The Great Mistake 226

The SNP risks a great loss in putting Independence on the back-burner. They have the huge energy of the street Yes campaign behind them. Shifting from fifth gear to reverse risks not only loss of momentum, but damage. “Go out and work for Independence!” is what 80,000 new members want to hear. “Go out and work for Devo-Max and a supply and confidence agreement with Labour at Westminster”, is not.

I was not too concerned at reports that Alex Salmond had said that Independence may not feature in the SNP’s coming Westminster manifesto, and it would be up to Nicola Sturgeon. It was just one interview, and the great man was possibly just musing, I thought. But then we had Nicola Sturgeon’s message to all members, repeated as adverts in the newspapers, setting out the stall for the General Election. This makes no mention of Independence at all.

I think there are two major mistakes here. The first is that rather than state its fundamental beliefs, the SNP is tailoring its message to be appropriate to a specific tactical situation – a hung parliament with the SNP able to sustain a Labour-led government, in return for certain demands. Tailoring the message to this circumstance is a mistake because it is a scenario which is entirely beyond the power of the SNP, or even Scotland, to bring about. And my very firm prediction is that it will not happen.

Labour and the Tories are neck and neck in recent polls, but I fully expect the Tories will make ground, as the incumbent government always does in the final months before a UK general election. They have the opportunity of a populist budget to boost them. UKIP support will dip, disproportionately returning to the Tories. Murdoch will back Cameron, along with the Mail, Express and Telegraph. The Tories have over twice the campaign funds of Labour. The LibDem vote will plummet but they will hold on to more of their own seats UK wide than a uniform swing would indicate. I am willing to bet that the Conservatives remain in power, probably still as the ConDems, after the General Election.

In this scenario, what happens in Scotland is irrelevant to who forms the UK government – as so often. Whether there are more Labour or more SNP on the opposition benches will make little difference to Cameron and Osborne. What will happen, however, is an increasingly urgent demand for Scottish Independence in the face of five more years of unwanted Tory rule in Scotland.

It is tactically essential that, in this scenario, the SNP MP’s can claim to have been elected on a clear mandate for Independence. The SNP may have a majority of Scottish MP’s after May. There will be a vote on whether the UK leaves the EU. Should the UK vote to leave the EU (which is not improbable), the demand for Scottish Independence may become overwhelming. If at that stage we have a majority of Scottish MP’s clearly elected for Independence, there are a number of possible options for achieving Independence. If however those MPs were elected only on a platform that prioritised Devo-Max, the arguments look very different.

The second major mistake is that Devo-Max is unobtainable. Whitehall and Westminster will never agree to hand over to Scotland its full oil or whisky revenues. It is in any event not possible for Scotland to run an expansive fiscal policy within the overall control of the Treasury and Bank of England. It is possible to get limited extra powers for the Scottish parliament. The Smith Commission is very close to the limit of what Westminster will ever agree within the Union. Even were Smith to be fully implemented (which like Calman it won’t) it is no substitute for Independence.

And as I have frequently stated, so long as our foreign and defence policy is still controlled by Westminster, so long as they can still send Scots to fight and die in illegal wars, so long as they can involve us in hideous torture and permanent conflict in the Middle East, we have not obtained ethical responsibility, and the rest means little.

Many No voters already regret their vote. The SNP does not need to pitch its message to appeal to continuing unionists. As the Independence vote is heavily behind the SNP, while the Unionist vote has more significant diversions between Labour, Tory, Liberal and UKIP, under first past the post the Yes voters alone will sweep the board – which is precisely what opinion polls show as happening.

The other thing we know from the Referendum is that a significant number of SNP voters, voted No. The truth is that not every supporter of the SNP is a fervent supporter of Independence. Certainly a great many members do not relate to the social radicalism and desire for sweeping societal change that motivated so much of the astonishing street Yes campaign.

