Today Nicola Sturgeon spoke to the Scottish Parliament about her plans for another independence referendum. There had been rumours that she was going to shelve the referendum, even that it would be taken off the table like a plate of salmonella. What happened was that she clarified what she’d originally said when a second independence referendum was first mooted, that it would take place once the outcome of Brexit becomes clear. The speech today was a clarification of process, not a change in policy no matter how much the Unionist media would like it to have been otherwise.
However that didn’t stop the more frothing end of the Unionist media claim that the dream of independence had been killed off. Now the independence movement knows how Mark Twain felt after a newspaper mistakenly published his obituary when the author was very much alive and well. “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” he replied. Or in the case of the Express whose headline screamed “Nicola Sturgeon kills off Scottish independence dream after admitting she got it WRONG”, with capital letters and everything because that makes it more true, reports of the death of Scottish independence have been hand knitted out of wishful thinking, fond hopes, and fake news. As U-turns go it’s not much of a U turn, more of a capital I. But still, it does allow the Express to retain its title as “Newspaper least likely to have a clue what’s going on in Scotland”, and it’s a field with plenty of competition. The Scottish Unionist press awards ceremony is held every year in Brigadoon, although the Express can never find it due to the fog it creates.
What really happened today was that Nicola Sturgeon made it clear that she won’t seek the legislation for another independence referendum until autumn 2018, by which time the country will have a clearer idea of the enormity of the Brexit disaster that’s about to befall the UK. BBC Radio Scotland and the Guardian were reporting this statement as meaning that independence is being “shelved”, which is true, but only in the sense that there’s not going to be another independence referendum until the time that everyone who wants one was originally proposing to have one anyway. After Brexit has screwed the British government, and when we’re going to win it, in other words. So it’s not really a shelf but more of a coffee table. Independence remains within reach, and it remains in the centre of the Scottish politics room. The mandate for another independence referendum remains undiminished.
In the meantime the Scottish government is going to focus on trying to ensure that Scotland gets a Brexit deal that’s fit for purpose. They’re going to speak up for Scotland and argue the case for Scotland to have a seat at the Brexit negotiations, to retain our place in the Single Market, to ensure that it’s not forgotten that Scotland voted to remain in the EU by a larger margin than it voted to remain a part of the UK. That uncomfortable fact has been conveniently overlooked by the Unionist parties of late. We cannot allow them to forget it.
Brexit isn’t shaping up well. The British government is mired in even more confusion than it was before Theresa May took her selfish and ill-fated decision to hold a snap general election. Her government is weakened and discredited, relying on a bunch of homophobic misogynist sectarian bigots in order to prop up the government of what we’re always being told is the progressive and forward looking UK that Scotland needs in order to guarantee that we won’t fall back into Braveheartish atavism. No one has the foggiest idea of what the British government wants to get from Brexit, least of all the British government. The chances that the UK will crash out of the EU without any deal at all are greater than they ever were. We’re in dangerously uncertain times. Over the next 18 months the Scottish government is going to fight Scotland’s corner, fighting for a bit of sanity in this insane state. Good luck to them, they’re going to need it.
The most welcome part of Nicola Sturgeon’s speech was her commitment to working with the wider independence movement. The Scottish government is going to spend the next 18 months or so focusing on trying get the British government to take Scotland’s voice into account, and to ensuring that Scotland gets a seat at the Brexit negotiations. It’s up to the wider Yes movement to build the case for independence and to ensure that by the time that Brexit comes crashing down on top of an arrogant and complacent Westminster that the clamour for independence rings loud across Scotland. Our job is to tell the story of the better country of a Scotland that’s not afraid to grasp the thistle, to take its own destiny into its own hands, to be a country fit for dreams, a land that grows hope, a place of a people at peace with themselves and sure of their place in the wider world. A land that’s confident and outward looking, the Scotland that we can only achieve by freeing ourselves from the puppet strings of a Westminster that’s lost its way and lost its head.
We’ve got a lot of work to do. What we have learned over the past couple of years is that we won’t win independence like winning a lottery. It takes work, it takes hard graft, it takes the slog of a long campaign, the effort of an entire nation. I’m always saying, and I’ll say it again because it can never be forgotten – Scotland needs party politics in order to achieve an independence referendum, but Scotland will not win its independence referendum with party politics. Only a broad based mass movement can win independence, and that movment won’t magically spring into being. It takes commitment, it takes time, it takes energy, it takes enthusiasm.
Over the coming months I’ll be speaking at events all over Scotland, doing my wee bit to enthuse, engage, persuade, and persevere. It’s vital that we get local indy groups energised and active, taking the message of independence into their local communities, joining the dots and making the links, showing the difference between the powerless of Scotland in Brexit, and the determined self-determination of a country that forges its own destiny. If you’d like me and the dug to come along to your local group, get in touch at the email address below or contact me on Twitter. It’s up to us now, but then it always had been. The people who will win independence for Scotland will be the people of Scotland. Independence means doing things for yourself, let’s do this for ourselves, for our children, and for generations yet to come. Let’s write Scottish history, and become a part of the story that we tell.
If you’d like me and the dug to come and give a talk to your local group, email me at email@example.com
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