One of the first pieces I ever published on this site was about why the SNP should put a mandate for a second referendum in their election manifesto for the 2016 Holyrood Elections. In that article I argued in favour of the more risky option of putting another referendum on Scottish independence into the 2016 manifesto, however I now believe that I was wrong to do so. Calling a referendum on such as serious topic should only happen when you are confident of the result being in your favour, which is why David Cameron agreed to the last one. We need to energise young people and maintain the passion for independence for as long as possible before calling another vote.
The crux of the piece that I had previously written is largely relevant to this day, because it was only written a few months ago, however I do think that it is important to illustrate why I have changed my mind. Indeed the piece itself was essentially putting all the salient points of my argument now, however the conclusion was a gamble: have a second referendum sooner rather than later because the ‘Yes’ vote can win.
I’m less sure of whether or not the ‘Yes’ vote would win a second referendum in the near future, and this is why it should be put off. At this point in time, although Scottish Labour is still in free fall and Tory austerity is getting under-way once again, I do not think that there are enough people in Scotland who voted ‘No’ last time that would be willing to support independence.
Nicola Sturgeon was correct to shift the debate away from independence and toward other issues, especially ‘full-fiscal autonomy’. If the SNP can deliver full-fiscal autonomy within the United Kingdom, one of the key arguments used during the referendum, that an independent Scotland wouldn’t be economically prosperous, would automatically be no longer relevant.
Another thing that Sturgeon could do is to use this as a mechanism to prove credit worthiness. If Scotland is fully autonomous in terms of finance, the budgets and policies of the Scottish Government could be used as evidence to international creditors for a good credit rating. If Scotland were then to have another independence referendum, all the scaremongering about not being able to borrow money could be easily refuted.
The next point is a hard-nosed political reality but is a bad thing to say: the cause of independence may be advanced whilst the Tories remain in power. If Tory austerity cuts continue to hit the poorest in society, pro-independence activists can point out that Scotland didn’t vote for this government and that an independent Scotland would be one of social justice. The related argument about democracy can also be made: the Scottish people should decide who rules Scotland, not the entire UK electorate. If the SNP can continue putting the case for further devolution, especially on financial matters, come the next independence referendum many of the unionists arguments will no longer hold water.
To conclude, this piece reiterates the same points I made a few months ago however I have come to a different conclusion. After the general election result in May I was willing to chance it and force Cameron into allowing another referendum. But having seen the strategy of pro-independence activists to bring powers up to Holyrood, I would say that I am more in favour of delaying the vote for a number of years. As someone is both a supporter of independence and inpatient for change, it is crucial that we take stock and build the grassroots movement needed to win a referendum, rather than rush into it and lose the chance for good.