Sunday, August 27, 2017

Tommy Sheppard is wrong : the independence referendum should be held before the May 2021 election

I've only just discovered, via Peter A Bell's blogpost, that Tommy Sheppard used his Thomas Muir memorial lecture the other day to argue that there should not be an independence referendum until after the next Holyrood election.  (This, incidentally, means the Sunday Herald were perhaps not quite so wide of the mark after all in suggesting a few weeks ago that Sheppard had 'broken ranks' and was calling for the referendum to be 'parked'.)  You won't be surprised to hear that I think he's recommending a course of action that would be an enormous strategic error.

Now, in fairness, judgements over the timing of an independence referendum are a bit like the dilemma in rugby over whether you should "take the three points" when awarded a penalty - in other words, either decision can be the 'right' or 'wrong' one depending on what happens next, which is unknowable in advance.  If Nicola Sturgeon plays the long game, if Brexit proves to be an unmitigated disaster very quickly, if Labour slip back into chaos and disunity, if the SNP reverse the recent swing against them and don't lose any seats at the 2021 election, if they still have the arithmetic to call an indyref after that election, and if a Yes vote is won, then obviously Sheppard will look like a strategic genius.  But there are an awful lot of 'ifs' there.

Here's something we do know pretty much for certain - there will be a pro-independence and pro-referendum majority in the Scottish Parliament until May 2021.  The only realistic way that won't be the case is if the Greens reverse policy, which in practice would be very hard for them to do given that so many of their current members joined as a direct result of their involvement in the Yes campaign.

We don't have a clue whether the pro-independence/pro-referendum majority will survive the 2021 election, but we do have perfectly rational reasons for worrying that it might not.  Polling evidence in the run-up to this year's general election suggested that a lot of independence supporters were 'cross-voting' (which primarily meant voting Labour), while very few opponents of independence were returning the compliment by voting SNP.  Unless that trend changes (it may do, but it may not) it's quite possible that even a strong popular majority in favour of independence in 2021 would translate into an anti-independence majority at Holyrood, thus making a referendum impossible until at least 2026.  The irresponsible rhetoric of Cat Boyd and her supporters only serves to make that scenario more likely.

Bearing in mind the relative certainty that exists until May 2021 and the complete uncertainty thereafter, it seems more than a little crazy to suggest that we should wait until just after the point at which we may no longer have a majority for a referendum.  Sheppard's answer seems to be that if we can't win a pro-independence majority at the 2021 election we wouldn't win an independence referendum anyway, but that logic is wholly misconceived.  Persuading people of the virtue of holding a referendum is an entirely different task from trying to persuade them to vote in a particular way in a referendum that is already underway.  Here's an analogy that might seem silly at first but I think is a good one - every year, I dread Christmas, and if I could vote to put it off, I would.  But when it actually comes round, I usually enjoy it and don't want it to end.  There are people who for temperamental reasons find the anticipation of a second intense referendum campaign unbearable and would always vote against holding one, but who would nevertheless vote Yes if it actually happened.  Winning a mandate for another referendum is arguably a tougher task than winning the referendum itself, and that's a truth the Parti Québécois can attest to.

We're incredibly fortunate in that we've already won a mandate to hold a referendum in this current parliament. We should use it. For the avoidance of doubt, that does not mean a referendum next week, or even necessarily before the day Britain officially withdraws from the EU. There are almost four years to go until the 2021 election, so there's still plenty of time to play a relatively long game while not throwing away the existing mandate.

118 comments:

  1. Agreed. Surprised that TS doubts us so much. Who knows what WM will close down/disarm once they are free of EU scrutiny. We'll be holding Scottish parliament sessions on hillsides once WM 'gains back control' of their laws. We have history to tell us how the UK has misbehaved in countless countries all over the world. You think they won't do it to us?

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    1. I'm not sure why you see the EU as a guarantor of devolution. This country was devolving and decentralising power and bestowing rights when continental Europe was still an assortment of communists, fascists and military juntas. We don't need them to keep us on a moral path. We're quite capable of doing that ourselves.

      Devolution will only be cancelled if an abolitionist party wins a majority in Holyrood, holds a referendum, and wins it. In other words, the will of the Scottish people.

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    2. Exactly!
      I wonder do you finally once and for all have what it takes? Especially if certain ranks don't do as they have promised to do. Will you stand with us? Scotland
      1 + 1 = 1? because, when 2 come together they become 1

      We do not forgive,
      We do not forget,
      And when they seek
      to oppress you
      And when they try
      to destroy you,
      Expect us

      You obviously need to be handled with care, no matter the situation. You can be easy at times and you can be extremely complex at other times. Some will say this is what it's like to be human, and they're right. But in your case there's the need for extra care,

      saorsa na h-Alba beidh a bhith a 'deàrrsadh solas airson an t-saoghail. Rise daoine cumhachdach.
      Who am I ? Who are you?

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    3. What's with the Gaelic? Virtually no one speaks it and those who do also speak fluent English. It was never the national language of Scotland and was confined to the Highlands and Islands. Now it's basically the Western Isles.

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  2. It should not be about whether we have the arithmetic after 2021 or not, but whether it gives us the best chance to win. I think making that election about independence would be the best way of energizing the debate and hopefully propelling us to victory in the referendum. If not the idea of holding one before and expecting to win... based on the polls and the weariness of the electorate is probably the wrong one.

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    1. "It should not be about whether we have the arithmetic after 2021 or not, but whether it gives us the best chance to win."

      That doesn't make sense. The most obvious prerequisite for winning a referendum is the ability to hold one. There's only one election every five years - if we don't use the existing mandate we might end up waiting decades for the next one (and that could be, for example, because we keep falling just one or two seats short of a majority - a miss is as good as a mile).

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  3. Well, it makes sense to me. It is more important that we win the next referendum, not hold one just because we might lose the next election. Hardly a ringing endorsement. It is not an easy call..as you concede yourself. On balance i think TS approach would give us the best chance of success.

