It's time to offer the prospect of progress on Scottish independence

AT the weekend, the Alba Party National Council agreed to widespread intervention at the General Election after the SNP rejected the repeated calls for a Scotland United pro-independence pact.

We are now committee to standing in a minimum of 12 seats to ensure that the people of Scotland have the opportunity to vote for independence at the ballot box.
We have already pledged that at the next Scottish election, every voter in Scotland will be able to vote Alba for independence.

Speaking at our National Council, which was held in our energy capital, Aberdeen, Alex Salmond set out his view that Alba Party are the only political party that now have a credible and viable route to independence. And he was right.

Alba Party believe that a majority of votes at each and every election for pro-independence parties would be an instruction from the people of Scotland to commence independence negotiations with the UK Government.

And last week, our Alba Party Holyrood leader Ash Regan MSP set out her plan to deliver a democratic double-whammy on the constitutional issue by bringing forward a bill to Holyrood that would allow for a referendum to be held next year to ask Scots if they believe the Scottish Parliament should have the powers to negotiate for and legislate for independence.

Our policy is that at each and every election, Scotland should be offered the choice of voting for a mandate to negotiate independence.

That is unlikely to happen at the coming General Election since neither the SNP or the Greens support that proposition and have rejected the Alba Party offer of a single Scotland United candidate standing in each constituency seeking that mandate. Notwithstanding, Alba Party will certainly offer every voter in Scotland exactly that option at the next Scottish election.

However, there is no reason why the independence movement should make no progress in the meantime. Neale Hanvey MP has a Scottish Sovereignty Bill currently before the Westminster Parliament which would transfer the power to hold a referendum on independence to Scotland.

But the real prospect of momentum lies here in Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon’s ill-fated expedition to the Supreme Court has halted the opportunity to propose an independence referendum in the Scottish Parliament.

However, there is nothing to stop our Parliament proposing a referendum which we believe would be within competence, and that is to ask the people whether they believe the powers of the Parliament should be extended to include the right to legislate for and negotiate independence.

That is what Ash Regan’s proposed new draft bill does and I am very confident that Ash will canvass significant public support for this bill – that is support that SNP and Green members of the Scottish Parliament should pay attention to. It is time for the independence movement to offer our supporters the real prospect of progress.

More than 10 years ago, Alex Salmond had said that this is exactly the sort of initiative he would have taken if David Cameron had refused a Section 30 referendum. Indeed, we now know that he had a draft with a similar question in an advanced stage of preparation – just in case.

No doubt that fact concentrated the mind of Westminster wonderfully. If you want to end a London veto over Scottish sovereignty then you have to make it clear that you are not prepared to take “no” for an answer.

The way to assert the sovereignty of the Scottish people is to ask the people the question on whether their own parliament should have the powers to determine our future – that is the opportunity we can now have thanks to Ash Regan.

Earlier this year, after the Supreme Court decision, Alba Party instructed one of Scotland’s leading KCs to examine the legal routes forward out of the constitutional dead-end into which Scotland had been led.

Aidan O’Neill’s opinion articulates the view that Parliament has the power to hold this referendum that Ash is proposing and that consulting the people on their opinion on extending the decision-making power of their Parliament is arguably within competence. Now with Alba Party being led by Ash Regan in the Parliament, there is the opportunity to take it forward.

The legislation proposed goes right to the heart of the issue. It would mean that exactly a decade after the first referendum, the people of Scotland would have the opportunity to articulate their view on whether the political destiny of the nation should be in Scotland’s hands. It will be the people’s opportunity to democratically answer the judicial overreach of the Supreme Court.

Alba Party called on the independence movement to move forward with a Scotland United approach but sadly the SNP have opted to go it alone – this is something that in Rutherglen we know was fatal for them.

Alba are now the only party with a viable strategy for the General Election and we are the only party with a credible strategy to move the independence movement forward – as Ash Regan MSP set out with her plan for a Referendum Bill to be progressed in Holyrood.

The SNP strategy for the General Election is incoherent and recently the Greens have said that independence is no longer a red line for them and they would be happy to prop up a Unionist government at Holyrood.

Alba Party now are Scotland’s independence party. Therefore we are now commencing our preparations for a widescale intervention across Scotland at next year’s General Election to make sure the people of Scotland have the choice of voting for independence – with a poll last week putting independence support on 54%.

Alba Party are now represented at every level of government in Scotland and people are seeing the difference we are making. In Holyrood, we are the only party taking the constitutional argument forward and the proposed bill we set out last week is the most significant pro-independence intervention in recent years. If the Scottish Government supports it, we can hold a referendum next year on our Parliament having the power to negotiate for and legislate for our independence.

At Westminster, Neale Hanvey MP and Kenny MacAskill MP are raising the issue of independence and the absurdity of fuel-poor Scots living in an energy-rich nation on a near daily basis. As the party with the plan and the strategy to move Scotland towards independence, we will enter next year in a positive footing ahead of the General Election.

There is a groundswell of support for our attempt to break through the constitutional logjam. In fact, nearly two thirds of readers of The National back the plan!
Ash’s initiative has galvanised not just Alba Party but the independence movement. We will be campaigning full tilt behind this proposal as the only party offering the position that every vote for us is an instruction to the Scottish Government to negotiate independence. Ash Regan’s bill would put the future of Scotland back in Scottish hands.

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