2007 - 2022

Responses to #ScotRef

scotland-map-web21We asked five commentators for their responses to yesterday’s announcement about a second referendum.

A huge historic decision – Joyce McMillan

The first thing to say is that I think Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to call a second independence referendum, some time between autumn 2018 and summer 2019, is both a courageous move, and a constitutionally correct one.  Courageous because it’s absolutely clear that in calling for a second vote within 5 years, Nicola Sturgeon is risking a defeat that could wipe Scottish independence off the political agenda for decades, seriously damage her party, and end her own political career; indeed there are so many uncertainties along the road to spring 2019, in this period of absolute upheaval in global politics, that no-one could possibly be sure what result will emerge, either way. Constitutionally correct, though, because only the most diehard unionist could possibly argue that the Brexit vote of last June, combined with Theresa May’s decision to pursue the hardest of “hard” Brexits on the strength of that wafer-thin popular majority, does not represent exactly the kind of material change of circumstances which the SNP described in its 2016 manifesto as justifying a new independence referendum.

As the First Minister put it in her immaculately-argued speech on Monday, announcing her decision, the truth is that if she did not seek another referendum now, she would effectively be deciding – given Theresa May’s apparent intransigence on any special arrangements for Scotland – that her country should be taken forward into a deeply damaging hard exit from the EU, despite the fact that 62% of Scottish voters explicitly rejected that option just nine months ago; it is hard to see how she could possibly have made or defended such a decision. This coming referendum will of course be a much bleaker and more serious matter than the vote of 2014, when the EU still held us all in its wider legislative and regulatory embrace.  But Scotland now has a huge, historic decision to make about whether it follows the UK into a new age of right-wing Atlanticism, or seeks to remain part of the European community of nations; and I think the First Minister is right to argue that that decision should finally rest with the people.

6a00d83452241169e2017c33f6bcea970bBe the Candle not the Darkness – Pat Kane

For those of us who think that indy in the EU is both an economic and social necessity, and a huge opportunity to launch Scotland as a nation-brand across the planet, I am delighted that Nicola has decided to go for a Scottish referendum before the Brexit negotiations conclude. The arguments against the Union are stronger than they’ve ever been. However I think the sense of realism about how much work an indy Scotland will be in the early years is also now generally understood.

But this time, it’s the ultimate choice.

If we don’t win this argument for indy, faced with the extreme inequalities and harshnesses that Brexit will bring, then we can certainly put the constitutional question to rest in Scotland, for this generation at least.  I think it will be won, though. Work by Common Weal has shown exactly the preparation and strategy we need to have for issues like a separate currency, or the independence process itself.

I also believe that a ‘growth’ agenda is a deeper concept that just competitive advantage. It remains the case that no country has ever had a better opportunity to make a creative, dynamic success of independence – on all fronts, and connecting up all the domains of resource and excellence – than Scotland in 2017. We can do great and noble things – for ourselves, and also for the world. As for how pro-indy people should conduct themselves in this referendum?

Be the Scotland you wish to see. Take the high road. Be the candle, not the darkness. The world needs some good news about modern democracy. Let’s give them it.


Stop seeing ‘them’ as something to ‘woo’ – Darren McGarvey 

Stuff you should stop doing if you want to ‘woo’ people: stop seeing them as something to ‘woo’; stop viewing the people with alternative opinions as no more than obstacles or enemies; see the opportunity to learn from them; stop using sequel hastags like ‘indyref2’ or ‘yes2’. This just triggers No voter PTSD. Remember that many of us actually made a running joke of the things No voters were concerned or afraid about and, while we saw ourselves as a big carnival of democracy, it was also quite loud and intimidating for a lot of people. This isn’t a re-run….because in a re-run…we lose again. Stop calling the First Minister ‘Nicola’. You may feel very familiar with her, may even have met her, but to other people its a a bit nauseating and servile and, well, New Labour.

