Friday, October 14, 2022

Vote James Kelly #1 for re-election to the Alba Party's NEC: here's my mini-manifesto!

I was very honoured to be one of the people elected to the Alba Party's National Executive Committee at last year's inaugural annual conference.  I've been attending NEC meetings once a month ever since (plus a bonus emergency meeting the day before Boris Johnson resigned!).  The 2022 Alba conference takes place over this weekend in Stirling, and once again I'll be a candidate in the ballot for the election of NEC members - and I'm extremely grateful to the dozens of Alba members who emailed me a few weeks ago to offer to nominate me for the ballot.  

Just a reminder of how it all works: the vote itself will take place online, so as long as you've registered for the conference you should be able to cast a vote.  There are separate ballots for male and female candidates, with the top four in each ballot being elected to the NEC, where they will join the various office bearers who are also NEC members.  It's a preferential voting system, so you'll be ranking the candidates in order of preference using numbers - 1 for your first choice, 2 for your second preference, 3 for your third preference, and so on.

If you have a minute or two, let me ever-so-'umbly present my own pitch.  If I'm re-elected, my guiding principles will be as follows...

Independence first: That sounds like a 'motherhood and apple pie' principle but it means something very concrete to me.  Having been a long-standing member of the SNP, I moved across to Alba last year for one straightforward reason - I was at my absolute wit's end with an SNP leadership that was treating independence as a theoretical "ideal" rather than something that can and must be achieved in the real world.  I would always want any party I'm a member of to be a vehicle for achieving independence, rather than the independence cause being a vehicle for the party.  I promised last year that if there was ever any conflict between party interest and the interests of the wider cause of independence, I would always choose the latter, and I repeat that promise now.  I think Alba is a very special party, because if you gave Alba members the choice between independence and five years of Alba government, we would all choose independence like a shot.  There can't be all that many political parties which are less motivated by power for its own sake than we are.

Independence by the quickest realistic route: Now, let's be clear - in the worst case scenario where the SNP leadership do absolutely nothing to bring about independence and they fail to respond to internal and external pressure, it may prove necessary to embark on a long-term process to replace the SNP, brick by brick as it were, as the leading pro-independence force in Scotland.  And if that is indeed necessary, I will be fully signed up for that project without reservations.  But that cannot be our first choice, simply because of the length of time it would take - it could be a 10 year, 15 year, 20 year process with no 100% guarantee that we'd ever succeed.  If an opportunity arises to bring about independence more quickly than that, we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to grab it with both hands.  Frankly, if we're an independent country by 2025 or 2026, I will not care less who gets the credit for it.  Even if Alba's role is written out of the history books, that won't matter because we'll still know privately that we played a very important part and did the right thing at the crucial moments.

Outflanking the SNP with authenticity: What I mean by that is we're outflanking the SNP to the left more and more, but we're not just doing it for tactical reasons, we're being true to our authentic beliefs.  Opposition to NATO membership and the monarchy probably is the centre of gravity within the independence movement, and this is where Alba can come into its own.  We're giving Yes supporters a means to campaign for independence while still being true to themselves on other issues, and it's only in that way that their enthusiasm can be maintained.  Another example is the way we're giving a voice to the concerns of working class communities who are to some extent neglected by an SNP that is more preoccupied with middle class and identity politics issues.  How on earth will a Yes majority ever be constructed without the passion of working class voters and working class campaigners?  They were the very backbone of "the 45" eight years ago.

Take full advantage of Alba's Unique Selling Point: I argued the case on the NEC for Alba to use a description on the ballot paper for the local elections that succinctly encapsulates Alba's USP, which is not just independence but independence in the here and now.  That's what actually differentiates us from the SNP and the Greens.  I was happy enough with the "Alba for Independence" description we ended up using, because at least that tells people what we're basically all about, and clearly differentiates us from the unionist parties.  But my real concern would be if we moved in future to a generic and vaguer description that doesn't mention independence at all.  I think the "Alba Stands For Scotland" slogan is very good in certain contexts, but on a ballot paper what you want is a "Ronseal" description that's going to grab an undecided voter who is just about to make a snap, last second decision on how to vote.  You want that person to know in very precise terms why they should vote for Alba and not for the SNP, or for Labour, or for the Lib Dems.  Pretty much any party - including the Conservative party - can and does claim to "stand for Scotland", even though they mean something very different by it.  So don't leave voters in a polling booth to grapple with the interpretations of ambiguous slogans - just bang them over the head with a message that amounts to "if you want independence fast, put your vote in this square here".  That's what I'll continue to make the case for if I'm re-elected.

