Heid the Ba’

Celtic had lost a big match they were expected to win and Jock Stein was in volcanic mood. The disgraced players turned up next day for training to hear Stein was still brooding in his office. They nominated the great McNeill, the captain, to confront him. He knocked quietly, peered fearfully round the door and said: ‘Is it OK for me and the boys to get out the table tennis, boss?’

I imagine something similarly timid goes through the mind of Yes folk beginning to have doubts about the SNP. This is challenging the orthodoxy, questioning the mighty. The voting arithmetic may not say so, but one aspect of politics is ‘returning to normal’ and that’s open criticism and doubts about the Nats. There is no sign that any bubbles have been burst, far from it, but a questioning tone is emerging from a wider front than the usual Unionist suspects and that has to be right, isn’t it?

It’s a bit tentative and doesn’t amount to full-on hostility but life has to go on, as McNeill said. And peering round the door are some who belong to the Yes side and have its best interests at heart – this week, notably, Robin McAlpine and Cat Boyd – the first on a conservative conference agenda and the second on caution over indyref2.

Even as we glimpse a possibility of 78 Nationalist MSPs at Holyrood and an approval rating three times Labour’s, there is rebellion in the air and it smells good. Nothing like a whiff of cordite to clear the mind.

At one level I shouldn’t wonder that inside Sturgeon’s Kremlin planners are quietly pleased that the first movements can be detected in the Yes undergrowth with guerrilla activity stirring in the fringes. Internal debate strengthens, not weakens and is the lifeblood of ideas…so long as it can be managed. It also contradicts the silly One Party State nonsense. Determined resistance leads to splits (like the 79 Group) but this is far from insurgency. Indeed Robin has a point because he is calling for open debate on questions no party should be afraid of discussing.

So why the SNP caution? First, a debate on the referendum allows the public to remember an SNP defeat, one that democracy demands they accept (more later). A sceptical public sees people obsessed with an issue settled by clear majority only 12 months ago after years of bloody acrimony. The SNP is moving on, determined to claim the powers its mandate demands within the Union, leaving indyref2 a dot on the horizon on which the sun has yet to rise. Replaying currency and EU is an invitation to argument and blame. That does not stop behind-the-scenes assessment of those positions and a future membership consultation when the indyref temperature rises.

TTIP is included on the agenda with the SNP taking a robust no-public sector inclusion stance that has been the immediate threat. As far as I can see the SNP has also criticised the aspects that might allow corporations to sue governments in disputes. Common Weal may well want total abolition of TTIP but any national government-in-waiting taking that position will find it harder to locate allies when independence beckons. God knows, the unequivocal anti-nuclear stance (which I support) is brazen enough for some would-be allies whose support we’ll need. I firmly believe that while indyref2 may be just a blip on the radar today, the SNP has to operate as if it were imminent as it is now being judged by a world community acutely aware that a new nation is a real possibility. To many of them with their own internal concerns, radical is interchangeable with dangerous.

The dilemma of course is the timetable of all this. There is another election looming and the trick is to be ready with your record, some interesting ideas and a persuasive line in argument to harvest as many votes as you can. What you don’t do is whip up dissent, strike uncompromising positions – and never unsettle the core. That means for example trying to stay in the European mainstream while feeling deep unease over the plight of Greece. The treatment of the Syriza government offended many of us pro-EU folk who have had to bite back resentment at the institutions and at Germany in particular. But how is that aided by condemnatory motions at a conference in a country hoping to become a Member State?

There is an idea around that the SNP is some version of socialism. In fact I saw a headline the other day saying that Corbyn would show them up on the socialist front. I laughed. When did the SNP become socialist? Who made the claim?

The SNP is radical – a new separate state, anti-nuclear, free education, progressive tax, renewable energy – and social democratic in the European model but when some tried to make it socialist, Alex Salmond and his lot were expelled. There are socialists in the SNP and some policies are associated with socialism but the success of the party is rooted in a left-to-right manifesto which marries economic activity with welfare to create better living conditions. Over above that is the simple idea that they always stand up for Scotland (whatever that means) and that’s the formula that works.

Tony Blair did something similar for the whole UK and without that breadth of support, you simply don’t win consistently.

What’s happened, I think, is that the wider Yes movement has turned into the SNP which is great for membership numbers and income and generates energy and ideas but brings with it a large number of those whose instincts are different from the traditional members. I’ve spoken to them (well, a few) and been told that they are more radical and impatient and what they want the party will have to deliver because they are now the membership. That neatly sidesteps the fact that it is the SNP which predates them that has learned how to succeed and win elections – oh and how to govern.

The operating model works and the last thing it needs is to be replaced with a higher-octane, get-there-quicker version which leaves half the electorate behind.

That’s why I think Cat’s idea of catching the moment to stage indyref2 is wrong and naïve. A significant part of the SNP vote is delivered because of the Union, not despite it. Scots learned to like the Nats in power, smiled at the stick they poked London with and allowed themselves to feel good about being Scots again. That did not, and does not, mean they are ready to leave the Union without a better offer in a more likely economic environment.

Indyref2 anytime soon is suicide as it is just as likely to be lost as the first. It also carries the stigma of casting us as anti democratic by refusing to accept the people’s verdict and merely staging another go until we get the result we want.

There is a demand within the digital village for radicalism which I understand but look back to 2007. We’ve already asked Scots to consider turning their world upside down in a referendum, helped them awaken a political hunger they’ve never known, got them to overthrow their generational love affair with Labour at both Holyrood and Westminster and transformed our political landscape in a way older hacks like me can scarcely believe. To the public this is radicalism. They’re voting SNP and loving it and still it’s not enough for some. Gie’s a brekk should be the conference slogan for Aberdeen.

The mistake will be to have a stonking majority and not use it, just like Blair. But let’s get the election over first, count the votes and savour the luxury of victory. The voters should be on your shoulder, not ten paces behind you. Never get too far ahead of them – they are all you’ve got. Everything is invested in them, just as it was the players, not Stein, who won the football games.

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86 thoughts on “Heid the Ba’

  1. Good stuff Derek, better answers required for those easily frightened by change, I think everyone’s aware of that now. Lot’s of work to be done.