Drop the moral arguments about nukes, militarism, capitalism etc and focus on either a realistic forecast of the economics or an argument based on self-determination/democracy. Accept that there are as many moral reasons for voting No as there are for voting Yes and that our own moral reasoning is a bit self-serving when you really scrunitise it: ‘Oor oil’ was not a moral argument, is was based on self-interest. ‘No nukes’ is a platitude that makes no account of the complexity of the situation or the fact the Yes movement thrives within a UK democracy partly protected by nuclear weapons. You may not agree with any of this but these are valid ways of looking at it. Drop the idea of Scots being an oppressed class of people. Drop the idea of Scotland being a moral nation. Hide your flag. Be humble enough to recognise we actually lost, no coz BBC or SNP bad, but because we took a gamble and tried to win based on vague moral platitudes about hope and social justice that tapped into working class anger at the system, without ever addressing how we would change the system in any meaningful way.

That’s not enough for people who have something to lose.

Radical Independence Conference Gather In GlasgowScotland’s own elites are against people power, too  – Cat Boyd

The Tories could have avoided this referendum. All they had to do was show Scotland’s voters and institutions a morsel of respect. But when the time came, they couldn’t bring themselves to do it. They wanted to see Scotland punished and humiliated, just as they’ve punished and humiliated the unions, just as they’ve punished and humiliated families fleeing torture and death squads, just as they’ve punished and humiliated women, students, disabled people and the unemployed.

That’s why this referendum is unavoidable. Because in Britain, you’ll never have a voice unless you’re a billionaire with a couple of tabloid newspapers on hand to spout your lazy opinions.

In 2014, we inspired progressives all over the world with a radical message that took on Cameron, Osborne and Clegg when they said cuts were inevitable. We said Britain is for the rich, and Scotland can be ours. We were right to say it. Theresa May talks about the working class, but the Tories are still imposing cuts and they’re still cutting taxes for the rich. If we stay in Britain, we won’t have a choice.

If we stay in Britain, we’ll have to apologise for leaders who cosy up to Trump and to the dictators who buy from our military industries. In Britain, nuclear weapons will come before hospitals. In Britain, politicians will hound you out of the country if you’re the wrong colour or religion.

Scotland can do so much better than this. Once again, the world is watching us: but let’s not forget that Scotland’s own elites are against people power, too. Only when workers and citizens are organised can we challenge the powerful here at home too. If we’re going to do it this time, let’s do it right.

scotlandBring Back Downtown Abbey – Peter Arnott

I’ve never been gung-ho about a new referendum.  There was always going to be one…but before or after the Brexit deal? I was agnostic, leaning to caution. But maybe as with pregnancy, the “right” time was never going to come. The timing of the announcement today, for example, was everything.  The Brexiteers were totally blind-sided and it has been mighty entertaining to watch the spluttering and outrage, best expressed in the Telegraph headline that Sturgeon was “spoiling” Brexit, as if this intervention was chiefly culpable as an intrusion on some “Bring Back Downton Abbey” fantasy of honey still for tea and all being right with The Empire on Which the Sun Never Sets.

As for the Unionists in Scotland, I do wonder what on earth kind of co-ordinated Better Together Campaign is even concievable given the chaos that Brexit has already stirred  (ie Corbyn) in the crumbling corridors of pretend power. (The Dilapidation of Westminster metaphor is rresistible.) Again, given the “hands tieing” that an unruly Scotland represents in the forthcoming EU negotiations, there must be a terrible temptation just to turn North and scream “No, Bugger You!”

Am I looking forward to it? That’s probably going a bit far. The ugliness of an Empire rotting away from the inside is not going to be a sight I am looking forward to seeing. Britain stood for something once.  And there is still a bit of me that regrets that it will stand no longer than the Spring of 2019.

Comments (31)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Ex Pat says:


    Nobody gives you Independence. You take it.

    Especially from the British Empire if you’ve seen their murderous treatment of their colonies – Ireland, Kenya, Malaya, Aden, Bahrain, on and on.

    Since 2001 you’ve noticed the psychopathy, and fascism, of the UK acting as Mussolini to the US Empire’s Neo-Con Nazis, with USUK illegal war, murder, torture-to-death and genocide.

