In the most recent findings from the Panelbase poll commissioned by James Kelly of the Scot Goes Pop blog, a massive 63% of the Scottish public would support a plebiscite election on independence should the British Government refuse to concede to a Section 30 order. This would be an election where the pro-independence parties are not standing on a manifesto of asking for a mandate for an independence referendum, but rather are standing to ask for a mandate for independence itself.
I am especially pleased by this finding, as it’s something I’ve been arguing for for some years. At some point the intransigence of the British Government will have to be confronted head on and in my view a plebiscite election is the best way to achieve this. It’s perfectly legal. It doesn’t require the permission of Downing Street or anyone else. It’s entirely controlled and directed within Scotland. And the British nationalist parties can’t boycott it.
There are other ways to overcome a blanket refusal from Westminster of course. Most obviously there could be a referendum without a Section 30 order. It’s worth repeating here that anyone who tells you that a referendum without a Section 30 order would be unlawful is not citing a legal fact, they’re giving you a political opinion. The only legal fact about a referendum without a Section 30 order is that its legal status is unknown. There are good legal arguments both for and against the lawfulness of a consultative referendum on independence without a Section 30 order. There is currently a private action wending its way through the courts which aims to test this. We can only watch with interest.
The biggest difficulty with a referendum without a Section 30 order is that the British nationalist parties may decide to boycott it. That would make it very difficult for the referendum to attain the legitimacy it needs to provide a mandate for negotiating independence with Westminster. One thing you can be sure of is that the overwhelmingly anti-independence media in Scotland will do its utmost to ensure that people don’t turn out to vote, undermining the referendum and making it more difficult for us to achieve a yes vote that would represent a convincing victory even if the British nationalist parties had participated.
None of this is an issue with an election where the pro-independence parties are asking the electorate for a mandate for independence itself. It can’t be boycotted by the anti-independence parties because if they did so they would have zero representation in the Scottish Parliament. It doesn’t require the permission of anyone in Downing Street and is perfectly legal. But most importantly of all it puts the anti-independence parties at a major campaigning disadvantage. They’re going to be put in the uncomfortable position of arguing that Scotland is a valued and respected member of a union while at the same time having to defend the actions of a British Government which by its repeated refusal to respect the mandate for a referendum given by the Scottish people to Holyrood has shown nothing but contempt for the democratic will of the people of this country.
A victory in this election for the independence parties would have to be a victory in both terms of seats won and of share of the vote in order to be incontestable. However recent polling has already shown that the pro-independence parties are on course to do this, and it’s a goal that could be even easier to achieve if the Labour party in Scotland splits into pro and anti independence factions.
What the recent poll conclusively shows is that the Scottish public would support this strategy as a means to bringing about a vote on independence if Westminster refuses to agree to a Section 30 order. 63% of those who expressed an opinion said they’d back it. However there are additionally a large number of don’t knows. With don’t knows included the figures are 49% support the idea, 29% reject it, and 22% don’t know. This is why it’s so important to ensure that the Scottish Government bends over backwards to achieve an absolutely impeccable mandate for another referendum that cannot be questioned or doubted by any reasonable person. We have to ensure that the 22% don’t knows break heavily in favour of support for a plebiscite vote.
Yes, I can hear you say, the Scottish Government already has piled up mandate after mandate and we’ve got nowhere. And you’d be perfectly correct to point that out. I share your frustration. However as this blog has repeatedly argued, the likes of you and me are not the people who need to be persuaded. It’s the 22% who don’t know whether they’d support the idea of turning an election into a de facto referendum. If the SNP and other pro-indy parties do manage to achieve a decisive and resounding victory in the next Scottish elections, and the British Government still refuses to agree to a Section 30 order, then it’s highly likely that the 22% don’t knows will come round to the idea of supporting a direct vote. That increases the legitimacy of the vote, and makes it far more likely that the international community and the British Government will be unable to ignore the result.
There has been some dissatisfaction with the comments of the SNP Deputy Leader Keith Brown to this poll finding. He merely reiterated the existing Scottish Government policy of pursuing a referendum that’s going to be recognised. Some people were unhappy that he didn’t enthusiastically embrace the idea of a plebiscite election, but it’s important to note that he didn’t rule it out either.
What he actually said was : “The process by which we choose Scotland’s future must be capable of actually achieving independence.” A plebiscite election which produces a majority for yes would do that. “It must allow majority support to be expressed clearly and unambiguously.” A plebiscite election where there’s a majority in both vote share and seats won for the pro-indy parties would do that. “It must be legal. And it must have the recognition of the international community.” A plebiscite election would be perfectly legal, and the international community would recognise the result as it would be a vote carried out within the legal and constitutional structures of the UK. It’s not like a Catalan vote where the Spanish Constitution expressly prohibits parts of the Spanish state asking directly about independence.
Finally, it’s important not to confuse a plebiscite election with UDI. It’s a very different proposition. A successful outcome in a plebiscite election would give the Scottish Government a mandate to negotiate independence with Westminster. That means that independence would be achieved with the recognition of the British state, which is crucial if other states are to recognise the independence of the new Scottish state.
However the Scottish Government isn’t going to rush to embrace a Plan B right now. They’re still on Plan A. They’re still trying to ensure that those soft voters and undecideds are persuaded. On this blog yesterday someone left a comment to the effect that we need to stop pandering to undecided voters. That’s precisely how to lose a vote. It’s only by ensuring that undecided voters break for yes that we’ll win independence. And that means, frustrating as it is, bending over backwards to get them on board with us.
However we all know that at some point the intransigence of the British Government is going to be confronted head on. This poll gives us a little more confidence that there’s the public appetite to break the impasse. And that in turn, combined with a resounding victory in the next Holyrood elections, will help to boost the resolve of the Scottish Government to respond to Westminster’s obstinacy with some obstinacy of its own. One thing is for sure, we’re in for a roller coaster ride.
A friend phoned me in tears this morning as she’d heard via FaceBook that the dug had died. I’d just like to reassure everyone that Ginger is fit and healthy – albeit a bit stiff from his mild arthritis. I’ve not been able to track down the FaceBook post that gave her the idea that the dug was dead, however this happened once before and it turned out to be a perfectly innocent misunderstanding. However if you have heard recently that the dug has died, you can take it from the dug’s mouth that he’s perfectly happy and well.
Annual Dug Funder
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