WHY WE SHOULD BE WARY OF THIS PEOPLE’S VOTE

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As Brexit approaches its inevitable disastrous endgame the calls for a People’s Vote grows more strident. Reinforced by 700,000 people marching through the streets of London, the SNP will apparently support any second vote in the House of Commons It now seems there is an irresistible momentum towards a second EU referendum and together we will halt their Brexit.

Only I have big concerns about supporting a second Brexit vote and I am particularly anxious about supporting such a vote without any guarantees that our choice in Scotland will be respected next time round. In the last vote Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU only to be totally ignored, with our national view contemptuously dismissed. Every attempt to broker an outcome acknowledging how Scotland voted was rejected and any position to try and minimise the impact of Brexit in Remain-supporting Scotland binned before the ink was even dry. Now we are to offer unconditional support for another referendum which could produce the same result and conditions throughout the UK once again.

No-one from the People’s Vote campaign has attempted to answer the question, which is: What if Scotland votes to remain (which it will) and the UK as a whole votes to leave again (which it might)? They won’t answer because, for them, it is a UK vote and the outcome in Scotland is irrelevant and just the same as the outcome in any other part of the UK. They simply do not acknowledge that we as a nation have our own national view and national interest.

To say that we will sign up to a referendum without any guarantee that our Scottish national voice will be at least acknowledged is little more than an open invitation to have our national view ignored and disrespected all over again. We are simply inviting all the indignities we are currently enduring to be replicated and refreshed.

Then there is precedent. There is now a view amongst the politicians leading the People’s Vote campaign that all big constitutional referendums should now have a “confirmatory” second vote. The politician with perhaps the highest profile in the People’s Vote campaign, Vince Cable, has explicitly said that a confirmatory vote would be required on a successful independence referendum. By enthusiastically buying into this confirmatory vote for an EU referendum, we weaken our hand in resisting Unionist calls for a second vote on a successful indyref. You can just imagine the Unionist chorus: “You were all for a second confirmatory vote on the EU but not one for independence.”

And if they were successful in using this precedent against us, unreconciled Unionists would be working non-stop from the day after the referendum to ensure that a successful outcome would be overturned. Every apparatus of state would be deployed and they would ensure that the worst possible “deal” would be offered to the Scottish people in the hope that their Union could be rescued.

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But in saying all this Scotland would want the UK in the EU. The most seamless transition to independence would be with a common customs union whilst being part of the EU single market with the rest of the UK. With the UK out of the EU, borders will become the totemic scaremongering feature of a future referendum campaign. One can only imagine the relish a Unionist campaign will have in insisting the Scottish people will have a hard border and no common travel area with the rest of the UK. Having the UK in the EU is in the interests of Scottish independence.

We want Brexit reversed and I hope that somehow it can still be stopped. But the second vote advocates have to come a couple of steps towards us and at least acknowledge that the UK is a Union of nations each with its own national view on the EU. But they won’t. Beyond the Unionist politicians who lead the campaign there are the celebrities like Bob Geldof and Dan Snow, people who couldn’t be more strident in their opposition to independence. To throw our weight behind their People’s Vote without any guarantees or recognition of our national position is like throwing the dice on someone else’s roulette wheel.

Realistically, though, It is very unlikely to be realised. We will be out of the EU in less than six months and there is just not the political capacity to win a second vote. The few Tories likely to vote in favour will be swamped by the number of Labour MPs who believe that the “result must be respected” even if the Labour front bench could be tempted to support it. We could be presenting all sorts of risks to a future independence referendum for nothing.

The only thing likely to stop Brexit is the contradictions of its own incompetent impracticality and we should never stop pointing out the disaster that is coming our way in the vain hope that it can be stopped. There is a sense that the campaign for a second vote is over before it has really begun. The key choice that is facing Scotland is do we want to be part of a UK out of the EU with all the disastrous consequences or do we want to determine our own relationship with the EU as an independent nation?