    SO. Independence. You take it !

    Independence – the, ER, traditional method – GPO 1916 – Michael Collins –



    The battle for Irish independence was won in Dublin with an intelligence war against the Irish special branch and later against British spies. “Whoever controls Dublin controls Ireland.” “They had no thought of winning (against the British Empire). They were just a group of young men wanting to have a go.” “They were inventing a new form of warfare to do it.” Tim Pat Coogan paraphrased.

    – ‘Michael Collins The Intelligence War for Dublin’ – Youtube –



    As the questioner says in ‘Hello Cheltenham!’, the UK has perfected the manipulation of the UK public for _centuries_. And now they’ve carried that on from the old-style Press of newspapers, radio and TV, to Independence blogs, websites and other new media. “The UK attempts to control cyber media in particular”, paraphrased.

    – See “Hello Cheltenham!” video link in a comment by Gavin Taylor to article ‘New Media Futures’ by John O’Dowd, 5th October, 2016 – direct – Youtube –


    – An extremely good background to the Radical Independence Conference talk – ‘New Media Futures’, by John O’Dowd, 5th October 2016 –



    Similarly the battle for Scottish Independence will be a new form of warfare. The battle will be won or lost as an Information War, with the routing of the UK Muppet Stream Media, including the BBC, with the negating of infiltrators of Scottish Independence Media and the outing of fake Independence media.

    One hopes that the Scottish Independence side has an actual Intelligence department too, or they’ll likely get their hat handed to them a second time by the usual backstabbing blackguarding English trickery. SO Will Scottish the Independence side _act_ this time against postal ballot box stuffing, and however else the Unionists ‘fixed it’ in 2014??



    Fighting for independence against the English is serious business. After all, the UK has just spent the last sixteen years in illegal war, murdering, torturing-to-death and genociding millions abroad. What is stealing a referendum to such people?? SO. What kind of men and women are needed? ER, The indomitable kind – like You – Indomitable when needed! ; ) – Like this chap. Scotsman George Millar, DSO, MC SOE, from Stirlingshire – Youtube –


    Just as the Irish War of Independence was won by the right men and women. General Tom Barry on this key difference in the Irish War of Independence to every previous failure – riveting! – ‘Tom Barry talk on Guerilla Warfare – Part 1’ – Youtube –


    If the links disappear, and they do frequently, search using the descriptions.

    Good luck for Scottish Independence from John Bull’s other island! Now posing as an unsinkable aircraft carrier for the US Empire’s tax-evading corporations pillaging the EU, but we digress. ; )

  2. Ex Pat says:


    It’s important that you know clearly what you are about, and the environment in which you operate. Information Clearing House and others are actively helpful, whereas the UK Muppet Stream Media deliberately attempts to bamboozle you.


    Since 2001 you’ve noticed the psychopathy, and yes, fascism, of the UK acting as Mussolini to the US Empire’s Neo-Con Nazis, with USUK illegal war, murder, torture-to-death and genocide. (*1)

    UK psychopathy and fascism with the illegal invasion of Iraq – 4m dead? 1) 400k in Gulf War 1. 2) 2m by sanctions including 1m children under 5? – not 500,000 children “We think it was worth it” Madeleine Albright. 1.6m dead in Iraq War. 1.3m dead ‘excess deaths’ ORB study 2006, plus those since. Total 4m dead, including ‘excess deaths’.

    UK psychopathy and fascism with rendition-for-extermination by the USUK. “None of those rendered to Uzbekistan have ever been seen again” – Craig Murray, former UK ambassador.

    UK psychopathy and fascism – with the ‘disappearing’ of 27,000 muslims, mostly Arabs, says Clive Stafford-Smith. Now in mass graves suggests Robert Fisk.


