The roadmap to a second independence referendum

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The commitment to a referendum will be, must be in the SNP manifesto

Politicians all over the world must look upon Nicola Sturgeon with a certain degree of jealousy. The party she leads is riding phenomenally high in the polls, despite being well past the traditional second term dip, and she herself is universally popular. 56 out of 59 Westminster MPs is unprecedented and the opposition parties are down, the Liberals almost out and Scottish Labour are one misstep away from joining them on the political scrapheap.

Whilst the SNP deals with running one country and running the main opposition in another, they also have to navigate their way through what many seem to think is the policy conundrum of a lifetime. They have to decide whether to add a commitment to holding a second independence referendum in the SNP Manifesto for Holyrood 2016. The SNP’s track record is pretty good if not all gold, however, by comparison with the alternative, it looks like there is no alternative and it’s hard to see past an SNP Government reforming in 2016. This is what has the unionists vexed and what’s driving the second referendum pantomime – trust me it’s not behind you!  The commitment to a referendum will be, must be in the SNP manifesto; the only question is how heavily caveated that commitment will sit. It should be worded in a way that makes it more of an option rather than a commitment. A majority SNP Government must be able to call a referendum at the point of its choosing, as and when circumstances demand. In other words, the SNP need the ability to call another referendum if they think they can win and not if they don’t. Unionists will cry foul, they will say “that’s unfair”; but that’s politics and no more unfair than a Tory majority with only one seat in Scotland.

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The Edinburgh agreement defined the route to independence

The Edinburgh agreement defined the route to independence through a referendum and set the precedent that a majority Scottish Government can call a referendum. For David Cameron to say no to another referendum under those circumstances would be the death of the union, an iron-clad case study of an assault on Scottish democracy that would send support for independence through the roof. However, imagine the SNP manifesto has no option on a new plebiscite and the circumstances change demanding a referendum with Yes sitting at 60% in the polls. The SNP having no referendum mandate would mean Cameron has a democratic right to say no and the opportunity will be lost.

People who think there won’t be an option (not commitment) for referendum two don’t understand the SNP. The SNP’s raison d’être is prosperity and wellbeing for the people of Scotland and independence as a means to that end.  In other words, an SNP manifesto without a commitment to independence isn’t an SNP manifesto. There is a lot in the press about the SNP not wanting to debate a second referendum at its conference, obviously not – the issue would dominate the whole conference and the answer would be yes. So if I was the SNP I would give the answer and full wording on the final day of the conference and have senior figures hint at it for weeks in advance, meaning the conference will be the number one news item UK wide every day.

The only real argument for leaving it out is the fact that victory in a referendum at this point is not 100% guaranteed – so let’s make sure we win. The tactical considerations are clear. When will all the unionist parties be collectively down and unable to campaign effectively for the union again? What about a revived Labour under Corbyn? If he wins, Labour will have essentially re-elected Michael Foot. He might gain some early rhetoric-based respect from Scottish Labour voters but as soon as his leftish backers demand policies on higher taxes, public ownership, curbing the banking system, and he looks to implement nuclear disarmament etc. The majority of Blairite MPs will go into open revolt and those policies will lose England. With an unelectable UK Labour Prime Ministerial candidate, the whole Labour unity message will fade, removing one of the last barriers to a yes vote. If Burnham or Cooper leads Labour then we are back to Labour as a watered-down Tory party that is irrelevant to Scotland.

We know where the campaigning problems were in 2014 and it will take a while to develop a policy platform to ensure that currency, the economy, pensions become huge positives for the Yes campaign and a fully developed and costed positive Vision for Scotland needs to be in place to dominate the debate. We would also have to wait for the EU referendum and so the earliest possible date for referendum 2 would be 2020, assuming the next Scottish elections will be extended to 2021. Would Labour be willing to lead a No campaign again the year before a Scottish election? That might see their light go out for good, regardless of the result. Any chance to offer more powers is a once-only card and has been played badly.

The worst case scenario on oil has happened and the sky didn't fall in

The worst case scenario on oil has happened and the sky didn’t fall in

The worst-case scenario on oil has happened and the sky didn’t fall in, the Scottish economy is growing, today the IMF has stated that low oil prices are an aid to growing our economy! So despite the current pain for North Sea workers being laid off, oil production is up for the first time in years; 41 new exploration licences have been awarded for oil and gas operations in the North Sea and BP is making $1 billion investment (£670 million) to extend the economic life of its North Sea assets. The worst that could happen on oil has happened and the price can only go up between now and another referendum, there is no scare story there.

