Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Tories are overplaying their hand by moving from "now is not the time" to "Scotland will never be allowed to choose"

In the spring of 2017, when Theresa May first trotted out her notorious line of "now is not the time", we were reliably informed by journalists who had spoken to government sources that the choice of words had been extensively road-tested.  The Tories wanted to refuse a Section 30 order, but they were anxious to do it in a way that wouldn't inflame Scottish public opinion and end up increasing support for independence.  They apparently found in focus groups that "now is not the time" hit a sweet spot that got middle-of-the-road voters nodding along.  It wasn't a flat no, it wasn't forever, but there was just too much going on with Brexit, it was too soon after the first indyref, so you know, not just now, Nicola.

Why do the Tories appear to be abandoning that circumspection?  Why does "now is not the time" appear to be giving way to words that effectively mean "Scotland is a prisoner in the United Kingdom and is no longer allowed to leave"?  If you were being generous, you would think that maybe there have been yet more focus groups, and more private polls, revealing a sea-change in Scottish public opinion which has left the Tories free to say any outrageous thing they want without have to worry about boosting support for independence or for an independence referendum.  But that seems unlikely.  I think they just got carried away with their (qualified) success in the 2017 general election and now believe that negativity about an independence referendum is an inexhaustible goldmine that will continue to generate votes for the Scottish Tories.  It'll never win them a majority, or anything close, but they no longer care what the majority think, because they've found in our Alice Through the Looking Glass politics that they can "win" elections and reap the full rewards of that by coming a distant second and getting little more than one-quarter of the vote.  They may still care to some extent about saving their "precious, precious union", but they've come to believe that will take care of itself while they get on with pursuing the narrow electoral interests of the Tory party.

The thing is, though, the union may not take care of itself.  It's easy to dismissively say no to a referendum, and to give the impression of doing that with some sort of moral authority, when the most recent election produced substantial SNP losses (albeit from an exceptionally high base, which of course no-one ever bothers to mention).  It'll be a rather different story after the European elections if opinion polls are correct in pointing to SNP gains.  And it'll be a completely different story after any snap general election if opinion polls are right in suggesting the SNP could once again take more than 50 of the 59 Scottish seats.  By that point, any further obstructionism from Westminster on a Section 30 order could start to look like what Tony Blair used to call "an unreasonable veto".  There might then be considerable public sympathy for Nicola Sturgeon as she looks at ways forward in the absence of a Section 30 - assuming she can be persuaded to overcome her reluctance to act without London's 'permission'.

The other problem is that, paradoxically, the Tories' campaign against a referendum two years ago may only have been successful in producing seat gains because Theresa May had not actually said no to a referendum.  If you want people to be motivated to go to the polls to stop Indyref 2, they have to believe the 'threat' is real.  By moving from "now is not the time" to a flat no, the Scottish Tories may have destroyed their own electoral USP.  We'll soon find out.

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Last night's blogpost was about the ITV reporter Peter A Smith, who in his interview with the First Minister wasn't remotely interested in the case for or against a referendum, but merely wanted to taunt her about the supposed fact that the all-powerful British state wasn't going to let her have one.  "Yeah, and which Tory is going to agree to a referendum?  Michael Gove?  Boris Johnson?  Who?"  It strikes me that Iain Macwhirter has been arguing in much the same spirit recently - instead of being outraged at the thwarting of democratic Scottish mandates, his anger and scorn is directed at those who aren't 'realistic' enough to accept that Theresa May's veto is the end of the story.  "And you think Jeremy Corbyn is going to give you your Section 30, do you?  Get real."  (I'm paraphrasing, by the way, before anyone jumps down my throat.)

This is really odd, because Iain spoke for all of us in 2011 by reacting incredulously to exactly the sort of views he is now espousing.  He sat in a TV studio as John "The Gardener" McTernan informed the nation that the election of a majority SNP government was neither here nor there, and that there wasn't going to be an independence referendum because under our constitutional arrangements that was entirely Westminster's call to make.  Iain told him in no uncertain terms that it was exactly that sort of arrogance that had just cost Labour power at Holyrood.

