I think it is time to call a serious warning about Scottish independence; what is happening now creates a real potential that the cause of Independence will be set back by years, and potentially for many years. It really is that serious.
When credible sources are predicting that inflation could reach 18 per cent next year it is time to wake up to reality. That is the kind of political event which warps everything else around it, dominating and redefining politics, potentially for a generation. Almost no lives will remain untouched.
Now let us turn to what the independence side are officially offering in the face of this. I know most of you are in denial about what the case for independence currently is but it is the Growth Commission. Please don’t tell me that ‘that’s for after indy, we’ll pull it out the fire once we get free, someone will turn up and save us from the SNP’. We haven’t won anything yet.
If you’re feeling strong of stomach, go and calculate next year’s public spending based on the Growth Commission’s compulsory formula. It is surely now inevitable that we’re heading towards recession and the Growth Commission demands that we limit public spending to growth of one per cent below GDP growth.
Which is to say that a recession which is taking one per cent off GDP over a year would require the SNP government to make a cash-terms cut of two per cent in public funding. That’s while inflation is running at potentially 20-odd per cent. In real terms that’s coming on for a quarter of the entire budget. To be cut. In a crisis. Sell that on the doorsteps! (Inflation is hopefully unlikely to average 20 per cent over a year, but this is politics and it’s stories which matter.)
The SNP leadership repeatedly refuses to allow any motions to go to party conference which either revisit the Growth Commission or propose any other revenue-raising approach (because that would flat-out contradict the Growth Commission). The sight of SNP members simply ignoring their own party policy and pretending it didn’t happen because it so bad is actually quite sad.
The calamity which is the Growth Commission is now never going away under this regime, because even as as that regime tries to sidle away from it and pretend it never really happened (‘refreshing the case’), the simple reality is that at one point they thought this was a feasible way to run a country.
We are (in theory) going into a referendum on independence in the middle of a crisis without a credible explanation of how independence would help us to deal with the crisis, and without a team in place capable of coming up with a narrative about how independence could be a credible response to crisis.
Be honest; Nicola Sturgeon’s vision of independence doesn’t stretch beyond joining the EU and her head going on the stamps. (I think I’m kidding about the stamps.) The SNP has ruled out the nationalisation of the electricity grid or any major energy generation. It pulled out of a commitment to create a basic energy retail company.
We are (in theory) going into a referendum on independence in the middle of a crisis without a credible explanation of how independence would help us to deal with the crisis
There is no economic vision other than ‘look, countries doing better than us!’ and ‘rejoin the EU!’ (if you think the Growth Commission would lead to devastating cuts, go look at the cuts required to meet EU entry requirements in any foreseeable short-term).
The EU policy in particular shows how little the SNP is interested in winning independence. If it is determined to create a ‘dual mandate referendum’ for both Scottish independence and EU accession it is actively risking the votes of a third of Yes voters – so whatever it is, it is certainly not a pro-independence policy.
The Scottish Government does not appear to be able to generate a case for independence which is capable of winning people over in the world in which we live now. You can then add to that the fact that it clearly doesn’t have a clue how to go about getting independence anyway.
That was revealed starkly in the Scotsman today. Remember when every SNP loyalist was trumpeting last year that ‘no ifs, no buts, there will be a referendum in October 2023’? Well at that point the Scottish Government had secured no legal advice to say that the claim had any basis in fact.
What seems finally to have got the Scottish Government to take any action whatsoever on independence was late spring this year when the Scotsman put in a Freedom of Information request to ask what had been done on the legal case for holding the referendum that had already been promised (‘no ifs, no buts’).
In fact the Scottish Government put much more effort into concealing the reality that it hadn’t taken proper legal advice than it did in seeking advice. It was only after the Information Commissioner forced Ministers to reveal the reality that they even set up a meeting with the Lord Advocate, and it was only after the Scotsman revealed that no advice had been secured that the whole Supreme Court thing was devised.
To say what was said in public knowing what we now know they didn’t know in private is quite appalling. Again and again this administration has told a lie about independence and then put more effort into covering up the lie than in making it true.
