by Rab Bruce’s Spider

I thought Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement on IndyRef2 was measured, sensible and forceful. I know many (including me) wish she had taken these steps a lot earlier, but at least she has now outlined her plan for what will happen when a section 30 Order is inevitably refused and when the Supreme Court rules against the competence of the Scottish Government. Perhaps that latter statement is overly pessimistic, but even if the Supreme Court rules in our favour, you can bet that the Tory Westminster Government will quickly pass another law to override the Court ruling. They have form on that sort of thing.

I know there is still a lot of suspicion among some ardent Yessers, and others, notably Wings Over Scotland, are saying that Nicola Sturgeon could and should have done this years ago, but I take the view that it is better late than never, and the one thing those intervening years have done is reinforce how far the UK is veering into extremism.

As usual, Nicola Sturgeon has taken a slow, cautious approach. Many will disagree with that tactic, but if it works, then I don’t think anyone except the most bitter of her opponents within the Yes movement will complain. We have a strategy, clearly outlined, and, with one very important caveat which I will come to shortly, I think she is going about this the right way. She’s certainly caught the Unionists off balance, as witnessed by their rather inane questions after her announcement.

What we need to see now are those long-promised explanations of the important issues like currency and borders. In all honesty, a Scottish Pound is the only viable solution if we wish to rejoin the EU, but selling that message is going to be the hard part because so many fearties are afraid of change. But sterling is rapidly becoming a second-rate currency, so I’m hopeful that a strong case can be put forward.

As for the border, that’s England’s problem as much as it is Scotland’s, and rejoining the EU, or joining EFTA, would open up a lot more borders, as well as significantly improving our ability to welcome immigrants who could help us cope with the shortage of workers.

Of course, we can expect a barrage of SNP Bad and Scotland too wee stories in the media now, and I do hope that the Scottish Government’s media team are going to be far more pro-active than they have been up until now. There will be lie upon lie thrown at us, and this needs to be countered at an official level, not simply left to the Yes community to argue against.

Now that caveat I mentioned. For some time, I have been worried that Nicola Sturgeon’s detractors among the Yes community were right, and that she would pin all her hopes on a Section 30 Order, then simply shrug her shoulders when it was turned down, and explain that there was nothing else she could do. Her announcement about using the next General Election as a de facto IndyRef caught many people by surprise, and my initial reaction was very positive. However, it has since been quietly mentioned that, to count as a Yes win, the SNP would be looking for more than 50% of the popular vote in that General Election. If true, I think this is a horrible mistake. I can understand the rationale behind it, but achieving that level of support in a General Election is almost impossible. In the 2019 GE, the SNP managed to achieve only 45% of the popular vote, with the greens bringing in another 1%. Because of the vagaries of the First Past The Post system, this resulted in an overwhelming victory in terms of seats, but I fear that, by setting this impossibly high benchmark, Nicola Sturgeon has left the door open for the No campaign to block Scotland becoming a normal country.

Now, I can already hear you thinking that we would need 50% in an IndyRef, so why not use the same criterion for the GE? Well, because the two are very different beasts. The SNP may campaign on a single issue, and if they stick true to form, they will insist that votes for the greens, Alba or ISP don’t count. This could well result in them winning every seat in Scotland and yet still fall short of 50% because you can bet anything you like that the Unionist Parties will latch on to the fact that they can campaign on other issues, thus painting the SNP as obsessed with independence. Aided by the media, they will be able to muddy the waters to such an extent that many voters may be hesitant about supporting the SNP.

I do hope I am wrong about this, but I do feel it would be far more of a threat to Westminster to let them know that we will be playing by their rules, and that a majority of seats will count as a victory. It is their antiquated and unfair voting system, so we should use it against them.

Perhaps I am being too cynical, and I know that a majority of the popular vote would be a safer result in terms of demonstrating the democratic will of the Scottish people, but I fear it could be a mistake to go down this route. After all, we know the Unionists won’t play fair whatever system we choose, so why make it even harder for ourselves when their own electoral system could be used against them? And remember, the Electoral Commission will be very firmly under Tory control by the time of the next GE, and the requirement for Voter ID will also be in place, thus disenfranchising many of the very people who might vote Yes.

Again, I hope I’m wrong. Whatever happens, we have a mountain to climb, especially with the media set against us, so I see little point in taking the most difficult route to the top when an easier path is already laid out in front of us.