THERE were always going to be a few twists and turns in our journey to independence and, as conditions change, so by necessity should our approach to securing our goal. As part of that journey we are now in what can only be described as the new “post-referendum” phase of the campaign for Scottish independence and our job is to determine the best strategy to meet these new conditions.

We find ourselves here because it is now abundantly clear that the UK Government have absolutely no intention of ever agreeing to a referendum, just as they are unlikely to participate in any agreed process to settle Scotland’s constitutional future. The time has come to take their constant “No” at face value and accept their self-exclusion from the process. We now have to take the matter into our own hands and use other means to give the people of Scotland the opportunity to have a say on the constitutional future of our country.

Some colleagues believe making new demands about powers might move us forward; others still believe that the UK might “allow” a referendum. By constantly going over this old ground all we are doing is giving the UK another opportunity to say no.

Let’s get one thing abundantly clear. An agreed referendum remains the best possible way to settle the issue of Scottish independence. The Edinburgh Agreement (pictured inset) remains an exemplar of two governments coming together to design a democratic, clear process that allows a full debate and an agreed conclusive outcome. It was absolutely right that we committed every sinew to try and ensure that once again.

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It was also right to disregard any other alternative that got in the way of trying to secure this “gold standard” of democratic engagement. Our focus had to be on securing a referendum as it is the one thing that would achieve a clear result, that would be beyond legal doubt and pave by far the smoothest path to Scotland becoming an independent country.

For the first time, in 2021 we secured a parliament with an independence majority, clearly committed to holding a referendum and on the list we even secured a majority of votes for candidates who supported Scotland becoming an independent country. The UK simply ignored that result, summarily dismissing Scottish democracy and instead extended its campaign to constrain and diminish our Parliament.

When it became clear that the UK Government had no intention of agreeing to a referendum, it was absolutely right to try and determine a process designed by the Scottish Parliament. It was also right that we ensured that, before embarking upon that journey, we had the powers and legal authority to carry it out, hence taking it to the Supreme Court. We now know that verdict and have to accept that there is no longer any agreed referendum route to determine Scotland’s future in either parliament. It is time to move on.

There will be those who will tell us that we should have known this all along. That we should have had a Plan B which should have been brought in to play much sooner. They are totally and utterly wrong.

We had to fully exhaust this process whilst there was still a possibility that an agreed referendum could take place. Furthermore, we have to take the Scottish people with us in moving on from seeking a referendum that we now know will never be agreed to. We had to conclusively demonstrate that we did everything possible to exhaust that Plan A; that we did everything we could to secure the referendum that the Scottish people had voted for.

The National: Independence supporters after the Supreme Court ruled the Scottish Parliament could not legislate for another independence referendumIndependence supporters after the Supreme Court ruled the Scottish Parliament could not legislate for another independence referendum

So what do we do now? What sort of strategy do we need in place to get us the independence that half of the Scottish people still desire? Well, the UK hope that in the face of their unwavering “No”, we all just give up. That we accept their authority as the gatekeepers of this process and settle for our place in their UK. That is clearly not going to happen. If an agreed referendum is no longer available, we use other means to settle this question with scheduled elections being the most obvious and available route.

We have already decided that the next Westminster election will be an independence election in Scotland. The First Minister has already laid out that this will now be the intention of the SNP. What we have to do is add flesh to the bones of this intention. We have to ensure it is credible and democratic to its core.

We need to now say clearly that if 50+1% of the Scottish people vote for an SNP manifesto that proclaims that Scotland will become an independent country then we will secure our independence. That Scotland has voted to become an independent nation and we will commence the negotiations that would lead to Scotland leaving the UK.

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People will rightly ask what happens if the UK simply ignore the result of this de facto referendum? In response, we acknowledge that this will almost certainly be the case, but that is not a matter for us. We can no longer be responsible anymore for the anti-democratic behaviour of Westminster. The UK Government have not shown themselves to be well disposed to respecting Scottish democracy thus far, so why would they start now?

What they can’t ignore or take away is the fact that the Scottish people have voted for independence and that changes everything.

We will have delivered a result that shows the majority of Scots want Scotland to be an independent nation. This would be a mandate to assert ourselves as a nation and start behaving more like a country that is on its way to becoming an independent state. We could set up new democratic institutions, engage more credibly with international fora, and redefine our relationship with Westminster. We will have the people’s consent to reach beyond the devolution settlement and develop those international ties. The people will have voted for Scotland to become independent. That is how we should therefore govern.

People may also ask, will it be all over if we don’t get that 50% plus? Well, it would be if the UK Government accepts that the next election will be fought in Scotland as a de facto referendum. If they agree that if we win 50% plus we become an independent nation we should similarly accept that if we don’t reach that number then we will have failed.

But if they don’t, we simply brush ourselves down and prepare for the next national election. Every election we now contest will be a de facto referendum until the UK Government is prepared to engage, sit down, and agree a process to settle the question of Scotland’s constitutional future.

The days of the UK Government’s veto on our future should now come to an end. We, of course, want them to partner us in settling this question, but that is entirely up to them. The days of their “No” are over.