2014 Independence Referendum
Nicola Sturgeon was given the honour of leading the campaign for independence.
Referendum campaigning began with polls indicating “No” voters would prevail, a view promoted by the Unionist media and given maximum media space by the BBC, who bombarded Scotland with negative publicity broadcasting many times each day that only around 25% of Scots would commit to supporting independence.
In response, in the first months of 2014, the performance of the team Nicola had put in place was formal, lacklustre and deferential with result that it was completely outfoxed at every juncture by the well-oiled machine that was, “Better Together.”
Responding to months of the Unionist Party’s gutter politicking, negative media and attacks on Scots, Alex Salmond intervened and altering the campaigning strategy gave his support to “Yes” activists to take the lead on campaigning, getting onto the streets to encourage Scots to seize the day and take their country away from a union that had failed them so badly for over 300 years.
The inspired initiative worked a treat and the “Yes” campaign fortunes changed over the summer months of 2014 so much that by late August polls declared the outcome to be too close to call.
The Unionist campaign then faltered due to internal Party political wrangling and panic set in.
Cameron responded by sidelining “Better Together” transferring all decision making to his offices in Westminster, where he implored the Queen, Dukes, Barons, Knights of the realm, heads of Governments of countless countries around the world, just about every civil servant of any note, many hundreds of business leaders and politicians to get behind him and save the Union by pulling every trick in the book no matter how devious or dishonest.
The BBC and other Unionist media outlets assiduously assisted orchestrating skullduggery and delivering it through mass media subversion resulting in the pendulum swinging back in favour of the “No” campaign. But still “Yes” voters appeared to be on a roll with no sign of momentum slowing.
Desperate measures were needed if the Union was to be saved and only a week before the day of voting and therefore “illegal”, the “Unionists” pledged, then heavily promoted “Devo Max” for Scotland, greatly increasing devolved powers, only just short of “home rule”.
The ploy worked. Only days before the referendum vote Bookmakers stopped taking bets on a “no” vote victory. People with influence in the Unionist camp had clearly been advised of the outcome of the referendum before the voters of Scotland had even been to the polling booths.
Scotland subsequently voted “No” to independence on Thursday 18 September 2014.
The result of the referendum became evident not long after the polling stations closed when a resounding “no” vote was returned from a council expected to vote “yes”. A negative result confirmed by similar outcomes from other councils on the East coast of Scotland.
Unionists in Scotland and England were cock-a-hoop and could not contain their delight. Many clamoured for media airtime so that they would be able to rub salt into the wounds of Scots who had backed independence. One such person was “Ruth the Mooth” Davidson who mocked the nation with her release of information that she had been advised of the outcome before the referendum had been conducted.
Her admission was a bombshell. The only way she could have known things had gone so well for the “no” voters was if she or people known to her had opened and counted postal ballots, which had been held secure in England, at the headquarters of the company contracted by the Unionist Government to preserve the integrity of the vote.
A police investigation was completed, in the course of which Davidson confirmed sample voting had been conducted, as speculated, in England at the offices of the company contracted by the Unionist Government but no criminal act had occurred. It later transpired that the Company was owned by a Tory Minister and his associates.
The postal vote debacle further devalued the outcome of the referendum with the revelation that the total number of votes returned in many cases was the highest return in any election worldwide, by a great margin. The shenanigans convinced many Scots that the vote had been rigged in favour of a “no” vote.
Scots were also alarmed and had questioned before the referendum as to the reasons why the Chief Electoral Officer had been seconded to oversee the referendum from her permanent post in England and her subsequent actions appointing fellow English “counting officers” of similar ilk. There was further concern about her unprecedented actions banning exit polling and instructing that there would be no recounts nor appeals at any of the stations.
Cameron claimed victory the morning after and confirmed Alex had accepted defeat. He went on to give the undertaking to honour the Unionist “Vow” to deliver “Devomax” to Scotland. But he also introduced a spoiler in declaring England & Wales would also become “Devomaxed” answering the “Lothian Question” raised by Tam Dayell, but never answered. The House of Commons and Westminster would become a near irrelevance to Scotland who would not be permitted to have a view, discuss or vote on any matter exclusively concerning England or Wales.
Scots were outraged by the deceit of the Unionists who behaved dishonourably before and after the referendum and continued their protestations on social media, the only outlet permitting any expression of views which did not support the Unionist agenda.
