In Scotland there are currently two campaigns being conducted to secure two different and distinct constitutional referendums. One seeks to reverse the decision of the EU referendum and keep the UK in the EU whilst the other seeks a second referendum to make Scotland an independent country. Both sit rather uncomfortably and incongruously with each other and success in securing one would almost certainly mean that the conditions for the other would disappear. If independence is secured through a referendum a UK wide People’s Vote would not be necessary in Scotland. If a people’s vote is successful the set of conditions to progress independence in the near future all but disappears. 

The SNP supports both of these referendums but our recent emphasis and focus has been primarily to back the call for a people’s vote. We started out as sceptics of a People’s Vote, to rightly conceding that we would not stand in its way, to being a passive supporter, to ending up as one of its biggest cheerleaders. A second EU referendum now underpins practically everything we say on Brexit.

Such is our endorsement of a People’s Vote that we have unconditionally given our support to a second EU referendum, regardless of its outcome, and without any guarantees for our nation or acknowledgement of a future vote in Scotland. Without the inclusion of a set of conditions we could be expected to ‘respect’ the outcome even if it meant that Scotland was taken out of the EU against its will again. If somehow a People’s Vote is successful we remove the very conditions that makes Scottish independence a majority position amongst the Scottish people. Critically, we also remove the specified condition of the current mandate included in our manifesto in 2016.

With opinion polls remaining obstinately consistent since 2014 it is Brexit that provides the best opportunity to progress the independence agenda. Nearly every opinion poll shows a lead for independence in the event of Brexit taking place. The conclusion of this therefore would be to solidly and consistently argue that it is independence that would ensure that Scotland was rescued from a Brexit it doesn’t want and never voted for. Instead we spend a disproportionate amount of our time promoting a mechanism that could actually remove the conditions that make independence more likely. Where it is a noble intention to want to save the UK from itself we have to be entirely sure that it wants to be rescued. Opinion polls do show a lead for remain but none are decisive and the latest polls are beginning to show a tightening in this contest particularly when remain is pitched against viable leave options.

Rerunning this contest is also not consequence free. For a start it is likely to descend into the ugliest democratic choice that the British people have ever participated in. You can only imagine the campaign the Brexiteers will run. It probably wouldn’t even be about Europe anymore. it would more than likely end up as a verdict on the ‘political elite’ and how that ‘elite’ denied the British people their democratic choice. Scotland wouldn’t be immune from this anti-politics contest and it will almost certainly impact on our domestic Scottish politics. We would then have to try and re-stimulate another referendum campaign after this experience and the referendum fatigue we saw at the General Election of 2017 would be as nothing to what would prevail after this.


It is true that the cause of Scottish Independence would be better served with the UK remaining in the EU. Divisive issues such as borders and free movement of goods are undoubtedly better served with an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK in the EU. But all of this is beyond our control. It will be England again that will decide whether we remain or leave the EU. I always believe that it is much more useful to try and influence events which are under our control rather than waste energy on events that we can not change or influence. 

I also get that there is political mileage in encouraging remain voters who voted No in the independence referendum to our cause. As a constituency MP I am struck by the sheer numbers of new people getting in touch with me and the interest that there is in the Brexit debate is unprecedented. However we don’t help Remain/Nos on that journey if we don’t properly detail to them that the end destination of that journey has to be Scottish independence. 

In the last few days I have noticed an encouraging new tone in our statements about Brexit with more of an emphasis on independence as opposed to a second EU vote and that is to be welcomed. The First Minister will reveal our plans for an independence referendum in the next few weeks and my views on that are well known. I profoundly believe that we should only have a second referendum when there is good evidence it could be won and that it be held when there are the optimal conditions for success. I believe that another defeat would be unthinkable and could fatally undermine any future campaign for Scottish independence. 

That is why we must fully take advantage of the disruptive forces that come our way and demonstrate Scotland’s fragile position as a junior partner in the UK. Brexit helps provide these conditions but as yet we have barely nudged support for Scottish independence in the polls. As the disaster of Brexit approaches and the very real consequences start to be felt that could all change and we have a duty and responsibility to detail clearly that it is only Scottish independence that can rescue our nation from the all encompassing isolating ugliness of Brexit. A ‘people’s vote’ should not be opposed, and I would always support it in any vote in the House of Commons, but it is in building support for the referendum that will ensure that there will be no more Brexits that should always be our priority.  


