“Never before have the foundations of public support for the Union looked so weak,” polling expert John Curtice has declared. His basis for this assessment is the latest poll by PanelBase showing 54 per cent in favour of Scottish independence, with 46 per cent against, which added to other previous polls over the past six months is the first time ever that there has been sustained support for Yes. On top of that, the poll shows the SNP on course to win a massive 55 per cent of constituency votes in the next Holyrood election. Added to an anticipated 50 per cent on the ‘list’ vote and the Greens projected to win nine seats, the pro-independence cohort could in the next parliament represent 64 per cent of all seats, almost two-thirds. No one can seriously argue that Scottish independence does not remain a live issue in British politics.
“On the basis of this sustained record support, it’s impossible for the UK Government to deny Scotland a choice over its future,” SNP deputy leader Keith Brown has said. Well, not so fast. As we have argued previously, it is perfectly possible for Boris Johnson to try to do so, and in fact it is almost certainly the case that, if the Prime Minister can read a poll, granting consent to a referendum on independence will now be less not more likely, such is the likelihood that he would suffer a career-defining defeat if such a vote were to take place. If we are honest that good polling won’t deliver an independence referendum in and of itself, what more must the independence movement do to increase the pressure for an Indyref to actually happen? Here’s five ideas to consider.
1) Strong manifesto commitments. Press pro-indy parties to commit in their manifesto that if there is a majority in the Scottish Parliament after the 2021 Holyrood elections for indyref, they will pursue such an independence referendum within the next term of the Scottish Parliament regardless of Westminster’s consent. No democratic legitimacy should be given to a veto for the UK Prime Minister on indyref.
2) Take the ‘right to decide’ message to the rest of the UK. Scottish independence affects more than just Scotland, it will change the constitutional structure of the whole of the UK. The independence movement should actively seek to build support in the rest of UK for the right to decide on Scottish independence, and try to help start a debate about what the democratic future of a post-Great Britain England, Wales and Northern Ireland could be as well.
3) Connect the right to decide to a wider set of democratic demands. To broaden the depth and breadth of the independence movement, links should be made between democratic demands on Scotland’s constitutional future and demands for rights in all parts of our lives, whether it is housing rights, community-level democracy, an economic recovery which is led by and for people, etc. If the national self-determination movement is a democracy movement it should be for democracy in all aspects of our economy and society.
4) Build a broader alliance around the right to decide. You don’t have to be pro-independence to support the right of the Scottish people to decide on independence, you just have to believe that the Scottish people are sovereign. Those who are against independence but support the right to decide include many in Labour’s ranks, who are not happy about the party leadership’s turn towards an anti-democratic position, as well as a broad spread of civic and cultural figures. A hand should be reached out to them.
5) Consider what direct action could usefully apply pressure on Boris Johnson. There should be an active debate in the independence movement about how to secure an independence referendum, and part of that should be a willingness to consider forms of direct action which could usefully apply pressure onto Westminster directly over the right to decide. Former SNP MP George Kerevan has suggested shutting down London tube network and peaceably blocking roads in Central London. When democratic rights are being denied to citizens by the state, direct action methods are an important parts of the democratic tradition.
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