2007 - 2021

What Next?

Ritchie Feenie

Ritchie Feenie

Part 1 : What has been achieved.

Six weeks later, and time to take some perspective. There are many positives to take from the campaign. The age demographics (with a majority of under 65’s voting Yes) and the Yes votes in West Central Scotland and Dundee mean that the idea of Independence is now ‘normalised’ across large parts of the population. In many parts of the country and social circles Independence is now the normal view. Self-determination is no longer looked upon as a fringe minority opinion. The significance of this for future should not be underestimated.

The biggest positive of course is the increase in levels of engagement. Talking politics has become as normal as talking football, holidays or TV shows. While the intensity of debate in the bars and streets may have subsided for now in the post referendum period that willingness to engage is just below the surface amongst the general population. It will resurface at the next political ‘event’  provided things are not seen to be slipping back to the same sterile party political tribal conflicts we have seen in the past (the ones that deliver 50% turnouts for Holyrood elections and 30% for local elections).

Almost 100,000 people are now members of pro-indy political parties, and many more are actively engaged but haven’t made a decision to join a party. This gives significant reach into communities; it is now not unusual to know someone who is in a political party, very different from the situation that existed before.

The key challenge for the Independence movement is how to harness that energy and commitment. The political parties need to provide exciting opportunities for people to engage, both in policy determination, internal elections & selections and social events. I am sure Peter Murrell and the others are up to the task.

Outwith the parties other groups have a role to play. From local Yes groups working to keep their local hubs open as focal points for meetings and activities going forward to the Common Weal initiative with its plans for Common Spaces – physically and on-line – enabling the debate to continue in an accessible and interesting way.  Many groups are organising ‘where next ?’ events – the circuit speakers who though they would get a rest after the 18th are finding their diaries filling up again. A variety of initiatives are moving forward in the media space – written and broadcast – some with the potential to significantly change the environment over time. Steps are afoot to provide a non-party/ all-party umbrella organisation actively involved in providing a co-ordinating focus for the plethora of local and sector groups that formed the Yes campaign.

So where does this take us?

The first point to note is that there is no short cut here. While the Catalunya experience shows that routes to Independence other than a referendum may make sense in certain circumstances that emphatically does not apply to the situation in Scotland. Those calling for parliamentary majorities declaring UDI are wrong on two counts.

Firstly given that the principle of referendum as the final decision making authority has been established it is not possible to ignore that result and go down a different route. The majority who voted No would not stand for it, neither would the international community. A Scotland that ‘became independent’ in those circumstances would not be recognised internationally. Secondly any party that proposed such a route would suffer at the polls, and electoral success is critically important for the next stages of the campaign. Recent history has shown without any doubt the road to independence lies in increasing the scope and quality of decisions made in Scotland. The smaller the gap between the future status quo and independence the more likely people are to vote for full self-determination.

It is therefore critical that the message is clear. Independence will only come about through a majority vote in a future referendum, and there won’t be another referendum until it is clear that the majority of voters in Scotland are in favour of Independence. Ideally the next Independence referendum will be like the 1997 devolution referendum, a significant majority for Yes reflecting the settled will of the Scottish people (unlike the experience of 1979). Our task is to create the conditions where Independence is seen to be the obvious next step, not to force another referendum which does not have majority support.

If we do the right things that may come sooner than we think.

The political timetable will drive the agenda for the next couple of years. Firstly the Westminster election in 6 months.

There is much talk amongst yes campaigners of ‘punishing’ or ‘wiping out’ Labour in Scotland.

Time for a reality check.

The Labour party in Scotland, despite all the guilt by association with the Tories in Better Together, and the current leadership travails, is still very well dug in across large parts of Scotland. In a ‘tribal’ choice between Labour and SNP the reflex of many hundreds of thousands of voters is to vote the same way as their parents and grandparents did.

Now this is not to admit defeat, or to accept that significant reduction in the number of Labour MPs cannot occur. What it is is a recognition that this task is more difficult than we might assume, the tactics to employ need to be carefully chosen and expectations need to be based on the reality of where we are, not where we would like to be.

Part 2 : The next step.

For the next 6 months the political focus will be on the UK General Election. What can we expect to achieve ?

The pro-independence parties winning 30 of the 59 Scottish seats is a bold, yet achievable, target. This would be significant in on three levels:

  1. It gives pro-Indy parties a majority of Scottish seats. Not important from a legislative point of view (as there is no way that this constitutes a majority for independence) but psychologically significant. Scotland standing up and wanting to be heard on its own account and not as lobby fodder within the UK party political system.
  1. If puts those Scottish parties in the position of having some influence on who the UK government could be in the event of a hung parliament (the most likely outcome in 2015). Given the expected LibDem meltdown 30 seats would likely be enough for a Scottish block of pro-independence parties to constitute the 3rd largest party at Westminster. Even if the balance of power is not held the dynamics of a small majority government in a multi-party system over a 5 year term mean that there will be many occasions where the voice of the Scottish block will be of significance.
  1. It shatters the illusion that Scotland ‘belongs’ to Labour in Westminster terms. Once that illusion is shattered it will be difficult for Labour for put the pieces back together.

However do not underestimate the challenge in winning 30 seats. It the tactics are wrong it is quite possible for the SNP still be to in single figures in terms of Westminster MPs through the next parliament – an opportunity missed. So what needs to be done to maximise this impact in 2015?

Scottish voters have shown their ability to tailor their voting preferences to suit the prevailing circumstances.  For Holyrood they willingly back the SNP, supporting the ‘Scottish’ party to run devolved affairs in Scotland chimes. They can see an SNP government that delivers, and there are no risks in allowing Tory control in Holyrood as a consequence of ‘vote splitting’.

