PLAN B IS NOT THE ANSWER

So it looks like Plan B is to be debated at conference and the party will have a chance to decide if this is indeed the ‘deadlock breaker’ that will end all our referendum woes. Borne out of an implacable belief that ‘Boris’ will ‘never’ agree to a ‘Section 30’ its proponents contend that this will be the route that will allow Scotland to chose. 

But what exactly is Plan B? What does it actually do and has it any chance of actually working? 

Sometimes like the proverbial constitutional bus several Plan Bs come along at once. If you look round ‘Yes’ social media you would find plenty to chose from. There are the various UDIs, legal challenges, covenants and wildcat referendums all claiming to be the real thing.

But the Plan B that will present itself to conference is a pretty straight forward affair. It proclaims that a victory based on a parliamentary majority will lead to negotiations to independence. In advance the UK Government will be offered a final opportunity to ‘give’ a Section 30. Refusal would mean that the UK Government would meet the full force of, well, an election… But an election like no other. In fact a ‘plebiscite’. 

Reading the motion I’m not entirely sure if there is also to be a programme for Government and a policy platform for the next Parliamentary term or whether it will just be independence and nothing else. What is entirely certain is that all the unionist opposition parties would refuse to agree to an election framed on this basis. Unlike a dedicated referendum there will be no opposition case and nobody representing the union case. It will therefore be the SNP fighting some sort of quasi referendum and all the other parties contesting a scheduled election. 

This then leads immediately to countless questions around democratic legitimacy. Forget the fact that no other nation has ever done anything remotely like this before it breaks every notion that independence should only be secured on the back of a public majority. We would also have to assume that the Scottish people would somehow go along with their democracy being appropriated like this, and that is a very big assumption…

But before we get into all of that surely the most basic question is what happens when the UK Government says ‘No’ to a Scottish Government newly armed with a mandate to ‘negotiate’ independence, as it most definitely will? 

This is a UK Government that has said ‘No’ to another agreed referendum and which consistently says ‘No’ to devolving the powers to Scotland to hold a referendum. We are apparently invited to accept the notion that they will turn 180 degrees on their heads and say – ‘OK we’ve done everything possible to stop you having another referendum but we’ll agree to negotiate independence with you because you won an election’? After being told repeatedly about the perniciousness of the UK state and the certainty of the ‘Boris veto’ it is beyond naive to believe that they will somehow so readily acquiesce to the result of an election?

‘We’ll just do it anyway’ you might then say. Well, this is where we start to get into some seriously tricky territory. ‘Just doing it anyway’ means we would be doing something broadly similar to what Catalonia did when they won their uncontested referendum – without actually winning a referendum! This would in effect mean we would be declaring some sort of Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). The consequences of that could not be more serious. 

Almost certain to be one of the first things to happen is that we would have all of this immediately ruled illegal and be disenfranchised from the entire international community. We would be left in the sort of hellish limbo currently endured by the people of Catalonia. The idea that the Scottish people who have conducted the debate around independence constitutionally and legally for decades would somehow embrace a ‘UDI’ is almost beyond preposterous and is just not going to happen. 

Of course UDI might be the furthest thing from the mind of the ‘plan B-ers’. It may be to them a means to simply exercise further leverage on the UK to ‘grant’ the plan A of a referendum, as some have indeed suggested. But this then takes us right back to their ‘Boris veto’ without taking us any further forward in our independence ambitions having wasted a great deal of time and support in the process.

What a ‘Plan B’ does more than anything else is let the Tories off the referendum hook. They are getting beat and they know it. They know that if the SNP replicate the conditions of the 2011 election and secure another majority it is all more or less over. All their current planning and strategising is simply screaming ‘we are in big trouble’. The Tories know a referendum is coming and the only people who have absolute faith in the Tories sustaining their current ‘No’ to a referendum are the Plan B-ers and others on social media.

The Tories in fact can’t believe their luck. They know the last chance of their union being saved is if we beat ourselves. Their only plan is to say ‘No’ then hope that this No is accepted as their last word and gospel on the matter and then count on the frustration and division building. They could not be more delighted at the way this simple but effective plan is working out. The loudest cheers of an SNP conference backing this Plan B motion will be in the offices of the Conservative party. It would be a total vindication of their ‘Plan No’. They, without doing practically anything, will have pushed us down the road of the electorally unpalatable whilst ending their referendum difficulties. 

The only good thing about all of this is it that this damaging debate will come to a head. We as a party will debate a ‘Plan B’ and the result of conference must be respected and we then all get back to winning our independence.

I very much hope the Plan B motion is comprehensively defeated but despite all my many reservations if this is what the party decides then I will do all I can to make it work. 

