Opinion polls, referendum timing and the Stockholm syndrome


Commentary by Iain Bruce

It’s difficult to know how many “interesting times” we can inhabit simultaneously but the circumstances of the next referendum takes interesting into a new dimension.

We’ve had Pete Wishart with  his “optimum conditions for success”, then there’s the follow up from Andrew Tickell with his enigmatic assertion that the Scottish Government explain why the Scottish citizenry should care about the challenges of Brexit. And, just to help the MSM get excitable about the stairheid rammy, we got Jim Sillars and his 60 per cent target. A genuine discourse, or fatal fissures in the Indy camp?

For his part Pete Wishart cited polling evidence from his own constituency. Well there’s a surprise. In a political landscape across which the quaint Nicky Fairbairn strode like a tartan popinjay, the Ruth Davidson Party has been banging on at every opportunity that the SNP need to forget about a second referendum and get on with the day job. Maybe Peter’s canvas returns show that the strategy was working, at least in Perthshire.

But if the Yes campaign is to succeed we’ve got to stop being corralled by the unionists agenda. We need to do things differently.


The issue now is not the optimum runes for success in another referendum, it’s no less than repelling the existential threat to Holyrood and the complete dismantling of all that’s been achieved in our own Scottish parliament and our national self respect. What is at stake is a future for Scotland as an independent country NOT as a vassal state in continual thrall to England with its grand plans for casino economics.

As we accelerate through the vortex of interesting times in which May conducts the country’s international affairs without reference to parliament, her supporting role of the Orange One in a real life Dr Strangelove world, means the Clyde estuary becomes the human shield for the Britnats nuclear arsenal.

Then there’s the emergence of the New Act of Union from the ostensibly ‘cross party’ Constitutional Reform Group with Ming Campbell the token Jock.  All of which means Brexit is being left trailing in the wake.


The demise of the Union is coming but not by osmosis in the opinion polls, it’s coming because it’s not working for our fellow citizens, it’s coming because it’s actively working against our collective interests. 

For those of us who take refuge in the Declaration of Arbroath and the sovereignty of the Scottish people, the forthcoming judgement of the Supreme Court on the Scottish Parliament’s Continuity Bill is awaited with interest. The Supreme Court has got form as we all know with the Sewel Convention but equally there’s, their little discussed judgment in favour of the Scottish Parliament’s Bill on Asbestosis Plaques. In his enlightening Sovereignty for Dummies Peter Thomson claims that the Supreme Court acknowledged that it “had no power to set aside any bill, statute or act of the Parliament of Scotland where that bill expressed the clear will of the (sovereign) people of Scotland”. 

However the Bill was clearly a discourse on a social policy issue and I hae my doots if we can rely on them to uphold the Continuity Bill. Their Lordships of the Supreme Court are the British establishment after all and the British Establishment is under threat from an increasingly belligerent Scotland and Scotland’s interests always fall with the arithmetic in the English Parliament. Remember the ’15 landslide when Scotland had 56 SNP MPs in that place yet this was still insufficient to get any amendments adopted to the Scotland Bill. 

It’s vital we stop playing by the English Parliament’s rules.


So what’s to be done? Well what is needed is not soothsayers with iPads in the fog of battle but leadership of the highest quality for an epic victory against Viceroy Mundell’s alternative Scottish Office administration waiting in the wings to  take powers back from the EU to Scotland but not to Holyrood. In the event of the Supreme Court striking down the Consolidation Bill, the FM must recall our MPs from the English Parliament. In a Scottish Convention reconvened in Edinburgh all representatives of the people elected on an independence prospectus declare a suspension of our participation in the Treaty of Union in the first instance and begin the national debate how to move Scotland into her new future. 

No need for the supplication of a Section 30. Enough of diplomatic niceties. What’s the score so far? Westminster ignores the 62 per cent of the Scottish electorate who voted to remain; Westminster ignores the alternative Brexit strategies tabled by the Scottish Government to suit our circumstances; Westminster ignores the SNP’s 50 amendments to Article 50 and oh, emboldened by what might well be seen as supine responses, Mundell carelessly screws up the timetable for the Clause 11 amendments but in the process makes transparent the power grab and the declaration of war on the Devolution settlement.

Peers such as Michelle Mone and Alan Sugar are to have more of a say on the future of Scotland and it’s Parliament than our elected MPs.


