It is gratifying to find any senior figure in the SNP expressing a sense of urgency and determination about action to resolve Scotland’s constitutional issue. Chris McEleny is a widely respected figure in the party. His is a powerful voice within the Yes community. When he says that the independence movement is “crying out for determined leadership”, those who aspire – or pretend – to such leadership would be well advised to listen.
In Chris’s call to action we see evidence of the new mindset which will surely be required if Scotland’s rightful constitutional status is to be restored in time to save our nation from the ongoing insult to our democracy represented by the Union – as most egregiously exemplified by Brexit – and from the further depredations threatened by a British political elite in fervent thrall to an extreme ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist ideology.
But Chris may not go far enough. For all his apparent readiness to reject the possibility of achieving independence while adhering to rules devised by the British establishment for the purpose of preserving the Union, he doesn’t seem quite able to completely resist the asserted authority which has been inculcated in the people of Scotland over centuries. I mean him no disrespect when I say that he continues to exhibit symptoms of the ‘Scottish Cringe’.
We see this in the suggestion that Scotland must establish, to Westminster’s satisfaction, its right to hold a constitutional referendum. That we must show just cause in order to qualify for the exercise of our democratic right. In this instance, the fact of being dragged out of the EU against the will of Scotland’s people. To fully embrace the requisite mindset, we must rid ourselves of such notions.
If we are to “look like we mean what we say” then we must evince total confidence in our absolute and inalienable right to self-determination. We must not show the slightest hint of being prepared to compromise that right. We must, in all things and at all times, act and speak as a nation fully entitled to freely choose the form of government which best suits our needs.
This means that we must also have full authority to decide the manner in which we make this choice. We cannot sensibly suppose that a process by which we might exercise our right of self-determination can possibly arise within the context of a political union contrived and developed as a constitutional device by which to deny us the full and proper exercise of our sovereignty. We must determine and control the process such as to exclude all possibility of intervention or interference from a British state intent upon preventing it proceeding to a truly democratic conclusion.
I question whether Chris’s proposal achieves this. Using a UK general election as a proxy referendum means we depend on the British government calling that referendum. And doing so in timely fashion. Making the next Holyrood election a vote on independence means waiting until 2021 – by which time, who knows what damage the British political elite will have wrought on Scotland. Who knows if we will even have a functional Scottish Parliament by then?
Chris is unquestionably right about one thing. We have “ever so politely played the game” by the British state’s rules. It has been amply demonstrated that doing so is detrimental, not only to our cause, but to our democracy. I strongly suspect that, if the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence is to succeed, we may have to abandon politeness altogether.
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