Westminster is different. The SNP achieved 20% of the vote in 2010, barely more than the Tories or Lib Dems and less than half of Labours 41%. The reasons for that are clear:

  1. The ‘First past the post’ (FPTP) system, punishing as it does those whose vote is thinly spread.
  1. The mantra that a vote for anyone other than Labour is a vote to allow the Tories back in.
  1. SNP MPs in Westminster are seen as ineffective at a UK level – not withstanding some fine performances in the Chamber they are not perceived as being able to influence in any meaningful way the big reserved policy areas that impact on Scottish voters.

Recent polling evidence has shown a surge in support for the SNP, one poll has support at over 50%, most are in the low to mid 40’s, but others have shown support in the mid 30’s. The wide range of support is of itself an indication of high volatility.

These leads may be maintained, or they could well fall back as the focus on the UK news channels moves to UK centric issues as May approaches. The lopsided leadership debate proposals won’t help.

Recent electoral performance contains more than a word of caution. The SNP achieved 20% in GE2005, earlier opinion polls had shown support in the mid 30’s. The Euro election performance of 29% (again compared to opinion polls predicting 35% or so) allowed UKIP to grab a seat. Performance in Holyrood by-elections and the 2012 council elections have been short of the levels required to make a breakthrough in Westminster terms.

FPTP does however offer some interesting potential outcomes.

The SNP on 32% could expect to gain perhaps 14 seats, benefiting mainly from the LibDem collapse but gaining few seats from Labour

At 38% the SNP achieves a tipping point and could secure as many as 33 seats.

So that extra 6% actually delivers more seats than the ‘core’ 32% SNP support, such are the vagaries of FPTP. Hence the value of gaining every last percentage point. The voting strength of the other pro-indy parties starts to become more significant. The main strength of cross-party cooperation however in 2015 doesn’t lie in shuffling votes around between alliance partners (voters dislike being taken for granted and the results can be counterproductive). The main strength lies in the signals it sends:

  1. The SNP would be indicating that its primary concern is what is good for Scotland, beyond any Party political focus. Many in the SNP will, with good reason, argue that this is always the case, but the lifelong Labour voter in Glasgow who voted Yes in September and have an historical tribal aversion to voting SNP for Westminster may see it differently. The ‘this is bigger than the SNP’ strap line in Yes Scotland was one of the most powerful tools and effectively ‘gave permission’ for Labour voters to vote yes. We can’t afford to lose that. Remember the Yes vote in September was 45%, to be electorally effective in May a pro-Home Rule alliance needs to achieve only around 38%.
  1. The levels of engagement in IndyRef were to a large extent because it wasn’t seen as party politics as usual. The UK parties will strive to return to ‘business as usual’ for the May election. Party tribal political plays into their hands. It isn’t inspirational in the way IndyRef was, turnout will again be depressed and people will revert to voting the way they always have done. Anything that can be done to re-frame that choice is critical. A pro-Home Rule campaign across party political lines gives us that opportunity.
  1. Sending a strong grouping of MPs to Westminster who represent Scottish parties (as opposed to Scottish members of parties whose policy platforms are set in London) is also a powerful image. Those MPs are our MPs. They are there to get the best deal from Westminster for Scotland, they were elected with support from a range of political parties, but they are all there to do what is best for Scotland, not to act as lobby fodder for the London leadership of UK parties.

Easier said than done. So what is the best way to deliver this?

PART 3 : How to deliver.

Winning a majority of Scottish Westminster seats for a Scottish block of pro-independence / pro-Home Rule candidates is the objective. The practicalities of co-operation are easy in theory, but work needs to be done at local level, constituency by constituency, to make it happen.  The 59 Westminster seats in Scotland need to be ‘allocated’ between the 3 parties. The vast bulk will be SNP targets- either current SNP seats, LibDem seats in the North and North East or seats across the Central Belt where the SNP have been building towards success for many years. The key will be to identify seats where the non-SNP candidates can make an impact. There doesn’t need to be many of those but for the coherence of the campaign they are important and the buy-in of local parties, who see the improved chance of success at a local level, is key.

The message, and the policies that sit behind it, are critical to a successful strategy for 2015.

The key platform for the Scottish block candidates needs to contain the following:

  1. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES will voting for the Scottish block MPs make the chances of a Tory Prime Minister getting into Number 10 by default any higher. This will be Labour’s principal line of attack in Scotland in 2015. A vote for anyone other than Labour will allow the Tories back in. Don’t take the risk.

This argument normally works at two levels. At the level of an individual seat where votes are split and FPTP allows a candidate to ‘come through the middle’. In the Scottish context that is a toothless argument. In the seats that the SNP will be challenging to win from Labour there is no chance of any Tory gains.

The second strand to this argument is that if the SNP win seats from Labour and therefore reduce the total number of Labour MPs at Westminster there is a chance that the Tories could end up as the largest party at Westminster (but still short of an overall majority). We need to be crystal clear that if we end up in the circumstances where both Labour and the Tories are short of an overall majority at Westminster, but the Tories end up as the largest party then the Scottish block of MPs will do everything they can to prevent a Tory entering Number 10. By extension that means offering support to a Labour Prime Minister – most likely on a ‘Confidence and Supply’ basis.

That message may be uncomfortable for those who see Labour as the ‘Red Tories’ and want to ‘wipe them out’, but the reality is that for the hundreds of thousands of Labour voters to voted Yes in September the Tories are the Tories and must be kept out of the UK government at any cost.

This argument, pursued effectively, destroys the logic of voting Labour in Scotland to keep the Tories out. The message is clear, whether you vote for Labour or for a Scottish block candidate neither will permit the Tories to enter number 10. If you vote for the Scottish block then what you get are MPs who will put Scotland first, if you vote Labour you will get lobby fodder who vote as instructed by London labour. Vote Scottish block, get the Best of Both Worlds.