    Robert Fisk – “There is just one little problem, though, and that’s the “missing” prisoners. Not the victims who have been (still are being?) tortured in Guantanamo, but the thousands who have simply disappeared into US custody abroad or – with American help – into the prisons of US allies. Some reports speak of 20,000 missing men, most of them Arabs, all of them Muslims. Where are they? Can they be freed now? Or are they dead? If Obama finds that he is inheriting mass graves from George W Bush, there will be a lot of apologising to do.”

    Robert Fisk, the same incensed honourable man who fearlessly reported the Sabra and Shatila genocide of Ariel Sharon who, after the Israeli inquiry, was fired as Israeli Defense minister and forever more branded a war criminal. Would that there be such an inquiry in the U.S. –



    Clive Stafford Smith: “US Holding 27,000 in Secret Overseas Prisons; Transporting Prisoners to Iraqi Jails to Avoid Media & Legal Scrutiny,” on Democracy Now. Click on Real Video Stream – main video corrupted. What a surprise. Not. –


    More – See comment ‘USUK Empire – Genocide, Torture’ by Ex Pat to ‘Thud of the Jackboot’, by Alexander Cockburn, December 23, 2011 – ICH –


    Good Luck! Let’s hope that democracy and fair play (*2) wins the day. But if not, remember George Millar – “With a ballot box in one hand and a Colt .45 in the other??” ; ) Sorry. Little Irish joke. (ER. ?? Don’t try this at home kids. Ed.) –


    (*1) You didn’t notice? Really?? We don’t hold out much hope for that level of willful blindness after sixteen years of widely-reported illegal war, murder, torture-to-death and genocide. But give it a try – read more Information Clearing House –


    (*2) #$%@# Fair play! From the English!?? You really haven’t been paying attention have you? So this may go straight over your head – Learning how to Judge For Yourself ; ) – Peter Cook Biased Judge sketch – Youtube –


  3. Doghouse Reilly says:

    The shame about this rant is that in trying to expose real injustice it simply stumbles into racism.

    And there is nothing funny, or even remotely acceptable in the comment…”with a ballot box in one hand and a Colt .45 in the other”

    If this is the face, even the hidden face of a second independence campaign then I want nothing to do with it and the editor of this site should have more to say than “don’t try this at home kids”

    Shameful. But by all means run it as a campaign tactic, but win or lose, what ever it delivers it won’t be “freedom”.

  4. Josef O Luain says:

    Yesterday, while out delivering SNP election leaflets, I was amazed when one recipient, a pensioner, accepted a leaflet from me and then proceeded, in my full view, to chuck it into his bin. He appeared to go out of his way to do this.

    At that point in the day, I wasn’t aware of the FM’s statement. It was only later, when I became aware of said statement, could I make sense of the man’s reaction. I have to assume that he was aware of the statement and as a result, I became the butt of his displeasure.

    The reason I mention the incident at all is because in my many years of distributing political literature, this incident marks an all-time first; they normally wait until you’ve gone before consigning your leaflets to the bin.

    One elderly man’s reaction shouldn’t be blown out of proportion, of course. That said, it is impossible not to suspect, having been confronted by this kind of behaviour, that the upcoming campaign may be quite different, more abrasive, perhaps, than the last one.

    1. rudolph steiner says:

      ah yes, the voice of reason

    2. MBC says:

      It will be more serious. Your anecdote suggests that the elderly are best avoided. They can’t handle their world collapsing, it is too much for them.

      1. Doghouse Reilly says:

        So the line is, ignore the old, they have no future anyway?

        A real vote winner until of course they turn out to vote.

        I think not thinking of every one that disagrees with you as the enemy or an idiot would be a better move.

        who knows what a man of his age may have endured to shape his world view.

  5. Alan Bissett says:

    Darren is a vital voice in all sorts of ways, but he seems to be recommending we conduct discussion about independence without mentioning

    nuclear weapons
    structural marginalisation
    hope for a better future
    media framing of the discourse
    the UK’s military spend

    and that pretty much we shouldn’t really challenge anybody’s reasons for voting No, nor suggest that the UK is charting a, yes, morally-suspect course towards the far-right? In fact, we should recognise that the desire to use North Sea oil resources responsibly – rather than gifting it to parties who not only squandered it on our behalf but lied to us about it – was only ever ‘self-interest’, and that “the Yes movement thrives within a UK democracy partly protected by nuclear weapons”?