The SNP has now a substantial professional class. It has MSP’s, Scottish ministers, MP’s and MEP’s, and all their research assistants, secretaries, constituency secretaries and SPADs. It has paid councillors, committee chairs, leaders of councils. It has a Chief Executive and HQ staff. If the process of gradualism has brought you a good income and a comfy living, it is a natural temptation to see the accretion of a few more powers, and the addition of a lot more jobs for MP’s and their staff, as all part of useful progress, without wanting to risk anything too radical. Independence can become a misty aspiration, lost in the day to day concerns of genuinely ultra-important stuff like running the NHS or schools or local transport.

The SNP is not the small band of noble rebellious souls it once was. It is now a major institution in itself, and part of the fabric of the British state. Institutions, even composed of the nicest people, always develop and protect their corporate interest.

I worry that the downplaying of the Independence goal for the General Election may drain the fire from those 80,000 Yes-oriented new members. I worry even more that this may not be an accident.

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226 thoughts on “The Great Mistake

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  • Clark

    fred, 9:37 am:

    “The Scottish government is asking Westminster to invest tens of billions of pounds in the North Sea just to keep the industry alive, to keep the workers in jobs and to keep all the support industries solvent.”

    This is what I meant yesterday; 11 Jan, 11:43 pm:

    “If [oil prices are forced down], fracking and renewables become loss makers. Each presumably have critical price thresholds and critical time-scales.”

    I’d left out the British energy industry, but it’s the same principle. Such subsidies have to be reduced over time, but industrial infrastructure has ongoing maintenance costs; industries can be killed by being set so far back that insufficient money is available to revive them when the price rises again.

    It looks to me as though the falling price of oil is very unhealthy for humanity as a whole. The recent development of renewables could be wiped out, increasing carbon dioxide production and accelerating global warming.

  • fred

    “Hey Fred I bet your Anglo-Zionist pals in bitter together got a wee heads up about the coming manipulation in oil prices and that’s why the lot of you have been spinning like Catherine wheels on the subject. ”

    I have been campaigning for Palestine on Internet forums for a long time now. I do it by sticking to the facts, the facts are all you need. No need to demonise anyone, no need to discredit, insult, intimidate other posters, no need for name calling, the facts will speak for themselves.

    The reception I get from Zionist supporters is exactly the same as I get from Nationalists and for exactly the same reason, Zionism and Nationalism are both ideologies without a rational basis.

  • Clark

    Calgacus, whatever, it isn’t Fred’s fault. He needs convincing, not bashing. And his opinion should be respected.

  • Clark

    Fred, you need to remember that you’re (inadvertently) supporting British nationalism. Nationalism will be inescapable until there’s world democracy. If ever…

  • Clark

    And Fred, what people don’t like about facts is that they paint a very pessimistic picture. So people pick a scenario and pretend it’s more optimistic.

    But you’re doing just that, too. The same economic forces apply to Britain as a whole. Britain’s credit rating seems to be propped up by houses costing a quarter of a million pounds each. I don’t think that can last indefinitely. In your scenario, the No vote just bought a little time.

  • Clark

    Fred, Zionism does have a rational basis, but it’s evil so its supporters don’t admit to it. It is “steal land and resources from the Palestinians”.

  • Mark Golding

    I will concede Scotland’s independence was a leap in the dark or too great a chasm for many folk.

    That said independence is autonomy, self rule, and NOT with the maintenance of a House of Windsor, retention of NATO membership and the failure to break with the Bank of England.

    IMO the ‘Yes’ vote was more than an anti-austerity majority, for most it was against the unmitigated neo-liberalism imposed on us all by a Westminster government powered by deception and MSM zio-propaganda. The truth is a quarter of Scotland’s ‘No’ vote believed in the promise of more powers for Holyrood, a thistle of bull-shit that guaranteed a tiny modicum of self-rule would satisfy the Scottish electorate.

    In my book an independent Scotland is all or nothing.

  • fred

    “It looks to me as though the falling price of oil is very unhealthy for humanity as a whole. The recent development of renewables could be wiped out, increasing carbon dioxide production and accelerating global warming.”

    The world burning less oil can’t be a bad thing. Our windmills weren’t much use when their effects were being cancelled out by industrial expansion in the East.

    If the fall in price meant more being sold that would be bad but it doesn’t or the price wouldn’t still be falling, it’s not a supply problem it’s a demand problem.