Iain has clearly been on something of a journey over the last eight years, because he is now the John McTernan in this debate.  How he ended up there, and why he's quite so passionate in his embrace of the Westminster veto, is something of a mystery.  He's been telling us for months that Nicola Sturgeon understands perfectly well that a pre-2021 referendum is impossible, and yet in his column on Sunday he expressed bafflement that she was now raising expectations for a vote she supposedly couldn't deliver. "The First Minister used to be an honest speaker who said what she meant, scorned waffle and spin, and wasn't afraid to face harsh realities. To see her resort to weasel words and obfuscation is saddening."  Hmmm.  Isn't it just possible that she is being honest, and she just happens to honestly disagree with Iain's assessment of whether an early referendum is achievable?  Couldn't her announcement be reasonably interpreted as a sign that Iain has for some time been wide of the mark in his reading of her intentions?  I make no pretence at being able to see inside her mind, but surely that's at least one logical possibility?

*  *  *

In his comprehensive response to Iain Macwhirter's article, Wee Ginger Dug once again expressed his view that if a Section 30 order is not forthcoming, the best way forward would be to use the next Holyrood election to seek an outright mandate for independence.  He believes that a consultative referendum held without a Section 30 wouldn't work out, because the broadcast media would ignore it and the unionist parties would boycott it.  I agree that using the Holyrood election is a perfectly good plan, but I do think Paul is underestimating the potential of a consultative referendum.  If the Supreme Court upheld a Referendum Bill passed by the Scottish Parliament, it would become the law of the land, and it would then be tricky for unionists to boycott it, and it would certainly be very hard for broadcasters to ignore it.

And remember Strathclyde Regional Council's consultative postal referendum on water services in 1994?  That didn't receive a huge amount of pre-publicity and was boycotted by the Tories, and yet it somehow produced a turnout of over 70% - more than you'd get in a general election these days.  If anyone has a recording of STV's live coverage of the result, it would be a good one to upload to YouTube.  The reporter at the count (I think it might have been a youthful Bernard Ponsonby) told viewers that the organisers of the vote would be very happy if 40% of ballots had been returned.  When the actual figure was announced, he started shouting: "That's an astonishing turnout!  That's an astonishing turnout!"

47 comments:

  1. A Section 30 is required to implement a positive result in a referendum by triggering a clause that changes the boundaries of Westminster Jurisdiction to exclude Scotland and her territories. Just as the AV referendum had a clause to implement the result rather than see Westminster refuse to abide by it.

    That's where we stand. Westminster are refusing to commit themselves to abide by the result of a legally held referendum on Scotland's independence. Which one organised on the mandates currently held by the SNP would be.

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  2. If you want a massive SNP/Yes vote, just get English MPs to tell Scots that if they vote SNP, then England will just cancel the result and hand the election to unionists.

    That's actually what the English government is saying right now. I cannae believe it.

    And it's a permanent Yes vote generator. You don't swing back from this.

    Currency...pensions...oil...economy...these are all grey areas the arguments for which may ebb and flow and voters with them. The bigger, powerful neighbour moving to turning a voluntary union into an occupation, cancelling elections (effectively) / democracy, is quite different.

    Do this and there are no more Scottish unionists. Like it or not, there are people who are both Scottish and unionist right now, but no Section 30(s) wipes them out. To be a unionist, you must be voluntarily so as unions are voluntary.

    No Section 30 and we are no longer in a union. We cannot call it that any more. The name 'United Kingdom' ceases to have meaning as it is not united; unity is by nature voluntary. The union flag must be lowered across Scotland by Scots (although the occupiers may raise them again as that).

    And if Labour + the Libs do not fight the Tories on this with every fibre, then they become collaborators.

    To wish the union is a perfectly acceptable position. Nats might not agree with it, even think it mad, but people have their own reasons. However, it is never, ever acceptable to take away the free choice to in in the union, which is what Scots, particularly unionists, have always believed they had.

    And polling shows this clear as day. Scots might actually say 'We don't think it's the time' depending on the situation, but they always say in massive, 1997 type numbers 'The decision rests with us/Holyrood and not England'.

    If you want 1997 Yes type levels, this is how you do it.

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    1. No Section 30 and we are no longer in a union. We cannot call it that any more. The name 'United Kingdom' ceases to have meaning as it is not united; unity is by nature voluntary.

      Is it? Membership of the USSR was involuntary, and I don't recall anyone objecting to it being called that. The USA suppressed secession by force, but the "U" is still in there.

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    2. And the Democratic Republic of North Korea is democratic? The name of a country isn't always an accurate description.

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    3. Scottishskier:

      "but they always say in massive, 1997 type numbers 'The decision rests with us/Holyrood and not England'."