  2. Good stuff, Derek. It’s all very well those behind the more radical elements of the wider Yes movement pushing for the SNP to be more radical, but they seem to be forgetting we’re not at the 50%+1 mark yet. It feels a bit rich being lectured to by folk in the Greens and Left Project etc about how to win the next referendum, when these parties are going to be going into 2016 looking to get votes off of the SNP – the Greens in particular will certainly be going into 2016 promoting a “give us your second vote” strategy, I would suspect. It’s left to the SNP to win over those who aren’t ideologically attached to the union, but weren’t convinced by the economics of independence last year.

    Let’s do the hard work of winning that extra 5-10% over to the cause and *then* start agitating for IndyRef2. Working out exactly what we did wrong last time would be a good start…

    • Wait a second. The SNP were rubbish during the referendum. Pretty much took a back seat and got battered all over the shop over currency, Europe and were far too timid about any other things (queen as head of state etc etc). I understand why they did this but it was the likes of I the common weal and radical indy that gave us the new ideas and of course the grass roots normal people that were pounding the streets chapping the doors that got us so close. I spent half my time convincing people that this was far bigger than the SNP its not about the SNP etc etc. Scotland’s loss was the SNPs gain. I worry that they will become too comfortable in government after all they wont be the same after we get independence.
      I agree that its too early for another indyref but we cannot rely on the SNP. I think we managed to reach 45% in spite of the SNP not because of them. That said i’ll still be voting for them at holyrood to keep the momentum going.

    • The prolem is how do we persuade the 5-10%? with an SNP which seems to be settling into the union. The 56 made an initial splash but I get no sense from them that they want this to be last parliament the SNP stands for. That was always the danger of such numbers, they have more members than portfolios now which means both actual backbenchers and the need for whips. Enjoying tweaking the nose of the Tory government, fine and funny, but how does it convince the 5-10% who look on and see the union working, not as normal but differently. As Derek says maybe differently enough for now.

      There is no ongoing campaign for independence any more. The Yes Alliance is working in that direction and the likes of RIC are poised to slot in there. But without an ongoing campaign putting the arguments, counteracting the MSM (not enough people read The National or Wings). That 5-10% are not magically going to switch just because. We are sticking up for ourselves at Westminster at last lots will be thinking. Why do we need Independence? I can imagine the arguments coming back on the doorsteps.

      The SNP seem to have gone soft on their main mission. Maybe government has turned their heids.

      • Muscleguy , to the best of my knowledge there are at least six shops/ hubs scattered around Scotland working their socks off ” counteracting the MSM,” actively trying to involve their local Communities and failing that at least make them aware of what’s going on . Whether that be what the local Council are doing, land, environment , cuts or what’s happening at Holyrood or Westminster.

        That means there’s probably more Indy shops than there are RS McColls these days.

        There may not be a YES HQ anymore but the Independence Campaign is still ongoing.

        Thing is though, should it all be down to the SNP ?

        If we got Independence tomorrow , are we going to sit back and say ” right sort it ”

        Isn’t that why most of us are so critical of Labour placemen/ women in positions of officialdom because WE gave them the mandate for decades to ” sort it ?”

        To continue Dereks football theme , we are the 12th man ( woman) . Perhaps at this time, the SNP ( rather than going soft) are sorting out their tactics , while hoping the team ( us) will do the talking on the field – and that’s where the 5-10% will be persuaded ?

      • Where is the basis for this accusation that the SNP have “gone soft” on independence? What is it you actually expect them to be doing? Standing outside Westminster every day with placards, chanting “INDEPENDENCE NOW!!!” or something?

        Some folk just need a bit more time to see that the union isn’t working for them. They’re not pro-UK as such, but they think they’re getting by okay as it is, and don’t want to rock the boat. Such folk were not convinced by the arguments we were making the past two years, and simply turning up the volume isn’t going to change that.

        These folk simply won’t vote for independence until we can convince them that it would benefit them personally, so we do that by coming up with better, more convincing economic arguments – ones which people can relate to directly, rather than simply “look how rich we’d be in comparison to other countries”. Meanwhile, the SNP continue to garner people’s trust, by being better representatives of the people than the unionists ever have been. And the unionist politicians will continue to erode any trust people have in them, by being their natural selves.

        Or do you have a better plan? If so, let’s hear it.

        • Doug Daniel
          I’m not saying the SNP have ‘ gone soft’ . I was replying to Muscleguy who used the term.
          “What do I expect the SNP to do ?”
          You know what Doug Daniel ,I expect them to do what they’re doing but my point is everything shouldn’t all rest on the SNP .
          They alone are not going to convince the waiverers.
          That’s why I was talking about the shops/hubs. There’s a plan . Get another dozen , two dozen open , not necessarily SNP ( any pro indy) and talk to people , get the information available and out there. Get people involved and if not involved at least informed.
          Yes the SNP lead the charge but there’s things needing done now to improve Scotland , we can’t be bystanders waiting for instructions nor should we be. ( peeking behind the door) .
          There’s no point in getting Independence if we’re left with a country that’s been used as a dumping ground for nuclear waste, or our industries have been decimated by the impact of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ or even our services eroded because a Council decides a new HQ is more important than a children’s nursery, elderly people receiving a meal.
          That’s where we come in. We don’t have the restraints of being politicians or a Govt but we do have a guid Scots tongue in our heids and yes Independence is the goal but we also need to show that by working together as a group or campaign or revolting peasants we can stop having things imposed on us ( by a far away Westminster) and actually do things ourselves. Hopefully making things better.
          When some of the decisions made like fracking exploration in the street next to you arises or your child’s nursery having their teachers numbers reduced by the local Council start to impact and people start looking around for advice/help , wouldn’t it be nice if there was a handy hub with informed people there.
          As I said during the Ref, I don’t want Independence for Independence sake ( although I think now it’s a necessity rather than a choice) , I want independence for change and that’s why its not about the SNP per se, it’s about us.
          The SNP can continue to do the politics with a large p but we the ordinary people can continue with a small p , they both matter.

    • dennis mclaughlin

      Both my votes are going to the SNP in 2016,these smaller political entities will have plenty of “lebensraum” when unionism is destroyed in Scotland.

  3. Rather patronising as regards the Scottish electorate. Many of us more than ready for Indy, surely?

    • But not enough, at least not yet. Polling at 48% is an improvement on the Referendum, but if that was the result for IndyRef2 it would throw a third referendum into the ether for a REAL generation.

