by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Do you remember how we were assured before the IndyRef that Scotland was a valued member of the equal family of nations? Do you remember how we were told we should lead the UK, not leave it? Do you remember J K Rowling telling us all that voting NO would place Scotland in a position of unprecedented influence within the UK?

As predicted by most Yessers, all those claims have turned out to be complete nonsense. Scotland’s status within the UK is being eroded step by step, in a gradual process which, thanks to media complicity, is going largely unremarked by a large portion of Scottish citizens.

The latest move is the announcement that Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, will no longer be allowed access to Theresa May in face to face meetings, but will instead be forced to deal with David Mundell because, as First Minister of a mere UK region, she does not have sufficient status to warrant taking up the Prime Minister’s valuable time.

It is not yet clear whether the same rule will apply to the leaders of the other devolved Assemblies. Not that Northern Ireland has a leader at the moment, but it will be interesting to see whether the same embargo will be applied. Is it intended to apply only to Scotland? Is it intended to apply only to an SNP First Minister? Would a Labour or Tory First Minister be granted face to face meetings? We don’t know the answers to these questions yet, although we can probably have a fair guess at them.

The saddest thing is that a lot of people appear not to care. OK, we know the Westminster Government doesn’t care, but people in Scotland, no matter which Party they support, really ought to be appalled at this latest slap in the face.

It is all too evident now, if it wasn’t beforehand, that Scotland is viewed as a possession to be dealt with as Westminster sees fit. We know the Sewell Convention is meaningless; we know EVEL was what the IndyRef was all about; we know that all the promises made before the IndyRef have been broken; we know powers will be withheld post-Brexit; we know SNP MPs are mocked and derided in the House of Commons. What more will it take before a majority of Scots wake up to the way they are treated as second-class citizens?

The thing is, it is not just the Tories who are treating Scotland this way. Jeremy Corbyn intends to launch a serious campaign to target SNP seats in Scotland in case there is another General Election this year. This is despite the fact that, even if Labour were to win every single seat currently held by the SNP, it would do absolutely nothing to affect the Tory majority in Westminster. As usual, Labour would prefer to attack the SNP than attack the Tories. Of course, every political Party wishes to win as many seats as possible, but Labour must surely realise that the only way they can form a Government is to unseat Tory MPs. The real reason they are going after the SNP is because they wish to reinstate the Two-Party system so beloved of Westminster. As a confirmed Unionist, Jeremy Corbyn wants to crush the SNP every bit as much as the Tories do. If he achieves that, Westminster will be able to resume its cosy pattern of consensus, with the two dominant Parties exchanging words but effectively combining to keep things the way they were before the SNP raised the spectre of Scottish independence.

The message from both Westminster Parties is loud and clear; the people of Scotland should get back in their box and behave like proper BritNats. Never mind that we voted to remain in the EU, we must do as the voters of England say.

But what, realistically, can we do about this? It is all very well calling for the SNP to take some positive action, but what form should that action take?

To be fair, there is definitely a case for sitting back and doing very little. The Brexiteers are doing a superb job of dismantling the UK with their petty in-fighting, grubby deals with the DUP, and their obvious unpreparedness for the looming disaster of Brexit. There is still a slim possibility that Westminster will see sense and call Brexit off, or will agree to hold a second referendum on the final EU deal which might yet result in a majority of people in England seeing sense. If either of those things happen, then IndyRef2 will be off the table for a while yet.

The problem with waiting is that it allows the Unionist politicians and media many more months to chip away at Scotland’s status. By meekly accepting every indignity and broken promise, the SNP will be kept on the back foot and will look defeated and demoralised. The Yes movement is, of course, wider than the SNP, but the Unionists will not portray it that way, and we must all recognise that, without the SNP acting as the political leaders, there will be no Scottish independence.

But what can they do in practice? Some of their MPs and MSPs are quite outspoken on Twitter, but this is generally preaching to the converted. Being outspoken on mainstream media would help, but we must recognise that the media will distort and spin every word and may simply refuse to give the SNP much of a platform. Some rousing Podcasts might help, but again would reach only a limited audience. Without any control over broadcasting, there is no chance of establishing a pro-Indie radio or TV channel which might provide a challenge to the BBC and STV.

