Can we all go and do something less boring instead?

It’s hard to be inspired to comment on recent political events when it feels like we are living in Groundhog Day.  Everyone is obsessed.  Everyone inhabiting the political village talks about nothing else.  And it’s boring.

Except that it’s not the SNP nor its supporters who have the constitution on a continual loop, bizarrely.  Opponents think this is significant, got them on the run they think, but they are so very wrong.  The whole time the other parties and political commentators are working themselves up into a lather about independence, it’s job done as far as party strategists are concerned.

Oh, there is no doubt they’d like a little less negativity but the fact that everyone is flying Icarus-like, too close to the independence sun, is a very good thing.  We all know, after all, what happened to him.

And the more it happens, the more likely it is that the SNP will win.

First, the referendum will be held on a date chosen carefully by the SNP for maximum benefit, or else it will be foisted upon the Scottish electorate at a date chosen by lawyers or Westminster.  In either case, the SNP will win.

So the legal brains might be right:  the Scottish Parliament might not have the legislative competence currently to pass a bill creating a referendum.  Are indie opponents really going to tell the Scots that, by dragging the issue into the courts for years?  And even if they do, do they think such parlour games are going to help their cause?  Given the SNP’s intention only to proceed with a referendum in the second half of this Parliament, such activity might indeed push a referendum beyond 2016.  That will only help the Scottish Government’s case for re-election, on the grounds of unfinished business.

Nor would such a scenario lead to the internal splits and strife predicted – indicating by the way, that after all this time the other parties still don’t get the SNP and its supporter base.  Oh there will be grumblings – there already are – but by and large, the faithful have their eyes on the prize.  They won’t blame Salmond for failing to deliver, their innate sense of grievance against all things institutionally British will ensure they know exactly where to pin the blame.  They will wait, nursing their wrath to keep it warm, but they will not languish in idleness in the meantime.  The Roadmap to Independence gives them plenty of work to do on the doorsteps.

Moreover, dire warnings that Westminster might foist a vote on the Scottish electorate – to get it over with, to avoid distractions – really should come as an idea stamped with the phrase “beware unintended consequences”.  An increasingly distant UK Parliament – which most Scots do not consider has a democratic mandate in Scotland – seeking to impose its will over that of the Government which a majority of them did vote for, will only bring out our thrawn-ness.  Interference from faraway lands, both literally and emotionally, is all good, as far as the SNP is concerned.

Further, the terms of the debate will ensure the SNP wins.  They – and other independence supporters – will be asking people to vote for something positive.  Judging by the arguments being laid by Unionists to date, they are finding it very hard to shift off negative territory and provide positive reasons to vote to stay as we are.  They know they have to do this, to come up with a resonant yes to the Union campaign but are so fixated on the axis of the SNP and independence, that they cannot articulate their own ideas and views on what yes to the Union looks like.  Telling people constantly why they shouldn’t do something is not the right psychology.  The SNP, meanwhile, will appeal to folk’s confidence and competence, their sense of self, their aspiration, their hopes and for a future.  It’s worked so far….

Indeed, the very lack of a coherent narrative from the naysayers will also doom them.  The SNP is united around a single goal:  the Unionists cannot even agree what their goal is.  They seem to be agreed that it is not independence, nor is it devo-max, for shame.  So the supposed line in the sand is what?  The status quo?  Devolution with a few bits added on (from the current Scotland bill)?  Devolution with a little bit extra and maybe a cherry on top (Calman plus)?  But some arch Unionists won’t accept that, and all of it ignores the political reality that in poll after poll, for some years now, the Scots have been saying they want the Scottish Parliament to have more powers.

Which brings us to the question to be put.  Two questions?  Three?  A fix, as Tom Harris and others would style it?  A straight yes or no?  A combination?  Let me add a question of my own.  Do you think the Scottish people go to bed at night and worry themselves into the wee sma’ hours on this?

The answer to that one is, of course not.  And the more the political anoraks – and worse, their elected representatives – bang on about this, the greater the contempt with which they are held by voters.  Here they are, heads down, buttoning up their coats, preparing to face the ill-est winds recent times have produced, and all the politicians can do in response is produce hot air on what a referendum might/should ask.

So when we finally get to the day of the referendum, what right will have the naysayers have to expect the people’s support?  Especially when they will have spent the intervening period standing on the sidelines carping at the Scottish Government’s efforts to sort the economy, keep people in jobs and money in their pockets.  So they might have failed but at least they will have tried.  What is it you did again to help the war against austerity effort?

