MP for Edinburgh East says that now more than ever it is necessary to demonstrate with clarity a different path for Scotland.
Tommy Sheppard SNP MP has called for “energy and substance” at the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) this Saturday (14 January), at which he is a headline speaker.
The MP for Edinburgh East told CommonSpace that he understood that frustration had been growing among activists since the Brexit vote but that “now was the time to clarify” what an independent Scotland would be to win hearts and minds.
He insisted that a “strong grassroots debate” in the gap between Brexit and a possible early independence referendum would provide much needed unity and focus for independence activists.
“Personally I’m concerned with inertia within the movement. A cure for this, you might say is energy.” Tommy Sheppard
Speaking to CommonSpace, the SNP spokesperson for the Cabinet Office said: “I think I understand the frustration. I speak at SNP branch meetings and there is frustration because of a lack of an obvious date.
“Personally I’m concerned with inertia within the movement. A cure for this, you might say is energy. We need to combine energy with substance. Because if you look, there are great ideas still coming out of thinktanks - and I’m always up for more brilliant ideas.
“We need to energise the movement and demonstrate the vision of independence. I think when you look at how the event is sold out we can see that people are ready to believe and fight again.”
Sheppard referred to the Common Weal white paper project with its call for a new currency and state bank. It is an example he said of the way the advocates of independence can enthuse and excite the whole country, regaining links with many who have become detached from the debate as well as those not reached in the 2014 campaign.
The MP believes that the independence campaign should show ambition and creativity but also instil a sense of certainty into the debate. During the 2014 referendum unionist politicians and campaigns attempted to make the currency issue the focal point of the debate and an example of poor planning by the independence movement.
At the SIC attendees will look to focus on policy, strategy and the general health of the movement, which are the key areas Sheppard himself has emphasised as vital to a successful second referendum.
Speaking about the strategy of the Scottish Government in response to brexit and the relationship it has to the wider movement he said: “The Scottish Government and Parliament on its own has to weigh up the time of an early possible second referendum. There’s a risk we can get too caught up in the political choreography post Brexit.
“What concerns me is that we need to clarify what indy would mean for a lot of people. Winning hearts and minds will be achieved by what independence means rather than tearing ourselves apart about the when. The grassroots is still capable of this.”
“We need to energise the movement and demonstrate the vision of independence.” Tommy Sheppard
However, recent polls have cast doubts over whether the UK decision to leave the European Union has made the impact in shifting attitudes towards independence supporters thought it would. A YouGov poll for the Times newspaper that was published in November showed support for independence at 44 per cent compared with 56 per cent backing the Union.
Nicola Sturgeon may have focused on the arguments surrounding the single market but it is believed she and her party should ally any second referendum vote with an advantageous change in the poll numbers. In contrast, Ruth Davidson leader of the Scottish Tories has repeated expressed that such polling numbers show “lack of appetite for a consuming constitutional debate.”
Sheppard’s answer is a familiar retort from pro-independence voices, that the narrow defeat of 2014 was conducted when the campaign began from a far more disadvantageous postion. “Our starting point is infinitely better now”, he added.
Sheppard will speak at the convention on the independence movement. The SIC will take place at the Radisson Blu hotel in Glasgow at 10am on Saturday 14 January.
Picture courtesy of YouTube
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