  1. Policies on non-devolved matters also need to be clear – Macro-economic policy, taxation, welfare, the deficit, defence and foreign affairs. If Scottish block looks like holding some influence in the next UK government then the position on all these policies will come under severe scrutiny in the same way as the LibDems (and UKIP) will experience at UK level in the run up to May. Which Labour policies will you support ? which will you try to alter ? which will you reject and what alternatives will you propose? and what additional benefits (powers or financial) will you attempt to extract for Scotland to support Ed Milliband in number 10 ? (and you better be sure your numbers add up because the interviewer will have his calculator at the ready).
  1. Policy on devolved matters opens up another conundrum for Westminster. Scottish block MPs should of course maintain their position of not voting on rUK only matters (except where there are Barnett consequential implications). Will a Labour minority government be able to operate where they can’t pass policy in Westminster on Health and Education? The most likely scenario is they would be able to do so with LibDem support, so Ed may find himself having to do deals with the Scottish block on economic, welfare and foreign policy, but having to do separate deals with the LibDems on Health and Education. Different to how Westminster normally works, but perfectly operable (and a direct consequence of the mess that is the UK’s current unwritten constitution).

If Labour does end up in government, sustained there by Scottish block MPs, then a number of fascinating things follows:

  1. The rest of the UK will be in the position where they voted Tory, but got Ed Milliband in Number 10, sustained not by Scottish labour MPs, but by MPs from a group that favours independence. Didn’t get the government you voted for?  Welcome to our reality. The reaction to that could be interesting.
  1. Scottish block MPs could find themselves in positions of influence in the UK government (Stewart Hosie sitting down with Ed Balls to negotiate economic policy, Angus Robertson likewise on foreign affairs, and who knows what role for Alex Salmond). The LibDem strategy in 2010 was to increase their credibility by being seen to be ‘grown-up’ enough to play a part in government. It all fell apart due to the Tuition fees and other fiascos but the credibility bonus from Scottish pro-Indy politicians being seen to be able to take grown-up decisions at UK government level should not be underestimated, destroying as it does many of the myths around our ability to manage our own affairs in the event of independence.
  1. NO won the referendum. The rest of the UK also wanted us to stay if polls are to be believed. Well we’re still here (for now) and while we’re here we are going to use our smart voting strength to exert our influence in the UK parliament.

All of this is there to be done, but the strategy and tactics need to be well thought through. There needs to be no under-estimation of the challenges ahead and the work that needs to be done to overcome historical inertia and move voters away from traditional GE preferences. The implications of campaign messages need to be thought through.

The prize is not just a much more powerful Scottish voice in Westminster, but one that can really influence UK government policy on reserved matter and build credibility in our ability to manage the ‘big’ affairs of state, while at the same time working to transfer as many powers as possible to Holyrood.

Let’s get to it.

Comments (55)

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  1. JeanMackenzie says:

    We also need to build into this strategy a way for ‘our’ MPs to work with those from Wales & NI, and any Greens etc from England to maximise our leverage.

  2. oldbattle says:

    No fn way! The Lib Dems have dramatically demonstrated the near oblivion status realized by coalition minor parties who are deemed to have sold out. SNP must not go into any coalition with Labour or Conservatives…not even for the promise of another referendum.

    1. hanoi_towers says:

      Doesn’t “Alex Salmond, Deputy Prime Minister of Great Britain” not sound tempting?

      1. No it doesn’t, anyway I think Labour would be happier to spend another five years in opposition than agree any sort of deal with the SNP. They have signaled that by sending Jim Murphy north to rescue the ‘Scotch Labour Region’ from itself with the ignorance and arrogance of not understanding he is part of Labour’s Scotch Region problems and not the solution.

        Maybe the likes of Cruddas are hoping Murphy’s grab for power in Scotland will see Murphy on the end of an ‘et tu Brute’ moment as all the folk in the Scotch region he has stabbed in the back get their revenge – the STUC is already making clear Murphy is not for them.

  3. Morag says:

    Ivan, why didn’t someone think of appointing you head of Yes Scotland?

    1. jdman says:

      I would have paid to see that Morag!

      1. Morag says:

        I think we did. We were short-changed though.

        So much talent, enthusiasm, commitment, dedication, energy and passion in the country. So many extraordinarily capable people prepared to dedicate their own time and money to fight for independence any and every way they could.

        And then there was the official Yes campaign. What happened?

  4. Geisabrek says:

    So how long does that all take? A figure of 10 years till the next Referendum was mentioned on the news today, I personally think that is far too long. I know the political machine moves slowly but I don’t think that means we need to accept figures like this. In the dog eat fog world of politics Westmonster (deliberate mistake) thinks it has the upper hand and the media manipulation continues, daily. It seems to be OK for them to use dirty trick but we have to play by the rules, that may well be fact but I don’t have to like it!

    1. Robin Kinross says:

      Seems likely that another referendum will come sooner than 10 years, let alone “a generation”. That could be as a follow-on from a referendum about the EU (2017?) and an “out” result, or just through the whole UK system becoming self-evidently unworkable. If there is a hung UK parliament at Westminster next year, it could all move rather quickly.

  5. I’ve thought up a new name for the Yes parties-this is seriously friday night funny-

    Altogether now -it’s fun to stay at the……

  6. leginge says:

    I’ve been waiting on an article like this that points out in stark clarity the reality of the task involved in winning labour seats in the GE – very well spelt out. But IMO it will be extremely difficult to get the message across that you can safely vote SNP without it enhancing the chances of a Tory govt. That will be the mind numbing message pumped out thro the scottish MSM – and since there is no alternative tv or print news outlet available to counteract it, most voters will take that message as gospel without challenge. I believe the Westminster elections are largely irrelevant – more important is a very large pro-Indy Scottish govt.

    1. habibbarri says:

      For an opinion predicated on whether the vote would be YES or NO see:

      See Also this about on line news and broadcasting:

      I think that we need an independent Scottish owned print tabloid to reach people who do not have internet, and don’t use it at their local library. I though I read something about that, but I can’t find a source.

  7. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    I completely agree Ivan. In 2010 Labour (being delusional ) overestimated their appeal, when in effect it was more of an anti tory vote. It’s vital that the SNP doesn’t make the same mistake.

