Saturday, 18 March 2017

The SNP's Indyref2 Mandate

There's a lot of nonsense being talked about the SNP's mandate to request a second independence referendum, so I thought I'd try and very quickly clear it up.

Let's start with what most people will probably have seen and heard - what was actually said during the final Holyrood 2016 TV debate (02/05/2016, just 3 days before the election):

So no ambiguity there, couldn't be clearer: 
"what I'm talking about is the Scottish Parliament having the right to propose a second referendum if it becomes clear that a majority of people in Scotland want independence, it would have to be a majority of people that want it"
Is it so naive of me to expect that Nicola Sturgeon might actually stand by her words?

The response from the SNP would of course be that what technically matters is the Manifesto that the SNP stood on.

So I took a look at the "Easy Read" copy. It is indeed an easy read and makes only one reference to another referendum (my highlighting):
"We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if it is clear that more than half of the people in Scotland want independence."
At this point I would suggest that - given their rhetoric and their "easy read" manifesto - the SNP morally only have a mandate to propose a second referendum if it is clear that a majority of people in Scotland want independence.

Needless to say a quick visit to What Scotland Thinks confirms what any fule kno: the "clear majority support for independence" condition isn't close to being met:

So how do the SNP justify attempting to drag us into an inydref2 against our will? By falling back on the fine print. In the SNP's long-form manifesto you will find - not in the Summary, not in the Vision, not in the Next Steps, but on the left-hand side of page 23 - that an additional clause has been added (highlighting mine)

So technically it is correct to say that the SNP's manifesto states:
"We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum  if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will."
Given we're into fine detail here, it seems fair to be picky about these words. Stating that you believe something should be the case is not making a manifesto commitment to do it or indeed asking for a mandate to call for it - it's simply a statement of belief.

Semantics aside, this is akin to Amazon pointing out that they can do pretty much whatever they like with your personal data because you ticked their Terms & Conditions box1. The SNP may be able to argue that technically their manifesto gives them a mandate to ask for indyref2, but - given their pre-election rhetoric and summary messaging - morally they're on distinctly dodgy ground.


1. I wonder how many people who shop with Amazon realise they've accepted "Terms & Conditions" that state Amazon "reserve the right to make changes to any Amazon Services, policies, terms and conditions including these Conditions of Use, and Service Terms at any time."?


John Silver said...

BBC news website 1st May 2016
"The SNP manifesto for the Scottish Parliament election does not promise a second independence referendum within the next five year term.
However, it says Holyrood should have the right to hold another referendum if there is "clear and sustained evidence" of majority support for independence, or if there is a "significant and material" change in circumstances, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will".

Telegraph 1st May 2016
"Instead the manifesto states the SNP reserves the right to stage another referendum if there is “clear and sustained evidence” that a majority of Scots support independence or there is a “significant and material change” such as Britain leaving the EU."

Guardian 1st May 2016
"Unlike its clear pledge to stage one in the 2011 Holyrood manifesto, it does not commit the SNP to stage a referendum in this parliament: instead, it says one could be held if there is a material change in Scotland’s circumstances, such as vote to leave the EU against the wishes of Scottish voters"

Telegraph 24th April 2016
"Ms Sturgeon added: “If we are taken out of the EU against our will I will want to give the people of Scotland the opportunity to protect our EU membership by looking again at the question of independence. I will obviously judge the circumstances of that at the time, should that situation arise.”

Daily Record 25th April 2016 (headline)
"Nicola Sturgeon: Brexit vote would 'almost certainly' trigger second independence referendum"

BBC website 24th April 216 (headline)
Sturgeon: Independence poll 'highly likely' if UK leaves EU

I could go on but it is clear there was absolutely no secret about this.

Anonymous said...

All fair points and credit to people like yourself who spend many hours researching putting right the 'fake news'. Personally, I'd go a step further. The SNP's white paper for indy1 is categorically clear that "Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its will" was a risk. Yet the No vote prevailed and the No vote was pretty categorical. Therefore when Scotland voted in indy1, it accepted this risk, and accepted that constitutional matters were reserved to Westminster. On this basis a Scottish vote in a UK referendum carries the same weight as an English, Welsh, or Northern Irish vote. There is no 'material change in circumstances'. The risk of Brexit was ground that was already fought in indy1. Interestingly is Scotland was a Europhile as the SNP tries to present, Brexit wouldn't have happened.

Anonymous said...

What about the more glaring absence of permission from the ScotGP manifesto for that party to support the motion next week?

Also a stretch to say that two parties representing <50% of the vote in the 2016 elections are synonymous with "Scotland".

Anonymous said...

