Thursday, October 26, 2023

There are various ways in which independence may be won - but it's not going to be won with a big petition

I've just been having a belated look at Robin McAlpine / Common Weal's plan for winning independence, although to be clear I've only read parts of the long document and I'm relying on the summaries in The National to fill in the gaps.  This plan is something that has intrigued me for a good few months, because Robin said just after Humza Yousaf was elected SNP leader that he could see a way of winning independence in the near future but wasn't sure whether to say what it was publicly.  Although I've often disagreed with him and could easily imagine not agreeing that his plan was workable, my interest was certainly piqued!

To start with what I do agree with, Robin is undoubtedly right to point out that trying to win international recognition for an independent Scotland "over the heads" of the UK Government is a complete non-starter.  I've been saying that all along, and if you want proof of it you need look no further than what happened when Catalonia declared independence unilaterally.  Not a single state recognised Catalonia's sovereignty - not even one of the 'rogue states' who might be thought to have nothing to lose by stirring the pot.  Not even Venezuela did it.  Scotland will get all the international recognition it requires on the day the UK Government grants recognition, and there is no way of circumventing that hurdle.  So Robin is also right to say that the main task before us is to drag the UK Government to the negotiating table.

He may well also be right that peer-to-peer campaigning and a National Commission to answer detailed questions on independence have a part to play.  But where I disagree with him is on the idea that we can and should forget about "process" because the type of campaigning he advocates can get us to 60% for Yes in the absence of a major democratic event such as a de facto referendum, and that once we do get to 60%, the game will be up for the UK.  I'd be more inclined to turn all of that on its head and say that 60% probably isn't even attainable and that therefore what is required of us is to find a mechanism for allowing a mandate that falls short of that (probably well short) to be democratically recorded, and then to use that mandate as leverage to pressurise the UK Government.

I really struggle to understand the hostility to just getting on with using scheduled (or unscheduled) elections to seek an independence mandate.  They would provide the focus for the type of campaigning Robin advocates, and they are a renewable resource - if you fail in one election, you can try again in the next.  The psychological impact of winning 53% on an outright manifesto commitment to independence will not somehow be blunted by the fact that you only won, say, 36% at the previous outing - indeed if anything the reverse is true.  And I have absolutely no doubt that an electoral mandate has far greater chance of forcing the UK Government's hand than Robin's idea of a petition.  If London isn't impressed by Ipsos polls (which have fairly consistently shown a pro-independence majority), there's no chance of wowing the people that matter with what will inevitably be dismissed as an amateurish " effort".

I also think it's a tad odd that Robin prays in aid the supposed success of the Scottish Covenant Association in getting two million people to sign a petition in favour of Home Rule in the 1950s, because there could scarcely be a better example of how easy it is for Westminster to totally ignore petitions.  I'd have thought it's beyond argument in retrospect that John MacCormick went down a blind alley with that wheeze and that he'd have been far better off sticking with party politics to achieve his aim, ideally in the SNP.  Robin seems to imply (and apologies if I'm misreading this) that the value of the petition is that it led to the Kilbrandon Commission.  That's well before my time, but I'm pretty sure it's historically bogus - Kilbrandon came about (tellingly) due to election results rather than petitions, namely Plaid Cymru's win in the 1966 Carmarthen by-election and the SNP's win in the 1967 Hamilton by-election. Its main recommendations were never implemented, of course, and devolution didn't happen until three decades later.

I also object as a matter of principle to the idea that we need a "supermajority settled will" before taking any action, because no supermajority is needed in a democracy, and because the only way of measuring it in the absence of electoral events is via opinion polls, which may well not be accurate.  It's understandable that Alister Jack wants to put YouGov at the heart of the Scottish constitution, but why we'd want to follow him down that road is beyond me.  Robin says the unionists have a stronger mandate than we do, but what does he mean by that unless he's taking dubious opinion poll results as gospel?  For as long as Ipsos UK, widely regarded as the gold standard pollster, contradicts other firms by showing a Yes lead, we'd be very foolish indeed to just take it as read that there's a No majority, or even that there isn't a stable Yes majority already there.

But my biggest gripe with Robin is identical to the one I have with the SNP "delay" faction - it's not much use having a plan predicated on what you'll do when you get to 60% if you're not going to get to 60%, which you aren't.  What you're actually doing is arguing for remaining in the UK indefinitely.  Perhaps the only difference between Robin and the SNP "delay" faction is that we know Robin is sincere and therefore genuinely hasn't recognised this fatal flaw in his prospectus.

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  1. When Theresa May said now is not the time if Sturgeon was a genuine independence supporter she would have said there and then that we will use elections from now on to establish a majority vote for independence.
    Of course Sturgeon wasn't and isn't a genuine independence supporter and we find ourselves all these years later in a mess made by Sturgeon's gang.

  2. James I completely agree with you on this. I have found Robin's articles to be excellent but I have to say his ideas for gaining independence were a major disappointment. I never understand the idea of the supermajority - why is a supermajority better than a majority? You either believe in the fundamentals democracy or you don't - 50pc+1 that's it. Pushing a supermajority in a country with governments that regularly squeeze the poor on less than 50% makes getting out of the place quickly. Robin's plan is a great one for the unionists because it would take eons to get near to the magic sixty (the new fifty) and then when you did you still face the same problem: they say no. Then what? De facto elections? That's all you've got so why wait?

    Does Robin think that there should be a supermajority in Northern Ireland?

    Independence for Scotland- Sturgeon's biggest trick was to move the 'conversation' from Independence to a referendum. As soon as the YES side bought that we had already accepted a barrier that had never existed. When your imperial master tells you now is not the time then that is the right time.

