At the beginning of October someone tweeted me a link to Yes Edinburgh North & Leith‘s first public meeting, on 3rd October in the Halls on Henderson Street.
Unlike most Yes events, this one was billed explicitly, both in the header and in the text, as for undecided voters – so, unlike with most events organised by Yes Scotland, I felt free to go along. When I got there, about five minutes before the start, I found some Yes activists who’d come anyway were leaving, and people identifying themselves as undecided were being let in on a one-for-one basis (the hall was packed). I got a seat at the front that had been vacated by a Yes voter and was sitting next to two Yes voters who weren’t budging and who didn’t know Leith votes Labour.
I still don’t know how I’ll vote in autumn 2014. But a few days ago, one thing at least was made definite for me: the Better Together vote is going to win. I’m certain enough of that to lay a bet on it, if I were the gambling sort.
What made me so sure?
It’s not just that the SNP are saying blithely that Independence Day will be March 2016, though that is a highly-unrealistic timescale. (It’s also not a binding decision.)
On 11th May I predicted, correctly, that Barack Obama was going to be a two-term President. My certainty was founded in Obama’s own sense of political security: that’s when Obama opted to come out for repealing DOMA and in support of lifting the ban on same-sex marriage recognition: for gay marriage.
For the most part, there are two sorts of politicians who come out for LGBT equality: the very principled, who will stand up for what’s right regardless of what this does to their future career, and the very confident, who are sure of their future career regardless of what they say. Barack Obama is not the first sort of politician (that sort doesn’t become President of the United States) but he is superb at the job of getting elected. I was sure Obama was going to win.
I’m now sure that the SNP leadership is certain they won’t win the referendum in 2014: they can set a date of March 2016 for independence because that’s not in their plans. They can separate off the “Yes Scotland” campaign as officially not-really SNP, and the morning after the votes are counted and the result is published, the SNP can move on with their plans for contesting Scottish seats in the May 2015 Westminster election.
We firmly believe that the people best placed to take decisions about Scotland’s future are the people who choose to live and work in Scotland.
Like Donald Trump?
Like Ian Wood?
Like Rupert Murdoch?
Like Sir Brian Souter?
Like Anders Fogh Rasmussen?
This is not to argue that Labour or the Tories or the LibDems aren’t also flawed: I agree with this post at Better Nation that argues none of Scotland’s parties are properly fit to run this country right now. But the electorally-fatal flaw for each party is when their actions clearly belie their stated purpose.
I was disappointed when the SNP voted to join NATO if Scotland became independent on Friday. The only positive reason I have for voting Yes so far is that the SNP’s policy was to get rid of nuclear weapons if Scotland became independent. That policy would have been tough to maintain in the face of rUK opposition, since it would be impossible for rUK to build another base for its nuclear weapons at Faslane in the time planned between vote and independence, but it will be impossible if it’s attempted in a kind of “we want to join NATO but we’re getting rid of nuclear weapons: we don’t care that this means rUK loses its nuclear weapons” game.
As the Scotland on Sunday rightly notes, this is unrealistic: the movement in the SNP to reverse their anti-NATO policy is a means of reversing their no-nukes policy without officially saying so or needing a vote.
The other issue is the unrealistic basis of the entire debate, which was only about membership of Nato. This was endorsed, but without the SNP abandoning its opposition to nuclear weapons based in Scotland. As things now stand, the SNP is committed to Nato membership – but with the proviso that Nato’s nuclear weapons are not hosted on Scottish soil. To remain anti-nuclear while professing loyalty to Nato is an untenable position.
The Sunday Times poll noted that winning 50%+ support for independence is fundamentally dependent not on anything the SNP or Yes Scotland have announced they’re doing or campaigning for, but on whether Labour can win the 2015 election. There’s a hard core of support for independence, and from my own experience, the hard core are generally better at convincing themselves than anyone else. There’s a fairly definite proportion of people who are likely to vote No, and there’s about 17% who identify themselves, like me, as undecided.