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    1. How can we win a referendum that isn't held? And what does 'lose the next election' mean? I'm not talking about the SNP being ejected from office - the more likely scenario is that the SNP win but no longer have a pro-independence majority in parliament. I don't think this is a difficult call at all - if you're serious about holding and winning a referendum, you do it when you can, not when you can't.

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    2. Winning without a pro Indy majority could be the worst possible outcome for the SNP. Being completely ejected gives them a chance to come back strongly in 2026. What's the chance they go from minority to majority again after nearly 20 years in power? Pretty much negligible you would think. So a minority SNP government in 2021 takes Indy off the table not for 5 years, but ten.

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  4. It is important to keep all options open. An immediate referendum is a non starter. 2021 maybe a bit late, in this Parliament. The demographic split means later is better. Later also removes the EU as a divisive issue (it's already about four years too late to stay in the EU. Against which there is the danger that EU citizens will have left, or lost the franchise, after 2019. We still need to see the shape of Brexit, and the possibility of a transitional period after March 2019 muddies the water.

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  5. We don't know how diluted the powers of Scottish parliament will be. The Torys could put a lot of obstacles in our way. Like not allowing 16-18 year olds to vote. Not allowing migrants living in Scotland to vote. Make the required win rate 55% . Who is going to stop them once we leave EU law ?. First ministers original date should stand. It should be at the interim period while eu country's decide wether to vote for the negotiated deal. For better or worse it's our best chance of getting a fair referendum.

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    1. Why should foreigners vote in a Scottish election?

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    2. Because they live here. Any other questions?

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    3. I lived in Germany but did not want to or expect to vote in that country. I was a visitor I am a Brit Scot...You nat sis are losing young James and that is self evident, TS and fellow nat sis will be happy to take another ten years salary from the British taxpayer but mouth off about a referendum on occasion to keep the faithfull mugs on board....Jockanories indeed.

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    4. So I presume you believe that English-born people should be banned from voting in Scotland? How would you justify that?

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    5. I did not presume. People resident in Scotland and are British Citizens should have the vote... Do you have an issue with that young James? Although I would allow all British citizens to vote in a Scottish referendum.

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    6. Well, which is it? Do you think non-Scots who live in Scotland should be allowed to vote? My answer is Yes. What's yours?

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    7. If you are a non Scot then you are a non British Citizen therefore vote in your own country when you are not visiting Scotland...

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    8. Crikey. So you want English-born people excluded from voting. You do realise that might well have produced a Yes vote in 2014? Are you quite sure about this?

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    9. The franchise should consist of:

      Those resident in Scotland, but not EU migrants due to their divided loyalties over brexit.

      The Scottish diaspora within the United Kingdom.

      Scottish members of the military posted overseas.

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    10. Why do you want to so blatantly rig the franchise, Anon?

      Oh yeah, silly me, you think Yes will win if there's a fair vote.

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    11. What I've proposed is fair. Why should EU nationals get to vote when they have a clear conflict of interest post brexit and why should they get the vote but not Scottish people living elsewhere in the same sovereign state?

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  6. Corbyn is promising Federalism within the UK.
    The question is,who is his target audience and why.
    England has made it clear in the past that it is not interested in this idea,why should they when Westminster is effectively their parliament anyway.
    Northern Ireland....how would Sinn Fein react to that proposal?
    Wales,well who knows and as far as London is concerned,who cares.
    Scotland,the final frontier,for the British Empire which they must retain at all costs if they are to continue to consider themselves a "player" in global affairs.
    That is his target and it will be a question of how many Scots are taken in by Vow 11.
    I see where Tommy is coming from but he hasn't taken into account perfidious Albion and it's need to be feel important.
    Should Corbyn succeed in planting the (false) aspiration in left leaning Scots of a federal UK state,then our chances of winning a future independence referendum will be greatly diminished.
    This must be done before the next Holyrood election.

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    1. I'm not entirely sure why a federal UK is a desirable thing. The US is federal - you want to emulate them?

      A federal system in the UK can't include an English Parliament. Too big, too powerful. England would need to be broken into regions. A Midlands parliament, a North East parliament etc. But if we're going to impose that on England (they certainly wouldn't vote for it), why not also break up Scotland? A Highland Parliament, a Greater Glasgow Parliament etc. More local than Holyrood and means we can have a fair federal United Kingdom.

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    2. If JC doesn't know that there is a separate body of law in Scotland what hope is there for a 'federation' being cobbled together..?

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    3. I see you wrote vow 11,now I did presume you meant vow 2,but with all the previous vows and promises that got broken,from 1974 the promise of the Ministry of Defence was coming to Glasgow and the old ST.Enoch's hotel was being made into their HQ,then we had a snap election and we lost a number of MP,s and so of course the promise by Labour then was tossed out,the SNP were no longer a threat to them,I cant remember the numbers but is was something like from 14 MP,s to 4 MP,s might have been 11 to 3,sorry drugs and age fog my memory sometimes and just after two (Morphine Sulphate 10MG)pills.I also go off track now and then.Anyhow eleven vows and promises etc; probably make much more than 11 either way we read it,and all residents are eligible including 16-18 year-olds.No holiday home voters though and watch for a big influx of folk now staying with friends and relations coming in from other parts of the UK to help massage the unionist vote.

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  7. Some argue that the franchise should be restricted to those who have lived here for X number of years and have made a contribution. Personally, I think it should be the same as the last one, even if it means a lot of "life-stylers" will get a vote.

    Then there are those of us who think we should just declare Independence and ditch a referendum. Referendum's are a hopeless way of deciding complex issues, as we saw with the liefests that were the last two.

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    1. Voting restricted to those who make a contribution? So taxpayers then? The breadwinners? The givers, not the takers? Good luck getting a yes vote with half your core vote taken out.

