Updated: Sep 29, 2020
Since I started my blog most questions I have received relate to winning Scottish Independence. Am I a Plan A and/or Plan B person? What preparations are needed to win the campaign? What type of timescale is realistic? Big questions that I could write a book on! So this blog sets out some simple points, all of which I acknowledge need to be expanded upon, but hopefully a useful start.
Plans and principles
My view is there is always an issue with detailed plans. Once set out, they are easy for opponents to attack. However, we do need an understanding of how we intend taking things forward and in a way that is clear and can gather support. One thing that is often helpful is a clear articulation of the principles to be adopted. Let me give just two examples of what I mean. The first I think is uncontroversial and it is this:
1. We will pursue the right to negotiate independence by democratic means.
This is a simple affirmation that the Scottish Independence movement is a peaceful and democratic one.
Other principles might stir the wrath of our opponents rather more:
2. The only sovereign power we recognise is that of the people of Scotland. Therefore no other body has a right of veto on moves to give the people of Scotland a choice on their constitutional future.
Thus, should we choose to have a referendum soon, we do not recognise the right of Westminster to deny the Scottish People their vote.
I can think on other principles I would like to see involved, but my main point is we should agree what they are to be. We should be able to explain our principles to the wider public.
The advantage is that it allows for greater flexibility and makes it more difficult for our opponents. They know if they deny option A it is far from the end of the matter. They can’t veto our drive for independence.
Approaches can vary. For example, for much of the SNP’s history the “plan” was to elect a majority of MPs, negotiate independence and put a constitution for Scotland to a vote of the people. Don’t times and circumstances change. We showed flexibility to change in the past, perhaps more flexibility is needed now.
Leadership in ensuring vital preparations for independence is essential. I personally favour the tenet of Marissa Mayer.
“Find the smartest people you can and surround yourself with them”. An old Yiddish proverb puts it another way.
“Surrounding yourself with dwarfs doesn’t make you a giant.”
There are very broadly two types of preparations for an independence campaign that are needed in my view.
First the design and preparation of the campaign itself. This needs undertaking now with the full involvement of elected representatives at all levels. But that is not enough. I am also strongly of the view that we should stretch out a hand of friendship to groups in the wider independence movement, so long as they have at their core a belief in democratic means. For example, if I were a parliamentarian I would want to be engaging with local YES groups and other local campaigning groups as well as local SNP branches. We need to have independence preparations placed on everyone’s agenda from now on. We need to mobilise all the talents at our disposal.
Secondly, we need a set of policies and principles for a smooth transition to independence and for a limited period after independence until a full general election can be held. In my view there is much work still to be done. The devolved parliament has a limited policy focus because of the devolution settlement. I would want to see us mobilise all our talents both within the party and friends beyond the party across all areas needing addressed from international trade to immigration policy, from pensions policy to a reformed tax system, from an ambitious environment policy to ethical finance.
In terms of the roles of elected representatives, I think there are many highly talented MPs and councillors at present who should be more involved in shaping future policy and strategy. I favour a “Team SNP” approach with closer working amongst MSPs, MPs and councillors. We can’t afford to sideline talent. When I was an MP I often marveled at the knowledge and skills of the likes of Philippa Whitford on health, Ian Blackford on pensions, Joanna Cherry on Justice and many, many others.
I am not one for setting out rigid timescales. A week is a long time in politics, and as we are sadly finding out is a long time in a pandemic too. However, I will say this. We should be facing the last ever election to a devolved parliament next year. We must achieve independence, not merely a vote on it, within the next parliamentary term. In other words, MPs and MSPs should be working hard to be out of a job as quickly as possible, and looking forward to fighting a general election in an independent Scotland. If in 5 years time we remain in the same constitutional nightmare we face today, we will have failed.