  8. Much organisation, discussion, education, fact-swallowing, and co-operation will be required. And only six months in which to achieve it. The SNP will hang fire until after their conference, though no doubt a lot is being chewed over behind the scenes. Others will have been honing submissions to the Smith Commission (we could do with a website bringing all the pro devo of significant powers submissions together as much useful information is there. Anyone?). The festive season is bearing down on us, and before we know it May will be hurtling towards us and little groundwork will have been laid.

    A timely article, Ivan.

  9. Tommy B says:

    A long wait for any real change coming offers no comfort to the disabled and long term sick and chronically ill, who are just one weighty electricity/gas bill away from being subsumed and giving up entirely, due to cuts down the line, frozen levels of support and real inflation in living/subsistence costs, people for whom the SNP and the prospect of Independence offered real hope of living again with dignity and without the fear of destitution. Now again they are back to living in terror, averse to any interaction with the DWP and its agencies such as ATOS, or changes in their status, by which, in the prevailing neo-liberal consensus of the Westminster parties, they invariably lose every time in a system remorselessly weighted against them, lose financially and emotionally, emerging from the process humiliated, worn out as well as worse off. As well as the older generation who it is suggested and probably did form a component of the No vote, not being around for some referendum long in the future, as many instinctive Yes voters from the September 2014 referendum won’t be around either, though rather cynically they will be replaced by as many in just as desperate if not worse circumstances next time round. Time is not on these people’s side, and Independence and thus power merely for its own sake, should not obscure and eclipse the social and ecomomic reasons why Independence mattered and must still be uppermost, and delivered soonest. In a move towards participatory democracy in Scotland, as well as preserving high levels of engagement, I don’t see why with more frequent referenda on other key issues of policy for currently devolved matters, multi-question plebiscites could not evolve, in which the full independence could not also be placed again consultatively before the people, even routinely as a matter of form.

    Many are long past the point by their forties where politics is neither fun or even interesting any more, and are in no mood for another long slog and short cuts should still be explored, not written off. Nor should politics in Scotland be destined to become a snail’s pace affair, where for every step forward, their are two or more reverses.

  10. Steve@Gong_Farm says:

    The quickest route to independence is a SNP/Lab Westminster coalition, uncomfortable as that may seem to some of the pro-indy movement

    The majority of English voters would find it intolerable if ‘the jocks’ were running ‘their country’ (oh the irony) and not just this term, but possibly the next one too. This would put pressure on the Unionist parties and to win English votes they could be forced to support a break up.

  11. Tommy B says:

    In short then:

    The goals matter more than the taking part, some people seem to relish the prospect of getting there eventually however long it takes, for others it offers cold comfort, some just want to get there while they’re still able to appreciate and share in what has been won, not merely to collapse on the finish line, spent. I feel as if I’m being selfish putting these views, trashing one of the Yes campaign ideas and truths – the delightful infant ‘Kirsty’ – that didn’t catch the public imagination enough, that what we do now is not for us, but is our legacy for future generations to enjoy, all very true and worthy, but many people’s focus was necessarily on the much shorter term.

  12. Andrea says:

    How utterly depressing at age 60 to read that a replay of that Referendum fiasco that we witnessed is the only way to go…it would seem to me that the more times you try a referendum the better the oppositional forces get at dirty tricks.

    There were so many dodgy practices to fool the voting public (not to mention tens of thousands of complaints to the electoral office in one it is hard for an intelligent person to take it seriously – let alone see it as a legitimate proposition for future Independence. The Westminster elite are not going to let Scotland go – not until there are no more resources left to milk…so it would seem to me that ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, then why be surprised when you get the same end result?

    For every strategy that reasoning people put up – the oppositional forces will have an answer – including breaking the rules with impunity.

    The recent polling figures that suggested that 58% of voters would vote for Pro independence parties – is a telling figure – as is the poll which suggests that 66% of voters want another referendum. Could be that the gap between the supposed result of the referendum and these polls could do with a bit of pondering.

    it just doesn’t add up…..why would 10% of No voters want another referendum???

    We are deeply delusional if we think Westminster respects democracy, human rights, or any other sovereignty but their own. .

    1. “How utterly depressing at age 60 to read that a replay of that Referendum fiasco that we witnessed is the only way to go…it would seem to me that the more times you try a referendum the better the oppositional forces get at dirty tricks.”

      Fortunately, it’s actually a case of the more referendums you have, the less impact the opposition’s scare tactics have. Quebec’s support for independence increased between their referendums. Montenegro’s support for independence rose by over 50% between their referendums.

      “it just doesn’t add up…..why would 10% of No voters want another referendum???”

      Because they were made promises that are already being broken, and things are happening that they were told would be a consequence of a Yes vote, not of a No vote. And some will simply have lost their nerve on the day, voted No, and now bitterly regret not voting Yes as they were thinking of doing.

  13. Ask your parents and grand parents to let you run your own affairs as the world is changing and you will no longer be looked after in you twilight years if you leave it to another country to run your life.
    We have the infrastructure to build on, we have massive energy resource’s, but most of all, we have some of the most intelligent, lateral thinkers as part of our genetic inheritance, on the face of the planet and the energy of this inspiration of this can’t be suppress’t much longer.

  14. Drew Campbell says:

    I agree with almost every part of your analysis, Ivan – Referendum II, Yes bigger than SNP, transcending party politics to subvert Westminster’s FPTP, Labour’s tacticial response, Yes candidates standing on a maximum powers, anti-austerity platform… all great stuff.

    Two points: No coalition. Confidence and supply, yes, if we hold that position but it would kill credibility and suck us into a Westminster quagmire that would drag us down.

    And finally, you managed to go through that rather lengthy article without once mentioning the Greens or the SSP.

    Have a think about that last point. This won’t work without genuine respect being shown to all concerned.

