Wednesday, June 15, 2022

#Referendum2023: It's OCTOBER! Specificity THRILL-BOOM as the Scottish Government NAMES THE MONTH for our guaranteed independence referendum next year

We still don't have the exact date for #Referendum2023, but we're far closer to it thanks to an announcement from Angus Robertson, the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution and External Affairs, on today's Good Morning Scotland -

"The First Minister made clear yesterday that she intends to make an announcement to the Scottish Parliament in the forthcoming weeks about the route-map towards the referendum, which we intend to hold next October."

Assuming tradition is maintained by holding #Referendum2023 on a Thursday, we can now narrow the date down to four possible options:

5th October 2023

12th October 2023

19th October 2023

26th October 2023

Let's hope it's the 5th, because October is a transitional month and the weather is often a lot better at the start than it is at the end.  (For that reason, September might have been preferable, although perhaps there's some other major event in the calendar that would have clashed.)

In all seriousness, I think we are making some progress now.  This most certainly doesn't mean a referendum will actually be held next year, but the Scottish Government have now gone far enough that it's going to be very hard for them to quietly march their troops back down from the top of the hill in the way they've got away with in the past.  There would be a tremendous sense of betrayal among many SNP members and supporters if that happened, and it wouldn't be hard to imagine a large number of defections to Alba or to other independence parties.  So to avoid that danger, the Scottish Government will know they'll have to make a credible attempt to deliver an October 2023 referendum, and if the vote doesn't take place it'll have to be clearly seen that it was external forces that thwarted it.  As a result, it would be established that the type of referendum the SNP and Greens want to hold simply isn't viable, and the onus would then be on them to explain how they're going to deliver independence without a referendum.  The only remaining game in town would be a plebiscitary election, which is something that no UK government or court can thwart.

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Thanks to the October announcement, the Countdown Clock will henceforth have considerably more precision - and note this means we are now less than 500 days away at most.

There are just 477 days until the earliest possible date for #Referendum2023 (5th October)

There are just 498 days until the last possible date for #Referendum2023 (26th October)

(Note: the Countdown Clock calculations assume that tradition will be maintained by holding #Referendum2023 on a Thursday.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

#Referendum2023 : It's a certainty! Drama as it emerges our guaranteed independence referendum next year will go ahead EVEN WITHOUT A SECTION 30 ORDER

As you know, I think Nicola Sturgeon and the rest of the SNP leadership do not expect or intend to keep their signed-in-blood "no ifs, no buts" promise of an independence referendum in 2023.  However, the fact that they are continuing to ramp up expectations of what will probably prove to be a phantom referendum is a very good thing, because that makes it much harder for a reckoning to be avoided.  Harder but not impossible, mind - the SNP leadership have a track record of gratefully grabbing hold of any big news story that randomly comes along as an excuse for further delay.  But the likelihood is that the rank-and-file SNP membership will go into next year in the genuine belief that a referendum is imminent, and that means the leadership will have to factor in the danger of mass disillusionment - and perhaps mass defections - if members later feel they've been 'had'.  So, at the very least, the leadership are going to have to make it look like they made a serious and credible effort to deliver a referendum and were unexpectedly thwarted by forces outwith their control.

And that can no longer mean simply asking for a Section 30 order, pretending to be shocked when Boris Johnson says no, and then saying "this is totally unsustainable, vote SNP yet again in 2024 to tell Boris Johnson that he is doing something totally unsustainable".  To Nicola Sturgeon's credit, she has finally released us from the Section 30 trap, and says that a referendum can go ahead without the permission of London Tories.  So the failure of Johnson to respond to a Section 30 order will no longer be an acceptable excuse for inaction.  What Sturgeon has not done, though, is release us from the "legality" trap - she's still drawing an utterly bogus distinction between a "legal" and a "non-legal" referendum.  (In reality, the UK is not Spain and there is no such thing as an "illegal vote" here.  There are certainly votes that have no legal standing or recognition, but that doesn't prevent people from organising them.)  So the excuse for a lack of a referendum next year is now more likely to be legal in nature - "we tried, but we underestimated the conservatism of the Supreme Court, we can do no more for now".  

