Scottish independence: SNP cannot make 2024 general election all about them, we need an independence convention – Kenny MacAskill MP

The First Minster’s statement last week on an independence referendum was underwhelming.
Not everyone who supports independence supports the SNP (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)Not everyone who supports independence supports the SNP (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)
Not everyone who supports independence supports the SNP (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

From an independence activist point of view though, it’s still welcome all the same, as it’s at least the starting pistol fired for the next campaign. One from which there can be no going back.

Unlike in 2017, she cannot, and will not, be allowed like the Grand Old Duke of York to march the troops up to the top of the hill, only to march them all back down again.

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This time it’s onwards, irrespective of which democratic and peaceful routes are required. If she and her cohorts falter, others will pick up the mantle. The damage being done to Scotland’s too great, and the pain and misery being inflicted on so many necessitate it.

Her selection of a direct referral to the Supreme Court seems more to do with having run out of road, as well as having no support from her Lord Advocate for a consultative referendum.

The likelihood of the Supreme Court doing anything other than reinforcing Westminster sovereignty is virtually nil. But, with pressures mounting for action, something had to be done, even if she’s simply going through the motions.

Many independence activists would argue that the legal aspects should have been addressed years back. Indeed, not only did the Scottish Government fail to do so but actively opposed campaigners’ legal action on that point. Moreover, the arguments put forward in that case undermine the position now being taken.

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But just because the bill and Supreme Court debate are a façade doesn’t mean that pressure shouldn’t be brought to bear. Quite the contrary. Boris Johnson’s rocking, and Westminster and the British state have a “fin de siecle” feel about them.

More voices than ever before south of the Border and abroad are recognising the legitimacy, as well as the need for a referendum. More importantly, the end of the Union, like Brexit before it, is beginning to be viewed as inevitable by many and could become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

The turning of the next election into a plebiscite’s another U-turn, having decried and derided those activists who have proposed it for years, until last week that is. Despite that, it still had a back-of-a-fag-packet feel, which no doubt explained the inability of John Swinney to be on script for what would constitute a mandate, votes or seats.

Such a step, welcome as it is, would have been better at the Holyrood 2021 election, rather than left for Westminster 2024 where the franchise is controlled by the British government and EU nationals, 16 and 17-year-olds are excluded, never mind huge impediments to vote placed upon many others. Again, another area where delay has been unhelpful to the cause and where narrow party benefit cannot be allowed to impede the wider national interest.

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There are many independence supporters who just won’t vote SNP. Trying to dragoon them or leave them with no alternative is unacceptable political sectarianism.

So, the options are either multiple independence parties to maximise the vote or an agreed platform as operated by the Bloc Quebecois in Canadian federal elections. For many, the SNP can have one or the other but not a free run. The cause is bigger than them alone and an independence convention’s the place to start.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian



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