      The YES campaign did many things wrong (to me the most obvious was how the central/official campaign was (mis)managed – in my opinion) and we need better prepared answers to the currency, EU, economy issues before asking the public to choose again. I trust that the leadership have a better strategy in mind

      • Another one was the get out the vote campaign. I rocked up to help referendum morning, when the service buttons in the multis etc were working, and where did a carload of us get sent? To a leafy suburb where we were trudging down long gravel drives with three cars. I wasn’t the only one who felt we were wasting our time. A lot of folk who registered to vote didnae vote. Even here in Dundee, the Yes city. Did we do too good a job of the optimism? I expect a lot thought it was in the bag, it certainly felt like that here in Dundee. Yet we needed the 12% who didn’t vote.

        Where were the loudspeaker vans touring the schemes? That was where our vote was, I canvassed them with RIC. I don’t think we maximised our voters.

  4. I agree about not rushing indyref2. However, for me and many others, the SNP is a vehicle to independence. Their social democratic instincts align with mine, but I’ll not be along for the ride if they lose sight of our destination.

  5. I still believe the best option for 2016 is something along the lines of “We reserve the right”, without any artificial time line or definition of “material change”. We’ll all know when the time is ripe.

  6. I have to admit it is a tricky one. I vote SNP but I am not a member and I kinda forgive them a bit for policies I don’t like because overall I am fairly satisfied with their time in government and I admit they have done some good stuff. However the bottom line is I have voted for them chiefly because they support an independent Scotland and they are the only ones who can seriously challenge the unionists but I feel that this may be the high water mark for interest and participation and after the GE result and the sickening Scotland bill we really have to start upping our game. I know its impossible to keep everyone happy even though we want the same thing but this type of popularity won’t last forever. The SNP are clever and have people more educated than I but is there a compromise to even put it in our 2016 manifesto but have it held in 2020, I’m not sure but all they have ever stood for was indepence and that still has to be at the fore front not further devolution

  7. Steve Asaneilean

    Derek – I am not and never have been a member of any established political party so I have no axe to grind.

    But I do think a degree of complacency has crept in to Scottish Government and if they are not careful they could be caught out.

    They, like (Not) Labour before them, have dodged the necessary process of reforming local government finance. At the same time they have taken local accountability for local government away to some extent by imposing a Council Tax freeze. This needs to be revisited as a matter of urgency.

    They are also, in my view, in a state of denial about serious problems with the NHS – recruitment and retention issues in both primary and secondary care; crumbling infrastructure at local levels despite fantastic new facilities in South Glasgow; and so on.

    And similar problems with recruitment and infrastructure can be found in other public services – schools, social care, etc.

    I am NOT saying that these problems are the fault of the SNP SG – they have all been two decades in the making. But it would be nice if they could at least ackowledge the problems and propose some solutions now and again.

    In addition in areas where they would have had overwhelming support they have been too timid. Land reform has been the most recent example.

    Now I expect to get pelters and lots of folk pointing to examples which disprove my view.

    But I also find the notion amongst many that SG (and by default the SNP) is beyond criticism somewhat worrying.

    • One thing they (and we) shouldn’t do is to allow Reporting Scotland to set the agenda.

    • dennis mclaughlin

      Steve Asaneilean – you took the words right out of “Union Jackie’s Mouth”….fess up now!

      • Steve Asaneilean

        I am affronted Dennis! Have you not been reading my posts over the last 18 months and more?

        I campaigned vigorously for Yes, speaking at many public meetings.

        But we do ourselves no favours living in denial.

        I work in the public service and in my area of work and my part of the country I am watching some services struggling to keep their heads above water and others quite literally falling apart.

        I still want Yes but a referendum too soon without a guarantee of victory would kill that wish stone dead.

        To help ensure that victory the SNP in the form of the Scottish Government must tackle the immediate issues that are impacting on people’s lives here and now.

        I am sure that they will. It just seems to me that, for totally understandable reasons, their focus has been elsewhere of late. But they are still the best hope we’ve got.



    • The SNP did not take accountability away from local councils by imposing a Council Tax freeze. Laying aside the fact that the Council Tax makes up a very small part of a council’s revenues so any increase on it would have to be huge to make a significant difference the actual cut in council finances comes from Westminster cuts in real terms to the Scottish Budget.
      The SNP government actually removed the ring fencing from a lot of council spending as they came in so they did the opposite of taking away local accountability.

      I’m afraid the clever people who are asking us to “wait for the right time” are asking us to give the unionists all the time they like to douse the flames. There is no such thing as the “right time”.
      As nobody but a halfwit now believes “the Vow” will be delivered or that the Smith Commission is going to make any significant changes we should stop wasting time on these issues and be back on a campaign for independence right now.
      Do you think 100,000 people joined the SNP for this boring waffle?

      • Steve Asaneilean

        I don’t disagree Dave. I just think that the way to maximise local government accountability to its electorate is to maximise its fiscal autonomy and responsibility.

        Then the electors can decide whether it’s money well spent and if not kick them out.

        In my view freezing Council Tax and only allowing local authorities to directly raise about 15% of their income from direct local taxation reduces their accountability but I accept you may disagree.

  8. ronald alexander mcdonald

    The thing that really worries me is if the leaders of the SNP think they ran an effective campaign during the referendum. In my opinion it was economically insipid. If it wasn’t for the grassroots campaign we would have been slaughtered.

    If the SNP are working behind the scenes on a radical, yes radical alternative, all well and good. Before you jump up an down at the word radical, please consider this. When is radical really radical, and when is radical normal? What I mean is, radical compared to the extreme right wing bile from Westminster. That is not normal for a social democratic nation.

    However, the official YES campaign’s financial offering was far from radical, in a socially democratic manner. I know of three different people, all respected businessmen who approached the party with reasonable ideas and were all fobbed off with, “we’ll look into that after the referendum”.

    The majority of people have to be lead. They have to be motivated. Look at Corbyn’s campaign. He may or may not win. He may or may not become Prime Minister, but his campaign appears to be evolving into a movement. That movement is being motivated by radical policies e.g. Green/Investment QE that even the Financial Times had to admit is feasible.

    I’m not proposing that we rush into another referendum.That would be stupid. But we have to give the people a realistic economic alternative. Maybe in a couple of years when the cuts bite in. Then make presentation to the people and see if the polls move.