...not forgetting the 56 (now 54) SNP MPs from 59 Scottish MPs elected to Westminster and the 46.5% of SNP votes in the Scottish election ( more than Labour and Conservative together)giving the SNP the Gvt in Scotland. So, given the clue in the SNP name - explain to me why that isn't mandate? What mandate do you think the Conservatives and Theresa May have in Scotland? (BTW Nichola and other SNP Ministers also verbally stated over and over again that a material difference such as Brexit etc etc...)

Kevin, I started to read your blog a couple of years ago to get another perspective and opinion and because I wanted to believe you when you state you are objective in providing this. I have read less and less because clearly you are not...

Kevin Hague said...

What have I said in this blog post that is untrue - that is what she said in TV debate, EU ref caveat wasn't in short-form prospectus - I cede that technically you can argue for mandate but morally I maintain you're on shaky ground

Kevin Hague said...

reasonable to assume in all of those examples she's assuming that EUref would trigger a surge in support for Indy (as she stated in debate and short-form prospectus was a requirement) - that's certainly what I assumed she meant

soccer doc said...

I remember when David Torrance lauded you as a blogger. This blog is helping me to understand why, as like Torrance you start from your conclusion and work your way back. As an analyst, I am sure you know that’s not how it is supposed to work. I might have said your conclusion was “SNP BAD BAD BAD”, but it’s much worse than that now, is it not Mr Hague. I accused someone of your turn of mind on the Herald forum today, of living in his own laager. You could contemplate that as well. Your wagons are beginning to form a circle, aren’t they?
First of all, you take Sturgeon up on a single quote during a TV debate, that she would be looking for a majority who wanted a referendum. OK, fair enough we could both make a case for yes or no, but even if my case came out on top it would not be much of a majority. But the problem for your argument is that Sturgeon is not seeking a referendum this week, next week, next month, not even this year.
The fact is that all she is looking for is a section 30 order which would then require another version of the Edinburgh Agreement (which last time, btw, did not make any use of the word “generation”). When she is suggesting a referendum is after the Brexit negotiations will be finished and the Article 50 process has moved on to confirmation by member states. The view of the EU – and it’s hard to say that it’s not sensible (though I am sure you will try) – is that negotiation needs to be completed in 18 months, and the confirmation process requires 6 months.
In short Kev while its fine to take politicians up on not following through on manifesto commitments, you also need to take into account the practicalities of events.
But none of that deters you, does it? The fact that it appears only on “the left-hand side of page 23” is used against them. Really, it’s all a bit pathetic, even a bit childish is it not?
Really you remind me increasingly of this

John Silver said...

Kevin,You may not have said anything that is untrue, but you haven't told the whole truth.
How many voters read manifestos - easy read or otherwise?
Damn few. I'd suggest. Most get their information from the media. My 6 stories above, which took me moments to find make it clear the mandate for Indyref2, based on a vote to leave the EU was widely known. Indeed you, yourself said shortly after the EU referendum:
"The SNP manifesto included an explicit option to seek another independence referendum"if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will"

So: in these circumstances it is completely reasonable that the SNP should explore ways of securing a separate EU deal for Scotland, up to and including revisiting the question of Scottish independence."

It is disingenuous now to try & rewrite history in an attempt to delegitimise the SNP's call for a referendum.

Andrew Veitch said...

I have to admit to my shame that I have never read a political manifesto. Although I do suspect that I am in a majority of voters on this.

Having said that, I always understood that the SNP's primary policy is independence and I think all Scottish voters understand that too. I've not heard of even one instance of someone not realising that the SNP is for the breakup of the UK.

I do feel very strongly that the referendum should be re-run. If I had known that a hard Brexit was coming I certainly would not have voted No to independence. EU membership was a very important part of the Better Together prospectus.

Not that I blame Better Together for that: nobody would have predicted that a hard Brexit was coming, the polls clearly showed the Conservatives were going to lose the coming election, the polls showed the UK would vote to Remain and at the time Ukip was advocating that the UK adopt a Norway-style position.

The Drunk Druid said...

I think we have to accept that they technically have a mandate (as you do). Whether or not they should act on it is the real question, morally and democratically I think they are on dubious ground in that area given all previous rhetoric.

bucksboy said...

It will really help the case for independence a Brexit outcome is a poor one. One way to shift events in that direction is to cause as much distraction and mischief and grievence as possible during a time when UK least needs it.

The fact a poor Brexit outcome will also injure the interests of any independent Scotland is transcended by the fanatical pursuit of this goal by the single issue politics ruling over the people of Scotland at this time, authored by the SNP.

