Independence is Within Our Grasp

Common Weal releases its first policy paper of 2020. Within Our Grasp looks at the current political landscape and the deadlock over a second independence referendum and lays out a blueprint to break that deadlock and achieve Scottish independence within three years.

The policy paper can be read in full here.

A summary of the paper can be read here.

The independence movement is now at a crucial juncture. For five years many people believed there was a straight line from where we were to independence via a referendum agreed with the UK Government, awaiting only an electoral mandate. Too much faith was placed in a straight-line path opening up; the history of social and political change  suggests there are very few occasions where it occurs in simple ways or by following a route which it was possible to identify at the outset. Social and political change is almost always found at the end of more complicated and less straightforward paths.

The independence movement should not have assumed that there was any likelihood of a process which involved asking for a referendum from a position of minority support in the polls, that referendum being granted and then won in the space of six months with minimal preparation. It may have been reassuring to believe in a quick and simple shortcut that delivered the outcome that was so desired but the biggest impact of holding that belief has been to suppress a much-needed focus on preparation.

The first stage of this plan will involve taking the UK to court to clarify the UK Constitution with regard to the ability to hold a referendum without a Section 30 order. This may or may not win so should not be relied upon as the end-point.

Simultaneously, public sentiment should be built up around support for independence and support for the ramping up of pressure on Westminster. No escalation in the pressure campaign can take place without public support.

The next stage in the campaign is an escalation of the public mockery of the Wesminster Government whenever it makes an appearance in Scotland – similar to events seen during the last stages of the 2014 referendum campaign. The goal is to both make Scotland appear ungovernable from Westminster and to make Westminster incapable of governing Scotland. Independence becomes possible when the “pain” of letting go becomes less than the “pain” of holding on.

The next stage in escalation would be “civil obedience”. This can include complying with UK laws in infuriating ways such as paying taxes in copper coins or disrupting the UK Parliament by fillibustering bills and creative use of points-of-order and other procedures to crash the legislative system.

The pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament can also pass laws which infuriate pro-Union parties. A recent example could be the passing of legislation to fly the EU flag post-Brexit. Or radically reforming land ownership to the disadvantage of Conservative landowners.

The Scottish Government could even make creative use of powers devolved to the Scottish Government since the 2014 referendum. A hugely symbolic example could be the powers over road signs to make Scotland’s roads visually distinctive from those in the rest of the UK.

The next – and final – stage in escalation is non-violent civil disobedience. Sit In protests to lock down Parliament time, marches aimed for maximum disruption of UK Governance and other creative methods. non-violent civil disobedience is sometimes feared as a step too close to violence and civil war but it cannot be understated just how hugely powerful such action has been in history. If Scotland reaches this stage in the independence campaign then we must find our equivalent of the Tea Party or the Salt March.

It needn’t reach this stage though. Ultimately, the goal at each stage is the same. To demonstrate via a democratic event that there is majority support for independence and then to force the Westminster Government to accept that mandate and begin independence negotiations.

Delivering Scottish independence in three years is entirely possible if, as a movement, we do the right things now. All the raw materials of a coordinated campaign and the environmental factors which will enable that campaign to succeed exist in Scotland. It is in largely in the independence movement’s hands if we want to make rapid progress towards independence.

That is a much more optimistic opening position than that faced by many campaigns which went on to succeed. We start with enormous advantages; we just need to start using them.

Further reporting about this policy paper can be read in The National here.

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