AN ‘ADVISORY’ REFERENDUM IS NOT CONSEQUENCE FREE

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What a few months it has been for the independence movement. After the SNP’s incredible victory in December we have seen the first clear example of sustained majority support for independence with 3 polls in a row showing Yes in the lead. Out on the doors we are finding more people than ever considering independence and our Brexit opposition has brought us to the attention of a whole new swathe of Scottish public opinion. It certainly now feels like we are approaching the tipping point where support for independence is becoming the new consensus. Independence has never been closer and the only people that can now beat us is ourselves. 

What the Tories and the unionists are counting on is for the independence movement to be consumed with impatience, frustration and fragmentation. The Tories are looking for anything to get them off the independence hook and are hoping beyond hope that we embark on a strategy that will alienate our new support and confine ourselves to illegality and unconstitutionality. They counted on aggressively opposing a further independence referendum to bring Scotland to heel. Instead what has happened is that support for independence has risen with every Johnson denial of our democracy. They are now looking at us and observing with satisfaction what they see as the seeds of division. 

Where our new support for independence has been hard won it remains tenuous. Our new recruits have come mainly from former No voting remainers and they are looking to see if we are worthy of their continuing support. Talk of UDIs, ‘dissolved unions’ and wildcat referendums terrify them half to death and pursuing any such strategy could very well return them back to the Nos.

Just now all the talk of is of an ‘advisory referendum’. This is now being presented as a cost free strategy to break the deadlock. The suggestion is that the Scottish Government simply legislate to hold a referendum and in doing so provoke a legal challenge from the UK Government. The supporters of this approach suggest that nothing will be lost if this is judged illegal and that all could be gained if successful in court. I’m afraid that the suggestion that this course of action would be consequence free is simply fanciful.

Let’s look at what would in fact happen if the Scottish Government went down the ‘advisory’ referendum route. Firstly, there wouldn’t be a Brexit type drama at the Supreme Court, instead there would just be the UK Government continuing to say their usual ‘No’. Their strategy would be to boycott the whole process and refuse to engage and acknowledge any result. They would not dirty their hands on a legal challenge on something they refuse to even countenance. Instead, they would leave that to any number of unionist groups who would be positively salivating at the prospect of having independence declared ‘illegal’.

If somehow a legal challenge fails and an ‘advisory’ referendum goes ahead it would no doubt be won (given that there would be no ‘No’ proposition). It is in what happens next that we enter the unknown and where things could get really messy. Firstly, we would need to win over 50% of the total electorate as the boycotters would claim ‘victory’ with anything less. This is a huge threshold to achieve and would have to be done with co-operation from unionist local authorities who may not be particularly well disposed to participate in such a referendum. 

Then what happens with this ‘victory’ with or without such a majority? The view from supporters of the ‘advisory’ referendum route is that this would make the UK Government engage, though why they would then when they won’t now, remains unexplained. Much more likely is that the UK Government would just decide to change the law as they did with the Scottish Government’s Continuity Bill and retrospectively declare any poll illegal.

With the UK refusing to accept the result we’d be right back to roughly where we are having indulged in a one sided supra-opinion poll that may or may not have given us a useful result. More worryingly there could be pressure to use the result as a mandate for independence and simply declare UDI with all the Catalan style consequences and impacts on our international standing. In the meantime the people of Scotland will be observing all of this and we can only start to imagine what their reaction might be.

Then there is more than a good chance that any advisory referendum is declared ‘illegal’. You could just imagine the whoops of joy from the unionists. A court case would have turned independence form a political cause into a legal one and we could well have confined ourselves to our own designed legal cage. 

An ‘advisory’ referendum is therefore anything but consequence free. It is something that could set us back significantly and could also unleash a range of forces that could quickly escalate out of control. 

