The new split in the independence movement

worry photoThe SNP and the wider independence movement used to be divided into gradualists (who saw devolution as a stepping stone to independence) and fundamentalists (who thought devolution was likely to be a cul-de-sac and preferred to declare independence immediately).

After some years without a clear split (firstly because the first independence referendum united people, secondly because the huge influx of new activists afterwards meant people had to spend some time finding out who they agreed with), we’re now seeing the emergence of a relatively clear split again. One of the groups can still be described as gradualists, but fundamentalist is perhaps not the best way to describe the other one. I prefer to call them Radicals, because they believe something needs to be done soon.

I’ve tried to describe some of the main differences in the following table:

Gradualists Radicals
Is it too soon to call Indyref2? Yes, they worry that we could easily lose a new referendum if we don’t ensure that a solid majority of Scots support independence before calling it. No, they believe that it’ll be relatively easy to win a new referendum because we shifted public opinion so much during the first indyref campaign, so we can do that again once the campaign has started.
Is it dangerous to delay Indyref2? No, it’s much more dangerous to rush it (see above). If Westminster try to do anything to undermine devolution, it will just make independence more likely. And the more people see of Brexit, the less they’ll support the UK. Yes, Westminster will try to make it harder and harder to call one (perhaps even clawing powers back from Holyrood). Also, the ongoing divergence from the EU caused by the Brexit process will make independence in Europe more and more difficult to achieve.
Will Westminster block it? No, they believe that Westminster won’t dare to block a referendum if it’s supported by a clear majority of Scots. Yes, they worry that Westminster will most likely block a new referendum if they think they’re likely to lose it
View of history Tend to have a deterministic view – independence is coming, it’s just a question of when. Tend to believe in a chaotic view (the butterfly effect) – to achieve anything, you need to exploit the chances you get. Independence is not guaranteed.
Transition to independence The transition should happen slowly and every detail should be negotiated in advance. Westminster will try to do us until independence has happened, so it’s best to leave ASAP and then negotiate the details afterwards.
Personality type Resistant to change. Change is needed. Now.
Campaigning style They want to do it the old-fashioned way, chapping on doors and avoiding the Internet as much as possible. They are willing to use social media in innovative ways to win. Chapping on doors is all well and good, but you need a campaign to be backing it up.
Will the UK act fairly? Yes, they believe the media and the UK state will act relatively fairly. No, they distrust MSM and Westminster.
Attitude to devolution If we can’t get independence yet, an SNP government at Holyrood is a good substitute. Devolution is nothing compared to independence.
Brexit Wait till Brexit is over before thinking seriously about independence. Use Brexit as a way to achieve independence.
What’s needed now? Chap on more doors until most people have been converted to independence. Start a campaign, with ads, posters and leaflets.
Marches? No, they’re likely to turn off the undecided. Yes, we need to be doing something.
Committed to the SNP? Yes, they have faith in Nicola. No, the SNP is a means to an end – if another party represents a better route to independence, they’ll change their allegiance in a flash.
Future of the UK? It will probably eventually just decide to split up peacefully. It will go down in flames, so Scotland needs to launch a lifeboat now.
Attitude to the GRA Extending trans rights drastically is a worthwhile thing to do while we’re waiting for independence. The SNP are upsetting many of the people they need support from by forcing through trans reforms, and this is endangering independence.
Mottos Hold, hold!
Step away from your keyboards.
Freedom!
Chance favours the brave.

Please do let me know whether you think my descriptions of the two groupings are accurate!

9 thoughts on “The new split in the independence movement

  • 05/01/2020 at 20:19
    Permalink

    Roughly accurate. Both groups are propelled by fear: the gradualists fear failure of an indyref outside the idealest of conditions, the radicals fear the trajectory of the current political climate makes indyref2 less likely by the day.

    Reply
    • 06/01/2020 at 07:57
      Permalink

      Yes, that’s a very good insight.

      Reply
  • 06/01/2020 at 01:01
    Permalink

    That’s interesting. If I choose one or the other position for each option, I end up with eight in one and eight in the other column.

    I want it over and done with as much as anyone else, but I have a suspicion that Johnson is going to deliver a very soft Brexit after all. Passing this law against an extension to talks means Johnson will have to concede virtually everything the EU wants to actually get a deal – and he’s using his majority in Parliament to pre-approve the government signing any deal. If he really wants no deal, why bother passing the withdrawal agreement at all? Just engineer its failure and a no deal Brexit at the end of this month.

    I don’t know how he plans to dupe Leave voters into swallowing that(big lies?), but it would have dual consequences for independence. Bad, in that it’d essentially be what the SNP proposed in late 2016 and not much of a material change in circumstances. Good, in that Scotland would probably be so closely aligned with EEA that we end up staying in that when we leave the UK, pending full membership approval.

    Reply
  • 06/01/2020 at 12:08
    Permalink

    Frankly the only thing I find upsetting about the whole GRA thing is the way folk keep trying to conflate support for it with this or that unrelated thing to try and shift people to their side. In this case – you could make the same argument about literally any policy that isn’t independence and doesn’t have nigh-universal support among people who favour independence. Which is, you know, most policies.

    If someone is really so agitated at the prospect of trans rights that they would vote or campaign in such a way as to make independence less likely just to stick it to the SNP for “forcing through” one policy they disagree with, they were never much of an independence supporter in the first place, were they.

    I’m a “Radical” and in favour of it, by the by, and I’ve noticed exactly zero correlation between people’s preference for strategy regarding indyref2 and their position on the GRA.

