I've written about this before, but it's something that genuinely bewilders me about the Alba Party's current positioning. When Nicola Sturgeon first announced the de facto referendum plan (unfortunately since semi-abandoned by Yousaf and replaced with a "Schrodinger's de facto"), I felt strongly that it was a step forward. The Alba leadership were, however, heavily critical, and one of the key points they made was that it was unforgiveable that Ms Sturgeon had unnecessarily specified that only an absolute majority of the popular vote would count as a mandate for independence. They felt that this represented a kind of pre-surrender on behalf of the independence movement, one that would take effect in the more likely circumstances that a majority of seats was won and not a majority of votes.
I had a lot of sympathy with what the Scottish Government were saying at that point, because in the real world the general public will not accept a mandate won on, say, 35% or 42% of the vote as sufficient for Scotland to become an independent country. I thought it possibly made sense to make a virtue out of necessity by accepting that reality in advance, so that voters could see that no-one was trying to win independence in a tricksy or underhand manner. I did add, however, that there was no great harm in Alba continuing to argue the case that a majority of seats should be sufficient for an independence mandate. I know from having talked to senior Alba people at the time that for many of them it wasn't just a matter of tactical positioning, and that they sincerely and vehemently felt that if it was fine for successive UK governments to do what they liked to Scotland, despite having been elected on well under 50% of the UK-wide popular vote, then the principle should cut both ways.
Since becoming leader, Yousaf has made a number of fundamental modifications to the Sturgeon plan, most of them negative ones which water it down. But he has undoubtedly done exactly what Alba asked him to do on the question of the mandate threshold - he is now saying that a majority of seats (perhaps even just a plurality of seats) will be a mandate for independence and that a majority of votes is not required. And yet, bizarrely, Alba are attacking him for doing exactly what they requested, and strongly implying he should go back to the Sturgeon position which they castigated her for. Here is what Alex Salmond was quoted as saying yesterday in a BBC article: "No-one seriously believes that proposing a majority of seats as an independence mandate is at all credible."
I haven't been on the Alba NEC since last October, so I'm no longer as plugged-in to the evolution of the leadership's thinking as I used to be, but with the best will in the world, it's impossible to see that statement as anything other than a total contradiction of what Alba were saying last year, when they were not only arguing that a mandate based on a majority of seats was credible, but was in fact the only credible position that any pro-independence party could possibly hold.
Now, I totally understand that small parties need to find wedge issues and differentiate themselves from larger parties they're trying to take votes from. But in doing so, you surely have to take care to maintain congruity between your 2023 position and your 2022 position. Rather than attacking and mocking Yousaf for doing exactly what you demanded he should do, it would make far more sense to embarrass him by claiming his U-turn as a massive triumph for Alba's campaigning.
My own view of this aspect of Yousaf's Schrodinger's de facto plan is that it is indeed nonsensical, but as I said about Alba's similar position last year, there may be no great harm in him publicly putting it forward. A majority of seats won on a minority of votes will obviously not result in Scottish independence, but by arguing in advance that it ought to, it may be more likely that the media will treat any such election outcome as a score draw, and that the independence movement will live to fight another day. You can argue the case either way, but for Alba to suddenly turn their attack lines upside down and insist that the target for an independence mandate should be substantially increased (and thus made much harder to reach) seems distinctly odd.
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My recent blogpost, about the difficulty of keeping Scot Goes Pop going for much longer due to lack of funds, produced a significant response. Not all of it is visible on the fundraiser page itself because some of the donations were made directly via Paypal, but a substantial amount has been raised since I posted. The fundraiser remains well short of its target, but I'll certainly keep going for as long as I possibly can, and there's still some sort of chance I may be able to keep going indefinitely, depending on what happens over the next few weeks. Many thanks to everyone who has donated, and if anyone else would like to contribute, the fundraiser page can be found HERE. Alternatively, direct payments can be made via Paypal - my Paypal email address is: email@example.com