“If I ruled out a referendum, I would be deciding – completely unilaterally – that Scotland will follow the UK to a hard Brexit come what may, no matter how damaging to our economy and our society it turns out to be.
“That should not be the decision of just one politician – not even the first minister. It will be decided by the people of Scotland. It will be Scotland’s choice.” – Nicola Sturgeon, announcing the new independence campaign.
We’re so officially on. Today Nicola Sturgeon announced that next week she shall seek Scottish parliamentary approval for a second independence bill and with the announcement that the Greens will unanimously support it, it has a pro-independence majority in Holyrood and so will pass with nothing more than the hollow wails and gnashing of teeth of the minority of Unionist MSPs to hold it back. Once the bill is passed, she shall request an order under Section 30 of the Scotland Act which, if approved by Westminster, will give Holyrood the power to hold the referendum (if Westminster declines such permission well…that should be an interesting bridge to cross).
Once the Section 30 order is approved, the First Minister has stated that the intention is to hold the referendum some time after the Brexit deal is clear but before (or, at the very latest, shortly after) Brexit day. The reasons for this are laid out in my article on the topic here. Essentially, we’ll need to know what the actual Brexit deal will look like but if we’re still in the UK once we’re out the EU and the UK starts making changes which affects our eligibility for EU membership then they could take a substantial amount of time to reverse if we want to rejoin the EU as a full member.
What happens after that? How do we organise the campaign? How prominent will the parties be?
Well these are questions that will be determined as we shape the independence campaign but on that last question it is quite instructive that the First Minister made this announcement today and not at the SNP party conference at the weekend. This is an encouraging signal that the campaign will emphatically not be a solo project by the party.
I have to say that the adrenaline has been rising in me since the press conference and it has reminded me of an old legend from the ninja of medieval Japan. Within their own name for themselves, 忍者 – shinobi-no-mono, there’s a story about the first symbol 忍. It is said that it can be broken into two. 心, meaning heart or spirit, sitting underneath 刃, a blade. Amongst many lessons, one that it teaches is that one must be steeled with the determination to act as though our actions have real meaning which will echo far beyond our own life and ego. History is being made now and we have a chance to play our own small but lasting part in that.
It’s going to be a busy road ahead of us for the next 18 months but I, for one, am willing to put my heart under the blade and to work as absolutely best I can to build the strongest of foundations for the new campaign and to get out there and win it. I’ve already started with my work on the Common Weal White Paper Project (which we all hope you’d be willing to support to get it finished). I’ll be at the heart of my local Yes group and, of course, my local Green branch when we start getting back out chapping doors. Most importantly I’ll be acting as though I’m living in the early days of a better nation.
Come with me.