Scottish independence: SNP accused of ‘cautious approach’ to referendum

The Yes campaign has been accused of being too negative. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The Yes campaign has been accused of being too negative. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A PRO-independence group has criticised the SNP’s “nervous, cautious and conservative” approach in the run-up to the 2014 referendum and urged the party to stop being “goaded” into setting out a future not supported by the majority of Scots.

In a blunt assessment of 
the Yes campaign, the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) has warned that the approach so far has “demotivated and angered” cross-party supporters of constitutional change by making independence appear to be a “series of major problems”.

The SIC paper suggests that instead of trying to answer specific questions about how a post-independence Scotland would work, the Yes campaign should concentrate on setting out a framework under which unresolved issues will be dealt with after the vote.

The paper has emerged ahead of Electoral Commission plans to test the single question to be put to Scottish voters at the referendum. The 12-week assessment of the SNP’s preferred wording starts this week and follows criticism that the current format is 
biased in favour of a Yes vote.

The SIC has stepped into the debate now because, it says, it does not want important decisions on the future governance of Scotland to be rushed to fit the pro-Union agenda.

Elaine C Smith, the actress and convenor of SIC, said: “We wrote this paper because we wanted people to see that an independent Scotland will not be some sort of secret state devised in private.

“We’ve been amazed that anti-independence campaigners have demanded that all the 
big decisions about a future Scotland are made before the people are allowed any say in those decisions.

“That is just shockingly anti-democratic, and this tradition of British politics which assumes that the role of citizens is to nod politely at what powerful people tell them they have to put up with is the very reason we support a democratic independent Scotland.”

The SIC paper claims that the cautious response adopted by the SNP – on issues 
such as remaining in the EU, keeping the pound, using the Bank of England as its lender of last resort and continuing Nato membership – “raises questions as to why bother with independence at all”.

It continues: “The independence movement is being split by commitments being given without proper consideration of the big picture. U-turns are making the campaign look weak and are not resolving the problem anyway.”

The paper concludes: “On no occasion so far has the outcome been a strengthened case for independence in the public debate. This is unsurprising since the strategy has been 
developed by the No campaign to have this outcome – to create a sense of disruption with no benefit.”

It argues that, instead, the pro-independence camp needs to shift from an “answers-based” approach to a “resolution-based” one, which explains to voters how the new nation after a “yes” vote would be formed.

It sets out three stages: 
negotiations with the rest of the UK, followed by the forming of a constitution, and then democratic debate. The current SNP government should steer clear, prior to the referendum, of making “commitments to public policy which are rightly the subject of future democratic elections”.

Dennis Canavan, chairman of the Yes Scotland campaign, said: “The SIC paper is an 
important contribution to the debate. It draws a very relevant distinction between those issues which are best settled by negotiation, those which are best included in a Scottish constitution and those which are best decided at the first elections to an independent Scottish Parliament.”

Tommy Sheppard, SIC member and former deputy general secretary of the Scottish Labour Party, said: “We need a grown-up parliament so that the people of this country can make their own decisions about their future – quite possibly choosing not to support the SNP when that time comes.”

However, a spokesman for the Better Together campaign said: “At last we have some honesty from the anti-UK campaign. They don’t want this to be a debate about details, 
they don’t want the people of Scotland to be allowed to ask questions about their future.”

An SNP spokesman said: “The Edinburgh Agreementmeans we now have a clear process by which Scotland can become an independent country and which provides a basis to progress these matters.”