      "Referendums are hopeless at deciding complex issues". But apparently UDI is a tool nuanced enough to cope with the complexities you talk about.

      I'm glad the SNP top brass seems to be made up of semi reasonable people, with the zoomers at the bottom of the pile just as powerless as the rest of us.

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    2. Anon: people can "make a contribution" even as a non-tax-payer. "Stay at home" parents make a contribution, volunteer workers make a contribution, many people on zero-hours contracts may not reach the tax threshold but they also make a contribution.

      I think the phrase simply means those people who make Scotland their home, and live here permanntly (rather than people with second homes or holiday res, perhaps?)

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  8. I will be polite and say I think Mr Sheppard is being extremely short sighted here. Delaying until after 2021, is exactly what I think Theresa May was pushing for with the now is not the time spiel. If there is no referendum before 2021, we could be waiting at least a generation before the next chance to have one. Unionists will be delighted by the no referendum pledge until some unknown future date. As far as I can see the SNP appearing soft on this is why they didn't get their vote out, and this would kill any chance of an independence majority from 2021 onwards.

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  9. Unionists love the thought of being able to gerrymander, pochle postal votes and their election expenses. God know what other anti democratic wheeze they're cooking up. Once we know the Brexit deal, we call a referendum whether the Gorgon wants one or not. Simply that.

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  10. Remember what happened after indyref 1 - the SNP had a massive boost in the next Holyrood and Westminster elections.

    If we have indyref 2 before the next Holyrood elections then, in the event of a second defeat, indy supporters would once again rally around the SNP to make sure the issue stayed on the table.

    Like you say, if we wait until after the next Holyrood elections we may not be in a position to even get another indyref.

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  11. Totally in agreement that we need EU as final arbitrator. Leave it till after 2021 and even if you hold a referendum and win it whats to stop WM simply saying any constitutional change requires UK wide Referendum and gerrymandering one in England to get the result they want.
    We have ro remember if we play in their game they make the rules,its the opposite with the EU. England is playing in the EU's game they make the rules.

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    1. The EU wont be arbitrating anything of note in this country anymore. Britain voted to leave. It would be unacceptable to have them interfere in our internal politics as we are leaving and after the people have rejected the EU in a democratic vote.

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    2. Right-wing elements within the english political elite have attempted to undermine the political stability and integrity of the EU and with it the post-war stability in Europe. I am certain the EU will only to be happy to reciprocate.

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    3. Undermining the political stability and integrity of the EU has been accomplished by the EU itself. Now it has no borders, a failing currency and terrorists running wild. Let me guess - it's Britain's fault because we didn't veto some of the dafter stuff coming out of Brussels over the years?

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    4. As for borders England's seem to be getting more virtual by the day. Failing currency, I take that to be a joke with Sterling depreciating by the day against the €/$. As for terrorism remind me who invaded Iraq, overview Gadaffi and backed the Jihadis in Syria ?.

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    5. Let me guess - England?

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    6. wrong, correct answer is Little England

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    7. There is a little Scotland as well you know. It paints its face blue, talks about the butchers apron, and professes its love of the EU and independence without a hint of irony. Luckily enough, it hasn't been particularly successful.

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    8. Scotland has a trade surplus, is self sufficient in water,food and energy. As a full EU member going forward its going to have a great 21st century while England returns to its 16th century borders with its 18th century political system and elite.

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    9. Or, the far more likely scenario:

      Brexit takes years to hammer out by which point the SNP and Greens are on about 40 seats between them in the Scottish Parliament. Europe goes through some much needed reforms that make it even less attractive to the nationalists and brexit turns out to be not as horrible as expected as we strike a free trade deal with the richest nation on earth, the good old US of A.

      God Bless America.

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    10. Brexit will be concluded within two years of article 50 being triggered, March 2019, followed by ratification by EU 27.
      Reforms in the EU will be in line with the social democratic model that the majority of the Scottish population wants.
      England currently has trade deals either with major economies in the EU or through EU trade deals with other major global economies. It has major trade deficits with all of them (Germany $42.7 billion, China $40.9 billion 2016) apart from US (surplus $1.3 billion, Ireland $5.3 billion). So that the thing with trade deals, their reciprocal and given England's appalling productivity record the more trade deals that its strikes the greater the trade deficit will become.

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    11. 2019 only brings to an end the negotiation period. That period may be extended and there will likely be a transitional phase. This could last anything from 1 year up to a decade. Then we need to let the new trade deals bed in.

      This isn't going to be over for a looooooong time!

      EU reforms will either make the EU a looser, less formal arrangement or turn it into a proto-state. Scotland doesn't benefit from a loose club of countries as it needs a paymaster to replace England - it needs full fat EU, in other words. The other, more likely scenario - further political and fiscal integration - gives you the funding but deprives you of independence.

      You need to consider that one third of nationalists are eurosceptic. Anything that makes the EU more monolithic will worsen that problem for you.

      Trade deficits take account of hard goods - not services at which Britain excels.

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    12. Treaty ratification in 2019.
      EU reforms will harmonise tax and social policies within EU.
      Scotland needs no paymaster only BLISS (British Labour in Scotland) needs sinecures and backhanders.

      Trade deficits take account of hard goods - not services at which Britain excels.???
      The UK’s deficit on trade in goods and services widened by £2.0 billion to £4.56 billion in June 2017 from a revised £2.52 billion in May. It was the biggest trade gap since September last year, as imports rose in the month by 3.3 percent to an all-time high of £53.95 billion, due to an increase in purchases of both goods and services. Exports dropped 0.7 percent to £49.39 billion. In the second quarter of the year, the trade deficit widened to £8.94 billion from £8.84 billion in the previous three-month period. Balance of Trade in the United Kingdom averaged -1472.97 GBP Million from 1955 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 2946 GBP Million in March of 1981 and a record low of -6058 GBP Million in November of 2013.

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    13. Balance of trade considers export / import of physical products only.

      Balance of payments is what takes into account everything including services.

