The SNP Membership, Not the Leadership, Must Decide on the Second Referendum 104

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.

104 thoughts on “The SNP Membership, Not the Leadership, Must Decide on the Second Referendum

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  • technicolour

    Craig: this is really an excellent stance, I think. If the Lib Dems had asked their membership to vote on the options after the last election – anyway, of course that is what should have happened.

  • John Seal


    You misinterpreted my questions, both of which were genuine. I was not trying to be snide, nor do I suspect or accuse the SNP of racism.

    However, I do understand that you are used to insincere questions and ulterior motives. Apologies for not making it clearer that this was not my intent.


  • craig Post author


    I wrote that brief apology before seeing your explanation. Apologies its been a stressful day on a number of fronts.

  • John Seal

    No worries, Craig.

    I only asked about West Runton because I’ve owned that record since it came out and had never associated it with anything (or anyone) else. In fact, I wasn’t even sure it was a real place until I saw your Wikipedia entry! As you were 21 at the time, I thought you might have been there. Instant street cred!

  • Clydebuilt

    “The SNP face no coherent or effective opposition” Whatabout the BBC and most of the Press. Aye currently there’s no effective political opposition. For some time the BBC has seen it’s duty is to oppose the SNP. … could argue that they have not been effective. It’s iron discipline that’s got us to where we are today. Loose that and the media will rip the SNP. Clearly Scotland’s party isn’t in the same position as unionist parties, and can’t afford the luxury of disent.

  • technicolour

    “can’t afford the luxury of disent.”

    Yeah, and there was a piece in the Times today (my parents get it) effectively saying ‘What’s the point of being right if you don’t get into power?’

    This is what’s wrong with the whole system. This is why, unless we change it, we’re stuck on a merry-go-round of deceit and abasement. It is not about ‘power’. It is about representing the fairly decent majority. Which should, of course, lead to ‘power’ but which somehow doesn’t, because their representatives are fixated on getting the power first, and selling everyone out to get there. It is a nonsense. And once again the SNP seem on course to prove another brazen, broken repository for the commons to put their faith in. No.

  • fred

    “Craig, I am with you on this one. It is a question of democracy. ”

    Great. We had a referendum stated by the SNP to be a once in a generation decision.

    55% of the electorate voted to remain part of the UK that is democracy.

    Anything else is not democracy, making people vote over and over again till you get the answer you want then never voting again is not democracy.

  • technicolour

    Fred: Ireland (Lisbon) would generally agree: but Westminster lied to get the ‘yes’ vote, didn’t it? And the mass media backed them?

  • Ishmael

    Technicolour, I think Fred has issues. Me and others made this point before. Never mind the fact people can change there minds. Though i’m sure his constant negation of these issues is also ‘democracy’. Regardless what people may think at any time in the future..

    But I guess I understand. He thinks the same thing over and over and over again. So judges everyone else the same.

  • Ishmael

    Ps Fred, voting is actually not democracy, a divisive and unrepresentative practice of failure manifest.

  • fred

    “Fred: Ireland (Lisbon) would generally agree: but Westminster lied to get the ‘yes’ vote, didn’t it? And the mass media backed them?”

    No, the Scottish government lied, they claimed the price of oil would remain over $100 a barrel.

  • technicolour

    but as I remember it Westminster promised the Scots loads of shizzle if they stayed in the union, which they promptly reneged on. Am I wrong?

  • John Goss

    Craig I believe you are of the highest calibre of Scottish Independence material. Not the Lollans ( 🙂 ).

    Though it is a formidable challenge to Westminster I am not sure about the SNP being the best vehicle for a political career for you. I think your vast knowledge as an ambassador is of value to whatever government it is that oversees independence if that ever comes about in Scotland.

    The SNP needs your advice. Surely there is a high-ranking role for you within the Scottish parliament’s equivalent of Whitehall’s corridors of power? If I were you I would strive towards a civil-service role rather than trying to fulfil your dream of becoming an MP. By the way, you would, like Jeremy Corbyn, make a committed MP.

    I will eat my marzipan hat if you get selected. You have a lot of knowledge, knowledge that the SNP (or any other party) needs. Get a living for sharing your expertise, expertise which very few people have.

  • fred

    “but as I remember it Westminster promised the Scots loads of shizzle if they stayed in the union, which they promptly reneged on. Am I wrong?”


    The Smith report, agreed by both the Scottish and UK government stated clearly that devolving powers could not be a detriment to either Scotland or Britain. At the moment to give Scotland full fiscal autonomy would be detrimental to Scotland and the Scottish government has stated they do not want it yet. Powers can only be devolved if they wouldn’t harm Scotland. Those powers which can be devolved will be in the next year then the Scottish government can decide for itself if they follow the Conservative path of austerity or raise taxes and increase spending.