    1. Jack Turner says:

      One Million Six Hundred Thousand people in Scotland voted for Independence, each and every one of them were totally aware of Why they did this. 2.1 million people in Scotland voted to remain controlled by the London Westminster government, I don’t think I would be wrong in assuming that,the Majority of those people were totally Unaware as to Why they did so!! We have 18 months left with our present SNP Government who, without their years of commitment to achieving an Independent Scotland, the recent Referendum would Not have come about, so my suggestion would be for all of us to calm down and see what our democratically elected Scottish governments plans are in furthering their goal of achieving Independence.

    2. ivanmckee says:


      I agree, Confidence and Supply not Coalition.

      I have every respect for the Greens/ SSP and non-aligned people I worked with in IndyRef (and they know that). They all have a role to play in this as I think the article makes clear.

      But the focus of the article is about the SNP as they will need to be the prime mover here.

      For sure the Greens and SSP will have their own internal issues to resolve to participate, but that would be the subject of a different article.

      1. Drew Campbell says:

        Fair play, Ivan. I took it the article was addressing the Yes Movement as a whole, not just the SNP.

        An(other) article on that angle would be welcome.

  15. Alistair Davidson says:

    Brilliant piece of tactical politics and journalism. All makes perfect sense.
    Thanks Ivan

    1. hornygoloch says:

      Amen to that, and congratulations to Ivan. This is exactly the sort of incisive and informed commentary which makes Bella a must-read.

  16. Nigel Mace says:

    Spot on, Ivan. Especially about the most attractive posture – to past Labour voters and others at present outside YES – being full Home Rule as the ‘block’ we need to create. (That was exactly where my Smith Commission submission went, plus a 4 nation ‘lock’ on EU membership and the legal entrenching of Holyrood and its powers and privileges.) I took your points about non-SNP block candidates – and I think the word “block” would be an important one to develop – to be a reference to potential Green/SSP/individual condidates, so I don’t share Drew’s point there. At the present, I’d also agree about parliamentary ‘majorities for independence’ though that could change over time and with changing circumstances – who knows? Nobody, I think, could have predicted where we are the moment a bare six weeks ago. Interesting times.

    1. Drew Campbell says:

      Jack Turner – I have the utmost respect for Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond, and believe they’ll take encouragement from these polls and the (dis)array of the Labour Party’s contenders without being sucked into the hubris of many of its supporters. Specifically, unlike yourself, I think they have learned Independence will never be achieved by the dominance of a single party.

      The big underpinnig lesson of the Yes Movement that emerged, surely, is that a diverse, inclusive alliance of the broad left constituency in Scotland will win more than anything the SNP could ever achieve on its own, no matter how many members. If you want evidence, bear in mind it was an SNP-dominated top-down command structure that was originally envisaged for Yes Scotland and that it took Patrick Harvie’s brave and principled stand for a broader, more inclusive community-led campaign to kick started the exciting grassroots movement we became.

      Nigel Mace – not sure if we disagree or not, possiby because my original post wasn’t very clear. Let me remedy that.

      The Westminster system is gerrymandered, corrupted and rigged and always has been. It is, however, vulnerable to an intelligent strategy that transcends short-term party electoral interests to focus on common principles and long-term goals. Most ordinary voters hate “party politics” which is how Westminster likes it – turn them off so they won’t pay attention to what we’re doing – so play by their rules we will die by their rules.

      A Yes Alliance for 2015 running on maximum powers for Scotland / anti-Trident / anti-austerity could harness the vast majority of the 1.6 million Yes votes – who must never be taken for granted – plus a significant swathe of disaffected No voters. Effective, thoughtful targeting of vulnerable Labour & LibDem seats and pooling of resources can re-activate non-SNP Yes campaigners could turn out a spring blossom of our grassroots, and stimulate future growth.

      All our assets are in an active, participative movement engaging and informing an awakened electorate. Go with that and we can send a formidable grouping to Westminster. Possibly that group could organise with the GPEW and Plaid to augment itself into an even more effective phalanx. Whether it holds the balance of power would depend on many factors beyond our influence – who ends up the largest party, the relative sizes of UKIP, the LibDems and maybe the Ulster parties too – but properly organised it could achieve much for Scotland and ordinary people elsewhere in the UK and rewrite the entire political agenda in a new democratic left hand.

  17. Cllr Pat Lee says:

    I agree with almost all of what you have commented in this article.
    There is, of course only the single point of UDI.
    It is my proposal, that we use the signing of UDI’S to identify the majority of voters in our Nation my estimation is 2.5 million. Who are willing to commit to signing a UDI, they will then have expressed the clear will of the majority of Sovereign Scots.
    If this can be achieved before May 7th. There can be no ambiguity among Pro Independence Parties.
    They would use your argument that to vote Labour won’t guarantee, keeping Tories out. Also if we are steadily achieving increased numbers of signings it send a message to those who may be sitting on the fence.
    I believe we must use every means available to ensure we return thirty plus Independence minded MPs.

    1. Alan Martin says:

      Pat, why would 900,000 no/non voters sign up to UDI? That’s about 42% of the no vote, and 33% of the combined no/non vote,…also, you will toil to get all 1.6 million yes voters to sign as, like myself, the majority will not see UDI as a democratic means of achieving independence. And how do you reach non social media types, y’know, all those older folks whom we didn’t reach during the referendum campaign, and who voted no? In fact how are you proposing to reach every single one of the 4.3 million strong electorate? Neither campaign managed that over an extensive two year period. You would require a campaign of such monumental proportions that the logistics involved would have you beaten before you knocked on the first door! And, of course, there is the question of verification,…and you must achieve your goal whilst at the same time convincing a huge number of people who, very recently, either opposed your proposition with the cast of their ballot, or did not care to vote on it at all,….