      So let's make *that* the (first) consultative referendum, then.

      I'll leave the precise wording to experts like yourself, but something like:

      Do you believe the Scottish Government has the right to hold a binding referendum without approval from the UK Government? Yes/No.

      Then take our landslide victory in such a referendum to No. 10 and the Supreme Court.

      Everybody knows the Scottish people's position on this issue, but let's make it as loud and clear as possible.

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    4. We had a legally held referendum 4 and a half years ago and the answer was no.

      Doesn't matter brexit, doesn't matter bozzer johnson, doesn't matter how hard feet are stamped. The referendum on scottish independence has been done.

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    5. Westminster is forcing the hand of the young men and women just as they have done in Ireland and many other places. They won't leave until damage has been done and they have brought hatred on themselves. Just recently Cyprus, Aden,Kenya how many countries have fought against British imperialism and now have hatred for Westminster? Do they always want bloodshed?

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  3. "Why do the Tories appear to be abandoning that circumspection?"

    I think the Tories are worried that they are losing some of their uber-Unionist, pro-Brexit voters to Farage.

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    1. Pretty sure that's the main reason.

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  4. Davidson has been "reprogrammed" by The Today Westminster Government to say No. I see video of her saying the direct opposite after the EU Referendum is circulating on twitter. I hope all her pro-EU comments will also be circulated when she is "reprogrammed" to say we have to leave the EU and accept May's deal.

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  5. Ruth Davidson and friends keep saying that she will be the next First Minister of Scotland. Is this because after a successful Brexit, the Tory government at Westminster will turn on the SNP and make them illegal, thus thwarting any form of independence or even further devolution?

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    1. Kezia Dugdale has as much chance of being the next FM as Davidson.

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    2. Folk say such daft things. If they intended to make the SNP "illegal", why would they have to wait until after Brexit?

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    3. It would be great if the SNP were illegal but this bampot is dancing round with the fairies in lala land.

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    4. I dance with the moon.
      I giggle on the boulevard.
      My life is a cup
      From Armjet Puffregard.

      Birthday Greetings to Her Highness, the Queen of the May.

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  6. Well when a significant part of the electorate are inbred idiots I think that the they think they can get away with being anti Scottish for the rest of their crooked diseased lives.

    What other conclusion is there when they are competing for votes with Farage?

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    1. At last some self awareness that you jocks are inbred idiots although your deluded if you think your a significant part of the electorate, far from it. The inbreeding must be quite extreme given the state of jocks like the Groundskeeper Willie Clown. The GWC family tree must be a sight to behold.

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    2. State of this eugenics enthusiast.

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    3. GWC is British.

      Don't 'mis-national identity' him.

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    4. The Groundskeeper Willie Clown is most definitely a Mcjocko jockyboy jocknatsist. As for Miss National Identity I'd have to go for Swedish in first, then the dark med looking Italian, then the gorgeous Dutch, then something exotic probably Venezualan and in fifth and final place something eastern European due to their exceptional levels of performance, probably Czech. The GWC inbred idiot wouldn't get any of them though, he's lucky to have his Nat sis, that's his natsi missus/sister.

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    5. Cordelia there, sharing entirely too much about its unrequited lusts.

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  7. Davidson has merely demonstrated once again that she has nothing to say whether it be on Brexit, devolution or a second referendum. She changes her tune at the drop of a hat. A classic example of style over substance. She cannot take pressure and falls apart in interviews where she is put on the spot. Her messiah status is a piece of media puff aided and abetted by her journalist colleagues. She would make a terrible FM and could never hold a deeply divided Tory party together as PM. That it was ever suggested beggers belief.

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  8. The British nationalist media continues to be the main enemy of Scotland.

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    1. It is the EU who are the enemy and those pretend Scottish Nat sis who support that corrupt org.

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    2. Cordelia's guttered already. Poor snivelling Britnat si.

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    3. The EU doesn't deny member nations the right to vote. The UK does it would seem.

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    4. Lol. Got that totally the wrong way around. EU does allow you to vote (and freely leave), but the UK doesn't.

      Mixing my unions!

      Scots are getting to see how democratic the EU. By contrast, the UK appears to be an English fascist state where its EVEL government decides whether the other nations can have independence (and says no).

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    5. Ok, just ignore me. I must have been drinking some of what GWC has.

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    6. Scottish skier no one could ignore you. Your comments like mine will go down in the anus of history. I do like a nice dry pinot grigio followed by a turps and bellair cocktail

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    7. Skier is definitely piste.

