SCOTTISH politics occasionally draws the attention of the London political and media class, so when former BBC staffer Andrew Marr (now the New Statesman’s political editor) addressed Scotland, the SNP and the nature of independence in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine it garnered interest. His article was awarded the New Statesman’s front cover with the title “Sturgeon’s nuclear dilemma” as well as the magazine’s editorial.

The Marr thesis is that the Ukraine crisis brought forth major challenges to independence which undermined its cause and remade the case for the UK. This was all aided by the SNP being in retreat and losing “momentum” according to Marr, with the New Statesman’s editorial declaring that “the nationalists’ forward march has been halted”.

Marr suggests there are key questions the SNP and independence have to address in the current harsh global environment which are beyond the party and cause. These are the issue of nuclear weapons in the UK and the myth of the “independent UK nuclear deterrent”, the areas of defence capacity and spending, and Nato membership in an independent Scotland.

Marr has a fairly ill-informed take on the SNP – past, present, future. He thinks they were once a pacifist-influenced party, which is inaccurate, citing a 1938 party pronouncement against “imperialist war”. This is the line many mainstream commentators often take, falsely caricaturing anti-war sentiment as “pacifist”, a trope used to frame Jeremy Corbyn when Labour leader for example.

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Marr thinks the current SNP under Nicola Sturgeon are defined by “Braveheart chops” and follows the standard line of attack of questioning the SNP’s commitment to Nato membership, but offering no evidence while using it to argue that Scottish independence is a threat to geopolitical stability, the West and standing up to Putin.

These straw men ignore that the SNP are thinking about the geopolitical implications of independence and also that within the British establishment and parts of the state there is a new-found willingness to talk, at least privately, about what happens in the event of independence, for Scotland and the rUK on defence and geopolitical matters.

It is true that the Russian invasion of Ukraine changes calculations across the world – with implications for Scotland, the UK and internationally. It makes the case for not justifying the orthodox military, defence and foreign affairs mantras of the West – as these have aided the mess, disorder and rise of autocracy which defines the modern age.

It is not just the failed wars of the West and the questionable interventions. The quasi-imperialist project which characterised Blair, Clinton and George W. Bush takes us from the so-called liberal globalisation push to the killing fields of Basra from which there is a direct line to Brexit, Trump and Putin’s wars of aggression.

The current state of UK nuclear weapons is, in the eyes of Marr, a crisis of independence – not of the projection of “British Great Powerism” with all its illusions and delusions. Marr seems to know of none of the detailed work undertaken about the denuclearisation, demilitarisation and detoxification of the nuclear military-industrial complex in the Firth of Clyde.

How can the removal of nuclear weapons from a self-governing Scotland – which entails negotiation and agreement between two sovereign states – be a complete no-go according to Marr? What version of Britain is he explicitly saying is non-negotiable, and somehow cannot be changed?

Underneath his assumptions seems to be the view that the British Empire State clinging on to its global role and imperial hangover cannot be challenged by UK voters. He has no comprehension that this British establishment and political class groupthink (and his own) are part of the problem.

Neither Marr nor the New Statesman editorial address the multiple crises of the UK – economic, social, democratic and international. The dynamics of the Scottish Question are also about more than independence and the constitutional question, and have significant drivers beyond Scotland, most critically, in the nature of the British state.

If, as seems likely, the British political system, state and capitalism remain fundamentally unreformed – serving the interests of an insider class, undemocratic and acting as an advocate for that class at its core, and promoting a brutally unequal economic and social order – then the Scottish Question will remain a live issue and independence as part of it.

Both Marr and the New Statesman editorial cite a recent opinion poll which had support for the Union ahead of independence and read into it that momentum for the latter is now being dissipated. But this is to put too much weight on one poll and to deliberately ignore the longer-term picture.

Independence put on significant support during the long campaign running up to the 2014 vote, and in the eight years since independence has remained on a historic high, retaining and building on the support it won. That doesn’t mean independence will inevitably keep growing and win, but it has permanently banked new converts and kept a huge bulge of support.

This does not mean the SNP and independence do not face challenges. They do. There is an exhaustion in the SNP after 15 years – in both party and government. There is widespread public anxiety, worry and fragility shaped by the cumulative pressures of Brexit, Covid and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Independence has to have a human dimension, and emotional as well as political intelligence. Many voters would prefer a quiet life, bereft of upheaval and disruption if possible, but that is not the world we live in – in Scotland, the UK or globally.

Independence cannot browbeat its way to a majority in the way that Brexit did. Rather it needs to understand its successes and strengths while recognising the hard work and lifting that is still needed. Parts of Scotland’s pro-Union constituency are not even that political, but apolitical, and just do not want to think about such big issues unless they have to.

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This means the independence case cannot avoid framing the big strategic choices and dilemmas which are central to it. These revolve around the kind of Scotland we collectively want to live in, informed by the right of those who live here to decide our future.

This does not mean that every detail about a self-governing Scotland has to be addressed now, but there needs to be signposts about the future direction of travel – on tax and spending, inequality and poverty, international alliances and how Scotland undertakes defence and foreign policy. That is the responsibility of more than the SNP, but of wider independence currents, and has to be seen in that light by everyone – including the SNP leadership.

The difficult international dimension means even more that independence has to be located in a politics of interdependence, one where Scotland embraces EU and Nato membership and sees itself as a champion of democracy, self-government, a rule-based international order and the rights of sovereign nations.

Those values are needed more than ever, having been weakened by the real-life actions of the West and trashed by Putin, and have to be championed by the SNP and independence.