Sunday, June 6, 2021

Now Johnny he's a nationalist, but Johnny he's no fool, says all our problems will be solved when England gets Home Rule

A Scot Goes Pop reader emailed me last night asking for my view on Kenny MacAskill's comments on Home Rule, because he feared they had damaged the credibility of Alba.  I disagree - I think this episode tells us far more about the SNP, or at least about the people within the party who have jumped on Mr MacAskill's words.  We've been told for weeks that Alba are crazed extremists who are pushing too hard and too fast for independence, and now we're suddenly expected to believe that they're just pretending to support independence and that the SNP are the true radicals? Come on now - a touch of congruity and consistency is needed if these attack lines are going to stick.  Certainly if the SNP want to outflank Alba on the indy fundamentalist end of the spectrum (which would be a thoroughly welcome development) some action is going to be needed, rather than forever saying "in due course, in the fullness of time, at the appropriate juncture..."

My reading of what Mr MacAskill said is that he was, at least in part, calling out the fiction of the Scottish Government's position - ie. they demand a referendum, the answer is no, and then they demand it some more.  Somehow we have to break out of that endless cycle of futility - one way is via a Plan B on securing an independence mandate, and another is via a 'grand compromise' between the pro-independence and anti-independence camps, which is what Mr MasAskill was getting at.  But that would require willingness on the part of the Westminster government, which is totally lacking.

There's a challenge for both sides here.  If the SNP want to sneer at Mr MacAskill's mention of Home Rule and say that full independence is superior, that's fine, but they have to demonstrate that their support for full independence isn't just nominal.  One thing's for sure - Home Rule would be preferable to pretending to push for independence while tacitly accepting the status quo (or something worse than the status quo).

By the same token, if the Tories mean what they say about having had enough of constitutional division, they have to explain in a plausible way how that division is going to be brought to an end.  There are only really three possible outcomes from here - a) Scotland will become independent and the division will end due to former unionists accepting that the process is irreversible, b) there will be a 'grand compromise' involving the devolution of sweeping powers, or c) we'll just go on as we are with the division entrenched.  The Tories say that c) is what they don't want, but that's what they're perpetuating with their intransigence.  In practice, it suits them down to the ground, because the constant threat (but non-delivery) of a referendum keeps their core vote motivated.

I seem to recall Derek Bateman saying before the 2014 indyref that he'd have welcomed a compromise between Alex Salmond and David Cameron that delivered Devo Max in return for an agreement not to hold an indyref for ten or fifteen years.  There's something to be said for that on a "bird in the hand" basis...but it's an academic point at the moment given that Scotland simply doesn't have a willing negotiating partner.  Plan B on an independence mandate is the only game in town, and to a large extent that's what Alba is all about.


  1. The Kenny 'devo or death' Macaskill story made me laugh. He did walk right into that one! 'Home rule' are Broon's favour words.

    Anyway, for me, it's lucky we didn't get iref 2 in 2017 as it would have almost definitely been lost at about 48% Yes.

    Only by 2018 was there a chance of a Yes, assuming every single wavering Yesser jumped on board. Then maybe we could have got 52% Yes, but no guarantees.

    By 2019 it looked possible, but still risky as baseline was only ~47% Yes.

    Then the global pandemic arrived and we were too close to a new election to have an iref, as unionists could have used said election to undo / undermine a narrow referendum result.

    Now, it seems baseline is 50/50 and by next year it will be 51% or more, meaning a Yes result would be a forgone conclusion, with wavering voters giving us a Yes potentially into the upper 50's.

    If the result does appear to be inventible, Yes could grow even further as people decide to back the winning horse to ensure everything is firmly concluded.

    No need to rush. Do that and we stupidly end up with a very narrow no, only to see yes baseline exceed 50% six months later.

    This is why unionists prefer a referendum asap if there is to be one. Also why they berate the SNP for not holding one in 2017-19.

    1. Oh yes of course unionists want a referendum asap. That's why they're falling over themselves to grant a Section 30 order.

      *rolls eyes*

      Oh yes of course unionists wish there had been a referendum in 2017-19. That's why Theresa May granted a Section 30 order in 2017 when she could so easily have said "now is not the time".

      *rolls eyes*

  2. What were you expecting from Nicola is God cultists?

    As others have said, it gives us a chance to expose the Federalism Fairy when it can't hide behind the greater independence campaign.

    Just more proof that comfy slippers is expressing the true position of the Nicola model SNP.