    Pardon me for thinking that in the end this simply confirms the No voter’s worldview.

    Why limit ourselves only to certain arguments? Some are persuasive to some punters, others aren’t. We’re going to need all of them, and trust ourselves to know which are appropriate in different contexts.

    1. Yes I find that half of his argument baffling (was I’ve said to him). I do get the part where he argues about urging people to assuming the moral high-ground, but I don’t understand why the argument that we should change nothing could be compelling.

    2. Redgauntlet says:

      Darren should just maybe publish his telephone number and his email address, and if any of us have any doubts when campaigning, we can run it by him…huh?

      Darren is having a fckin nightmare….

      1. Redgauntlet says:

        And for ridiculous lines go, Joyce McMillan’s “when the EU still held us all in its wider legislative and regulatory embrace” is one of the best….

        …but Joyce is a critic, let’s make allowances (sorry Joyce, for critiquing a critic)….

        As for Pat Kane and his candle in the dark, I thought Pat had stopped writing cheesy song lyrics way back….

  6. Craig P says:

    The wellspring of unionism is ancient, as old as the 16th century. It is the desire to protect Scotland from England’s excesses.

    The very heart of unionism is vulnerable if we can show that the union doesn’t manage that these days. We certainly don’t get listened to by the UK government any more.

    1. Doghouse Reilly says:

      ah, those evil English again

      1. Jo says:

        “Ah, those evil English again”

        That is so not the case. Many people in England find it refreshing that the SNP are at least standing up to May………….unlike the Commons.

        There is no “anti-English” theme involved for the SNP. That is a myth.

        1. Doghouse Reilly says:

          I did not say it was so but I would pick a couple of quotes from this thread….
          ” ……protect Scotland from England’s excesses”
          “Fighting for independence against the English is serious business”

          and suggest that we need to take a bit of care in our use of language.

          1. Craig P says:

            I see where you are coming from Doghouse in a 21st century context. Nevertheless, that is the historical origin of unionist thought – the search for an alternative to being conquered by a larger neighbour.

          2. Doghouse Reilly says:

            And that’s another problem. Scotland hasn’t been “conquered” by England and it wasn’t a victim of Empire.

            In fact all parts of Scottish civil, religious and political society were enthusiastic participants in Empire, our cities were built on it’s unequal trade and our museums are full of its plunder.

            The case for independence can be made on democratic grounds alone. It needs no grievance, real or imagined, to bolster it.

            Anti capitalism and anti imperialism should (in my view at least) be part of that case but that also requires an acknowledgment of Scotland’s role in empire and a commitment not to replace British Capitalism with it’s Scottish counterpart.

  7. Alan says:

    I’m skeptical of the “a defeat that could wipe Scottish independence off the political agenda for decades”.

    This argument tends to be made on the basis of what happened in Canada but Canada’s political system is nothing like the UK’s. Canada has a system of federal government in which the central government is relatively weak vis-à-vis the provinces. And the provinces extracted more concessions from the federal government as a result of the Quebec referendums. If Indyref 2 fails to secure independence, and very substantial political reform of the UK doesn’t happen (don’t hold your breath), all the problems of the union will remain and continue to grow. The union as it exists isn’t a sustainable position. Without substantial reform the union will be a festering sore.

    1. BSA says:

      That is very true. I’m sceptical also about the need for Sturgeon to resign if the Referendum is lost. She still has a job to do in Scotland and the UK and she is the best person for that job. It would almost be like expecting the SNP to give up government and disband.

      1. Doghouse Reilly says:

        We probably shouldn’t judge her on her record on reducing the attainment gap in education either. It was just a sound bite after all.

        1. BSA says:

          The only soundbite is the repeated assertion that the SNP have failed on Education and other public services. Repeating it forever doesn’t make the case.

