Independence will only happen if we’re prepared to break some rules


Commentary by Christopher Silver

It should come as no surprise that the UK Government has all but ruled out granting the Scottish Parliament the ability to hold a second binding referendum on independence.

It is worth being candid about the political realities that underpin this refusal. Events have swept across these isles and the world to the extent that the affairs of Scotland are easily overlooked. Scotland does not matter. It is still a nation that asks for permission.

Christopher Silver
Christopher Silver

But while we should expect no different – because there is almost no political scenario in which it would make sense for a Tory government to allow such a vote – we should also see this moment as an opportunity.

It may be tough for advocates of independence to stomach, but while the European question has decisively shifted the moral aspect of the debate away from the case for Union, in hard political terms, the ground is not shifting.

The collapse of British politics

Scotland’s constitutional status, as the Supreme Court helpfully reminded us recently, is governed by political conventions. In constitutional terms, the concept of “the Scottish people” is no more relevant than the concept of “the Warwickshire people”.

The conviction that Scotland is a nation and therefore ought to have its voice respected is just another political argument between two competing nationalisms.

As the Supreme Court justices pointed out, the lack of a solid constitutional foundation for devolution means that political concerns govern the relationship between Westminster and the devolved governments.

The Union has always operated on this basis. But this time, things are different: British politics has imploded and has largely ceased to function. A shift in the polls on independence might deliver a slew of concessions to Scotland on Brexit, but it would make a second binding referendum even less likely.

As a result, the only scenario through which a second referendum could be realistically enabled would be the 2020 election resulting in a hung parliament at Westminster. Given that the Tory’s new found British nationalism tethers them to preservation of the Union at all costs, and given the dire prospects for a divided and ineffectual Labour Party at the ballot box, such an outcome does not seem feasible.

At the same time, the risks associated with a non-binding Catalonia-style vote should not be underestimated: such plebiscites are easily boycotted and the results even more easily dismissed by intransigent central governments.

The Scottish Government may gain some minor concessions from the UK, but its demand for Single Market Access would undermine the Brexit project as effectively as independence.  In all of this, the only power that it the SNP can call upon, in theory, is the notion that the Scottish people might clamour to man the lifeboats as the sinking hulk of HMS Britannia goes down.

A new era

This is a high risk strategy. Then again, it’s problematic to link any issue too closely to demands for a referendum: they are blunt instruments that aim to solve complex issues with a binary choice. Strategically, the focus on a second referendum remains a major weak point. But there is an alternative.

In political terms, Scotland, the UK, and the world have all changed beyond recognition since 2014. Only two years ago the events of 2016 would have seemed an absurd fantasy. Today, amidst the onrush of such frantic change, all the old rules are being broken and politics has to shift gear.

In Scotland, which has an old habit of working to its own time-signature regardless of what’s going on in the wider world, politicians are still nervously working out how to frame these events to fit the unresolved national question.

The one point of certainty is an understanding that this fundamentally different new political era makes most of the 2014 debate obsolete.

Better Together’s central strategy – to deny the entire premise of a binary choice between two nationalisms and two deeply contrasting narratives – is now dust.

But if we’re honest, another casualty is the Yes campaign’s breezy notion that all will be well once negotiations and economic realities kick in after independence. Such affirmations ring hollow as UK Government ministers repeat them ad infinitum in the context of Brexit and impending talks with the EU.

Alternative strategies

The point here is simple – independence has to be a self-conscious response to this new world we now inhabit, not a promise that it can somehow be escaped from.

This is why Scotland’s movement for self-determination desperately needs additional measures it can place on the table, other than a potential plebiscite.

The alternative to a referendum-centric approach is to take tangible steps to test the limits of union. To demonstrate, in the eyes of undecided Scots and a Europe that increasingly recognises our distinct politics, that certain Brexit measures will not stand.

In one sense this involves far more radical steps than focusing on calls for another referendum. Yet it is also precisely the inverse of what Brexit has become. It doesn’t retrofit a partisan agenda onto a vote that has already occurred, but instead builds a solution from the ground up.

Potential red lines on Brexit are fast approaching: next week, when the SNP’s amendment to the Article 50 Bill protecting the status EU nationals is voted down, Scotland’s resolve to remain European will face its first big test.

In response, the First Minister could offer her own commitment that all EU nationals resident in Scotland will have their rights to live, love and work here guaranteed. The hurdles to achieving such a measure would be immense, but not insurmountable. This would send a clear message to London and Brussels that a differential settlement for Scotland will happen regardless.

Would Nicola Sturgeon contemplate a direct resistance to Brexit policies?
Would Nicola Sturgeon contemplate a direct resistance to Brexit policies?

There are a range of other measures where Holyrood could vote in favour of non-cooperation with Brexit policy. For example, if Donald Trump’s government manages to strike some desperate UK trade-deal over the coming years, the Scottish Government could lead a boycott.

In America the “sanctuary cities” have offered an inspirational example of how sub-national government can be a bastion of resistance. Like the governors that turned out to push back against the Muslim ban last weekend, the mayors of several large cities have already made clear that the damage created by cooperating with the federal government on immigration is too great to justify. The Scottish Government, allied with other devolved administrators and the great English cities, should consider a similar approach.

Scotland has its own traditions in this regard, such as the local authorities who defied UK government policy on South Africa in the 1980s. Perhaps devolution has helped foster a mentality that waits for power to be handed down. But in an age of rule breaking, it becomes dangerous to always seem patient and well behaved.

A clear mandate

The idea that Scotland must hope instead for a moment of benevolence from a radical right-wing Tory government is an absurd proposition. They are intent on remaking the country in the image of their own toxic brand of nationalism. Awful as the intent might be, there is a boldness to it that cannot be denied. Britain is either great, or it is nothing: this is an existential moment for these people. If Scotland is not equally bold in turn, it may well be swallowed up in the wake of this insane project.