Realism about what it will take to get Alba MSPs elected in 2026: If the worst comes to the worst and we reach the 2026 election without an independence mandate having been achieved, I truly believe it's possible for us to get Alba list MSPs elected, but the biggest obstacle to that could be our own complacency.  That may seem a strange thing to say given that as of yet nobody has been elected to public office under the Alba banner, which you'd think would mean that any vestigial trace of complacency would have been totally eradicated by now.  But I've heard it being said that if you look at the local election results "under the bonnet", there was some sort of big advance for Alba in May, and that if a Holyrood election had been held on the same day, we would have won list seats.  To a large extent that rests on the assumption that people who gave Alba their third preference votes behind two SNP candidates in May would somehow have been bound to vote Alba on the list in a Holyrood election.  I cannot stress enough that there is simply no valid basis for making that assumption.  We got 2% of the first preference vote where we stood candidates in May, and the likelihood is that we would have taken approximately 2% of the list vote in a Holyrood election on the same day.  What we have to do is figure out how to grow our coalition of support over the next four years so that it reaches the 6-7% level at which we would take a decent number of list seats.  If we kid ourselves by thinking that coalition of support is already there, there's a danger that we won't take the necessary steps to reach out to new categories of voters, and as a result we'll fall short again.  I reckon there's something to be said for having that mildly annoying person on the NEC who will say "actually these numbers don't quite make sense because..."  

Tolerance of dissent: One of the reasons Alba came into existence was because of the way the SNP's disciplinary processes were being misused to allow one faction to impose its dominance over others. I never want Alba to become a reverse mirror image of that.  All of us will sooner or later find ourselves in disagreement with some party policy or other, and the contract must be: as long as we accept the legitimacy of the majority decision made by the party, we have the freedom to dissent from that decision and to argue for change.

Other issues: I support women's sex-based rights, and you may remember I commissioned a landmark opinion poll last year on GRA reform that established there was widespread public opposition to legally-recognised gender self-ID.  I'm passionate about Gaelic and the Scots language, and I would hope it would always be unthinkable for a party called Alba to take any other view!  And for me, total removal of nuclear weapons from an independent Scotland will always be a red line.  If ever proof was needed that unilateralism isn't an outdated policy of the Cold War era, the events of recent months have provided it.

And a bit about me for those who don't know: I've been writing Scot Goes Pop since 2008, and by 2013 it had become one of Scotland's most popular pro-independence blogs.  In 2012 I became a columnist for the International Business Times, and in the run-up to the independence referendum many of my columns were syndicated on Yahoo, reaching a huge audience - meaning that I may well have been, almost by accident, the most-read pro-indy blogger during the indyref period.  Later on, I was for a time a columnist on the TalkRadio website, and since 2017 I've been a regular columnist for iScot magazine.  I've also provided occasional election and poll analysis for The National since early 2015.

I've made numerous appearances on TV and radio, including BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio Five Live, the Bauer radio network, Al Jazeera, and most recently the Alex Salmond Show last year.  I've also taken part in a huge number of New Media podcasts, films and live-streams.  Perhaps most significantly, I've commissioned no fewer than six full-scale Scottish opinion polls - something that is usually the preserve of the mainstream media.  Some of the polls have been genuine landmarks - for example, the poll in June 2020 that marked the start of the long unbroken series of Yes-majority polls was a Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll.

I'm not a political insider, though, and when I was elected to the Alba NEC last year, it was the first time I had ever held any sort of internal party position.  It's hopefully helped me bring a fresh perspective to the committee, although of course there was also a learning process as I found my feet.  The NEC works mainly on a consensus basis, with formal votes taking place relatively infrequently.  That's probably the only practical way in which it can work, although as time has gone on I've felt that possibly there are just a very small number of additional occasions when we should be drawing breath and having a vote on an important matter, just to ensure a decision doesn't go through on the nod without us fully appreciating the issues at stake.  There was one occasion over the last year when I did request a vote, and I can literally think of just one other occasion (a few months earlier) when I wish I had done.

