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Scotland United approach to election would be win-win



I MISSED the Hampden downpour last week as I was in London to witness the Alba Party’s Westminster leader, Neale Hanvey MP, set out the findings of a key legal opinion on Scottish Independence.

The opinion, from the internationally renowned Professor Robert McCorquodale, on “matters relating to international legal issues concerning the right to self-determination for the people of Scotland” eviscerated the Supreme Court’s rulings in relation to the Scottish Government’s ill-fated sojourn to ask it if it was OK to hold an independence referendum.

This is the first of two major legal documents to inform the Scottish independence debate. The second, to be published in the coming weeks, is from a leading Scottish advocate and will deal with domestic law and how the Supreme Court ignored the Scottish constitutional tradition of popular sovereignty.

On the football, there is no doubt that Steve Clarke has turned a side full of talent into a great team.

With the national team doing so well – with four wins from four, a team to be proud of and a vision that will hopefully lead us to Euro 2024, perhaps Humza Yousaf should have invited Steve Clarke along to his independence convention on Saturday, to remind him of the importance of “record, team, vision”!

At first sight on Saturday the First Minister was moving towards the position advocated by Alba and others that the General Election should be fought seeking a mandate for independence.

But all is not as it seemed on Saturday. Subsequent “clarifications” and “elaborations” suggest that the aim of the SNP’s General Election campaign will be to secure yet another mandate for a referendum.

In addition, there is no suggestion on how to tackle the “SNP problem” or even awareness that it exists – that the SNP difficulties are currently a political drag on the independence movement. The SNP may recover in time from under their present cloud, but that hardly seems likely by next year.

Humza’s explanations on why the UK Government would suddenly now respond to an SNP victory in parliamentary seats alone, still has two familiar problems.

Firstly, by reverting to saying the election result will be another mandate for a referendum will inevitably result in the same stagnation as we’ve witnessed over the past few years.

Secondly, with the SNP sitting at recent lows in the polls but with independence sitting so high it seems it would be a case of party before country to contest the election without having the entire independence movement standing “all under one banner”.

Alex Salmond has previously written to the leadership of parliamentary independence parties and now to nationalist parliamentarians on the value of a Scotland United approach to the upcoming Westminster election.

On the eve of the SNP’s independence convention, he wrote to all Scottish Nationalist members of both the Scottish and UK Parliaments.

Alex set out Alba’s view that the only way to command the first ballot-box opportunity to secure an independence mandate, and the only prospect of advancing the independence cause next year, is to fight the General Election as Scotland United for Independence.

Such a pro-independence pact would see one pro-independence candidate contest each seat across Scotland from the SNP, Alba, the Greens and other pro-independence parties – and perhaps some prominent individuals of no political party – standing with a clear and unambiguous commitment that a vote for Scotland United will be a mandate to enter into independence negotiations with the UK Government.

If we do not move urgently and decisively in that direction, then there is the likelihood of a serious election setback for independence.

Readers of The National will know there is already encouraging survey evidence that there is majority support for the Scotland United concept representing a mandate to negotiate independence from Westminster.

They also know that a number of MPs, MSPs and influential nationalist commentators already support serious discussions around this concept. Over this summer, many independence activists, members of all independence-supporting parties, and those independence supporters of no party political allegiance, will be assessing their contribution as to how we best progress our national cause. We are moving to a point of decision and those of us in Alba Party believe there must be proper discussion across the movement.

The benefits of fighting next year on a Scotland United basis would see every single participating party stand to gain from the approach. But, more importantly, the nation can emerge as the big winner with a serious chance of success.

In London, the political classes think the drop in support for the SNP to the mid-30% means they’ve put Scotland back in its box. In many quarters they are now openly laughing at us and increasingly in Westminster they think they can treat Scotland with contempt without a political price to pay.

But support for independence hasn’t dropped – it is higher today than it was on September 18, 2014, with recent polls putting it above 50%.

Right now the Labour Party are blowing their trumpets that they can win 10, 20 or 25 seats from the SNP next year. It is a return to the sort of entitled arrogance I remember from the Labour Party when I joined the SNP back in 2006.

But if we can maximise independence support at the ballot box next year, the political debate will no longer be about how many nationalist MPs wil be lost to Unionists – but about how many of the 10 remaining Unionists survive such a Scotland United coalition.

In the discussions we have in our respective parties, or across the national movement, let’s make sure we keep our eyes on the prize of pushing Scotland forward and on giving ourselves the maximum opportunity of winning next year’s election for Scotland.

Or, as they say in all the best quiz shows – and a phrase which sums up the positive attitude of Steve Clarke’s international team – “we must be in it to win it.”

First appeared in The National Newspaper 26 June 2023

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