The clock is ticking

There are three problems with this cunning plan to make the 2021 Holyrood election a referendum on independence. The first is list MSPs. The British parties are quite happy to have this device to ensure there’s almost always a place for their senior figures. But we can be sure that their attitude to would change dramatically if list MSPs provided the pro-independence majority. All of a sudden the British parties would find reasons to question the legitimacy of list members, no doubt pleading that the election also being a referendum created ‘special circumstances’. Records would be trawled for any disparaging comments about list MSPs made by independence supporters. The best of these would then be endlessly regurgitated by the British media in the same tedious manner as the ‘once in a generation’ nonsense.

Then there’s the oft-repeated but never explained notion of “the SNP surrendering some control”. It’s not at all clear what is meant by this. But we have to wonder how the democratically elected government might legitimately cede ‘control’ to anyone. The SNP administration has a mandate from the people of Scotland to govern in accordance with policies formulated and approved by the party membership and presented to the electorate. It can’t just do whatever it wants. It can’t just adopt the policy programme of a party with a lesser mandate. It can’t hand governmental powers to organisations with no mandate at all.

And why would they this, anyway? With that mandate comes ultimate responsibility. It is unreasonable to expect any party to take responsibility for things that are outwith its control. When it comes to the crunch and a Yes vote is in, it is the Scottish Government that will have to act on that vote. It is the SNP administration that will be required to initiate and conduct negotiations with the British government. They can only negotiate from a position that they ‘own’. They cannot possibly be expected to go into talks demanding things that they don’t want; things that the party as a whole has not agreed..

When the time comes, there will be one person facing the British Prime Minister across the negotiating table. And it won’t be Patrick Harvie or Robin McAlpine or Elaine C Smith. It will be Scotland’s First Minister. It will be Nicola Sturgeon. Ideally, she should go into those talks with the full weight of the whole Yes movement behind her. But she absolutely must have total confidence and belief in her position. she must be in full control of the negotiating process.

However, none of this really matters. Because if we wait until 2021 there is unlikely to be any such negotiation. There is unlikely to be a referendum. There may not even be an election. While it is true that “there is no Clause 2 of a written constitution which makes a consultative referendum illegal in Scotland”, it would be foolish in the extreme to assume that this will always be the case. Given the British state’s rather obvious determination to preserve it’s structures of power, privilege and patronage, it is plain daft to suppose they will not seize on any chance to lock Scotland into the Union. And Brexit offers just such an opportunity.

Leaving the EU opens up the possibility – perhaps the need – to constitutionally redefine the UK. Which, we must assume, opens up the all but certain prospect of Scotland’s constitutional status within the UK also being redefined. And why would be believe such redefining would be anything other than unilateral? Surely the behaviour of the British government over the participation of devolved administration in the Brexit negotiations makes it perfectly clear that there would be no more than token consultation, at best.

Long before the Holyrood election in 2021, the British government will legislate to make a consultative referendum illegal in Scotland. Or, at the very least, they will create insurmountable obstacles and impossible conditions. If the Scottish Government makes enough of a fuss about this, the Scottish Parliament will be suspended and direct rule will be imposed.

Realpolitik dictates that the new referendum must be held no later than September 2018. The Yes movement should be preparing for this. We don’t have time to fart about.

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About Peter A Bell

Thinker. Listener. Talker. Reader. Writer. No attitude immutable. No conclusion final. No opinion humble. Lifelong campaigner for the restoration of Scotland's independence.
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5 Responses to The clock is ticking

  1. Born Optimist says:

    My personal clock is ticking too. Like many individuals I’ve done my bit to support Indy web sites, blogs, etc. for a number of years but there is a limit to how much I can regularly afford in the long run (getting older, inflation, etc all require attention and bite into my income). I’m therefore setting a deadline on how long my contributions will continue. If there is no clear indication of when the next IndyRef will be held or a date not set then I’ll have to put my family and personal interests first. September 2018 seems to me the best date. Brexit conundrums might have been resolved or at least be definable, SNP still in power and running a stable Scottish government (if another quick fire UK election doesn’t blow a hole in their reputation). If Labour is in power in Westminster I can see more potential problems unless a clear cut positive narrative for a future Scotland is also tied to the historical failure of Labour to serve the interests of the Scotland’s population. One need only look at the finance business and the wasteful House of Lords for examples. However, there will never be a perfect time for a referendum. Given the range of potential problems looming in the future the First Minister has to bite the bullet and present the best case possible, and prepare to fight fire with fire, knowing the opposition will have no intention of playing fair.

    [Having written that I now fell better. I didn’t realise how much stress my (admittedly limited) open ended expenditure was causing me. Having set a deadline seems to have set my mind at ease.]

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hugh Wallace says:

    Peter, your last sentence says it all.

    Optimist, I’m with you on this. I’ve been a supporter of independence all my life & always hoped it would occur but probably never really thought it would. In 2014 it looked like we had a really good chance so I threw myself into the campaign lock, stock & barrel & both feet first. I’m still ticking along doing a bit, biding my time until the next round (Sept 2018) but if that doesn’t work I can’t see independence happening in my lifetime. So I’ll be stopping my contributions, stopping my daily reading & occasional writing & getting on with the rest of my life. Which will probably mean I will emigrate & join countless Scots from countless generations (including half of my ancestors) who sought a better life beyond these shores. It would break my heart to do so but staying in a Scotland that twice voted No would probably kill whatever spirit I have left by that time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter A Bell says:

      I have some sympathy with your view. But I like to think I’ll keep on fighting for the cause. It’s in me. However weary, frustrated and downhearted I get, it’s still part of who I am. I’m close to despair most days as I hear and read comments from mindlessly bigoted British Nationalists and naively misguided independence supporters. On many occasions I have resolved to walk away from it all. But I really can’t. It’s a matter of principle. The Union is wrong. It has to end.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hugh Wallace says:

        Who knows, Peter, I might still be there with you in 20 years time. Only time will tell. Many people who know me consider me stupidly idealistic in that I’ve always been one to highlight how badly some people are treated & often try & do something about it. Others shrug their shoulders & get on with looking out for themselves. But I am also deeply pragmatic & have worked at the margins of society & know first hand that some people are unsaveable & some situations are unfixable. The Union is terrible for Scotland in so many ways but it takes a majority of Scots to change it. If we vote No again then I have to view Scots as a nation of addicts, of UKaholics, of junkies who need their fix of the Union. I can pity such people & understand why they are in such a state but I know I can’t save them any more than I can help the drug addicts & alcoholics I’ve encountered at work. Or maybe I’m just too weak to help them & people like you are made of sterner stuff. As I say, who knows. Maybe I’m just on a downer today & will feel differently tomorrow. Like our Optimistic friend above, perhaps I’m only just realising, through writing this, how scunnered I feel at times. Apologies for ranting on your page.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Derek Ball says:

    I’ve been away so am commenting belatedly. I agree it seems all too depressingly likely that Westminster, emboldened by the example of Spain, will introduce a Spanish-style loyalty clause into law resulting in Thatcher-style baton-charges and Rajoy-style rubber bullets and imprisonment against anyone daring to challenge Scottish Dependence. The trouble is, we’re exhausted at the moment and the effort required for a new campaign straight away is daunting; and indeed, we’re showing no sign of feeling any urgency. The received wisdom seems to be that Brexit has to ‘bite’ first, then we’ll all sit up. But if you’re right Peter, we’ll be too late.


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