A full scale refusal across every autonomous Scottish institution to participate in the implementation of Brexit already has a clear mandate. It must now be openly considered. The threat of a constitutional crisis, and with it the entire viability of the devolution settlement itself, is a far more direct challenge to the UK Government’s authority than demands for an elusive second referendum.

If the approach seems too disruptive, just consider the backdrop: in both Britain and the USA new regimes and agendas seem intent on fragmenting their societies in a fit of nationalist self-regard. Trump and May’s governments were faced with looming constitutional crises the moment they gained power.

Their shrill, caustic, brand of nationalism is colliding with constitutional norms, a factor which just happens to threaten the viability of the unions that their me-first nationalisms cherish above all else.

Disruption is taking place regardless

These processes have thrown the equilibrium of mainstream politics dramatically off-balance. Old two-party systems are revealing themselves to be unfit for purpose in a new political era in which all rules are being rapidly re-written.

The pace of this change is daunting. But it does have one central advantage. The link between Brexit and Trump also provides a weak link – we’ve already seen Theresa May come under enormous pressure to distance herself from Trump, the great saviour who will scoop up the castaway UK in his clammy paws.

The state visit, if it goes ahead, looks set to be the biggest moment of anti-Government protest in the UK since Iraq.

When so many red-lines are crossed in politics there is no middle way to navigate. This is why Scotland will not matter until it takes a side in the wider struggle, by resolving to make its own rules. At a time when many of the norms that we’ve lived by may well be destroyed, this task could be a necessity, rather than an option.



  1. NO – absolutely not. This is a load of imprecise guff which would divert us from the political steam-roller which the SNP and the wider independence movement are riding and which the Unionists, including the Tories at Westminster and their tiny-tot Scolttish lackies are desperate to avoid. First – Indyref2 and dare the idiots to try to block it. No diversions, no supposedly clever gestural ‘local resistance’ projects – just the massive force of demonstrated democratic legitimacy. If the fools in Westminster try blocking or other dirty tricks, defiance and Indyref2 anyway – and beyond that if necessary, still with the power of Scotland’s democratic will, an indpendence election, secession etc. This supposedly ‘clever’ stuff is a modish snare and delusion. The truth is a stark democratic one. It’s Shelley’s “We are many and they are few”. Let’s not forget or doubt it.

    • I agree.

      The SNP have the popular vote, independence in the EU is the most popular option, out of out of EU in the uk comes a distance second, Scotland out of both remains third.

      “We” have to convert “independence in the EU” to overtake the yes no question on the independence ballot paper.

      A week is a long time in police as often said, time is with Nicola Sturgeon rather than Theresa May and the first minister is less boxed in than May.

      May is riding high in England due to her signalling a hard brexit to those who don’t care of the consequences, anti immigration is driving that popularity. BUT, look at what’s happened since her meeting with Trump, she has looked out of her depth, has a foot in her mouth, can’t think on her feet and has rolled over to Trump.

      Regards brevet, the uk will have to pay an exit fee of somewhere between £40-60 Billion, trade will suffer badly, travel to Europe will be problematic, jobs will go as wages fall, austerity will continue for another 10 years under the right wing tories and the most objectionable part of this whole nonsense is that the poorest in Scotland will pay for all this!

      As this all unfolds, especially continued austerity rule under the tories, the choice will become pretty clear to Scots. We will see dismantling of the NHS in England at the same time trident being renewed.

      Back to Nigel’s point, we have the chosen vehicle, lets get on it and not be diverted by those who have done nothing to get us into the favourable position we are in now!

    • “We are many and they are few
      You may well be “many” but unfortunately “they” are more; independence was not supported by a majority of Scots in the referendum and there is no evidence in the polls that it is supported by a majority of Scots to this day. I think it’s the singular failure of many independence supporters to come to terms with the fact they hold a minority opinion (albeit a large minority) that is likely to get them (and the rest of us) into problems far greater than brexit. Scotland’s democratic will (as you put it) was to remain in the UK, doesn’t matter if you take the indyref2 approach or the sneaky ‘clever’ approach of this article it would appear that you are working against the majority, and that is a “stark democratic [truth]”.

  2. Do you actually believe the SNP is riding a “political stream-roller”, Nigel? There isn’t much evidence for that.
    When do you expect this to roll into action? Anytime soon?

    • By the end of March. We will start from a base of 46%, compared with 27%. The scale of the Brexit disaster will grow with every passing week and the 24% majority of Scottish voters who want to remain in the EU will become ever more important to the outcome – which really is not in doubt. Just check out the panic in Unionist ranks.

      The thing that will definitvely tip the balance will be strangely similar to 1707. Then the merchants and their landowner backers connived to get a Union, warts and all, as the price for entering on the path to prosperity through participation in colonial trade. Now, warts and all, canny Scots – even a tidy percentage of conservatively minded middle class Scots – will not risk the isolated , trade-dealless, mega-debt laden ship of May’s UK, and will – out of canny self-interest – make sure of a more prosperous future within the world’s biggest trading block, and this time, they’ll be able to combine it with running the ship themselves. It will be the biggest no-brainer ever, especailly for the canny and the cautious – which is why the Unionists are scared and why the roller will roll.

      • On a historical note ‘the merchants’ I.e. The royal burghs (the only entities engaged in foreign trade) were opposed to the union, and their commissioners in the Three Estates (Scottish Parliament) largely voted against it, but the commissioners for the other two estates, lords and gentry, many of whom had ambitious trading interests, were persuaded that the union offered better foreign trading opportunities and a majority of them voted in favour. The war of the Spanish Succession, a European conflict which affected foreign trade and spilled over onto the nascent overseas imperial possessions of several European countries, was making foreign trade extremely difficult for the Scots, but it ended in 1712.