And what is this?  By your machinations and unholy alliances, you have conspired to ensure we don’t get asked the question we want, which is on devo-max?   The Unionists’ fixation on it being a straight yes-no vote to independence will fail, utterly.  The SNP, or at least, a majority of its supporters,, would settle for devo-max.  Near as damnit will do as a fine, final staging post on the long journey towards the goal.  Especially as it is what the Scottish people seem up for: if the SNP can deliver that, in tune with people’s wishes and aspirations, well it does not take a genius to work out whom the electorate might respect as a result.

Yet, in order to get one over on the SNP – supposedly – the Unionists want to deny the people what it is they want.  I’m not sure that is an electoral narrative that will deliver success.  Telling folk what they cannot have, without offering anything by way of a platform for keeping the status quo (which by the time we get there will be Calman, probably without the plus) is unlikely to go down well.  What makes the naysayers so convinced that given the choice between change and no change at all, when most voters actually want some change, that they will vote for none?  It’s a high risk strategy that is unlikely to pay off.

So the SNP wins.  Have the UK Parliament impose the vote?  Fine.  Kick the prospect of a referendum into the long grass of the legal system?  Dandy.  A just say no strategy, filled with negative reasons to stay where we are?  Great.  A two question referendum?  Nothing would make the SNP activists work until they drop, more.  A three question vote?  Well, nearly there is close enough.

And now that we’ve sorted that out, can we all go and do something more interesting with our time?

9 thoughts on “Can we all go and do something less boring instead?

  1. The United Nations Charter which includes the inalienable right to self-determination supercedes any legal control Westminster may try to pull over the legality or otherwise of any referendum. The sovereignty of the Scottish people, which is an intrinsic part of our situation, also actually means in actual fact that any limitations we agree to at the moment are essentially voluntary.
    The Scottish Parliament, as a legitimately elected body, is entitled to renounce legislation it doesn’t accept. It is also entitled to asume on behalf of the sovereign Scottish people any powers they agree they want. That is what sovereignty means. I see no reason why it cannot pass an enabling bill to run a referendum.
    All we have to do is to face down Westminster’s bluff on this issue. They will nitpick away with legal points but in the final analysis democracy trumps them all
    Sadly the previous post has swallowed the bluff.
    There is no chance whatsover of Westminster ignoring the result of a properly conducted Scottish referendum.
    Basically we have to win it..

  2. I can state with confidence here that I am not a political anorak and in the last 30 years of voting have put my cross against all mainstream political parties (bar the Conservatives) and even once for the Revolutionary Communist Party (their candidate chapped my door just after Brookside had finished and they asked politely if I would vote for them – it seemed rude not to).

    I have always been sceptical of independence, mainly because it appeared to consign us to being run by a bunch of nepotistic lard-arses/brains for the forseeable future. I liked the idea of devolution purely because Scottish Legislation took ages to get through Westminster and at least those responsible would be within easier reach.

    Whilst they are beginning to demonstrate some defensive traits common to those in power, I have been largely impressed by the intelligence of SNP Ministers (with the odd self-obsessed or gobby exceptions). This has been sufficient for me to at least consider the possibility as potentially rational although I do have concerns over the petty-minded Treasury/Civil Service squabbling that would ensue over the detailed divvying-up.

    At present, I therefore reside in the devo-max camp but if I hear too much more patronising shite form Danny Alexander, John McTernan and the like I could well end up wanting to declare independence, closely followed by war. Every single legal/constitutional snideness over when and if a referendum is called and what is asked is an insult to the electorate. Our form of democracy is pretty clear – you vote, you get a government, they govern (hopefully along the lines of their manifesto). If you don’t like what they did then vote for someone else next time.

    If a government is elected saying they are going to have a referendum in the latter part of their term then that’s what should happen. You then vote according to your views on the issue – it’s pretty simple. In the meantime those who were not elected should dry their eyes and stop whining – it’s neither edifying or electorally attractive and merely serves to demonstrate why they weren’t elected in the first place.

  3. I have to disagree with this.

    First let me say I am in favour of independence, I want there to be a referendum so that I can vote yes.

    But I am satisfied, by the work of lallands peat worrier, loveandgarbage and others that the legislation required to have a referendum is outwith the competence of the Scottish Parliament.

    I agree that a legal challenge from a unionist party would backfire massively politically, but the challenge could come from an individual. I say could, it definitely will. You can guarantee 100% that it will be challenged, and it will be defeated because the Parliament cannot legislate in this way.

    Now you SNP folk may be happy with that, you may think that guarantees you an even greater victory at the 2016 elections, a referendum sometime around 2020 and a better chance of a yes vote.

    You trust the SNP and Alex Salmond, with good reason, look at the amazing election result back in May.

    But, and this is a big but, all of this smacks of the same complacency that put so many people off Labour in the past.

    Please, please do not make that same mistake, assuming that now you’re in power you always will be, and for you,. politically, things can only get better.

    Just as Gordon Brown’s promise of an end to boom and bust was nonsense, so too is it nonsense to ignore the natural boom and bust of politics. The SNP may have peaked, they may not, but why risk it?

    If you are truly “Scotland’s Party”, then act like it and seek to ensure that the Scottish Parliament has the powers it needs, either through the Scotland Bill or otherwise, the SNP have MPs who can push for this.

    I am not a unionist, I am not trying to defeat the referendum with smoke and mirrors, I want it to happen.

    But the SNP needs to understand that it isn’t independence, and independence isn’t the SNP. You have your chance, you need to take it. The party members may forgive you if you don’t, but the millions who voted for you might, might, take a different view.

    Failure to take the legal issues seriously, and playing politics with the referendum in this way makes you look like one of the self-interested establishment parties so many people thought they were voting against when they voted SNP.

  4. Burd

    This is an all or nothing referendum for the unionists. They are going for broke and that is why a one question referendum as soon as possible is the only gamble they have. They will not care about any resentment, just the fact that they just might win.

    They know Devo whatever is independence delayed only slightly, once the people see the books and just how much we have been misled over Scotlands finances. Then it is only a very short step to full independence.

    I have to wonder about Labours thinking, or lack of thinking about this, do they really want to be seen supporting the Torys over this? Will Labour supporter be happy that Ed Mil is on the same platform as call me Dave telling us we are too wee too stupid etc. Do they think they are not the Lib Dems and their supporters will not punish them at the ballot box, as the Lib Dems have been punished?

    The other thing that puzzles me is it was obvious in May that Labour lost a lot of support in no small measure by their constant negativity and attacking the SNP at every turn. Will the people who were turned off Labour by this really be impressed by Davidsons Scottish committee and by the behaviour at Scottish questions at Westminster. Will this behaviour have the Labour supporters returning in droves? I think the answer to that is no, so it begs other questions, why do it? and just who do they think it will impress?

  5. Anent one of your previous blogs concerning Ms Davidson in which I suggested that you can tell a person by the company he or she keeps there is confirmation of this view in a piece by Paul Hutcheon in today’s Sunday Herald. Ms Davidson appears to be surrounded by bigots, some of whom she employs (until they are exposed).
    Are we seeing here the major reason for QC McBride’s abrupt departure from the Tory party. To have UVF supporters and “fenian” haters close to the party leader tells me all I need to know about the strange creature that is now Scotland’s Tory Party
    It also warns me of the games the union is about to play (or is already playing).
    The SNP will have to have a strategy to combat a deliberate *further increase in sectarian tension which will be fuelled by the Tories and Labour in central Scotland.

    *I believe a lot of the present high profile concern around sectarianism has been deliberately engineered.

    The Sunday Herald is much improved. Sad they still have that refuge from tabloid journalism Tom Gordon on their books

  6. Thumbs up.

  7. Very good read, you have exposed a lot of the underlying issues with regard to the Unionist Parties’ strategies. Ive been expecting a piece like this on the Scottish Blogosphere for a couple of weeks now.

  8. I congratulate you on this analysis-I just think that many unionist politicians are genuinely scared that the end is nigh for the union and hence the endless whining about the referendum.

    The most telling point that you make on this is that the unionists are determined to stop the most popular policy of devo-max/independence lite appearing on the ballot paper. It is the crushing evidence that their interests do not align themselves with those of the people of Scotland.

    How the coalition can claim that the Scottish Government must not have some form of devo-max question on the ballot paper, when I suggest no-one voted for an AV referendum, just highligts the ongoing hypocrisy at the very heart of unionism.

    All this manoevring might have worked for unionism if the electorate had forgotten that they have moved from insisting there would never be a referendum to demanding one immediately-I think most of the electorate recognise the strong element of hypocrisy here.

  9. And all the while the three main unionist parties blur into one, destroying the political differences between them which are their raisons d’etre, destroying their own political bases in the process.
    We are observing a political process which has an inevitable momentum and watching it destroy those who stand in its way.
    Who’ll cross the floor first? Any predictions?

    Excellent analysis

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