a referendum (or alternative democratic measure) as soon as the EU 'clarity' is there and Scotland is being dragged out of the EU against our will. It's a quick IndyRef campaign at that point which is most likely to succeed for various reasons (not least it limits the spending on the NO side against us). We wait llike we have and in six months that will be as impossible as it is now.

    SNP have been given a second chance. We must take it...

    This means returning to the SNP's original (and very reasonable plan) of two years ago. A plan that for some reason they abandoned in favour of inaction and wait and see. The plan was stated clearly by Nicola, so has the advantage of consistency and being easily projected & understood.

    The plan was to hold an IndyRef once the outcome of the Brexit Deal was known but before it was too late to make a difference to our relationship to EU. That means using this six months to push legally for a S30 or, if not possible, propose an alternative democratic route to be triggered as soon as we know the outcome.

    We push that line and legal process hard over the next 6 months. Who knows what mess Brexit will become. Uncertainty might become enough of a reason in Scottish public opinion to go for Indy campaign even if yet another A50 extension is forced. The important thing is we need to be able to act when the time is right. That is something that the SNP to date have not done. Seeing the groundwork being done will rally the troops and scare the Union, kickstarting real campaigning by default

    We need real preparation for IndyRef2 to be the focus (they have already done enough of that for the peoples vote after all!)

    braco

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    1. How do you know the SNP are not legally prepared? Government legal advice and detailed battle plans are not something they normally announce to opponents in advance of major engagements. While it might be frustrating for us voters, I absolutely would keep such advice close to my chest until it was just the right moment.

      Having said that, I do agree with you in that a holding action has run its course.

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    2. Its not about advice any more, its about testing the facts of our situation. You pay for advice and a lawyer will tell you what argument can be used, that is very different from a legal decision of a court. SNP were happy to expose their battle plan by going to a court judgement on revoking article 50, so why no action to test our rights to a section 30?

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    3. You don't have to go to court to know murder is illegal. You can ask a lawyer for advice and they'll give you an answer with a very high degree of certainty.

      Also, only a prize idiot would take their own argument to court to challenge it themselves.

      In the case of e.g. a consultative iref (independence is a Scottish constitutional matter, not a UK one, so doesn't need a section 30 if legislated for appropriately) iref, if the PO has no issues and nobody takes it to court, it stands in law. Why the hell challenge it? It's only if England does that, trying to stop democracy in Scotland, should you need to produce your legal advice.

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    4. Are they extending the A50 beyond Warrington? Hurrah .. at last!

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  12. I think naming a date is a very good idea. The UK establishment just isn't remotely equipped for the fight now. How are they ever going to make the same arguments as last time about stability and a seat at the top table and leading not leaving. Neither Corbyn nor May is remotely credible in England, let alone up here. The current media attention being given to clowns like JRM and Mark Francois would only help us. We're going to struggle most on "piling chaos on chaos," but I think we have the advantage of saying that we'll actually be restoring stability by retaining EU membership, and the Growth Commission and CW's research show that we know what we're doing, even if we don't all agree on every detail. We'll also have a good number of people willing to talk about having changed their minds, and more will flip once the question becomes real again. We have the footsoldiers ready for the fight too. I'm not sure the other side does.

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  13. Britain Elects
    ‏@britainelects
    7h7 hours ago
    SNP GAIN Leith Walk (Edinburgh) from Labour.

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    1. Lab and Con both taking hits. SNP + Green + Libs gaining.

      Leith Walk (Edinburgh) result:
      SNP: 35.7% (+1.4)
      GRN: 25.5% (+5.9)
      LAB: 15.5% (-7.0)
      CON: 10.7% (-3.7)
      LDEM: 8.6% (+4.8)

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  14. Fat Dod far KilwinningApril 12, 2019 at 7:03 PM

    If you ask me Julian Assange has got a leaky wick.

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  15. If Julian Assange was called Davie Skinner he'd have been arrested years ago and sent to Craig inches.

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  16. T Rex has arrived in Glesga Kelvin Hall. The questions are, was the T a Tim or Prod maybe an islamist or jehova grass. Would T have voted for Scottish Nat si ism or the Tories. Probably would have joined the EU for a free meal from the taxpayer.

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    1. Isa Guthrie and the GuthrettesApril 13, 2019 at 9:54 AM

      Riotously witty.

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    2. It's the Domestos-fuelled rage that keeps all laughing at poor benighted Cordelia.

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  17. Do we want independence if there is Brexit? Yes. Then call a referendum.

    Do we want independence if there is no brexit? Yes. Then still call a referendum.

    The only hesitation is because Sturgeon must believe she cannot win a referendum at this time and is hoping the polls change before her term is up.

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    1. I sincerely hope you're wrong, because the only thing that is likely to significantly change the polls is calling a referendum and getting people to focus on the issue. Although why 45-47% Yes is considered to be such a terrible starting point is something of a mystery. We'd have given a great deal to be in such a favourable position at the start of the last indyref.

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    2. But this time the country is polarised and the last few percentage points will be the hardest to shift. In my opinion if we go into indyref2 behind in the polls with brexit still unresolved then we will lose. Two losses = issue dead for decades. So she wont chance it.

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    3. No, the issue would not be dead for decades. Politics doesn't work that way. When the second Quebec referendum was lost by a whisker, most people's first reaction was that independence was inevitable within a few years. That might well have proved to be the case if the Parti Quebecois hadn't made such a pig's ear of their post-referendum strategy. One thing is for sure - the issue didn't go away. It continued to dominate election after election.

      I disagree with you about "the last few percentage points" being the hardest to shift. We're not seeing movement at the moment because people aren't focusing on the issue as they would if a referendum was scheduled or even pencilled on.

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    4. My gussets polarised. So what?

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    5. I'd see a doctor about that.

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