        • Apologies for the shorthand description, MBC. You are of course correct but it was the “ambitious trading interests” that I was refering to. In other words, then as now, it’s about what can be achieved next.

      • Well put Nigel. I cannot agree with Christopher on this, it’s too ‘scatter gun’ to wish for this to happen or that to happen. The next few weeks will change a lot of No voters minds.

      • The problem with your analysis (i.e.: We will start from a base of 46%, compared with 27%. The scale of the Brexit disaster will grow with every passing week and the 24% majority of Scottish voters who want to remain in the EU will become ever more important to the outcome – which really is not in doubt. Just check out the panic in Unionist ranks.</b)
        there are some things you don';t appear to have factored in.
        Firstly, you've already bagged the easily converted, the ones that will believe any old pro-indy propaganda, and there wasn't enough of them. The rest will be harder to persuade.

        At this point most people who voted yes have had enough of these constant calls for a rerun and you will find it much harder to convince them that suddenly the SNP plan for independence adds up (let alone anyone else's). I'm not really sure that some of the the more 'focused' pro-independence activists realise just how utterly sick and tired of the whole independence 'debate' a large number of Scots truly are (apparently even some who voted yes are sick of it)
        It also kind of ignores the findings of a number of polls that suggest that around 1/3 of independence supporters voted for brexit, they aren't necessarily going to be sold on the idea that they should vote for independence to get back into the EU (good luck persuading teh fishing industry for example), although I guess a bad brexit might turn a fair number. but then most people don't really vote on economics (if they did I suspect 'no' would have won by considerably more votes in 2014). Besides a 'bad' brexit will be debatable for years and certainly won't be confirmed until long after we've left the EU, in the meantime the usual pundits will be on the telly giving it "oh yes it is" & "oh no it isn't" ad-infinitum and as usual people won't know who to believe.

        But the most important thing you have not factored in is that some voters at least actually read the EU referendum question (which was about the UK, not Scotland). I.e. I voted for the UK to remain in the EU I did not vote on Scotland being an independent member of the EU because that was not the question. If you were to get me to vote on an independent Scotland either being in the EU or out of it when the UK is out then I'm fairly sure my vote would be to stay out of the EU. The trade differentials and the integration of Scotland and the UK's economy suggest that anything else would be massively disruptive, with both outside the EU there is a chance they might be maintained but with Scotland in and UK out there would be a trade barrier between us and the need to get permission from 27 other countries to negotiate any agreement with UK.
        I believe that if you want independence then you would be better to wait until well after brexit and keep options open not dive straight back into the EU, I realize of course that this whole brexit thing has been a useful way for the SNP and their compatriots to keep the narrative about independence on life support but it has to be said I'm not actually detecting that much enthusiasm for another referendum from the top of the party, seems to be a lot of redrawing of lines. They have now painted themselves into a corner, I'm not even that sure they give much of a toss about being in Europe if independence is in the offing, I guess we'll see.

        • The No campaign in IndyRef2 will be exactly the same as IndyRef1. Project Fear. This so-called united kingdom is built on foundations of fear and threat. Also hypocrisy. Britnats say they want a soft border with Ireland yet threaten an independent Scotland with a hard border with England.

          Britnats, like in IndyRef1, will try to impose more fear with their projected economic forecasts, always maintaining that independence will be very very detrimental to Scotland. These same britnats are of course maintaining that brexit will be wonderful for the so-called united kingdom. They are even promising, vowing! more powers to Scotland post-bexit. The people of Scotland have experienced such britnat hypocrisy before; they have experienced the breaking of such britnat vows before. Only the foolish or the very very feart in Scotland will believe such britnat propaganda.

          Britnats are again depending on Project Fear. IndyRef2 will see Project Fear reaching new depths of deceit. It is now more obvious than ever before that Scotland must break away from this debilitating union with England.

          First things first: an end to the union with England.

          • Britnats, like in IndyRef1, will try to impose more fear with their projected economic forecasts, always maintaining that independence will be very very detrimental to Scotland.

            Ah, sounds very similar to the technique currently being employed by the pro-independence Scottish Government to try and worry the populace into supporting another referendum. In their book, doom and gloom stories are only “Project Fear” when the other side tells them. Whining about ‘Project Fear’ didn’t win it the last time, now it just sounds like a broken record.

  3. Scotland will not matter until all pro-independence Scots are seen to be prepared to fight for it. I do wonder how many of those who declare themselves ‘independentist’ would be prepared to put their necks on the line to obtain it. It may well not be obtained by simply marking a ballot form. This is a struggle which goes beyond the rules of the ‘democracy’ fabricated by the controllers of the British State. We now need to make our own.

    • That’s the big question, isn’t it? The fact is, we are not ‘oppressed’, we are misgoverned, though for the most vulnerable, those facing arbitrary victimisation in benefit cuts whilst tax breaks are afforded the wealthiest, London misrule IS oppression. But in general you have to be pretty politically aware to perceive London rule as ‘oppression’, because at an everyday level things are not bad enough for most people, especially the pensioners and the comfortable middle classes. It is amongst the oppressed that any radical shift in opinion will occur, this is the sector with most to lose by the union and most to gain from independence.

      • I have heard people of a ‘nationalist bent’, generally older generation, proclaim that a postindependence Scotland would be little different from the preindependence Scotland; a sort of continuing UK topped off by her majesty, access to East Enders and Corrie but with nice embassies in Edinburgh. When the chips are down this element will never fail to backslide.
        Our ‘oppression’ is not physical but psychological/existential and largely a product of our own historic fears and hangups which we proffer on a plate to a system that knows how to expoit its potential. Consider our self-styled ‘movers and shakers’ how they kowtow when Britannia pulls the reins. The old rules need to be broken and we need those with the gallus and chutzpah to do it.