I'd suggest a possible advantage of electing me is that there aren't going to be any surprises about my political views.  Over the years, I must have blogged about practically every political topic under the sun, so my opinions are all out there.  Most of you know me well and you know exactly what you'd be getting.  I'm also easy to reach - I'm very active on social media.  (That mostly means Twitter rather than Facebook, for the avoidance of doubt - it's not unusual for me not to check my Facebook account for weeks, which has led now and again to sheepish apologies to people who have messaged me in the interim.)

If any or all of this strikes a chord, and if you're eligible to vote, please do consider giving your first preference vote to James Kelly (that's me!) on the male ballot for ordinary members of the Alba Party NEC.

The vote to elect members of the National Executive Committee will take place during Alba's annual conference, to be held in Stirling on 15th-16th October.  If you're an Alba member, I believe it's still possible to purchase a conference pass HERE, and if you're not yet an Alba member, you can join the party HERE.

Alba hits 4% in landmark new Panelbase poll - the highest Alba share in any poll since before the 2021 Holyrood election, and potentially enough for Alex Salmond's party to win a Scottish Parliament list seat

One of the peculiarities of polling information in relation to the Alba Party is that Panelbase consistently produced better showings for Alba prior to the 2021 election than other pollsters did, and yet after that election Panelbase completely stopped offering Alba as an option - it was as if they thought the party had to all intents and purposes ceased to exist, which of course is far from the case.  As far as I'm aware, no other polling firm followed that example - Alba has continued to be offered by other firms as an option of some sort, even though to access that option, respondents often have to first select the generic "some other party" option in the initial limited menu, at which point they're taken to a second menu of options.

The new bang-up-to-date Panelbase poll has been commissioned by the Alba Party itself, which has presumably influenced the decision to bring Alba back as an option.  However, I can assure you that this poll will have been conducted with scrupulous fairness and the results can be regarded as credible.  I've seen the data tables, and in any case I've been through this process myself enough times to know that in line with normal practice, Panelbase will have asked all voting intention questions at the very start of the question sequence, meaning respondents will not have been influenced in any way whatsoever by the wording of the supplementary questions that followed later.  The wording of the voting intention questions were identical to previous Panelbase polls, and therefore the fact that Alba were the client in this particular poll is irrelevant to the outcome (with the possible exception of the simple fact that Alba were offered as an option - but frankly, given that Alba received 2% of the list vote last year, they absolutely warrant inclusion anyway).

Panelbase poll, 7th-11th October 2022:

Scottish Parliament constituency vote:

SNP 45% (-2)
Labour 28% (+6)
Conservatives 15% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-3)
Alba 3% (n/a)
Greens 3% (-)

Scottish Parliament regional list vote:

SNP 37% (-4)
Labour 26% (+4)
Conservatives 17% (-2)
Greens 9% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-)
Alba 4% (n/a)

Seats projection: SNP 62 (-2), Labour 32 (+10), Conservatives 19 (-12), Greens 10 (+2), Liberal Democrats 6 (+2)

It's important to stress that the inclusion of Alba means that the results are not strictly comparable with the most recent Panelbase polls. I've included the percentage changes from the last Panelbase poll purely for information, although the drop in the SNP vote probably needs to be seen in that context - it would likely be a lesser drop if Alba had been included in both polls (ie. because the SNP would have been on a lower vote to begin with).  Alba are on a higher percentage of the list vote in this poll than in any poll conducted by any firm since the 2021 election.

Now, I know some people will claim that Panelbase were the most Alba-friendly pollster in the 2021 election campaign, and their results turned out to be wrong, and that therefore a Panelbase poll showing Alba on a higher list vote than other pollsters are currently reporting can't be taken seriously.  But that really depends on whether the factors that led to the overestimation of Alba last year are still in place.  It's true that Panelbase don't appear to weight their results by recalled 2021 vote, which would be one potential way of correcting any error - instead the political weighting is only by recalled 2019 Westminster vote and by recalled 2014 indyref vote.  However, I've always had the feeling that Panelbase have a slightly higher number of really, really committed independence supporters in their panel than some firms, and the buzz around Alba in the independence movement in April 2021 may have explained the high Alba showing in those early days. Now that we've had eighteen months for the dust to settle, I certainly wouldn't take it as a given that Panelbase are still overestimating Alba.

