Tuesday, November 30, 2021

This must be the line in the sand - Nicola Sturgeon's promise of a referendum by the end of 2023 must be honoured to the letter

Nicola Sturgeon: "In the course of next year, I will initiate the process necessary to enable a referendum before the end of 2023."

In fairness to Ms Sturgeon and the rest of the SNP leadership, that's a reasonably clear and specific promise compared to some we've heard in the recent past - which means it will be possible to objectively determine on certain cut-off dates whether the promise has been kept or broken.  If, by 31st December 2022, action has not been "initiated" that would "enable" a referendum to take place, then the promise will have been reneged upon - and that initiated action will clearly have to go significantly further than simply sending another letter requesting a Section 30 order, because it's abundantly clear by now that would only result in a firm "no" from London and a dead end.  Realistically, the minimum required for the promise to have been kept will be the tabling of referendum legislation in the absence of a Section 30.

If you read carefully, the promise does not, strictly speaking, require a referendum to have been actually held by 31st December 2023, but from Ms Sturgeon's other comments it's clear that the only reason envisaged for delay beyond 2023 would be the continuation of the pandemic.  So if normal life has more or less resumed by 2023 but no referendum occurs by the end of that year, it'll also be reasonable to conclude the promise has been broken.

If words and promises were enough to get the job done, we'd all be able to relax on the basis of what Ms Sturgeon has now said.  But unfortunately, there have been very similar promises made in the past about the dates by which action would be taken, and those were not honoured.  Even after we were marched back down from the top of the hill in the wake of - ironically - the SNP's landslide victory in the 2017 general election, we were still being told that there would be a referendum once the terms of Brexit became clear, but before Brexit actually occurred.  That simply did not materialise, and no, Covid is not an alibi for that.  Brexit Day was at the end of January 2020, and the threat of Covid was not being taken seriously in this country until late February 2020.

I totally understand the desire to give Ms Sturgeon the benefit of the doubt and assume she means what she says, because I fully shared that desire myself in 2017.  There are still hardcore Wings devotees who excoriate me for my supposed "naivety" back then, but I would strongly argue that it was rational to cut the SNP leadership a little slack at that point.  Less than three years had passed since the first indyref and there was not yet any track record of broken promises.  It would have been wildly premature to assume bad faith - but it's certainly not premature now.

Some people retrospectively justify the lack of a referendum before Brexit by saying "it would have been suicidal to hold one" - well, I'm sorry, but that's just nonsense. The results of referendums are decided during referendum campaigns, not before, and the idea that Yes in the mid-to-high 40s was not a good enough starting position to make victory a possibility is just so ludicrous as to be, frankly, not even worthy of serious consideration.  In any case, there were no conditions attached to the promise of a pre-Brexit referendum.

So I really urge people who have remained loyal to the SNP leadership to make this latest promise your line in the sand.  Believe it to be genuine, by all means, but if it turns out not to be, admit to yourself what has happened.  Don't pretend to yourself that the promise was never really made or that it somehow didn't really count, or that the next promise to hold a referendum in 2030 or 2035 or whenever is somehow the 'real' promise.

This is it.  A referendum by the end of 2023, and certainly the start of a referendum process by the end of next year - or it'll be time for the current SNP leadership to make way for people who are actually serious about independence.


  1. If we assume that Sturgeon will deliver a referendum eventually ( big assumption) just how many countries out of all the now independent nations gained their independence from Westminster by means of a referendum? Anyone know the numbers or percentage?

    Also out of all these countries who gained their independence from Westminster how many did so by means of a referendum which allowed Westminster total control of all broadcasting and newspaper information. Anyone know the numbers or percentages?

    1. I think in fairness it should be pointed out that the vast majority of countries that have become independent from Westminster were in a very different position from Scotland, because they were overseas colonies / dependencies, rather than integral parts of the United Kingdom. The sole direct comparison is with the Republic of Ireland, or the Irish Free State as it once was, which became independent off the back of Sinn Fein's victory in the 1918 general election.

    2. James, I am all for fairness. So are you saying the answer to both my questions is zero? We would be setting a precedent in Scotland?

  2. The delayed Census for Scotland is due to happen next March. The reason for the delay is officially Covid but it did not stop England/Wales/N. Ireland going ahead this year. So will it go ahead next March if Covid is still a problem in Scotland or be delayed again at more cost again. If it goes ahead in March next year and Omicron is a problem then we have to ask what was the real reason for the delay. Is it down to the identity questions (GRA) they want to ask or is it down to the number of UK immigrants into Scotland or just plain incompetence.

    Strange how Covid prevents a census and a referendum but is not a problem for elections.

  3. Is it the referendum that's before the end of 2023? Or is it the *initiation of the process* before the end of 2023, for a referendum even further down the road? Top class can-kicking...

    1. No, the initiation of the process has to happen in *2022* - that's clearly spelt out.

  4. I went cold on the present SNP leadership quite a while ago but still have a party card - just barely.I agree with James and want to suggest a few obvious and simple tactics to try to move our cause forward.

    Those outside the SNP (Alba, YES, Believe in Scotland, etc, etc,) must be out there convincing individual voters and seeking further joint initiatives like the "million papers" (yes, it was largely bland but it was a start).

    Those in the SNP have to be pressing for the reinstatement of National Council to be fully implemented and done with full powers.Also pressing to make real Tim Rideout's success at conference on our new, independent currency.

    Some of us are placed to work on all of these.

    If all of these are done energetically there will be no where to hide for the careerists, leader cultists, gender politics sectarians and devolutionists in the leadership. They have to join us or be exposed. They now know from conference that they have not yet subdued their members.

    Let's all make and sustain the push for the promise to be kept and if it isn't....draw final conclusions.

  5. Support of Independence in the lead according to a new Ipsos-Mori poll being trailed by STV. 55 to 45 with undecides removed. Must be near 50% before undecides removed.