    The oil producers will lose money till the world economy picks up, their only other choice is to lose even more money.

  • @homeneara*

    Fred, Your either a liar or highly deluded.

    “No it isn’t. Scottish Nationalism isn’t politics it is blind faith, dogma, not rational, based purely on tribalist and supremacist ideologies.”

    How you could think that after seeing the campaign I don’t know. It’s TOTALY CLEAR that in reality “blind faith, dogma, not rational, based purely on tribalist and supremacist ideologies.” Is exactly what the no camp was all about.

    Blind faith in believing it’s was going to be good for them, Dogmatic irrational triblasim of the UK state, a supremacist ideology if ever there was one.

    How you manage to go on with this utter nonsense is beyond me. In my view even after watching the more ‘nationalist’ parts of the yes campaign what you say is a gross miss-characterisation, that you ou go on and on and on about. Surly you must be getting paid to do this. How many times have we been over it ffs.

    Your the wost kind of robot imo, state robots who come on here spouting the same old tired dogmas and say the same old shit not matter how far in outer space it seems.

    Get a life ffs.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Clark – there’s an interesting little piece in today’s (print) Grauniad which speculates that one or more major oil firms are beginning to think seriously about pulling out of fossil fuels; in this view, renewables aren’t threatened by low oil prices, but are attractive because not subject to declining oil reserves, zany price swings outside their control, and also because oil execs are belatedly realising that anthropogenic global warning is (a) happening and (b)happening on their watch.


    Disinvesting in oil and its maintenance would supply the necessary investment in renewable technology, with or (thanks Cameron for another U-turn) without subsidies.

    Frackers are still in deep shit, though.

    Worth noting that a major feature of both the Scottish Government and HIE has been the rehabilitation of Scotland’s moribund ex-oilrig construction yards with wind and tidal technology as major components.

  • Clark

    Fred, I did not encounter Nazism or anything like it among the Yes supporters. You know my plummy English voice. I was in George Square, Glasgow on the Wednesday before the vote, and at Pivo Pivo on the Thursday. I was going around lots of places; Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Perth; no one had a bad word to say to me about my Englishness. Quite the opposite. At Pivo Pivo people tried hard to get me up on stage to speak – but I can’t handle public speaking, it doesn’t matter where.

    If you’ve encountered racism, you should say so; generalised, vague, blanket criticism needs to be substantiated. You’re talking about 45% of the people in Scotland.

  • @homeneara*

    With regard to France.

    This is war, these things happen, look forward not back, I don’t think we we should seek to hold to account those who perpetrate such gross acts. We don’t do it for us so why them?

  • Clark

    @homeneara*, I’ve spent a month with Fred. He is NOT getting paid to say anything. He’s poor and generous. I expect he’s seen little of the campaign face-to-face because he’s in Caithness.

  • nevermind

    gold price at $1219,34 oz. Now that is the price of actual gold not that of paper gold of which we have 100 times as much as the real stuff.
    I could post silver or Forex or Libor prices, all rigged, just as the oil price is Fred, futures are a gamble too. All this rigging is done for nationalistic purposes and greed, Fred.

    What your daily lamentations show is a rigged market price, nothing more. That it is ruining the oil industry and fracking is inevitable, that is the aim of Saudi Arabia. In Texas the first fracking companies have declared bankruptcy.

    So the house of Ibn Saud is paying IS to destabilise Iraq and Syria, keeping their oil production low and stealing the stuff to sell on the black market. And they have the US and Israel, their allies, carrying on with their destabilising of Iran, to create more chaos and division over resources.

    Their trillions are being used to create a medieval caliphate and we sit on the fence, hoping for the City of Londons nationalistic pirates to somehow create wealth, rather than create an alternative energy generation capacity at home, strife for Independence from oil.

    calgacus, just take Fred as the Jack Russell at your ankles, what you read here is what you get from him and whence Independence eventually comes, him and myself might be long gone by then, his kind will go all quiet.

  • @homeneara*

    Thanks Clark.