 

 

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SCOTTISH TORY MPs AND THE ABUSE OF MINISTERIAL ACCESS

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Those familiar with the activities of Scottish Conservative Members of Parliament will know that they like to be photographed with their more senior and better known colleagues. Any cursory glance at their social media output will see a phalanx of photos with any number of UK Ministers and Secretary of States. Beaming with pride and bonhomie they look glaikitly into whoever’s iPhone is available to capture ‘the moment’. Inevitably, there will be the caption. Included will be the essential words ‘working towards, listening, resolving, showing’ with the clear message that it is they that have the access and the ear of Ministers. Having become the most supine, obedient and enthusiastic of lobby fodder Scottish Conservatives need something, anything, that suggests somehow they are doing something. 

So what do you think happened when I asked for the self same meetings with these Ministers that I identified in those photos? Well, not one agreed to meet with me, with most not even giving me the courtesy of a response and one telling me that I can take up the issue with her in the tea-room!

In trying to give these Scottish Conservatives this ‘leg up’ the UK Government has dangerously politicised access to Ministers for narrow party political advantage. There isn’t even an attempt to hide this co-ordinated and crude attempt to give this advantage and it is is something that goes against every principle of the Ministerial Code. 

Access to Ministers must be something that is afforded to all Members of Parliament. We are all elected to serve the people of this country and every constituent should be afforded the same rights from Ministers through their democratically elected MP. To politicise access for party political advantage is simply unacceptable and anti-democratic.

And this politicisation of access is now hindering the work that is required to resolve and deal with the pressing issues across my constituency and the people I represent. For example, I alongside my Dundee colleagues, recently wrote to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury asking for a meeting to discuss the delays in the Tay Cities Deal, a meeting that was refused. I have since seen a social media contribution from a Tory MP, who has one Tay Cities Deal project in his constituency, sitting down with the Chief Secretary where he boasts he is discussing his project with her.

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Then just this week there was a photo of a Scottish Tory MP pictured with the Home Secretary with a caption from her saying she was discussing a seasonal agricultural workers scheme. The next day a pilot scheme was announced in an obvious attempt to try and credit her with its introduction. This is despite me writing to the Home Secretary to meet several weeks ago and also chairing an all party Select Committee which recommended a scheme’s introduction. 

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The killer though must be a visit to a job centre in ‘my constituency’ where a Scottish Conservative MP hosted the Disabilities Minister, a meeting of which, I wasn’t even informed! She of course has never even gave me the courtesy of a response when I asked for a similar meeting. 

All of this is a shocking abuse of Ministerial party patronage. I can understand why this Government feels the need to give extra support to these Scottish Tory MPs. Their main contribution in Parliament is to rage against a Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government beyond their Parliamentary responsibilities, irritating and bewildering their constituents, who just want proper representation in the Parliament in which they were elected to serve. Giving the illusion that they can somehow ‘influence’ decision making with their party colleagues is an easy and lazy bit of Parliamentary cover. 

The range of issues with which Scottish Conservative MPs have now been credited extends to ending VAT on police services, the revitalisation of the oil and gas industry and the worldwide success of Scotch Whisky. Next we’ll find that they are responsible for the Scottish enlightenment, the finding of the Loch Ness monster and the lunar moon landings! The simple fact is that they have no influence on a Government that is tightly controlled from the centre and riven by its own contradictions and tensions, The only role required from the Scottish Conservatives MPs is to enquire ‘how high’ when asked to jump on behalf of their Government. 

If anything they have got in the way of ensuring that solutions are properly delivered. Take this week’s announcement of a Seasonal Workers Scheme. I tried to secure an all party approach and consensus in securing a useful scheme that properly consulted with the industry. The hastily arranged effort to try and credit a single Conservative MP managed to disappoint everybody in the sector with the Government announcing a scheme providing a paltry 2,500 workers of the 64,000 that they themselves say is required. 

With an absence of 20 years the re-introduction of Scottish Conservative MPs into the Scottish political wildness was always going to be a ‘difficult’ project. Where we can put up with their blind obedience to their Government and their almost hysterical attempts to ‘attack’ the Scottish Government in all their Westminster contributions we can not allow them to get away with this abuse of Ministerial access for critical constituency issues. It must end now. 

