Yes? NO!

I think we’re all supposed to be cock-a-hoop in contrast to the expected deflation of defeat as we were supposed to grub around for some vestige of consolation. Personally, I’m not dancing in the street yet but I am buoyant and confident of where Yes is leading and if this is second prize, I’m happy with silver.

Yes or No

A burgeoning engagement, new media, astonishing membership stats and a pervasive mood music of positivity is infecting everyone – we are all lit up in vivid colours while Unionism fades into monochrome. I can’t think when a leadership contest for Labour caused so few ripples, so much indifference.

From now on the darker elements of our politics which have become stuck in the repeating echo chamber of cynicism will tell us the optimism will fade, the branch meetings will decline, disillusion will follow, the polls will narrow, Murphy will win and the dreary conventional formula of machine politics and media compliance will gather pace.

Maybe. I’ve been wrong before. I was wrong about the referendum result and I was only partly right that there would be a sympathy vote for Alex Salmond after a respectable defeat. But I didn’t foresee just how energised we would be.


Ridiculously, we are in a quiet period. Post-vote there was bound to be a lull and we are now in the dark days of winter with holidays and current affairs fallow periods ahead. Yet with the SNP conference and the new leadership there is a continuing platform, Labour will produce a wee hiatus in December and the travails of Miliband are morbidly fascinating – and as predictable as Jingle Bells playing in Debenhams mid-November.

I have a caveat though…I am uneasy at casual talk of a second referendum.

This is not how democracy works. First comes the vote and the result. Then comes the acceptance. The people have spoken. That is, just for the record, the Scottish people in a deluge of 85 per cent from the Northern Isles to the Border. The referendum is over and the referendum issue is laid to rest until circumstances change.

I don’t believe this is a time question as in waiting for five or 10 years for it to return as postulated in a poll this week. This is an events question because only an undeniable and ground-shifting change in circumstance can justify a second vote.

To argue otherwise isn’t just anti-democratic, it is anti-Scottish. The 55 per cent are our countrymen.


For my taste there are far too many assertions that it will magically come round again as if No voters are already filled with regret. Maybe they are but hell mend them. The answer is not to pretend September was a mistake or we weren’t quite ready or the Unionists lied. (Of course they lied. This is the British state – it’s in the DNA. And if any adult Scot couldn’t tell that was happening, they were either too dim to merit the vote or would vote No regardless of the facts). The answer is to say out loud: The referendum settled the debate.

There is no longer a mandate in winning half the Scottish Westminster seats. It was, pre-devolution, the benchmark that was set by the SNP but it was trumped by the referendum, the internationally acknowledged method which leaves no doubt about the electorate’s intention. Any process less than a Yes/No referendum will henceforth lack legitimacy. The UDI brigade are also shouting down an empty tunnel. Bald statements of sovereignty apply when a nation is oppressed and denied access to democratic solutions. And what is independence anyway without international recognition – which would be denied while London resisted.

There is another reason why strident claims of indyref2 should be put on mute. They are troubling the No Scots who look on in wonder at how their victory is being treated like a scrag-end, a threadbare, unloved thing despised as soon as it entered the world. This has the effect of painting what we regard as a glorious, reforming democratic movement as demagogic and intolerant, hell-bent on getting its own way no matter what the rules say. It also turns them away from us rather than inviting them in to think again. If there ever is to be a future vote, we will need a significant number of them to get on side and to do that they must not only buy the arguments but feel at ease in our company. The affront Yes people feel about the shredding of the Vow is the same emotion No people feel about demands for a re-run.

Judgement on Unionism and the Smith process will be played out in the elections of the next two years and there is no doubt in my mind that an abject failure by Smith allied to a Tory-led Euro referendum would constitute a change of circumstance that would justify unwrapping the referendum package a second time. But that is for then not for now.

Hurt as I am by the outcome and – at times mad with anger at the No folk – I believe we live or die by democracy and that in time it is democracy that will frame the next step. The Unionists traduced the ethos of our democracy by their behaviour in the campaign but we are in danger of dishonouring it ourselves with reference to another referendum. If it is to be, then it will happen through events and a sense of democratic outrage. It should not be openly talked about it now.

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32 thoughts on “Yes? NO!