    Seems to me though, He is not stupid. We have been over this time and again in many forms. It is like some have earplugs in. I put a lot of work into keeping myself semi-informed. And I don’t need to travel to do this. And I can and do find other viewpoints.

    Fine, we know what some think about some things. Do we need to hear it again and again?

    IMO this is about stopping other peoples viewpoints, ie the sort of people on Craigs blog. And that’s weak and pathetic, go find your own right wing blog. EDL, UKIP, The Queen, or some other fascist regime supporting government.

    It’s not about engagement, it’s to disrupt. Like a child. These are obviously the people who can’t handle other peoples differing ideas.

  • Les Wilson

    I think it is a long term planning strategy, Indy remains the aim.
    However in the very short term to gain as much power in Westminster that can be got, will certainly put more power in the case to enpower Scotland.

    What, I think needs done is to mobilise the spirit of YES, to get out on the doors etc with the passion they still have. The Elites will be pulling every trick to prevent this situation, currently they must be the target.

    We have seen how our people become involved when a clear vision is attainable. We need to see this get done, in itself, if we can hugely increase the SNP in Westminster it will result in a real body of people challenging Westminster’s every move that effects our country.

    A stepping stone to Indy2.

  • Les Wilson

    Regarding the delighted MSM and the price of oil, they all say it would be disastrous for Scotland and if we were Independent right now, it would make things difficult.

    However, we are not yet Independent, and would not have been until 2016, so it may have effected us then. The MSM all talk as if we would have been effected right now.
    Let us wait until 2016 and check the price then, the price that would have effected us.
    It will be no surprise to see it double of today’s price at that date!.

    What would they have to say then?

  • Clark

    Fred, I think I see why you’re getting such animosity. Falling oil prices are bad for everyone, but you seem to be gloating about it.

    The sudden drop in oil prices started in the week following the Independence vote. It was a surprise to everyone, but it gave you a chance to start chanting “I told you so”. The trend could reverse and prices rise just as suddenly as they fell, and your self-proclaimed “fact based” anti-independence argument would suddenly be void.

    So you’re doing just the same thing as you accuse the Yes supporters of doing – you’re cherry-picking facts to suit your more deeply held position.

    To avoid the flak you need to be honest and argue your more deeply held position, which appears to be something like “the Independence supporters are mostly fascists”.

  • Clark

    Les Wilson, our comments crossed. Yes, exactly. Oil prices seem likely to rise again.

    Baal, thanks for the link; I’ll read it later.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    We have seen how our people become involved when a clear vision is attainable. We need to see this get done, in itself, if we can hugely increase the SNP in Westminster it will result in a real body of people challenging Westminster’s every move that effects our country.

    Defensible, but not practical. And I don’t mean you can’t try. You rightly say a clear vision gets people involved. But yours isn’t a clear vision. “What do we want?” A lot of MP’s in Westminster to challenge the status quo!” “When do we want it?” “In due course!”

    OK, I’m being facetious. But I’m not hearing the drums beat. And I’m not seeing that 10% majority No being eroded as the new crop of SNP MP’s does what MP’s do – makes unholy alliances with other members or even parties, puts its foot in its mouth, rigs expenses and succumbs to the blandishments of Big Money in order to fund its offices. Never mind what happens when the Establishment moves to cover its arse against the idea that democracy might change anything.

    No. Declare war on Nude Labour, in Scotland. PR offensive, in Scotland. You can safely rely on whichever puppet of Goldman Sachs wins in May to to fuel resentment and motivate the troops. And don’t believe your own propaganda so much that you think you’re going to coast across the finishing line, as the SNP usually does. IOW, get your own house in order first. You need another 15%, say of Scottish votes before you can even contemplate trying again. Get them. Don’t faff around.

  • Clark

    Fred has two important factual points which need to be discussed.

    1) Without a currency and a central bank or lender of last resort, and independent Scotland would be economically vulnerable.

    2) Oil prices are volatile.

    Now, Fred misuses the second point, suggesting that oil prices will remain low. He didn’t see the price drop coming; before the vote his economic argument was that the oil fields are already depleted and in decline. But when stated correctly, the argument still needs to be engaged with.