A PEOPLE’s VOTE AND SCOTLAND

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I really loathe their Brexit. I really do. Never before has the main objective of any Government been to intentionally impoverish the people they serve with such chaotic and clueless abandon. There is no redeeming quality to what the Tories are doing to us and the fact that my country so overwhelmingly rejected it just makes this loathing even more acute. I want to stop their Brexit and there is just no way that I will ever be reconciled to what they are trying to achieve with taking us out of the European Union against Scotland’s national collective will.

It should therefore be easy for someone like me to buy into any and all efforts to stop their Brexit. Another vote to stop it? What could possible be wrong with that? 

Well, there are in fact just a few issues that require a wee bit more attention before I sign up to any campaign. The main one being what if Scotland votes to remain again (which it will) and the UK as a whole votes to leave again (which it might)? No one form this ‘people’s vote’ campaign have attempted to answer this question other than some glib response that it would have to be a UK wide result. Well, I’m sorry that isn’t good enough. Brexit is a problem created beyond Scotland, mainly out of divisions which abound in a Conservative party that has 13 of Scotland’s 59 MPs. We wanted nothing to do with this and when we were obliged to vote on the issue every part of Scotland voted to remain. Why should Scotland participate in an exercise that has explicitly ignored our view and won’t respect it in any rerun? At the very least we would need to see some equivalent support for a second referendum on independence. Surely, these democrats in the ‘People’s Vote’ campaign thoroughly believe in the right to choose and reconsider?

Then there is precedence. There are fears that if a second vote on the EU is delivered a similar type of second vote on the terms of independence may also be insisted upon. This one concerns me less but remains an issue. Any future indy vote will now have to have, built in to the campaign, that a positive vote will be definitive and conclusive. We should also be confident that a Scottish Government taking us to independence will make less of an utter mess of it than the current UK one is doing with Brexit. There will, though, be unreconciled unionists who will use any precedence on Brexit as a means to undermine our independence vote and we should be wary.

But in saying all this Scotland would want the UK in the EU. The most seamless transition to independence would be with a common customs union whilst being part of the  EU single market with the rest of the UK. With the UK out of the EU borders will become the totemic scaremongering feature of a future referendum campaign. One can only imagine the relish a unionist campaign will have in insisting the Scottish people will have a hard border and no common travel area with the rest of the UK. Having the UK in the EU is in the interests of Scottish independence.

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My approach to a second EU referendum then is to be supportive without being one of its champions. I would want them to succeed and wish them all the very best. I would not vote against a second vote in the House of Commons and am open to supporting it if I can secure a commitment that the result in Scotland would be respected.

Realistically, though, It is very unlikely to be realised. We will be out of the EU in just 7 months time and there is just not the political capacity for a second vote. The ‘people’s’ vote campaign is going to target the Labour Party for support. One can only wish them the very best with that with a Labour party that almost exceeds the Tories in the clueless Brexit stakes. The only thing likely to stop Brexit is the contradictions of its own incompetent impracticality and we should never stop pointing out the disaster that is coming our way in the vain hope that it can be stopped.

But there is a sense that the campaign for a second vote is over before it has really begun.

The key choice that is coming is does Scotland want to be part of a Brexitised UK or does it want to determine its own relationship with the EU as an independent nation? The debate around a ‘People’s vote’ maybe coming to a close just as the real debate about saving Scotland from the disastrous consequences of their Brexit is about to begin. 

The Tories and Perth Royal Infirmary

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In the last few weeks I have had to reassure a number of my constituents who have been under the impression that accident and emergency is to close at Perth Royal Infirmary (PRI). This has been the result of an irresponsible campaign by Conservative proportional list Members of the Scottish Parliament, who have been prepared to suggest that this closure will ‘effectively’ take place. Let me reassure my constituents – accident and emergency will not close at PRI. What will happen is that all unscheduled surgery will now be undertaken at Ninewells, in order to ensure the highest level of care and to make sure that my constituents will have access to the new dedicated Acute Surgical Receiving Unit. And that is the way it should be. If you are involved in a life-threatening situation, you would want to go to where the expert clinicians are based and have full confidence that you will secure the highest standard of care.

