THE First Minister’s strategy for achieving independence chills me to the bone. And I’m not the only one. Why? Because having failed for eight years to persuade a majority of Scots about the merits of independence and having capitulated to Boris Johnson’s refusal to grant another referendum, Nicola Sturgeon has been reduced to begging the UK Supreme Court to override the central provisions of the 1997 Scotland Act.

Among the consequences of her inevitable defeat will be the cancellation of her October 2023 referendum. How will that encourage anyone who yearns for independence? I read Gerry Hassan’s new book, Scotland Rising: The Case for Independence, in the hope he might pose the central questions independence supporters need to address if we are to finally escape this malaise. If his writing was to have any value, I felt, it had to explain:

1. Why is there no majority for independence? And if, as the public affairs adviser Andy Maciver and most others conclude [P56] “... the obvious reason why Yes couldn’t make it over the line last time round was the weakness in its economic case”, what are we doing to rectify that failing?

2. Is the promise of prolonged austerity, cuts to living standards and further privatisation – inherent in the Sustainable Growth Commission’s conclusions – for example, likely to win over Scotland’s working-class majority? Or inspire the tens of thousands of campaigners we deployed on the doorsteps of urban Scotland in 2014?

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3. Is our case predicated on change or not? In other words, are we establishing a “mini-me” version of the UK; keeping the pound, keeping the monarchy, remaining in Nato and maintaining the stranglehold global corporations have over our economy and people? Or is independence about abandoning the failed policies of the past and embracing genuine self-determination?

4. The answer to this last question surely determines our target audience. Is it those largely comfortable with the status quo whose vote we are aiming to win over? Or those determined to end the inequalities and injustices they face in the class-ridden Scotland of today?

5. Given one-third of Yes voters backed Brexit, is it wise to tar them all as racists and bigots duped by Nigel Farage? Surely the issue of Scotland’s EU membership must be a matter for voting on after independence is won?

6. Why have 12% of former Yes voters moved over to No since 2016? And what does that tell us about the alleged permanence of our constituency?

7. Is there really nothing we can do about Westminster’s refusal to allow a second independence vote? Are the SNP so tied to excessive parliamentary salaries that they will never countenance extra-parliamentary challenges?

8. Have they become merely the same repository for anti-Tory sentiment in Scotland that Labour were for 50 years while carrying out the same privatisation, the same redistribution of wealth to the rich and the same “managerialism” as the Tories?

These are legitimate questions. Unfortunately, this book doesn’t ask them. Why not? Could it be that it is aimed instead at a British soft-left audience Hassan feels is poorly informed about this debate and its underlying conflicts?

If so, I fear he fails that readership too by not pointing out that it is we who are in the minority here, we who are attempting to inflict the biggest defeat on the British state in 300 years, facing the fifth-biggest military in the world and the sixth-biggest economy with centuries of often brutal political manoeuvring under its belt.

Like all soft-left social democratic supporters of independence, Hassan underestimates the power and resolve of that state and what it will take to defeat it. Nothing better illustrates this error than the astonishing scenes of the past few weeks.

“The argument for royalty and the British royal family is a diminishing one,” insists Hassan [P116]. With all the bowing and scraping we have seen from Britain’s political classes, that conclusion appears open to question, to say the least. Moreover, as it was written before the Queen’s death, his claim was made by someone fully conscious of the SNP’s granite-like determination to retain a monarchical – and therefore unelected, unrepresentative and hereditary – head of state in an independent Scotland! While I was reading the book, Nicola Sturgeon announced her 2022 Programme for Government, containing £500 million worth of cuts to public services and, for the umpteenth time, promising a “more equal, more sustainable, wealthier, fairer and greener Scotland”.

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Hassan highlights the fundamental deceit behind her words, pointing out: “The Scottish Government’s economic agenda has mimicked the UK. Wealth distribution in Scotland sees the top 10% with £1.6m of assets on average, whilst the bottom 10% have just £7500.” [P151].

Hassan rightly stresses that: “Independence has got to be about issues of social justice in the here and now, or it will have less chance of connecting with large sections of the public” [P159]. But he fails to make it clear that this has unfortunately not been so for at least 10 years now.

The First Minister insists: “If you hate the Tories and all they stand for, you must vote for the SNP.” Yet her record in government is a little different. This reality undermines our strategy for achieving independence entirely. The independence movement is becalmed because it has not yet identified that profound contradiction. Scotland needs to rise to that challenge, and quickly.

Scotland Rising: The Case for Independence by Gerry Hassan is published by Pluto Press This review appears in the current edition of Scottish Socialist Voice