Adding insult to injury only days after the referendum Cameron bragged to the Unionist media that “her majesty” had purred with delight when he informed her of the outcome.
A wronged nation is an unhappy nation and Scots were angry at the way in which the future was unravelling under the continued control of the Unionists and they turned in increasing numbers to the SNP demanding a different path. Independence was back on track. But under a new leader.
Within two weeks of the referendum, the membership of the SNP increased to an unprecedented level taking its total well beyond that of any political party in the United Kingdom.
Nicola Sturgeon supporters attributed the increase in the membership of the Party to her influence but in reality, it was due to the ongoing intransigence of Mundell and the Unionists who were delaying and distorting the terms of “Devomax”.
In the 18 September, 2014 referendum Scots rejected independence by 55% to 45%. The day after Alex announced he would be standing down as First Minister and SNP leader. In his time in office, as leader of the SNP, Alex exceeded the expectations of his political remit by improving the SNP political standing in Scotland, turning his party into the most popular in the history of devolution, always on a platform of fighting for Scottish interests.
Nicola Sturgeon would be his successor of choice, but he warned of the dangers inherent in a coronation. His advice went unheeded and Nicola was duly “crowned” not long after.
Her position as leader confirmed Nicola addressed an audience in an auditorium packed to the gunnels with many thousands of members all fully committed to the cause of independence and expecting a rallying call to renew the fight for freedom from their leader. But they were to be disappointed.
She used her acceptance speech as First Minister to reassure her Unionist opponents her administration would be more than just a vehicle for constitutional campaigning. It would provide good government for all Scots always fully operating within the rules put in place by Westminster
She dwelled longest on her achievement of becoming the first woman to lead a Scottish Government. Her election showed “the sky’s the limit” for women and girls across the country, she told the audience before then saying:
“But it is what I do as First Minister that will matter more – much more – than the example I set by simply holding the office.”
Then, Looking up towards her niece Harriet, eight, in the gallery, she added:
“She doesn’t yet know about the gender pay gap or under-representation or the barriers, like high childcare costs, that make it so hard for so many women to work and pursue careers. My fervent hope is that she never will; that by the time she is a young woman, she will have no need to know about any of these issues because they will have been consigned to history. If, during my tenure as First Minister, I can play a part in making that so, for my niece and for every other little girl in this country, I will be very happy indeed.”
She had set her priorities for the future. The fight for independence was to be continued but within the limits of responsible governance. But her primary mission was to advance the cause of women.
What followed was a media frenzy in which Nicola was feted by women’s rights organisations worldwide including invitations to visit the USA and address female leaders and human rights activists the UN. She would become the new “Angela Merkel” and inspire women to a better future in politics and business.
A cross-party commission, led by Lord Smith of Kelvin, was set up agree upon the implementation of the Unionist’s “Vow” which would be the greatest transfer of powers from Westminster to Scotland since the reopening of the Scottish Parliament 15 years before.
So what happened?
The Commission Panel concurred that their discussions and outcomes would be formalised without consultation with external bodies and went on to commit to full devolution of abortion law, the creation of a separate Scottish Health & Safety Executive, lotteries, asylum and a much greater say in the governance of the BBC. Other powers to be devolved included: income tax, personal allowances, bands and rates, employers’ National Insurance contributions, inheritance tax, the power to create new taxes without Treasury approval and a raft of other taxes. An agreed draft of “Heads of Agreement” proposals was published on 21 November 2014.
But many of the foregoing commitments were axed on the final day, at the instigation of Unionist parties, without explanation and it was revealed later that Commission panel members of Unionist persuasion, allegedly independent of Westminster were frequently on the phone taking instructions from their UK party leaders in London, with the LibDems and Tories particularly exercised about welfare proposals and Labour more focused on tax.
The commitment permitting the Scottish government to vary the components of Universal Credit, which merged Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Employment and Support Allowance, was rejected by Westminster.
The decision to devolve abortion policy had been agreed on a 4-1 basis, with only Labour opposed to it. In the draft version of the report dated 11.15am on November 26 – the final day of negotiations – stated: “Powers over abortion will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.” But throughout that same day, Labour kept pushing its opposition in one-to-one meetings with Lord Smith, who then raised it again with the other parties. The Tory members then sided with Labour and the commitment to devolve abortion was removed.