Kevin Hague said...

by suggesting we ignore the manifesto you undermine your own argument: surely the live TV debate 3 days before the poll is likely to be the single most important source for many people ... and look what she said

Andrew Veitch said...

I'm not suggesting we ignore the manifesto. I think we're all agreed there was a manifesto commitment. The argument is about how well known to the people of Scotland the SNP's commitment was.

My view is that it was very clear that the SNP are a party whose primary aim is independence. Even for someone like me who doesn't live and breath politics it was more than clear that was their position. Frankly, if unionist voters are voting for the SNP without realising that they are in favour of independence then I think they've only got themselves to blame.

Dave R said...

I'm in full agreement with your thoughts on the vagueness of The SNP's manifesto pledge. Typical SNP want the power to do something but don't actually want to commit to doing it.

In response to one of the other posters I'd like to point out that until it has been negotiated, AND signed off by all EU members we have no idea what kind of brexit we will have. The SNP will continue to try and spook voters by refering to 'hardest of hard brexits' but in truth they have no idea what the EU and Westminster will agree to at the moment. Just now May has signalled her willingness to walk away with no deal, which far from meaning that is her intention it is arguably just marking out the parameters of a negotiating position. We need to wait and see what is actually agreed before getting upset or pleased.

Furthermore, if there really is a 'hard brexit' where almost nothing is agreed and thus causing a multitude of trade barriers to spring up between the UK and Europe then it would frankly be madness to then drag Scotland out of the UK and into Europe, why would any sane person want to see such barriers impeding 64% of our trade rather than just 15%? I suspect senior SNP staff are well aware of that, but of course, don't tell the voters that we might be better off sticking with the UK outside of Europe if there's a hard brexit, they might wonder why you are making such a fuss.

Some more thoughts on this topic and Sturgeon's 'mandate' here:

Gary Ether said...

The SNP wording in their manifesto gives them the right to call for an Indy2 Ref but I don't consider this to be a mandate for them to do so. They need to couple this right with a clear indication that the majority of Scots actually want another referendum. The latter requirement has, in the past, been frequently stated by the FM. As there is no demonstrable case that the majority of Scots want another referendum, there is no justification for Indy2 Ref. A question on whether or not another referendum is supported could be included in the coming local council elections on 4th May. Turnout is unusually low but would still give a better indication than what is currently available.

Nial said...

I distinctly remember Elsie saying that voting SNP wasn't a vote for another referendum....

Anonymous said...

These are quotes from Nicola Sturgeon made during the 2014 referendum campaign. Note the lack of any caveats.
"constitutional referenda are once-in-a-generation events"

We won't stop believing in independence if that's what you're asking me. Would there be another referendum in our lifetimes? We've always said its a once-in-a-generation thing.

“These kind of referendums are once in a generation, but if you’ll forgive me, I’ll concentrate on campaigning for this one.”

Anonymous said...

Kevin, have you seen the Aberdeen paper reporting that the Alex Salmond can easily be demonstrated to be lying about "once in a lifetime"?

Iain Roberts said...

Until the referendum result, Brexit was a theoretical possibility which most politicians did not take all that seriously -- Nicola Sturgeon included. I'm no fan of the SNP at all, but I think the lack of prominence for Brexit in their election campaign was a failure of imagination, rather than a malicious plot to hoodwink the Scottish electorate. (I agree with John Silver -- while the SNP's demand for indyref2 may be disappointing, no sentient adult should find it surprising.)

Yes, the SNP is playing a bit fast and loose with its manifesto commitments, and it's fair to call them out on it, but in the larger scheme of things I don't think it's a very productive issue to pursue.

Eric said...

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon today admitted she does not know what currency an independent Scotland would use, how its economy would function or how it would engage with the EU.
Speaking less than a week after calling for a second referendum on Scottish independence, Sturgeon conceded that her party was currently unable to provide answers to key questions.

It all seems pointless till she does

John Silver said...

I loved your recent tweet "when blind assertion meets actual data "
is this related to you failure to publish my most recent reply on here?
Although we clearly disagree on the best way forwards for Scotland, I didn't have you down as someone who would run away from honest debate.
Life is full of disappointments, eh?

Unknown said...

Seems that the massive increase in SNP votes cast at last election are being discounted. D`Hondt voting system curtailed what would have possibly been another tsunami in the Scottish Parliament As well as the 56 MP`s in the House Of Commons.59 Constituency seats in Holyrood to 7 for their nearest challenger. If election had been fptp we would probably be witnessing a near obliteration of Labour and Tories in Scotland.Allied to that all areas of Scotland voted to remain in the EU. How much more of a mandate does a government need ?