  18. deewal says:

    The Public will vote for the Party that they are told to vote for by the BBC, the SUN, SKY TV, ITV, Daily Record, The Herald and all the usual suspects if they can be bothered to get off they’re arses and actually vote.
    They do not read this Blog because they only use they’re computer’s to buy from Tesco, Amazon and chat on Facebook and would not understand wot u av just wrote.
    The masses are too far gone to do anything that they are not told to do.
    I’m done here.

    1. Jack Turner says:

      Dont give up BUDDY, Theirs tons of work to be done, ‘Keep right on to the end of the road’ it will be worth it, I will buy you a drink on INDEPENDENCE DAY, OK.

    2. tonyroz says:

      NO WAY deewal. keep going, your comment made me come on here to post a reply, so imagine what a +ve message can do? we have all managed to put fatal cracks into the UK foundations. a bit more work and the whole building will one day fall.
      great read Ivan, comments along with it, create a realistic path to independence. game on!

  19. Shaun says:

    First thing’s first: where is the evidence to suggest that a “majority” of under 65’s voted Yes? Sorry, but I’ve heard enough completely disgusting attacks against the elderly due to this assertion; I really want some evidence provided now.

    But secondly, it is very reassuring to read a pro-independence article that is unabashedly against UDI. Such a flagrant disregard for the democratic will of the Scottish people would not be tolerated.

    1. ivanmckee says:


      Its not disrespectful, its just a fact we need to recognise.

      For the numbers look here :


      If you download the data sets and crunch the numbers you’ll see that just over 50% of the U65’s voted Yes.

      1. Excellent article Ivan.

        Shaun I agree that we should not tolerate any “flagrant disregard for the democratic will of the Scottish people”. This seems to be happening doesn’t it?

        Both the ‘flagrant disregard’ (e.g. Commons debate on Scotland focusing almost entirely on England, and Westminster Labour revealed by their own leader in Scotland as treating Scottish Labour like a local branch) and the ‘not tolerating’ (e.g. the rising majority for independence, and even larger for having the next referendum next year – if the Tories win – or within 5 or 10 years anyway)

        The direction of travel is very very clear

  20. Luigi says:

    An alliance for more powers at the GE is a brilliant idea.

    However, I really don’t think we should start calling it a “YES Alliance” or an “Independence Alliance”. To do so runs the real risk of alienating soft NOs, when these are the very people we need on board. On the other hand, a “Devo Max Alliance” or “Power for Scotland Alliance” would resonate with a majority of potential voters in Scotland. One step at a time – let the objective for May 2015 to be to inflict as much damage on the Red Tories as possible.

    Whatever we call it, you can be sure that BBC Labour will label it a “Yes Alliance” for that reason. Let’s not make it easy for them.

    I agree, complete annihilation is not feasible, the Red Tories are well dug in their strongholds. However we can sure ht them where it hurts.

  21. jason Baird says:


    All very good points on the tactics of how Pro Indy parties should go about tackling the Westminster elections Ivan. Thank you. I cannot agree with your absolutism concerning referendums as opposed to UDI however. UDI is the ‘normal’ route to Independence for most countries for good reason. UDI must obviously reflect the democratic will of the population, but that’s exactly what elections are supposed to discover. Manifesto commitments used to mean something, they can again. I am not ruling a second referendum out, but neither would I be so arrogant as to rule out an internationally and legally accepted, tried and tested route to independence for Scotland.

    As for your claim that the International community would not accept a UDI from a democratically mandated Scottish Government after the people had previously voted NO in a referendum, please see the break up of Czechoslovakia. In that case, after the velvet revolution, both countries populations voted by larger margins than Scotland to remain together (Cheko 64%-36 & Slovakia 63%-37) yet within a few years the politicians elected by both countries to negotiate that agreed ‘Union’, went ahead and split the two countries. This was done without a further referendum and was completely accepted by the two populations as well as the ‘International Community’ and the UN etc..

    Why did this happen? Well, each country’s population had different ideas of how their ‘Union’ should work. In the post ‘lets stay together referendum’ elections, each country voted and sent Political parties into the Czechoslovakian Parliament that reflected those differing concepts of how their Union should work. The Chek parties wanted an ever tighter unitary Union governed from Prague (much as before the velvet revolution). The Slovaks wanted a much more Federal Union with each Country retaining as much autonomy as feasible. (Does this sound at all familiar?)

    The most important factor here, in my view, for both the Czechoslovak historical experience and any possible future Scottish lesson is that during those elections, the Prague parties made little to no headway within Slovakia. This meant that when Slovakia’s ‘National interests’ went unheeded during the negotiations for the ‘new Union’, the Slovak parties were unwilling to go against their Country’s national interest (just as the Prague/Chek parties were unwilling to go against their Chek national interest). This resulted in deadlock and the two Countries’ political representatives simply declared Independence and split Czechoslovakia into it’s two constituent parts. This was absolutely accepted by both populations even though they had so recently voted by referendum to ‘stay together’. (I think that understanding of changing political circumstances and expectations is what we are witnessing here in Scotland, with the current polling in both voter intentions and their desire for another referendum)

    This ‘standing up for Scotland’s National interest’ has NEVER happened in the UK, as the Labour Party in Scotland (as well as all other UK parties in Scotland) have always subordinated obvious Scottish national interest in favour of the Greater UK national interest (Westminster/English national interest to all intents and purposes). Lately that has also been very obviously exposed as each UK Parties (and their MP’s) own very narrow self interests.

    Scotland’s national interest has never been primary. Therefore it has never been seen to be in conflict with British (=English) national interest. The opportunity for the population of Scotland to see their democratic representative’s reasonable demands for Scottish national interest be taken seriously within the UK, getting simply ignored in favour of the national interests of England (=Britain) has, for good reason, never been allowed to occur.

    This is why it is KEY that we coldly and calculatedly go about dismantling the Labour Party in Scotland. Scottish Labour at Westminster is the last democratic ‘fig leaf’ that the Union has for it’s rule in Scotland. That is why it was forced so disastrously to front the Better Together Campaign. All the remaining Unionist Parties in Scotland simply had/have zero credibility here. It appears that contagion has now spread to Labour.