I see that Ipsos UK's resident identity politics extremist and anti-Alba rent-a-quote Mark McGeoghegan is quoted as saying that a 4% showing for Alba would be unlikely to translate into seats.  And I'm sure this supposedly objective "expert analysis" has nothing whatever to do with the fact that McGeoghegan would have a conniption fit if Alba did actually win seats at Holyrood because he openly loathes the party due to its support for gender critical feminism, and due to his own personal hatred of Alex Salmond.  (And I use the word "hatred" accurately - it's fully supported by McGeoghegan's tweet history, which also shows he's one of the toddlers who "hilariously" insist on mis-spelling Alba's name as "Abla".  Impartial polling expert and all that.  He also constantly pushed the narrative that Alba were somehow wholly to blame for the dip in independence support in early 2021, which was self-evidently absurd given that Alba were receiving a hundred times less media coverage than the SNP and Greens.)

The reality is that McGeoghegan can't be honest enough to admit that we now have a poll which could translate into Alba list seats, because it would drive a coach and horses through the dishonest propaganda he's been pumping out since the day Alba came into existence.  Here's the truth he doesn't want you to know: 4% of the list vote might well be enough for Alba to nick a Scottish Parliament seat.  It would be borderline, but it's not at all an unlikely outcome.  It's very improbable that any party's vote share would be exactly evenly spread across all eight regions, so if Alba were on an average of 4% across the country, the likelihood is that they'd touch 5% or 6% in one or two regions, which could well be enough for a seat.  In past elections, parties have won seats with less than 4% of the national vote - for example, in the inaugural Holyrood election in 1999, the SSP won a seat in Glasgow in spite of taking only 2% of the vote nationally, and the Greens won a seat in Lothians in spite of only having 3.6% of the national vote.

That said, there is still plenty of room for scepticism about whether Alba would win a seat in an election held right now - not because 4% is unlikely to be enough, but simply because Panelbase is the only firm putting Alba as high as 4%.

Where is Alba's list support coming from?  Almost entirely from the SNP.  The data tables show that of the 32 respondents who would vote Alba, 29 of them voted SNP in the 2019 UK general election.  A full 9% of people who voted SNP in 2019 would now vote Alba on the list.  Alba have by far their highest level of support among over-55s (7%) but there is no gender divide.  Unsurprisingly, country of birth does make a very big difference, with 5% of Scotland-born respondents saying they would vote Alba, compared to less than 1% of England-born respondents.

The National's piece on the poll has also put the figures for independence and Westminster voting intentions into the public domain, so I'll just briefly give you those...

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election:

SNP 42% (-3)
Labour 30% (-)
Conservatives 16% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (+1)
Alba 2% (n/a)
Greens 2% (n/a)

Seats projection: SNP 45 (-3), Labour 8 (+7), Liberal Democrats 3 (-1), Conservatives 3 (-3)

Again, I'm only giving you the percentage changes for information, because in fact this poll is not comparable to the previous Panelbase poll, which did not list Alba or even the Greens as options.  That can probably almost entirely explain the seemingly alarming drop in the SNP lead over Labour from 15 points to 12 - which as you can see from the seats projection would have real consequences.  Not only would Labour gain more seats from the SNP, it would also help the Conservatives retain three seats that should really be going to the SNP.  This underscores the very real dangers of the pro-independence vote being split in any election conducted by first-past-the-post, and demonstrates again that it is absolutely essential that there be just one pro-indy candidate per constituency in any Westminster election used as a de facto independence referendum.  

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 49% (-)
No 51% (-)

No change here, but remember the previous Panelbase poll was in August, so this is further strong evidence that the media propaganda over the death of the Queen has failed to dent independence support.  So much for The Sun's fantasies about the Yes vote "plummeting".  The "silent majority" brigade dreamed their dreams, but for the people of Scotland it's just business as usual.

*  *  *

You can catch up with the latest Scot Goes Popcast, about how voting Labour in Scotland could help elect a Tory government, HERE.

The vote to elect members of the National Executive Committee will take place during Alba's annual conference, to be held in Stirling on 15th-16th October.  If you're an Alba member, I believe it's still possible to purchase a conference pass HERE, and if you're not yet an Alba member, you can join the party HERE.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Has UKIP transitioned into an out-and-out fascist party?