      Could you link to some of your sources please and also explain why such deficits make the United Kingdom uniquely unsuited to prosper outside of the European Union, as scores of nations do?

      "Treaty ratification in 2019". Not guaranteed. A unanimous vote of the 28 EU countries can extend that deadline indefinitely. Then there is the transition period - 1 year, 5, 10? Nobody knows. But it's pretty much guaranteed there will be one.

      "EU reforms will harmonise tax and social policy". Yep. Uniformity - much more of it. Very difficult to sell as 'independence'.

      Aldo

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  12. The constitution being a reserved issue, this is out of the control of the SNP. That's the basic fact a lot of people seem to forget.

    Even if Westminster agreed to one, there could be a legal challenge against both governments jointly, something along the lines of "the Edinburgh Agreement 2012 said the referendum would be legal, fair and decisive and would be respected by both governments - an agreement that both parties are now reneging on by holding another referendum so soon after the first".

    I would expect the UK government to uphold the UK. That means no indyref until the Scottish people have the long view on brexit and have elected an unambiguous pro indyref majority.

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    1. Point 1 - The Edinburgh Agreement is not legally binding and therefore no legal challenge can possibly result from it.

      Point 2 - The Edinburgh Agreement has been respected in full.

      Point 3 - It's likely (although this could be tested in court) that the Scottish Parliament already has the power to hold a consultative referendum, in which case it's none of Westminster's business.

      Point 4 - The Scottish people have already elected an unambiguous pro-indyref majority. There is a 69-59 pro-indyref majority in the Scottish Parliament.

      But apart from all that, what a fabulous comment, Anon.

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    2. How has the Edinburgh Agreement been respected? You've been agitating for a rerun or independence by alternative means since day 1 after the indyref. It's an absolute falsehood that the referendum was respected. Sturgeon wanted to hold another after a time period of 4 years. Local councils sit for longer.

      "The Edinburgh Agreement wasn't legally binding". But the referendum was. The British government was obliged to carry out the outcome, in full. It goes against that if it opens up the process again within the shelf life of some foodstuffs.

      None of the MSPs from any party were elected on a clear commitment to hold an indyref. This is in sharp contrast with 2011 when the SNP said "we will do it" and won an outright majority on that manifesto.

      A consultative referendum is a consultative referendum, with no legal weight behind it.

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    3. The Edinburgh agreement was respected because they won the 2014 referendum. At any point they don't accept any democratic decision in Scotland (either in the Parliament or in a referendum) what's going to be done about it ?.
      UN ? Not a member, not even a sovereign state. EU ?. After March 2019 not even a member.

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    4. Anon (the first Anon, I mean) : I think you need to re-read the Edinburgh Agreement as a matter of some urgency, because you appear to be labouring under the misapprehension that there's a provision in it about the abolition of democracy in Scotland in the event of a No vote. I can assure you that there is no such provision.

      Scotland narrowly voted No. It therefore did not become an independent country, and will not become an independent country until and unless the No vote is overturned in another free and democratic vote. The Edinburgh Agreement has thus been respected - not just in part, but in full.

      As you know, every single Scottish National Party MSP was elected in May 2016 on an unambiguous manifesto commitment that an independence referendum could be held if Scotland was dragged out of the EU against its will. I don't know if you've noticed this, but Scotland is currently being dragged out of the EU against its will.

      Let me know if you need anything else explained to you.

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    5. "Decisive"

      "Will be respected by both sides".

      This clearly isn't the case. If you reopen the matter again so soon, you fail to respect the outcome of the vote. Decisive and will be respected means what it says and doesn't allow for a rerun after 5 minutes.

      "Unambiguous manifesto commitment....that it could be held". That isn't unambiguous. Could means perhaps yes or perhaps no. So engagement in politics becomes a guessing game - IF A happens then B MAY follow. So how likely is A? And given that A doesn't guarantee B, how likely is B even if A happens? Of course it muddies the waters. You need a clear manifesto commitment to definitely hold one otherwise the electorate can't make a clear decision and an unambiguous statement about what they want to happen.

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    6. The result WAS respected by both sides. If you think Scotland is now an independent country, could you please supply some evidence of that? Alternatively, you could just stop flogging a dead horse. The Edinburgh Agreement was respected in full - you know it, I know it, the dogs on the street know it. Scotland is still part of the UK, and that cannot change without a democratic mandate.

      "IF A happens then B MAY follow. So how likely is A? And given that A doesn't guarantee B, how likely is B even if A happens?"

      I can simplify this problem for you considerably, old chap, because A did happen. Agreed?

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    7. We'll have to agree to disagree on what constitutes respect and decisiveness in big constitutional votes.

      The problem in saying something 'might' happen is that some people will assess that it won't happen or is unlikely to happen and will vote on that basis. You can only make an informed decision and state your will clearly when you are given an absolute choice. Indyref - yes or no? The people weren't given that choice. No candidate that was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2016 promised an indyref. Some candidates did run on that commitment - none got elected however.

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    8. No, we don't have to agree to disagree. You're simply wrong about the contents of the Edinburgh Agreement, and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to set you straight on several points of fact.

      Dancing on the head of a pin is not going to make the mandate for a second independence referendum go away, I'm afraid. The language in the SNP's manifesto was explicit - a referendum was on the cards "if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will".

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    9. But a referendum was not guaranteed, therefore the people did not have the chance to make a clear statement of their will. That's what a mandate is - a clear statement of the will of the people, delivered by the people in an election. But 4 million people can only speak with clarity if parties deal in absolutes - not might / maybe / possibly / on the cards. A mandate is not possible when such language is used.

      On the matter of personal opinion regarding what constitutes respectful and decisive, we live in a free country and people are entitled to disagree with you - and many do.

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    10. I'm sorry, but as the well-known saying goes, you are fully entitled to your own opinions - but not to your own facts. I do appreciate that's proving a painful realisation, but it's none the less important for that.

