It has been barely two years since the last Scottish referendum, with no sign that opinion in Scotland has changed since then. Yet still Nicola Sturgeon hopes to vote to request a new referendum in the Scottish Parliament next week. But here’s the thing: last year, Scots voted to strip the SNP of its Holyrood majority, precisely so they could stop pretending that their agenda is the will of the nation. Thus stymied, Ms Sturgeon would need help in her vote for a new referendum from the six Green MSPs who support secession. But how could they reconcile this with their manifesto pledge (pdf, p19)?
Scotland can champion a more open and participative law-making process: Citizens as legislators. Citizens should be able to play a direct role in the legislative process: on presenting a petition signed by an appropriate number of voters, citizens should be able to trigger a vote on important issues of devolved responsibility. As we proposed on the one year anniversary of the Independence Referendum, this is the Scottish Greens’ preferred way of deciding to hold a second referendum on Independence. If a new referendum is to happen, it should come about by the will of the people, and not be driven by calculations of party political advantage. In such a referendum the Scottish Greens will campaign for independence.
So here, in black and white, is the Green’s pledge to the voters who returned its MSPs to Holyrood: they would only approve a second referendum if it was manifestly the “will of the people” which (then) they rightly distinguish from “party political advantage” of the SNP.
But where is the evidence suggesting that a new referendum is the “will of the people”? Polls show just a third of Scots back it. No one has come up with an opinion poll suggesting a majority want to re-enact the referendum,an even smaller proportion than those who support secession. Which raises a new question: how can the Greens possible justify supporting the SNP in an exercise that is – as they so rightly said in their manifesto – about party political advantage?
Only yesterday, we heard about soaring child poverty figures in Scotland. The school attainment gap between rich and poor is a national disgrace. The SNP’s record is catching up with it, Nicola Sturgeon’s approval rating is so low it’s below that of the Tory leader. The SNP need a distraction, hence the new call for a referendum. This makes sense for the SNP. But how does it makes sense for the Greens? Or for Scots? Most of us show no sign of sharing the SNP's obsession.
Nicola Sturgeon, meanwhile, is heading into the second act of her staged drama: l'Ecosse, c'est moi: “my ideas are the Will of the Scottish People, to defy me is to defy the whole of Scotland” etc. This rather creepy mentality is one of the darker aspects of nationalism. By calling a new referendum the SNP is acting in defiance of the will of the Scottish people. The democratic force supposed to keep the SNP's messianic impulses in check is the Scottish Parliament - specifically, the Scottish Greens and the contract they made with their voters in a manifesto.
So the question next week is simple: how strongly do the Scottish Greens value democracy? How seriously do they take the pledges made in their manifesto? And how could they explain tearing up their own manifesto pledge, in support of the SNP’s sectarian agenda?
We’ll find out next week.