  1. You’ll have to forgive us. No one on the yes side could have anticipated that the Unionist side of the argument could have been lost within 24 hrs of a No vote having been obtained. The Westminster parties have fumbled it already. The issue wasn’t settled as they had hoped. But they didn’t so much save the union as simply defer its fate. It was here that they should have hit the ground running, to try and prove how “better together” we were. Within 24 hours they were to busy disowning one another and making it perfectly plain, that even the smith commission was a rehash of Majors “taking stock” exercise and would prove just as useless. Quite an achievement if you consider the history. It took the Tories 20 years before their poor decision making caught up with them. Its going to take remarkably less time for it happen to the union.

  2. Back to ‘Business as usual’ Derek?
    Is that it?
    Not a snowball’s chance in hell of us all going back in the box.
    Totally agree with David Agnew.

  3. Sure, but we can never win in that case, the unionists can cheat to their heart content and we are supposed to just roll over.

  4. *heart’s content

  5. Derek, I am so sorry but you are so wrong on a number of points. The vote was always going to be close – and huge numbers of ordinary folk in Glasgow did have doubts and were uncertain about what to do. The full panoply of the State was employed to persuade some, but not all, to keep the status quo. The last minute state visits gave those ordinary folk a hook onto which they could hang their doubts, thinking that what they were doing was the safe thing. You say “hell mend them” but you are completely wrong. This was not a spiteful action which they took; they were overwhelmed with the tsunami of fear and were promised a lifeboat. We know the promise was not worth a paper boat!

    On the issue os the acceptance of defeat, name me one political party which has ever said, after they did not gain the result they wanted, they were just going to pack up and go away! Sorry Derek but those comments about not accepting defeat are blethers.

    One omission from the SNP has been to openly explain why their servers could not cope with the surge of applicants and why it took them so long to get it sorted- was this lack of foresight on their part!

    Politicians and politics always move on to the next campaign, regardless of the outcome of the last one. Let’s hope we can get our majority SNP/ YES MP’s in May.

    One last thing – for heavens sake, cheer up ! We will get our independence !

  6. I was convinced that the unionist parties would butter us up for some time after a No victory. Indeed, probably right through till the general election. Remember Joanne Rowling declaring that she believed we should vote No because if we did we’d be wined and dined by Westminster, as a wife who has decided to give up plans for divorce is welcomed back by her relieved husband?

    I thought she was wrong two ways. One, that husbands don’t behave like that and if they do it’s because they’re going to turn on the wife again once she’s burned these divorce papers. The other was that of course they’d be superficially nice to us for a while, but they wouldn’t give in on anything substantial. But I did at least expect a show of being nice to us, for some limited period. Long enough to cement No voters in the conviction that they’d done the right thing, and to prevent the Yes side from retaining any traction.

    I realised that they only wanted a No vote, by any means necessary, but I thought the velvet glove would stay on the iron fist for a decent interval. It never occurred to me that they were so secure in their victory they’d show their (iron) hand the very day after the referendum. I think that was their mistake and what will cost them the union in the short term. It prevented the Yes activists from settling back into an acceptance of defeat and fired them up with the boiling rage of the betrayed.

    Derek makes some good points about a second referendum. But there are other points. Scot Goes Pop has a very interesting scenario here.

  7. Looking at the results of polls (yes, yes I know .. polls urrggh) since 19th September, it’s quite clear that the 45% Yes is a percentage that is now growing. Many regretted their No vote. Many more are outraged that they were duped – this may be the first time they’ve realised quite how poisonous Westminster tactics can be.

    Yes, there are those agitating for UDI. I agree with you, Derek, that independence must be won with the majority of the country behind it and won democratically, but that doesn’t mean I criticise those calling for UDI – it’s a very understandable reaction.

    A second referendum? Recent polls show vast numbers of voters in Scotland in favour. That’s who we should listen to. If the majority of people of Scotland want a second referendum, then that’s what we should have, and I trust our Scottish Government to steer us home.

  8. One of the Viking laws goes:

    ‘Use varying methods of attack’.

    Talk of another referendum is beginning to sound like a stuck record. The conclusion the enemy will draw from that is that we’re one-trick ponies. A more formidable foe constantly foxes and perplexes the enemy.

  9. I’m very sore after the result on Sep 18th. I think that one huge issue is the perception of many yes voters at the unfairness and blatant lies and manipulation by the voices of industry, commerce, banking and self interested Scottish politicians who would talk and agree with any shite however anti Scottish, dishonest or fraudulent it was as long as it supported a no vote. All power to you Derek for challenging that over and over again. I think I read every blog you wrote for the entire year before the vote. Those articles boosted my spirits and helped me with finer detail of the arguments and discussions but we were whistling in the wind and never had a look-in to most of the living rooms where your former colleagues at the BBC were calling all the shots.

