‘Indyref2’ debate should be handled with care if No voters are to be persuaded

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Derek Bateman is amidst a “difference of opinion” about IndyRef2 tactics with ScotGoesPop blogger James Kelly. Here’s his latest round…

So, Mr Kelly. You have released the dogs of war to challenge me. I have to confess I expected an easier opponent and perhaps some pirhanas, no more. Instead I find myself assailed by the furies, one who has tried to take over my blog with constant posting, one who questions my commitment to the cause and one who suggests I may even be a coward for accepting the result of indyref1 – exposing new and unexpected depths of bampottery. Such is your power.

Derek Bateman likes nothing better than an argument
Derek Bateman likes nothing better than an argument

But it will take more than the evil forces of Spectre to rattle me. I have the Scottish people on my side and the unimpeachable leadership of La Sturgeon bringing reason and common sense to my case.

To recap. The issue of indyref 2 will always lie with the people and an unquestionable demand for a second say should triumph over all else, no matter when it comes. Personally, I think that may begin to build relatively soon if the message hits home that the General Election mandate has been ignored and the measures conceded are designed as a fiscal trap to enmesh the SNP – rather than a genuine attempt at the logical development of devolution.

However, I firmly believe that too much open discussion about a second vote plays into the hands of our opponents. It is difficult to over-emphasise the fear and loathing the prospect of a re-run elicits among No voters, including, I suggest, those who may ultimately be persuadable and whose votes we will need to win.

The referendum, however enervating for us (with the obvious caveat) was on the other hand a draining and stressful period for those convinced their country would be isolated and bankrupted outwith the UK. To confront them just a year later with the idea of another one looming in short order will repel them further and push them into the knee-jerk ‘The Nats are Nuts’ camp. For me one of the defining strengths of Yes has been its non-threatening, non-violent nature – that is not always the case in self-determination campaigns. We – and the SNP government – have won over many uncommitted Scots by being reasonable and competent, contradicting what many used to think of as quackery or extremism.

The fervid propaganda of the lurid Press still plays on this theme with some success so it’s important to maintain our demeanour of being level-headed and serious-minded. I’m afraid that arguing today for the next best slot for another go has exactly the opposite effect, suggesting a hot-headed and unreasonable enthusiasm. There is no escaping either the implication from this white-hot zeal that September 2014 was not the resolution people expected it to be and that the outcome was somehow equivocal. It wasn’t sold as that at the time. Nor would we have accepted any attempt by Whitehall to re-run had their been a narrow Yes vote from which they devised a means of contesting the result a year later.

We asked the Scottish nation what it wanted and we got the reply. The mere hint of not accepting the result, or at least, not believing it to be truly representative in some way, threatens to damage our democratic credentials. (You know the kind of stuff…they lied about pensions and prices. They made it about the economy, not the constitution. The media was against us, etc). Next time it has to be driven by a consistent and unequivocal public demand and nothing that can be dismissed as party manoeuvring, especially as it looks like we’ll still need legal approval.

I am NOT advocating a stop to campaigning as some imply. I haven’t watered down my commitment. I’m still writing my bloody blog, making the case through Newsnet, paying into indy projects and public speaking. Disturbing how a preparedness to take a longer view – the very route which has put the SNP into power – is construed as weakness. This has an echo of the many failures of the Left in Britain to accommodate differing views within a movement.

The Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament

I think people will come round in time to the realisation that independence is logical although, as I said, I have my doubts that the European issue will trigger it. And I’ve no doubt that a second loss within say, five years, would deflate the movement dramatically forcing some to peel off and others to change direction towards a federal goal. It would render independence and certainly any further attempt at a referendum the butt of a million jokes. That we would all still believe in the Cause wouldn’t alter the wider public perception of a failed project, fatally wounded by lack of credibility.

On the longer generational trend, by the way, I agree you can’t count on it remaining constant but I do think the Scottish electorate has undergone a fundamental change in this regard. It isn’t like a Labour or Tory choice and therefore inter-changeable. I think they’ve genuinely altered their outlook in favour of independence which makes the indyref process one that politicised a generation.

So there. A doctrinaire Tory government and a shambolic Labour opposition appear to present a perfect storm for Scottish Nationalists. But for a wider Scottish public, cautious in their judgement and wary of heady promises, one that withstood the battering of Thatcher, it may take more than another passing five-year fiasco to convince them of indyref2. Nicola has seemingly ruled it out for five years at least which looks like a device to push it beyond an electoral cycle thereby removing it from the agenda except in the theoretical sense. Beyond that, who knows. But to play this effectively requires patience not panic that we’d better hurry before it all goes sour.

How I wish we’d just taken the chance at the time. But we didn’t. That would have been too simple. There’s a longer more agonising route to be taken and after all, we’re Scots.