Rather than persisting with the myth that building support for a referendum is what’s required, Regan’s proposal to make a pro-indy electoral majority the justification for opening independence negotiations is actually a fresh move.
Because of this, like all simple solutions, it looks insane to those who are committed to more ‘subtle’, ‘nuanced’ or ‘complex’ ways of working. But without a simple and aggressive strategic approach from pro-indy leaders, support for Scots independence will crumble amongst those reaching voting age over the next couple of decades.
Is Regan’s plan for independence good or realistic? I don’t know. But it does not matter.
A bad plan can be improved.
A non-existent plan, a rerun of a failed plan, or the aggressive refusal to state a tipping point, as often hidden in the weasel phrase the ‘settled will’, does not cut it.
The most interesting part of the survey data offered by the ‘find out now’ survey Regan cites, is not the headline approval figure, which is a slim majority.
Nope. Much more significant is a very simple stat that (to the best of my knowledge) nobody else has yet remarked upon, and in relation to which the figures are far clearer.
It’s this. The rich and the upper administrative classes (the ‘AB group’, as collectors of survey data define them) don’t approve of Regan’s plan, whilst every single other class group does.
Now this may be merely old-fashioned class prejudice on my part. But, generally speaking; whatever the rich want, I don’t.
The reason (not ‘a reason’, but the reason) Nicola Sturgeon resigned was the ‘Isla Bryson’ case.
The Scots government has spent years pursuing the aim of making it easier for people to choose their own sex for all legal purposes, including signing up to the rebranding of biologically-based sex differences as socially-based ‘gender’ differences. The proximate mechanism for this was the ‘Gender Recognition Reform’, passed by Holyrood on 22 December 2022 after a bitter debate during which opponents claimed that the Act would enable abusive men to be housed in women’s prisons.
The Westminster government’s response was to refuse assent for the legislation. Sturgeon, and much of her government, appeared to be relishing the prospect of a constitutional battle at the Supreme Court. That battle will still take place, apparently, if Humza Yousaf becomes FM.
But the Scottish Government was quickly forced into a humiliating climbdown before brute fact, and to get creative over how the new law was to be interpreted.
Public outcry was all that prevented a double rapist, who claims to identify as a woman, being housed in a women’s prison: exactly as had been repeatedly and vociferously predicted during the long run-up to the GRR vote.
Sturgeon (to her credit) quietly ensured that this particular rapist did not end up in a women’s prison, then resigned. Inbetween, she paused long enough that political commentators who think only in 24-hour news cycles were unable to clearly explain what happened. (There are other issues that could eventually have forced Sturgeon out, but there had been no fast developments in them shortly preceding her resignation. It was the Bryson case and nothing else.)
In the event that Yousaf wins the SNP leadership, and insists on making GRR approval a test case for the rights of the Scots Parliament, it will be a lose-lose scenario.
If the Supreme Court approves GRR, further cases will emerge of harms (or even alleged or potential harms) done by the Act. Each case will serve to strengthen UK unionism. If, as is more likely, the Supreme Court does not approve the GRR Act, then unionists will loudly trumpet the result as proof that the Scots need UK courts to safeguard them from the worst consequences of sex denialism.
Regan is not the only SNP leadership candidate to reject backing the GRR in the Supreme Court. Kate Forbes has said the same.
But Forbes’ religiously-based views on sex are problematic for anyone framing legislation in the modern world. And whilst her and her supporters have suggested that she would not act upon them in her political capacity were she to become First Minister, there is an obvious logical issue. If she does act on her moral beliefs, she becomes a liar: if she does not, she becomes a hypocrite.
And, personally, I’d like politicians to have the courage to be agnostic, atheistic or consistently religious. Demanding their religion be respected as if it were an inherited matter they had no control over, whilst they loudly ignore it, is not a good look.
So did Margaret Thatcher, at the moment she became Tory leader. And so, despite his brilliance, did Nye Bevan, from the very start to the end of his career. Both of them, like many others, made a virtue of lacking polish, and used their convictions and intelligence to stop it mattering.
Regan is comfortable with saying that she doesn’t have figures to hand when asked. This is a mile better than being a reliable source of inaccurate statistics and rehearsed soundbites. She makes her point without backing down, even when she’s awkward.
That, for now, is enough.
More than this; politicians with ‘polish’ are now toxic. Thanks to the utter corruption of politics delivered by Blair and his fundamentalist centrist disciples, wearing the make-up appropriate to legacy media makes you seem unnatural, contrived and controlling on social media and in person.
(Amusingly, since I wrote the rest of this blog yesterday, Regan’s launched a campaign video in which she makes clear that media polish is something she’s going to work on. I hope this doesn’t happen too fast.)
The only point of a pro-independence party is . . . independence. Delivering a better, greener or more ‘progressive’ society short of independence may be a strategy, a tactic or a consolation prize for such a party; but it ain’t the real deal. Sincere proponents of independence have a goal in mind, from which they will not allow themselves to be essentially diverted.
So Regan reaching out to other pro-indy parties and groups to advance independence – whatever you think of the nature of the independent Scotland which would result, or of the nature of the other parties and groups she is reaching out to – is her doing exactly what a pro-independence politician should be doing.
Talking of which, the Scottish Greens are not amongst those whose central aim is independence.
Nor can they be, without compromising their core reason to exist. Scotland is still an oil-rich nation where oil revenues are vital. The hope of a ‘just transition’ away from dirty energy, so central to green aims (as opposed to the ‘progressive’ ones which have been grafted uncomfortably onto the green agenda), will only ever be a secondary one for those seeking to pay for independence.
This side of indy, that is.
Once independence is achieved, of course, then the energy and economic policies of the new Scotland will be down to the people of Scotland. And as the struggle to stay independent and to prevent a new Act of Union heats up (remember, you heard it here first folks), the SNP will shatter into groups and parties representing every type of possible politics.
An SNP leader willing to ditch the Bute House agreement and face governing with a minority will be embattled from day one. But so will any SNP First Minister sincerely and consistently seeking to make independence happen this century rather than the next.
I’m a Welsh socialist who want to see an end to the last remnants of British empire in my lifetime, and in my nation.
Unfortunately, much of what will determine the chances for this will happen elsewhere. A key move in that process will be progress towards the independence of Scotland.
Scots people are relatively favourable to this right now: but the tide has slowed to a trickle, and, absent decisive leadership and action in the next decade, it will turn back the wrong way. Independence will become an increasingly hollow aim if the next SNP leader fails to engage in open brinkmanship and shock moves against Westminster, if their personal convictions derived from faith rather than reason, or if their strategic thinking is based in wishful identification over scientific fact.
On this basis, only one of the three SNP leadership hopefuls fits the bill.
It has to be Ash.