    We lost a referendum under a deluge of deceit and you seem to want us to acknowledge the brainy no voters who were voting that way anyway without being influenced by the downright evil and nasty propaganda machine that was out there supporting their cause. I don’t deny their existence but they were only one significant part of the no vote.

    If I could believe that this contest was fair I would accept the result and get on with making the best of it. It was not fair. Many waverers turned to no and many others stuck with no because of fear or because the were actually taken in by a vow or some other form of jam tomorrow. When you take part and you lose because the other side cheats there is no backing down.

    • That’s my position too. I accept the figures, but I do not accept the result, because there was a whole swathe of people in the middle who didn’t know what or who to believe. Their heart said one thing, their head was being messed around with big style. They didn’t know where to turn. They weren’t necessarily stupid, they were deliberately being confused. I cannot be sure what they meant. Neither do I suspect, do they. Not even now. The last minute promises that were made must have had an impact on the half million people caught in the middle who according to Lord Ashcroft’s poll apparently only made up their minds in the last three weeks of the campaign. Some only made up their minds on the day. Half a million people is a huge number of people to be undecided. And why were they undecided? Because of all the claims and counter claims, most of which we know were downright lies, for instance, that pensions would not be guaranteed, when the DWP affirmed that they would.

      Today a poll in the Daily Record says that 28% do not want another referendum – ever. If this is accurate, this number must reflect the die-hard unionists whom no amount of evidence or argument would ever sway.

      That is why I say ‘Use varying methods of attack’. Rational argument can only achieve so much. We have to undermine this group’s institutional power and disproportionate influence, by forming an alternative media, by encouraging enterprise and small to medium sized business that are beholden to no boss but themselves.

  10. Sorry Derek but a big vote for Yes parties in the Westminster vote will indeed be very significant and will keep the pressure on. If the nawbags had followed through with their promices then they might have killed a resurgent yes campaign, but they started lying the next day. Even no voters have finally recognised this.

  11. Wise words Derek, which are more or less what Nicola Sturgeon is saying as she widens and deepens the SNP’s approach, to produce a stronger foundation for the next time.

  12. 65% polling needed before you even think about a Independence referendum,losing would be catastrophic.

    A federal Union referendum 1st year,2016 scottish elections

  13. Alex Salmond promised no more attempts at Scottish independence for a generation, that’s 20-25 years. I’ve always trusted Mr Salmond. Why don’t his own side?

    • Richard, Alex Salmon declared that to be his position. He cannot bind a new first minister nor can he impose his view on the electorate. A second referendum will happen when the people decide it is time, and if the SNP make that part of their next election manifesto and people vote for that, that is democracy in action.

  14. If we are to win over a significant number of No voters,independence has to be put on the back burner for now.
    It is essential that we hold Westminster to it’s vow and promises because that is what people voted for in the end.
    Either way we win.
    If they fail to deliver significant new powers for Holyrood (including making it a permanent fixture) most Scots will be extremely angry with them and if they do,Scots will see that we really can manage our own affairs and be more amenable to independence at a future date.
    The short and long term objective is to convince Scots that only by voting for Scottish based political parties can Scotland’s interests be fully served.
    Anything else,as Elaine C Smith said leaves us “at the back of the bus”.

  15. Heidstaethefire fire

    Some of your respondents have mentioned that the referendum wasn’t conducted fairly by Bitter Together, and, while this is undoubtedly true, what matters is now; how do we convert some “no” votes to “yes” votes.
    We can’t allow our opponents to caricature the ongoing campaign as some kind of inability to accept the result. A far better line of argument is that we need powers for a purpose. We then look for maximum powers, including fiscal powers, and challenge the establishment to justify the ones which it wants to keep. I doubt their ability to do so. We’re already hearing grumpy noises from the Tory backbenches. We can be confident that the U.K. establishment will demonstrate in short order how duplicitous viceroy Broon’s vow was. They are in a mess of their own creation. We should allow them to help us in the way only they can

  16. WESTMINSTER realises the end is coming and instead of playing softly softly with the Scottish voters as I thought they would, while squirrling away all the plunder they can get out of Scotland for as long as they can. They know the clock is running and they are going for maximum plunder in as short a time as possible with minimum effort. All damage to the Scottish economy acceptable. This is an emergency situation for Londinium/WESTMINSTER/HMG & the establishment.

