“What lessons can Scotland learn from the independence referendum in Catalonia?” asks George Kerevan (Perspective, 12 November). How to win the vote was my immediate, if slightly facetious, first thought!
However, one lesson is already understood among the 1.6 million Scots who voted Yes at least: that we now have an “independence movement” in Scotland, not simply a party. For there is a realisation widely accepted in this debate that supporting Scotland’s democratic right to self-determination does not make you a Scottish Nationalist, it makes you a democrat. Even the No side concede Scotland has an inalienable right to self- determination. They just believe we should not exercise that right.
Hundreds of thousands of Scots, like me, who are not Nationalists were, however, attracted to the democratic, indeed social-democratic, case offered by the Yes side.
So how, George Kerevan asks, do we keep the independence pot simmering?
“We cannot leave the Scottish self-determination process behind closed doors in the Smith Commission”, he insists, and that is absolutely right. Incidentally, there were six parties formally involved in the 2014 independence referendum, six parties obliged to keep to the Electoral Commission rules and yet only five invited by the unelected Lord Smith to join his deliberations. The independence debate continues nonetheless, and in many ways far more meaningfully, outside the confines of the Smith Commission. The Scottish Socialist Party cannot be excluded from that. One initiative I believe we on the Yes side should take, however, is to present “Independence alliance” candidates in next year’s general election. We have a golden opportunity to replace many sitting unionist MPs with independence supporters. Our best chance of success in my view lies in reinforcing the message we are a “movement”, not a party.
I am under no illusions about how difficult these London-dominated elections will be for us, nor about the effect of Labour’s spurious claim that only they can prevent another Tory Government being elected. I don’t believe recent opinion polls suggesting Labour in Scotland is in its death agonies will be accurate in seven months’ time. And, with the greatest of respect to my SNP colleagues, I do not believe they can win these seats on their own. Labour MPs will relish the chance to make these elections tribal, a fight with the SNP. I believe George Kerevan is right, therefore, when he concludes “the onus is on the SNP’s new members to ensure the party does not try to swallow up the wider independence movement”. We must keep our eyes on the prize.
Scottish Socialist Party
What role do non-violent, well organised demonstrations have in making the case for a lasting Home Rule settlement for Scotland? George Kerevan stresses the need for street protests, preferably on the Catalonian model.
He ought to have made the point that these should be complementary to pressure in parliament and not divorced from it. If the SNP does hold the balance of power at Westminster after next May’s election, it will need to campaign with others on the two fronts – using its influence in the House of Commons and pointing to the peaceful expressions of dissent in communities and on streets throughout the land.
Nearly everyone in the Scottish independence argument is committed to democratic and not violent means to bring about change. The case for that change will be enhanced if its supporters see the benefits of co-ordinating parliamentary and street pressure to get the message across.