    No credible Political Party of Union in Scotland = No Union in Scotland. It’s that simple and at the next inevitable Westminster/Scotland policy conflict, where the Scottish national interest is simply and obviously ignored, the break up will occur. The catalyst for this could be any number of longstanding and historically repeating issues such as going to ‘war’, renewal of trident, privatisation of the NHS, leaving Europe, education provision, Barnet budget cuts, et. etc..

    Whither the mechanism for that break up is another referendum or a democratically mandated UDI (or maybe some other currently unknown method) to me is absolutely secondary. We must first remove the Union parties from Scotland to allow Scotland’s National interest to become primary (and voiced as such)! We already know the inevitability of that voice not only being ignored, but very likely ridiculed and denounced in outrage by our so called ‘equal partners’. It will then be up to the Scottish voting public and their representatives to decide on a suitable response.


  22. James Coleman says:

    It is my view that at GE2015 Labour will do very badly in England, Scotland and Wales and will be in no position to form a Government with or without the aid of other parties. The more likely scenario is that the Tories will win enough seats either to form a Government on their own or with the aid of UKIP and Northern Ireland MPs, although this may not become apparent till very late in the campaign. The Scottish bloc therefore will have to be very circumspect about talking about any relationship with Labour beforehand. An even worse tag than “vote SNP and let the Tories in” could be “vote SNP and let Labour in”. The latter type of claim has destroyed the LibDems. And why would any Labour doubter vote SNP in those circumstances when they could vote Labour and get the real thing?

    I believe that the Scottish bloc should hammer home the fact that a vote for its candidates would mean MPs at Westminster who will look after Scottish interests and ensure the ‘VOW’ is carried to a successful DevoMax completion, as opposed to Labour candidates who will be mere voting fodder for (English) Labour policies. It also needs to be made crystal clear that with additional devolution, Tory policies will have much less effect in Scotland so that letting the “Tories in” will lose much of its sting.

  23. This is an excellent article Ivan, with lots of very good analysis, although for what it’s worth, I’m not convinced a cross-party campaign is going to emerge. Apart from the fact that there’d be so much to do in such a short space of time (agree on a name or common banner, divvy up seats, sort out the approach to areas of disagreement, draw up a manifesto, get candidates sorted (since it wouldn’t simply be a case of selecting from branch members in some cases)), I feel like the recent opinion polls pretty much render the idea dead in the water. If the SNP can deliver 30+ seats on its own, it’s difficult to see what the SNP would gain from standing aside in certain seats and so on. And who’s to say all the people currently saying they’d vote SNP in the general election are Yes voters? It’s generally recognised that a sizeable chunk of SNP voters in 2011 weren’t in favour of independence, but simply saw the SNP as the best party to govern. Similarly, it may be possible to convince people who voted No to vote SNP as the party most likely to ensure Scotland doesn’t fall off the agenda. That’s more difficult if they’re standing under a Yes Alliance banner.

    Local branches might reach gentleman’s agreements with other parties, of course, but I don’t think there’ll be an official Yes Alliance. But we’ll find out soon enough!

    And thanks for providing more good arguments against UDI. People need to understand that independence simply isn’t going to happen that way.

    1. Mark Coburn says:

      I would agree with most of what you’ve written Doug, but the problem remains for the SNP: how to win in Glasgow (and the other Yes areas). There are quite a few non-SNP candidates out there who would be far more effective at dislodging Labour MPs than those who would normally stand. The SNP doesn’t quite have the tie-in with Glasgow that it needs to in order to take Labour out.

      As an interesting side point, I admit that I would like to see Alex Salmond (now a loose cannon) take on Anas Sarwar and plant himself right in the middle of Glasgow. Nice statement of intent. Sorry if you’re of the persuasion that he might go for Gordon.

    2. Doug, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you say:

      “And who’s to say all the people currently saying they’d vote SNP in the general election are Yes voters? It’s generally recognised that a sizeable chunk of SNP voters in 2011 weren’t in favour of independence, but simply saw the SNP as the best party to govern.”

      However, I’d reach the opposite conclusion to yours.

      The SNP face a simple choice:

      (1) Do they want to follow a party path and try and build their electoral base (in which case your advice is sound), or

      (2) Do they want independence for Scotland, and an independence achieved by putting people before party and doing what they can to encourage a much broader positive inclusive movement for change (in which case establishing an electoral alliance for 2015 which mostly consists of SNP candidates but also some Greens, at least one SSP, and a few prominent independent candidates, is the only route. Where there is the will there is the way, we all worked flat out together for the referendum, it will not take much to sort this out if we want to do it).

  24. Onwards says:

    “UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES will voting for the Scottish block MPs make the chances of a Tory Prime Minister getting into Number 10 by default any higher.”

    I believe this is ESSENTIAL.
    Even if the Tories are offering more devolution than Labour.
    It is traditional Labour votes we need, and we need to promise to never help the Tories into power.
    Maybe a parchment VOW will do the trick..

    We need a simply clear message that any PRO-SCOTLAND Alliance would be the best way to put Scotland’s interests first at all times. And not letting Labour get away with betraying Scotland on devolution.
    We will support Labour, if Labour supports Scotland.

    I think it is possible. Ed Miliband is weak and it looks like Labour will let Scotland down on extra powers. Trying to spin income tax responsibility as Devo-max isn’t going to work.
    Gordon Brown promised ‘close to Federalism’, and started backtracking the day after the referendum.
    They are as vulnerable as they could ever be.

  25. Mark Coburn says:

    There are two other points to this which haven’t been touched on and that is quantity of Labour activists and the split votes in the other parties.

    We’ll have a clearer idea very shortly as to how many members the Labour party has. This is significant due to the fact that many were bussed up from south of the border during the referendum campaign while others were constantly on the phones frightening the pensioners about pensions and winter fuel allowance. Those activists will not be available because Labour will be fighting the Tories in the south of England and UKIP in the north. NB: They will be for the Scottish elections in 2016!