    • Yeah civil war, that’ll help!
      Take a look around the world and see what that achieves. You are in a minority, a large one, but a minority, fighting will just increase and prolong division, wind up with you losing or alternatively winning a wasteland, perhaps you should just get on with your life before this obsession eats you up from the inside?

  4. Any country that puts up with being effectively run by Mundell, whose main qualification for the job seems to be that he is the only Tory MP, will surely put up with anything.
    Perhaps Fallon and May have reached the same conclusion…

    • The common delusion even among the SNP supporters is that we are an exception, not intended to replicate the lengthy struggles of other freedom movements, a people whose reasonable demands will be heard through the political clamour both here and abroad. We do need to ditch that ahistorical, muddle-headed nonsense, and quickly. The track record of the post-imperial system we are dealing with gives no indication that we will be allowed to ‘dismember’ the British State without considerable effort. As we were part of the original predatory imperial system we really ought to know better.

      • A much more convincing argument, A. Suspect people are adding 2+2 and thinking it must equal 4 (or rather 45+24 = a majority) when there is actually no hard evidence to indicate how an indyref2 vote might go right now.

        • “hard evidence”? Surely you don’t mean polls. To be fair, you’re backing up Mr Silver’s argument.

      • True words spoken, servant of the truth. And no independence movement ever reached success without having to face down internal revolts amongst the Uncle Toms who throw their lot in with the imperial masters either. The enemy within has to be quashed as well as the enemy without.

        • The enemy within is the Elephant we have yet to break of routine habits, as the poor old beast has been shackled for so long.

        • Ah “uncle Toms” and “quashing” the “enemy within”, do you want to live in a democracy, because frankly this demonisation of people who happen to disagree with you rather suggests that democracy might be a bit lower on your priority list than getting your own way.

  5. Nigel Mace, I like your idea of a political steam-roller, but in reality…. I think there’s a fair bit of wishful thinking in there. For some time now the polls have shown a steady-but-not-changing 45%ish for independence. This is in spite of the unbelievably self-destructive UK-EU and US events of the last year. The polls just aren’t showing the sea-change in opinions that many indyref’ers are projecting (and which the Indy movement needs in order to gain ground). If such monumentally damaging events haven’t managed to change folks minds then nothing will. I suspect that whichever Brexit deal we end up with will fall short of triggering the IndyGene too. It would need to be cataclysmically catastrophic for that to happen. The likelihood is that Brexit will only be extremely damaging. There are a lot of folk who don’t like change unless the change is forced on them, then they’ll convince themselves that it’s a good thing because *reasons that are better than despair*. The 55% probably comprises a fair number of those rather than being a group that can be looked on as “potential” yessers. Nothing will change their minds. Nothing. But they’ll assimilate if they’re pushed into it.

    • It’s significant that support for independence has stayed constant. The Union has never stopped campaigning through it’s media. Whilst the pro Indeprndence side have not campaigned since tge 2024 referendum.

      • Absolutely correct, Sam. We’ve not stirred yet. As the old senator says in “The Seduction of Joe Tynan” – “Just let’em wait awhile!”. The economic facts – not mere specualtion – are going to be overwhelming and Scots arenae daft. Why the hugely varied campaign – (this artcile included?) – to con us into believing that a new Independence Referendum isn’t wanted, can’t happen, can’t be won etc.? Plainly because the Unionists know that they will be overwhelmed. They know it and they fear it – do not you doubt it. Independence is coming with measured but relentless tread. Just watch the French government…. the new ‘consulate’ purchased just two days ago, facing St Giles and next to the National Library and the College of Justice ( the old Parliament House) and one of the most important buildings in central Edinburgh. it is the future Embassy and on a scale suitable to the Auld Alliance. That will have garred them gru in Downing Street – and we will finish the job in 2018. And we’ll have in our serried ranks hundreds of thousands of previously fearful and canny ex-‘No’ voters who are shrewd – and selfish – enough to know that the so-called Union (UK style) game’s a bogie. This time we will have economics and histroy – even Unionist – history bizarrely on our side.

        • They leased that building rather than bought it, I believe, but I agree, I noticed this development too and took hope from it.

          Do you remember the French ambassador who refused to play ball with the unionist press over the matter of Carmichael’s big fat lies in 2015? Never forgot that guy. Carmichael had expected the French consulate to say that they had no comment, but instead the ambassador refused to go along with Carmichael’s lies and stated plainly that nothing of the kind was said.

        • On lease but the size and position of the building speaks eloquently of ‘un grand projet politique et culturel’. .

      • I’d contend that the “‘independence movement’ are the ones who have never given up campaigning, and it doesn’t seem to have achieved much of a shift in opinion despite all that effort. Furthermore I’d suggest that all it has done is alienate most ‘no’ voters and make a huge chunk of society (the bit that doesn’t have strong political beliefs) tune out, and that includes both ‘ye’s and ‘no’ voters who really don’t think it is the most important factor defining their lives. It has merely driven wedges into the divisions in Scottish society that will take generations to heal (real generations, not the two week ones that the SNP operate by). This constant campaigning might ironically have made the task of persuading former ‘no’ voters to move to ‘yes’ even harder than it might otherwise have been if people had accepted the vote and bided their time for the next opportunity, which will almost certainly arise at some point.

        • The longer this drags on the more it will bore people. The indyref1 campaign was too long and rather dull, the next should be short. sharp, concentrated and very punchy.
          Any major political decision will divide and be divisive. If you’re on the winning side, as the Brits were last time, that doesn’t seem to matter.

          • It’s not supporters of the Union who wish to drag us all down the same road again. It’s not so much the decision that will create further division (although it will), but the fact that people would be forced to ‘decide’ again having only recently done so and fully aware if they don’t decide the way certain people want then we might be facing indyref 3 and 4 and 5 not long after. Yes I suspect it definetly will be “punchy” but probably not the way you meant!