    • The SNP/YES campaign did NOT run a very effective campaign. It was basically defensive and as we all know defence doesn’t win matches. It was not only insipid it pandered too much to a “don’t scare the horses” mentality. It lacked real passion, wasn’t ‘Nationalist’ enough about an Independent Scotland and it did not attack London hard enough. And for some reason YES leaders played DOWN the Social Media campaign not realising it was a major factor in YES doing so well.

      • dennis mclaughlin

        Blair Jenkins did a mighty fine job for Better Together imho….his mismanagement of the superb grass-roots movement was criminal..let’s hope the SNP strategists have a proper battle plan ready for countering BBC Scotland.

  9. Let’s face it, the official Yes campaign was pathetic. It was the unofficial, spontaneous campaign waged by individuals and small groups which, along with the efforts of Better Together, took Yes to within yards of the winning post. Was the plan all along to have a noble failure which would be a step along the way in a much longer term timescale?

  10. Well, did he let them get the table tennis out?

  11. That’ll do for me Derek.

    Patience is the watchword. Consolidate the gains, normalize the idea of a ‘Scottish Government’ in people’s minds. Keep the indy pot boiling with the grass roots movement and simply govern well.

    Indyref2 will come about soon enough and in its own time. I’d reckon within the decade, possibly sooner than that if WM keep presenting Nicola with open goals. Things are all moving in that direction quite nicely I think. The SG need to concentrate on being the SG and governing well, within the parameters and strictures placed in their path. Build public confidence in that institution and the others we will need to give people that wee bit something extra to go for it when required.

    Best guess? I’d suspect an open ended referendum commitment in the autumn conference just to keep the press and the opposition focussed and fizzing and give the ground troops something to work for. Leave the timing, as is right and proper, in the hands of the Scottish electorate.

    That’d effectively drive both Westminster houses and their press corps completely nuts whilst leaving them no ready target for their angst. After all you can hardly hold it against a party of independence and sitting Scottish Government if they commit to letting the people decide and promise to act on their go ahead? 🙂

  12. It is the total silence on the independence front that is worrying people. We’re quite prepared to wait a decade or so for another indyref but for God’s sake, keep the support informed or risk it fizzling out.

    There is so much more we could be doing just now, a people’s conference, even an online one with constant discussion and hammering out of ideas would allow a forum/platform for people who see the race for Indy stuttering to a crawl.

    I agree the official YES campaign stunk, the man in charge an ex BBC executive who thought the BBC coverage was unbiased, wow… just wow.

    We still have no answers to the issues which lost us the referendum. These just can’t be imposed, the fact that NO voters couldn’t bring themselves to support a currency for our independent country which was controlled by a country which does not have our best interests at heart is no surprise. This is just one issue, there are many like it and at the moment the YES movement is just being left to blow in the wind.

  13. Another thoughtful piece Derek. Thanks.

    My own experience has shown that many Scots still perceive their country as small and poor. An idea which has been drummed into us relentlessly. The advent of the internet has begun to alter perceptions by subverting this unionist narrative, but it’s asking a lot for it to be a speedy process.

    We do need to keep up any momentum gained by the YES campaign and I hope the SNP enter the Holyrood elections with a demand for the DevoMax promised. The resultant mandate would give all sections of Scottish society with a desire for change fresh impetus. Until we escape Westminster’s creative accountancy the ‘too poor’ card will always bring dividends for any and all at Westminster who choose to use it.

    Confidence is high at present. We need to keep the pressure on, not by pushing for another referendum or UDI, but by prising more economic levers from London control.

    A step at a time, building confidence, while holding to account the likes of Mundell who dismisses Scottish aspirations with an arrogant wave of the hand.

    Also, the SNP have governed well in extremely difficult times, yet receive no praise or credit from our state broadcaster.

    With satisfaction in the BBC at such a low level, devolution of broadcasting should also be demanded. Ownership of our own broadcaster is essential, now, more than ever.

    • Exactly. It is all about fighting and winning the right battles. When we persuade all the people of Scotland that we are economically self sustaining we win the next referendum.
      That is all
      The whole Better Together campaign was based on a conception still held by many that we require English largesse to function.Take away that brick and the whole Better Together arch collapses

      • And that’s exactly the reason why WM will never allow a Scottish Government to place it’s hands on the “fiscal levers” required to prove that very point. There will be much trumpeting and heralding of new far reaching new powers without them actually delivering any. We can see that it’s already happening!

        Let’s face it folks, WM still has us over a barrel and by f**k will they milk it for all it’s worth. I have no idea what the answer is to combat it but someone somewhere needs to come up with it quick or this whole thing will die on it’s arse!

  14. I think I’m right in saying there will be a SNP Spring conference before the Holyrood election. Perhaps that would be the time for the SNP to include a promise of a second referendum in its manifesto – though not necessarly during the next parliamentary term beginning in 2016.
    If, however, Scotland votes to stay in the EU, whenever that referendum takes place, but ruk votes to get out, then that would be the time to set a fixed date for Ref.2.
    Two things must happen when that date is set: 1. The SG must say it will establish a new currency for Scotland when independence is regained. 2. It must promise a future referendum on Scottish EU membership.
    As for radicals inside and outside the SNP being too impatient, I believe the SNP leadership may be quite happy to see the people of Scotland leading from the front. After all, the decision is for the people of Scotland to make, not any one politician or one political party.

  15. I am certainly not prepared to wait a decade I want to,be free from this union as soon as possible if,you wait till you think you have everything right to win the you could wait forever be bold or are you beginning to believe some of,the lies you have been told?

    • I don’t want to wait a decade either, but I’d rather wait a decade than however long it would take to recover from losing two referendums on the trot.

      • The problem is will the SNP’s honeymoon last a decade? How will they get a referendum when they inevitably lose a majority at Holyrood? Hope the Greens ride to the rescue. Derek ignores Cat Boyd’s point that right now we have the perfect storm, SNP riding high, a nakedly Tory government in Westminster.

        On the horizon is Corbyn winning the Labour leadership and energising those non voters in England that we energised here in Scotland (then ignored by and large). If he manages it and he seems to realise the prospects then in the hype lots of former Labour folk here in Scotland will wander back into the fold again. Corbyn is no fan of independence, or more powers for devolution. Can we win a referendum with a Corbyn lead government at Westminster? In less than 5 years we can go from a perfect situation to its opposite and then it truly will be a generation before the necessary conditions come again.