Enough of reasonableness. Enough of turning the other cheek. We need to be biased in the pursuit of our independence, not reasonable. We need our own version of project fear. We need to be belligerent in our challenge to the Britnats and their naked self- interest in pursuit of Home County values (even if they live in Perthshire or Morayshire)

It’s maybe pertinent to reminded ourselves of the  Norrmalmstorg bank robbery in  Stockholm, in 1973 and what gave its name to the Stockholm syndrome. 

Never before has the cause of independence been closer to its goal yet it begs the question, has the SNP’s  gradualism and getting on with the day job induced the Stockholm syndrome when it comes to our country’s independence? Why should we be hostage to opinion polls so readily manipulated by unionist corporate interests? Where is the Scottish passion for a cause? Now is not the time for “optimum conditions for success”. We’ll never get to 60% without a campaign.



  1. I think you’ll find that the number of “representatives of the people elected on an independence prospectus” is zero.
    Because a majority voted against independence in 2014, any attempt to reverse that result should be by the same means, i.e. a Section 30 referendum. If, but only if, consent is refused, should there be a resort to other means, but whatever those means are, they must involve a fully democratic vote by the people of Scotland. Concocting a secession by anything less than that would be an anti-democratic outrage.
    I want independence for Scotland, but I want us to be able to look ourselves in the mirror the next morning.

    • I think you missed the entire point. I will be beaming broadly in my mirror the morning after we achieve our Independence, regardless of how we achieve it. When the enemy will plumb the depths of duplicity to win the game, there’s little point in playing by the rules.

      • i quite agree if we do need another independence referendum,it should be for Scot’s only.As you say the way out of this English Nationalist U.K. Union correctly, is by the way we signed in,we sign out.A fully democratic vote by the Scottish people is necessary as per A Crocket;anything else would be considered anti-democratic and secession, i will give him that but the U.K.Union was achieved under duress and not very democratically for its day.
        We must also remember our Scottish Parliament,Claim of Rights and the Scottish Written Constitution has been recalled and England has voted for English votes for English Laws.There does not seem to be much United Parliaments left.Only the Monarchy and it signed over to England part of Scotland.TeeHee whose running this show?.

  2. No one can deny that Scotland’s joint UK parliament together with England was created/constituted by a simple majority of Scotland’s MP’s and that it may therefore be undone in the same manner; Scotland does not require permission (to withdraw from the UK parliamentary union) from its joint ‘partner’ in the union, that is solely a matter for Scotland and its elected representatives (MP’s). Westminster is not England’s parliament (though some may think that), it is Scotland and England’s joint parliament as constituted by international treaty and acts of the Scottish and English parliaments. The two sovereign nations of Scotland and England continue to exist and are merely sharing by mutual agreement of our representatives a joint (UK) parliament and governing administration. The parliamentary union ends when that mutual agreement ends. Any referendum (on Scotland’s constitutional right to withdraw from our UK joint parliament/union) is not therefore essential, and may not even be constitutional in the sense that any such referendum result as things stand would appear to require agreement (or not) of some 500+ MP’s from England who dominate our joint parliament. The latter do have joint sovereignty (together with Scotland’s MP’s) over Scotland and England etc when acting within the joint UK parliament but on the matter of Scotland’s right to withdraw from and hence to end our union and dissolve its joint parliament sovereignty must rest solely with Scotland’s representatives/MP’s as it did on the foundation of the joint parliament and administration.

  3. I’m content to leave to others who are so inclined and better informed than me the weary task of trudging through the 300 year-old swamp of the constitutional history of the union. I take a simple view. So long as the people of Scotland are prepared to let the union persist, then the notorious legal opinion which surfaced during the referendum campaign, that the union simply obliterated Scotland as a country, might as well be true. But if we choose to leave the union, our dormant sovereignty revives. The only reason we must at least attempt to use a Section 30 referendum in order to regain that sovereignty is the democratic principle, given that only four years ago a majority of us preferred the union in a democratic vote of that form. If London says no, then clearly that obligation flies off, and the democratic principle then frees Scotland to use other means, such as e.g. an election on a straight independence manifesto. But in no circumstances should Scotland go independent if a majority of its people reject it.