The draft also stated: “Power to establish a separate Scottish Health & Safety Executive to set enforcement priorities, goals and objectives in Scotland will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The body would be required to operate within the reserved UK health & safety framework but would assess, set and achieve the health and safety objectives of most relevance and importance to Scotland.”
The policy, long supported the trade union movement in Scotland was struck out and relegated to the “additional issues” annexe of the final report, which said the Scottish and UK governments would merely “consider” changes.
Also included was the agreement that: “The power to permit the creation and regulation of new lotteries in Scotland will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.” But the final report devolved only the power to “prevent the proliferation” of highly addictive gaming machines known as fixed-odds betting terminals.
Also missing from the final draft was the statement that had said: “There will be greater Scottish involvement in BBC governance beyond the current right to have one Trust member and the current Audience Council Scotland.”
The Commission chairman, Lord Smith of Kelvin, gave the impression he added weight to the views of the three main Westminster parties over panel members. A source saying: “The position that Lord Smith took was that if the parties who were either in the current UK government or might be in the next refused to budge on something, he went with it. The Unionist votes counted for more.”
Devo max was not delivered by the Unionists who decided many important powers would remain with Westminster, including:
The Barnett Formula, setting the block grant from Westminster.
The state pension, including the pension age.
National Insurance, Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Corporation tax, fuel duty, oil and gas receipts.
Universal Credit, the new DWP system for delivering working-age benefits, including the rates and sanctions regime- Housing benefit, maternity pay, statutory sick pay, bereavement allowance and child benefit.
The National Minimum Wage.
The Equality Act, but Scotland would be enabled to set new rules, such as gender quotas within the government.
Overall responsibility to manage risks and shocks to the economy, including retention of the power to levy UK-wide taxes if required.
The SNP response
John Swinney, who had led the negotiations for the SNP Government said:
“We regret that job creation powers, welfare powers, control over the personal allowance or national insurance have not been delivered. We welcome the new powers – as we support all progress for Scotland – and pledge to use them when they are in place in the best interests of the Scottish people. We also welcome the acknowledgement of the ‘sovereign right’ of the people of Scotland, and our ability to proceed to independence if we so choose. But the proposals clearly do not reflect the full wishes of the people of Scotland, and also fall far short of the rhetoric from the “No” campaign during the referendum.
Harking back to the referendum campaign it is important to highlight the illegal and late intervention of former Labour Party Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, only days before the referendum and well within the “period of purgatory” when acting with the authority of the Unionist Government, he promised that in the event of a “no” vote the reward for Scotland would be “Devomax” which would be as close to a federal state as the UK could be.
Brown, no longer a statesman, was given 2 hours of BBC prime time television and a hand-picked unionist supporting studio audience to promote his illegal, game-changing ploy which had been apparently condoned by the Electoral Commission.
Regrettably, the Westminster government and other political Unionist supporters failed to deliver the powerhouse parliament the people of Scotland had been promised. Under the proposals delivered, much less than 30 per cent of Scottish taxes would be to be set in Scotland and less than 20 per cent of welfare spending would be devolved. Most significantly, the proposals did not include the job-creating powers that Scotland so badly needed to get more people into work and grow the economy, nor welfare powers to tackle in-work poverty. This was not “Home Rule” – It was the continuation of Westminster rule.
Of significance for the future the final report contained the following statement:
“Reflecting the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to determine the form of government best suited to their needs, as expressed in the referendum on 18 September 2014, and in the context of Scotland remaining within the UK, an enhanced devolution settlement for Scotland will be durable, responsive and democratic. And it is agreed that nothing in this report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland so choose.”
And Scots, fed up to the back teeth with the Unionist Party’s refusal to honour their promise of “Devomax” gave notice of their determination on independence in a UK General Election only a few months later.
The 2015 General Election
At the time of his resignation, reportedly forced on him by a small group of senior SNP managers, Alex Salmond could not have foreseen the landslide SNP victory (gained only six months later) in the 2015 General Election.
A success brought about by the disgraceful backsliding of “Unionist” politicians, their Civil Service helpers and other parties interested only in the containment of Scots within the existing political constraints.