        • “Derek ignores Cat Boyd’s point that right now we have the perfect storm, SNP riding high, a nakedly Tory government in Westminster.”

          Whereas last September everyone hated the SNP and we had a Labour government?

          The SNP’s popularity doesn’t matter a jot if there still isn’t a majority for independence. There is no quicker way to burst the SNP bubble than losing a second referendum, because unlike last time, we won’t be able to swiftly replace the current leader with someone even more popular. And where then does that leave us? The years of SNP in-fighting that unionists hoped would come after a No vote actually happens this time, Labour regain Westminster seats in 2020, and power in Holyrood in 2021. Independence goes back into its box, all because people were too impatient to wait until the time was right.

          It doesn’t matter how good the conditions are if we haven’t done the work necessary to win over those who didn’t vote Yes last time. No one is saying we have to wait a decade, just that if that’s how long it takes, then that’s better than holding a second referendum too soon because people were impatient, and ending up setting the cause back much, much longer.

  16. You call the shots 100% correctly Derek & macart763 IMHO. Slowly slowly catch the monkey, but be prepared for any chance your opponents give you, then nail it.

  17. The SNP Conference is far too close to a very important election crossroads at HR 2016 for radical discussions to be held about anything. The boat must NOT be rocked.

    However the Manifesto MUST include an SNP committment to another Independence Referendum in the future however that inclusion is reached and whatever form of words is used. The SNP without an Indy committment is an emperor without clothes.

    And there COULD be a moment in the future when another Referendum would be most opportune and the SNP should be ready for that. As someone once said “a week is a long time in politics”.

  18. Let’s get things in perspective. Another Referendum within the next few years is just not a practical proposition. And the SNP has a LOT of work to do to investigate the good and the bad last time to ensure we don’t make the same mistakes. Good were the grass roots campaign, canvassing and use of the social media. Bad were the lack of press releases to the MSM, not having Indy supporting think tanks, and thinking that “experts”would be listened too. With all the money YES had they could have financed far more research and produced reports favourable to Indy. Hell, Wings was almost alone in providing detailed analyses and criticism of the NO people – and the YES campaign disowned him.

    • dennis mclaughlin

      jacquescoleman,pity it wasn’t Stu Campbell at the helm of YES.
      He did more for Scottish Independence than Blair Jenkins in his fancy suit and big salary…..telling YES affiliated groups to remove WOS links from their campaigning leaflets was an insult to all involved.

  19. I want independence as much as anyone, and I want a radical socialist government committed to social justice, greater equality of income, wealth, opportunity and achievement, social control of important utilities and a republic. Not sure about the EU, which seems to lurching uncontrollably to the right and flag-waving neoliberalism and determined to punish any state which steps out of line and upsets German hegemony.

    But most people, I suspect, are conservative. Just one example – if we were to put republicanism in an independence manifesto, getting rid of the monarchy and all the sycophantic hangers on, at a stroke striking a blow against undeserved privilege, I can just imagine the backlash and the sense of impending doom amongst many of the electorate. It would be suicidal.

    Therefore, I’m with those who say “ca’ canny”, our time will come. The most important thing is to win.

  20. I was very disappointed by the official Yes campaign. I too thought they were too timid, too ready to rein people in, and their dismissal of Wings made me lose complete faith in them. I got a very sharp and autocratic rebuke from someone on the Yes team when I questioned their dismissal of Wings, and that turned me right away from them. It was the grassroots who pushed the momentum, and it was the alternative media – including Wings – who educated, inspired, motivated and championed.

    There’s nothing to stop us all hammering out issues and getting the debates going on currency, EU membership, land reform and everything else, and that is indeed going on. It’s a way of involving even more people who might still be on the fence to consider the kind of country they could live in. Let’s hear it from the No voters too – what do they want to see.

    We will not win another referendum unless we are absolutely ready. That doesn’t mean having the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed. It means having people on our side in such numbers that it’s clear independence will be a shoo-in. It’s madness to demand another referendum until the polls suggest a heavy majority – otherwise what’s the point of it. Why risk losing? I’m as frustrated and angry about what’s happening within Westminster as anyone else but the best strategy of winning this is having a guaranteed result, and we won’t have that unless we continue the work of bringing thousands more people into the fold. It’s easy to imagine, from social media and local activity, that the majority of Scotland are with us but that is not the case. Not yet.

    I’m inclined to think that Nicola is keeping her powder dry in terms of including a referendum in the agenda later this year, but I agree – it may be the spring conference that we see things move, and the policy worded in such a way as to allow us to take advantage of the moment at the moment it’s required. There’s no way on earth our FM is dismissing a ref in the short term, or that she’s getting complacent. That woman will never betray us, ever. It’s just hard, sometimes, to wait patiently.

  21. Agree with most of your article Derek. But have to say that I worry that the full concerns are being under sold. It is not just about the ISDS or the protection of the NHS. What about protection for rights which have been won over the years to do with workers rights, consumer protection, environmental standards, education, etc. I worry that we think that by opposing IDSD and exempting the NHS, that this makes TTIP an acceptable treaty. which is far from the truth

  22. I have faith that Nicola will listen politely to the impatient hotheads, sleep on it, then carry on with the step by step strategy that so obviously is working. It has the added advantage of annoying the hell out of the Unionists incessantly demanding to know the day and hour of Indyref2. 2020 – 22 is probably the timeframe by which currency, pensions and defence positions can be worked through and accepted by 60% as better than anything on offer from the Union. 25% will vote for the Union regardless and 15% won’t vote so 60% is as high as it is possible to go. First step is to win every constituency seat at Holyrood in 2016 and then eliminate every Labour/Tory/LibDem controlled or influenced council before returning 59 SNP MP’s in 2020. I don’t buy the one party state claptrap. Unity is strength. You are either in it to win it or you are not.

  23. Have often wondered if the insipid Blair Jenkins et al were Mi5 plants.

    • I do not think you are alone in that thought.

      In general terms, though, we need to get the message out that Independence is NOT about specific policies of the SNP. this was one major fault-line that the YES central campaign allowed the MSM to push. It made their job of linking Independence to ONE party far too easy. Issues such as Monarchy or republic etc. are for AFTER Independence, not before.

      It should have been a simple question framed in a way that people understand in principle: Who should manage Scotland’s resources? Edinburgh or London? The detail follows the acceptance or rejection of that principle.

