The National:

THE UK Government’s Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack, is no fool. Personally, I find him likeable. As Joe Biden said: “We can disagree without being disagreeable.”

Politically though, Alister Jack is breathtakingly emboldened. Imagine being quite relaxed about telling a nation you cannot decide on your future for 25 to 40 years. Clearly, I disagree with that.

Except, of course, Jack is not quite saying that. He is merely stating that his Westminster Government will not be playing ball with the Section 30 referendum strategy of the SNP for years to come.

We have to face facts. The UK Government already neutralised our Plan A manifesto strategy of the December 2019 General Election only last January, with great ease. They merely said “No”. And they will do so again.

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As many will know, Chris McEleny and I, amongst others, have been making the case for a Plan B, so that we take matters out of the hands of Alister Jack and his colleagues. Note, we are not saying we should not have Plan A, quite the opposite.

Actually, Plan B is one of great courtesy. It says to Plan A, “After you” or “Can I hold the door?”. Indeed, Plan B is a plan of impeccable manners, willing Plan A to succeed. Plan B is only there should Plan A fail again.

Quite why Plan A advocates do not understand this is puzzling.

We can of course continue to put our heads in the sand and shout “unsustainable” at the Tory UK Government. We did that through the 1980s, indeed for 18 years between 1979 and 1997.

Westminster are saying “No” to Plan A and we are lost in neutered silence

However, the Tories didn’t give a damn about Scotland’s political aspirations, regardless of the adjectives thrown their way. We can either learn from the past, or repeat it.

Also consider the Tory viewpoint and strategy. The Tories do not want Scotland to be independent, and they do not want to hear the voice of Scotland on the matter at the ballot box. They will do all they can to stop that.

In a piece of good luck for the Tories, our current plan (Plan A) relies on their acquiescence. Obviously, they will use the veto Plan A gives them. Just listen to Alister Jack.

Given the polls, the Tories know that Scotland will vote for independence if it is able. Their only tactic, given their wiser heads also know the upcoming Brexit is damaging, is to sit tight and hope that something happens to change matters in their favour.

The Tories would be out of the loop if we adopted Plan B, because unlike Plan A it is not predicated on asking the Westminster Tories if we can we please ask the Scottish people a question.

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Instead Plan B cuts to the chase. It asks the people next May, at the most legal and internationally recognised national event – the Scottish Elections - if they want independence.

Opponents of Plan B say “what if the UK Government says ‘No’?”. In reality, the UK Government cannot say no to the Scottish people unless they are auditioning to be Belarus’s Lukashenko.

Currently they are saying “No” to Plan A and we are lost in neutered silence. We should ensure we manoeuvre the UK Government into avoiding the Lukashenko position, that of course would mean independence.

We have our tactics and Jack has his. Deadlock suits Jack. By the way, we have no fallback secret plan. I recently asked one of our party’s leading lights if there was a secret Plan last year for the “No” we got in January. The response was silence.

Chris McEleny and I will not take any pleasure in again saying “we told you so”, but the outcome from the current strategy is predictable.

In a week when Trump has tried to defy the American people, Alister Jack has shown emboldened defiance to the Scottish ones, and SNP HQ has defied their party’s membership about a debate they want. Sadly, Scotland by our own hand becomes an even bigger loser than Trump, potentially leaving Alister Jack sitting with his cushions for another 25 to 40 years. How depressing.