Saturday, September 3, 2022

The Truss cunning plan to rig an independence referendum is a sign of weakness, not of strength

About a billion years ago, I recall seeing a TV documentary about the 1979 devolution referendum, in which George Cunningham (weirdly regarded as a 'moderate' Labour MP who later defected to the SDP) was challenged to defend the notorious 40% rule he had devised.  His justification was that the proponents of devolution had repeatedly claimed that there was "overwhelming public support" for a Scottish Assembly, and that it was not unreasonable to put that claim to the test.  Well, testing is one thing, but requiring is quite another.  If it turns out that there is a narrow majority for devolution rather than overwhelming support, you're entitled to bragging rights because you've been proved correct that your opponents overstated their case.  What you're not entitled to do is use that technical satisfaction as an excuse to deny the public what they've voted for - not unless you're some sort of tinpot dictator, of course.

And yet what Kevin Maguire would call the "anti-devo campaign" just about got away with the 40% rule.  Why?  Probably in part because it didn't set the Yes campaign an insurmountable target.  It required a relatively conventional sort of supermajority, rather than something that was totally impossible to achieve, and therefore seemed to some people just about defensible.  On a 60% turnout, a 2-1 Yes majority would have been needed - which is a very tall order, make no mistake.  But some referendums do produce 2-1 majorities, and some referendums produce turnouts a lot higher than 60%.  The result on the main question of the 1997 devolution referendum would, for example, have cleared the 40% rule if it had been in force once again.

By contrast, almost no democrat in this country or beyond these shores will regard the reported Liz Truss plan for a "50% rule" as anything other than an attempt to rig the outcome of an independence referendum.  The Yes campaign could win by a landslide and be declared a loser based on a rule that did not apply in the 2014 indyref, and perhaps more to the point did not apply in the 2016 Brexit referendum - the ultra-narrow result of which Truss claims to be honour-bound to implement.  How it would actually thwart independence in the real world is far from clear.  If I was the SNP leadership, I would just say "fine, we'll go ahead with the referendum without recognising the legitimacy of the ludicrous rule the Tories have just legislated for".  A clear Yes majority might not carry legal weight but it would carry tremendous political and moral weight, which in the long run would count for more.

An analogy would be the process by which communist rule suddenly ended in Poland in 1989.  The communists thought they had been very clever by agreeing to a deal which on paper guaranteed them a majority regardless of the outcome of the election.  Only the upper house and one-third of the lower house was to be contested on a multi-party basis, which should have ensured a minimum of a two-thirds communist majority in the all-important lower house.  But in the end, the sheer momentum generated by Solidarity's success in the seats they were allowed to contest meant that communist allies were queueing up to desert the sinking ship, and within the blink of an eye there was a Solidarity-led government.  In a similar way, a clear Yes majority in an indyref would likely generate sufficient momentum to clear away seemingly insuperable barriers.

In any case, doesn't a 50% rule send a pretty clear message that Truss and co expect more people to vote Yes than No?  It's a tactic born of weakness, not of strength.

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We've already seen since Nicola Sturgeon's announcement that the overwhelmingly unionist mainstream media are attempting a 'shock and awe' campaign to try to kill off independence - and the misuse of polling is playing a key part in that.  If you'd like to balance things out with polling commissioned by a pro-independence outlet and which asks the questions we want to see asked, one way of doing that would be to help Scot Goes Pop's fundraising drive - see details below.

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  1. Beautiful summary - the Brits are thieves, con artists, liars and cheats - has 50%+ of England's entire population ever voted Tory since WWII ?
    Would 50%+ of England's entire population ever vote Tory or Truss today ?

  2. Moreover, the criminality of the Brits taking postal vote ballot boxes down to England and stuffing them full of phantom NO votes is one of their electoral rigging insurance policies. Voter ID must be mandatory and verified or we'll lose again.

    1. Mandatory voter ID helps them, not us. It suppresses our turnout, not theirs. Why do you think the Tories are so in favour of it?

    2. It is child's play to add 10,000 phantom voters to each of the 32 electoral registers and download and send the phony postal votes into the respective 32 regions. With virtually zero voter ID verification in 2014, all the Brits had to do was just send in the postal votes with phony names at any old addresses.

      Notice the sudden huge drop in voters for the 2015 elections - they just disappeared.

    3. I can only repeat: why do you think the Tories are so keen on mandatory self-ID?