Leaked Tory memo confirms their plan to ignore the result of the next Scottish election, after ignoring Scotland’s Remain vote, & rejection of the Tories since 1955. An anti-democracy strategy that will only strengthen support for independence. 👍— Michael Gray (@GrayInGlasgow) October 19, 2020
I normally agree with Michael Gray about most things, but I can see a rather huge logical problem with his reaction to the Tory war gaming on how to thwart an independence referendum. The leaked tactics are not really about changing minds on independence - they're about subverting the democratic process even while support for independence is high. So if the SNP and the wider Yes movement define 'success' as strong opinion poll support for independence, in the absence of concrete progress towards an indyref or towards independence itself, we'd be playing straight into Westminster's hands.
One suggestion is that Westminster will not give a definitive 'No' to a Section 30 order in the aftermath of an SNP majority victory next year, but will instead imply that it's merely a 'No' in the short-term - essentially a rehash of Theresa May's "now is not the time" wheeze. If the SNP leadership remain boxed in by their insistence that the Section 30 process is the only valid route to a referendum, it's not hard to see how they could be successfully strung along for years without a great deal of effort. A vague (false) sense that a concession might be around the corner would be enough.
There's also an indication that Westminster could put together its own unilateral package on 'further devolution' (a complete joke given that the existing devolution settlement is in the middle of being gutted by the Internal Market Bill), hold a Yes/No referendum on it, and thus bypass the independence question altogether. That could potentially be quite an effective tactic unless the SNP stand ready to force a consultative indyref at around the same time. How else would they react to Westminster's referendum? Urge a boycott? Ask people to vote for new powers that are better than nothing, but spend the campaign complaining that they don't go far enough? Neither of those options would be particularly fruitful, and afterwards Westminster would just say that the new settlement within the UK is Scotland's "settled will".
Incidentally, even the merest possibility of another Vow-style promise of more devolution should be a warning to us of the importance of making abundantly clear to people that devolved powers are being taken away right now. The BBC are failing in their duty to keep the public informed, and the recent Progress Scotland poll confirmed that there is still considerable ignorance out there. So it really is up to us - we can't let Westminster get away with a false narrative that the history of devolution has been a one-way process of powers being steadily granted to Holyrood.
The only part of the war gaming that looks pretty naive and hopeless is the idea that the EU can somehow be "co-opted" into saying that there is no road back to membership for an independent Scotland. Quite how Britain is supposed to have gained sufficient goodwill with the EU during Brexit negotiations is something of a mystery.
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Steve Baker calling for the disestablishment of the Church of England in response to four bishops criticising the Internal Market Bill in a letter to the Financial Times is quite possibly the funniest thing I've read all year.
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