I've been meaning to mention this for a while.  For reasons lost in the mists of time, I've been on the UKIP mailing list for years - I suppose I could just unsubscribe, but then I'd miss the hilarity of receiving messages from Neil Hamilton starting with words along the lines of "Dear Loyal Follower".  Anyway, two weeks ago, just after the Italian general election, UKIP sent out an email saluting Giorgia Meloni's win, which it took partial credit for in the context of a more general "march of the patriotic right across Europe".  It praised Italian voters for backing "common sense" change in the form of an anti-immigrant government that prioritises the traditional family.

Now, so far, this perspective perhaps shouldn't be particularly surprising or shocking, because many right-of-centre commentators and politicians across Europe have argued that Meloni and Brothers of Italy are being mischaracterised as far-right, and that they should really be regarded as mainstream conservatives rather than as fascists.  But there's one line in the UKIP email that gives the game away that the praise for Meloni is intended to mean something rather different from this.

"Giorgia Meloni of Brothers of Italy is now in pole position to become Italy’s first female prime minister and she is now likely to lead Italy’s most truly right-wing government since the 1940s."

I cannot see any possible interpretation of these words other than that UKIP is speaking approvingly of Mussolini's government and suggesting it was the last decent government Italy had until now.  Just a gentle reminder at this stage: not only was Mussolini a fascist and the dictator of a one-party state, but he was also one of Britain's principal enemies in the Second World War.  It's curious for any British "patriotic party" to take the position that Britain was on the wrong side against the Axis powers, but presumably that's exactly what UKIP believe.

Now, I suppose you could argue that UKIP is just a lunatic fringe party these days and that none of this really matters.  Farage and his supporters deserted it en masse several years ago to form the Brexit Party, leaving behind only a rump of nutters.  But it's led by a household name in the shape of Hamilton, it had a seat in the Welsh Parliament as recently as eighteen months ago, and according to Wikipedia it has seven local council seats even now.  It's a bit startling to find that such a party has become openly fascist in its sympathies.

PS. The UKIP email cluelessly claims that the Swedish left have just lost power for the first time in the modern era.  In fact, the Social Democrats were last out of power as recently as eight years ago.

PPS. I'm also on the mailing list of pretty much every other party too - apart, annoyingly, from the Liberal Democrats.  I constantly worry that I'm missing out on invaluable advice on "fast bowling" technique from Alex Cole-Hamilton.

PPPS. You can catch up with the latest Scot Goes Popcast, about how voting Labour in Scotland could help elect a Tory government, HERE.

The vote to elect members of the National Executive Committee will take place during Alba's annual conference, to be held in Stirling on 15th-16th October.  If you're an Alba member, I believe it's still possible to purchase a conference pass HERE, and if you're not yet an Alba member, you can join the party HERE.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

How voting Labour in Scotland could help the Tories win the next general election (listen on the Scot Goes Popcast)

For Episode 17 of the Popcast, I set out to discover how much of a swing from SNP to Labour there would need to be for the SNP to lose a significant number of seats at the next UK general election. But instead, I discovered a much more interesting story: the more votes Labour take from the SNP, the more Scottish seats the Tories would retain. In a very close election, a Labour surge in Scotland could easily help the Tories retain power at Westminster. That's not quite the story we're being told by Labour and the media.

For all the details, listen to the episode as a traditional podcast via the embedded Soundcloud player below, or via the direct Soundcloud link, or on YouTube.  The Popcast is also available on Stitcher and Spotify.


The vote to elect members of the National Executive Committee will take place during Alba's annual conference, to be held in Stirling on 15th-16th October.  If you're an Alba member, I believe it's still possible to purchase a conference pass HERE, and if you're not yet an Alba member, you can join the party HERE.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Nicola Sturgeon's "we will, of course, reflect" comment should set alarm bells ringing for the independence movement - is this 2017 all over again?

