One of the greatest changes in Scotland is that people have grown bored with moaners and naysayers. Don’t grumble — get it done

Irvine Welsh

Last November, this blog said:

Unless we fight back, Tory chaos and disruption will destroy us all.  One thing could move us on.  Name the date now for an independence referendum. 

And then, this May:

We need to aim for the higher goal of independence and we need a target date to get things moving.  ‘Mon Nicola, name the day – now!

Just seven weeks later, the call was answered.  The First Minister announced that Scotland will vote in an independence referendum on Thursday 19 October 2023. 

Watch out for more prophetic demands from STAGE LEFT: the new PM agrees to Section 30 of the Scotland Act, transferring to Holyrood the power to hold the referendum; the YES side wins with 70% of the vote; Scotland votes to become a republic. 

You never know, but file those – for now – under wishful thinking…

Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement was bold and surprising.  She didn’t merely give the date, but also a route map with Plans B and C – a pre-emptive pitch to the Supreme Court, plus the backstop of a plebiscitary election.

This takes the initiative, shifting the power of decision to the Scottish people.  It also puts Westminster and the Unionists on the back foot. They can no longer bang on about process and London not allowing the Scottish government to realise its mandate.  They might even have to make the case for the Union to continue – if they can.

The move didn’t only confound the NO side.  Many pro-indy voices failed to see it coming. The unexpected always happens when you least expect it. 

Even sceptics have responded positively to the gumption behind the move. Craig Murray, for instance, urged all independence supporters to drop any grudges and get with the programme. Now is the time to work wholeheartedly for Independence; criticism from armchair generals is not helpful.

Smart as Nicola’s gambit is, it’s bound to need a massive grassroots campaign to empower a shift from the status quo and create a better Scotland.  

Bereft of a positive argument, the NO side will play dirtier than ever.  We need to persuade undecided or soft NO voters of the essential normality of independence.  Our case turns on hard specifics on currency, industry and the economy. 

But it also needs vision, ambition and creativity to lift us out of the present deadlock and into the future.  We must strive for a Scotland not just free of the UK, but also fit to challenge the gaps in power and wealth.  As Tony Benn often reminded us, radical change comes only through popular struggle and extra-parliamentary activity. 

We can’t simply look to Holyrood and the party system to win independence.  We know from 2014 how vital campaigning, canvassing and conversations on the streets, doorsteps and halls are to engaging people in the push for a new, potent and democratic settlement.

Bring it on!

Paul Bassett


July 2022

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