IT’S been reported this week in the news that we’re not going to get an independence referendum in 2017. According to reports, Nicola Sturgeon has firmly ruled it out. This is news in the same way that it’s news that the Scotland fitba team isn’t about to win the World Cup any time soon, or that Murdo Fraser keeps saying daft things on Twitter, or that BBC Scotland isn’t going to receive any cash from a crowdfunding campaign organised by Wings Over Scotland.
In order to gauge the approximate degree of public expectation of an independence referendum this year, I did a completely unscientific poll by asking a random group of punters in the Barlanark branch of Scotmid. And then I filtered their responses through the medium of interpretive dad dancing, which makes it as accurate and as sane as the interpretations put on any other poll that’s appeared in the press of late.
As a result, I discovered that the only person who expected there to be an independence referendum in 2017 also expected that this would be the year during which Ruth Davidson would be unmasked as a reptilian extraterrestrial from Alpha Centauri.
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This individual’s response was met with general hilarity from the other shoppers, in general agreement that Ruth is really a reptilian extraterrestrial from the Kepler system. The consensus was that she must have been hatched on a planet where it’s normal for unemployed 35-year-olds to live with their parents because they don’t qualify for the full rate of Housing Benefit.
The other consensus was that most people wish Ruth would stop going on about independence and get back to her day job, which is persuading her bosses in Westminster to stop saying stuff that makes the pound collapse just before we go on our holidays.
No one seriously believed that there was going to be an independence referendum in 2017, except maybe a couple of people on Twitter who also believe that Vladimir Putin is an upstanding defender of democracy and that Ruth Davidson really is an alien. Oh wait, that second bit is true.
However, the Unionist media has a compulsion to characterise the entire independence movement by the utterances of a handful of random, and probably drunk, punters on Twitter. Attempts by the independence movement to do the same thing with Unionism are met with howls of outrage, even though the minority of extremist nutters on the Unionist side are more numerous and more vocal and certainly more prone to espousing racism and sectarianism.
We were told that the Furst Meenister has ruled out an independence referendum just a week after a poll, which wasn’t filtered through the medium of interpretive dad dancing, showed that a large majority of Scottish voters oppose holding a referendum this year, as though the two events were somehow causally linked.
As all first year science students, but not journalists apparently, know, correlation is not causation. The sun rises every morning after Michael Gove has had a bowel movement the night before. There’s a perfect correlation, but that doesn’t mean that sunrises are caused by the mighty power of Michael’s bum. Even if he does think that the sun shines out of it.
If I’d been asked in that poll if I wanted an independence referendum this year, I’d have said no too. The reason I’d have said no has everything to do with tactics, and doesn’t remotely imply that my support for independence is waning. Nicola Sturgeon’s support for independence isn’t waning either, and neither is her grasp of tactics.
She wants another referendum when the Yes campaign is going to win – that won’t be until we know what sort of Brexit we’re in for.
It’s in the interests of the Unionist parties and their media friends to create the impression that Nicola Sturgeon is as certain about holding another referendum as Ruth Davidson is to accept an invite to speak at a meeting of UFO abductees. Although to be fair she probably would if they had a tank. They want to discourage independence supporters, and whip up faux outrage amongst Unionists about the supposed SNP U-turns.
Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had no end of Sturgeon backtracks on indyref stories, each one based on wilfully misconstruing something that she’s said in an interview. The truth is that she’s been saying the same thing ever since the Brexit vote last summer: if the UK doesn’t protect Scottish interests in the EU and the Single Market, if the UK insists upon a hard Brexit and won’t allow or support a Scottish opt-in, then that will be cause for another independence referendum.
That’s real causation, not causation of the Michael Gove backside variety.
Theresa May’s comments over the past week or so have made it clear that she’s not interested in any special deals for Scotland, that she’s hell-bent on a hard Brexit and she doesn’t care what effect it has on the fragile bonds holding the UK together. So there’s going to be another independence referendum. It’s just a matter of timing. It’s a matter of tactics.
One tactic that’s vitally important is for those of us who support independence to make it known that independence is not just an SNP project. An independence movement cannot ever be the property of a single political party, not the SNP, not the Greens, not RISE, not Labour for Independence.
Independence is a project belonging to everyone in Scotland, from all parties and none, and that means we don’t need to wait for anyone’s permission to start campaigning for independence. We need to demonstrate that there is an appetite and a demand for independence before any official campaign begins.
The more we can demonstrate support, the more likely an official campaign becomes, the more likely it is that we’ll win that campaign.
We’re not going to get an independence referendum in 2017, but one is definitely happening. The time for another referendum isn’t here yet, but the time to start campaigning to win it is here.