I'm probably quite unusual within the independence movement in that I'm one of the dwindling group of people who neither "trust in Nicola" and take it as read that her every word is gospel, nor assume that she must be lying simply because her lips are moving.  Even since joining the Alba Party, I've continued to try to take every fresh development on its merits and reach an honest conclusion on how much trust can be placed in what the SNP leadership are promising.  I received brickbats from a few people in my own party for saying after Ms Sturgeon's big announcement in June that her plebiscite election pledge was specific enough that it would be hard for her to renege upon it - and that if it did go ahead, it would be a golden opportunity for the Yes movement that we would need to seize, not sabotage.

But by the same token, I need to be equally honest in my assessment of what has been said and done since June, and that assessment is: there is some cause for concern.  To a limited extent that's because of Mhairi Hunter's notorious tweet - although of course she's a relatively minor figure who doesn't speak on behalf of the Scottish Government, she's nevertheless known to be close to Nicola Sturgeon and thus in tune with the leadership's thinking.  To a much greater extent my concern is caused by Angus Robertson, who as External Affairs Secretary most certainly is empowered to speak on behalf of the Scottish Government, and whose comments to France 24 about how a referendum will come "sooner or later", whenever the UK Government agrees to it, were literally incompatible with the SNP's stated plan that a referendum will be held on 19th October 2023 or not at all.

And now we have Nicola Sturgeon's speech yesterday.  I didn't watch it live, but I swiftly heard from some quarters that she had walked back all of her solemn promises to the Yes movement, and from other quarters that she'd doubled down on her determination to hold an independence vote in the very near future.  So, as ever, I've sought out her words to make up my own mind.

"If the Court decides in the way we hope it does, on 19 October next year, there will be an independence referendum. And if the court doesn’t decide that way? First, and obviously, we will respect that judgment. We believe in the rule of law. And as a party – and a movement – we will, of course, reflect. But fundamentally, it will leave us with a very simple choice. Put our case for independence to the people in an election… Or give up on Scottish democracy. Conference, I don’t know about you – actually I suspect I do... But I will never – ever – give up on Scottish democracy. For now, the question of process – the ‘how’ of securing independence – is in the hands of judges. It is for us to crack on with answering the question ‘why’."

One thing that's causing concern for some people is her undertaking to "respect" the Supreme Court's verdict.  I don't have a major problem with that, because it's in the nature of constitutional nationalism to work within the framework of the rule of law.  There is no point in taking a case to the Supreme Court, or indeed in defending a case at the Supreme Court, if you're not going to abide by the outcome, and of course there would be no higher court to appeal to.  To quote Al Gore's famous words for the second time in a few days: "And while I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court's ruling, I accept it, and I accept its finality."  I understand the argument that domestic UK law may find itself in conflict with international law on the question of self-determination, but the correct moment to consider "going over the head" of domestic UK law would be after we have a clear mandate for independence, ie. after a positive outcome in a plebiscite election.

No, what concerns me is not the "respect" comment but the "reflect" comment.  She says the SNP and the wider indy movement would need to "of course, reflect" after a Supreme Court setback.  Why?  And why "of course"?  She's already set out in crystal-clear fashion what course of action will be followed if the Supreme Court rules against her - she will use the next general election as a de facto independence referendum.  So what on earth would be the purpose of a period of reflection other than to open up the possibility of backtracking on the solemn promise she has already made?

Naturally the tone of the remainder of her remarks are designed to reassure and to give the impression that the outcome of any reflection would be a foregone conclusion - there would be a straight choice between "putting our case for independence to the people in an election" and "giving up on Scottish democracy", and she will "never - ever - give up on Scottish democracy".  But nevertheless she's leaving herself some wiggle room by using less specific language than she used in June.  I'd just remind people that before she completely backtracked on her promise of a referendum in 2017, she prepared the ground for the U-turn with occasional mutterings about how she was going to have to "reflect".  It's sometimes forgotten that she started doing that well before the SNP lost more seats than expected in the 2017 general election - I clearly recall her using the "R" word in a TV debate during the election campaign, which was a pretty strong signal that a decision had already been taken privately to kick the referendum into the long grass, even though she wasn't being upfront about that with SNP members.

That said, there's also a potential positive interpretation here.  A number of us have been calling for the plan of a Westminster plebiscite election in 2024 to be replaced with a snap Holyrood plebiscite election in 2023.  That way the campaign wouldn't be overshadowed by Labour's bid for power at Westminster, and both 16-17 year olds and EU citizens would have the right to vote.  If the purpose of a period of reflection is to give the Scottish Government the scope to adjust its plans in that direction, it would be an extremely constructive development.  But the red line for the movement must be: a referendum or plebiscite election of some sort by 2024 at the latest.