If I believed for one minute that this or any one of the number of ‘Plan Bs’ being considered would get us to our goal easily and quickly I would back it, and them all, in a blink of an eye. But none of them do, and this was always going to be hard work. I can also understand all those who want to grasp at ‘anything’ and who feel we should ‘just do something’. But this is about securing our nation’s independence and we have to keep our patience and constraint and not set out along a route that could be playing in to our opponents hands and could set us back years. 

With majority support in place there is a feeling that things could in fact move on quickly and this is all likely to come to a head at next year’s Scottish election. If we win that with a clear majority for independence then there will be no available grounds on which the UK Government can legitimately continue to oppose. If they do then the ‘section 30’ road may indeed be running out. It is at this stage we consider all options to progress our cause. What we have to demonstrate to the international community is that we have tried everything possible to secure our independence legally and legitimately in the face of a belligerent and non compliant parent state. 

Right now we are winning and the Tories know that they can not continue to hold out. They are praying for our discipline to break – do not oblige them

20 thoughts on “AN ‘ADVISORY’ REFERENDUM IS NOT CONSEQUENCE FREE

  1. Ian Caldwell

    Perhaps you would be so kind as to clarify which former colony of the United Kingdom gained its independence as a result of pursuing the strategy that you are advocating.

    Reply
    1. Heath Braxton

      The Scots Nationalists are stupid for going down the road of having any kind of referendum. When Ireland left the UK they did so simply by the nationalist party winning a majority of seats in a Westminster election in 1918. That party only won 49% of the popular vote but the First Past the Post system gave them 73 out of 100 seats. There wasn’t a majority in Ireland in favour of independence then, just like there isn’t a majority in Scotland now, yet the Irish nationalists overcame the majority and got what they wanted. If the SNP were smart, which they are not, they would simply follow that example. A majority of Westminster seats = Independence. What’s good for the Irish is good for the Scots. The SNP should have taken their huge mandate in 2015 as a mandate for independence. The UK under Cameron would have backed down and given it to them.

      Reply
      1. tom donald

        You seem to have missed the subsequent events in Ireland, a catastrophic civil war, followed by a century of division and bloodshed. What’s good for the Irish wasn’t even good for the Irish.

      2. Brian

        Votes weren’t counted in 25 constituencies because the Sinn Fein candidate was unopposed. Had they been, they would have had a clear majority of the popular vote.

        Anyway, I’m not too keen on simply following the example that led to a war!

  2. lexicalluthor

    It’s difficult to disagree with those who have responded so far. How is it that English law can dictate to Scots what they can and cannot do? I’m sure that I have heard it say that the so-called Declaration of Arbroath shows that it cannot. And how can Westminster have EVEL at the same time as dictating what the Scots can and can’t do? I’m frankly disappointed at the lack of strength of spirit from the SNP and their apparent tendency to be obsequious to to Westminster. Placing all hopes on the outcome of the Scottish Parliament election is an uninspiring strategy and one with the possibility of a humiliating failure to achieve the desired result. If the electorate become impatient with the SNP (and I believe that many now are), this could be disastrous. Look what happened in England with Labour at the GE in December. It wasn’t so much a huge victory for for the Conservatives as a huge vote against Corbyn’s Labour shambles.

    The strategy of SNP may well be filled with some wisdom but I’m very fearful that Joe Blow on the street just doesn’t “get it”.

    Good luck!

    Jim Robin

    Reply
  3. Taylor Stevenson

    I am not now or have ever been a nationalist. I am patriotic however and believe that Scotland may well be better off as an independent country just not with the current crop of politicians at the top table.
    I found your piece on the advisory referendum really interesting and as always it made me wonder why do nationalists insist on looking for any excuse to have a referendum.
    To me and I admit I’m no expert, independence would be a “shoe in” if only the problems within areas such the NHS, education and crime were drastically improved.
    I have a large circle of friends and family, pretty much all of them voted no the last referendum for the reasons above and none have changed their mind. None of us or any of their friends or families have ever participated in any opinion which makes me wonder who are these people that take part.
    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to voice my opinion and please if you really want to ensure independence tackle Scotland’s problems..