Today, David Cameron and Alex Salmond meet to decide the terms of the independence referendum. Naturally, they wouldn’t be meeting to “decide” if all the actual decisions hadn’t been worked out already by Michael Moore and Nicola Sturgeon and others, with their civil servants.
The BBC’s “news” report on the meeting that will take place is a fair sample of the “it is expected” style of thing:
It is expected to allow for a vote in autumn 2014 with a single Yes/No question on Scotland leaving the UK.
The deal will also see 16- and 17-year-olds included in the ballot.
The UK government is expected to grant limited powers for the Scottish Parliament to hold a legal referendum, under a mechanism called Section 30.
The Electoral Commission will play a key role advising on the wording of the question and other issues such as campaign finance.
A possible second question on greater powers has been dropped, while the Scottish government looks to have secured its preferred date.
What is the best way to achieve social justice in Scotland?
As I sat in the basement studio of the Augustine United Church – we were in the middle of the workshop on Fair taxation and a strong economy – I heard the March for Independence go by.
One of the things I found myself saying more than once yesterday at A Just Scotland was that each side in the independence debate manages to convince me of the rightness of the other side.
Except, actually, during the debate that ended the day, between Kezia Dugdale and Ewan Hunter, who were meant to be arguing for Better Together and for Yes Scotland respectively, but in the end settled down to the usual Labour / SNP slanging match with more sensible contributions from the audience than from the debaters. What both Dugdale and Hunter convinced me is that I want to go a different direction from either of them.
There are many sensible arguments to be made for and against Scottish independence.
It is depressing that so much time has been spent on a non-argument: Scottish membership in the European Union.
If Scotland were to become independent, the rUK would still be a EU nation, and Scotland would have to apply for EU membership, UN recognition, and would have to ratify the various international charters, treaties, and laws. None of this would be automatic, but none of this would be difficult to accomplish.
From the conclusions of the Presidency, Copenhagen 21-22 June 1993 – the Copenhagen criteria:
The European Council today agreed that the associated countries in Central and Eastern Europe that so desire shall become members of the European Union. Accession will take place as soon as an associated country is able to assume the obligations of membership by satisfying the economic and political conditions required.
The BBC just works. We all pay our licence fee: in return we get TV without breaks for adverts: TV that pushes all the other TV companies in the UK to a higher standard.
If Scotland votes Yes in 2014 we may have cause to worry about Alex Salmond’s close relationship with the Murdochs and the plans News International may have for abolishing the BBC in an independent Scotland.
There is no reason to suppose we would have to lose the BBC. Indeed, as Jennifer Dempsie pointed out in March, the direct revenue from the licence fee to programmes made in Scotland at what I suppose we would then call the SBC, would actually go up.
Ian Smart is personally convinced that as the polls show no sign that the SNP have a hope of winning the referendum in 2014, there will be no referendum. Yesterday he added a post which he was referring to on Twitter as “Shock and Awe” about how the “Better Together” campaign will push their argument.
Well, here I propose to let them inside the briefing room. I expect the same “shocked and outraged” response from my SNP readers as some more naive Democrats expressed about Rove. But, while maybe not quite in the Axelrod and Plouffe class, the people around Eck are more street wise. They’ve already wargamed this and realise that they do not have the counter arguments. That’s why they are desperately trying to avoid having a Referendum at all. The good news is that the Tories are apparently coming round to imposing it upon them.
(For my own thinking about this, see
Yesterday the Sunday Herald ran a story about Alex Salmond which they attempted to dress up as a negative story, but which is actually pretty nice.
In autumn 2014, Scotland will vote on independence. Obviously, the SNP want to win. But realistically, the leaders of the party can read polling data as well as you or I: they know a majority yes for independence is not a likely outcome in 2014.
The SNP have said, ever since 2007, that they would have a referendum on independence only after they had won two elections.
In 2007 and 2011 they won, and so they have a democratic mandate and an obligation to hold a referendum. But they won both elections because of unexpected circumstances.