We will achieve independence only when a majority of our fellow citizens are persuaded that it offers the best future for our country. Our success will depend on the strength of our arguments and the clarity of our vision.
We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.
We will undertake new work, starting this summer, to persuade a clear majority of the Scottish people that independence is the best future for our country.
Unionists everywhere may crow triumphantly: here is the first SNP manifesto, they say, to have no commitment to an independence referendum. Stringing along the poor, clueless 45ers, offering them meaningless promises in return of support, safe in the knowledge that they’ll never actually deliver the referendum they crave. It’s those poor, deluded cybernats I feel sorry for...
Just like all the other times the SNP strung its supporters along when it came to the party’s founding principle and reason for its very existence. First it was “the SNP don’t want a referendum.” Then it was “the SNP don’t want independence.” Now it’s “the SNP don’t want another referendum.” All this, even as campaigns like United Against Separation and Scotland In Union constantly remind us of the “threat” the SNP pose. The SNP’s statement on independence is perfectly clear and reasonable, as far as I’m concerned.
Well, what’s the problem, unionists? You don’t want another referendum, right? Well, for as long as it’s clear the majority of Scots don’t want independence – much less another referendum – then you’re sorted. If the SNP fail to increase support for independence, then there’s no second referendum. If there’s no second referendum, there’s no independence. Likewise, if it’s a remain vote in the EU – Scotland’s status remaining secure, like you always said with a No vote – then that’s a “significant material change in circumstances” that wouldn’t happen, and thus lead to a second referendum.
No referendum, unless the people of Scotland want one, or there is a material change in circumstances. Isn’t that fair? Isn’t that just? Isn’t that respectful of the Sovereign Will of the Scottish People?
There is no reason for you to worry… Unless you fear that the SNP could raise support for independence within the next 5 years. In which case, the entire argument changes. You would no longer be arguing from the cosy, safe security of representing the larger part of a binary question. You would no longer be defending public opinion that matches the official referendum result. You would be arguing that the people of Scotland should be held hostage to a decision which they no longer agree with.
Just admit it: if support for independence does rise to a sustained majority within the next 5 years, or if there is a material change in circumstances which has direct repercussions for Scotland’s place in the world and the United Kingdom, then you are against a second referendum – purely and selfishly – because you are afraid you would lose.
It was easy for the Unionist parties to argue that the first referendum was “unwanted” when the majority of polls suggested Scots wanted to remain – until the SNP gained a majority in 2011, proving that whether the people wanted to void or ratify the Union, they clearly did want a referendum. It’s simple to argue a quick second referendum would be “unnecessary” when most opinion polls don’t yet show a significant enough lead to even invert the official result in 2014. But it’s much more difficult to argue against a second referendum in a scenario when a sustained majority of Scots say they would vote Yes – because then you are arguing against the wishes of the Scottish people. You would be disrespecting the Sovereign Will of the Scottish People.
I realise that most Unionists now find themselves in uncharted waters, and that they’re confused, angry, even frightened. Until fairly recently, independence was a distant bogeyman, something only a loud, shrill handful of Nats believed in. They may well have breathed a sigh of relief on 19/9/14, feeling the question of independence was over and done with, that they’d never see that awful Alex Salmond or dreadful Nicola Sturgeon ever again. But 45% is not a lunatic fringe, a tiny minority, a small voice that can be safely ignored – it is close to half of the Scottish electorate. If polls are to be believed, then support for independence has risen since the referendum. Independence is topical, normalised, mainstream.
Activists and supporters of the Other Party aren’t quite used to being second place in Scotland after decades of dominance. The UK parties aren’t reconciled to being a minority in a parliament they created. So they really don’t see the incongruity of claiming to speak for the majority of Scots in their hatred of the SNP, even when the majority of Scots say they are planning to vote SNP. I can only imagine what they would think in the event that the tides of opinion on independence, so close to overflowing, finally break over the Union Dam.
Then it is the Unionists who would have to justify themselves to the majority of Scots. Unionists would have to explain why the majority of Scots are wrong, and they are right. Unionists would have to convince a majority of Scots who have fallen out of love with the Union to give the UK a third chance. Unionists would have to account for the betrayals, the lies, the dirty dealings which secured the 2014 referendum for them to a majority who will not appreciate being lied to. When the Yes Campaign had to justify itself, it was strong enough to turn 30% at the start of the campaign to 45%. Better Together lost a 20 point lead over the course of two years. Their precious majority is in peril.
I’m sure plenty of people think SNP activists are disappointed that there is no concrete date for indyref2. This activist isn’t: a drive to increase support for independence even without a referendum on the horizon is all I need to know or have. Our cause isn’t one to be fettered by timeframes subject to the whims of circumstance and future governments. Our cause is not beholden to the “promise,” perceived or inferred, of any individual. Our cause doesn’t have a best-before date.The people of Scotland are sovereign. The only people who can keep Scotland in the Union are the same people who can set Scotland free – and they are the people of Scotland themselves. As such, it is the people of Scotland who will decide when we’ll answer that question again.