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By Denise Findlay
I’m listening to the 2014 song Hope Over Fear. We are all seven years older now; that’s seven years of independence campaigners dying without ever seeing independence. Nuclear weapons are still on the Clyde, we are still run by Westminster Tories, but now we are out of the EU and our parliament’s powers are being stripped. We’ve still got tax-payer funded MPs and they are telling us ‘not yet.’
The next chance to choose independence has been kicked passed 2023, and an eleven-point plan put forward which far from guaranteeing an independence referendum in the next term, almost certainly guarantees there won’t be. That plan is to first wait till the effects of the pandemic are over. This implies that Scotland needs the UK in order to recover from the pandemic, buying into the ‘broad shoulders’ nonsense. But, leaving that aside, the plan is to ask for a Section 30 order. When Johnston refuses, the plan is to pass an independence referendum bill in Holyrood and anticipate a London government court challenge. The obvious flaw in the plan is that Westminster can simply legislate to prevent the Scottish Parliament holding an independence referendum without permission. And they have plenty of time to do so — power devolved really is power retained.
The obvious flaw in the plan is that Westminster can simply legislate to prevent the Scottish Parliament holding an independence referendum without permission.
The SNP has backed itself into a corner with the insistence we have a ‘gold standard Section 30,’ and with its talk of ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ referenda. I’m afraid that if nothing changes we will be back here in seven years listening to Gerry Cinnamon and realising our opportunity has gone.
Luckily, we have a chance to make a change but it is one chance and we have to take it. If we miss this chance I fear Scotland and independence are lost. Our opportunity is the Alba Party. The Alba policy is to treat the election of a large majority of pro-independence MSPs as a mandate to open independence negotiations with Westminster. This is a far stronger position than meekly asking for a Section 30 ‘cap in hand.’ To get a mandate for independence, the Alba position is that this supermajority is a mandate for independence.
This gives Johnston a problem, and he doesn’t really know what we will do. We could call a plebiscite election or call an Assembly of all MPs and MSPs and vote for independence or both. At some point we could declare independence, and then Johnston has to make a calculation, because if the international community recognises us then we are independent and have no share of UK debt.
So, at some point Johnston will decide to shift focus from preventing our independence to screwing us over in the independence negotiations. Of course, we will have to make a good job of those and we will need our best team. We need to do all this to become independent and we need to start right now. Westminster has plans; a new Act of Union to make independence without Westminster’s consent ‘illegal’ and the Internal Market Bill to break devolution and move the UK back into a unitary state. Within a generation Scotland could be absorbed into the UK state and our country lost forever.
Now, you would think the SNP would welcome the Alba party shaking things up; the promise of a supermajority for independence, the removal of unionist MSPs from Holyrood, and their promise to start independence negotiations with Westminster straight after the election. So, why is the SNP so unhappy?
They have become the establishment — not radical but conventional and managerial.
Laying aside the oddly unhinged Sturgeon psycho-drama with Salmond, it comes down to power. At the moment the SNP has complete power over when and whether we get to choose independence and as they keep getting voted in on the back of the pro-independence vote, it has no real incentive to deliver. Politicians tend to be risk adverse and unimaginative, as long as they keep winning they don’t change tack. Fourteen years in power is far too long for an independence party to be in office without delivering independence. MPs in Westminster for decades. They have become the establishment — not radical but conventional and managerial.
It has now become power for its own sake. They don’t want Alba pushing them on independence … every week independence; independence, independence. They don’t want to be forced to argue for independence or, heaven forfend, negotiate independence when they haven’t done any real policy work in years. They don’t want their own MSPs looking to move to Alba if they don’t move fast enough on independence. An easy move as, apart from women’s rights which wouldn’t be a deal breaker for most MSPs, there are no ideological differences between the parties.
Even worse for the SNP, it could no longer rely on being the sole recipient of the pro-independence vote. If it does not deliver the pro-independence voters can vote for Alba. The SNP see Alba as a danger to their power and potentially an alternative party that might replace them. That is why they are hostile and insisting ‘Both Votes SNP’ when they know it will yield few if any seats. That is why they are putting party before country.
Now, will you seize the day, rip the chains from the unicorn and vote Alba on the regional list?
‘Hope Over Fear,’ Scottish independence anthem by Gerry Cinnamon