Scottish Independence is inevitable, since nothing lasts for ever.
But nobody knows when it will happen, how it will happen and whether anyone alive today will see it. Hopefully it will happen so fast and in such an unexpected fashion that everyone thinks What happened when I blinked?
It can be delayed or accelerated by the actions of its supporters or its opponents.
Nobody who wants independence would knowingly delay it. Nobody against it would willingly accelerate it
Scotland the Divided
Scotland is split 50-50 over EU membership. In 2014 some people voted YES because they wanted to leave the EU. Some voted NO because they wanted to stay in the EU and the Bitter Together campaign led by the Tories’ useful idiot Alasdair Darling, told them the only way to stay in the EU was to vote no. Recently it seems EU hating YES voters and EU loving NO voters have switched allegiance in equal numbers indicating, according to the polls, the same result as in 2014. Some say the best way to break this deadlock would be for the Scottish Government to promise a referendum on EU membership within a few months of a YES vote in a second Independence referendum: One with proper safeguards against vote rigging, a system that combined the safeguards of our present system and those possible by using electronic voting machines, each guarding against the weaknesses of the other.
Scotland the Different
Just before Christmas 2016 the Scottish Government issued a fairly simple and reasoned case for a differentiated Brexit. The 62 page document boils down to
- Scotland, Gibraltar and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU. England and Wales voted to leave.
- Hard Brexit will severely damage Scotland.
- The EU referendum result is not a mandate to leave the single market and customs union.
- Ideally the UK will remain in both these
- If not Scotland wishes to remain in the single market and customs union.
- If not Scotland remains in the single market and customs union the Scottish Government will need a raft of new powers (specified in the document)
- If those powers are not granted Scotland has the right to consider independence
Perhaps they should also have required that the Scottish Parliament be made permanent, as promised by the previous, now overtaken, contender for worst Prime Minister ever, David Cameron. Perhaps they did not insist because that was a promise no one could fulfill as no government can bind future governments so whatever he did could be undone. It is nevertheless in the “Vow” which none of its alleged signatories have disowned.
The Scottish Government proposals are a call for Westminster to recognise that Scotland is different.
Theresa May took three hours to reject the proposal. It is possible she could have understood the gist of the proposals in three hours or had it explained to her in baby language by an advisor, though highly unlikely that she understood the implications and fine details. Even if she understood it fully it would have been better to wait a day or two before rejecting the proposals, thus giving the impression she had examined them in depth. As it is it looks like a knee jerk reaction that will come back to bite her and may have boosted support for independence slightly.
Hopefully this proposal will help the Europhobic YES voters to realise that the EU, EEA, ECJ and customs union are not the same thing.
The Independence Battlefield has Changed
In 2014 the battle was between continuity and change. Today a second referendum would be a battle between two types of change and voters would have to decide which type of change was less scary. Alternatively a second referendum could be spun as a choice between continuity of the 1707 Union and continuity within the EU, or change (leaving the UK) versus continuity in the EU.
Cameron believed in the Union but May and many of the Tory party appear indifferent to Scotland remaining in the UK, and Brexiteers see Scotland as a barrier to their wet dream of a hard exit which would let them destroy workers rights and abolish state pensions. A hard Brexit would also allow a level of surveillance, the Snoopers’ Charter, which would have made the Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Pinochet’s Argentina, for which no one is crying, and their secret services green with envy and soon we would be Back in the USSR.
It seems likely the result of a second referendum would not be 45-55 but the possibility of a 49-51 defeat for independence is unacceptably high. The electorate could swing either way depending on whether Article 50 was triggered, whether the resulting Brexit was hard or soft and the deal for Scotland. In the end though many will decide on how it will affect them personally.
If Westminster manages to cancel Brexit we can kiss goodbye to a second referendum in the near future and wait for Westminster to build up stable support for Independence. This could take a generation or more.
A hard Brexit could lead to many more NO voters switching to yes and the YES voters who factored leaving the EU into their decision in 2014 would have to choose their loyalties in the light of economic realities that could damage them personally and an independent Scotland with the chance of a later exit. If the Referendum took place after Brexit then the EU loving NO voters would realise their only chance of getting back into the EU was to vote YES and the YES voters who wanted to leave the EU might again vote YES reasoning they had achieved their primary goal and could now vote for their secondary goal of independence.