  1. George Hamilton

    Reinstate Hadrian’s Wall for a hard border, leaving Ireland and Scotland in the EU as voted.
    Plenty of jobs for the Northern poorhouse then, servicing the lorries and customs posts.
    The revenue could be used to build a bridge from Portpatrick to Donaghadee.

  2. Quarmby

    The SNP’s manifesto and subsequent mandate explicitly does NOT say that being taken out of the EU against our will is the only material change upon which their mandate for an IndyRef is based. Sometimes it feels like pissing in the wind when you see the likes of Pete Wishart quite wrongly stating the contrary. Why would an SNP MP do that? There have been so many ‘material changes’ against Scotland from Westminster since 2014, that it is simply dishonest to claim that an IndyRef only has a mandate on the basis of one of them – being dragged out the EU against our will. The SNP manifesto and the subsequent mandate then won on its basis is explicit – being taken out of the EU against our will is only one example of a material change upon which we would call an IndyRef. About bloody time somebody senior in the SNP corrected the likes of Pete Wishart on that. And if they do not do so, we need to be asking them to explain why not, as it is clearly contrary to the manifesto and subsequent mandate upon which they were elected. Are they quietly dropping that and hoping if the likes of Pete Wishart say often enough that Brexit was the only material change for an IndyRef that we’ll forget that’s not true? If the SNP strategists have quietly decided to put off IndyRef till 2021 or later, they can think again – Scotland will be being governed from Westminster via Mundell’s exponentially expanded Scottish office, ominously rebranded as ‘the UK Government in Scotland.’ Wake the hell up, people. #IndyRefNow

  3. Muscleguy

    The polls have not moved much for two reasons, firstly No Remainers are still holding out desperate hope that Brexit can be cancelled (ignoring the riots and other public disturbances this would engender in Leave voting areas of England).

    Secondly there is no formal Independence campaign in operation to move the polls, to make folk pay attention, to put the arguments in closer focus. Prior to 2011 support for Independence hovered between 25% and 30%. In the two years of the Referendum Campaign the polls were moved significantly to a slim majority with two weeks to go before the Infamous Vow.

    Those who claim no effect of the Vow ignore the head of steam that that lead would have generated if the No side had obeyed Purdah. People like being on the winning side and we would have garnered many of the unsure.

    THIS is why we need a formal campaign. The polls will not move themselves.

    ScotGov’s policy of seeking ‘Brexit clarity’ made sense when formulated. It makes little to no sense now. I expect to see movement on this at Conference. Anything less would be witless and craven. Even if May’s execrable Deal is passed this will not bring clarity as long negotiations would drag on from that. It will take Years to achieve anything close to clarity, especially with both the Tories and Labour deeply split and conflicted on the issue and with political talent seemingly thin on the ground.

    The chaos and sheer incompetence on display in Westminster should be demonstration enough, IF we put that to people. Last time it was often hard to persuade folk on the doorsteps that what we held as axiomatic: Westminster was broken, was not appreciate by many. The centre cannot hold, the status quo is gone or going and we need out there to put that to folk.

    And finally Scotland is not Quebec, we don’t have the language debate and fear for a start. The SNP have defied normal political gravity for some time now, buoyed by the desire for Independence. Bald assertions that it would all be over by a second narrow loss are just that, assertions. The example in mind does not apply in many particulars.

    For a start the Canadian state organised a genuine national love-in for Quebec and granted significant constitutional sweeteners which were followed through after the second vote, unlike the Vow and the Smith Commission. Over 70% of the People of Scotland think that the Vow was not lived up to.

    Westminster will not be believed if they try it again. If we can get enough copies of the Wee Black book into people’s hands Project Fear won’t be believe either. The No side will be rhetorically toothless. There is no better time than now.

  4. Douglas

    Better Together were desperate to promote the ‘neverendum’ meme and promote ‘one in a generation’ (which was just an opinion not a promise) concept during the first Independence referendum.
    We must not concede this; they are afraid that we will never give up and so try to frame that as somehow unfair.
    Although we must never be casual about any opportunity to gain independence, I think ‘I’ll be back’ is a better motto …and Bruce’s spider a better guide.

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