By Rab Bruce’s Spider

There has long been a view expressed by some Yessers, including some elected SNP representatives, that the best time to hold IndyRef2 is when polls suggest that the level of support is at least 60% and preferably as high as 70%. A friend of mine repeated this opinion to me in a recent conversation. In his view, Scotland should not become a normal, self-governing country while only around 50% of the population are in favour of it.

Now, there are several things I find worrying about these sorts of statement. Let’s begin with the polls. We’ve not seen much movement in recent years, and although there has been a succession of polls suggesting Yes has a slight lead, that’s actually not very comforting when you consider Scotland has been dragged out of the EU despite all the promises the Scottish Government would not allow this to happen. When you add in the blatant corruption and incompetence displayed by the Westminster Government, it really is astonishing that support for Scotland remaining in the UK is still around 50%. And let’s not blame Covid for this, since Nicola Sturgeon’s performance during the pandemic has made Boris Johnson look like the buffoon he is. Yet even with that, around half of Scots remain unconvinced of the merits of becoming independent.

Why is this? I am sure there are many political experts out there who can provide theories. My own is that most voters are too busy living their lives as best they can to even think too deeply about politics. They only become engaged when there is a campaign. Look at what happened during the first IndyRef, when support for Yes rocketed from the low twenties to the mid-forties. That’s because people listened to the arguments and were convinced in huge numbers. Not enough, as it turned out, because too many were fearful enough to fall for the promises made in the Vow. Next time, let’s hope they remember just how many promises were broken.

But a new campaign, highlighting the positive things that could flow from becoming a normal country, and highlighting just how much Westminster has exploited Scotland’s wealth will surely result in the polling figures moving in favour of Yes. But that won’t happen unless there is a campaign, with a vote at the end of it. Sitting around, waiting for polling to move in our favour of its own accord could mean us still waiting in fifty years’ time.

As for my friend’s comment that having only a slight majority should not be good enough to push through the decision, he perhaps has more of a point, although many people seem prepared to accept that the slim majority who voted in favour of Brexit should be accepted as the will of the people – a will which has condemned us to decades of economic stagnation and political isolation unless Scotland can re-join the EU.

But even if we put aside the Brexit precedent, is it right that the nearly 50% of the population who are currently against becoming a normal country should hold us back if slightly more than 50% do want us to stand on our own feet as a collaborative member of the world community? Why should those who oppose change have more of a say than those who want it? Why does their opinion count for more than ours? And if we are going to wait until the polls shift before we are allowed to hold IndyRef2, isn’t that effectively saying we can’t hold IndyRef2 at all?

What we need is a high profile, pro-active campaign to persuade people that becoming a normal, self-governing country is … well, normal. The problem with such a campaign is that the media will ignore it unless some major political figures begin pushing it far more vociferously than we have seen so far. In essence, it’s up to the SNP to start delivering on the promises they have made in the past to make the positive case. The Tories make the case for "No to IndyRef2" every single day, and the media give them a platform to proclaim how wee and poor Scotland is. The SNP need to seize that platform and turn it into a spotlight on the damage Scotland will suffer if we remain in the UK, and on the possibilities that face us if we grasp the nettle and go for independence. Yes, that means addressing the currency and border issues, but a lot of work has been done on topics like these by pro-Indy think tanks such as Common Weal. The proposals are there. Other countries have tackled such issues successfully, so what we need is for people to hear an awful lot more about what we could achieve if we were not being held back by Westminster. That’s when you’ll see the polls start to move.