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Exclusive: Scottish Independence Convention opposition to Growth Commission ignored
No response to consultation on controversial report
One of the important elements in the ongoing crisis in the SNP is the party’s relationship with the wider independence movement. It is notable how far relations have deteriorated since 2014 and the aftermath of the referendum. Humza Yousaf surveys a divided and weakened movement, a far cry from the unified and hopeful one inherited by Nicola Sturgeon as she assumed leadership of the party.
A particular area of both controversy and divergence between the SNP leadership and the broader movement was the Sustainable Growth Commission. The document contained a number of damaging proposals in relation to the prospectus for independence. Independence Captured has sought to articulate opposition to the Growth Commission as a cornerstone of the critique of the former SNP leadership.
In particular, the Sterlingisation currency plan provoked criticism from economists, pro-independence writers, think tanks and anyone who understood the ramifications of such an idea. The plan would leave Scotland without monetary control, and make interventions such as furlough or a Green New Deal impossible. In addition, it would inhibit membership of the European Union which requires an independently run central bank as a precondition of entry, despite the SNP resting so much of the independence case on rejoining the European institutions.
Indefinite Sterlingisation tied to a variety of stringent tests - effectively blocks on setting up a Scottish currency - remained as policy even after such a plan had been thoroughly repudiated. The new “White Papers” ended abruptly after a tepid “scene setter,” an apparently incomplete document on democracy and one on economics in which Sterlinigsation was promoted.
Opposition from the independence movement
Opposition to the Growth Commission was directly registered with the party leadership by the Scottish Independence Convention which wrote a letter to Nicola Sturgeon and the former SNP Chief Executive, Peter Murrell, in October 2021. The convention is the primary stakeholder organisation for supporters of Scottish independence. It brings together political parties, national campaigning organisations and representatives of local grassroots groups. Established in 2005, the organisation is a central player in the history of the modern independence movement.
The letter set out the findings of a consultation with member organisations on the contents of the Growth Commission. It found objections to the report across the spectrum of organisations taking part in the process. The disagreement was so robust groups reported they could “not campaign under the core proposals” contained in the report.
Despite this, the Scottish Independence Convention did not receive a response of any kind. Just as trade unions had been carved out of the initial Growth Commission, in favour of the corporate lobby, so too were vital constituent parts of the independence movement itself.
The letter, never before published in the public domain, can be read below:
Commenting, Iain Black, then Scottish Independence Convention Co-Convenor said:
“Mr Murrell, acting consistently with other approaches made to him for dialogue, did not reply, and as a consequence, the issues raised in this letter are still with us.
“We cannot expect to bring the full power and vibrancy of our movement to the campaign if we do not live by the values upon which we would want to build a new country: openness, respect and using the expertise we have at our disposal.
“We need to develop a unifying vision for the country we want to build and provide clear messages on the issues voters keep telling us they want to understand: Currency, Borders, Relationship with Europe, Security, Democracy, and how independence will allow us to take action on key issues such as the cost of living crisis and climate change.
“It is now vital that the new First Minister and the Minister for Independence work with us to rebuild this vision, unhindered by the discredited and rejected Sustainable Growth Commission report.”
As regular readers will know, my view is that independence is now a long-term project and process. But if it is to be rebuilt on intellectually sound foundations, there must be serious discussion and debate on policy and prospectus, conducted in a manner which enhances the overall quality of public life in Scotland.
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