And, unfortunately, there is probably still enough goodwill towards Sturgeon among the SNP membership that they would accept that as a good enough excuse for the time being.  But such a sequence of events would still move us forward, because after a defeat in the Supreme Court any further talk of holding a referendum would then be seen as a dead end (barring something improbable such as a post-election deal with Starmer), and the debate would move on to the timing of a plebiscitary election.  Pete Wishart would hate it, but that's where the conversation would go.  So, on the whole, today's events are a positive development.


There are just 205 days until the earliest possible date for #Referendum2023 (5th January)

There are just 555 days until the last possible date for #Referendum2023 (21st December)

(Note: the Countdown Clock calculations assume that tradition will be maintained by holding #Referendum2023 on a Thursday, and that it will be before Christmas.)

Monday, June 13, 2022

#Referendum2023 : All Systems GO! The starting gun has been FORMALLY fired, and either a Referendum Bill or a TIMESCALE for a Referendum Bill will be set out SHORTLY

Today has seen multiple further hammerblows for the dwindling band of cynics who are inexplicably sceptical about the majority SNP-Green government's cast-iron guarantee that an independence referendum will be held in 2023.  When asked if the Scottish Government's new paper about independence meant that she was formally starting the Indyref 2 campaign, Nicola Sturgeon replied "yes".  That's crucial, because of course the SNP leadership have started the Indyref 2 campaign on many previous occasions, so the fact that they are doing so "formally" on this occasion is tremendously heartening.  That ol' starting gun will actually stay fired this time.  And it's also emerged that one of two things will happen "shortly" - either a Referendum Bill will appear, or a timescale for a Referendum Bill appearing will appear.  I'm hugely reassured that there's no third possibility that a timescale for a timescale will appear - if that had been the case, I might have worried that we were being strung along.  So the only remaining concern is that when we see the timescale shortly, it'll just say that the Referendum Bill will be along shortly or "in due course".  But I'm sure there'll be far more specificity than that.

Let's celebrate this latest thrilling landmark with another update of the #Referendum2023 Countdown Clock.


There are just 206 days until the earliest possible date for #Referendum2023 (5th January)

There are just 556 days until the last possible date for #Referendum2023 (21st December)

(Note: the Countdown Clock calculations assume that tradition will be maintained by holding #Referendum2023 on a Thursday, and that it will be before Christmas.) 

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Here's what the SNP leadership could have done, should have done, and should now be doing on independence, but have not done

I've recounted this story before, but in the spring of 2017, Mike Small of Bella Caledonia summoned me and several others from the Scottish pro-independence New Media to a meeting in Edinburgh, with a view to "resolving our differences" in the wake of Nicola Sturgeon "calling an independence referendum". I remember thinking afterwards that it was a bit of a shame that nobody had recorded the meeting, because playing it back would have been hysterically funny due to all the little cultural differences on display.  The radical left/identity politics Trendies were being characteristically passive-aggressive, which inevitably triggered a fairly direct reaction from me, while an utterly serene Peter Curran was delivering brutal truths on an equal opportunities basis to everyone in the room with a beaming smile on his face.  Meanwhile, there was someone with a sort of hippy worldview who gave us all a little lecture on how we were falling disappointingly short in our communication styles, but unfortunately he did that using such impenetrable psychobabble that I had to rely on non-verbal cues to make an educated guess as to what he was actually getting at.

But whatever our differences in culture, ideology and temperament, the one thing that united every single person in the room that day was that we were all just taking it as read that an independence referendum was actually going to be held, probably in the autumn of 2018, but certainly by 2019 at the latest.  As far as we were concerned, Nicola Sturgeon had simply called a referendum in exactly the same sense that Alex Salmond had done so a few years earlier, ie. with the intention that a referendum would take place.  It had yet to occur to us that the calling of a referendum on this occasion might be more of a metaphysical concept that would form part of an ongoing Hokey Cokey routine, going just far enough to keep independence supporters motivated to vote SNP, but never extending as far as an actual real-life referendum.