          1. Doghouse Reilly says:

            To be fair, it was the Scottish Government that said that Scottish Education is failing children from poor families and the First Minister herself that said she should be judged on progress in reversing this.

            In any event I think there is more of a debate to it than you suggest but I also don’t think I want to fall out with anyone carrying the same badge as my motor bike. It seems unnatural, not to say unhelpful. But I will say that that rather than focus on helping children from poor families do better I would be happier with a government committed to there not being any poor families any more.

      2. Donald McGregor says:

        A little piece of me wonders if indeed we will have a referendum at all.
        Westminster says NO big style, Scottish government collapse the current parliament and calls an election, Alex Rowley and others step from the shadows and we vote in a government of national unity, recall the Westminster mob and UDI it.
        I think a ‘lot’ of people will respect the decisions of an elected government that avoids them making difficult decisions.

  8. W Habib Steele says:

    PEACE against the Union. Don’t fight against it. Present the positive case for Scottish Sovereignty. Present the facts, and the facts are glaring. Present the case against Westminster These facts are indisputable. Facts are not enough; be passionate, but don’t descend into ad hominem arguments, or use name-calling and put-downs. Let Scottish Sovereigntists who go on talk shows etc, point out the bias of having one Sovereigntists and four or more anti-Sovereigntiists. Expose the Westminster and Unionist lies, graciously. Let scottish Sovereigntists get down to, and present, and present a deep and detailed of the GERS figures, and present them compared with the real financial and fiscal situation of Scotland.

  9. George Gunn says:

    This is for Peter Arnott – just what does this mean “Britain stood for something once. And there is still a bit of me that regrets that it will stand no longer than the Spring of 2019.”

    Britain has “stood” for war, empire and slavery. It has always been rotten.

    1. Donald McGregor says:

      Always true, George. But not how we were told as childer back in the day. And our early beliefs and understandings are always potent. Any properly considered view based on experience will have a little regret for what was once believed, even when proven not true?

    2. MBC says:

      Britain stood for something in the post-war era that created the welfare state and helped forge the UN. I’ve always considered the 1707 union as an aberration that should never have happened, and am a strong critic of where Britain has failed, but it would be utterly perverse to consider that Britain didn’t also have some modest successes.

  10. Fay Kennedy. says:

    It’s a massive prospect to win the referendum but it’s not impossible by any means. I am an expat and can only surmise from afar. It seems to run negative campaigns is never a good idea although they do succeed sometimes. After three hundred years of subservience it will take tremendous effort and courage to make the change. Change is resisted by many folk unfortunately and understandable too when your have three centuries at least of colonisation and assisting your oppressors with their modus operandi. When you know little else from the cradle to the grave you become immured to being treated second class, second rate and all that entails. The need for the imagination to come into the picture is absolutely necessary for without it the same old rhetoric is the default position and a new era of inclusion and progress will once again be buried by those who have no interest in anything that will compromise their greed and arrogance.

  11. Frank says:

    Loki’s analysis is generally very confusing especially for someone who regularly criticises others for not being radical enough. It sounds like he is arguing for a small C conservative campaign. That’s an interesting proposition but he should just come out and say it.

    One of the great things about 2014 were the new radical voices which appeared on the scene, although some are starting to sound like a ‘radical establishment’; hopefully new voices will appear.

  12. Doghouse Reilly says:

    All power to the imagination

  13. MBC says:

    It is obvious to any fair minded person that when Scotland and Northern Ireland vote to remain in the EU and England and Wales votes to leave, that some sort of compromise is needed. These differential votes are not only matters of democratic principle. For Scotland and NI there are also powerful economic and existential issues that arise. Sturgeon has made sincere attempts at offering compromise which May has consistently blocked for whatever reason, and has moreover opted for the hardest of hard Brexits which will damage Scotland and NI. But worse, politically. The refusal to repatriate powers over agriculture and fishing are a slap in the face, provocative, as the devolution settlement made these areas part of the settlement. It is quite clear that the UK now threatens Scotland economically as well as stamping on democratic will. It is the opposite of statesmanship and statecraft.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.