There is every reason to assume Russia ‘undertook influence campaigns in relation to the Scottish independence referendum (paragraph 41),’ but then, thanks to Joe Pike’s tell-all exposé of Project Fear, we know the British government was interfering in Scotland’s democracy. It may not always be comforting to think about it, but Scotland was a pawn in a bigger game in 2014 and the outcome of our referendum was going to have far-reaching consequences for the global balance of power.
There is a nagging suspicion in my mind that the impetus to abandon our grievances came from these nefarious sources. I can’t prove it – no one can, but I am suspicious. Scotland has some pretty fantastic grievances, some pretty emotive and powerful grievances. It just strikes me that not to deploy them in an independence debate – that had absolutely everything to do with history – was such a monstrous tactical blunder that it couldn’t have originated with a real independence supporter.
In 2014 we saw ourselves as a small nation in a David-versus-Goliath fight. Realistically, in the beginning we did not expect to win. One theme repeated frequently at the time was that we just wanted to be a nuisance, that we wanted to have a bit of craic, upset the apple cart, and maybe – if we got lucky – give the English political establishment a bloody nose. We saw ourselves as a pesky younger sibling trying to make a point. But something changed. At some point in August 2014 it dawned on us that we might win – that we had a real shot of securing independence.
Murray says that he does not believe the Vow was a deciding factor in the No vote, but he is wrong. It offered people a third option when they had been bullied and harassed into thinking a Yes vote would hurt them and their loved ones. The false promise of the Vow – nothing but an empty and deceitful IOU – saved them from having to vote No against independence, against the prospect of a truly better Scotland, and offered them instead a provisional No in lieu of something better – something that was, from the day it was written, a callous and deliberate lie.
Realpolitik is the business of practical politics, based on the ever-changing conditions of the political weather than on idealised notions and ideas based on ideology. We may have independence as our immediate political goal, but the weather systems in which we must navigate a course to that end are in a constant state of flux – meaning, quite simply, that grand strategies and masterplans seldom, if ever, actually exist. So, we are left to deal with day-to-day contingencies, and, when it comes to the current state of Brexit, those are coming at us thick and fast.
This is our moment. We have no time left; no time to wait on a signal that might never come, might not even be planned. Action makes things happen, and this is our time to act. We are a democracy, and in democracies the people call the shots and not the elected politicians. We set the agenda and make them dance to our tune. We don’t have a single moment to lose. If we want independence now, and if we don’t want to leave this unresolved for our great-grandchildren to fight anew, now – today – is the time to move without permission.
It is a source of immense frustration to me that the grassroots of the independence movement have been completely left to their own devices since 2014, rather than being kept under some form of structured leadership or guidance by the pro-independence political parties. Naturally there are those who would not like this. There are those who see party-political involvement as a threat to movement autonomy, sure. Others imagine it would leave the SNP open to attack for every infraction committed by some over-enthusiastic bampot, sure.
When Ruth Davidson said that we would not be permitted another independence referendum until 2027, what she means – in case you are in any doubt – is that there will be no independence referendum for Scotland so long as the Tories remain in power. As long as the Tories remain in power? But the Tories are not in power in Scotland. Scotland’s pro-British Conservatives do not even hold a quarter of the seats in the Scottish parliament. They have no claim to the democratic consent of the Scottish people – they are a minority party.