  6. There’s much to agree with in the article, but a major problem is the British nationalism still felt by large swathes of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal voting public. The Government would not only have to stand up to Westminster, but to Westminster’s many allies in public bodies and local government in this country.

    I agree that there is the need to be bold, but I don’t think we’re seeing tardiness from the Government at the moment. I think they’re playing their hand well, and demonstrating their reasonableness in the face of British intransigence and craziness.

    You’re dead right about the Catalonia-style plebiscite: expensive and pointless, and if the turnout were depressingly low, deserving of being ignored.

    Fingers crossed for the local elections later this year, although the realignment among British nationalists in Scotland might see some disappointing results. If Labour lose many councils, nothing will have changed if they simply swap over to Conservative.

    A very interesting article, though.

  7. The divide is definitely morphing into that of BritNat v ScotNat. As the former has the might of BritState behind it we need to get our ‘act’ well sorted. However, BritNats are a disparate and disputatious bunch which leaves ample room for creative and imaginative mischief; no rules needed for that.

    • I think you are creating for yourself an imaginary enemy. The real source of ‘no’ votes was a huge chunk of the electorate who were unconvinced by some of the chaotic and poorly worked out arguments of the ‘yes’ campaign. These aren’t “britnats” they are ordinary people who disagree with you.

      • Referring to situation now, not that obtaining at Indyref1. The pull for some of the romantic notion of ‘Britishness’ cannot be discounted either.

  8. What Mr Silver says must not be dismissed. But his ideas are for the future – possibly the near future. So far Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish government has played it right – even if playing it by Westminster’s rules. The SG deserves our patience, but I believe the time will come when Holyrood must decide to live by its own rules and to hell with Westminster. When that time comes Holyrood will have my full support.

  9. the Westminster united kingdom government has no power to recall the Scottish government, only the Scottish executive in the united kingdom parliament has this power and it is recalled back in its original form to Scotland .

  10. Seeing opinion polls not shifting can I appreciate seem discouraging. Yet it does not mean opinions are not shifting more profoundly nor that won’t shift a lot more. If Indy needs patience then I can wait – meanwhile doing everything I possibly can by campaigning.

    • Speaking as a person who is unconvinced by the pro-independence arguments and who knows quite a few ‘no’ voters I would suggest that laying off the campaigning is likely to win you more support in the long-run, all you are doing is encouraging ‘independence fatigue’. Bide your time

  11. Loved Sam’s contribution above. There’s a pretty large, impatient army of activists poised and ready to go. Our effort, enthusiasm, organisation and willingness to graft for the cause throughout the country easily outshone the No campaigners last time round.

    OK, the other lot have the bulk of the media campaigning constantly but their lies are much easier to counter this time around Their emphasis on borders and trade is astonishingly anti- Scottish. Everybody but the Scots gets a great deal with the UK post Brexit. Anyone who believes that is, shall we say naive – I nearly said ‘a numpty,’ but most Scots are more savvy following the experience of Indyref1 and so won’t fall for the ‘too wee, too poor’ drivel that some swallowed 2 years ago.

    The UK trading position is set to be very disadvantageous for many years and it is quite obvious that it will be better for Scotland to be independent and in the EU or EFTA and also in the World Trade Organisation. We will then trade with the UK on terms which suit Scotland better than the UK.

    Our only chance now of being in the EU or EFTA is independence. There may well be a place for civil disobedience and more radical activism than before – the plight of EU nationals here deserves our concerted support – but ultimately we need to achieve our freedom through a referendum. If the Tories refuse, ultimately a plebiscite that commanded the support of more than 50% of eligible Scottish voters will carry enough weight and the Tory government will recognise the obvious – we are effectively 2 very different countries.

    Unlikely? Yes perhaps it is but who would have thought 2 years ago that we’d be facing the hard reality of Brexit and the USA would be saddled with an urban cowboy president with zero political experience. Unlikely things do sometimes happen. Our First Minister is a fine strategist and she’ll have an eye on all options to further Scotland’s best interests. She’ll know when to make her move. I truly believe Indyref2 is coming with or without Westminster’s go-ahead. And I firmly believe that we’ll win it too.

  12. Offering the right to live opinion Scotland to EU National’s already living here, surely the Border Force that police expulsions is a Westminster force out with the control of the Scottish Government

  13. It is always a good idea to discuss strategies that can be adopted in different contingencies. If the course of love never runs smoothly, just think of how the course of many divorces runs. Both parties are often capable of actions which are destructive to both. So, Mr Silver is right to raise possible scenarios and to speculate on possible responses and what these might ramify.

    We have a good recent example in Mr Cameron’s weak, but arrogant, decision to hold anEU referendum and also not to instruct Whitehall to prepare proposals for different outcomes. Instead, we were left with the potential for the Faragistes to follow through the neoliberal revolution, of which the EU referendum result was a first victory, by the use of the Royal Prerogative, which has been partially slowed by the actions of Mrs Miller and her allies.

    While we in Scotland are told we must abide by the 2014 result, the other side just makes it up as it goes along. It would be a mistake to think that because the current Tory Goverment is bumbling and crass, that there are not people on the winning side of the EU referendum who do not have a clear view on how they see their revolution being driven forward.

  14. Balderdash. I am pro union and there are very many like me. Just because we don’t rattle on about it all the time like the SNP doesn’t mean we are not prepared to stand up for what we believe in.

    • “Balderdash. I am pro union and there are very many like me. Just because we don’t rattle on about it all the time like the SNP doesn’t mean we are not prepared to stand up for what we believe in.”

      Can you please explain to me why you are pro Union and what benefit we as Scots get from this setup?

      I must have asked that question to dozens of Unionist during 2014 and I still have not had an answer. Given that you are prepared to stand up then perhaps you shall oblige? Can you please try and cover the issues of the democratic deficit, the post 2014 Scotland Bill shambles, what has happened with renewables and Brexit.

