Scottish independence campaigners urge Sturgeon to ‘trust the Yes movement’ | Scottish independence

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Nicola Sturgeon is facing calls from veteran independence campaigners to “trust the Yes movement” as MPs and MSPs struggle to unite around her “de facto referendum” plan amid fears it could kill independence as a prospect for decades if it fails.

Sturgeon confirmed the SNP would run the next general election as a “de facto referendum” on Wednesday after the Supreme Court ruled her government could not legislate for a second independence referendum without Westminster’s approval, which has consistently been rejected.

But while Scottish opposition leaders said they would not engage with the plan, those on the pro-independence side have many questions about the strategy and how it will be decided at a special party conference in the new year.

“It will be a leap to get everyone to buy into it, even on one side of the argument,” said one SNP MP. Another MSP noted Sturgeon’s “pragmatic” performance at the rally outside Holyrood last night alongside speakers from across the independence movement.

Lesley Riddoch, who organized the rally, said: “The idea of ​​the SNP holding a meeting to decide this is not right and it does not capitalize on the huge energy we saw at the rallies across Scotland last night.”

Riddoch is leading calls for a constitutional convention that is “ambitious, inclusive, cuts across party lines and trusts the Yes movement”.

The need to harness the diversity of the wider movement for the next stage was echoed by SNP MP Joanna Cherry, who said such a convention had been proposed by Sturgeon herself on Brexit Day 2020.

Among SNP politicians, most – like Sturgeon herself – admit this is not the preferred strategy, not least because of the widespread recognition that, as one MSP puts it, “if we don’t win it this time, independence is dead for good.few decades”.

Most credit Sturgeon’s rebranding of the independence movement as “Scotland’s democracy movement” as a smart move that scoops up wavering voters and throws the ball back in Westminster’s court. But there are significant concerns in MSP and MP groups about the practical details of the “de facto” strategy and how widely they will be consulted on it.

The SNP’s defense spokesman at Westminster, Stewart McDonald, called on colleagues on Twitter to ensure the plan was “legal, democratic and sound” and “must lead to independence”, urging politicians to “talk about being jailed or chained”. . Yesterday Sturgeon told reporters she would not “allow Scottish democracy to be a prisoner of Westminster”.

Another Westminster source suggests the leadership is aware of the need to “widen the circle”, particularly as MPs will be on the front lines of a general election.

As well as the SNP, Chris McEleny, a former SNP councilor who first presented the de facto plan at a party conference in 2019, where he was booed off the stage by delegates, and who has since defected to Alex Salmond’s Alba, said that this was “a good plan executed in the worst possible way”.

He raised the exclusion of younger voters and EU citizens in a general election, the apparent plan to measure success by votes rather than seats and a lack of cross-party discussion. “Alba’s position is that we need a single unifying candidate in each seat under a common manifesto to promise independence for Scotland,” he added.

The Scottish Greens, who are in government with the SNP at Holyrood, have said they are fielding a full slate of candidates with the promise that a vote for the Greens is a vote for independence. Their votes could be crucial in tipping pro-independence votes over the 50% mark.

Not all independence campaigners are convinced by the de facto plan: Jonathan Shafiwho organized the radical independence campaign in 2014, describes it as a “losing strategy … [a general election] is not the way to make a decision about independence and it lacks international recognition and national legitimacy”.

Shafi argues that the limitations of a general election would make it much harder to reach out and inspire people to vote yes beyond party politics, as happened in the last referendum.

Pat Kane, board member of the left-green think tank Common Weal, notes how much of the commentary over the past 24 hours has focused on Sturgeon’s future rather than embracing the possibility of “fixing a deficit”. “We now have a two-year window to argue about better policy, institutions and planning for independence”.

Kane, who was previously on the Yes Scotland advisory board throughout the 2014 campaign, added: “Sturgeon and her circle need to trust the independence movement more as a social phenomenon than they have in the last few years. This cannot be a top-down, safety-first affair or they will miss their mark.”

Stephen Noon, chief strategist for the 2014 Yes campaign, said he was “hugely encouraged” by Sturgeon’s stance yesterday. “She got the balance right, took a step back and took the decision to the SNP conference,” he said. “She recognizes her position as the guardian of the wider movement and wants to engage with it.”

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