“WE have a cast-iron mandate for indyref2” – The SNP


THE SNP have won four elections since 2016 with an explicit manifesto commitment to hold a second independence referendum. Twice (in 2017 and 2019) a majority of all MSPs at Holyrood have voted to back a second independence referendum.


THE sheer consistency of popular support for a second independence referendum – as expressed by the SNP’s successful polling record – means that there is popular backing for letting Scotland decide for itself. At Westminster level, where first past the post is the accepted basis for legitimacy, the SNP has won successive majorities of MPs (2015, 2017, 2019) on the basis of popular support for letting Scotland decide for itself.

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The first issue to consider is whether the concept of an election manifesto commitment has any constitutional or legal force in the UK? Unfortunately, in the UK there is no written constitution, so the duty to implement a manifesto pledge voted on by the people is only a parliamentary convention – though one that has rarely been challenged, except when it comes to the call for a second independence referendum.

The British convention is that if proposals are “put before the country” and the people vote “with full knowledge of these proposals” then there is a mandate which should be accepted – to quote Viscount Cranborne, Tory leader in the Lords in 1945, agreeing to allow Labour legislation to pass despite a huge Conservative majority in the Upper House.

However, only on very rare occasions, at Westminster or Holyrood, do parties secure an absolute majority (the SNP won a popular majority at the 2015 General Election). Therefore, under the British first-past-the-post system, the party commanding a plurality of support is allowed to implement its manifesto.

It can be (and is) argued by the Conservative and Labour parties that such a Westminster plurality necessarily trumps a popular Scottish majority. Yet this argument is a political one, not a constitutional rule. Taken to an extreme, the view that Westminster has a permanent right to overrule Scottish opinion expressed consistently at the ballot box is a travesty of democracy.



THE SNP manifesto prioritises holding the Westminster parties to account over the so-called Vow that promised “modern Home Rule” for Scotland just prior to the 2014 independence referendum. 

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The manifesto also stipulates that in any EU referendum, there must be a double majority requirement, whereby each of the four constituent UK nations has to vote for withdrawal before the UK as a whole can leave. The SNP wins 56 of the 59 Scottish parliamentary seats exactly just over 50% of the popular vote – 51.3% including the pro-independence Greens. The Vow is not delivered and the Cameron government refuses the “double majority” rule for the EU referendum. The Tory share of the poll is only 36.9% yet it claims a mandate to govern.


THE SNP manifesto for the Scottish Parliament says: “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.” 

The SNP win 46.5% of the constituency vote and 63 seats. Pro-independence parties win 69 of the 129 Holyrood seats – a mathematical majority.


THE referendum on European membership. Scotland votes 62% for Remain but the UK as a whole votes by 51.89% to Leave. All 32 counting districts in Scotland vote Remain. This triggers the SNP Holyrood manifesto commitment regarding a “significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will”.


FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon gains the approval of the Scottish Parliament to request a Section 30 order to enable a second independence referendum “when the shape of the UK’s Brexit deal will become clear”. The SNP 
motion wins by a substantial 69-59 margin after the Scottish Greens agree to support.


THE SNP manifesto prioritises keeping Scotland in the EU single market and avoiding a hard Brexit. However, it also lays out this key pledge: “Last year’s Holyrood election delivered the democratic mandate for an independence referendum. The recent vote of Scotland’s national Parliament has underlined that mandate. If the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats in this election, that would complete a triple lock, further reinforcing the democratic mandate which already exists. And, in such circumstances, any continued Tory attempts to block the people of Scotland having a choice on their future – when the time is right and the options are clear – would be democratically unsustainable.”

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The SNP comes first in Scotland but with a reduced poll share (36.9%). They win a majority – 35 out of 59 – of Scottish seats, the second-highest number in the SNP’s history.


THE SNP manifesto concentrates mostly on making the case for continued Scottish membership of the EU but it does make a clear commitment to independence: “We want people to have the choice of a future for Scotland as an independent, European nation.” 

The SNP come first overall with 37.8% of the vote in Scotland. The pro-independence Greens win 8.2%.


THE SNP’s manifesto says: “The SNP is willing to take part in a progressive alliance to lock the Tories out of office. In any discussion, we will demand that the democratic right of people in Scotland to decide their own future is respected”. The first key pledge in the manifesto was crystal clear in intent and operation:

“We believe that the best future for Scotland is to be an independent, European nation… We have a clear mandate to deliver a new referendum on becoming an independent country, and we are making it clear at this election that next year we intend to offer the people of Scotland a choice over their future. 

“It is important to ensure a referendum is put beyond legal challenge. Before the end of the year, we will demand that the UK Government transfers the necessary powers under the Scotland Act to ensure the decisions about the referendum can be taken by the Scottish Parliament.”

The SNP vote share increases to 45% and the party gains 13 seats, for a total of 48 out of 59. In second place, the Scottish Conservatives – who campaigned principally in opposition to a second independence referendum – lost seven seats and saw their vote share drop to 25.1%. 

The Conservatives win at a UK level with 43.6% of the vote – a smaller share than the SNP wins in Scotland.


THE Scottish Parliament passes the Referendums (Scotland) Bill. The Bill includes provision for the date, question and referendum period to be set by secondary legislation. The Bill is passed by 68 votes to 54.


The National:

There is a strong moral and political mandate for indyref2 delivered at least four times from the Scottish people.

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