    Reply
    • 06/01/2020 at 13:04
      Permalink

      Few, if any, current policies have the built-in characteristics of being extremely difficult to reverse combined with being extremely disastrous for the fabric of society. Such changes should not be considered at all. But if they are, then stopping them is of the utmost importance to the long-term future of Scotland.

      Reply
  • 06/01/2020 at 12:32
    Permalink

    Thanks, this is useful. I reckon “Personality type” comes into it but experience does too. I think both sides could be seen as pessimistic, optimistic or risk taking, depending on where you stand to look from. Hope and action can come out of living in danger and fear – out of necessity. People with comfier lives may think they’re going steady and safe, but take huge risks without knowing it because if life is generally safer, it can make you crap at noticing and processing information telling you of dangers up ahead.

    Not all but most of the gradualists I know live in places where most people are OK. They’re stressed about Brexit and a far right government but not feeling daily, gut twisting fear. If life’s been OK for a few decades, or if someone always caught you when you fell, it’s human to expect things to continue more or less that way. It’s no surprise if some well paid politicians become more gradualist over time.

    Donna Babbington wrote the other day about watching the emergency ticking down on her fuel meters and waiting for indyref2. Living on the emergency, with this much struggle and fear, harms and kills people. Losing hope of getting a say in the basics of your own life, kills people.
    If you are beyond exhaustion from using all you have to fight the fear about survival needs everyday, year after year. If you know people who’ve been killed by this.
    If you and/or partner and family has been or will be forced out of the country
    If you know lots of people who’ll not vote again till indyref2 because all they hear from politicians is at best “jam tomorrow for you, jam everyday for me”, or just “starve scum”
    If hope for indy any year now, kept you going when you think you can’t keep going,
    If you’re hanging on and know it’s about to get massively worse,
    If you’ve heard SNP politicians repeatedly announcing we are going for indyref2 anytime now, then say well not quite yet, next year, two years, five years….
    Then it’s not sounding radical and risk taking to say people are drowning now, launch the fucking lifeboat while you can.

    It looks more like safer, comfier people are choosing to take risks that keep you in danger and fear for the rest of your shortened life, and then they tell you to shut up about it.

    I see why gradualist MPs and MSPs struggle to understand the anger they hear, but it disgusts me when they call us abusive and irrational. It’s their job to keep on listening and communicating. It’s their job to discuss Plan B’s with us. When they call us abusive and irrational to shut down debate, and say we’ve to wait and work for the magic % to somehow unlock the section 30 without any campaign or plan, some of us are going to hear something quite close to “starve scum”, because if you’re already living on the emergency , it IS going to have the same practical outcome.

    In two years or five years there’ll either be no Holyrood or it’ll be so powerless that indyref2 is impossible. There is everything to lose by waiting for all those pennies to slowly drop in warm soft-No houses. Pennies won’t drop without a campaign. It will be years before some of them work out for themselves that in oligarchy UK there’ll be no middle class and no route out. They’ve been told the reason they have controllable, comfy lives because of the type of person they are, and other people have hard, precarious lives because they have a crap attitude/personality type/genes, so they’ll continue to trust the UK is reformable right up until they are working three jobs and still losing the house. They can’t assess risk because they’ve always been safe.

    These are my generalisations – loads of comfy-enough-for-now yessers get the urgency. And I guess there’ll be people struggling who want to go slow, but I’ve not met any. Sorry, I should probably get my own page if I want to rant on this long.

    Reply
  • 06/01/2020 at 12:55
    Permalink

    “Is it too soon for indyref?”
    I believe that putting it off now will lead to probably ten to twenty years wait; whereas the cost of losing it now (possibly a risk of up to 20%) will delay it by ten to twenty years.

    This is, I think, the “radicals” position on this question.

    But behind that is the very real possibility that, given a couple of years, the UK government will adopt a Spanish style position and make fully peaceful transition to independence all but impossible for a very long time.

    This is my position.

    Reply
  • 12/01/2020 at 20:46
    Permalink

    This analysis is eminently recognisable in all its mentioned facets. The only enhancement I might add is that the gradualists are evidently far more willing to indulge themselves in political displacement activity, presumably to gain reassurance (for themselves at least) that their self-induced wait isn’t entirely purposeless. The GRA being only the latest such manifestation.

    The danger is that these tangential activities, instead of creating ever-greater confidence among the population in the capability of a Scottish Government, instead provide entirely avoidable sources of potential unpopularity which could stymie the very long-term progress to which they aspire. And because everyone is human, the longer the wait, the greater the chance of such a fatal miscalculation. (Not to mention “events, dear boy, events”.)

    Reply
  • 15/01/2020 at 18:09
    Permalink

    Sir,

    Normally I would side with the gradualist approach. We saw that worked perfectly well in 2007-2011. However these are not normal times. We are not dealing with a sane and rational UK government. Coming from a state who was done (f*cked is a better word) by the colonial Brits multiple times and ended up being a protectorate, I can safely say I am very much anxious because this is starting to resemble the early days of my state’s history of colonisation. Because we are dealing with the same lot, I am would advise the Scots to be vigilant at the very least. Once the UK government consolidates its power base, there is almost no chance of having a referendum. I am not ruling out the abolishment of Scottish Parliament. That is why we strike now in 2020.

    We need to grasp independence now because you can bet UK government will not let its cash cow go, especially now.

    ABU

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Ellen Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *