SNP Plan A vs Plan B

The SNP conference came at a very important juncture in the class struggle in Britain. With Boris Johnson trying to close a last-minute deal with the EU, the ruling class looks on in horror at the approaching 31st of October deadline, unsure if Johnson’s plans are either sincere or workable. A triumphant Labour left freshly rejuvenated from its victories at conference itches for a General Election and the necessity of bringing down the government stares all opposition MPs in the face.

By Shaun Morris, Glasgow Marxists

In this background the sense of urgency among the independence movement threatens to boil over. In an attempt to keep a lid on it, the SNP leadership have frustrated attempts to discuss the strategy for winning independence at the SNP conference. Despite no official debate taking place, there has been a raft of discussion over the question.

Led by a number of well-known MPs and MSPs, members have attempted to raise the notion of a “Plan B” for independence. The “Plan A” as it stands is Nicola Sturgeon’s insistence on requesting a Section 30 Order from the UK Government allowing another independence referendum to take place.

In a characteristic pre-conference appeal, Sturgeon and a number of other SNP tops said it was their way or the highway: no other path than a repeat of the Edinburgh Agreement and the 2014 referendum would be pursued by the Scottish Government or the Scottish National Party. Opposition to this was said to be a “Unionist trap” and would weaken the cause of independence.

The problem for the SNP leaders is that the rank-and-file are starting to feel that they have already been led into a trap, or at least the dead-end of asking the Tories to graciously grant a Section 30 Order when even the dogs in the street know they never will. “What kind of strategy is that”, people are forced to ask, “Surely there must be a Plan B?”.


The SNP have been in government in Scotland for over 10 years now. In that time, they have learned all too well to be the responsible and moderate statesmen and women when it comes to managing the interests of capitalism. While the mass, predominantly working class membership of the party sees hope for advancing their own class interests after independence, the weight of bourgeois interests weighs heavy on the policies of the SNP leaders.

When it comes to the day-to-day business of Government, the leaders manage to balance somewhat between the classes, who both exert pressure on the SNP and the Scottish Government. When it comes to the SNP’s central and defining policy – Scotland becoming an independent country – the apparently cautious nature of the SNP leaders reflects the overriding concerns of Scottish capitalism.

That concern is how a newly independent Scottish capitalism will be received by the international bourgeoisie and how it will play out on the world market. Thus we see Sturgeon’s coded warnings to the SNP rank-and-file over Plan A: that it is the only plan acceptable to the “international community” or their “partners” in the EU. Similar warnings about “legitimacy” are made over questions surrounding independence, such as currency, public sector spending, government debt etc. We must ask: legitimacy in the eyes of who?

The legitimacy of the current SNP leadership doesn’t just rest on its ability to deliver for the capitalist class, however. For the mass independence movement it chiefly rests on their ability to actually deliver independence. The calls for a Plan B show that this is starting to be cast into doubt.


The legal strategy of Plan A is confined to the legal bounds of the British constitution, which runs against the instincts of the independence movement whose trust in the institutions of British “democracy” has been shattered. Millions of working class people put their faith in the SNP because of the betrayal of right-wing Labour leaders and the SNP posing itself as a radical anti-establishment party with a radical anti-establishment message of independence.

If we look at how the SNP and Scottish Government has behaved recently however, they are sowing illusions in British and EU law as guarantors of Scotland’s right to self-determination. Perhaps buoyed by SNP MP Joann Cherry’s legal win over the prorogation of Parliament, the Scottish Government’s Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell stated that they have not “ruled out” using legal action to try and force the UK Government to allow a second indyref!

On the question of the EU stepping in to guarantee self-determination, we need only look at the example of Spain and Catalonia, where dozens of people have been imprisoned for up to thirteen years for the political crime of advocating Catalan independence with not a word of protest from the EU. Despite the warm words towards Scotland from a handful of MEPs and EU bureaucrats, there stands a concrete example of the European Union’s regard for the self-determination of small nations.


Clearly, trying to use the weight of moral and legal arguments to request a Section 30 Order – or “demand” one as Ian Blackford says, as he thinks this is a meaningful difference and not simply a rhetorical flourish – has created an impasse in the SNP leaders’ plan for another independence referendum.

The solution to this impasse must be a political one: there has to be a change of government at Westminster to one more open to granting this Order, and naturally this means a Labour government.

We have written previously about the potential of an SNP-Labour alliance, but the result of the SNP conference points more clearly towards it. There has already been a dry-run of the sorts of discussions that would need to take place between the two parties for the SNP to help Labour form a government after a General Election, and it is they who most clearly recognise the necessity of bringing down the Johnson government.

If such an alliance is based on the common interests of the working class across Britain it could push both Blairites and pro-SNP bourgeois to the sidelines. A socialist Labour government supported by the SNP would not only put forward the question of self-determination for Scotland, but also  the social questions plaguing the working class: austerity, poverty, the coming economic crash etc., and would be a step forward on the road to the socialist transformation of Scotland and Britain.

The independence movement and the labour movement should stand together for a Scottish Workers’ Republic, joined in solidarity with English, Welsh, Irish workers and the international working class, for world socialist revolution.

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