The Time For IndyRef2 is Now – Use The Mandate, Name The Date

I was never a big fan of the comedian Bob Monkhouse. He was a Tory and supported Thatcher so that was enough to put me off him. However he did crack a particularly memorable joke that I was compelled to think about after watching the turgid BBC Politics Scotland show yesterday. Not long after the April 1992 General Election, held in the middle of an economic recession, on the back of the titanic poll tax battle and Thatcher’s forced resignation and with opinion polls consistently predicting a Labour victory, Monkhouse cackled on some Variety show:

“I see Neil Kinnock has been pronounced a Welsh wizard because he is able to seize an opportunity and make it disappear”.

Slap, bang, wallop. In one caustic joke Monkhouse ridiculed Neil Kinnock for his failure to remove the Tories from office despite months of leads in the polls, turmoil over the poll tax disaster and the onset of economic recession. Mumbling John Major defied the odds and returned an unlikely 22 seat majority giving the Tories their 4th straight election victory.

Several things arise from that sad election outcome. Primarily that there is no such thing as a sure thing at elections/referendums because opinion polls are not scientific but often skewed towards one bias or another and can be significantly wrong. The polls which predicted a victory for Remain in 2016 were wrong. The polls which predicted the wipe out of Corbyn in 2017 were wrong. The polls which said Trump had no chance in America were, tragically, wrong.

The widely lauded Scottish Social Attitudes study of January 2013 which found support for Scottish independence had fallen nine percentage points from a year earlier to only 23% was wrong The TNS opinion poll of October 2013, eleven months before the September 2014 Referendum, which stated that support for Scottish independence was “flatlining” at 25% was wrong

The Sunday Times YouGov poll of 7th September 2014 which predicted a 51% victory for YES was wrong

The point is polls are not reliable and should never be the determining factor for politicians. Politicians should be guided by principles not polls. I remember many years ago campaigning for the legalisation of cannabis. I was savaged by the mainstream media and other politicians in the Scottish Parliament because the ‘polls’ suggested such a view was unpopular. The role of politicians is surely to inform, influence and change views not accept them. Nowadays everyone and his dug believe cannabis should be legalised but it was not always the case.

Politicians of substance and character do what is right not what some pollster or collection of shiny spin doctors tell them to do.

On the Politics Scotland show yesterday Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, lambasted Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for not supporting a second European referendum:

“We need to all of us accept our responsibilities… if he (Corbyn) comes on board, if the Labour front bench comes on board, we can have that momentum for a people’s vote”.

What “momentum” Ian?

He continued:

“I think this is the logical way of dealing with this, I think it is the democratic way of doing it”.

I’m sorry Mr Blackford but that is complete and utter nonsense. Labour was part of the Remain campaign in 2016, as was the SNP. Leave won by 52% to 48% across the UK. Scotland voted Remain as did Northern Ireland. But England and Wales voted to Leave the EU. It is true that Mrs May’s Brexit deal was roundly rejected last week by a massive 230 votes but don’t forget the other votes that matter here.

On 1st February 2017, some eight months after the EU Referendum, Parliament debated and voted on the Tory Government’s European Union Bill to trigger the Article 50 negotiations to withdraw the UK from the EU by March 29th 2019. By a considerable margin, 498 to 114, Parliament voted in favour of that motion. That is a majority of 384 in favour of proceeding with Brexit in Parliament less than two years ago.

However the most significant factor of all in this debate is the snap General Election that was called by Theresa May in June 2017, almost exactly one year after the Brexit vote. The Labour and Tory parties both campaigned on a commitment to implement Brexit, the expressed will of the people of England and Wales. Between them they secured 82.4% of all the votes cast. Brexit2 was not in their manifestos. It was not in the SNP’s manifesto either. IndyRef2 was however in the SNP manifesto, as it had been in the Scottish Parliament manifesto the year before.

The only two parties which campaigned on the platform of Brexit2 were the Liberals and the Green Party. The Liberals share of the vote fell by 0.5% and the Greens vote share fell by 2.1%. The Conservative vote share rose by 5.5%, although they lost 13 seats, while Labour’s vote share rose by 9.5%, securing them an extra 30 seats .

That vote share increase under Corbyn was the largest for seventy two years. It was achieved in the face of a monstrously biased and anti-Corbyn print and electronic media. Through gritted teeth and floods of tears the BBC had to concede:

“And yet for Mr Corbyn this is a result that exceeded all expectations. Having begun the campaign 20 points behind in the polls, he has won an astonishing 40% of the votes. That is the largest increase in the share of the vote by a Labour leader since Clement Attlee in 1945” .

So we have an EU Referendum result in favour of Brexit, a Parliament vote in support of implementing the result of that referendum and a General Election result were the parties supporting the Brexit decision increased their vote shares and won over 80% of the votes cast. How on earth can Brexit2 be described as a “democratic” solution? It is actually profoundly undemocratic to the people of England and Wales.

It is also irrelevant to the people of Scotland. We were fundamentally misled in 2014. The British Establishment said the only way to stay in the EU was to reject independence. By 55% to 45% Scotland voted No but two years later Scotland voted by 62% to 38% to Remain a member of the EU. That vote will be ignored on March 29th when as part of the UK Scotland is dragged out of the EU. So why on earth is the SNP embroiling itself in an undemocratic campaign alongside disgruntled Liberals, Tories and Red Tory Labourites for Brexit2 instead of pursuing with urgency and vigour the democratic mandate you have for IndyRef2?

Mr Blackford was on the same page yesterday as arch Scottish Labour unionist Ian Murray MP who appeared on the same programme and argued for the same Brexit2 despite being elected on a Labour ticket in 2017 and rejecting the right of the Scottish people to IndyRef2.

Mr Blackford confessed he was working with Liberal leader Vince Cable, other Labour unionists and Tories in Westminster. That is a hell of an admission. Cable was in coalition with the Tories a few years ago and foisted the disgraceful bedroom tax and benefit cuts upon us while the Tories in Westminster remain committed to implementation of the shameful Universal Credit scheme and swingeing cuts to Scotland’s block grant. These are not people you should be sharing time with let alone “working alongside”.

Mr Blackford’s justification for working alongside these unionist enemies of Scotland’s independence was:

“This is a moment of constitutional crisis we should absolutely be aware of that”.

A “constitutional crisis” at Westminster is the opportunity we crave to drive home the incredibly strong case for normality and independence for Scotland not to link arms with enemies of our cause. I am for Scottish independence now, no ifs, no buts no maybes. My vision of an independent socialist Scotland, a modern democratic republic, may not be shared by all in the independence camp but I will promote that vision once our independence has been achieved.

What I cannot fathom, what I cannot countenance is why the SNP at Westminster is expending time, energy and precious media exposure on Brexit2 but not IndyRef2? The former is shorn of a democratic basis or justification while the latter is both democratically underpinned via two election victories and a Scottish Parliament vote and is the very essence of why the SNP exists.

The SNP is the independence party not the Brexit2 party. The SNP stands for the break-up of the unfair, exploitative and brutal British union not its mending. In the name of the wider and much bigger cause of independence I appeal to the SNP to stop playing Westminster politics and start pursuing the goal of independence. The mandate is on the table. It is real and was hard won. It must not be discarded. We don’t ask May for a Section 30 order to conduct IndyRef2 we demand it. If she refuses we hold the vote anyway as is our fundamental democratic right as a legitimate nation.

Many of our people simply can’t wait much longer for us to have the powers to tackle grinding poverty and grotesque inequality. Millions are struggling to get by on low pay while use of food banks is increasing every day. An early independence campaign commitment should be a 50% increase in the state pension to bring us up to near the norm in other European countries. An increase paid for by reductions in our defence expenditure as we send Trident to either a decommissioning yard or to berth on the Thames outside the Houses of Parliament. If they are so keen on it let them have it.

Just over a month ago under the headline “Save Scotland From the British Union – Not Britain From Brexit” I wrote:

“The SNP may be hesitant about ringing the bell to announce IndyRef2 in the midst of the Brexit chaos but it must quickly comprehend that Britain’s mess is not of our making and our energy has to be focused on breaking up the unfair and exploitative British union not keeping it together. Opportunities like this to face up to a weak and divided foe will not last forever” .

Yesterday in the National newspaper former First Minister and leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond, said:

“Nicola should be concentrating all her energies on the independence agenda, where we will never have better circumstances. As far as I am concerned Westminster’s Brexit difficulty should be Scotland’s opportunity. Right now the Westminster political establishment is at its weakest point in my lifetime, while the national movement is in good heart. There is not likely to be a better time to force the issue” .

On the Politics Scotland show Ian Blackford also said:

“Of course the SNP Government does have a mandate for an independence referendum that was won at the last election and of course if we do decide to ask for a Section 30 authority then we will be spelling out to the people of Scotland the vision that we have – but we need to reflect on what we have which is a government of chaos in Westminster, a government that’s threatening the economic stability of Scotland”

No more reflection Ian. No more ‘ifs’ and no more time on undemocratic Brexit2 schemes. These Tory bastards are at their weakest ever. Now is not the time for reflection and dithering now is the time to strike.

They are in chaos, they are divided and they threaten Scotland’s economic future and interests. Take them on now. Demand a Section 30 order under the strict understanding that a refusal will not be accepted and IndyRef2 will proceed with or without their ‘permission’. Use the mandate, Name the date, Go for it Nicola. Don’t allow this opportunity to disappear.

Tommy Sheridan

Posted in Tommy Sheridan's Columns.

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