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.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty