A STRANGE thing is happening in British politics, with a Tory and Labour bidding war to deny Scottish democracy, while at the same time the unsustainability of their position is being pointed out even by anti-independence commentators.

In one week we have seen Prime Minister Boris Johnson deny the request by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for the powers of a Scottish independence referendum to be transferred to the Scottish Parliament, while his junior colleagues have suggested there are no circumstances for Scotland’s voters to decide on their own future. Tory Secretary of State Alister Jack suggested that it doesn’t matter what happens in the next Scottish Parliament elections, there won’t be a referendum – i.e. even if people give the SNP a mandate (again) it won’t happen. In an uncomfortable BBC Scotland radio interview, his colleague Douglas Ross suggested that there can’t be another referendum for fifty or sixty years.

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All of this is, of course, total nonsense. The longer the Tories deny democracy in Scotland, the more they undermine their own argument for the UK and boost the case for independence. Imagine a political party that hasn’t won an election since 1955 continuing to tell the repeated election winners in Scotland that they can’t have what people voted for. That is not democracy; it is tin-pot dictatorship. It can’t go on forever. While it might seem like a stand-off now, it will have to be resolved.

This is the point that was made this week by the leading London commentator Iain Martin, who is no supporter of the SNP or independence: “But the SNP is right - and it is not often I’ve written these words – in one crucial respect. It appears to be the position of the Prime Minister, and his Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, that there will not be a referendum even if the SNP wins a majority at the 2021 Holyrood elections. This is not a credible line to take. If the SNP wins an overall majority of seats or wins more than 50% of the popular vote next year, it will be extremely difficult for Unionists to say with any authority that the nationalists lack a mandate for their core policy. Unionists might as well face it. If Nicola Sturgeon gets a majority next year there is going to be a referendum at some point, so it is best to work out now how best to make the case for Britain.”

The National: Alister JackAlister Jack

This is exactly the same case that is made by the former head of communications for the Scottish Conservatives, Andy Maciver, who is now director of ‘Message Matters’: “This all points to the 2021 Scottish Parliament election – the most important there has ever been. That election will be fought on very clear ground, with very likely no room for debate on anything other than indyref2. If the SNP wins the election with a clear manifesto commitment for a second independence referendum, a full two parliamentary terms after their first win, there can be no serious grounds to oppose it. You can’t be a fair-weather democrat. You can’t demand to get Brexit done because voters asked for it whilst demanding that Indyref2 is continually rejected despite voters asking for it.”

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While the Tory party has been getting themselves in a lather denying Scottish democracy, they have been closely followed by Labour leadership candidates Jess Phillips and Lisa Nandy. In interviews and on a day trip to Glasgow, Phillips repeated her blanket opposition to a Scottish referendum while Nandy thought that Scotland should be dealt with like Catalonia, without even thinking that that included police brutality against defenceless voters. Apparently Scotland just needs to put up with a Tory government unelected in Scotland, which is taking us out of the European Union against our will, until Labour gets its act together. Aye right.

Hard as it is to endure given the repeated electoral mandates for an independence referendum, the reality is that the issue of indyref2 will be decided in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections. With a majority of pro-independence MSPs, it will be impossible to oppose Scottish democracy.

That makes the 2021 elections the most important Scottish parliament vote ever. Put simply, the challenge to return a pro-independence majority of MSPs is the key to Scotland’s future. There are only 67 weeks until polling day on May 6 2021. There is no time to waste. We need to start now. We need to start canvassing, leafleting and campaigning now. SNP members and volunteers, sitting councillors, MSPs, MPs and soon-to-be selected candidates need to drive the campaign in their wards and constituencies to guarantee success. There is no time for distractions. Now is the time to keep the eye on the independence prize.