Anonymous said...

Kevin, and any other business owners out, the Guardian wants to hear from you:

Anonymous said...

I've seen this comment made repeatedly, but no-one seems prepared to answer it.

How does anyone know for certain that the Scots voted 62% to stay in the EU. As I recall the question in the referendum was should the UK leave the EU. Should Scotland leave the EU was never asked.

Gogs said...

Hi - what is a hard Brexit ? Can you break it down. No one has told me yet what it means and I would love to know .. thanks

Kevin Hague said...

John Silver

I've no idea what you're referring to - I moderate comments for abuse and spam, not aware I'd blocked anything rational from you - sometimes bloggers auto spam filter can erroneously catch stuff - if I can face it I'll trawl the spam folder, but I am meant to be in holiday

John Silver said...

Kevin, I had posted a further response, but it is perfectly possible that i had clicked the wrong button or not proved I wasn't a robot or something.
So apologies - I was surprised when you didn't post it - because that's not your style - so I'm sorry for the accusatory tone to my earlier post.
Sadly (?) - I didn't save it & I cant be bothered doing the groundwork again. Suffice to say, I provided some more evidence that the SNP's intention was clear - from various interviews & debates - it's mentioned in the debate from which you have extracted a 15 second clip. It also featured in one of the other TV debates as well as in a TV interview with (I think) Gordon Brewer.
My overall point is that the SNP's position that a Brexit vote against the votes of the Scottish electorate could be a mandate for a second indyref was clearly public knowledge. There was no attempt to hide it.
Enjoy the rest of your holiday.

Stewart Dredge said...

When is a democratic mandate not a democratic mandate? When the Unionist don't like it. Not only was it in the 2016 manifesto it was widely discussed in the media. Comparing it to the Amazon small-print is an act of desperation.
Why don't the Unionists just accept that we should have the vote? They're going to walk it anyway, they tell us, and nobody is seriously suggesting that governing Scotland was conducted any less effectively during the last campaign.
Or are we going to hear more of the same rubbish that we heard from Anas Sarwar on Tuesday along the lines of "I oppose a referendum because I believe in democracy."
We are about to be dragged out of Europe against our will. The SNP made it clear that it would support another independence referendum in such circumstances. To hear those who lost the 2016 election complain that this pledge was not written in big enough writing only exposes the poverty of their own arguments

Drew said...

I think there is possibly a growing chunk of the Scottish population are getting fed up of this debate, including a lot of No and Yes voters.

I get that emotions are running high on both sides and I think all 4 political parties are guilty of trying to exploit the calls for a second referendum for their own political advantage.

While the SNP are the chief instigators of a 2nd referendum, the tribalism and whataboutery on both sides needs to at least dial it down a few notches.

I think there is space for a non-aligned political party on the constitution in Scotland, similar to that of the Alliance party in Northern Ireland.

I had hoped the Lib Dems would fill this position but sadly they too seem to insist on putting the constitution front and centre of their speeches and debates.

Anonymous said...

Could I reply to Steward Dredges' question "Why don't the Unionists just accept that we should have the vote? "

(1) because we voted on this matter in 2014 having been told that it would settle the matter for a generation.
(2) because it means more years of Holyrood not getting anything done as independence uses up all the political oxygen.
(3) because re-running it damages the Scottish economy by heaping uncertainty on investment decisions. See this nice and unambiguous survey of 800 Scottish SMEs.

Stewart Dredge said...

Could I reply to anonymous, please?
1) We did vote on this matter in 2014 but now, after Brexit, the situation has entirely changed.The SNP, unlike any other UK political party (including UKIP!) anticipated this and had the foresight to write it into their 2016 manifesto. There was nothing on my ballot paper in 2014 about "once in a generation." I did not vote for that and neither did anyone else.
2) there is no such thing as "political oxygen." People can't just make up daft concepts to win a political argument.
3)If changing economic direction is always a bad thing we could never make any progress. If, under Westminster rule, the country which has been Europe's biggest oil producer for the last 50 years has been so badly mismanaged that it is now "a bigger economic basket case than Greece" then that alone is an overwhelming argument against the status quo. But companies survive because they learn to deal with the status quo. It becomes the environment with which they are familiar and in which they feel safe. But it is not necessarily the best environment for the nation and its people. If Scotland's is a failing economy why should we pander to those who survive in it and don't want it to change? If these companies can only survive on massive hand-outs from England, as we're told they do, why should Scots be content with that?
I'm sorry but I'm deeply suspicious of those who tell us "we've ruined your economy to such an extent that you can't afford to be independent any more so you'll just have to continue being subsidy junkies!"