  • Tony_0pmoc

    And even The Professional Photographers go..Shiiiit..Wow..Who is That Girl???

    I did tell ’em…but they didn’t believe me.

    That Girl is My Wife.


  • Tony_0pmoc

    When you think you have got it all..after climbing out of the dark pit..and you have even got the girl…and then you fall down again to the bottom of the well..hi mate..well at least we’ve got some water here…How The Fuck are we going to get out of here?

    And This Girl is at The Top..Reaching Her Arm and Leg and Everything She Has Got..Reaching Her Hand Down…

    That Girl is an ANGEL.

    She Pulled Us Out..from Dark Below.

    She is My Wife.

    She is Beautiful.

    That is just the way it is..I was just so lucky meeting her..and I can’t explain it.

    She is still with me now…after all this time..And She Still Looks and Is Fucking FIT.


  • Mary

    This comment on Medialens is spot on about Agent Cameron’s latest utterance.

    The BBC: “Fifa scandal should prompt global corruption purge – Cameron”
    June 6, 2015

    This, in the wake of the banking scandal and their ongoing process of ripping the country off for billions without one of them going to jail, all thanks to the help of their mates in Parliament.

    Then we have MPs up to their necks in shady deals, house flipping and all kinds of other sleaze, private companies being handed millions upon millions to declare terminally ill people fit for work, yet the BBC accepts Cameron’s sincerity over his great pronouncement and tells us with a straight face that he will:

    “use the G7 summit in Germany to call for an international effort to clean up government and business…

    …He is not, however, expected to name organisations and businesses that he would like to see put under the spotlight.”

    There are just so many elephants in the room here that it leaves you breathless that the likes of Cameron can get away with spouting this kind of bullshit without being ripped to pieces for his hypocrisy and downright deceit.

    You couldn’t make this bollox up but as usual, the BBC are right there, ready to promote it! ‘

  • Mary

    So much for sourcing the necessary form, printing and signing it and taking it along to the GP’s surgery.

    The only way we can know if our confidential information has been passed on is when we start receiving communications from health insurers and the like. Yet Cameron speaks of rooting out corruption.

    NHS Patients’ Data Shared Against Their Wishes
    The Health and Social Care Information Centre’s failure to meet 700,000 requests not to share patient data is branded “a mess”.

    Who are these operatives? Who appointed them? The cost of the setup??

    ‘Papers’ for their forthcoming board meeting. 54 pages no less.

  • Mary

    The usual route in.

    •Kingsley Manning was Founder and Managing Director of Newchurch Limited, a leading firm of health and information consultants, from 1983 until 2009.

    •Subsequent roles have included, Executive Chairman of Tribal Group’s health business and Senior Adviser at McKinsey & Company.

    •His appointment starts on 3rd June 2013 and is for four years. He will receive £63,000 per annum for a time commitment of 2 to 3 days per week.’

    EHI interview: Kingsley Manning
    The new chair of the new Health and Social Care Information Centre talks to Jon Hoeksma about its ambition to be “the NICE of data” – and its role handling NHS Connecting for Health’s mixed inheritance.

  • Wain Broon

    It’s not just up to the SNP (never mind just Nicola Sturgeon).

    So if the parties which support independence, SNP, Greens and the SSP, agreed on a common manifesto commitment it would make it much harder to attack. They could also agree that a referendum would only be held if (in a Scottish Parliament vote) – 1) Members of more than one political party voted for a referendum to be held and 2) the vote for a referendum was, let’s say, at least 55%.

    Yes I know it’s asking a lot, which is why we need to start talking about it now.

  • Mark Golding

    5 Jun, 2015 – 3:15 pm

    Indeed Tony, undeniable vision that describes a catastrophic event cast by a coalition now ruined to the point where power and strength to enforce it’s rule has rapidly declined.

    That coalition has been morally defeated and social divisions within the countries involved have lead to political impotence.

    This process of failure is marked by hypocrisy, corruption and deception from the UKUSIS spearhead. Paid for proxy armies have yielded a barbarian modus of regime change tactics, economic enmity, sanctions and invasions that have failed to re-unify the Western alliance.

    Now an Eastern alliance forged from higher cultural practices and motivated to quicken technological improvements, which, together with economic strength has presented to the world, our planet, a vision of new order and one that is clearing a path through the chaos, destruction, slaughter and liquidation abandoned by a perverted Western reality marked by instability, ruined values, faltering economies and self-deception.

  • fred

    “Yes I know it’s asking a lot, which is why we need to start talking about it now.”

    Might be better if you started listening instead.

    The SNP can’t just decide to change UK constitutional law to allow a referendum, only Westminster can do that.

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