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    8. Skokie D is well iff-puste.

      She's NYUTTS. NYUTTS!

      alemon and line

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  9. James raises some very important points in this and the last blog post. In light of the continuing media bias against the SNP with offcom finding BBC and Andrew Neil guilty of misleading viewers over education statistics (made up - by Tories) and the obfuscation of the BBC's own complaints procedure is not time the SNP did something about it all? The papers just make up stories, the BBC misrepresents, carefully frames or selectively covers the news in a way designed to be a negative take on the SNP. Hostile interviews are the norm for the SNP while weak and cosy interviews feature for the Unionist parties and the likes of Nigel Farage. If the SNP was a person the Daily Mail would be her stalker - yet nothing gets done. Some time ago we were told that Keith Brown was going to set up a rebuttal service with fact-checking service and other strategies to balance the SNPBAD approach of our media but I dont see it doing anything. Is it that the SNP really don't see the damage this unchallenged negative reporting is doing for independence? This I feel is an area that the SNP have to address if we are to offer the people of Scotland a trully informed view of Scottish politics and our way of life - without that how can we expect them to be able to transfer from No to Yes or even for that matter from Yes to No? I used to find it strange that broadcasting was reserved alongside nuclear power etc., but we all know why now. So, shouldn't the SNP be more active in this area? Shouldn't they be pressing for the devolution of broadcasting and the overseeing of standards and complaints moved from OFFCOM and IPSO to a Scottish based watchdog? The present situation shows that the present complaints procedures do not work for the interests of the Scottish people. Information should inform.

    I have also been rather bemused by the apparent abandon many of our well known reporters to tweet obviously partisan views against the SNP and independence - this sort of behaviour I think must call into question their objectivity and this is particularly important from the tweets of those emplyed by the 'impartial' BBC. Perhaps, since our politicians have few avenues open for them to inform the public through the MSM it is time for them to take a more combatitive postion on 'unfriendly' or 'impolite' programmes to address the present fashion for agressive but ill-informed journalism. Perhaps our MSPs should take a 'haud on a minute' approach and attack the journalist with some well chosen and pre-prepared examples of their biased tweets or verbal rantings in other areas. For example, any SNP politiician should now raise Andrew Neil's lies in any interview he has with them. Maybe, if we cannot break through the news we can make the news by taking reporters to task at every juncture. Training for this should be provided by the party, and perhaps Keith Brown's rebuttal service could start there. We need to do something.

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    1. I doubt Andrew Neil is a liar. He just spouts what the producer wants. I assume the Scottish Nat sis are lily White on the so called truth. To say Scotland voted to remain is a twisted deviation from the truth in what was a UK only election, truth and lies take different forms.

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    2. No one is gonna read this diatribe of shite you muppet.

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    3. Molly Molly moopy.

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    4. Hi GWC I voted to leave as it happens. Its actually about giving the public the truth good or bad that I believe in to make their own minds up. I am for independence and want to leave EU but having a very biased media on one side only makes for a poor democracy. As for the fellow Unknown - if it was referring to my post then shove it where it belongs you muppet. we can all behave like assholes when we don't face each other - at least GWC has a consistent viewpoint.

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    5. I think you'll find it's arseholes and your lips are firmly planted on the Groundskeeper Willie Clown's. Be careful though because the GWC jocknatsist inbred idiot's Nat sis may get jealous, that's his natsi missus by the way who's also his sister. Many thanks again to Iain More for the enlightenment.

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    6. The mask is starting to slip from the jocknatsi party line, just look at what their members are saying, they want us to leave the EU, they want Westminster Tory governments and they want No Deal, anything that they believe furthers their extremist, divisive, seperatist agenda. Be very careful England don't be deceived by these wolves in sheep's clothing charlatans.

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    7. How did you vote, GWC?

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    8. Cordelia doesn't vote. Voting is a betrayal of the democratic will of the people.

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  10. I heard from an insider that Ruth Davidson couldn't stop farting during her interview.

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  11. I wonder which lucky gal was so far inside Ruth she could hear every trump.

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    1. Fruity minstrel. Ivory chunks.

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  12. I've had enough of all this. They make me sick.

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    1. Don't say that Rodney. Remember when you said it the last time and the whole Framboise Gommedy thing blew up.

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  13. Some good news at last...

    Happy Birthday, Princess Charlotte, our future Queen.

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