      It's truly depressing to see you use ludicrous points of pedantry to attempt to deny the validity of a democratic mandate, and I do hope you'll reflect carefully on that point in the weeks and months to come.

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    11. What's with the disappearing posts?

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    12. What disappearing posts?

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    13. I think some of my posts have disappeared. Not accusing you of deletion - maybe a glitch.

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  13. I'm not too attached to any particular date for a second referendum, but I disagree that "we have perfectly rational reasons for worrying that [a pro-independence majority at Holyrood] might not [survive the 2021 election]" when the evidence supplied is based on Westminster voting intention. Polls about Westminster don't cut it for me; I will believe that the pro-independence majority at Holyrood is in danger when I see polls about Holyrood voting intention.

    Many people who switched from voting SNP in 2015 to Labour in 2017 did so because they wanted to "vote for Jeremy Corbyn" (the number of people in the UK who seem to think general elections work like US presidential elections is a rant for another day). There is no such enticement in Holyrood elections. While I fully expect that Scottish Labour will try to hide their dearth of talent behind Corbyn's popularity (assuming that the Blairites don't succeed in ousting him before then, which is a big if), I expect that that it—like everything else Scottish Labour do—will be an embarrassing failure, if not something that backfires outright.

    I also agree with Tommy Sheppard that if there isn't a pro-indy majority at Holyrood, that probably does mean that a second independence referendum would come back no. Independence was defeated with a pro-indy Holyrood majority the first time, so I can't see how pro-indy MSPs becoming the minority in Holyrood could ever correspond to an increase in public support for independence.

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    1. The most important thing of all is that we dispose of the idea that the number of pro-independence MSPs is a guide to how well Yes would do at a referendum. It's really, really not. All it decides is whether Yes/No will be put to the vote.

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    2. Again, I disagree. Are you really claiming if every single MSP in Holyrood were pro-independence (assuming that anti-independence parties stood in the election), that that we could infer nothing about the level of public support for independence? And similarly, that if every MSP were anti-independence, having defeated pro-indy candidates in every constituency, a hypothetical independence referendum would still be winnable?

      I agree that the fluctuations in the number of seats held by pro-indy vs. anti-indy parties isn't all that meaningful when both are near 50%, as they currently are. However if one side broke away, and started getting >60% of the seats, I find it very hard to believe that wouldn't be reflective of the level of public support for independence support, assuming that such majorities aren't the result of low voter turn-out.

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    3. "Are you really claiming if every single MSP in Holyrood were pro-independence (assuming that anti-independence parties stood in the election), that that we could infer nothing about the level of public support for independence?"

      Let's deal with a more realistic scenario - one in which an SNP majority is elected, as happened in 2011. Yes, I am saying the 2011 result had very little to do with support for independence. People wanted Alex Salmond as First Minister and they didn't want Iain Gray. There wasn't much more to it than that.

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    4. I fully acknowledge that a pro-indy majority in Holyrood is not a sufficient condition for a yes vote, which is the point you seem to be making, but I think it's necessary one, and not just because you need such a majority to even be able to hold a referendum. Tommy Sheppard's point that I agree with is that if pro-indy parties cannot get the majority of Holyrood seats, it's very unlikely a second independence referendum—even if the governing party/parties were to hold one—would result in a yes vote anyway. I have yet to hear a convincing reason of why that's not true.

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    5. "I fully acknowledge that a pro-indy majority in Holyrood is not a sufficient condition for a yes vote, which is the point you seem to be making, but I think it's necessary one"

      The point I was making is much broader than you suggest, and I do wholly disagree with you. However, it's an academic point at the moment, because we have a pro-independence majority right now. It was elected only fifteen months ago. To put it mildly, I struggle to understand the logic for ignoring that fact and doing nothing for the next four years.

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  14. The thinking here seems to be that the referendum must be held before 2021 otherwise "it may be too late". A bit like nicking a biscuit out of the tin before your mum walks back into the room - it's time sensitive.

    Isn't this quite an immature approach to something so big and so permanent? The Scottish Parliament will exist beyond 2021. The SNP will exist. The potential for a future mandate remains. If the Scottish people deny that mandate by voting for unionist majorities parliament after parliament then that is their choice. The Scottish people will have spoken and the answer will be 'no'. On the other hand, if the appetite for independence grows organically or is spurred on by some cataclysm, then the mechanism is simple - a 45% vote for the SNP and a 50%+1 in the ensuing referendum and Scotland is an independent state.

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    1. Oh, for the love of God. The Scottish people have already delivered a mandate for a second independence referendum. The onus is therefore on you to explain why that mandate should be disregarded (which would be a bit like, er, nicking a biscuit out of a tin or...something).

      Alternatively, you could do the 'mature' thing and respect the people's decision. What's it to be?

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    2. The ambiguous multi party 'mandate' across conflicting manifestos isn't really a proper mandate - certainly not in the same way that 2011 was.

      What's the problem with running on a platform of "vote for us for indyref2" in 2021? By then we have an idea what's going on with brexit and the Scottish people can give their democratic answer, yay or nay?

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    3. In a proportional representation parliament, "multi-party mandates" are the norm, not some kind of weird exception. You do sound like a bit of a Westminster dinosaur.

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    4. But the Green manifesto took a different approach to Indy and neither party promised a referendum, even in the event of brexit.

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    5. Different parties' manifestos generally have different wordings. This is totally normal. Try and accept the fact that this is 2017. The world has moved on.

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    6. So they cobbled together two parties with vague and differing manifesto commitments and, in the case of the Greens, an unfulfilled precondition for a possible indyref2, and won a vote in parliament. But that vote is without mandate and without legal authority to do anything regarding independence. The next step involves Westminster and they are entitled to refuse authority. That would be no more illegitimate than the US Congress failing to agree with the executive branch and scuppering a bill.

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    7. I'll buy you a book about proportional representation. I don't think there's much point in continuing this conversation until you've read up on the subject, because at the moment you're just not quite 'getting' it.

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    8. I understand proportional representation well enough to know that the Scottish Parliament doesn't operate that system. At least, not fully.

      You seem to be struggling with the concept of mandates. If all 659 MPs at Westminster decided to restore burning at the stake for coin forgery tomorrow, it wouldn't have a mandate. Maybe some could point to some manifesto words about being "tough on crime" and "respecting British traditions" but realistically it would be a rogue parliament acting without popular authority and ignoring all sorts of laws, customs and agreements. What Holyrood is doing is somewhat less extreme but I believe the analogy still stands.

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    9. "I understand proportional representation well enough to know that the Scottish Parliament doesn't operate that system."

      WHAT?! Are you on drugs?

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    10. The Scottish Parliament operates a hybrid of FPTP and PR. It is not purely proportional. This is demonstrated excellently by recent elections. In 2011, the SNP got a 'majority' on 45% of the vote. In 2016, the unionist parties were held to a minority of seats despite getting more votes than the pro-indy parties. This again throws the 'mandate' claim into some disarray. Of course, Westminster governments can have mandates based on 35% of the vote - but they don't often propose earth shaking measures. An indyref2 could lead to the breakup of the state.

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    11. Oh, for pity's sake. The Additional Member System is not a 'hybrid of FPTP and PR'. It is a PR system in its own right. It apportions regional list seats correctively to make the overall composition of parliament proportional to the share of the vote cast for each party. It is not perfectly proportional, but there is literally no country in the world that uses a perfectly proportional system.

      You really do need to read that book. Urgently.

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    12. Whats the collective term for red herring's ? A fog of Red Herrings. This is utter garbage commentary on why why you cannot have a referendum....Its just mud slinging nonsense.

      It was solidly in the SNP maifesto, teh specific 'event' happened. They then voted for it in parliament. What more do you need ? In fact what more is possible ?



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    13. In the end this is a discussion about having a vote, they are not pushing UDI based on some mandate. It's a vote that can be won or lost. Unionists opposing this are being disingenious.

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    14. Hello RM.

      It's all a moot point without Westminster agreement - and that's probably not going to happen. The government will not open up a second front to the North, as it were, whilst they are still busy with the EU. No one can realistically expect them to place themselves at a disadvantage and endanger brexit, the economy and the union itself to hold a vote that, apparently, there is little appetite for in Scotland.

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  15. I don't worry too much about all this.Scotland will become independent when the people of Scotland want it badly enough.Until then,we'll remain in the UK,even if only by default.
    I'll continue with my daily little conversations....building confidence in Scotland,undermining confidence in the UK and its media.

    At this moment,we can't possibly know what the best time for a referendum will be,or even if a referendum is the best or only route to independence.
    At this moment,I need to be talking about why we need independence.I'm engaged in the independence movement.The precise detail of when a referendum will be held isn't my main focus just now.

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    1. The problem with independence and the yes movement in general is that different sections of support espouse mutually exclusive visions for what an independent Scotland should be. In 2014 we were going to be both a low tax oil based economy and a Green socialist economy. If two people are going to stand on the same platform and diverge so strongly, I want them to acknowledge that at least one of them must be talking mince.

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    2. This is exactly what is wrong with your approach.
      The decision on independence must be entirely about the right to make our own choices and not have them imposed on us by a parliament in another country.
      Until then,we only get the choices that English MPs decide for us.

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    3. It's more nuanced than that. The presence of Scotland in the UK has produced in the latest election a Tory-DUP confidence and supply arrangement rather than the Tory majority that would be in place without Scotland. I know the DUP are disliked due to their social policies but economically they are pretty left wing and the social stuff is limited to Northern Ireland only. So Scotland has had an effect - perhaps not to the extent that many would have liked but it is still a definite impact on UK governance.

      My point about mutually exclusive groups is a valid one. Some will get their wish, others will have their hopes completely dashed. If Scotland were to become a low tax, low regulation petro economy complete with fracking, how will the Greens and Socialists feel? They'll have broken up the UK for nothing, from their point of view.

      This is something worth considering for all supporters of independence. If you support Indy as a means to an end, how likely is it really that your goal will actually materialise once the dust has settled? If the answer is 'not very' or if the UK offers your dream a better chance of realisation, perhaps you ought to reconsider your support for independence.

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  16. I was at his lecture and thought he was wrong on the timing, though he did say he was talking as an individual and not as an SNP spokesman. The Unionists won't see it that way.
    It did require quite a few ifs and buts to be in place to have any chance at all.

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    1. I was was there too, and thought his view was a little bit calculated - and relied on anticipating failure at any earlier time. I did though sort of get the suggestion of a refreshed mandate to try and clear out all of the dead wood that is accumulating around the discussion.
      I'm back to my own pet thought that we should just bring our elections back in line with our original cycle, which would make the next one 2019, and then call that a mandate to negotiate away.
      There was a lot of support for the questioner that asked why not just do that in 2021, if we need to wait that long.

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  17. Arguably the Westminster vote in 2015 was a mandate for independence. It satisfied Mrs Thatcher's conditions, it was an absolute majority of the votes cast, we know the original referendum was subject to fiddles (eg the voters roll shrunk considerably afterwards ).

    The sweet spot was always going to be 2021. That date is now in limbo because of the Brexit. We have a mandate to call a vote now. The UN says countries have a right to self determination. Unconstitutional or not, we have every right to hold it whether Westminster has it reserved or not.

    We are being subjected to a tirade of British propaganda. All the food packets are being "flagged". The TV is just relentless SNP bad. We have the best opportunity ever to take this now, but if we are feart we will lose it forever. We all know that the next referendum will be our last chance. Win or lose I am going back to normal life afterwards. I would say let us wait out the Brexit negotiations and if its as bad as it could be, we go between 2019 and 2021. If Brexit is abandoned the EU will still make them keep our parliament. If it goes through then I am fearful they will emasculate or close it and we will be left with accepting forced assimilation into England or going the route all the other colonies went to take back their lands.