What has happened across Tayside is that there has been a review of all acute surgical services with recommendations about how the existing NHS estate should be best utilised. We are facing increasing demands on our NHS with improved life expectancy and new treatments becoming available. The Scottish budget is also being systematically cut by the self-same Tories at Westminster who remain committed to controlling public expenditure as part of their general campaign of austerity. It is, therefore, incumbent upon NHS managers to ensure our assets are effectively managed. These list Tories, of course, know this because they were at the same meetings that I also attended where they barely raised a whimper in protest. The plans for Tayside were designed by the clinicians after extensive public consultation and the Tories’ irresponsible campaign only commenced when the Scottish Government approved what the health service experts proposed. 

What the Tories will not tell you is that health services at Perth Royal Infirmary are to be expanded. An expanded elective surgical service (surgery which is planned in advance) will be based at Perth Royal Infirmary to treat both cancer patients and other conditions – including complex major surgery to fully utilise the excellent care facilities and to ensure that these longer term treatments are undertaken closer to home. A&E will remain open as usual and the people of Perthshire can be fully confident of an A&E that will attend to them as required. 

But imagine for a minute, if you will, an NHS administered by these Tories. We only have to look to NHS England where the Tories are fully in charge. There the Red Cross have had to assist and A&E departments have had to close their doors to patients. This is just part of a Tory NHS England in real crisis, where privatisations remain a feature of a party ideologically indifferent about a real quality NHS. 

You seriously cannot believe a word the Tories say about the NHS and I urge you to treat with caution any further statements from them. What is being closed are schools right across Perthshire by a Tory Perth and Kinross Council. That, though, remains another story. One which you will not hear about from their proportional list MSPs.

THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER BAND LIKE RUNRIG

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It’s going to be a tough old night for everybody associated with Runrig as the band pull the curtain  down on 45 years this weekend. I had the incredible pleasure of being the keyboard player for the band at the height of its success and the experience of being part of Runrig changed me as much as Runrig changed the face of Gaelic’s place in Scotland.

There simply hadn’t been a band like Runrig before and there won’t be another one quite like them again. Their contribution to Scottish music and culture can not be overstated. Runrig reintroduced Gaelic to a new generation of young Scots and then took Gaelic and highland culture round the world. 

What Runrig offered was a perspective of Scotland from the north delivered in its authentic voice. Scotland had never heard its like before and would forever be altered by its profound message. The songs spoke of historic institutional cultural damage, of emigration and clearance, of land ownership and of our shared home and identity. In rediscovering the part of Scotland that was Gaelic it could be said that Runrig helped Scotland rediscover a large part of itself. 

For most young people growing up in Scotland in the 60s and 70s Gaelic was misunderstood if it was ever even considered at all. A cultural ‘tweed curtain’ ran the length of the Highland line and it was still a time of ‘teuchters’ and weird highland stereotypes. Scotland was still dealing in tales of a Highlands cleansed and made palatable by Walter Scott’s ‘Balmorality’ and what Scots saw of Gaelic culture was largely in the shape of Calum Kennedy and Dotaman. Gaelic was at best a charming other world but one that was largely disposable and dispensible.  

When Runrig emerged in the 1970s the future of Gaelic was very much in doubt. Gaelic had been largely deserted by young people who had most of the language beaten out of them at school before what was left challenged by the more readily accessible rock and pop music. The Scottish folk revival of the 60s had largely left Gaelic music untouched and what remained of its promotion was left in the hands of village bards and sing-songs behind closed doors. 

It was in this environment that the early Runrig started writing their own Gaelic songs. The fusion of Gaelic traditional song and rock music would probably have remained a minority interest if not for the song-craft of Calum and Rory MacDonald. Their ability to make the local universal, for being able to talk of big historical themes and make them relevant and real, to observe the huge truths in small things, defined a song writing approach that readily reached out beyond the confines of the West Highlands. 