The vote to elect members of the National Executive Committee will take place during Alba's annual conference, to be held in Stirling on 15th-16th October.  If you're an Alba member, I believe it's still possible to purchase a conference pass HERE, and if you're not yet an Alba member, you can join the party HERE.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Angus Robertson's comments to France 24 are quite simply irreconcilable with Nicola Sturgeon's stated plan for a plebiscite election in the event of a Supreme Court defeat - so which is the SNP's true position?

Leaving aside the cynicism in some quarters about the Scottish Government's intentions on a plebiscite election (ie. do they genuinely intend to use an election as a de facto independence referendum or is it merely the latest wheeze in the neverending and futile campaign for a Section 30 order?), I'm genuinely puzzled by Angus Robertson's comments on France 24.  Even if it was true that the SNP were pulling the wool over Yes supporters' eyes, they would surely want to maintain consistency in their public comments about the pretence.  And yet Mr Robertson's comments are quite simply irreconcilable with the position Nicola Sturgeon set out to parliament a few months ago.

He says "a referendum will come, at some stage".  The whole point of Nicola Sturgeon's statement was to concede that a referendum may not come for legal reasons (in which event there is supposed to be the Plan B of a plebiscite election), and also to give us the exact date for when it will be held if it does come - with that date being 19th October 2023.  There is no longer any "some stage" mystery over the timing.  So in the space of just seven words, Mr Robertson has managed to totally contradict Nicola Sturgeon's words not once, but twice.

He goes on to say: "It is going to come.  Among the youngest voters in Scotland, so between 16-25, 25-35, support for independence is running between 60-70%.  So it's going to come sooner or later."  Again, if Nicola Sturgeon is to be believed, a referendum is going to come on 19th October 2023 or not at all.  If it doesn't come, there's supposed to be a plebiscite election by 2024 which means that regardless of the result the SNP will stop calling for a referendum for the foreseeable future.  So there is no "or later", and it's hard to see what Yes support among under-35s has got to do with the price of fish, at least on that point.  It does sound suspiciously like Mr Robertson is talking about a world in which there is no intention of having a plebiscite election if the Supreme Court rules against the Scottish Government, with the real "plan" (if it can even be dignified with that word) being to wait around for a few decades in the hope that the usual demographic shifts will eventually produce a 60%+ majority for independence and thus make a Section 30 order inevitable.

Apart from being a betrayal of SNP members who fully expect their leaders to hold either a referendum or de facto referendum within two years, such a plan would be based on no fewer than two false premises.  Firstly, it is categorically not the case that mass support for independence among the young in 2022 will automatically translate into mass support among the general population by 2042 or 2052.  People often become more conservative as they get older, and the political context will evolve anyway.  It's entirely possible Yes support could stay static or go backwards over such a long period - not least due to a lack of leadership on independence from an SNP that would be tacitly accepting London rule on a long-term basis.  And secondly, even if the mythical 60%+ support for independence did eventually arise, how on earth would that make a Section 30 inevitable, or even more likely?  It would actually become less likely, because denying one would by that point be the British Government's best and perhaps only shot at averting independence.

The pessimistic side of me wonders if Angus Robertson didn't mis-speak on France24, but instead set out the SNP leadership's private thinking. There would still be the mystery of why he didn't keep up the pretence for public consumption, but maybe it was accidental - as with Mhairi Hunter's tweet, it could be that people close to Nicola Sturgeon are so used to speaking this way in private that it sometimes 'leaks out' in public, and they barely even register that it's happened.  If we had genuine journalism in this country rather than a glorified Yoon Gogglebox which is content to passively gloat from the sofa about any hint of a Nat climbdown, the media would be vigorously challenging the SNP to reconcile Angus Robertson's comments with the stated plan, and if they can't be reconciled, demanding clarity on which is the true plan.


The vote to elect members of the National Executive Committee will take place during Alba's annual conference, to be held in Stirling on 15th-16th October.  If you're an Alba member, I believe it's still possible to purchase a conference pass HERE, and if you're not yet an Alba member, you can join the party HERE.