      • @aplinal
        I agree. I canvassed and campaigned with RIC and had that conversation with lots of people. ‘You don’t have to like the SNP, I’m not a member, we can vote for who we want after Independence’. The problem with the current SNP juggernaut (who weren’t there last time) is that it makes that argument much harder to make.

    • yes, that has been in my mind also – the denial of bbc bias and his poor input to any debates and discussions he appeared in, along with his haste in departing with his obscene-level earnings as soon as the vote was cast, the distancing from the most effective information dissemination in the form of Wings and the Wee Blue Book – seems like too much coincidence.

      Yet I cant help wondering, if SNP were so keen to take the opportunity for independence, why did they let Jenkins throw the Yes Campaign like that? So many questions re what was actually going on at the top, what is still going on at the top (I don’t share the mass trust in NS although I dare to hope), were we all just taken for a ride and will every future attempt to gain indie be thrown as well? There are powerful global players with a stake in the oil, and trident, and the opacity in the light of Greece, TTIP etc is rather frightening.

    • dennis mclaughlin


  24. The hotheads need to form their own party. We should have a range of indy parties to provide opposition to the SNP. The SNP is a moderate social democratic party and has got where it has got by being all things to all people. If it tilts too much one way or the other it risks losing the electorate it needs to maintain its position.

    There also needs to be a grass-roots radical indy Yes movement which continues to politicise and persuade the 55%.

    Extra-parliamentary pressure can only help politicians secure more meaningful concessions.

    In 19th century Ireland it was the Land League agitation which helped the Irish Parliamentary Party to keep up the political pressure. Without agitation happening on the ground the parliamentary party could do very little. It needed the action happenning outside the political bubble to urge politicians to make concessions. To heap on the pressure.

    • I will not subscribe to the same middle-ground politics which has seen the demise of the labour party. I want independence and if we have a Scottish National Party which isn’t following an independence agenda then what’s all this been for?

      • Of course it’s following an independence agenda. It’s maybe not *your* agenda though…

      • I was not suggesting the SNP give up on independence!!!!

        The issue is that there is no point in having an indyref2 that we lose!!! Or its curtains! Don’t you see that? We have to win, and be sure of winning.

        I agree with Jim Sillars that more needs to be done to educate the stubborn 55% about how independence differs from devolution. And to build more support for independence.

        • You’ve got the wrong end of the stick. I never for a moment indicated that that’s what you said. My point (and I’ll try to be clear) is that the SNP must maintain the momentum, not just leave it up to the wider YES movement. I too realise that to lose another indyref would be disastrous but there’s nothing stopping the SNP engaging with the YES movement to inform and educate the 55%. At the moment it’s tumbleweed.

          • I’m with you on that. Sillars thinks the same. But don’t you see the point too of a wider civic movement? We have far too much of a patriarchal and paternalistic mindset in Scotland that we need to break out of. We have this tendency to expect the government and elected reps to do something for us, as if we were children expecting our parents to give hand outs. We must be active, not passive. Plus, there are limits to what politicians can do. But politicians working in tandem with a wider broad based civic movement, that’s an unstoppable force.

  25. The headline numbers in the poll are great,but, the customer satisfaction figures are not. We are lucky, at the moment, that there is no credible opposition, or even in the medium term the possibility of one. However. Local Government finance is broken, the Council Tax freeze is not a solution. The Land Reform bill working its way through the broken committee system is of the lowest common denominator variety.

    Realistically, the next opportunity for an Indyref 2 is the European referendum. before then, if we fixed things like Local Government Finance, had real Land Reform, and fixed the parliament’s structures, we would go a long way towards raising the satisfaction numbers. And, yes, we need a believable Indy Economic framework too.

    I believe that voters will vote in large numbers for Holyrood and Westminster for an SNP that is better than the alternatives. They will only vote for Indy when they are satisfied that we can actually deliver on all the the things we talk about

  26. Many people impatient for more action should remember that members of the Scottish Government are probably having their first real holiday in three or four years. They have campaigned non-stop for the referendum and then the general election, so need time to recharge the batteries.

    The SNP has always worked to long-term strategies, so plans will be there, ready to be tweaked as necessary, and new strategies will be in the hands of experts to work through. All these things take time. Whatever people may think of the decision to go for using the pound as the iScotland currency, it was a decision made on the back of the work of a number of very highly regarded people who had identified options and considered outcomes. It wasn’t an off the cuff decision by Alex Salmond, scribbled on the back of a fag packet.

    I find it unbelievable that people are even questioning the SNP’s commitment to independence. That was the reason the Party was set up. Independence is what generations of activists have campaigned for over nearly a century. The SNP is not about to give up on that now, or water down its belief in it. What is does is continually evaluate how best independence can be achieved without damaging the economy and making lives even more difficult for many.

    Very few government matters move quickly. Decisions need to be taken, scrutinised, finance needs to be available and the electorate needs to be kept with you. So let’s allow the SG a bit of breathing space before rushing in to moan and condemn. Once the summer recesses are over (during which the Cabinet is again touring the country), and the new Scottish Labour leader is installed, things will start to pick up again, gearing up for the Holyrood elections.

  27. Derek … ACE …. I believe your analysis is spot-on and I concur that there is an element within the new “Recruits” who want ‘Independence NOW’, by UDI if necessary. Ironic to this auld wrinkly, who has been agitating for “freedom” all his days ( lets just say a long time !!). As you say, we’ve come a lang way and are in a position that those before us who “believed” could only have dreamed of being in ( and they did !!) but what we’re up against is the British Establishment and as Gandhi proved, without bloodshed, it can only be bested by brains not brawn. Luckily we are gifted with Salmond and Sturgeon within the SNP …. and also Harvie, Sheridan & Canavan within the wider YES umbrella. All of the above are “Politicians of Conscience”, people now see the difference. The Westminster dyke will breach and soon but in a controlled manner and at our call. Time for cool heids ( I must be gettin’ auld !!).

  28. What has Corbyn said that makes him any more left than where the SNP currently sit?

    I don’t see anything to suggest he is.