      • .Can you please explain to me why you are pro Union and what benefit we as Scots get from this setup?

        I must have asked that question to dozens of Unionist during 2014 and I still have not had an answer.
        Perhaps you just didn’t want to hear the reply.

        Here’s a handful, but by no means all :
        Economic stability that comes from having the burden of government spending shouldered by an economic entity an order of magnitude larger than Scotland’s own. That entity has a more diverse economy and through the mechanism of fiscal transfer it is better able to smooth out fluctuations in revenues, hence the current Scottish deficit (which proportionately is around double the UK’s) is funded by other parts of the UK (and when the oil revenues are high up here that money sometimes flows the other way proving that it works for all involved).

        Since the Uk is also running a deficit it is clear that any funding of an additional Scottish overspend actually comes from borrowings, but those borrowings are taken on by the whole UK and shouldered by everyone not just Scots. The size, stability and resiliance of the UK economy means that over the long-term its borrowing costs are likely to be lower than a much smaller less divers Scottish economy that has the additional instability of a fluctuating oil price having proportionally greater influence on the interest rates investors are likely demand of its bonds.

        This also applies to welfare/benefits and pensions, where the costs of operating the system is shared across 60+ million people, not 5.5 million.
        There is the costs of state infrastructure and services, where fixed costs such as computer systems and admin etc are shared in a similar way.
        That shared economy also enables emergency measures, for example a a bank rescue, to be shouldered by ten times as many peopl.e, rescuing RBS was a serious hit to UK finances, it would have had ten times that effect on an indpendent Scotland’s

        As citizens of the same state we have an even greater freedom to operate anywhere in the UK than we do as EU citizens (i.e. the ‘freedom of movement’ in the UK is simpler and easier than that within the EU, e.g. Scotland, Wales, England etc share the same tax, NI, pension, health rights etc without needing to fill out any extra forms.

        Shared defence, Scotland has about one third of the land mass of the UK and a huge amount of water inside its territorial waters but has responsibility for less than 10% of the cost of the UK’s defence budget.

        Of course a big benefit of staying in the UK is not having to be subject to the upheaval and expense of independence, the economic and social costs of trying to unpick a 300 year political and economic union are likely to put the impact of brexit in the shade. Given that two thirds of Scotland’s ‘exports’ are to the rest of the UK it rather illustrates how highly integrated we are, staying in the union means not risking that and the jobs and prosperity it provides.

  15. Independence = control. In 2014 we were asked – Do you think we in Scotland should control our own affairs or should we let people elsewhere control our affairs for us?

    But that’s not how a lot of people saw it, no doubt including many YES voters. They voted instead on, in many cases, a single issue which mattered to them and as if the present situation in the UK was written in stone – Alec Salmond there forever, UK pension/tax/currency/military/international arrangements never change.

    We have to make control of our own affairs the single issue – because it covers everything else and we will have just one thing to discuss with unionists. Unionists will just love it if we expend lots of energy thinking up ‘perfect’ currency/defence/tax/EU arrangements, all of which will be wrong, and a plan B will be demanded. There are plenty of Scottish voters who would just like a nice acceptable reason to vote against independence, and the more issues the NO side can dig up, the more likely our ‘justified’ voters will find one that suits them.

    We have to challenge the unionists with the one question that counts. Why should we not control our own affairs? (OR Why should we let people elsewhere control our affairs?).

    And where asking for permission is concerned –

    Unfortunately the Scottish Government agreed that they needed the ‘permission’ of the UK government to have the first referendum. They had no choice, and if we’d won it would have been fine.

    They had no choice because, if they had a referendum without ‘permission’, the media would unanimously have declared the referendum to be illegal/unconstitutional and that it would be a waste of time to vote. The result, on a low turnout, declared void.

    The same holds true this time round, so we badly need to start talking about control – unlike the last time where we were led by the nose into talking about currency, Europe, pensions etc.

    Talking about the difference between having control and being controlled might just lead to people realising that you don’t ask anybody else’s permission to be independent because that would be a contradiction in terms.

    • Talking about the difference between having control and being controlled might just lead to people realising

      I never voted SNP and here they are trying to control which state i live in; what control do I have?
      Every individual in Scotland has an equal amount of control to every other British citizen, i.e. the right to vote. Your logic only makes sense if it is demonstrable that all Scots want the same thing and that thing is different than everyone south of Gretna. All Scots do not want the same things and many of us share what we want with people elsewhere in the UK.

      You have as much control as anyone else in the UK.

  16. Westminster says it will not sanction a second referendum. So what.
    Of the 194 countries in the UN very few gained their independence through referenda.

    Independence is the recognition by fellow states of a states existence. This recognition is expressed by the General Assembley of the UN a referendum is not a requirement of the UN.

    • First it might be a good idea to ensure a majority of the population actually want it. little if any evidence so far

  17. Love the wee bit at the end, 1314 – proud Scotland can only ever exist on the pocket-money reluctantly returned from her own resources – it’s all about control 🙁

  18. What I don’t understand in all this is that the basic fact is that in 1707 Scotland and England formed a political union, but that fact never appears to be the starting point for this debate. That Union was entered into, supposedly, as an equal union whereby both parliaments went into storage and became the UK one based in the English one’s building.

    Now despite the fact that ever since that date, in reality we have been effectively incorporated into a defacto Greater England. We are still legally equal partners. The illegal Supreme Court, wrongly recognised as superior to Scots Law ( as per 1707), is able to get away with over ruling or even completely ignoring Holyrood, which is of course a devolved and subordinate off shoot of Westminster.