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Then there were the songs. Songs like Dance called America. A song written about how the aristocracy mocked and mimicked the forced emigrations during the clearances. Then there is the Gaelic epic ‘Siol Ghorraidh’ written about an obscure medieval battle fought on Sleat in Skye between competing branches of Clan Donald. There’s ‘Fuaim A’ Bhlair’ a song that recalls how the highlanders were enlisted as canon fodder for the empire adventures.

But contemporary concerns were there too. Saints of the Soil celebrates the Assyntt community land buyout where Ravenscraig is one of many songs that addresses the deindustrialisation of Scotland. But then there is also ‘the Loch’. Loch Lomond became a defining song of the band and rarely could one song be so unrepresentative of a bands whole catalogue. Like most of the band I had a love/hate relationship with ‘the Loch’ but now find it highly amusing that its has ended up as a staple at the close of Scottish weddings.

The MacDonald brothers have always tried to down play the political significance of Runrig but I won’t share that reticence. Runrig put the big political issues to song and told the world of historical injustices and their contemporary equivalents. Runrig could be said to be part of the sound track of the coming of the Scottish Parliament. The 1987 song ‘Alba’ talks of that ‘empty house in Edinburgh without authority or voice’ with ‘the beautiful soil of the people still in the hands of the few’. It should come as no surprise that two members of Runrig stood for Parliament and one now remains the longest serving MP from Scotland

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But this probably didn’t matter to the legions of fans who just loved the music. And Runrig sold records in the barrowload. Over 2 million albums sold worldwide with top 5 records in the UK, Germany and Denmark. I’ll never forget how the album Amazing Things just lost out on being the UK number 1 by one of the lowest margins ever to the Greatest hits of Hot Chocolate. Runrig was Scotland ’s biggest band in the late 80s and early 90s. When in 1991 the BBC asked the Scottish public to vote in their music awards Runrig won all categories even coming second in the top female singer category. They never run the awards again. And foreign audiences lapped it up particularly German speaking Europe and Scandanavia. I’ll never forget German fans telling me that what they enjoyed was an immersion in an easily accessible cultural package when so much of their own culture was out of bounds because of history. 

Even with all the well deserved plaudits I still don’t think that the cultural contribution of Runrig has been properly acknowledged. Runrig had to survive and compete in a bizarre and fashion fuelled music industry marketplace that could never properly understand the band far less properly market them. Runrig, though, went beyond genre with songs that will prove to be timeless. There will be other bands who will come and go but none will be able to open our eyes to part of our nation with such beauty, poetry and drama as Runrig. 

Gaelic is now a national language of Scotland. Gaelic medium is a feature of our education system. There is Gaelic broadcasting and multitudes of Gaelic bands. Where there remains political detractors there is a tremendous effort and broad consensus in rescuing this beautiful language and culture. A language that helped define and chronicle Scotland itself. Runrig is a huge party of this ‘recovery’. This will forever be the band’s enduring legacy. 

RURAL SCOTLAND AND INDEPENDENCE.

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It wasn’t all that long ago. They were the ‘SNP heartlands’ and we seemed unassailable. When I was first elected in 2001 the SNP at Westminster held 5 seats and all of them were from rural Scotland. From Kinross to Kinloss it was the North East shoulder of Scotland that returned SNP MPs and it was rural Scotland that sustained our Parliamentary footprint. In the nascent Scottish Parliament it was no different. In 1999 we won 7 constituency seats, all rural, the 6 constituencies we won in 97’s General election with the addition of Inverness. In fact if we were to look historically at where the SNP had won all their Westminster seats at General elections prior to the 2015 breakthrough, other than Dundee, they were all mainly rural. 

Fast forward to 2018 and the whole situation has flipped. The majority of the seats we hold are now in urban Scotland and the losses we sustained at last years General Election were in the seats that we used to rely on to give us our Parliamentary presence. 