The only fly in the ointment is the unionist media; one daily and one weekend newspaper supporting independence really needs to be supplemented by at least one more daily tabloid and something needs to be done about the BBC. A fully devolved BBC Scotland must be a line in the sand for the SNP; It should be Scottish focussed, fully 100% neutral, politically and constitutionally. If continues to be run from London then it will continue to have an unacceptable institutional Westminster bias despite the efforts of many of its Scottish staff.

In my life the independence case has never been stronger the independence movement has never been more motivated and independence never closer nor so inevitable, how could the SNP possibly leave an option to have a referendum out of their manifesto?

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About the author

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is the Founder and Chief Executive of Business for Scotland. Before becoming CEO of Business for Scotland Gordon ran a business strategy and social media, sales & marketing consultancy.

With a degree in business, marketing and economics, Gordon has worked as an economic development planning professional, and in marketing roles specialising in pricing modelling and promotional evaluation for global companies (including P&G).

Gordon benefits (not suffers) from dyslexia, and is a proponent of the emerging New Economics School. Gordon contributes articles to Business for Scotland, The National and Believe in Scotland.


  • You know when the majority of the Scottish electorate voted No to independence, only a few months ago? Beforehand, we were told by the representatives of the SNP, that the result would be the settled will of the Scottish people and would be honoured as such for at least a generation. So if we now had an indyref2 with the full agreement of the current SNP leadership as you are suggesting, and so soon after the last referendum, would this mean Salmond and Sturgeon were being dishonest, or incompetent?

    The nation was asked the question of independence and the nation said No, so why do you find it so hard to accept the democratic and settled will of the people?


    • 1) No politician can ether force or deny the Scottish people an option to vote on their constitutional future.

      2) The SNP have no plans to call a referendum.

      3) I have suggested that the SNP should give themselves the option to call a referendum incase there is a major shift in circumstances such may include Scotland voting to stay in the EU but being forced out by the weight of English no votes – or the Scottish people coming to the shared and clearly majority held view that the powers on offer constitute and significant breaking of the Vow / perceived offer of more powers on which the No vote was secured. The SNP should give itself the option to call a referendum if there is such a material change to the constitutional arrangement that the No Vote delivered.

      • So Alex Salmond was lying, as he didn’t have the authority to speak for the SNP and people voted based on what he said about the settled will of the the electorate.

        The SNP have no plans to call for a referendum, but you want them to have one in their manifesto?? You also don’t want it raised discussed until the last day of conference. Presumably about 5 minutes before the end so it’s not discussed.

        Who decides that the “vow” hasn’t been delivered? A poll taken of SNP voters?

        • Alex Salmond offered an opinion and although he did have the authority to speak for the SNP (in offering an opinion) he did not have the authority to ban all future referendums no politician does.

          I was quite clear that I do not want them to have a referendum commitment in their manifesto but an option to have one if there is a material change that merits one. It doesn’t need discussed unless they are planning to have no option – you don’t need to debate including a core belief in your manifesto unless you want to change it.

          No the people of Scotland will decide there will be no referendum unless a clear majority of the people in Scotland want one. Promises of more powers were decisive the Vow itself was just one of many of those promises but it was a clear confirmation of the past promises to shore up a shaky no vote.

          • Page 556 of the White Paper – “It is the view of the current Scottish Government that a
            referendum is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.” Or is that an opinion?

          • Thanks that makes my point very clear type “opinion” or “view” into a thesaurus you will see that they are synonyms of each other. As far as I can tell it is still their view / opinion and have clearly stated that another referendum prior to a generational gap would require a material change in circumstances – I agree with that. All I have said in my article is that if such a material change were to happen and there was no option under such circumstances to hold a referendum then they wouldn’t be able to do so.

            Thanks for proving my point with the very clear quote from the white paper.

      • In order for it to be cast iron they would have needed to call it a vow!

    • Alex Salmond made the “once in a generation event” statement not the party
      as to settled will that included a promise of a vow delivery that has been seen nothing but back pedaling and not even full implementation of their own report.

