Scottish independence movement is now united around referendum demand

Joe Middleton Media Officer of Independence First explains why the Scottish independence movement is more united than ever before. TONY BLAIR has said independence would be "disastrous" for Scots however the truth is somewhat different as was revealed recently by Blair's cabinet colleague the former Foreign Secretary and current leader of the House Jack Straw in an interview with the BBC. Straw is quoted as saying: “Historically, England called the shots to achieve a union because the union was seen as a way, among others things, of amplifying England's power worldwide. And the reverse would certainly be true. A broken-up United Kingdom would not be in the interests of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but especially not England. He adds "Our [England’s] voting power in the European Union would diminish. We'd slip down in the world league GDP tables. Our case for staying in the G8 would diminish and there could easily be an assault on our permanent seat in the UN.” [security council] We should perhaps be grateful to Straw for his honesty. What he is effectively saying is that countries like Scotland and Wales are expected to give up their unique voices in the international community so England can enjoy ‘amplified’ ie undeserved international status. The case for union then is simple if, like Gordon Brown, you support England’s interests over Scotland’s then as Straw says there is an excellent case for retention of the union because it was designed to amplify England’s voice and it still does today. If however you support Scotland’s right to have our unique voice heard then the only logical choice is independence. Independence is of course now the most popular constitutional option for the Scottish people. This has became more and more obvious since devolution has been established and is part of a consistent trend of upwards support for independence. It is obvious that the Scottish parliament has not got strong enough powers to get to grips with the Scottish economy or to tackle issues like immigration or defence. Most people in Scotland want more powers for their parliament and the only way those powers will be delivered is by voting for independence. Return to direct rule from London is not a possibility and therefore support for independence has soared. This trend was the main reason behind the formation of the non party-political referendum campaign, Independence First ( Analysts may wonder why independence support dwarfs SNP support. It’s simply that the independence movement has grown larger than the SNP. A great many groups now support independence. The Scottish Green Party, the Scottish Socialist Party and Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity all support independence, as do smaller parties such as the Free Scotland Party, the Scottish Independence Party, the Scottish Enterprise Party and the Communist Party of Scotland. The Celtic League, the James Connolly Society, the SRSM and others also support independence. All these organisations also support Independence First and its call for a democratic referendum for the people of Scotland. The diverse organisations supporting IF were on display at our successful rally on 30 September this year. We also ran an e-petition on the Scottish Parliament’s website which attracted over 1400 signatures. We are currently waiting — though hardly with bated breath — to see how far this petition will go through the unionist-controlled Parliament. Whatever the fate of this particular endeavour, with opinion polls showing a majority in favour, a referendum on independence will happen eventually. Britain’s apparent motto has always been “divide and conquer”, and, in the past, the Scottish independence cause has been divided, with various factions attempting to fight for control of the SNP. Nowadays, although there are many more groups supporting independence, those who believe in independence are more united than ever before. Groups, like IF and the new Scottish Independence Convention, have allowed the independence movement room to breathe and the opportunity to properly prioritise the independence cause. While the Independence Convention is aimed at resolving potential tactical differences between the Scottish parties and designing a constitution for an independent Scotland, Independence First is attempting to maximise support for independence by uniting the Scottish people around our campaign for a democratic referendum. Anyone who supports independence would also support a referendum on it. While some might be uncertain if such a referendum could be won at this time, all have accepted that there is no other route to independence and that, after devolution, the public would logically expect a further vote, on an even bigger constitutional change. The fact that Scottish politics is now equally divided between Westminster elections and the Scottish elections has focused the media more on Scotland, despite the papers remaining largely unionist-orientated and hostile to the arguments for independence. (That not one of the major newspapers reflects majority public opinion on this issue is a cause for concern in our supposedly democratic society.) Nonetheless, this increased focus on Scottish politics has undoubtedly helped the Scottish-based parties, and these Scottish-based parties all favour independence. Even at the last election, while the SNP's vote fell sharply, the overall level of independence support and the number of independence-supporting MSPs actually increased. The smaller parties tend to be marginalised in UK-wide opinion polls and, even in Scottish polls, with a margin of error of ± 3% it is pretty much impossible to determine exactly what the vote for the Greens or the SSP is likely to be. What we do know is that these parties tend to poll higher than their opinion poll results, and we also know that the SNP's support is much higher than ever before. The new parties, like the right-of-centre Scottish Enterprise Party, or the anti-EU Free Scotland Party or Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity party, may well pick up further votes for independence as well. The possibility is there then for a pro-independence coalition which could project Scotland to independence. Independence First has achieved a number of important objectives in the last year. Firstly, we have clarified the position of the UK and Scottish governments on constitutional matters relating to referendums. We recently wrote to both the UK government and the Scottish Parliament asking for a democratic referendum for the people of Scotland on independence. The Scottish Parliament responded: "Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998 defines matters reserved to the UK Parliament. [According to this] the government of the United Kingdom is responsible for considering fundamental changes to the devolution framework." The Scottish Office in London stated: "... the UK Parliament is sovereign and it is for Parliament to decide whether to hold a referendum on any particular issue — and what the terms should be." Obviously the Scottish Parliament wants to pass the buck, while Westminster does not recognise Scotland's proper constitutional position. In England, Parliament may be sovereign, but in Scotland and Scottish law it is generally recognised that it is the people of Scotland who have the right to decide their own destiny. It makes logical sense that any referendum on independence for Scotland should be organised here by our devolved parliament and the UK Government approached to dissolve the union after a vote in favour of independence by the people of Scotland. Secondly, we have united the independence movement behind our campaign, and we are expanding fast. We are launching a new branch in Glasgow later this month and we already have branches in place in Dundee and Edinburgh. Thirdly, we have came up with a structure which will be resistant to any attempt by British unionists to undermine it by playing on political differences. IF have decided that since no important political objectives can be achieved without independence we will not argue about political issues before then. Beyond independence, Independence First has no policies whatsoever: we believe any decisions on the EU or the monarchy or anything else must be made by our national parliament after independence. This non-political position means we are flexible enough to include every single political group and individual who supports independence for Scotland. Our ultimate task is a big one, it is to encourage a massive groundswell of people on the scale of Scotland United to demand a referendum as a matter of urgency. We have calculated that around a million Scots voters need to vote for independence in both the first and second ballets to win an election. Current opinion polls shows over half the people of Scotland already support independence and a further substantial chunk are undecided. We believe one million votes is well within the independence movement's grasp. We also believe that once the Scottish people realise just how close independence potentially is then they will vote for it en masse next year. Joe Middleton, Media Officer, Independence First