Gordon Brown’s ‘irrelevant’ report

ALEX Rowley, the Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife and the party's former deputy Scottish leader has dismissed Gordon Brown's much touted constitutional review as “stale” and “irrelevant”, which if nothing else makes it very on brand for the Labour Party in Scotland.

The review had been much heralded in advance as the Labour party's great intervention which was going to bring about a fundamental reset of the constitutional debate, but when it was published it was met with a resounding, “meh”. Labour promised that it would set up a commission to look into reforms of the House of Lords and would introduce some minor tweaks to the devolution settlement, because what will really bring independence supporting Scots flocking back to Labour is giving Holyrood three year funding instead of doing it annually and devolving control of job centres.

The review actually represented a rolling back of the commitments of Brown's infamous 2014 Vow, commitments which were signally not delivered. Vote Labour and we won't even give you what we promised to give you in 2014 is not an offering that is going to change the terms of the constitutional debate in Scotland. It's a recipe for continuing Labour irrelevance.

#ResignSturgeon billboards

The Twitter account calling itself an organisation, and “The Majority” at that has paid for a number of billboards across central Scotland bearing the simple slogan #RESIGNSTURGEON. It's not entirely sure what the hashtag is in aid of, billboards don't work like Twitter, but I'm sure it makes “The Majority” feel modern and relevant.

%image('16453404', type="article-full", alt="The Majority said they have put up eight billboards across the central belt calling on Nicola Sturgeon to resign")

Anyway, that quibble aside, it's not clear what the billboards are supposed to achieve. Perhaps they are hoping that Nicola Sturgeon will see one and go, "OK then, that's it settled. I'm standing down." It's about as plausible as a tiny band of hard line British nationalists on Twitter actually representing the majority of the people of Scotland. These folk always seem to equate not being entirely convinced of the case for independence with being implacably opposed to it and prone to wrapping yourself in a British flag while singing God Save the King.

Nicola Sturgeon polls

The zoomier end of the “we're not nationalist we're British” brigade on social media had got themselves all excited by a poll in the Sunday Times which screamed that 40% of Scots want Nicola Sturgeon to resign. An equally accurate way of describing the exact same poll would have been to say that 60% of Scots don't want Nicola Sturgeon to resign.

Northern Irish protocol

There are reports that negotiations with the EU about the Northern Irish protocol are reportedly in their final stages and a deal may be possible within the next week or so. Reaching a deal is critical to avoiding a deeply damaging trade war with the EU, which would further damage the UK's already battered economy. There are no guarantees that a deal can be struck, but it can be guaranteed that the DUP will refuse to accept it and the Conservative's extreme right in the Commons will threaten a rebellion against an already weak Rishi Sunak in order to undermine him even further. The greatest danger to Sunak will come if Boris Johnson decides to speak out against any deal in an attempt to improve his chances of a successful comeback.

John Curtice on what the SNP must do to win indy

However today it's most instructive to look at comments made by polling expert John Curtice, who has told The National what he believes the SNP must do “above all” in order to win independence. Essentially Curtice said what some of us have been saying for a long time, the SNP and the independence movement as a whole must move on from its obsession with process and concentrate on building a persuasive case for independence which can appeal to that not insubstantial part of the Scottish population which is neither dead set against independence or totally convinced about the need for it. 

%image('12728528', type="article-full", alt="John Curtice gave the SNP some good advice")

Arguments about process and about how to secure a vote on independence are fundamentally preaching to the converted. Only those who are already committed supporters of independence are really that interested, those crucial undecideds and soft noes do not care that much.

It's a debate which at best does nothing to shift the dial on support for independence, and which at worst makes the independence movement appear self-absorbed and detached from the concerns of most voters. Curtice says that what is key to the success of the independence cause is to get the debate to be about independence, not about the tactics for getting a vote on independence. 

That means framing arguments which can demonstrate how independence will improve the lives of ordinary people in Scotland. Curtice said: "What above all the SNP and the Yes movement have to do is they have to persuade people of the merits of independence. Unless they do that, arguing about the process and how you get to a referendum is frankly angels dancing on the head of a pin. It won't matter unless you can persuade people of the substance of the case."

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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