Yes campaign must secure majority support in 2020

RESOLUTE: the SSP has been committed to independence for over 20 years

by Colin Fox, SSP national co-spokesperson

· Tens of thousands of independence supporters marched through Glasgow last weekend—in appalling weather—to protest against the fact Scotland is once again governed by people we did not elect.

Having won December’s UK General Election, Boris Johnson’s mandate is far-reaching and, backed by his Scottish Secretary of State Alister Jack, he insists no permission will be granted for a second independence referendum. So the central question now posed is what challenge, if any, will the SNP mount to his decision and his right to govern Scotland?

The SNP insist Johnson was rejected north of the Border and this result ‘must not be allowed to stand’. That is fighting talk.

And the nationalists have a long record of such belligerence particularly in the immediate aftermath of such an election. The problem is, their rhetoric is never backed up by action.

Yes must face facts
Moreover, the SNP, indeed the entire Yes movement, must face some facts that are hard to swallow.

First, since Scots voted No in 2014 power, political and judicial, continues to rest at Westminster. As Enoch Powell famously warned us in the 1970s debate ‘Power devolved is power retained’.

Second, 2019 was above all ‘The Brexit election’ and as the SNP’s primary demand was to ‘Stop Brexit’—enlisting many unionist votes in the process—they undermined the supremacy of Nicola Sturgeon’s independence mandate.

Third, the polls repeatedly show support for independence in Scotland is backed by only a minority of the electorate.

Writing in the Scottish Left Review Kenny MacAskill, the newly elected MP for East Lothian insists the SNP will not initiate a 2nd vote on independence in 2020 whilst the fog of Brexit clouds the political landscape.

His conclusion is shared by the SNP’s former Director of Communications Kevin Pringle. In his Sunday Times column Pringle argues the delay gives the Yes movement the chance to get make a better case for independence than hitherto.

Regular readers of this newspaper will recognise the Scottish Socialist Party has been advocating this approach for the past two years.

Despite winning 48 seats Sturgeon’s impotence over ‘Indyref 2’ was clear even before her letter to Boris Johnson, requesting a second vote, was returned unopened.

Her victory north of the Border in December was once again compromised by the fact that one third of SNP voters do not support independence. And she is too much of a conventional politician to challenge Johnson via ‘extra-parliamentary’ measures.

Yet with the Tories enjoying a large majority she is limited to more ‘gestures’ in The Palace of Westminster. Many activists are now advising her MP’s to spend less time in London and more time making the case for Yes closer to home.

Johnson’s huge majority at Westminster makes life difficult for the SNP and nothing illustrates the SNP’s failed strategy on independence more than their inability to ‘Keep Scotland in the EU’. They must now come to terms both with that departure and their own folly of tying the case for Yes so closely to EU membership.

If Scotland wishes to join the EU it can only now do so, in the SSP’s opinion, in a post-independence referendum. And I for one will not hold my breath waiting for that vote.

As 2020 opens the Yes movement finds itself talking to itself, splintered and suffering a crisis of leadership. It mobilises tens of thousands onto the streets and then having led them up to the top of the hill it leads them back down again.

It calls for unity when what it needs above all is clarity. The central assertion that ‘Decisions about Scotland must be taken in Scotland’ is not enough. It is surely the nature of those decisions that are crucial.

And with all due respect to RIC, SIC, AUOB and all the other Yes groups, none of them adequately represent the movement nor add capacity to our support. As a consequence we continue to trail in the polls.

If turning that around is our priority it is time we gave it our utmost attention. How are we to persuade a majority to vote Yes? By uniting around the lowest common denominator? No, that satisfies no-one.

What manifesto of change then does independence truly offer? By accepting, as the Sustainable Growth Commission does, that neoliberal capitalism is in charge and we cannot challenge it? Is global capitalism our master or are we ‘sovereign’?

Existential questions
Our movement’s priority must be to solve these existential questions. Only then can we address the obvious organisational deficiencies in our movement and be confident of our ultimate success.

The Scottish Socialist Party’s commitment to independence has been resolute for 20 years. Our objective today is to help secure that illusive majority for independence in 2020.

Scotland’s working class holds the key to success and it is to them above all that we raise our vision of an independent socialist Scotland.

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