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There is no logical case for postponing crunch debates until/unless another referendum is in the offing.
Thursday, November 9, 2023
'Nothing's Not Going On...'
A belated happy birthday to Wings Over Scotland, 12 years old yesterday!
To mark the occasion Rev. Stu Campbell bemoaned the lack of ‘news’ and linked back to the first Wings blogpost ( Wings Over Scotland | At the Seven-Eleven ) which featured a UK govt press release dated 7.11.2011 detailing the estimated support for independence.
‘A new TNS-BRMB Poll for the BBC Politics Show published today today shows nearly three quarters of people in both Scotland and the whole UK do not want to see Scotland separate from the rest of the UK.’
A very slight exaggeration there, the actual figure was 28% but we can let that one go. The point being made by Wings is clear enough - things have changed in the past 12 years and, if you still support independence, they’ve changed for the better. (Fans of Wings can’t help but wonder if they could be even better had the famous Wee Blue Book emerged just a couple of weeks earlier than it did.)
The most recent opinion poll underlines the fundamental shift. This Redfield & Wilston Strategies poll was published a week ago:
‘Our latest Scottish independence referendum voting intention poll finds ‘no’ leading by 5%.
50% (+2) of Scottish respondents now say they would vote ‘no’ and 45% (-1) say they would vote ‘yes’ if there were to be a referendum tomorrow on whether Scotland should be an independent country. 5% (-1) don’t know how they would vote.
If support for Yes remains where it was on September 19th 2014 and has fluctuated by only a very few percentiles either way in the past nine years, it seems fair enough to suggest that that 45% remains base camp for any new campaign.
If the Alba conference didn’t have as many delegates as the SNP’s, it certainly looked and sounded busier. Questions linger about the suspiciously staged appearance of the final photos emerging from the SNP conference where Humza Yousaf appeared to be ‘doughnutted’ by tightly packed supporters on all sides. Anyone watching his conference speech live will have noted many empty seats in what was already an alarmingly downsized event. In any case, there is no doubt which party looks and sounds happier at the moment.
'Under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon the SNP conned the independence campaign.
Under the leadership of Humza Yousaf the SNP have abandoned the independence campaign and thus they have abdicated any claim for leadership of it.
So let me start this speech by articulating what the SNP find it impossible to state with any clarity.
Alba stand for Scottish independence. Every vote for Alba at each and every election is a vote for independence. And if a majority of votes is cast in any election in that direction, then the Scottish government is mandated to negotiate independence. If Westminster says 'No' then we should mobilise domestic and international opinion to force them to respect the democratic wishes of the sovereign Scottish people.
Now, if I can say that in two simple sentences, then why can't the SNP?'
The general flow of traffic seems clear enough - Alba is gaining strength as the SNP’s continues to drain. Beyond the local council level there is no prospect of any real electoral test until the UK GE (next year). Many SNP MPs will be leaving Westminster for the last time (whether on principle or not) but they’ll be replaced by ‘Scottish’ Labour, not Alba. The opportunity for Alba to make an impression via the list system in Scotland cannot happen before the summer of 2026. Glacial though the pace of change may appear, it is worth reminding ourselves that more than a dozen years have passed since the SNP won the landslide victory which made the 2014 referendum possible in the first place. At that time (2011) Alex Salmond was 56 years old. Nicola Sturgeon was only 40. At the next Scottish GE Alex Salmond will be 71.
On the assumption that the 45% base for Yes remains solid, a straight replacement of all SNP MPs for Alba representatives still wouldn’t reflect current feeling because the burgeoning abstentionist movement (if it can be labelled as such for convenience) has not been acknowledged in general political discourse and, by definition, cannot be accommodated within conventional polling, be it via sporadic snapshots for analysis or real elections - how do you register the position of those who have resolved to boycott the entire process? ( Off-Topic Scotland | Count Us Out (offtopicscotland.com) )The argument that we must use the vote because ‘our ancestors struggled for that right’ is fair enough but is this what they fought for? What kind of choice is on offer?
Al Harron’s ‘The River of Time’ published here ( Off-Topic Scotland | The River of Time (offtopicscotland.com) ) lays out the nature of the current discontent and offers a potential course of action but it is too radical for many. That said, the reaction to this important article has been overwhelmingly positive - if there has been any substantial criticism of his analysis we have yet to see it. He has been clear in outlining the motivation for challenging Alba leadership to address this issue with urgency.
