Okay, I do. But not because it’ll directly determine whether an independent Scotland would be in NATO. Changing policy would be a bad sign on that front, admittedly, but then so too is existing Tory, Labour and Lib Dem support for Nato.
In the event of a Yes vote, the Yoonyonisht Consphirashy will presumably not pack up their bags for Westminster and leave Scotland in the SNP’s hands. They’d stay to fight the elections to an independent Holyrood, and they may well win, just as Churchill won the war but Attlee won the peace.
The problem, as SNP MSP Marco Biagi rightly points out today, is that there’s a “false narrative that voting Yes means endorsing only the SNP vision of an independent Scotland.” Of course it doesn’t: if it did, I’d run a mile. I have a decent amount of common ground with them on health, justice, and even equalities, but I don’t want to live in a tartan tax haven built on burning all our oil and emptying the North Sea of fish as quickly as possible.
Marco’s fighting for an SNP that sticks to its guns (sorry) because they’re his party and that’s the policy he still believes in, not because he believes that decision can possibly be set for an independent Scotland by Alex Salmond before the Scottish people elect MSPs the next time.
It’s part of a wider problem, one that Jeff addressed here last month. Winning a referendum on the principle that those living in Scotland should make all the key political decisions is one thing: I think a cross-party and non-party campaign can do that. Winning a post-independence election on what to do with the full powers of a normal independent state: the SNP machine has form at general elections.
However, wherever a non-SNP voter who’s open to independence (remember: it can’t be won without them) accepts Marco’s “false narrative”, they are more likely to vote No depending on their attitudes to the SNP leadership and SNP policies. The referendum cannot be won without at least a clear division between the two things: assuming the party don’t accept Jeff’s logic above.
The First Minister should stand up and state clearly during the debate that the SNP won’t determine whether an independent Scotland stays in NATO: the Scottish people would do in the first post-referendum election. It’d be a brave move, and it’d reduce the importance of a debate is being billed as, to quote Marco again, “a leadership defeat or a U-turn“. More broadly, every time an SNP politician is asked a question that presumes they’ll win that post-indy election they have an opportunity to explain that the Scottish people will be sovereign, not the SNP.
Putting the distance between the wider Yes campaign and the party which delivered the referendum can reduce the risk to the Yes campaign of losing the support of some of those people who’ve long wanted to leave this nuclear alliance. The same goes for the monarchy, the currency, the BBC, and tax rates: those are arguments I hope the SNP lose in an independent Scotland, or positions they change their mind on, but we need to get there first, and that means narrative clarity about what’s being offered.