    When Labour got its 41 seats (now 40) it was the party in power and Gordon Brown was at the helm. As an opposition party they have been probably the worst in living memory. Miliband has neither intellectual gravitas nor charisma (neither did Brown) to make a decent claim to be Prime Minister. But, significantly, the latter quality is crucial because while the former is lacking in him as well as in Cameron and Clegg, it is not lacking in Farage. He will get much tv coverage even outside the debates. This will mean UKIP (who don’t forget will probably have their second MP on the 21st of Nov) will pick up quite a lot of votes (some traditional Tory) while the Lib Dems will be losing theirs (depending on individual constituency).

    Where does this leave us? Needing to get back out and communicating with voters with a clear message that we’re not going away, ever.

  26. Dave Coull says:

    While it is possible that a bloc of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party could hold the balance of power in a hung parliament, there should be no circumstances in which they agree to go along with renewal of Trident. It has got to go. Absolute red-line issue. If Trident stays, then no deal. Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly said that she was a member of the CND before she joined the SNP, she and other prominent SNP members are on record as saying Trident has to go, and neither Plaid Cymru nor the Green Party will want to get into a position where they appear to be supporting a government committed to maintaining Trident. There will be plenty of support for taking a hard line over this. There are Tories who are against Trident. The senior ranks of the Army are against Trident. The RAF is against Trident. Only the Navy actually supports it, and even amongst naval officers there are plenty who think the money would be better spent on surface ships, minesweepers, and defending all them oil rigs. So, a hard line over this can succeed. And if it doesn’t? Then oppose whoever is in government.

  27. G. P. Walrus says:

    I like the idea of pro-indy party alliances in the sense that they agree a common platform on how they will operate on a slate of policies once elected to Westminster. That could include Greens, Plaid and other parties throughout the UK and would present serious case for inclusion in the TV debates. However I think it would be counter-productive to go further and make local agreements about how the election should be campaigned for or standing only one candidate in each seat. In more or less eliminating the Scots Tories at Westminster and in generating an overall SNP majority at Holyrood, the electorate has proved that it is eminently capable of voting tactically to ensure a particular outcome. I think we should set out a common platform but campaign as individual parties and let the electorate decide how to respond to that.

  28. scot2go2 says:

    There is no way that I would support or help or in any way contribute to any of this… labour has continually sought the end of the SNP by fair means … or more than usual FOUL… like menzies ” the designer kitchen “… and his secret meetings with that well known democrat ..gordo… & the purpose of these meetings was to STOP the SNP ever achieving the formation of a government… so much for democracy… and now you suggest we…. move on… and forget this group of hypocritical quisling Scots with their masters in wm …. that we somehow abandon this movement into the hands of elite career politicians who openly conspired against the Scottish people… who deliberately & vehemently decreed that Scots couldn’t run their own country without the aid of wm….. that we were not genetically engineered without a word of censure from ANY member of the same despicable group….

    YES … your points are all valid to a degree if you are one of the jaded political class who see this on rules & procedure.. who want to continue playing by the same set of rules that have led to stagnation and impasse… but… your blog has the air of a defeatist… who is more worried that we do nothing that will upset anyone including international opinion…. and exactly what has international opinion done to forward the cause of the Scottish people… certainly not governments.. as they have been piling in at wm’s behest to rubbish an Independent Scotland… from Australia to America…

    No… I would rather immigrate than have my principal’s compromised for the sake of some political expediency…

  29. Ian Patterson says:

    I read Ivan McKee’s article carefully, and thought it was quite excellent.

    Drawing on a military analogy, verve and passion are excellent resources for ‘an armed force’ to have; but strategy and tactics are the bedrock of victory as an examination of military history will show – that’s why it’s always been taught at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst etc – and if it is sometimes the case that victory appears to have come about largely through ‘flare and dash’, then the success probably occurred more by good luck than anything else.

    We are not in a crisis situation, where we have to ‘counter-attack now or be forever destroyed’; we are more logically in a position of regrouping after our recently failed mission, seeing where we went wrong (and I suspect there were several areas where things could have been done much better), and forming a more effective plan to mount the next operation.

    Ivan McKee’s article offers many really good suggestions as to what most usefully be done; and really I hope the SNP management considers the contents carefully.

  30. Marga says:

    OT, but important this week – “While the Catalunya experience shows that routes to Independence other than a referendum may make sense in certain circumstances ” – reading that from Catalonia, I’m intrigued, with a week to go for our fought-for and banned but still going referendum on 9/11, on which issue their government could be brought down by Madrid.

    What other way does this author know about that the Catalans don’t know? Or am I misunderstanding something?

  31. Michael McLintock says:

    There is no doubt keeping the Tories out will be the Labour message.

    But we must also press that the real choice Labour are offering Scotland is

    ‘a kick in the balls from the Tories or a punch in the guts from London Labour’

    That’s the reality we must ram home at GE15, both will be painful for Scotland.

  32. ivanmckee says:

    Hi Marga,

    The point I am making (maybe not clearly enough) is that while the option of an agreed referendum process (through a Section 30 order) is open to Scotland then that is the route that should be taken.

    If however Scotland were to find itself at some future date in the same position as Catalonia currently does (with consistent strong opinion polls leads for independence, election of pro-independence parties with majorities to Holyrood elected on manifesto commitments to hold a referendum and a refusal of Westminster to allow a referendum) then clearly that changes the political environment and options other than an agreed referendum may come into play.

    At the moment we are however a long way in Scotland from that scenario.

  33. Connor McEwen says:

    Nearly right Ivan, now you can keep trying in office

  34. Connor McEwen says:

    Oh Aye, MMM , EVEL Cameron and his hidden Panama Hat trick of Ruthie Tank Commander trying to hide her London centric ambitions.

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