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« After Glasgow North East | Main | Precious belongs to Glasgow - let her stay »

November 18, 2009


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Two brief points by way of reply:

Nobody is arguing for the retention of Trident - certainly not Jim Sillars or myself for that matter. Nobody is preventing anti-Trident voters from walking towars us on this issue. But in truth the removal of Trident will not be overnight, giving the SNP a powerful bargaining tool both before & after a successful plebiscite. We should milk it for all it is worth.

With regard to NATO we have to live in the world as it is, not in the world we would like it to be.

We know that come the referendum there will be a cacophony of voices warning of the 'dangers' of 'splitting' from our 'allies' in a 'uncertain' world - so why adopt a naive macho 'bring it on' position that can only damage our prospects? Particularly as this can only be sorted one way or the other AFTER independence, by whichever Party/Parties form the government of Scotland.

Bottom line, a anti-NATO line will harm the SNP's prospects which is why we need to ditch this sacred cow.

The minute we start abandoning policy positions because the UK may "drag up" this or that is the minute we should chuck it.
We know the unionists will drag up this, that and the other. We have to provide principled and coherent answers and I cannot imagine any principled, logical, moral or coherent reason why we should join NATO which is merely the tame political wing of savage US military excess.
There is no sensible reason I can think of to support Trident under any circumstance whatsover and I would think it incomprehensible if the SNP should decide to abandon the huge number of pragmatic and principled Scots walking towards the SNP on this issue.

As a long time admirer of Jim Sillars with an inclination towards some of his positions I am saddened that as an SNP member he does not think it sensible and proper to bring his ideas to National Councils and Conferences and I am sure he is fully aware of how his offerings will be portrayed in the SNP hostile press.

At just over what ought to be the half way point of the SNP government, Jim Sillars characteristically trenchant views on the way forward for the independence movement are to be warmly welcomed.

Sillars is right to argue that to win an independence referendum will require the SNP to reach out beyond its own support base & fashion a coalition from all political parties – and none.

Indeed, the SNP is doing just that, but much remains to be done in presenting a compelling vision of an independent Scotland, of the difference that independence will make to the ordinary person in the street, both on a personal level and with regard to the nation as a whole.

All too often, when canvassing members of the public as to their position on an independence referendum, the reply is “I don’t know”. And that can include SNP voters!

The SNP government needs to hammer home relentlessly both the positives – what CAN and ought to be done with full sovereign powers – and negatives – the measures the SNP government wish to take for the benefit of Scotland but are prevented from carrying out thanks to the Westminster prerogative.

With this in mind, I think Jim Sillars hits the nail on the head where he highlights the necessity for Scots – and the Scottish government – to think in terms of ‘Scottish State Interests’. By this Sillars means painting in black and white the vital interests of Scottish state interests, contrasted to the priorities of what in reality is the English State. Take the Scottish equation out of the ‘British’ State, and you are left with a predominantly English one. A State increasingly at odds with the national Scottish interest – borrowing, taxation (Sillars flags up the national imperative to utilise a radical tax regime to grow Scottish small & medium sized businesses & thereby tackle economic under-performance), public investment, international representation (e.g. Copenhagen), the list goes on. Time to stop looking to the Unionist past, time to envisage Scotland as one more independent State amongst many.

Sillars goes on to chart Britain, England’s, decline, and to strangle the notion that the ‘big’ UK is a strength, exacerbating Scotland’s social and economic problems – all music to the nationalist ear, but not a note that has been played by the SNP for many long years.

It strikes me that such a narrative would be an ideal vehicle for explaining why independence is Scotland’s future, why increased powers are vital and give people a clear vision of what Scotland can be compared to the tired and reactionary offerings of the Unionist parties.

Predictably, the Unionist press, led by The Hootsmon, has picked up on Sillars views on the EU and NATO. Take away all the froth and twaddle however and there are some interesting points worthy of consideration.

On Europe Sillars favours Scotland joining EFTA/EEA rather than the EU, on the basis that EFTA/EEA would enable Scotland to keep more of the sovereignty required to repair the damage left over from the bust UK. Personally, I do not buy it. Whilst there is a superficial attraction in winning over the Euro-sceptic vote and dumping the Common Fisheries Policy, having all the benefits of free European trade but with none of the shared EU obligations smacks of wanting to have your cake and eating it. If Jim Sillars position was as sagacious as he would have us believe, there would have been a stampede of the EU’s newest States into EFTA, rather than present reality where it looks like Iceland will be dumping EFTA, leaving a rump consisting of Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

And I cannot but help thinking Edinburgh’s competition in Frankfurt would be rubbing their hands in glee.

No matter how it is viewed, EFTA countries are dependent on decisions taken without their input. On paper they may still be able to negotiate adaption’s to EU regulations but as a small 3 nation grouping ultimately if EU was so minded EFTA would trot along obligingly. Rather than this chimera Scotland’s best interests would be best served inside EU – and that’s even before the pound sterling is jacked in for the Euro.

Jim Sillars is on much stronger ground with NATO. Whilst recognising that NATO is a totemic issue for many in the SNP, I have been arguing for years that this is the national movement’s one Achilles Heel. As Sillars points out, Scottish independence will not occur in a vacuum, with consequences for the US & European security that could blow the independence campaign out of the water if we allow it to. If present policy undermines the objective of a successful independence plebiscite it is incumbent upon the SNP to ditch it.

At a time of change and flux it is vital that the SNP offers stability and trust, which will be severely compromised if NATO/England is dredging up dark images of isolation & terrorist threat. Indeed, being in NATO shoots the UK/English separatist hare whilst increasing our leverage as a new State awaiting recognition.

The same goes for Faslane – the sub’s and infrastructure will not be able to be moved South for some time, an opportunity to utilise this bargaining chip (Sillars is calling for a formal leasing agreement) to smooth relations with the international community (and England) BEFORE THE REFERENDUM, increasing the SNP governments credibility & putting the whole defence issue onto the front foot for the SNP. Diplomatic contacts require to be made now – if the devolved Scottish government acts like a sovereign government, it bolsters its own position, reassures our neighbours and will increasingly be seen by the world as sovereign.

Thanks Outlander, that is very useful

Hi Joan,

Here's the link to what Sillars actually says:

Your link points to a Scotsman article, whose agenda is to undermine the SNP by showing disarray among its ranks. I know, it's hard to believe, but there you have it.

Sillars' paper is an excellent contribution to the debate on what form an independent Scotland should take. What he is suggesting makes sense too: that we follow the lead set by Norway on how we relate to NATO and the EU.

Since Sillars is not part of the Scottish Government, I can't see how this is 'evidence of splits within the separatist movement,' as the (always nameless) Scottish Labour spokesperson says. In fact, since Sillars is outside the government, he's probably the perfect person to raise these issues.

It's also an excellent way to get the public talking about independence again, without making the government look factional.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if someone in the government asked him to write it.

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