The much-touted joint Unionist commitment to fully implement their “Vow” !!!!……to devolve powers to Scotland, just short of independence, proved to be a “lie” that broke the hearts of many Scots who had voted to remain in the Union only on the substance of “Unionist! promises.
Private polling, in the months before the election, provided an early indication of a marked upturn in the fortunes of the Party and the battle for the hearts, minds and votes of Scots was taken up, once again, by those who would not be denied Scotlands freedom from an oppressive Westminster political machine.
Alex, semi-retired from active politics by many, consulted the Party hierarchy and gained their reluctant support for his challenge for the Banff & Buchan constituency. Which he subsequently won.
An unprecedented 56 SNP MP’s were elected in a landslide, just about eliminating the Unionist Parties in Scotland. The nation had spoken. Independence should have been declared, but repeating the errors of the past, tartan wearing, bagpipe playing SNP MP’s, and their supporters descended on Westminster determined to shake the House of Commons to its core, forcing change leading to another independence referendum. But they had not consulted those that had elected them preferring to embrace the instructions of the SNP leaders who advised Scots that:
“Westminster is going through culture shock in coming to terms with the fact the SNP did so well in the election. That we are here in such strong numbers, elected as Scots who support independence, is also not lost on them. We were elected to pursue an anti-austerity agenda and more devolved powers for Scotland. and we will do just that.”
But they had chosen to misread the will of the Scottish nation which was to abandon the “Treaty of Union”. And yet again, as on previous occasions, they were to be sorely disappointed. The “old lady of parliament” simply adjusted her skirts and swept them aside with contempt.
The influence of a large body of SNP MP’s at Westminster had been of little matter when set against the blatant refusal by the Unionist parties to uphold their 2014 referendum promise to devolve additional powers to the Scottish parliament and when the UK held yet another General Election only a year later the Unionist campaign managers of their Scottish branches agreed to assist each other, cutting back on political campaigning where they had little chance of gaining a seat instead promoting the cause of the Unionist candidates regardless of persuasion. Tactical voting had arrived, with a vengeance. And it worked a treat.
A complacent SNP election team, led by its Chief Executive and Campaigns Manager, Peter Murrell (Nicola Sturgeon’s husband) failed to anticipate the new tactics of the Unionists and lost many good MP’s.
And Murrell has form. Under the leadership of John Swinney, he directed the organisation and delivery of the disastrous 2003 Holyrood election, in which the Party lost eight seats which resulted in the resignation of John Swinney as SNP leader in 2004 and a bid for the leadership of the Party by Nicola Sturgeon, which she was forced to withdraw when Alex Salmond announced his intention to add his name to the list of contenders. She subsequently agreed to take on the role of Deputy leader of the Party and to “stand-in” for Alex as the Party’s “Holyrood leader” while he remained an MP at Westminster.
Few people know Murrell who is rarely seen, except at elections and at Party events, where he is nearly always present in the main auditorium, usually standing in the shadows to the side of the stage whispering instructions to Cabinet ministers as they prepare to make keynote speeches. He is a powerful general blessed with a salary in excess of £100K and a level of authority more comprehensive than the casual watcher could possibly realise.
The Feminist agenda
In the years following her elevation to the leadership of the Party Nicola turned Scottish politics on its head. Female SNP politicians and careerists now dominate the Party hierarchy witnessed in the ongoing Alex Salmon inquiry which revealed the First Minister’s Cabinet to be predominantly female, with seven of its 12 members women. And an all-female team reporting to her, comprising: Chief of Staff, Liz Lloyd, Permanent Secretary, Leslie Evans, Director of People, Nicola Richards and the Head of People Advice, Judith Mackinnon.
There is a growing disquiet among members, supporters and independence activists that the Party has lost its way under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon in the years since the 2014 referendum. And it is no longer the Party of independence having morphed into the Party of Government in Scotland. A role to which the Party founders never aspired.
Critics also highlight that neither Nicola nor her Party Chief Executive husband and has ever attended, fronted or supported any of the many dozens of marches and or rallies organised and delivered across the country in the past 6 years, by many hundreds of thousands of Scottish independence activists.
Conversely Nicola appears to be always available to provide public support and photo opportunities through her attendance at rallies, throughout the UK, organised by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender groups.
The priorities for the leader of the Scottish national Party should be gaining independence for Scotland. That and nothing else.