SNP must fight their campaign, not rely on foibles of #IndyRef opponents

Indyref flagsGreat piece from Lallands Peat Worrier, who is, erm, worried that the SNP is too quick to dismiss the possibility of the Conservatives, Lib Dems and even Labour of making good on hints that some form of Devo Max could be on the table if the Scots reject independence.

Yes, the British state is given to unprincipled strategic trimming. Yes, the Tories exhibit no principled reason to support more devolution. Yes, the recent history of all three parties has exhibited considerable reluctance substantially to extend Scottish powers in areas of taxation and welfare, or to embrace some sort of settled federation. Yes, defeat in the referendum would go a long way to eliminating the “political need” for more devolution, weakening rather than strengthening any devosomething argument.

But what are the advocates of independence to do if the three opposition parties – somehow – produce a compelling, reasoned, credible devolutionary alternative?

He councils that relying on your opponents past form is no way to fight future battles:

Instead of harping on the string that the Better Together campaign can’t and won’t adopt a credible pro-devolution position, shouldn’t we evade the elephant trap of them actually producing one? Achilles didn’t send Paris a billet-doux and a bow and arrow before the battle saying “sir, kindly refrain from shooting me in the heel.”

Instead of dredging up decades-old tales about faded patrician politicians signifying sod all to most people, hoodwinking ourselves with our cherished history and waiting for the snare to close about our ankles, why not anticipate this obvious development now, and start making the case why independence would be categorically different, categorically better than any form of devolution? Save for Trident, and their recent Iraqi invasion retrospective, the SNP has arguably declined to make this case in any sustained way.

For your pessimistic independence supporter, who sees the result of 2014 as a forgone conclusion, this strategy is not without its attractions. If the consequence of defeat is luring your opponents into extending the powers of Scottish democratic institutions, all to the good. For the optimist, given to think that the 2014 poll is winnable, however, the way we’re framing the pro-independence case at the moment looks decidedly precarious. There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about Better Together’s amorphous constitutional promises without resorting to 1979, and to Alec Douglas-Home. The SNP are right to make that point, but let’s not blunder into a rhetorical snare of our own making, and hew through our hamstrings in the process.

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  • DougtheDug

    Lallandspeatworrier usually writes well but unfortunately the premise in his article isn’t correct.

    The independence campaign isn’t based on a competition to see who’s going to offer the best form of devolution ranging from the SNP’s independence option to the current devolution settlement and taking in anything that the unionist side might offer between here and 2014, it’s a campaign based on independence versus the union. On the independence referendum ballot paper the question is yes or no not yes or devo-max.

    However one of the strategies employed by the unionist side is jam-tomorrow, the hint that in the event of a no vote in the referendum Scotland will be showered with new powers in the mother of all devolution settlements.

    Note that word hint. Not one of the three unionist parties, Labour, the Conservatives or the Lib-Dems have made any promises or adopted any new scheme of devolution at the UK level and we’re now only about a year and a half out from the independence referendum.

    The Yes campaign has to point out that to those wavering voters who may believe that a no vote will result in more devolved powers that jam-tomorrow is just jam-tomorrow. No promise, no chance.

    In any case the idea of the three unionist parties coming together to offer a package of very much enhanced devolution is simply wrong. It won’t happen before the independence referendum and with the threat of independence gone it certainly won’t happen after a no vote.

    Every devolution scheme from the current one in operation to any of those so far proposed have been exactly the same. Scotland’s government gets funded to the Barnett formula level to pay for public services and it can crank up income tax if it wants more revenue.

    Take a step back from all the academic, political, politically academic and academically political contortions of controlled taxes, assigned taxes and top up block grant in any of them and that’s what you get, exactly the same as before.

    Scotland already is at devo-max and nothing new is going to go onto the table before 2014.