It’s more than two years now since we published this article, but it’s worth quickly going over it again, because there’s nothing on Earth more tedious than boneheads on social media going “Oh, you slag off the SNP but what’s YOUR plan if you’re so clever?”, who haven’t bothered to read any of the dozen times we’ve already answered that question since 25 months ago.
This is it. This is our plan. Try listening this time, thickos.
Dissolve the Scottish Parliament and force a general election. This is very easily done within the current rules, despite what the terrified, panicking cowards of the SNP and some of Scotland’s more clueless mainstream media hacks will try to tell you. All that’s required is for Nicola Sturgeon to resign and for the election of a replacement to be blocked by the pro-independence parties who have 72 of the Parliament’s 129 seats.
The above, as we’ve already noted and entirely as we’d expect from Scottish political journalists, is simply completely and embarrassingly factually incorrect. The standing orders of the Scottish Parliament very explicitly DO allow MSPs to vote against a First Ministerial candidate as well as for one.
Even if some sort of procedural semantic chicanery (something we addressed in our previous piece) was to somehow result in a Unionist being elected as the new FM, as erroneously suggested by Mr Farquharson above, the SNP and Greens would still command a comfortable majority of votes in the chamber and could simply bring the new government down via an immediate vote of no confidence.
(Although even if Sarwar or whoever got himself elected FM, the chances he’d have been able to form a government in the first place are basically nil, since the Ministers of that government also have to be voted through by the Parliament.)
So it is, and this cannot be emphasised enough, a foolproof plan. Under the Scotland Act and the Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament, there is NO outcome of Nicola Sturgeon resigning that does not end in a general election. So remember this: the SNP and Greens can trigger an election at any time they choose to from today onwards.
The pro-independence parties all run the election on the same manifesto comprising the text below. (The paragraphs in italics are optional and only add clarity.)
We believe that the Scottish people are sovereign, and we hereby announce our intention to declare Scotland independent and submit that intention to the will of the people in this election for their approval.
Accordingly, if pro-independence parties should secure more than 50% of the constituency votes in this election, we will consider that a clear mandate to withdraw from the Treaty Of Union, declare Scotland to once more be an independent state, and seek recognition from the international community on the basis of Chapter 1, Article 1 of the UN Charter, the right of all peoples to self-determination, that self-determination having been expressed by this vote.
Should the UK Government wish, we are willing to confirm that mandate via a referendum, to be held no later than three months from the date of the election, on the same question as that used in 2014. If no such referendum is requested or conducted, the declaration of independence based on the election result will automatically be considered to stand.
Upon the secure establishment of independence, a new general election will be called immediately.
With regard to other policies, our current positions on all issues remain unchanged, and all future legislation will be brought before the Parliament, debated and voted on in the normal manner.
And that’s it. You win the vote, you have a legitimate democratic mandate to declare that Scotland rescinds the Treaty Of Union, citing the Claim Of Right in support, noting the UK government’s refusal to provide any other peaceful democratic route, and you ask the international community to recognise that fact.
Clearly, a unilateral declaration is much less clean and tidy as a solution than a Section 30 referendum, but it’s a time-honoured method by which many nations have achieved their independence and there are no other credible options remaining now that the legal route has been extinguished. We have absolutely nothing left to lose.
The specific beauty of doing it via a Holyrood election rather than a UK one is that it disarms the argument “Oh, but the Unionists and media will refuse to treat a general election as a referendum”.
In the case of a UK general election that is in fact quite a strong argument, because while – as noted by Sir John Curtice the other day – it’s wholly legitimate for a party to stand for election on a single issue, Scotland is only 8% of the UK population and so the media will be fully and properly entitled to focus on other issues most of the time. It’s hard to win a campaign when your only policy is almost never discussed.
But in an election in Scotland only, in which most of the seats in the Parliament will be decided on the basis of that single issue, the media and the other parties cannot simply pretend it isn’t happening.
Holyrood’s dual ballot system also defuses the claim that using the election as a de facto referendum belies the other serious issues facing the country. Because if you’re using the list vote as a “normal” one while using the constituency ballot as your referendum, you still end up with a multi-party Parliament broadly reflecting the political choices of the country as normal.
(Because that’s the entire point of the list vote.)
In the 2021 Holyrood election, the SNP swept the vast majority of constituency seats, other than a few enclaves of Tories in the borders and Lib Dems in the Northern Isles.
Given current polling that would be almost certain to be replicated if the constituency vote was counted as a plebiscite election, because the SNP’s 45% of support is plenty to win almost every seat under FPTP.
And even if it wasn’t (eg if Unionists fully embraced the de facto referendum idea and voted 100% tactically for whichever Unionist party was in second place), the list would balance out any changes, using the 1.1m list votes for the SNP that were almost completely wasted last year.
(More than half of the SNP’s seats in their first ever Holyrood victory – 26 out of 47 – were list seats.)
So the Holyrood electoral system specifically enables the election to be used as a proxy referendum without causing any significant distortion to normal politics. It’s possible for the indy parties to both have their cake and eat it, and for them to do so right now, not in two years’ time.
Using a Westminster election has none of those advantages, AND is significantly arithmetically harder to win because you don’t get 16/17-year-olds or EU citizens, both of whom lean towards independence. It is a stupendously obviously inferior alternative. In fact, it’s a straight-up terrible one.
It is simply inconceivable that the SNP doesn’t know all of this. Of course it does. So ask yourselves, SNP loyalists, why your party is ostensibly pursuing a dreadful plan riddled with huge gaping holes a child could point out (and which Unionists certainly will), and refusing to countenance what even a blind drunk idiot or Alex Cole-Hamilton would recognise as a much better one.
Perhaps also ask yourselves why the party is going through the farcical pantomime of “debating” the issue in several months’ time, when its own deputy leader has publicly announced that the matter has already been decided and one of the only two options has been discounted.
It’s almost as if, a cynical person might think, they were deliberately trying to damp down and take the heat out of the situation rather than exploit people’s entirely justified anger at the Supreme Court ruling, which currently gives a Yes vote a huge lead.
Or to put it more succinctly – why do you think the SNP seem so determined to lose?