The policy of the SNP is that there will not be a second referendum on Independence in the next 5 years unless something material changes, such as UK exit from the EU. Why is that party policy? Because Nicola Sturgeon says it is.
I am only a humble SNP ordinary member, for only four years. But something within me tells me I am allowed to disagree. And I do. Loudly.
I think it is essential that the SNP manifesto for next year’s Holyrood elections states clearly that, if a Holyrood majority will support it, a second referendum will be called on Scottish independence before 2020. If elected on that manifesto, something material will have changed. A unique double mandate will have occurred at Westminster and Holyrood for supporters of independence. And that change will have come from where it counts, from the Scottish people, not from extraneous circumstances. The independence I want is absolute, not a product of external factors.
Those who are comfortable with the status quo, plus a few more powers for the Scottish parliament, will argue that we cannot hold the referendum until we are certain to win, that another loss will kill it for ever. But there is a much more important argument – that of missing the key moment, letting the window of opportunity slide by. With a very right wing Tory majority in Westminster immediately imposing fresh austerity in Scotland, and with levels of SNP political dominance historically unlikely to be exceeded in any pluralist democratic system, there can never be a more favourable conjunction. If not now, when?
The biggest danger is bottling it.
Gradualism has taken us so far. I liken it to a long jumper hurtling down the runway. You may be sprinting brilliantly, and achieve fantastic speed and momentum. But if you think “this is going well, let’s not change anything” and don’t alter your action when you hit that white board, you will record six feet and not thirty. Scottish independence is at the white board. Gradualism has had its day. It’s time to soar. Let’s not fail to jump and plunge into the Killiecrankie Leap, no matter how well we are sprinting.
Some genuinely think I am wrong. It is a legitimate argument. But it needs to be a legitimate debate at Party conference, and a vote by members that decides on whether a second referendum is in the manifesto, not a decision by the leadership. I share the popular admiration for Nicola Sturgeon. I think she is tremendous. But were she the Archangel Gabriel, I would not follow her on the “leadership principle”. I do not subscribe to it.
Which leads me to say that I have decided to put myself forward again for vetting to be an SNP candidate, for the Holyrood election. This has not been an easy decision given the leaks to the media and internet abuse I went through last time, and I realise that I open myself to the apparent humiliation of easy rejection.
I should add that if I pass the party hierarchy vetting but fail to be selected by party members in the constituency, I should have absolutely no complaint whatsoever. That is proper democracy working.
But it seems to me that it is now very important indeed that the SNP is a political party that genuinely welcomes internal debate and differing shades of belief of those sincerely attached to Scottish independence, and can accommodate in particular those of an independent frame of mind who will not guarantee always under any circumstance to do what they are told.
The SNP is now in a dominant position in Scottish politics and facing no coherent or effective external opposition. In that circumstance, extreme discipline becomes more frightening than admirable.
Canvassing during the referendum campaign one thing No voters repeatedly told me was that they feared that the SNP was authoritarian and an independent Scotland would have the characteristics of a one party state. I assured them that they were quite wrong. I hope to prove that I was not lying.
My last post was about the excellent Jeremy Corby. Pro-CND, anti-austerity, anti-privatisation, pro-Palestinian, he rebelled against the Labour whip 230 times in the last parliament. Yet the Labour Party – which we characterise as the epitome of machine politics – does not seek to suspend him or stop him representing them in parliament. Many in the SNP will agree that Corbyn is a first class MP. Yet the same people will argue that no SNP representative should ever be able to rebel against their party whip, even once.
I abhor the creed of Democratic Centralism, which has always been associated with Stalinism. The worrying thing is that at present I do not even find the SNP terribly democratic. I have been to two party conferences now and both were glorified leadership rallies without one single genuine policy debate. There are issues which urgently need democratic consideration. The second referendum is top of the pile. The future Scottish currency may be next. I would like to find what the new membership wants on the monarchy and on NATO. The very close NATO vote a few years ago by no means killed off that debate, whatever the leadership may want.
The SNP has shown it can dominate. Now we must show that we can be genuinely democratic.