    Regards Taylor Stevenson.

    Reply
    1. lexicalluthor

      What Scotland can or cannot do in terms of Health, Education and Justice is mainly dependent on what the Westminster government “grants” it financially. I believe that the Scottish Government is working hard to make all of these better within the financial constraints placed upon it.

      Reply
  4. milenapaterson2235

    Why von earth would anyone move Scotland in ANY direction based upon a poll ig just over a thousand people? Plain daft!

    And why does no-one ask the question, ‘what would happen in the event of another remain vote?’. Would alll these folk pack up their faceplaint and flags and just go home?

    Reply
  5. Bruce MacDougall

    What about the method of reconvening the Scottish Parliament in abeyance since shortly after the Treaty of Union was entered into 300 years ago when the new combined Westminster Parliament began. A National Assembly of all Scottish Parliamentarians, Westminster and Holyrood held to reconvene the “old” Scottish Parliament, giving themselves the constitutional powers to dissolve the Union and declare independence.

    Reply
    1. lexicalluthor

      I wish it were possible to give a “vote up” or “like” for comments! Consider your comment “liked”. 🙂

      Reply
  6. epicyclo

    All I’m going to say is if there’s no referendum this year, then I will no longer trust the SNP to deliver it at all.
    I will vote for any other party that supports independence or abstain.

    Reply
  7. Clinton

    My worry is that I don’t honestly believe that the UK government will ever agree to Scottish independence unless someone or something forces them to. And that won’t be Scottish public opinion or the results of any election in Scotland. When the SNP won 56 out of 59 Scottish seats, did the UK government agree that this meant anything? No – they ignored the SNP, and continue to do so.

    The only reason indyref 1 happened was because Cameron was so arrogant he thought there was no way he could lose. It was a ploy to kill Scottish independence – and it could have succeeded. If we had won in 2014, I’m not convinced that those goal posts wouldn’t have been transported yet again….

    I’m sorry. I campaigned for the SNP back in the 70s and 80s. I think we were naive back then to believe that a majority of MPs would give us independence. And I think the movement is still naive.

    So, what’s the way out?

    Reply
  8. Fiona Tavendale

    I believe Nicola is following the correct course, and I am sure she is aware of the British Establishment’s dirty tricks – Scotland embarked of a union with the Kingdom of England – hence the United Kingdom – a so called Kingdom of equals – but unfortunately the Kingdom of England decided that that the Kingdom of Scotland was subservient to the Kingdom of England – denying us our language, culture, dress and history – basically colonisation of our country, so to say that we might be going down the road of Catalonia is incorrect – it was previously the Kingdom of Argon which was subsumed by Spain and unfortunately is now classed as a region of Spain – Scotland has never been subsumed by the England- our parliament – the Scottish Parliament did not close, the lords of the parliament at that time just decided to move themselves to London to enjoy basically the sexpots and corruptness of London and the so called culture and a move up in so called polite society- so the Scottish Parliament reconvened when we got our devolved government and as such we should be able to reconvene the Scottish Government in it’s entirety.

    y

    Reply
    1. lexicalluthor

      I believe that you may be incorrect when you say that the Scottish Parliament was reconvened. It’s still lying dormant and what we have now is a pseudo “devolved parliament” granted by England, and which is separate from the ACTUAL Scottish Parliament.

      I believe this to be a vitally important point and if Boris ever decided to disband the devolved Scottish Parliament, we still have our actual parliament to fall back on.

      If anyone knows better than this, please comment and correct me. I’m no expert. 🙂

      Reply
    1. lexicalluthor

      Not sure why he should feel obliged to respond to responders. If you write a book, a newspaper article or for a magazine, people may have views on its content but the author isn’t obligated to respond to those views. Why should a blog be any different?

      Reply

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