A soft Brexit as proposed by the Scottish Government, could lead to a referendum defeat but with many more powers for the Scottish Government leading to De Facto Independence and later full independence. This too would take a generation or more.
How the YES Movement might kill Independence
Unfortunately the YES movement tends to be its own worst enemy. Where unity is needed there tends to be division and issues that can be resolved after independence, for example the EU and the Monarchy conflated with independence. Some Yes supporters will consider voting NO because they are against the SNP, forgetting that the YES movement is bigger than the SNP and that post independence the SNP will either change drastically or die. It is likely the most prominent architects of Independence will, after independence, leave politics having achieved their goal and wanting to quit while they are ahead.
Social Media has less influence than many think. Facebook for example is splitting into a number of echo chambers, in particular pro independence and pro Union pages where some members compete for bragging rights by being more extreme than anyone else. It is hard to engage with Unionist as they exclude dissenting views on social media and shut out any facts they dislike when engaged face to face. Observation suggests that Independence supporters are more open to facing and refuting facts they do not like but are by no means immune to shutting eyes and ears to unpleasant truths.
Cognitive dissonance, the Backfire Effect and the power of emotion to overcome reason make unionists, and some Yessers, ignore evidence and reality
Cognitive Dissonance is the uncomfortable tension that comes from holding two conflicting thoughts simultaneously. When presented with a reality that trumps (Trumps?) conviction either reality or conviction has to go. Thus every prediction of the end of the world that fails results in review of the reasoning behind it and a new prediction. Unionists are guilty of this but many Yessers fell into this trap after 2014 reasoning they were robbed by a rigged vote and ignoring factors like currency, oil, media bias and pensions that, if handled properly could have generated so much support for Independence that any attempt at rigging, unless blatant enough to be obvious even to Unionists, would have failed. Luckily work is underway to present a case for independence that deals with these issues.
The Backfire effect is when corrections to someone’s statement increase misperceptions. An example of this is Hitler’s opinion of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, now known to be a propaganda hoax, which boiled down to the more academics say it is false the more I know it is true. Similarly Altemeyer reported that Christian Religious fundamentalists presented with parallel versions of the Gospels with contradictions highlighted denied there were any contradictions
When reason and emotion conflict emotion wins. Even choosing a pair of socks need some emotional input to prevent endless indecision and fear, since it aids survival, is the most powerful emotion as shown by the victory of Project Fear in 2014.
To convince people when evidence has failed it is necessary to switch off emotion, discuss- if they will engage - listen and try to get into their mind and see things from their viewpoint, point out you can see where they are coming from and try to show how they can take new facts on board without altering their worldview drastically.
Unfortunately a minority of Yessers are psychologically very like extreme unionists, Brexiteers and Trump supporters. When they are vocal they tend to make the YES movement look silly: mentions of Zionist/Jewish conspiracies to keep Scotland/the poor down turn me off and are like manna to the unionists - who have a similar minority that is generally ignored. These Yessers, more then other Yessers, need to become aware of their biases and look at the weaknesses in their case in order to counter them.
Westminster is boosting Independence Support
Westminster is continuing to boost the case for independence but many soft NO voters are sitting on their hands hoping a UK wide Brexit plan will emerge, like a Trident submarine, that appears solid enough to let them continue supporting the union. Unfortunately the few “plans” leaked from the sieve that is the Westminster government appear to have less reality and be less clear than the Loch Ness Monster on a foggy day.
Westminster and Brexit have turned a number of celebrities and prominent politicians in favour of Independence. Not enough to ensure a YES vote unfortunately and the YES movement seems unwilling to capitalise on this and on unionist mistakes. They are not making use of the fact that Theresa May, unlike Cameron, probably does not care about the Union, though she has to sound as if she cares.
With Tory efforts to make Scottish Pensioners poorer, close job centres to enrich property developers, destroy human rights and implement a level of surveillance that would make 1984 seem benign, support for independence should be much higher than it is.
The Rainbow Tories in Westminster are giving the YES movement plenty of ammunition. It seems to be getting used only when preaching to the converted. Lets use it and do what it takes to get Independence. We need dirty hands and clean gloves to win so lets get to it.