A GUEST POST FROM ANGUS BRENDAN MACNEIL MP
Plan B, as Inverclyde Councillor, Chris McEleny, and I dubbed it a couple of years ago, goes straight to the point of asking the people if they want to be independent at the ballot boxes of an election, the most legal and internationally recognised democratic event in any country.
The 2019 failed Plan A was about asking the people for the mandate to ask Boris Johnson if we can go back to the people and ask a question in a referendum. Plan A has many steps, with the UK PM at the centre of the idea, the problem is obvious, he used the veto. Plan A again is not going to happen. Therefore, Plan B is an idea whose time has come! The golden moment for independence is at hand and we must be ready, not forever vacillating like the Shakespearian Hamlet.The main driver to accidentally push Plan B onwards was Boris Johnson. The UK PM seldom misses an opportunity to blunder against his own interests, Brexit of course being the best example.
On Scotland he should have left the Sec30 carrot dangling until after the 2021 election. Then yet again remove it afterwards, allowing our SNP Scottish Government to be left as snookered as it was after the 2019 UK election when he simply said “No. The Flodden-like gift of the “Boris-Veto” in the SNP manifesto of 2019, is being readied for inevitable failure again. Frankly, there was and still is, understandably, a great reluctance to draw attention to our strategic blunder in 2019, even though some of us predicted it. Although we achieved absolutely zero constitutional advancement and the Sec30 was dismissed with little care or fanfare in Westminster it was much better to point out we had more SNP MPs. (In 2014 we only had 6 MPs). Our haul was of less utility, given the Tories now had used the Christmas Present Election to move from hung Parliament to one with a comfortable majority. Incidentally, I was the only Scottish MP who voted against the obvious electoral gift to Boris and I do not want to see him get another present in our 2021 SNP manifesto. We must be bloody blunt here and wake ourselves up from a torpor. We must recognise and face up to the 2019 blunder.
There is nothing written in the stars guaranteeing Scottish independence, neither outcome is preordained, and the party leadership is not a perfect infallibility on strategy. For instance, there was no strategy for a March 2019 Brexit something that was clear when I asked the question internally at the very top in November 2018. Little did I realise while being mocked for asking the question, that there was also no strategy for Scotland when Brexit came over 2 years later in December 2020, we were indeed taken out against our will. With the Tories obvious Brexit disarray we should be striking now. We must avoid the next obvious blunder would be to repeat a policy a Boris-Veto Sec30 request with no back up insurance policy.
Fortunately, Boris Johnson arrived back on the scene and wakes up all but the most determined ostriches, when the blowhard bellowed that a Sec30 is dead until 2055, a full 34 years away.As a result, SNP President, Micheal Russell MSP, entered the fray sensibly asserting he did not want to wait until he was over 100 for the next independence referendum. A few days later playing full harmony to the Plan B tune, was my esteemed colleague Jo Cherry, leaping straight in at the third point of plan B, that if a majority of MPs or MSPs are elected at an election then that should be enough for independence.
So, what is Plan B. Well properly understood Plan B supports Plan A, we would like a Sec30 to happen and if it does then no need for the insurance of Plan B, but we are also realists. Plan B also supports the Scottish Parliament holding a referendum, if, and of course only if, it is legal to do so. (It should be obvious that an illegal referendum is impossible, for one, who mans the polling stations and count votes etc?) A non Sec30 referendum is currently being valiantly tested for legality in the courts by the tenacious Martin Keatings. We do need to know sooner rather than later if the Scottish Parliament referendum can happen, which is why along with Kenny MacAskill, we are publicly backing Keatings, so far the only 2 elected SNP parliamentarians to do this, although others would be welcomed in joining us. An important aspect of Plan B is that at least one of the two possible referendum routes must establish their credibility before the 31st of March in plenty of time before the election. Time to explain to the public, that the roadblocks in the referendum routes is why we have no option but to use the ballot boxes at the election, rather than at a referendum, to establish the mandated credibility of independence. Some say we should keep our Plan B secret! Well you cannot get a mandate for a secret. Pre 2019 when delegates were misinformed or misled at SNP conference that “Plan A had momentum”. Many delegates out of trust and probable kindness effectively suspended their critical faculties and went with it and also the wink that there was a secret plan.
Now clearly, like the Brexit secret plan, the actual secret is there was absolutely no secret plan for Scottish independence – or indeed Brexit for that matter. Underlining the fact that you cannot mandate a secret.The revered data and statistics man, Prof John Curtis suggests keeping Plan B for after this election pending all other routes are blocked, presumably with an even higher wall than at present. Clearly a good stats man, or indeed a good press conference person, does not a decent strategist make, it is an invalid illusion that these skills transfer across to each other. All Curtis’ suggestion would achieve is lost years and an opportunity for the UK Gov to regroup and continue the damage and chaos they have created at present, it would make the 2026 election be the 2021 election for slow learners, as the late Seamus Mallon might have said. No! Instead get independence now, when poll after poll shows it will happen.Others say what if Boris Johnson says “No” to 5 million Scots if we vote, by majority, for independence at an election. Well once the forelock tugging of those voices is over, think of what sort of bracket Boris would find himself in with that?
Donald Trump tried it, tried to emulate Lukashenko in Belarus, and look how far it got him in a Western country with an ingrained democratic tradition. Boris would realise and probably already knows, that he cannot, would not and dare not defy the will of the people. Also, such a question already concedes the failure of Plan A yet again.Let us move the issue on. A majority of Scots, more than back the SNP, back independence let us then give them the strongest possible reason to vote SNP at the Scottish Elections. People now understand that to make downstream decisions on society, social security, taxation, health and education spending, that we need to solve the upstream issue of having the powers to make those decisions.
To recap, exhaust the referendum routes by 31st March, if neither of those are certain of happening post-election, then make the election a plebiscite. Also let us all unite around this and please stop inventing nonsense phrases like “gold standards” or falsely asserting the international community will not accept this, that and the rest of it. The disparate international community have said no such thing, nor indeed has Westminster. It is only those with limited vision on our own side who bizarrely stick to the first idea they thought of, a Sec30 referendum, which is actually the idea Alex Salmond thought of for a different point in time. Generals fighting today’s war with yesterday’s tactics usually fail. Circumstances have changed. Now, the milestone of merely being and having a devolved Government is not enough for Scotland anymore. The SNP depute leader is now the man we look to for all this to be discussed at his upcoming National Assembly, which could be the last before independence, if the Hamlet prevarication gene is banished.
Yours for Scotland
Angus Brendan MacNeil MP
Why not take out a free subscription to this blog. These are available on the Home and Blog pages of this website.
My thanks to Angus for an interesting and worthwhile positive route to move Independence forward and offers everyone who believes that the polls indicate we are winning, a realistic opportunity to translate poll leads into something concrete that will carry additional weight both in Westminster and internationally. What do you think is the stronger position, poll leads in opinion polls or a delivered actual vote for Independence in a General Election? I know my answer snd I know what other interested parties will think also. Much, much more difficult for Boris to ignore. The media also would have huge difficulty denying it is legitimate whereas “poll leads” can be easily dismissed, as we have seen.