The unveiling of Ash Regan as Alba’s latest star recruit delighted delegates and enraged SNP members who, just 7 months ago, were considering whether or not to vote for her as new party leader. Her role remains unclear for now but she already enjoys a high profile and will surely be asked for a view on what SALVO/Liberation Scotland/ISP have been proposing i.e. a radical new tack based on a proactive assertion of sovereignty and demands for root-and-branch electoral reform. The issue cannot be ignored. Along with so many other topics which have proven to be hardy perennials in the independence debate (currency, monarchy, broadcasting etc) there is no logical case for postponing crunch debates until/unless another referendum is in the offing because, as has been plain for too long, ‘indyref2’ is not going to happen.
There are also disturbing mutterings regarding a ‘dossier’ passed to Alba leadership during their conference which, so far as we can determine, relates to squabbling amongst/about Alba NEC members. Any detail we’ve heard concerns personality clashes and cannot be verified so we’ll leave it at that. But Alba’s leadership must be aware that any form of secrecy, right now, does not look good given that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP hierarchy remains enshrouded in conspiracy-related scandal. Independence voters are entitled to demand more than a ‘normal’ degree of transparency from those who aim to inherit even a fraction of the power once wielded by the SNP. Unfortunately for Alba and the ‘Yes’ movement generally, the damage to trust will take much more than crafty manifesto promises to repair.
At a time when all eyes are on Gaza and the appalling rhetoric spewing from mainstream media, Scottish voices are few and far between. Humza Yousaf’s family connections to what’s happening have forced him into demanding an immediate ceasefire. We can only wonder what his response would have been had his in-laws not been caught up in the horror but the fact remains that his public statements are completely at odds with the UK govt narrative and the mainstream media has dutifully piled on as a result. (We haven’t yet seen the msm condemn Yousaf as a terrorist sympathiser but it will surely happen.)
So, Yousaf’s ‘real’ voice is emerging under the most tragic of personal circumstances. There are so many other ways in which he could have put some clear water between him and Sturgeon, but this unforseen break in ‘continuity’ will be welcomed by many nonetheless. (Does anyone really believe that the previous First Minister would have called for an immediate ceasefire?) In the meantime, Scotland has no voice to join those clamouring for the carnage to end. Perversely, the most high-profile Scottish voice belongs to Richard Hecht, an IDF spokesperson who hails from Newton Mearns, one of Glasgow’s leafier suburbs. One can only wonder how many Scots identify with his position.
Many years ago, a well-known Scottish football pundit (we’ll spare his blushes) gave his take on an alleged half-time altercation in the tunnel between Old Firm players. The pundit’s entire career was a running battle with past participles and double negatives - remarking on the general demeanour of the players as they emerged for the second-half, he said, ‘Put it this way - I don’t think nothing’s not went on.’
Wings may be right to say that ‘absolutely nothing is happening in the world of Scottish independence’ but, all things being relative, there may be much more going on than meets the eye. One thing’s for sure - if current trends continue, the steady rise of Alba and decline of the SNP is going to result in a convergence, if not in terms of elected reps then certainly mass membership, visibility on the ground, quality of debate, manifesto development and activism generally.
The archaic electoral calendar may thwart meaningful reflection of the urgent need for change but that doesn’t mean such change isn’t already underway. Any objective analyst capable of stripping away hubris and wishful thinking from the statements being issued by politicians across the spectrum is left with the facts as laid bare in that poll - 45% of Scots still want independence and, right now, they have no effective voice in either the Holyrood or Westminster parliaments. We remain constitutionally locked into a ‘country’ which is actively participating in and/or cheerleading two major conflicts and openly dismissing the concerns of those for whom Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman, Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry are not, and never will be, acceptable representatives.
We are not experts in geopolitics but we make every effort to listen to as many as we can. Right now, regardless of which ‘side’ they happen to be on, there is general agreement that we are very close to another world war. If that happens then the nightmarish footage emerging from Gaza may well be replicated across Europe. Ireland has already drawn the ire of Israel by speaking out. We believe that the people of Scotland would have done likewise by now. That we have been unable to do so makes a mockery of whatever ‘democracy’ we are supposed to be thankful for at this time of poppies and memories and lest-we-forgets. We deserve - and must demand - better.
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