Pro-independence think tank warns of need for preparation as unionists ramp up campaigning


New pro-union think tank set to be launched as cross party campaigns continue campaigning activity

PRO-INDEPENDENCE campaigners have called for increased efforts to bolster the case for independence as pro-union campaigners establish their own projects.

A new unionist think tank, ‘These Islands’, was registered in February to provide a renewed case for a “progressive UK”.

The group, established by businessman and pro-union activist Kevin Hague, who previously compiled a report for the Scottish Tories, joins other active groups such as Scotland in Union, which have ramped up activities since First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her plans to seek a new referendum on Scottish independence on 13 March.

Speaking to CommonSpace about the launch of the new think tank in May, Hague said: “We think the case for a progressive UK has not been well made. We believe that the question of Scottish independence has created an unhelpfully binary debate; other areas of the UK have been neglected and the indyref (and threat of indyref2) has forced those who believe that ‘more unites us than divides us’ onto the back foot. Our aim is to articulate and strengthen the positive case for union (and to influence the constitutional debate).”

He said that an advisory board of 30 “impressive people from across the UK representing a diverse range of perspectives”, had already been put together.

“It is really important to be conscious of just how urgent this work is now becoming. I think we can all see that unionists are relentlessly attacking on any front where they perceive us as being unprepared. We need to make that stop by being prepared.” Robin McAlpine, Common Weal director

Commenting on the founding of the new group, director of the pro-independence think tank Common Weal, Robin McAlpine, said: “As a pluralist I welcome the establishment of a unionist think tank in Scotland. Hopefully it will encourage unionists to be a bit more rigorous than the loose assertions and repetitive slogans that have typified their patter so far. I look forward to seeing how they plan to sell a pretty extreme form of Tory-driven Brexit with an ever-more subservient role to Trump’s America to Scotland as a desirable alternative to our own autonomy.”

However he also cautioned that much still had to be done to generate a winning campaign from the Yes movement.

“To win Scottish independence we need two things. First, we need people to feel that of the two futures that lie ahead of them. It is Scottish independence and not Brexit Britain that offers them the optimistic hope that the future for their family can be better than the present. We can do that with rhetoric and vision and ideas and enthusiasm.

“But we also need people to be reassured that we know what we’re doing, that absolutely legitimate questions about how things will work after independence are answered, that people have information about what happens between a Yes vote and independence day. The former without the latter risks being all celebration without substance and the latter without the former would be dry and technical. There is no way round getting both these things right.

“Common Weal has been going through every aspect of the technical side of things systematically, setting out exactly the questions that need to be answered and working with really good people to develop the best answers to the questions. We still have some work to do on trade and work on energy systems, social security and pensions is progressing well.

The White Paper Project: Building the policy case for an independent Scotland

“We’re now pretty confident that there really are solid answers to all the questions we can identify. By the autumn of this year we hope to have taken this as far as we can. It should provide a solid methodological foundation for the Scottish Government to pick up whenever it begins the process of putting the case together for the new campaign. But it is really important to be conscious of just how urgent this work is now becoming. I think we can all see that unionists are relentlessly attacking on any front where they perceive us as being unprepared. We need to make that stop by being prepared.”

The Common Weal think tank has produced a series of expert examinations of a new case for a whole raft of policy areas for an independent Scotland. The first tranche deal with transition, negotiations and the establishment of the institutions of a newly independent Scottish state

Craig Dalzell, head of research with the think tank added: “Common Weal has been working solidly for months on building a positive case for independence given the materially changed circumstances that Scotland now finds itself in and we’ve already identified many key answers to the questions raised on topics such as currency, debt and assets, borders and customs, economic investment and more. Whilst we still have a substantial way to go to complete this work, the support we receive from our donors and supporters will enable us to equip the campaign with a case and a vision for independence which we can take pride in.”

Various elements of the pro-independence movement of 2014 are still in the process of re-organising themselves for a second effort in the wake of the Scottish Parliament’s vote to pursue the powers for a referendum on Scottish independence from Westminster.

The Scottish Greens campaign for independence will not be launched until after the May local elections. Radical independence are re-organising local groups before they prioritise any new national campaign.

Confusion around the timeframe for any new independence campaign is one factor holding up concerted campaigning activities, as the UK Government has refused to discuss the Scottish Government’s preferred timing for a vote between autumn 2018 and spring 2019, saying now is “not the time”, due to ongoing hard Brexit negotiations.

The Scottish Independence Convetion (SIC) was launched in January to co-ordinate a new independence campaign, and to formulate policy based on the experiences of the first referendum.

Picture courtesy of summonedbyfells

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