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  18. We should just have it the same day as the Holyrood election.

    Save a fortune in admin and campaigning expenses. Bearing in mind that the more ballots you have the more it favours the party with the deepest pockets.

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    1. The Scottish Government no longer holds council elections and Holyrood elections on the same day and criticised the UK government for holding the brexit vote within 6 weeks of the Holyrood vote. Given those positions, it seems unlikely they would hold indyref2 on the same day as a Scottish election.

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  19. The complexity of brexit means that realistically no referendum can be held before 2021. The very idea of having that debate and possibly separating from the United Kingdom whilst brexit is still on going - thus carrying out two complex and dangerous procedures in parallel in a nation usually renowned for its stability - is simply unthinkable. I get that some people are annoyed about the EU result but participation in brexit is a consequence of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum when we chose to not be independent. We must now go along with what is best for the UK and for Scotland and that means brexit fully implemented and settled before any future vote on Scottish independence.

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    1. The worst case for Scotland will be us being taken out from the jurisdiction of the European courts and left at the mercy of one of Europe's most right wing governments (Tories that is).
      Who knows what these maniacs will then get up to.
      We need to act before that happens.

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    2. I posted here questioning the Tories' perceived status as being 'right wing' and it would appear my post has been removed / deleted. I was not abusive in any way. Why has this post been deleted?

      The Tories political status aside, since 1992 they've spent 7 years with a tiny majority and the rest of that time either as a coalition, minority government or opposition. The big bad bogeyman of the Tories doesn't really work when they are a minority in parliament and won their last sizeable majority in 1987.

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    3. No such comment was deleted, so I've no idea what you're referring to. I've deleted several troll comments on this thread, but none of them fits that description.

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    4. Then your blog has something more technical going on with it. I've now had several inoffensive posts disappear moments after being put up.

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    5. Admit it James - you've appointed Mick as moderator haven't you?

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  20. I was dismayed by three things Tommy Shephard said. Firstly, that we in Scotland should accept Brexit, secondly that Independence should be tied to a referendum rather than any other process and thirdly that we should wait to see the clear shape of Brexit before having another referendum, which which unnecessarily ties the two together. I did agree that there is work to be done to convince more of our fellow citizens of the merits of independence and that independence offers the opportunity for progressive change and escape from a dreadful status quo embraced by all unionist parties.

    What Tommy said was hopelessly passive for a self-proclaimed radical. I have a horror that independence will become the SNP's clause 4, i.e. an aspiration only. I look to the independence movement to collectively and actively achieve independence by all democratic means, as quickly as possible.

    I strongly agree with James and Peter Bell that the government should use the mandates it has, not toss them in the bin.

    Tommy's analysis of the recent GE was interesting. The lack of a clear commitment by the SNP to pursuing independence surely deterred voters.

    One of the wonderful achievements of the referendum was the endorsement by so many to independence. We must build on this, not squander it, park it or factor it into other political considerations.

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    1. Can you explain what independence in the EU will mean for self determination of a nation...Do the Greeks have self determination in economic and fiscal matters?
      And back to James who avoided the question posed earlier. Would Scotland obey orders from the EU if told to stop trading with England!

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    2. Greece is still in the EU despite all that has happened.
      They can leave that union at any time of their choosing,unlike Scotland in England's union.

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    3. They are in the EU because they made a mistake in joining. However that does not answer what I put to James!

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    4. Greece is like the beaten wife of Germany. Impoverished, stripped of dignity, abused, taken for granted - yet still she stays. This is what the EU does - convinces people and nations that a lifetime of moderate pain is preferable to a moment of extreme pain followed by freedom. It's insidious and is why the EU must fall.

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  21. I think that those who have joined the party recently tend to believe that the SNP has always been fairly strong and influential in Scottish politics but, even after 2000 we were very much the also-rans. We did make gains in 2007 to form a minority and even more in 2011 but the really big advance for the SNP was in the UK General Election of 2015 on the back of the independence campaign rather than an SNP one. Those of us who campaigned for the SNPin the 70s, 80s and 90s are still acutely aware of how far back we can fall.
    So for us, it is worrying that Dugdale's and Davidson's crass "get on with the day-job" taunt has been so effective.
    I think, therefore, that the SNP's overall message is more important than the timing of the next referendum and it is that message that the SNP has been getting wrong recently.
    We have not found it easy being a third-term government advocating radical change. It has been too easy for our opponents to blame us for, for instance, our inability to deliver decent services, jobs, a buoyant economy etc and thus undermine our other message on independence.
    Remember Nicola squirming at the question from the Scottish nurse during the recent General Election campaign? How did the SNP manage to be left taking the blame for Scottish nurses' pay when a) it is a result of austerity which the Tories AND Labour in Westminster voted for in January 2015 and b) Scottish nurses are far better supported by Holyrood than nurses in England are by Westminster.
    It is because we have not developed an appropriate narrative to encompass government at Holyrood AND the case for independence together. Our failed attempts to take credit for small successes at Holyrood has undermined our credibility on the question of independence. We should be asking our critics "what do you think Austerity means?" Reduced services are an inevitable result of Austerity because is specifically geared to reducing spending.
    James is right, there are currently too many future imponderables (though I think they are currently mostly related to Brexit) to be developing hard and fast strategies but that doesn't mean we should have no coherent message.
    I was under the impression that Tommy Sheppard had been given the responsibility of developing the SNP's strategy on independence and getting it "out there."
    So let's stop worrying too much about the timing of indyref2 and get the campaign started. We can decide the exact date as things develop elsewhere. If we can link the narrative of government at Holyrood to independence, I believe we can be successful with both.