This is why I'm so bemused when people ask me in all apparent seriousness what I could possibly want the SNP to be doing on independence that they aren't already doing, and what Alba would be doing differently if they were in government.  It really, really oughtn't be hard for anyone to think of what the SNP could have done already that they haven't done.  Most obviously they could have held an independence referendum in 2018 as promised, secured a Yes vote, and delivered sovereign independence for our nation by 2020. It should have been unthinkable for them to withdraw the Section 30 request after it had been submitted, and I have no time whatever for the argument that the 2017 general election outcome made that U-turn inevitable.  The SNP won that election handsomely, with a proportion of Scottish seats that was more or less identical to the proportion of seats across the UK won by Mrs Thatcher in her 1987 landslide victory.  

I am well aware that there were siren voices external to our movement trying to use the 2017 result to convince us the referendum was dead - Peter Kellner was the most obvious offender on the BBC results programme, but I myself was accosted on Twitter by Professor James Mitchell within literally seconds of the exit poll being released.  He was furious that I had pointed out that the SNP appeared to have completed a "triple lock mandate" for a referendum in exactly the manner specified in their manifesto, ie. by winning a majority of Scottish seats.  As far as he was concerned, the notion that multiple electoral mandates should be respected or honoured was for the birds, seemingly because the margin of the SNP's triumph wasn't enormous enough to satisfy him, and those of us who felt differently should pipe down and start learning to know our place again.  He seemed pretty confident that his own brand of anti-democratic 'realism' was firmly back in the ascendancy.

You know, it's just possible that the likes of Kellner and Professor Mitchell are small 'c' constitutional conservatives and that paying heed to their pronouncements is not really compatible with the best interests of the independence cause.  If we'd listened to them at every step along the way, we would never have believed it was appropriate to campaign for independence, we would never have believed that full independence was even attainable, and we most certainly would never have been brave enough to hold a referendum in 2014 - which ironically would mean that even the careerists in the SNP's Westminster group would never have won their seats on the back of the post-indyref swing from Labour to SNP.

I also have no time for the argument that it was actually desirable to call off the referendum in 2017, on the theory that the decline in the SNP's vote share in the general election somehow demonstrated that Yes would have lost.  In truth, the result of that election tells us absolutely nothing about what would have happened in an indyref more than a year later.  Just three months before the first indyref in 2014, the SNP took a disappointing 29% of the vote in the European elections, which probably indicates that they would have been in the 20-25% zone if a general election had been held at around that time - well below the 37% they achieved in 2017.  And yet that didn't prevent enormous momentum developing behind Yes over the subsequent weeks and months, culminating in an outright lead in the famous YouGov poll on the penultimate weekend of campaigning.  It was the fact of the referendum itself that changed the political weather.  Indeed, sticking with the referendum plan in 2017 would have been the ideal way for the SNP to regain the political initiative after their reverses in the general election.

But even if we factor in the SNP leadership's needless loss of nerve in June 2017, that's not the end of the story.  Because they could then have honoured their subsequent promise that a referendum would be held later than originally intended but before Scotland was dragged out of the EU against its will.  They didn't even attempt to keep that promise, and there's no Covid alibi for that one - the virus didn't properly arrive on these shores until a few weeks after Brexit Day.

And even if we factor in both the loss of nerve in 2017 and the failure to honour the promise of a pre-Brexit referendum, it still doesn't end there, because there was nothing to stop the SNP from acting with far more urgency after they won yet another mandate for a referendum in May 2021.  They could have struck while the iron was hot and put in a renewed Section 30 request within hours of the 2021 election outcome becoming clear.  They could have passed a Referendum Bill by now, and there could be a Yes campaign in full swing on the streets of our cities and towns.

So for the people who have been innocently asking me, as if butter wouldn't melt in their mouths, what more I think the SNP could have done and should be doing now, I hope the above answers your question.

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