To get the campaign to take off, people have to believe that it really is game on for Indy

SO, exactly one year to go until we get a renewed chance to vote for freedom. How do I know this? Well, as you may recall, it was promised – “no ifs or buts”.

The trouble is that, as one of these pesky journalists opined, judging by the atmosphere at the SNP party conference, few of the delegates actually believed we are a year away from indyref2. And, significantly, he was not drowned out in a chorus of enthusiastic derision.

A key problem is that the timing of the poll has been effectively contracted out to other bodies, and Unionist ones at that. It is certainly not in the control of the Scottish Government.

Think back to June; just one prime minister and three chancellors ago! The First Minister set out her ABC of how to get an independence vote.

Plan A was to ask then PM Boris Johnson. That did not take long.

Plan B was to get a ruling on legality from the UK Supreme Court. But the presiding judge has already warned that any decision from that august bench is “months away”, and the long grass may well be beckoning. Thus even if this judicial long shot turns up trumps, the legislative window of opportunity for next year is closing fast – an infuriating fact, given that we now know from the same court proceedings that it was actually open to any minister suitably advised (and still to any backbencher) to kick things off in the Scottish Parliament without the permission of a recalcitrant Lord Advocate. Thus, the timing of Plan B is not in Scottish hands.

Meanwhile, the timing of Plan C – the “plebiscite election” – does not look good for next year either. If the Conservative government is forced to hand in its cards over the next few days, as the SNP are calling for, we are being told it would be too soon for a plebiscite poll! Alternatively, Liz Truss (or, more likely, her successor as prime minister) will limp on until 2024. At any rate, an election next year seems the least likely option.

Perhaps then it is time to revisit Plan A. I am not sure if Truss (pictured) has even been asked formally to concede a Section 30 and an agreed poll. If not, then we had better be quick if the postie with the FM’s letter is to beat the removal vans!

One point does puzzle me. If Truss is prepared to U-turn on everything, sack her friend and chancellor, junk her entire economic programme and endure looking absolutely ridiculous, then why couldn’t her hand be forced by sustained political pressure for an independence poll? After all She might even do it as a valedictory act of revenge on her tormentors as she is forced out of Downing Street!

At any rate, we can hardly say that Scotland’s Claim of Right is being refused by a political colossus. The Scottish Government is at risk of being the only force in the entire body politic that pays the slightest attention to the current Prime Minister.

Contrast this confusion of today with 10 years ago and the orderly progress towards indyref1. The referendum was agreed upon in 2012. The date was announced in March 2013, the white paper launched in November 2013, and the campaign took off in the spring of 2014 for the September 18 climax.

This is important because it was only when the real battle was joined with a defined date that the independence case came alive and the cause gained its astonishing momentum. That is what took the independence vote from 30% to 45% over the course of the campaign and, with a week to go, probably into the lead.

The Scottish Government economics paper this week left a substantial amount to be desired. The weakness on Europe, borders and currency will be exploited by the Unionists. That the European Free Trade Association (Efta) opportunity has not been explored is regrettable. I have no idea why the economically positive Northern Irish example on borders and the single market is not being shouted from the rooftops.

Meanwhile, the “time is right” economic tests on a Scottish currency are the worst of all worlds. They are a hangover from the much-derided “Growth Commission” and need a decent and quick burial.

However, there is still time to sort these things out if the Government opens up to the ideas of the wider Yes movement. The fundamentals of the economic and social case for independence are sound, and indeed stronger than in 2014, and the case for the Union has never been weaker.

The prospect of clean, green, publicly owned affordable power flowing through every Scottish household and our entire economy contrasts dramatically with Jeremy Hunt leaving British homes at the mercy of the casino capitalism of Big Energy. That is the common sense economics which could help win an independence vote.

However, the muted response to the economics paper launch is not just a factor of Westminster in terminal crisis dominating the news or the lack of certainty in the Scottish Government proposals. It is the lack of belief that October 19 next year is indeed going to be Scotland’s next date with destiny.

We are fighting a phoney war, which suits our opponents just dandy. To get the campaign to take off, people have to believe that it really is game on for indy.

First published in The National on 19th October 2022

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