Our Greater Glasgow Group invited Mike Russell, former MSP and Cabinet Secretary, to their October online meeting. Having retired from Holyrood in May this year, Mike is focussing on his job of SNP President and his recent appointment as political director of the SNP Independence Unit.
He began with some reflections on the murder of David Amess which had happened just that morning.
Then moving on to the main theme of his talk he talked about :
- we need to have an independence campaign where we meet people, talk to them and change their minds, convert them to independence ….that is very different from the Holyrood election campaign and it won’t be possible till we’re further out of Covid
- he stressed that Scottish Government have said clearly that they will introduce an Independence Referendum Bill at Holyrood and then it’s up to Westminster to decide what they will do.
Mike described three tasks which he has given himself in his new position:
- start the flow of information again. The SNP is doing that and so are organisations like Believe in Scotland,
- establish better relationships across the whole of the independence movement. Find ways to work together positively and courteously while agreeing to differ on some issues. He has started that process by getting together with some Yes Movement groups to create a Transition Constitution for a newly independent Scotland.
- build up the capabilities of the SNP to go into a referendum, in terms of its structures, etc.
In terms of what independence will mean, Mike reckons that we have many of the same questions now as we did in 2014. But some of those questions will have different answers now. They may need fresh answers after the pandemic and after Brexit. And we will need to provide solid information on those issues.
You can listen / share / download the recording of the meeting here:
Here are some of the questions and issues we discussed with Mike:
- How will you deal with the level of state pension and the fears that will no doubt be stepped up again about losing it?
- We need a commitment and concrete information about currency. It’s clear from our stalls that people need that commitment.
- Is SNP still using the Sustainable Growth Commission as a basis for going forward? or are you drawing up a new approach? Which groups are you working with?
- Has Scottish Government given up on Section 30 route and is instead going straight to a refernedum?
- Are Labour party supporter the most obvious group of voters to target in terms of bringing more people to Yes.
- The UKGov commissions its own Scottish polls. Can they be forced to release the results? Could ScotGov commission its own polls?
- Why can’t we build ferries here in Scotland?
- Part of challenge we have is getting good information into sound bites. How do we get our own slogans out there. And also target them to age groups. Led By Donkeys has done a good job in getting people’s attention.
- The independent commission on referendums met in 2017 and have reported on the rules of practice on referendums. They recommended against any kind of super majority or voting thresholds. Is the Scottish Government taking this into account in its Referendum Bill?