Altered State: The debate continues over Scotland’s political future

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Part three of Phantom Power’s Altered State documentary has been released on YouTube, and Derek Bateman writes here to expand on his contribution to the film. However, first he discusses a review by top Scottish political blogger James Kelly. The rest – we hope – is self-explanatory.

Derek Bateman
Derek Bateman

So, Mr Kelly. You think you can stop my plan for total domination? How foolish of you. Let me explain my entire strategy before I kill you. (It will also help the audience get to grips with this bloody awful script.)

What follows will look like a stitch-up between me in my underground laser centre in Maryhill and James Kelly’s buried rocket silo at Scot Goes Pop in Cumbernauld. It will appear to be a joint effort to create controversy to generate traffic to our sites and at the same time, publicise Phantom Power’s Altered State documentaries, but don’t be fooled. This is war.

First here is James’ review and counter argument to my contribution.

 

My argument is pragmatic. It is that before you try to repeat a major democratic event like a referendum on the constitution of the country you must first accept the original result for what it is – a decisive outcome that voters were told, and most understood to be, the ultimate word on the matter. Not final.

But the one and only direct vote on the issue in 300 years and one that was signalled by both sides as deciding the matter for a generation. These are of course loose terms open to interpretation but I doubt if any but the most committed Nationalists think a break of two to five years is a reasonable interregnum before having another go. Would it have been reasonable for a voter to have said to himself: Ach, I’ll vote No because there’ll be another chance in a couple of years?

NEW STATE

Altering the constitution and creating a new state in Scotland, not to mention the effect on the remaining UK, is a seismic event, more than a General Election and not a reversible option. Scots believed they were settling this question in 2014 and the continual talk of a re-run since is, in my view, an affront to every single voter and to the democratic process. It sounds like we’re not accepting the outcome, as if it were a temporary blip and we’ll get it right next time. Just give us a second chance. Yet the people – the Scottish nation – have spoken and they said No. Hinting that if they stop and think for a minute, they’ll come round, is an implied insult to their intelligence. It also appears to take democracy for granted – a deeply unattractive trait in a political movement.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPart of the case against me is that SNP support won’t always be this high and the chance should be seized before it declines. Even if a second vote is lost, it makes no difference if you’re only going to wait and wait until support drain away in any case. There would be merit in this argument were it ten years hence but coming only 14 months after the last vote, it sounds desperate and lacking in belief.

Think of it this way. If we have to rush into a referendum to catch the voters before they lose faith, is that the ideal situation in which to gain independence? Imagine sneaking a win by one per cent just before the polls turn against the SNP and then trying to run a new country against an increasingly hostile public mood. I believe independence needs every single Scot – OK, maybe not Brian Wilson – on board whether they are Yes or No, to strive to make it a success. There will no room for slackers, for wait-and-see laggards backing a concerted rearguard action by angry Unionists seeking legal impediments or votes to re-run the referendum (using the Yes argument that they didn’t get the result they wanted so it was fair to try a year later.) How would Westminster reluctance to agree a deal work when they knew public feeling was starting to run against the SNP? The disaggregation talks would take place against this background of a diminishing SNP mandate.

OXYGEN

Of course, it might be a resounding success and give oxygen to the SNP as well. It might. It is just as likely to piss off a whole swathe of voters who had enough after two and a half years of acrimony and personal division leading up to September 2014 and who can’t stand the thought of going through it all again. Indeed, opinion polls giving a narrow lead to Yes today are surely academic in that there is no campaign in existence. Would they hold up once the event was afoot? Didn’t we learn exactly that last time – that a daily array of bankers, employers, bosses, generals, diplomats and celebrities warning of grave consequences gradually encroaches on the fears of the middle aged professionals with pensions, mortgages, loans, growing children, cars and plans? Think they couldn’t be scared again?

imagesAnd make no mistake, a second failure is the end. The dream will go on but the movement will be castrated. The lesson we learn from the Scots and the rise of the SNP is that the Scots won’t be rushed. We didn’t deliver in 79 and we failed again in 2014. Yet people have backed the SNP gradualism and are inching, according to the demographics, in one direction. In fact, the age profile of the committed Nationalist today is another reason to believe that independence is a prize to be taken by the next generation.

It is perfectly possible that a major change in our affairs would be enough to trigger a second vote. It’s just that danger lurks here too because people are grasping at anything in the belief it paves the way. Whatever the percentage divide between Scots and English on an EU referendum, it is a leap of faith to think it will translate into a Yes vote to come out of the UK and stay in the EU. We may say we prefer to stay in – and the polling clearly shows that – but does that mean we love Europe so much we would end the Union? Will Scots eagerly embrace open borders and, in today’s circumstances, the immigration that brings? Will they happily put euros in their pocket? Will they really ponder the enormous upheaval of extricating themselves from the UK when England will be subject to different trading conditions outwith the EU? Perhaps. I know I would. But most voters aren’t like me.

ANARCHY

We are not held hostage to a previous decision of the referendum. It’s just that continually challenging the people’s decisions leads to electoral anarchy. People have to have faith in the system which they don’t if there is no stability.

What remains true is that our future is in our own hands. If enough Scots demand change, they cannot be denied. But they don’t. They vote SNP for many reasons and it’s clear that for some removing the risk of independence encourages their vote. And it’s an overstatement to say that because something is in the manifesto – like a referendum – it must be delivered. It puts a moral but not an absolute obligation on them to do so.

The time may be coming soon when the patience with Whitehall evaporates and the people, as opposed to the SNP, demand change. At the moment, the dynamic is reversed – the momentum comes from the party and the people are led by them. For the foreseeable future, that means to me that independence is parked. But if the Scots decide in enough numbers that they must have independence, then so be it. And a referendum will be the least of it.

That’s my case. Do participate. And remember, if you succeed in arguing for an early referendum and it’s lost – I’m coming looking for you and I’ve got your address.

Here is part 3 of Phantom Power’s Altered States:

https://youtu.be/VlFQGSIgdfg