    People forget that prior to 1999, everyone, including the SNP and Thatcher agreed that a majority of Scottish MPs who represented Independence would have the constitutional right to dissolve the Union. The Unionist agreed to this on the basis that it was never going to happen…but it did in 2015. The 1979 Devolution Referendum was originated in Westminster and the 40% amendment was voted on there in order to capsize any chance of limited return of sovereignty to Scotland. Salmond did his best to utilise the SNP majority at Holyrood to get the REF1 on, but it was a flawed decision. It required a devolved act, the section 30 to enable it. It was not an equal British i.e. Scottish and English Westminster agreement. It was Superior and Servant agreeing at the pressure being applied from the EU. This error has been compounded by the 2015 SNP British General election failure to use Independence as main plank for their manifesto. ‘Standing up for Scotland’ and not backing the Tories was a failure of will. They underestimated the anger of the 45% plus the ‘Vow’ betrayed. They ended up as a constitutionally Westminster compliant servile block and have continued to be written out by the media and out of many Scottish voters awareness.

    The time now is for bold action: some European Union public statement of an Independent Scotland’s status within the EU must be sought and be unequivocal about our continuing membership or not; the SNP MPs must resign on a motion of no confidence in Westminster and leave en masse; a plebiscite must be run in order to legitimise our declaration of the dissolution of the British Union partnership. The latter will probably only succeed if predicated on a clear statement of our continuing EU status. The 62 % includes large numbers of native Scots and RUK who are not Scottish nationalists, but are economically sussed enough to recognise the catastrophe that awaits us outside Europe under the Tories.

    Let’s hope that something like this is figuring in Nicola Sturgeon’s plans in the next two years.

    • Lochside

      Sturgeon repeatedly said during the 2015 GE that a vote for tte SNP was not a vote for Independence.

      Agree with your comments re the SNP block at Westminster.

      Ross Greer in today’s SH says that Nicola Sturgeon is likely to call Indr Ref2 in the coming weeks. Hope that’s been sanctioned. If it hasn’t and IR2 isn’t in weeks then it’s a gift to the media.

      • Is Ross Greer not a Green MSP? In which case he is speaking for himself and perhaps his own party not Ms Sturgeon.

      • “Sturgeon repeatedly said during the 2015 GE that a vote for tte SNP was not a vote for Independence. ”


    • RE union in 1707 – we were lied to……………… and have been ever since. Mundell’s performance today on TV was reminiscent of a colonial governor in 1940s India.

      Regards bold action, I have always believed that irrespective of whether a bill passed at westminster is reserved or not but has an impact on Scotland, Holyrood should vote on it. This over a period of time would build up a long list of bills that are being imposed on Scotland without our parliaments consent.

    • the SNP MPs must resign on a motion of no confidence in Westminster and leave en masse
      If only!

      a plebiscite must be run in order to legitimise our declaration of the dissolution of the British Union partnership
      Er… excuse me but I believe we had a referendum with a clear majority in favour of staying in the UK.

      The latter will probably only succeed if predicated on a clear statement of our continuing EU status. The 62 % includes large numbers of native Scots and RUK who are not Scottish nationalists, but are economically sussed enough to recognise the catastrophe that awaits us outside Europe under the Tories.
      That’s just wishful thinking. I voted for the UK to remain in the EU, not an independent Scotland, the question was about the UK. If the UK is outside the EU and I was given a choice of an independent Scotland in the EU or outside of the EU I would vote to keep Scotland out of the EU. That’s because I’n “economically sussed” (as you put it) enough to understand that the economics are completely different for an independent Scotland in that situation compared to the UK and the EU currently.
      Let’s hope that something like this is figuring in Nicola Sturgeon’s plans in the next two years.
      It’s such a daft idea that I’m inclined to agree, it might put an end to SNP agitating for a few decades. But I suspect Sturgeon is much too smart to attempt such an ill thoughtout suicide plan, but one lives in hope 🙂

  19. Of course their polls are showing no shift towards independence it is after all their polls they will never admit a poll that showed increased support for independence I mean Nicola stated she would not hold a second ref., untill a majority of people wanted it so they are going to make sure that their phoney polls make sure that never happens you know they lie about everything else so why give credence to their polls?

    • Yeah it’s all a conspiracy, pass the tin-foil hats around lads! Funnily enough none of the pro-independence outlets have fielded any credible poll results; i.e. other than of the form “I asked everyone at our SNP branch meeting and there was 100% support for independence”.

  20. I agree with a lot of this.

    As someone who wasn’t pro-indy (half English and had a very “British” identity prior to 2007), one thing I’ve noticed between 2007 and now – and I think still holds true – is that many of us are small “c” conservative and tend to have swallowed decades of propaganda. So we have a fear of change; a fear of nationalism, the SNP etc. However, when something actually happens, eg the SNP becoming a minority government in 2007, the name change from Scottish Executive to government, the independence referendum etc, we find ourselves excited or happy about something we hadn’t considered a possibility before. And once that thing is done, we would never countenance going back or reversing it.

    So I think, with Brexit, there’s a very good case for the Scottish government simply acting as the government of an independent country as far as it can do so. As you say, test the limits. Do things that are beyond its competence but that most people in Scotland will probably approve of, even if they find themselves surprised they do and let the UK government yell and try to stop them. I’d even go so far as to say if this involves some kind of temporary, preferably just on paper, form of U.D.I to be able to negotiate something, on the basis that there will be a referendum to ratify this, fine, do it. Not sure if this is remotely possible though.

    But I strongly feel that this time around a referendum needs to be not a choice of two options, neither of which have any certainly. The Scottish government needs, as far as it possibly can, to have acted like the government of an independent country, brought as much certainly as possible – the EU, currency, central bank etc – prior to UK Brexit. Then once done, go to the people and essentially ask them to ratify what they’ve done so far and give them a mandate to carry on in a different direction to the UK. The other option being sticking with the UK and whatever Brexit they’ve negotiated.