So it is no surprise that we’ve now lost the public on the question of holding an independence referendum next year, making it next to politically impossible (if you ask me). But I don’t think it was ever going to happen anyway.
So forget how many times the movement has been marched up the ‘indy hill’ only to be marched down again and focus on how many times the public has. I think it’s almost certainly going to happen again next year and at that point we must be verging on becoming a laughing stock. We are losing credibility right in the middle of probably our best chance for an indy push.
What if the pig’s ear being made of this, the lies, the broken promises, the sheer ineptitude, what if that breaks the deal with just enough people that we lose momentum, and others start to peel off, to say ‘it was a nice idea while it lasted’?
These are the kind of sets of circumstances that can damage a cause for the long term. If independence isn’t the answer to a crisis, what is it an answer to? If putting independence on the table is something its own supporters promise and then unpromise, promise and then unpromise, over and over again, who should take us seriously?
That this is the case when the UK Government is quite this bad is unbelievable. Causes disappear for a decade, they sometimes disappear for 50 years. Scottish independence has been a major issue in Scotland’s history before, only to wane and disappear for a generation or two. How many young people do you know engaged with the issue properly just now?
Meanwhile the SNP is beyond a mess. It isn’t even trying hard in its disinformation any more. I promise you they did not spend £200k on public attitude research. Aside from trying to lie their way out of the ‘missing £600k’ problem they are frittering away the money we need to fight a referendum (except they’re not because they did that a long time ago, but let’s play along).
So where is it going? Like the hundreds of thousands supposedly spent on office furniture I suspect it’s being recycled into fake membership fees to cover what is almost certainly a much bigger drop in membership than they are admitting. This is zero per cent independence, 100 per cent cover-up. A party that wants independence does not knowingly stuff its senior party positions with sex pests and people who are clearly unstable.
Only the wider independence movement can sort itself out. Its leadership is the problem, the source of all of this mess. But it now has three broad camps. The first is the pocket-stuffers. There are a remarkable number of people making a good living out of independence now and all of them (they’re not all in the SNP…) will say anything to keep the money coming in.
The second is the high-information group. They have serious political understanding and a high awareness of what is currently going on, and they are all just biding their time until there is a leadership change.
The final group is the low-information group. These are the good rank-and-file members of the movement who don’t make their life from politics, keep up to speed with broad developments and trust what they are told by the pocket-stuffers. They think there is a referendum coming next October.
The pocket-stuffers will be pocket-stuffers, now until the end of time you will never escape the pocket-stuffers. They always really believe (a) in a cause (b) that paying them is the best way to fight for the cause. Then there will always be people who care deeply, who want to believe and so take on trust promises, even after the last promise is broken.
But what of the many, many people just desperately waiting for a change of leadership? What if it is too late? What if the damage done by then is too difficult to undo? What if the pig’s ear being made of this, the lies, the broken promises, the sheer ineptitude, what if that breaks the deal with just enough people that we lose momentum, and others start to peel off, to say ‘it was a nice idea while it lasted’?
Every failed cause is filled with people who at some point near the end denied that failure was a possibility. No social movement has a right to exist, no cause keeps growing just because someone wants it to. Political and social change that feels inevitable regularly turns out to be not inevitable at all.
We are actively losing support for another referendum just now. We are up against the most Scotland-alienating government I’ve seen since Thatcher’s and we’re making zero progress in the polls. We have had eight years to come up with a currency plan and we still don’t have a single credible figure working on the official policy.
At the other end of the crisis that is upon us, anything is possible. It is shaping up to be a shockwave beyond Covid or the 2007 banking crisis. In fact it is a shockwave which is shaping up to eclipse anything that happened in the 1970s. Ditching the Growth Commission and all involved in it and coming up with the radical agenda that the public are looking for right now is the only sane strategy.
The complacency in the independence movement is terrifying, particularly if you have any awareness of what is really happening on the ground. If you can’t see that this is now code red for the cause of independence then I don’t know what it will take.