    They bought the Scottish nobles for 30 pieces oh silver (1707) ignoring the mass of the people. Do we owe them a fair game?


  17. Ah, so you are a Unionist, afterall.

  18. I should have added, in the Fabius Cunctator (Fabian off-shoot) style.

  19. Of course UDI is a bridge too far…at the moment, but talk of intent for a soon to be REF2 is not.

    We put the fear of God into Team GB. But arrogant swine that they are, they’ve stupidly shown their arrogant contempt for us by showing their hand.

    When Smith’s Commission has finally submitted its inevitable fudge, even the most sense ‘NO’ adherent will see the light. Many have already experienced an illumination, hence the increasing Snp support.

    The 30% hard intransigent unionist hardcore will not change.Self interest and self loathing in equal measures is a psychological potion beyond rational argument.

    By mass political activity and direct challenging of BBC propaganda we can and will reach the swing point of 60% and with it the inevitable outcome of a GE and Scot Parl maj.leading to a legal and justified REFmark 2.

  20. A referendum won by lies and deceit is unsustainable. As more people come to realise the truth, the clamouring for independence will get louder. Westminster knows it.

  21. “The people have spoken”.

    Sorry Derek, but speaking freely and having your arm twisted up your back are two different things.

    Accepting you have been cheated, it’s not what Scotland is all about.

    I believed some time ago that you would play an important role in moving Scotland forward, unfortunately as with yourself, I am sometimes wrong.

  22. It pains me to say it but although I feel all the disappointment, anger and resentment against the Better Together machine and those who swallowed that argument, Derek is right, we have to pipe down. We yes voters are all in danger of emotional and political fatigue – and we are the energised half of the referendum fallout. Do we really want to be so tireless and insistent of our beliefs in this matter that we totally annihilate any chance of allowing the seeds of doubt to take root in the minds of the no voters. Nicola Sturgeon and Stewart Hosie have been very clear over the last few days that another referendum will happen when there is a political justification for that to happen and not before. Whatever set of circumstances do emerge to trigger such an event are also the circumstances that will hopefully, finally, persuade that section of no voters who voted through fear or uncertainty, to take a stand for yes. Sadly and unbelievably, there is a hard core of unionists who will never vote for their own independence, but we need to get the others on board over the next few years. The objective is now not to continue telling them how wrong they were but to allow the misdeeds and political mismanagement of Scotland by Westminster to become so obvious and problematic that large numbers of previously no voters develop their own rational position on the matter, as opposed to having what they perceive as the tyranny of the yes position constantly rammed down their throats. If there was ever a course of action designed to entrench the no vote it is relentless bullying from the yes side. Let’s all focus on the next two years and take every opportunity to promote the failures of Westminster government as they emerge, but let’s leave the matter of a second referendum until it is a position that the majority of the population demand, for the correct democratic reasons. The real strength of our current situation is that we have a government in Scotland that is committed to this very course of action. Indyref2 is a political moment whose time has not yet come. It will though if we allow it to manifest.

  23. Blair Mcdougal said at the Labour party conference that there figures showed only 26% had any attachment to the UK
    The other 29% had to be scared or lack confidence in Scotland.
    Thats a sad way to win but there campaign recognised right at the beginning 1 million pensioners and 500,000 folk from south of the border who have chosen Scotland as there home.
    Now if Scotland gets control of pensions
    The myth of a yes and no pension is gone
    The elephant in the room
    Is that 70% of those born outside Scotland voted No
    How do we get those folk to see Scotland as there country? Not just a part of Uk dare I even say as a region of England
    51% of voters born in Scotland voted yes
    However if people born in Scotland but now living down south had vote
    It was reckoned most of them would have voted No
    My point we need a clear majority
    Bridges need built and the case for independence made clear

  24. No election is truly fair. Politicians lie and deceive in order to gain power. That’s the true price of democracy. However, the safety net is that in any other circumstances we get a re-run every few years.
    The referendum is done and I think it would be foolish to re-run it unless and until it is clear we can carry the vast majority of Scottish people with us – it is the only way to ensure to success of independence.
    So we need to spend the next few years trying to achieve the change of circumstances you suggest Derek. If we can lead the charge for change – tackling issues such as poverty, inequality, poor health, etc. – the we have every chance of achieving the popular conversion we so badly need. Then, when we have done that, we can rightly challenge for a new shot at a referendum.
    But we are a long way off that place at this time in my view so it maybe our best bet at this moment is maximising “home rule” (though even taht looks difficult from where we stand).