  • A well thought-out document. The biggest mistake we can make is to go for a second referendum before we can guarantee to win it – which point we are certainly nowhere near. A second defeat so soon after the first would be an absolute disaster for both the SNP and the country.

    Time is on our side. Time to successfully implement whatever changes eventually come from “Smith”, Time to show that the country is in good hands with the SNP and Time to set up all the levers of power so that when the country does eventually vote for complete independence (which it assuredly will) we will be in a position to create a highly successful country without years of change-over problems.

    Certainly a commitment to a second referendum must be in the manifesto. Considering what the aims and objectives of the SNP are, it would be strange if it were omitted.

    But the correct timing of this second referendum is essential. A second referendum in itself is not the aim, a fully independent Scotland is – and if that takes a few years to guarantee, then so be it.

    • I like your positive thinking.
      Meanwhile, we need to strip the cloak of objectivity from some sections of the media, let the public consider them non-neutral.

  • Good article, as ever.
    I think we should also consider that Corbyn might ‘sell out’, however reluctantly, for power.

  • Here is a wee thought.

    The SNP should have in the 2016 manifesto an ability to hold a refeerendum to negotiate FFA (suitably defined) and if it is not delivered within a set period, or Westminster palays silly buggeres then they will hold a referendium om independence.

    It has the advantage of puting the heat on Westminster to come up with the goods and FFA would certainly pull in some who wavered last time. A lack of engagement from Westminster would help many of them over the line to independence?

  • A National Socialist Party,with no opposition!We’ve seen that somewhere before in Europe.
    Criticism of Ms.Sturgeon is already immediately rubbished.
    Independence at the cost of democracy and free speech.
    No thanks!

    • Paul you insult your own intelligence with that comment. The SNP is pro immigration – pro EU – pro gay marriage – has Muslim minster – argues for EU referendum to include non UK citizens when the Tories want to exclude them – oh i can’t be bothered…

      Every time someone make a statement like yours it makes voters realise that those who criticise the SNP in this way have nothing worth listening to – sneering doesn’t win votes. Why don’t you post something with comments about polices rather than just ill thought through prejudices.

      • ‘Civic nationalism’ is a thin veil for ‘nationalism’ – the SNP rhetoric is virtually identical to all other Nationalist rhetoric – we are different from our neighbours, we don’t want to share sovereignty with our neighbours, we don’t trust our neighbours, we want to be governed by ‘ourselves’.
        By creating the ‘civic’ disguise we are saying Nationalism is ok. Nationalism is not ok – Scotland should be at the forefront of helping people worldwide who are oppressed and bullied by nationalism. We should not be appologists for mild / civic nationalism.

  • If indeed there is another referendum, the currency issue has to be explored thoroughly.
    Standing at a safe distance watching events unfold in Greece should make people realise that without a sovereign currency a state isn’t truly independent.

    The other interesting events unfolding are Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to be labour leader and his policy on QE for the people – a policy which has been recommended by a number of leading economists over the last few years.

    this should help to dispell this myth pedalled by the neo-liberal about the scarcety of Fiat money.

    Lots of stuff to take on board. Maybe next time the chancellor will be demanding that we stay in a currency union!

    • During the campaign every time i was asked int he media about plan B i said other plans can work for Scotland but just won’t work as well for the rest of the UK. I always knew that our own currency was perfectly viable option. Also are you aware that for a very long time I have been an advocate of QE for the people and last month wrote a newspaper column about it hers is the BFS version

      • No I wasn’t aware and will enjoy reading it thanks!
        I’m hoping that the snp in some capacity are talking seriously about this option.

        • Not now for sure I always said a sovereign currency could also be made to work for Scotland. Euro if it sorts itself out restricts its membership more along the lines of an optimum currency zone then in a generation or two it would become an option again.

      • Really good article, bordering on a blueprint. Only part missing is need to improve our financial and currency arguments, or more so improve how it is communicated – economic position despite oil prices is news to me, this should be heralded to all soft No voters.

        This of course is very much in line with your stated need for a red top to support (Previous record indicates they’d have no qualms in shamelessly switching sides on an argument and still claim to be authorative voice of support! For once, I’d be happy for them claim this all they want!)

        Devolved BBC is definitely needed, and I’d further this by regionalising further so all of Scotland represented, and instead of a Scottish region of UK, the de facto is, there is no UK, it’s Scotland and separate regions of Scotland.

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