Having said that, there are surely some things that can be done. We keep hearing that the SNP will make the positive case for Indie, yet there has been precious little sign of it so far. This needs to be stepped up. There are also some actions which the Scottish Government should seriously consider whether IndyRef2 seems likely or not.

First of all, why not go ahead with setting up a Scottish Investment Bank? This organisation could help with the issue of Government Bonds to facilitate the very limited borrowing powers now available. It would also allow the Bank time to bed in before any IndyRef, allowing it to adopt the role of Scotland’s new Central Bank if that IndyRef produced a Yes majority. There doesn’t seem to be any reason why this Bank cannot be established now.

Secondly, the Scottish Government could announce that, if Scotland were to become independent, it would create its own currency. This might seem premature, but it would set out the position clearly and would allow time for the idea to take hold. They need not provide details of exactly how the new currency would be introduced because they could claim that it will only happen if there is another IndyRef and that, in the meantime, they are concentrating on getting on with the day job. All they need do is begin to persuade people that plans are being prepared and that it is not such a drastic change as they might imagine. Common Weal have already produced some excellent documents outlining how a new currency could be established and such an announcement might bring these ideas to a wider audience, thus making acceptance much easier if and when IndyRef2 is called.

To support this announcement, it would not do any harm at all to recruit an economist who does not subscribe to the neo-liberal school of thinking to explain via the media why Austerity does not work and why the analogy of a domestic budget does not apply to a country which issues its own currency. If more people understood how economies operate and how Governments fund their spending, the idea of an independent nation issuing its own currency would become more attractive.

Another thing which could be announced is that a draft written Constitution for an independent Scotland is being prepared. Again, details do not need to be released straight away. The idea would be to have it ready for publication if and when IndyRef2 happens. If people were able to read such a Constitution before voting, it would help them understand what sort of country they would be voting for. The UK has nothing comparable, so a written Constitution would give Yes a significant advantage.

These are all practical steps which would demonstrate that Scotland is thinking and acting like a potentially independent country. In the meantime, the First Minister and her colleagues in Government must continue high profile meetings with other world leaders, especially within the EU. The case for Scottish independence needs wide support from the international community and, unlike last time, other nations are likely to be far more receptive.

The other thing which is most definitely needed but which needs to be kept under wraps is a plan for how to respond if the Prime Minister, whoever that might be by the time Brexit negotiations are concluded, refuses to allow a section 30 order agreeing to IndyRef2. "Now is not the time" worked because most people are incapable of looking very far into the future and saw no need for an IndyRef. As Brexit looms ever closer, that will hopefully change, but we cannot ignore the fact that the media will be set against it and that the Westminster Government will have had two years of eroding Scotland’s status. It is not inconceivable that they might decide to call the Scottish Parliament’s bluff and refuse to allow another IndyRef. What will the SNP and the Greens do then? They need to work out a detailed plan, perhaps taking some inspiration from Catalonia.

Above all, though, we need a very loud and very clear message that IndyRef2 is still very much on the table if Brexit goes ahead. Even the illusory "Soft Brexit" which somehow retains access to the Single Market becomes a reality, we must not lose sight of the fact that we still stand to lose a lot of rights which we currently enjoy as individuals. All of this needs to be taken into account, and we need some strong leadership. Perhaps, as a final suggestion, former MPs such as Angus Robertson and Alex Salmond could be given media roles where they become the face of the political arm of the Yes movement. That would diminish the opportunities for Colonel Davidson to accuse the Scottish Government of not doing the day job.

As for the rest of the Yes movement, let’s keep talking to people and denouncing the lies and misinformation. We cannot allow Brexit to become an accepted fact without pointing out the alternative vision. If recent elections and referendums have taught us anything, it is that you need a message which inspires, not dry facts if you want to win. The facts are useful ammunition, but it is hope and inspiration which will win IndyRef2.