How a multi-question, consultative referendum could unite Scotland behind independence

Perhaps there may be a case for the Scottish Government to hold a consultative, non-binding referendum asking a series of questions, but without repeating the same question that was asked in 2014?

I would love nothing more than for Boris Johnson to wake up tomorrow morning, to defy his party, and the unionist establishment and agree to indyref2. However, I am a realist. And as a realist, I have come to the conclusion that banging our heads against a brick wall isn't working.

The idea of the Scottish Government holding an advisory or consultative referendum is not a new one. But the majority of people who advocate this position simply feel that we should ask the same question a second time around. Now, I am not altogether against that idea, but I think we should also be open to explore other possibilities, and at least be open minded to other routes to independence.

Look at the independence of New Zealand and Canada for example. Their routes to independence were gradual journeys. I believe most of us would argue that Scotland is already on a gradual transition towards full independence.

A consultative referendum could ask whether or not people agreed that individual specific powers be devolved to the Scottish Government, rather than asking the question "should Scotland be an independent country?" If, as I suspect, people vote yes to every single question, then we would in effect, have voted for the type of independence that the SNP envisioned in 2014.

From my own experience, from talking to unionists, I often find that the vast majority would pretty much agree to the individual SNP proposals for independence but not to the word "independence" itself. The case for asking these questions separately rather than bundling it all into one question, would be simply because the word "independence" scares the life out of many moderate unionists, because they simply don't know what independence might actually mean. Effectively, what I'm saying here, is it could result in a much more unified result - potentially closer to 70% yes, than the 50/50 split we're seeing now.

Another reason that a multi-question referendum might be preferable is because it allows for at least some progress to be made, rather than none. Let's say for example that the UK Government were to agree to indyref2, with exactly the same process as 2014 - it would firstly mean that the entire process could be controlled by the UK Government, could be tampered with by the UK Government, and they could at the very least scaremonger people to death and potentially secure a tiny majority for the no side again, effectively killing off the indy argument for yet another "generation" whatever that means.

Another reason it might be more preferable is that it could not be deemed a "repeat of 2014" - an argument often used by unionists against holding another vote. The SNP can argue that whilst respecting the result of the 2014 vote, the result was very close, and that it is obvious that people are not satisfied with the status quo given recent election results.

Giving people the power to agree or disagree with certain powers being devolved, and exactly what they would like to be independent, would give moderate unionists the chance to agree or disagree, however they so choose with individual powers being devolved without actually being forced to take a leap in the dark into the unknown.

The results of such a multi-question referendum could then set the basis for independence negotiations with Westminster. Now of course, in reality, the SNP's vision of independence, could be argued as "indy-lite" by the independence movement, and isn't really as scary as some moderate unionists might fear. I'm not for a moment suggesting diluting independence, but simply breaking down the individual components of the SNP's proposals into bite-size chunks, and asking people to consent to the individual aspects. Now there may very well be a smarter way of doing this, than I suggest, so please hit me with your suggestions if you want to chip in, in the comments section.

The referendum would be the basis of the beginning of talks, which could eventually result in a settlement of the kind of independence that the SNP have been keen to promote.

Another reason this could be beneficial, is that it would eradicate the grey areas that lots of moderate unionists fear. The SNP are keen to for example, keep the queen, use the pound etc. So there would be no need to even ask these questions as they would be effectively irrelevant.

The questions in the consultative referendum could include, but not be limited to, the following...

1. Should the Scottish Government be in charge of benefits and social security?
2. Should the Scottish Government be in charge of pensions?
3. Should the Scottish Government be in charge of immigration?
4. Should the Scottish Government be in charge of defence?
5. Should the Scottish Government be in charge of foreign policy?
6. Should the Scottish Government be in charge of taxation?
7. Should the Scottish Government be in charge of employment, trade and industry?
8. Should the Scottish Government be in charge of nuclear energy, oil, coal, gas and electricity?
9. Should the Scottish Government be in charge of consumer rights and data protection?
10. Should the Scottish Government be in charge of the constitution?

Now let's imagine for a second that the people of Scotland were to deliver an overwhelming yes result in all, or the vast majority of the questions asked (I am pretty sure this would be the case but of course, polling would be beneficial in order to clarify this beforehand). The UK Government would then no longer be able to simply ignore the constitutional issue, and if they were to refuse to engage altogether in talks with the Scottish Government, that in itself could potentially drive up support for independence, which would result in a less than amicable break-up - something neither side is keen to see happen.

Another reason this might be beneficial is that it would probably lead to a lot of moderate unionists to come to the conclusion that independence is not as scary as they had perhaps originally thought. It could potentially bring more people on side because it's forcing them to consider what independence would actually mean.

Now of course, I am just brain storming here, in the hope that it inspires others to come up with a better solution, or a way forward that would be more pragmatic, and hopefully one that would be less frightening for moderate unionists to get on board with.

The hope is that we could somehow re-frame the debate so that we can bring people on board, and have a 70/30 for independence, rather than the current 50/50 situation, in the same way that we managed to unite people around the idea of having a Scottish Parliament.

74.29% voted yes in 1997 for the Scottish Parliament, and interestingly enough, 63.48% also voted yes agreeing that Scotland should have tax raising powers. What does this tell us? I think it tells us that there is a clear majority in Scotland for the devolution of power, and possibly that the word "independence" may be too vague, and that perhaps there is a case for being more specific about what the SNP's vision of independence actually means.

At the moment, we have reached a stalemate. And we are in a position where we could potentially be denied another say on independence for 5 to 10 years, if the SNP are to continue to pursue the same course.

Perhaps there is a smarter way out of the deadlock? And perhaps there is a way to achieve independence in such a way that it brings the vast majority on board?


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