Since I took a step back from active campaigning in July 2021 (see below) nothing has changed that would persuade me to gird my loins and join the fray once more. If anything, the reverse has happened.
Nicola Sturgeon’s statement yesterday that “I intend to do everything that’s within my power to enable that referendum to happen before the end of 2023”, was made knowing full well that Westminster has refused and will continue to refuse Scotland the legitimacy to hold one.
Many indy supporters might be excused for suspecting that this is simply a cynical attempt to prepare for the disappointment of not actually having the power to hold a referendum and use the anger triggered by Westminster’s obstruction to boost SNP support in the next UK and Scottish general elections. Again. If this is the SNP plan then it is pursuing a strategy of diminishing returns. I hope I am quite wrong about this, but after several failed promises in the last few years I fear the worst.
In the last few weeks I have spoken to three long-term members of the SNP who have cancelled their membership and have joined the Alba Party. None are ‘radicals’ or ‘extremists’, as many such former SNP members seem to have been painted by SNP officers and politicians (looking at you, Pete). They are just ordinary indy supporters disappointed and frustrated at the lack of progress on independence by the party that was elected on that platform.
It’s a trickle so far, but it doesn’t bode well for the SNP nor does such fragmentation bode well for the indy movement as a whole. The time is long overdue for the SNP to answer the perennial question: what is their plan for independence if Westminster continues to refuse a referendum? More of the same is simply not an option.
12th January 2020
Statement July 2021
I’ve had a series of email messages from concerned independence campaigners asking why I have closed my Twitter and Facebook accounts and appear to have stopped campaigning. Thank you for the concern. I am well, but am taking a break. Here are my thoughts on where we are, and why I have decided to step back from the independence campaign.
In 1951 two million Scots, out of a population of five million signed the Scottish Covenant supporting the formation of a devolved Scottish Government.
Today, it’s very easy to set up and sign a petition online – and just as easy for the result to be dismissed and ignored – but in 1951 the petition was two million actual physical signatures laboriously gathered on doorsteps, in streets, pubs and village halls. This impressive achievement expressed the will of a very significant proportion of the adult population of Scotland.
The result? Zero. There was no powerful elected party with the legal or political power to legitimately implement it or force Westminster to agree to it.
History is repeating itself.
The greatest advantage of the Scottish independence movement over its opponents is the diversity and energy of its grassroots – individuals, groups and organisations. Tens of thousands of people spending all their spare hours working for the cause, disseminating information, educating, persuading. The pro-Union side, built from a few very rich donors and some small but very well-funded ‘astroturf’ organisations, has nothing like it.
That energy and dedication is being squandered.
Without a powerful political or elected organisation with the desire and legitimacy to press for an independence referendum, there is no end in sight nor a target to work towards achieving independence.
After picking itself up off the floor in 2015, the Indy grassroots has invested the last 6 years in dedicated and sterling efforts, but with zero help, recognition or respect from the SNP. If anything, the SNP seem to scorn the grassroots campaign as irrelevant or slightly embarrassing to them. Some elected representatives who should know better even ridicule the grassroots online.
There can be no real progress without there being an actual, real and genuine formal independence campaign sanctioned by the SNP, as only they have the legal and political power and legitimacy to trigger a second referendum. And despite repeated assurances and many false dawns, they are doing nothing about it.
Until that changes the rest of us are all just pissing in the wind, and the risk is that the valuable grassroots enthusiasm, with nowhere to go, will simply evaporate.
After 9 years of spending all of my spare time – and much of my non-spare time too – working on materials and designs for a ‘campaign’ that seems to have no end, I am tired. I have decided to take a break, perhaps a permanent one.
I’m a tiny cog in the indy machine, but I get the sense that many, many others, some of them very significant figures in the movement, share my feeling of frustration and weariness. Clearly an independence vote cannot take place until Covid-19 circumstances improve, but a real and legitimate campaign, with a clear timeline and destination, could be triggered by the SNP now, and should have been triggered a long time ago.
The indy grassroots is a hugely valuable resource. It’s down to you, SNP. Use it or lose it.
Though I voted for it in 1997, for many years I was highly sceptical of the value of a devolved Scottish Parliament, but recognised over the next 10 years that it was making a genuine difference in improving the lives of the people of Scotland.
Similarly for many years I was uninterested in independence, supporting electoral reform for the UK as a whole instead, and voting LibDem for 30 years to try to achieve it. In 2010 we all saw how that turned out when the LibDems compromised all of their principles in exchange for power sharing with the Conservatives. My hopes for a fairer, more representational UK were dead.
In 2011 I consciously voted SNP for the first time, hoping that Scottish independence would then lead to a more liberal and democratic England too. Though I am not a member of the SNP (I was briefly in 2015 to push the SNP MP campaign in Westminster, though that sadly achieved nothing), I have continued to vote SNP to further the push for independence, but have become more and more disappointed in the SNP’s lacklustre efforts to advance this aim. Whilst I believe that they are still a pro-indy party, my confidence that indy is their main priority has been shaken, and should there be no pro-indy progress before the UK general election in 2024 my vote may very well be going to a different party. Should that inaction continue I doubt very much indeed that I will be voting SNP in the next Scottish general election in 2026.