What has happened in rural Scotland and what does this tell us about our prospects for securing independence? Because, let’s not forget, these rural seats were also the parts of Scotland that returned the biggest No votes in the 2014 independence referendum. Seats that stood alone in voting for independence supporting SNP politicians are now the seats we appear to have the greatest difficulty defending. 

Some say that rural Scotland is just returning to its natural Conservative ‘home’. Where rural Scotland did vote for the Conservatives in large parts of the last century it doesn’t explain why it was also the first part of Scotland to return independence supporting MPs? Maybe it’s even something to do with the ‘nationalist unionist’ narrative that people like David Torrance have recently written about. Before the SNP had fully emerged as a serious force Conservatives in large swathes of rural Scotland helped carry the torch for Scottishness, home rule and the preservation of much of our cultural iconography. Our Scottishness was very much under threat by a strong post war, all pervasive, unifying British identity and rural Conservatives in places like Perthshire and the North East were amongst the most curious defenders of our national symbols. It was only with the emergence of Thatcher that this part of Scottish Conservatism was effectively killed off. I often wonder if the logic of this ‘nationalist unionism’ had been properly pursued what sort of Scottish Conservative party might have emerged and where this interest in ‘nationalism’ might have taken it? The thing is rural Scotland is politically complex and is open to the idea of constitutional progress. We have prevailed in rural Scotland before and we can again. 

The other reason given for current rural disenchantment with independence is it is now seen as an urban concern. Most of the groups that emerged out of the independence referendum were left wing with a strong ideological and class base to their vision for a future independent Scotland. Where this played well in constituencies with a tradition of voting Labour there was perhaps an inevitable consequence in areas where small ‘c’ Conservatism is the predominant community and political value. For so much of rural Scotland observing the talk of a movement seeking to ‘transform’ our nation was maybe just a bit too much to take. 

But the urban/rural circle has been squared before and it can be squared again. There is also the example of the Highlands, the one part of rural Scotland that has mainly stuck with the SNP, and we need to know why we have prevailed there and lost elsewhere.

But more than anything we need a new independence case for rural Scotland. Opposition to independence has hardened in rural Scotland following the referendum experience but this means we just have to work all the harder to get it back on board again. It is about developing agendas that support and develop the rural agenda and explaining the opportunities independence can bring. We have to learn to speak to rural Scotland whilst listening and agreeing with them a bit more. And there are a lots of opportunities for debate. 

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Food and drink is now our premier export and branding issues concern rural Scotland. Excellence in Scottish produce is one of our nation’s most important international calling cards and it is under threat from a Brexitised UK determined to pursue a one ‘UK’ approach to bilateral trade deals. Then there is the power grab. So many of the 24 powers that the UK wants to maintain in their desire to secure this UK ‘single market’ are in agriculture. This imposes a UK determined straight jacket on our farming sector and limits our ability to pursue our own priorities. 

Then there’s the obvious consequences of Brexit. Top amongst this is immigration and worries that there may not be a seasonal workforce to harvest the fields of rural Scotland. This extends to the rural hospitality sector where the bulk of hotel staff in large swathes of rural Scotland are from Eastern Europe. The ending of freedom of movement will have a bigger consequence in rural Scotland than anywhere else. There is also what happens when the £3 billion of EU farm subsidies comes to an end in 2022. The UK Government have wittered on about ‘rewarding efficiency’ but has produced no solid plan about what will happen. Scottish farming is more dependent on this EU support than any other part of the UK and is the most likely to be hurt with its withdrawal.

In the next few months I will be hosting a variety of meetings with rural businesses in my constituency and I will be listening very carefully to the issues that farming interests want to see pursued. My view is that rural Scotland is at a cross roads on a number of its preconceptions about Brexit and possible constitutional progress.

In the next case for independence we have to get to a One Scotland approach that unites every sector and part of Scotland. Where there are parts that need extra reassurance we have to offer it and understand the concerns. We must make sure that no part of Scotland is left behind in our quest for independence.

THE OPTIMUM CONDITIONS FOR INDYREF SUCCESS

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It now looks like a second referendum is set to dominate our Depute Leadership contest and I believe that is a good thing. We are at a critical juncture in how we proceed with a second referendum and it is something that we simply have to get right. The debate seems to centre round whether we should proceed with a referendum simply because we currently possess a mandate or whether we hold one when there is good evidence it can be won. 