I hope all the Plan B-ers will do the same if the motion is defeated

8 thoughts on “PLAN B IS NOT THE ANSWER

  1. Edward Andrews

    It is not a damaging debate but a necessary one. Up until 2005 or so a majority of Scottish MPs at Westminster was the aim for independence. Then with Holyrood we went to a Referendum.
    If the SNP can’t discuss the question it suggests that some people have been part of the undemocratic Westminster system where things are compromised.
    We are an insurgent party. Let us act like it

  2. Ian Caldwell

    Your comparison between Scotland/Catalonia and England/Spain is false and misleading. England is no longer a member of the EU.

  3. C Griffiths

    Sorry Pete but your argument is self defeating. If we follow your logic and the SNP win a majority in 2021 and Bojo says no what are the SNP going to do. He will keep saying no. He has no reason to change his mind. And if you are saying the SNP will do nothing but whinge on the sidelines then your argument holds no value. If you are not prepared to go down an alternative track then what is the point of the SNP keep on asking the electorate for a mandate. It is quite simple if the SNP are supported and win big in 2021 and do nothing then their support will evaporate. Indy supporters will leave the party in droves and move to a party that will confront the status quo. This is the reality and the SNP need to hear this clearly.

    1. alisonscot

      Exactly C Griffiths. We can’t just wait for a S30 which will never be agreed. Pete’s argument is ridiculous. Also, why would Scotland be disenfranchised by the international community? There’s more chance of rUK being disenfranchised because they won’t agree to our independence! Look at how many trade deals they’ve managed to secure! Scotland has lots of friends across the world.

  4. ndls61

    This is intellectually dishonest tendentious misdirection. If you actually believe much of this you’re simply ill-informed, which is a bad enough look for an MP. If you’re punting this scare mongering nonsense just to bolster your failed “Plan A and No Other!!” narrative it is if anything worse!

    You’re actually asking us to believe that a party which is happy to literally see English school children go hungry during school holidays, which is not only content but positively revels in its plan to break international law over the EU Withdrawal Agreement, will somehow meekly agree to give us a S30 Order for #indyref2?

    Honestly, Pete…..give this laughable line of argument up. Nobody rational is buying it. It won’t matter what the scale of the SNP victory is in May 2021, it won’t matter if we’re on 60% or even 70% in the polls, Johnson will simply say no and ignore your mandate until 2029.

    Referendums are actually a very UNCOMMON route to self determination historically or in international legal precedent. The international community would have no more problem with recognising Scottish independence gained via plebiscitary election than they would if it were achieved via referendum: what they care about is a clear result, in response to a clear question or mandate. Nothing else really matters.

    What the SNP gradualists have to answer is why they are so dead set against Plan B? None of Pete’s arguments hold water. There are no convincing counter arguments to the simple and powerful Plan B argument, which the SNP could do in a matter of days, of simply saying to Westminster: “Guarantee us a Section 30 Order on #indyref1 terms before May 2021 elections, or they become a de facto plebiscite”.

    Failure to do so simply confirms the political and moral cowardice of the SNP leadership.

  5. Lisa Smith

    Westminster will only agree a S30 when they have all the “No to Independence” ballots printed And waiting in a secret vault at GCHQ, and a military style operation planned to destroy most of the Yes ballots….I wish I was joking but I am not….the phrase “perfidious Albion” exists because of the ruling class of England’s track record over centuries!
    Gradualists in the SNP have had long enough….Scotland’s time to be a normal self governing Nation among Nations is running out, Brexit will attempt to catapult it into the long grass for sure….time now for bold, radical, confident action in this so called equal Union…..time for Scotland to leave it, by whichever means can be legitimately and democratically employed….and time for the true Independent minded leaders in the SNP hierarchy to weed out the BS plants.

  6. Mark Mortimer

    For what it is worth I agree with Peter. It is not possible to unilaterally declare independence, should Westminster decline a S30 then why wouldn’t they decline to recognise a UDI. If they did how do we leave the Union, Scotland and the rest of the UK are so intertwined there would have to be mutual understanding to facilitate the untangling as well as international recognition. Also as mention in Peter’s piece it would be easier to for Westminster to discard plan A if there were a plan B which could also be discarded/not recognised. All the various different factions of how to gain Independence and the bile I read on twitter and else where are diluting what should be a unified force for Independence. I guess to the undecided it will make joining the Independence movement unpalatable.
    I hope and pray the people of Scotland can come together in one common force to achieve the common goal of Independence as I truly believe 2021 will be the last chance. After 2021 the momentum will have wained, laws and powers diluted by the current Westminster Gov.

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