    • Alan, what may be constitutional and legal is not necessarily what some might regard as democratic and vice versa. There is absolutely no certainty that Westminster would even accept any hypothetical Yes vote in any supposedly ‘democratic’ referendum. Moreover, any subsequent ‘Scotland withdrawal from UK’ Act however termed and decided solely by Westminster would surely define Scotland in highly negative terms (e.g. borders, EEZ, defence legacy, economic restrictions etc). Given the population census trends we must also consider the ongoing and rapid changes to what you term as comprising ‘the people of Scotland’, an increasing number of whom have limited or no Scottish cultural heritage rationale supporting any desire for Scottish citizenship or identity far less independence – i.e. they are predominantly automatic No voters. The essential fact is that Scotland for now holds an independence supporting majority of MP’s sufficient to end the parliamentary union in the same constitutional way it was entered into. This in my opinion is the only realistic possibility for independence, and it happens to be constitutionally consistent with the formation of our joint parliament. It is also democratic in that a majority of Scotland’s MP’s were indeed democratically elected, unlike in 1707!

      • I have never encountered a serious suggestion from any quarter that Scotland does not have the right, if it so chooses, to go its own way. But whether or not Alf’s analysis is accurate, in 2014 the people of Scotland (which I choose to define in the same way that the franchise for that referendum was defined) opted for the union, in Scotland’s first ever straight democratic vote on the issue. I take that to be the central fact. The people had their say. Because it was a first, it did not merely continue the status quo, but legitimized it (a consequence which we campaigners in our eagerness largely failed to highlight at the time, but which might have given some No voters second thoughts). But now that Scotland has made its choice (and is now having its face rubbed in it, to be sure), any move to independence which does not take the people with us, however garbed in the sombre robe of historical or parliamentary propriety, would be an affront.

        • Perhaps a rather greater affront, Alan, was the 2014 referendum’s highly abnormal wide open franchise which permitted probably in excess of one million people who were not Scottish or of Scottish heritage/culture to vote to block the right of Scots to self-governance. It could reasonably be said that it was the affront of an internationally abnormal open franchise that took No over the line; i.e. the majority of Scots voted Aye but we were denied our democracy and our right. The latter may be described by some as democratic, although it may also be considered naïve given that no other country would ever seriously contemplate such an open franchise more especially on the question of its very existence and statehood! Scotland remains uniquely and oddly ultra-altruistic: ‘Here is our oil & gas; come and take it’. ‘Here is our land; come and take it’. ‘Here are our universities; come and take them’. ‘Here are our essential public utilities; come and take them’. ‘Here is our nation; come and take it’.

  4. Well Alf, I’ll take domicile over ethnicity as a basis for independence anytime, but we’ll just have to differ on that, and here I leave this thread.

  5. So what you are proposing,in essence,is ‘ Blood & Soil’ nationalism. You make the assumption that ‘non-Scots’ (whatever that means) currently enfranchised will vote ‘No’ yet we all know of the existence of ‘English Scots for Yes’ and other groups such as EU citizens currently resident in Scotland and having been subjected to the appalling uncertainty re their continued right to stay,will almost certainly vote ‘Yes.’
    I continue to subscribe to the previous and as far as I understand, current criteria regarding entitlement….’If you live,work and pay your taxes in Scotland then you are entitled to vote.’…and that..in my book…should be non-negotiable.

    • Tam, you are aware that the UK brexit referendum excluded people from other EU countries living (working and paying taxes etc) in the UK whilst UK citizens living abroad were permitted to vote? I did not hear many people here complain about that.

      Norway I am sure you will agree is a nice place. However likewise anyone from another country working and living there is not permitted to vote in Norwegian national elections never mind vote on fundamental constitutional matters (such as independence). Norwegians living abroad can still vote. If you lived there for a considerable time you may eventually get to vote in local municipal elections, but that’s your lot. Ditto everywhere else. Except Scotland it seems. As my Hungarian friends said to me: “why are we allowed to vote (to block) your nation’s independence – you would never be allowed such a vote in my country”.

      We should not confuse mere economic motivations for migration or settlement of people in a given country with what are the key drivers of an individual’s perceived national identity and related emotion/culture; the latter is by far the more significant determinant of the way people vote in national elections or constitutional referenda, which has very little to do with having any economic ‘stake’ in a place. This helps explain why those from rest-UK living (and working and paying taxes etc) in Scotland have around twice the propensity to vote No to Scottish independence than the average Scot. And likewise the vast majority of EU citizens given a vote in Scotland in 2014 took Barroso’s advice to block our independence. The abnormal and wide open Scottish franchise is what lost the referendum in 2014 and it will do for us again assuming there is a next time.


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