  29. “It was the players,not Stein, who won the football games”. Derek, as a long-time Partick Thistle supporter, I thought the man was a football genius. Why. back in the 1940s/50s even we could beat them, sometimes at Celtic Park. They were going nowhere, apart from the occasional cup win, until Stein took over.
    Yes I know there was a blip in October 71, or as I remember it, our greatest ever victory, but the “Big Man” was still one of the best Scottish managers, ever.
    In relation to your comments, I am usually at every activity organised by our local S.N.P constituency, and you are correct in your assessment that the influx of new members have certainly added an energy, and numbers, to our meetings. But, since the G.E, as far as I am aware, nobody has even mentioned a second referendum, or for that matter, splitting the party, and we are fully committed, and have almost tunnel vision on shortly starting our campaign to get our M.S.P re-elected in 2015.
    As in life, timing is everything, and I’m quite confident that Nicola, and her team, will call the moment when the time is right, and this time we will win.

    • Couldn’t agree more.

      In fact the only folk who are loudly stirring the pot are the press and WM politicians. They know their win wasn’t decisive enough, that the constitutional question isn’t over by a long shot. They also know that a. they’ve acted appallingly toward Scotland since the referendum and b. that our electorate is clearly now engaged and paying close attention. The GE was quite a slap in the kisser

      They need information, they need control of the UK political scene and agenda and they need the whole engagement thing to go away in Scotland. So they prod and they push, they use the peer system to provide reward, load the upper chamber votes and hope to provoke rash response from the SG. They use their meeja to apply pressure for the same end and as yet all of the above has proven unsuccessful.

      They are in effect, ontae plums and rudderless without a predictable response to work with. Scotland’s representatives are doing a good job down there.

      I’ve said it before Alex, but we just need to let Westminster be Westminster. They’re doing a grand job of highlighting their own systemic inherent flaws and prejudices.

  30. I totally understand the calls for calm but it took us from 79 to 98 before we got the Scottish Parliament I don’t think the country can hang about for 20 years stuck on the bottom of the Tories shoes. I do have faith in Nicola I used to say Alex was Wallace the upstart that stood up and got us uniting and Nicola was the Bruce the one that took a rabble and organised it so we can win against the odds. I agree Yes was timid at times and there is a certain snobbery within the wider yes movement but it can’t be left to hope over fear etc to carry this alone the SNP have done fantastic to get us this far and are doing a great job in Westminster but we really have to get off the back foot and keep the indepence question top of the agenda. UDI should be spoke about as an option, I know its the last choice and would be a dramatic step to take but what’s the legal way to withdraw from the union, Thatcher said that if we wanted to leave all we had to do was elect a majority of nationalist MPs so could we pull out now? We do have to work on the big issues we lost on but we are not having that debate/consultation with our SNP representatives, I remember writing to the SNP before the vote urging them to spell out plans for our own currency and got a short shrift as others have got. I guess I am impatient but people will abandon the SNP if they don’t keep that conversation within the public domain and at the top of the political agenda

  31. Some of us see independence as a possible vehicle for necessary social and political change, not an end in itself. The “gies a brek” conference could have been a Scottish Labour conference for decades, let’s not have an SNP version to match the same level of disconnected hubris and enitlement.

  32. DomesticExtremist

    As an Englishman, living in England with only faint rumours of Scottish blood, I can take a dispassionate view.
    I certainly understand the Yes side’s frustration, but I don’t think there should be any thought of a second referendum until polling shows strong support for one, polling shows 50%+ for Yes and you’ve managed to get some answers to the questions you got beat up over the last time – e.g. on the currency issue, EU membership and so on.
    Otherwise you’ll fall victim to the same project fear campaign as last time and a second loss really will be it for a lifetime.
    That being said, I do think that if correctly timed, Scotland could be free within the decade.
    It’s going to take a bit more work and some canny timing, but I’ll raise a glass to you when it happens.

  33. Sigh. I am really fed up with folk harping on about how bad the YES campaign was, and even blaming the SNP for failing to cross the 50% mark in 2014. It’s all about opinion I suppose, and people are certainly entitled to air their views. But why don’t you stop and think for one minute, that all this petty squabbling and impatience, and blaming, is playing into the hand of our enemies? I think harping on about how badly run the YES campaign was betrays a very negative attitude and is grossly insulting to all those people who worked so hard for a YES vote. We are now but a few short steps away from independence and we are where we are because of them – don’t ever forget it. Some people have been working toward this for decades and many have dedicated their lives to the cause. They have been working and watching and waiting for years. Surely then, we can stay cool and be patient and wait a few more years – it won’t be long now by comparison.

    There are other opinions, and in my opinion, the YES campaign was excellent: From 25% to 45% in one campaign is no mean achievement – let us be clear – it should not have happened. It was not supposed to happen and the UK establishment did not expect it to happen (until perhaps the last few weeks, when they realised something was not going according to plan and were panicked into making silly promises that are now coming back to haunt them). Do you seriously think that 56 SNP MPs would have happened if the YES campaign was really that bad?

    I don’t think the word “lost” is appropriate (coz it ain’t over by a long shot), but we never won in 2014 for one very simple reason – it was a bridge too far. Our starting base was too low. End of.

    Trust the people who got us thus far, stay cool, be patient, find out what the next step is and see if there is anything you can do at the moment to help. Is that too much to ask?

    • I canvassed and campaigned with RIC here in Dundee, the Yes City and we had a number of SNP members who were disaffected with the over controlling, timid Yes campaign in RIC. A number of them are still about in RIC too. The worry about the SNP is that government has made them too timid. Too scared of scaring the horses to be radical enough.

      In terms of local government reform I guarantee they are waiting for the income tax powers so they can replace the council tax with a local income tax. All the arguments in favour of a land value tax are going to be staunchly ignored. They have stopped being radicals and have become risk averse managers instead.

    • Luigi Well said. The Yes campaign was excellent and faced down a total media embargo far better than I could ever have imagined

  34. I don’t agree with waiting and I have been a member for 20 odd years. An SNP sitting at Westminster essentially powerless. An SNP government with a massive majority at Holyrood….waiting…waiting.

    If someone had said the SNP will have 56 MP’s at WM and 70 at Holyrood…but it wouldn’t be a mandate for independence. You would think they were crazy.

    We go when momentum is with us. Scotland has changed since Sept 14. It’s not the same, and we need to recognise that.

    Who says we are still at 45%? I don’t for one minute.

    Always remember Quebec waited 15 years and lost and the party went into the doldrums. It can happen when you wait or when you go for it. The important thing is not to wait for something to change. Go for it when the going is good not when the party might be on the slide.

    We will win Indy Ref 2 I am utterly convinced.