    I suspect if people in Scotland are being asked to ratify things already done, they’ll have that same feeling of, ‘well I would’t have thought of that or voted for it, but it feels good’ as 2007, the Scottish Government re-naming and the indy ref itself did, and success will be far more likely.

    • Cath said:

      “Do things that are beyond its competence but that most people in Scotland will probably approve of, even if they find themselves surprised they do and let the UK government yell and try to stop them.”

      Holyrood to vote on every bill passed at westminster even if it is outside Holyrood’s devolved competence. I add votes upon items such as May’s visit to the US or Trump’s invitation.

      westminster hates two things, having a torch shone on it and being embarrassed.

      • Donnie said:

        “Holyrood to vote on every bill passed at westminster even if it is outside Holyrood’s devolved competence. I add votes upon items such as May’s visit to the US or Trump’s invitation.

        westminster hates two things, having a torch shone on it and being embarrassed.”

        This. This. This. This. This. I have often wondered why Holyrood doesn’t respond to Westminster bills by debating and voting on them. Of course Holyrood cannot overturn a Westminster bill, but it could be powerful to be seen to be questioning WM and demonstrating that SNP and the Greens have different ideas, and really ramming home that the three unionist parties cannot act autonomously.

    • However, when something actually happens, eg the SNP becoming a minority government in 2007, the name change from Scottish Executive to government, the independence referendum etc, we find ourselves excited or happy about something we hadn’t considered a possibility before.

      You don’t see the irony created by that statement and your feelings about brexit then?

  21. I’m struggling to remember when I last read such a load of baseless, self-serving garbage. He has obviously begun with the premise he intended to “prove” and then constructed a series of unsubstantiated opinions into what is meant to be argument. In addition to being intellectually bankrupt he has also lacked the balls to actually say what he clearly means under all the pseudo-academic tripe, i.e. civil disobedience, or worse. If this is what passes for an intellectual analysis among the NATSIs then they had best return to insults and foul language.

    • Natsis, rather pathetic slur. Try the English editions of the Express and Daily Mail or the Spectator where btl comments do abound in insults, ‘foul’ language and ad hominem attacks whenever Scotland is mentioned. Unmoderated hate-speech is normative. Time we ended this unsavoury, injurious and brutalising liaison.

    • Name calling (NATSI’s) is not likely to further any debate, leave the name calling to others.

  22. “a nation that asks for permission” to have its own nationhood back is a sham.

    The 56 x SNP MPs must declare what is rightfully ours, now, prior to Art 50, and make arrangements with Brussels as appropriate. In the same way the ‘union’ began, so it can and should be ended.

    • Those 56 Mp’s and the party they represent were recipients of slightly less than half the electorate’s votes.
      Independence was supported by even fewer Scots. Something doesn’t smell right about your demand.

      • Something didn’t smell right about the 1707 Act of Union, but it went through via a majority of Scottish MP’s, who had no support from the masses for what they were doing; that injustice can be undone the same way, this time with 95% of Scotland’s MP’s. Something disna smell right about 1 Tory duffer running Scotland either.

  23. My concern with Scotland in the EU is we do not know if the EU will survive if La Penn wins, even if she only comes a close second, Europe is changing fast, we may not like how it ends up. I want independence first and foremost, what our relationship will be with Europe, America, even England, let the parties applying to govern after independence lay out their stalls and the people of Scotland make their choose, fully in the EU, a Norway deal, let’s make that choice after independence, and lets have independence before the final treaty to leave is signed, keeping our options open.

    • The point I was making is that, constitutionally, independence always could, can now, and should be delivered by a majority of Scottish MP’s, and therefore in precisely the same way it was originally enacted; the article headline is therefore misleading, as nobody needs “to break some rules”.

      • HELLO! You lost a referendum, a majority of Scots didn’t want independence, remember that?
        If the SNP think it’s a good idea to try an unilaterally impose it on us they might find brexit is the least of their worries as they may have the begining of a civil war on their hands.

        • Ah – a veiled threat of violence – first resort of a Unionist. While if it was the other way around and independence supporters mentioned such a notion, the sky would fall in with self righteous indignation.

  24. Without breaking any rules it is within the competence of the Scottish people to live as if they were already independent. Our Parliament has the power to create a new system of public revenue which would more than our current GERS expenditure and allow the Scottish Government to give back to the Scottish personal and corporate taxpayers all the UK taxes they currently pay. Annual Ground Rent can provide this. That’s Independence in action.

    On the media the Scottish Parliament could develop a media strategy and support bypassing the mainstream media and creating the development of a media where the public contracts directly with the programme maker instead of the tv or radio station.

    On money laundering the Scottish Government though its control of the Land Register could introduce a clean money test before any Scottish property purchase can be registered. This would set Scotland apart from the UK.

    On compulsory car insurance the Scottish Government could introduce a law requiring the maintenance of roads be transferred to motor insurers. Car insurance premiums would increase but Council taxes and commercial rates would reduce and a wholly different insurance market would be created than the UKs and we get better roads.

    Internationally we can develop further the network of Scottish Government representation abroad. Even if some states won’t negotiate directly with us as a devolved administration we negotiate with the big private corporations in some of these countries whose influence on their own governments is substantial.

    On defence theScottish government could expand our police force to cover fishery and oil installations as well further developing our security protection all within the civil police force. We could also provide various support facilities to service personnel and families which would set us apart from the UK government approach.

    Our government should have a department for Independence charged with creating and emphasising the difference between us and rUK in a wholly positive way so that our people believe that we are already independent.

    There is an Independence angle in every decision we make as ordinary citizens, councillors and government ministers.

    • Great suggestions Graeme. I would add a ‘Scots Language Act’, which would give us a degree of cultural equality, and really pee off the unionist elite still running hundreds of our public institutions, like some hopeless colony.

  25. This is what really rips ma knittin – having to ask for permission/approval to actually become Independent in the first place 🙁


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