    If there’s a valid racism / fascism argument, commenters other than me need to make it because I simply didn’t encounter it, neither in four months in 2013 nor five months in 2014.

  • DoNNyDarKo

    Brent oil used to sit at $ 18 a barrel when the fields were opening up.As mary’s graph shows ,the price has fluctuated to suit Saudi and US interests since.
    Fred continues to think that the Independence movement and all their aspirations are based on an oil price quoted by the SNP during the referendum build up as being the rock that Scottish Independence would be built upon.Fred is wrong and has been consistently wrong about the SNP supporters ,policies and their position on oil.Oil is the bonus,no matter what the price per barrel is.As long as we are in love with the combustion engine we’ll be able to sell it.
    Since everything from Libor rates to Metal prices being rigged has been proven why should oil be any different?The price per barrel has come down by 70 – 80 U$,this has not been reflected at the pumps.So much for supply and demand.It will go back up.
    Fred’s world is a dark place where Scottish people are Nazi’s and his environment is hostile.If Scotland is as he portrays it to be,a sensible Crofter would jump on his horse and look for pastures new.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    If there’s a valid racism / fascism argument, commenters other than me need to make it

    Sorry, can’t help you. Thirty years in Scotland, in various settings from deep rural to Embra, and not an angry word I didn’t thoroughly deserve. Except – genuinely – once from a recently immigrated Englishman. Had one punchup, in Kinlochbervie, but that was because that’s what happened in Kinlochbervie (dance nights there alternated with Durness, and a lot of whisky was involved, and may still be) and was definitely not personal.

    Mind you, if I’d gone around calling the locals fascists, things might have been rather different. As they would be anywhere.

  • Herbie

    Is Fred a Labour supporter?

    Might explain the fascist thing.

    There’s certainly a tradition within Labour, and the Left more generally, that all nationalists are fascists.

    Labour and the Left saw itself as internationalist, which was seen at the time as a good thing. Less so now, with all the New World Order stuff.

  • velvetdonkey

    @Fred :

    Either Scotland has a viable economy or it does not.

    If, as you claim, it does not, then what does that say for Westminster’s stewardship of a resource-rich, educated nation noted for entrepreneurship and world renowned inventors?

    And what of Scotlands future under such incompetent stewardship ?

    The obvious conclusion is that Scotland is to accept the status of a withered arm of the prosperous South Engerlund, forever in need of charity.

    Meanwhile the Danes and other successful small independent countries somehow muddle along outside of the charity of the City of London – even more remarkable in that they don’t have a fraction of Scotland’s natural resources.

    Have a guess what Denmark would now look like had they the advantage of being under the wing of the Great British establishment for a century of democracy and charity.

  • Calgacus

    Clark, thank you for your kind remarks, I apologise for flying off the handle but I do object to being called a Nazi. Nothing personal Fred.

  • Calgacus

    @ Fred, there is no comparison between the entirely peaceful campaign for the restoration of Scotland’s place amongst the family of nations and Israel’s ongoing rape of Palestine.

    Any such comparison is highly offensive but perhaps that is what is intended.

    Good luck in your battles online for the Palestinians.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    The price per barrel has come down by 70 – 80 U$,this has not been reflected at the pumps.

    Let’s not forget that 75% of the cost of petrol is tax and a good chunk of the rest is not-easily reducible refining and transport. Cui bono? Big Oil’s domestic fuel division.

  • Clark

    An opinion I encountered quite widely in Caithness is that Holyrood would look after Edinburgh, Glasgow and the densely populated regions in between, but that Westminster were doing a better job for everyone north of the Great Glen. That is something the Independence campaign, and Holyrood, need to fix.

    Calgacus, Fred obviously has a bee in his bonnet, but it’s his bonnet so it’s him that has to fix it. Good on you. Here’s to a better future. Everywhere.

  • Clark

    Oh retail oil prices are down all right. You notice it if you have a central heating tank to feed, as I do – much less tax on it. It’s basically the same stuff as diesel; my car could burn it but that’s illegal. I paid 46 pence a litre just before Christmas. It was over 60p last year.

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