    • “If someone had said the SNP will have 56 MP’s at WM and 70 at Holyrood…but it wouldn’t be a mandate for independence. You would think they were crazy.”

      Try telling the folk who voted SNP in May – but don’t support independence – that they had just given the SNP a mandate for independence. They’d be a bit miffed after being reassured beforehand that a vote for the SNP in May was not a vote for independence.

      If we want a vote for the SNP to equate to a vote for independence, then we have to say that to people before they vote, not after. Otherwise, we’re no better than the unionist parties and their perpetual lies.

      “Always remember Quebec waited 15 years and lost and the party went into the doldrums.”

      Alternatively, “always remember Quebec lost two referendums and the party went into the doldrums.”

      “Scotland has changed since Sept 14.”

      Indeed. For one thing, we had a referendum four days later…

      • Disagree. Everybody in Scotland knows exactly what the SNP is for. Nobody who is firmly opposed to independence ever votes SNP.

        • Well, I’d have to disagree with that! During the GE15 campaign I spent a lot of time canvassing for the SNP in North Ayrshire, and had a LOT of conversations with folk desperate to vote SNP but not wanting independence. I managed to swing a fair few of them around precisely because independence was NOT in the manifesto for Westminster. It’s going to take time to change the beliefs of some folk – folk who in many cases are tempted by independence, but just haven’t found the inner belief yet that we actually can do this on our own. That day for many has yet to come – but that day will come.

        • “Disagree. Everybody in Scotland knows exactly what the SNP is for. Nobody who is firmly opposed to independence ever votes SNP.”

          Nobody who is a fervent unionist votes for us, but plenty of folk who voted No last year vote for us – in fact, I was pretty surprised by just how many were doing so in May. Some had been doing so for years.

          Do you think it would be okay to now tell those people – having stressed during the campaign that the election wasn’t about independence – that they had just given us a mandate for independence?

          Or do you just think that everyone who voted SNP in May supports independence?

    • I agree entirely, Jock. I run a Forward Shop. The desire daily from people coming into talk to us for another referendum is palpable. Everything is running for us at the moment – and we are not talking about independence? How so?
      Some of our most determined activists of many years service are beginning to doubt the SNP leadership.
      Perhaps our leaders should get out more.
      We must at least restate very loudly our determined commitment to independence
      I don’t know any of our several hundred new members in this area who have joined for anything other than independence.
      We will lose them,particularly the young ones, if we don’t get onto an independence platform pretty soon. Some of this reminds me of the sort of hesitance around the end of the seventies and the start of the eighties when some clever eejits were suggesting we drop independence and go for devolution. Thankfully we didn’t (though Plaid in Wales did – look how that worked out)

      I am puzzled that some quote the Quebec experience as supporting waiting. It surely proves exactly the opposite.
      The the right time for another referendum is when we get another independence campaign up and running and our support continues to rise because of it. When will be the time we will surely know. But it will never arrive unless we make a commitment to independence and a referendum as soon as possible and campaign for that.

      That is the only way we will hold onto our support.

  35. The ship of Theseus, also known as Theseus’ paradox, is a thought experiment that raises the question of whether an object which has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object. The paradox is most notably recorded by Plutarch in Life of Theseus from the late first century. Plutarch asked whether a ship which was restored by replacing each and every one of its wooden parts remained the same ship.

    The SNP need to remember their purpose and not strip away the components, that will lead to them becoming just another party.

  36. The SNP in government have to govern for all Scots,including the majority who voted for continued dependency in our referendum.
    It will be the Scottish government who will decide when to hold a future one but the SNP as a political party should always have in it’s manifesto,the right of Scots to do so at a time if our choosing.
    The Scottish government should only put the question to us if they perceive circumstances in the current constitutional arrangements which are CLEARLY damaging to us.
    At present,another referendum for it’s own sake will almost certainly produce the same result.
    It has to be power for a clearly defined purpose.
    Thanks Derek…excellent stuff.

  37. I think at present things could hardly be more damaging for Scotland in the UK. Do we wait until they vandalise Scotland into oblivion before we stand up and be counted.

    Remember if the SNP take 70 seats at Holyrood it’s an increased majority. We held a referendum because Scotland voted Snp and had the ref in the manifesto. Should the SNP put it into 2016 manifesto then there must be a referendum.

    Don’t forget many people who voted Snp in the last Holyrood election also didn’t believe in indi or even holding a ref. I know plenty of them.

    • Jock, in my heart I want the referendum tomorrow. But my head is telling me the time is not yet here. I believe the correct strategy is for the S.N.P to include a commitment to hold another independence referendum in their pre-Scottish election manifesto, but giving Nicola the final decision on the timing.
      As I had said previously, there is no referendum talk in our branch, our sole concern is to get our candidate re-elected next May.

  38. Very interesting article and range of opinions.

    Just a couple of comments if I may?

    There has to be a change in the beliefs of around 10% of the no voters before we can even consider another referendum. I suppose most folk see the Brexit scenario as the most likely event to achieve that shift. I’m not sure I agree that that will be the trigger. Indeed I kind of expect that the vote will be to stay in, across the UK as a whole. Where I do think there may be movement are on NIMBY issues like fracking, if any of the scare stories are even 20% right. Or when the effects of TTIP washes away the last vestiges of a Welfare State. Or a constitutional event like elements of the Blue Tories and Red Tories re-aligning after, say a Corbyn win. A full blooded intervention in Syria could either help or hinder the independence movement. Wars can sometimes be good for (incumbent) Westminster parties. On a personal note I recall being very supportive of Thatcher over the Falklands and being left with a ‘where did that come from?’ question floating around in my head for years afterwards. Never voted for her right enough. My point being that we need an event, some events, to break in our favour. And we need to exploit them when they occur.

    I personally feel that the renewal of Trident ought to wake us all up, but I expect it won’t.

    I expect Nichola Sturgeon is right in saying that the decision is up to us whether and when to have another referendum. In the meantime Westminster continues to eat it’s tail.

  39. Or maybe as Salmond suggested. Another refeendum is not required. I am thinking in terms of complete SNP domination at WM and Holyrood. Where in effect the membership of the UK becomes unworkable to continue for Scotland.

    • Alex Salmond didn’t “suggest” anything. he was asked about Indy and stated the ways it could be reached, but emphasized that a referendum was the only way we should go.

      Excellent piece Derek.

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