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    1. Agee with you as well. In fact, asking questions of the britnats, what are you doing to oppose the horrendous Tory austerity on our poorest? Why are your Labour councillors going into coalition with the tories across Scotland and cutting essential services and jobs?! Ask questions, make them squirm and don't let them get away with more lies. Labour are a disgrace, yet people will and did vote for them in June. In fact, if another 'snap' Gen election was held, what then for the SNP. With 100% of the media being 100% anti SNP, and able to lie about anything they fancy, at will, people believe it, they still believe the bbc! As has been said by someone on WoS, the SNP could give everyone a £million, but the britnats would still say SNP bad. They are between a rock and a hard place. So yes, it's a huge challenge, no matter when the next indy ref is planned for.

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    2. "Horrendous Tory austerity".

      It isn't really that horrendous actually. We spent absolute fortunes on welfare in this country. If some poor git falls through the cracks that's to be regretted and acted upon. But most of the time, people don't help themselves. Children are going to school with no breakfast because mum and dad prefer to spend their benefits on booze, fags and drugs. Tories' fault? Nope. Not in the mind of any reasonable person.

      "Labour councillors going into coalition with the Tories across Scotland"

      One council I believe - Aberdeen. Labour/SNP agreements are ten a penny though. Why are you in bed with the red Tories?

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  22. Hold a referendum before 2021. SNP needs to stop playing the Westminster game and start leading independence instead of defending. If Westminster try and place restrictions, we need to be brasher, bolder and fight for the right for self determination.

    Stop muddling the issue and say no to Westminster. This a short window and Holyrood as approved , we need to use. I suggest 2020 and by that time we see the Brexit mess and the referendum must be all in Scotland includes EU nationals and 16 -17 year olds.

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  23. I've said this before, but I'll say it again anyway. I don't trust Sheppard. This suggestion that we should defer holding a referendum until no referendum can be held is a bit of supporting evidence for my unease.

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    1. Yes, he carries a red tie, in his inside, jacket-pocket.

      I smell, a red tory rat.

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  24. I like Tommy. He was my first choice in the deputy leader contest but I disagree with kicking Indyref2 down the road until after 2021. Wow! That's seven years from 2014 and five years after Scotland is dragged out of the EU against our will!

    We mustn't play Westminster's game. We must play our own game and use the mandate otherwise we will never get another chance for another 20 years at least, like the long Thatcher years from 1979 to 1999, despite in 1979, the votes for devolution being 52% of the Scottish will. The will of Scotland's people is clearly worth less than the will of the England's people.

    The SNP have been too timid of late and suffered accordingly. The SNP should remember these three axioms:

    (a) If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

    (b) There is a tide in the affairs of men.
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
    On such a full sea are we now afloat,
    And we must take the current when it serves,
    Or lose our ventures.

    (c) have the courage of your convictions

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    1. But then there is also the possibility - indeed, likelihood - that you hold indyref2 before 2021 and lose. A second defeat will probably prove deadly for independence. Not many countries get to go three times and the ones that have done so aren't comparable with Scotland.

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  25. Totally agree with you James. No way should we wait, for the sake of it, until we may well not even have a mandate. When Brexit kicks in good and proper, and businesses go down the pan, when many will lose their jobs, and they can't blame that on the SNP Government, when food prices and other goods go sky high, then people will be only too happy to have another go at escaping the madness that is forced onto us by our neighbours. I am sure that, I hope that, Nicola Sturgeon has very good advisers, who are able to know the measure of things accordingly, keep ahead of the game re Brexit, and who are very good at knowing the psychological nuances re the Westminster political games. The SNP definitely need to be able to read between the lines, not be fooled, even by the Tory faux incompetence, keep working for Scotland, and play them at their own game of saying one thing, and doing another. Not to fool the people, but to foil any plans that the Westminster lot may have to disband Holyrood while the SNP are in government.
    We might need a 'snap' referendum, depending on which way the land lies. So to talk of putting it off for this Scottish political term is just daft. Keep the Britnats guessing, give them no ammunition, and we can then decide when and what is best for Scotland.

    The 'vow', the Smith commission, all lies. What will the britnats come up with next time. They might have no time to plan more lies, which is why they are in full on anti SNP, anti independence mode now.

    Keep them guessing, tell them nothing, procrastinate! Let the lying toads stew!

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    1. We're really not stewing you know. The British government is comprised of the Conservative and UNIONIST party and the Democratic UNIONIST party, reliant on Scottish UNIONISTS for its majority and has already told you naw - albeit in somewhat more diplomatic language.

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    2. I would go for a referendum now.

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    3. I wouldn't. There's always a chance they could win even if it's one in a hundred. Too many unlikely things have happened for me to casually dismiss anything. And they've got guys like Salmond who can charm a stone to vote for them.

      No, from the unionist point of view, no referendum at all is even better than a no vote. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to beat them again but it's not worth the stress and risk. We should grant a referendum only when no other option remains.

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  26. Interesting. I've just opened a letter from my local Labour councillor, inviting me to attend a street surgery. He is very eager to listen to any concerns I might have. Lol - I think most of it would be above his remit to be honest.

    This is good though. This is very good. The Labour Party is actually making an effort. The lesson of their bleaching in 2015 is being taken on board.

    If unionist parties work hard and care - or at least appear to - then that's what will drive their future recovery far more effectively than waiting for the SNP to trip up or relying on shouty headlines in papers like the express.

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  27. The BritNats used the fear factor in the 2014 referendum, you will lose this, you will lose that, with independence. The initiative is now with the SNP - Without the SNP to safeguard Scotland's interests, and if the UK leaves the EU, you will lose free prescriptions, univercity tuition fees for your children and grandchildren will be imposed, your state pension will be subject to means testing, the bedroom tax will be reinstated. Through higher taxes you will pay for HS2, Trident, and bankers' bonuses.Recruitment of 16 year olds for the armed forces will be embedded in schools.

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    1. Brexit will be completed before any indyref2. People will be able to see for themselves that this is all rubbish.

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