    1. I agree with you WT and James. " Why wait" - indeed. Cameron didn't wait when he only got 37% of the vote in 2015 to call his EU referendum in 2016. He didn't need >50%. The Tories then went ahead with Brexit on a 52% leave vote. They didn't wait until they got 60%.

      Even now so many independence supporters still think Sturgeon is great when she is the complete opposite. She deliberately wasted many years of great opportunities to get a majority yes vote.

      I find it hard to understand McAlpine as he was supposed to be advising Regan in the leadership election and she was for having a de facto referendum at every election until a majority vote was achieved.

      I know James still ( just about I think) sees the SNP as a party of independence. I don't. The SNP leadership have been devolutionalists since Salmond departed and the membership showed they ain't fussed about independence when they voted for continuity Yousaf in the leadership contest.

      Sturgeon's gang have been a disaster for the SNP and Scottish independence. I have been saying for a long time elections are legal in the UK and a vote for independence in an election will be legal. So what's the problem? The problem is the SNP leadership and the numpties who follow them.

  3. Assumptions exist at all sorts of levels of the debate on the strategy for independence.
    I agree that a simple electoral majority is sufficient within our present crappy 'democracy' and also that polls are not a sound basis for independence.
    But is there not a rather large underlying assumption that a crumbling and reactionary UK will recognise any sort of democratic mandate from a 'region' ?
    Why would they ?
    It's a mountain to climb but I think that we have to convince our people that they will probably have to undertake a sustained campaign of, peaceably, making Scotland ungovernable for the UK AFTER we win a clearly stated mandate in an appropriate election.

    1. "Why would they." - well we will never know unless we get a majority vote for independence. We could have got that over the last 8 years of Sturgeon's reign. A majority vote should be seen as getting past first base on the road to independence and then take it from there. To do this we need strong independence leaders not the bunch of charlatans currently leading the SNP.

  4. James, you should definitely read the full paper by Robin/Commonweal, in particular on the detailed and compelling proposition (certainly for this scunnered activist) for how we get to 60%/settled will territory. Its a clear, workable, achievable plan.

    1. As stated I did read substantial parts of it, and while I have no problem with some of the suggestions he makes, they're certainly not compelling or workable as a route map to 60%. Nor, indeed, is there anything compelling about his belief that 60% is even necessary.

    2. Who decided this settled will 60% thing? Who says it won't change to 70% being the settled will in the future. Sounds like a Britnat thing to me and sadly some independence supporters just keep on accepting the Britnat obstacles. It's a colonial mindset.

    3. 50pc + 1 or you don't belive in democracy

  5. So we have to rely on britnat polling companies showing an average of 60% Yes before doing anything to further independence? Brilliant.

    Meanwhile pro-independence voters lose trust in professional politicians who claim to want independence. If a general election was to be held next week it wouldn't surprise me if the turnout was the same as the recent Rutherglen and Hamilton West figure. They want action from their so-called leaders. Give them a good constitutional stushie to get excited about. Stir the pot. Wasn't there a brief but significant jump in the [britnat] polls in favour of independence when Blackford led a temporary walkout of SNP MPs out of the commons?

    1. Agree. Why wait for 60pc? In a system we never created, we've successfully elected our so called 'representatives' on a mandate for independence at almost every opportunity since 2014. Is that not enough? How can you say you live in a democracy when you need a supermajority? It seems as though you subconsciously recognise that it isn't a true democracy so you need the extra slack to prove something. If you accept that, then it is not a democracy and consequently our governments are illegitimate - all of them WM, Edinburgh even the local council. In those circumstances our democratic system becomes a lie, and in that case we should not recognise it never mind pander to it. De facto, nothing else.

  6. Boris Johnston, that well known liar, is joining GBnews. Whose next - Sturgeon and Swinney doing a double act.

  7. Here's the calculation for the Brits:

    If you let the Scots have their referendum: you will lose and they will be on their way. You, the prime minister, must resign in shame. (Cameron prepared to, once that final Yes poll came out and the result didn't feel so certain any more.) The loss of the Union could well be such a shock to the system that your government will fall. No one knows what could happen. A failure to appoint a new PM and a dissolution of parliament in those circumstances could even trigger an electoral revolt by the English in voting for a populist who promises to thwart Scotland's independence by withholding recognition or negotiations.

    If you deny the Scots their referendum: the usual suspects pout, the Wee Ginger Dug yelps, and absolutely _nothing_ happens. Repeat ad infinitum.

    The choice is a total no brainer for them ever since Teresa May first tried it. They get no pushback at all, from us or foreign governments. Scotland's right to self determination has so far proved to be a total non-issue for them.

    Something has to change. Scots must get angry. The "outcry" for our democratic rights must come on the streets, not just in the permanently breathless pages of the National. That's where we fall short now. Where's the _passion_ in the broader public? Scotland doesn't look or feel like a nation on the threshold of independence.

  8. It's possible to think 50+1 route and achieving 60% are neither wrong or hopelessly unrealistic.

    I think it's as odd to claim we need to get 60% in polls to start doing anything as it is this idea 60% is an unachievable high water mark.

    We've had 58 in polls already. Another two percent not an unrealistic utopia. The union was getting something similar not so long ago.. it would just be the reverse of that position.

    Hasten to add not advocating waiting for it either.

    1. Is it completely impossible to get to 60% in one or two individual polls, as we've previously got to 58% in one or two individual polls? Maybe not. But getting there on a sustained basis, which is what is really meant, is a different matter entirely.