  3. Can I assume, from the above, that neither the SNP nor Alba are actually interested in independence? The former through a careerist concept of their position and the latter through a complete failure to break through?

    IMHO it is down to the people to decide. I am not in the slightest convinced that Alba brings much to the table, except, perhaps a frankly ridiculous desire to have another referendum before the Scottish people are ready to vote 'yes'.

    Yup, it frustrates the heck out of me too. But it is independence I want, not some glorious failure.

    Perhaps you could explain how that could be achieved? For:

    "Plan B on an independence mandate is the only game in town, and to a large extent that's what Alba is all about."

    Err, no.

    Alba is about taking a risk that we will lose yet again.

    Gamblers, one and all.

    1. Not really, Douglas. The position as stated by MacAllister is clear and expressed eloquently on Sunday in Through a Scottish Prism. He wants Independence; belies Independence is the best for Scotland; and pushes for Independence as a first target.

      But, he's not going to turn away additional powers in the meantime. Given that the likelihood of a s30 anytime soon is remote, it makes sense to at least try to get some additional powers to Holyrood.

      That said, I think WM is more interested in reducing Holyrood's powers, not extending them - see IMB as an example and the expended "Scottish Office" as their means to that end.

      Alba seek independence first and foremost, but in the meantime, let's get what we can

  4. I am seriously beginning to look at the SNP with some degree of contempt - the party loyalty of SNPy mouths supersedes the cause of indy - they seem to believe all the tripe they spout - that is a recipe for failure and destruction.

  5. Just an idea for a future poll... with the local elections next year how hard would it be to do a ranking for voting intention? Aside from the immediate context of the locals, it would be particularly interesting to see just how many alba and snp voters are willing to give second preferences to the other party. Might provide some measure of Alba's potential in the future (should we still be chasing a referendum by the next general election). Maybe SNP voters don't detest Alba as much as the members seem to.

  6. Spot on
    Please read what Kenny actually wrote.
    We all want full independence but only a very trusting person believes SNP will call indyref/ anytime soon
    The impasse is real and it needs to be broken

  7. "There are only really three possible outcomes from here"
    You're forgetting d) Holyrood is wound up and Scots are put permanently back in their box. That's the preferred Tory choice after all.

  8. In your headline you mention 'home rule for England', but do not actually raise the issue. Clearly a nasty form of English nationalism is growing (it always was there), but there are also more reasonable and humane people beginning to think about devolution for England and an English Parliament. This is something to be encouraged.

  9. For the first time in a Scottish national parliamentary election, Yes parties just won a majority share of the vote. While narrow, it does suggest baseline Yes has exceeded 50%.

    Now, let's say there had been a referendum in 2017-20 and Yes had won by a whisker. It's quite possible that it could have been overturned in the 2021 election if unionist parties had stood on a 'cancel indy' plebiscite and got a narrow majority share of the vote, even if they had not got a majority of seats. While a Yes party majority would have a mandate to proceed with domestic stuff, Scots would have just voted to cancel indy so that really would need to accepted. If Yes parties can use indy plebiscites in elections, so can No.

    Anyway, it shows how close we could have come to Yes being reversed should this have just narrowly won a referendum 2017-20. Of course final results suggest if Yes had won, we'd have ultimately just dodged a bullet in the 2021 election, but not by much.

    Ergo, the SNP were right to be cautious when things went against Yes in 2017. Only by 2019 do data suggest there was a slim chance of a Yes vote, but that was getting too close to 2021 where a pro-union majority share could have fairly overturned it. And that's before we had the pandemic.

    Which is again why unionists would have preferred an iref a few years ago and are berating the SNP for not having held one back then.

    At the same time, they would prefer sooner than later if one is to be held because each day baseline Yes creeps a little higher and soon, if not already, Yes will be impossible to stop.

    So I don't trust the 'rush into iref2 as quickly as possible people'. Or the 'if we just built it, they will come folks'. Let's base the future on facts; these after all are very much in our favour.

  10. Thank you for answering my query James, personally I don't think the home rule option would do anything but brake the unionist camp thus bringing independence if it were offered as an option but it's been flat out refused, that was the vow. I do think it's a stick to hit Alba with which a lot of SNP supporters seem to love to do, but hay ho, maybe that's what's needed to get a more substantive base of support for Alba.

  11. would really love to see some examples of Unionists berating the SNP for not holding a indyref in 2017.... I'm sure there must be lots of examples.