I think everyone knows my view on this by now and it begins and ends with my firm belief that we simply can not countenance losing again. We are so close to securing our historic objective that to throw away a victory that we’ve so patiently and constructively worked for over the decades through impatience would be the worst type of defeat. I want to see evidence it can be won and I want it held at the time of our choosing when the optimum conditions are in place for success. 

People have asked what these conditions are and what evidence is required? It is a fair question which I will try and address.

Before I do I want to first go over what these ‘optimal conditions’ are not. 

Firstly, they are not when we are less than one year away from having lost over one third of our independence supporting MPs to candidates who had as their main campaigning message ‘No to a second referendum’. The SNP Government had only weeks previous to last year’s General Election placed independence centre stage by successfully securing support in Parliament to request a fresh section 30 order from the UK Government. Where there were other issues at play in last year’s General election an early referendum was by far the most dominant and we can not ignore the fact that the SNP lost half a million votes. 

‘Optimal conditions’ are not when a significant gap exists between support for independence and support for an ‘early’ independence referendum. Every test of public opinion has shown that this gap is real and we simply can not wish it away. Support for independence remains impressively at around the 45% we secured in 2014. I don’t know how we can otherwise conclude that there are a number of people who still support independence but who do not want an early referendum. Indeed, in my campaign last year I came across identified independence supporters who told me that they were voting Conservative to stop an early referendum.

‘Optimal conditions’ are also not when a majority of our fellow Scots continue to tell us they still oppose independence by a significant margin when public opinion is tested. Many have said that simply holding a new referendum will somehow secure a majority and just by initiating a renewed contest we will secure a victory. This ignores just how hard it is going to be to secure a majority. That last five precent we need to win over in a renewed referendum will be the hardest five percent we have ever had to convert. It is a five percent that is deeply dug in with over five years of intense debate about our country’s constitutional future.

That then brings me on to what we need to do to start to move towards ‘optimal conditions’. First, and most obviously, we need a new case to win over that last tough, entrenched, 5 percent. They are going to take a lot of shifting and we have to get on to their territory. Everyday issues such as currency, pensions and perceived deficits are the obvious issues we have to address but so are things that persuadable unionists care about. To win we are going to have to be creative. Things like the cultural connections and attachments that are valued across these isles and even things like British identity are going to have to be tackled and reviewed. It is also about returning to a One Scotland approach to independence. The places we lost in 2014 were in rural and affluent Scotland and we need to ask searching questions about whether appealing to one sector of our community we may be losing out to another. It means listening to persuadable unionists, understanding their agenda then winning them over. 

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Then there is Brexit. We simply can not leave Yes leavers semi-detached from the Yes movement. Forget stay at home ‘over eager nationalists’ the people who stayed at home last year were Yes voters who voted to leave the European Union. Proceeding to another indyref with this unresolved will be like proceeding with one hand tied behind our back. Then there is recognising the opportunities around Brexit. Brexit will be an unmitigated disaster for our fellow Scots and when it properly hits our fellow Scots will want to review their constitutional options.  

The ‘optimum conditions’ then is when we have done all of this. When we can feel confident that we can go to the Scottish people with a new case for our country’s independence with the outstanding impediments to success addressed. It means seeing support for our country’s independence being the sustained choice when public opinion is tested. It is hitting the sweet spot when Brexit impacts and people actively want out of an isolated, desolated UK. It means seeing support for the SNP returning to the levels we achieved around the last referendum in electoral contests. It means evidence. If securing our independence was easy we would already be an independent country. This is going to be hard, hard work and no amount of just wishing it can be easily achieved because we want it is going to get us there. We owe it to future generations of Scots to win this and rescue our nation from a disastrous Brexit and a UK determined to erode our national Parliament. We simply have to have a nation of our own run by those of us who live and work here.

So, again, and again, and again – rinse and repeat, losing again is simply not an option.