  25. Derek

    Like others, I have to disagree with your closing statement that a second referendum should not be “openly talked about”. You say earlier in your piece that if circumstances are right then it would be appropriate to talk of another referendum. You give the example of “abject failure by Smith” and a “Tory led Euro-referendum”. I agree – that combination is probably going to provide the first opportunity for Scotland to hold another referendum. But I also think that people are so pessimistic about the outcome of Smith and so convinced that the Euro referendum will be held resulting in Scotland being taken out of Europe against its will that the second referendum is virtually inevitable. It is possible that the failure of Smith alone could provide the impetus required, although I think that less likely.

    So in talking of “Indyref2”, I don’t think we are being undemocratic at all. It is part of the process of holding their feet to the fire. Sustained pressure over a prolonged period is the way to do it. Pressing for UDI would be undemocratic as is refusal to accept the result of the first referendum. We should not be so naive as to think that people don’t lie and cheat during a democratic process – of course they do. But that does not mean that we should think that opinion can never change – there is evidence that it already has. The democratic thing to do is to wait for a decent interval, judge when circumstance are right and then go for it. Holding out the possibility of another referendum is what is holding the Yes movement together. If we don’t even talk about it we will lose momentum.

    The good news is that on our side, we only have to win once.

  26. Thomas Brotherston

    Whilst I have the greatest respect for Derek I must strongly disagree with him. Derek speaks of the referendum as if it was an end in itself. The 1.6 million people who voted YES did so not from some sense of Scottishness or historic injustice. They did so because since the election of Magret Thatcher a substantial proportion of the Scottish electorate saw through Neo Liberalism from the outset. The fact that the Labour Party embraced and advanced Neo Liberalism to a height which out toried the tories did not diminish this processThis proportion continued to grow with each subsequent Westminster election up to the point where an absolute majority Was secured in a parliament SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED never to produce an outright majority.
    Independence is not an option but a NECESSITY for the pensioner, the student, for women, for children, the disabled, the environment and alarmingly the cause of peace. The swingeing programme of cuts are not simply issues for debate by the chattering classes. They are LIFE AND DEATH issues which political parties ignore at their peril. To resist these cuts will require the resistance of the overwhelming majority of ALL those parties who claim to represent the Scottish electorate.
    The SNP will need to spearhead that resistence by being the architect of unity WITHIN Holyrood and by articulating the ideological arguments against Neo Liberalism. Whether the SNP is capable of doing that remains to be seen. The movement OUTSIDE Holyrood however is capable.

  27. Derek, re UDI

    Scenario: in the Euro referendum rUK vote clearly to leave Europe while Scotland votes clearly to stay. In reaction the Holyrood government asks London immediately for an emergency independence referendum in Scotland and is rebuffed by a cock-a-hoop No.10.

    What do we do then?

    Okay, an emergency appeal to Strasbourg on self determination grounds. We win, but No. 10 is no longer listening to any European institutions and resolves, as with votes for prisoners, to do nothing.

    What do we do then?

    Mass civil disobedience? March on Westminster hoarsely singing Flower of Scotland and The Skye Boat Song? or does Holyrood sound out the European Commission about retaining the biggest oil reserves and most productive fisheries in the EU and would they bang European heads together to support a Scottish UDI? With that support at least tacitly agreed. What do you think now? Note that the Euro leaders will be feeling rejected by rUK and will have had to swallow a deluge of insults and invective emanating from Westminster and English MEPs.

    Under what circumstances and with what level of promised international support do we need in order for UDI to be justifiable? Or do we just give a sigh of resignation and allow Westminster to take us out of Europe against our clearly expressed democratic wishes?

  28. This guff about international socialism is the biggest nonsense ever pedalled. The very word international, only exists because nations exist. To be an internationalist you first have to be a national ,of a particular country. There is no logic in her argument. She thinks that socialism can only be achieved globally.

    But how can Scotland’s voice be heard through the right wing agenda of Westminster. Is she happy for us to drift along, until England decides it is not right wing anymore. She wants Scots to just accept that we are part of the UK and try and change the model of the country from within. She fails to accept or admit, that we are only the 1 in 10 of the voices within this Disunited Kingdom, and our voices can only be heard as a whisper in the wind.

    Should Eire rejoin the UK and reject their identity in order to try and change the UK? Where are we going with this argument. If you are in a club where 90 % of the members don’t listen to you and the club is no longer benefitting you and instead harming you. You cancel your membership!

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