Let’s get assertive!

saltire_breakoutJason Michael may well be correct when he says that no nation can be dominated without its consent. But he’s a bit late in urging that Scotland must not give that consent to the British state. Because that is precisely what we did on Thursday 18 September 2014.

On that day, for the fifteen hours that polls were open, the people of Scotland held in their hands total political in a manner and to an extent that is exceptional, if not unprecedented, in even the best functioning democracies.

Sovereignty is vested in the people. The people are the ultimate arbiters of public policy. All legitimate political authority derives from the people. To be legitimate, political authority must derive from the people. Only the people can legitimise political authority. However this is stated or explicated, it ultimately distils down to the most fundamental principle of democracy – popular sovereignty. The sovereignty of the people. Only the people are sovereign. There is no sovereignty other than the sovereignty of the people.

While the sovereignty of the people is an abiding principle, the exercise of this sovereignty is, in practice and of necessity, mediated by the democratic institutions and processes adopted by and pertinent to the nation. Just as the individual is rarely, if ever, able to fully exercise their personal sovereignty – in the sense of always and only doing what suits them – so it is only under vanishingly rare circumstances that the electorate has an opportunity to act as the ultimate political authority.

Democracy is pooled sovereignty. The sovereignty of the individual is not diluted by being pooled. But the exercise of that sovereignty is both distributed and narrowly applied. Which is perfectly adequate for most of society’s purposes. Democracy is not significantly diminished by the compromises we make in order that the machinery of society can run without the full and constant attention of every individual.

In elections, the exercise of sovereignty is constrained by the process. We make choices, by means of a prescribed procedure, only from among a small number of candidates offering a limited range of policy options. A system of representative democracy, such as we have, involves using elections to give – or, more accurately to lend – politicians the authority to decide, subject to various checks and balances. The fundamental principle of popular sovereignty means that we do so always with the assumption and on the condition that we, the electors, retain the sole and exclusive authority to decide who decides.

Scotland’s independence referendum in 2014 was different. What was at stake in that referendum was the issue of ultimate political authority in Scotland. The matter of who decides the matter of who decides. In that referendum, the people of Scotland were asked to make a simple but portentous choice. Holding ultimate political power in our hands, we were asked to choose between keeping that power to ourselves, and handing it to a British political elite which we do not elect and which is not democratically accountable to us.

We chose the latter. By voting No, Scotland gave its consent to being dominated by the British state. That No vote was effectively a licence granted to the British establishment to do with Scotland as they please. Being undefined, the No vote could mean whatever the British political elite wanted it to mean. Is it any wonder they view Scotland with such obvious contempt?

The task now is to rectify the fateful mistake we made in 2014. We must revoke the licence we gave to the British state. We must re-assert our right to decide who decides. We must snatch back the power to fully exercise our sovereignty. We must recover our dignity and restore our authority. And we must do so urgently.

Asking for a Section 30 order is most definitely not the way to do this. To petition the British government for permission to exercise our right of self-determination is to confirm the British state as a superior authority. It is to accept the very licence which it is our urgent and essential purpose to rescind. It is to allow that the right of self-determination is in the gift of the British state, rather than being vested wholly in the people of Scotland, to be exercised entirely at our discretion.

Talk of requesting a Section 30 order isn’t “reassessing the terrain for a 2018 referendum” so much as revisiting the terrain of the 2014 referendum.

We need to approach #Referendum2018 with a new mindset. A more assertive mindset. A mindset which actively resists the idea of the supremacy of the British state rather than meekly pandering to it. A mindset which rejects the alien concept of the sovereignty of the British parliament in favour of the democratic principle of the sovereignty of Scotland’s people.

We need to rid ourselves of the indoctrinated notion that independence is something we must ask for and fully embrace the fact that it is already ours for the taking. Scotland is not a part of another nation asking permission to leave. Scotland is an equal partner in a political union giving notice of its intention to dissolve that union.

We don’t need to explain this choice. We are under no obligation to justify it. Independence is normal. Restoring normality requires neither explanation nor justification. It is the proposal to keep Scotland in a political union that is so evidently detrimental to our national interests which must be explained. It is the Union which must be justified.

We gave our consent to be dominated. That was a mistake. It’s easily fixed. We simply withdraw that consent.


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24 thoughts on “Let’s get assertive!

  1. …and I believe you are correct in this assessment. I would only like to clarify here that my reassessment of the terrain was not to seek a Section 30 order, but to prepare for the likely resistance of Britain to another referendum. I am sure we can agree that it is a real possibility now that London will not only refuse to give its consent but will go as far as Madrid and declare any referendum we do hold illegal.

    You are also correct in saying that we gave our consent to be dominated on 18 September 2014. But here I would like to argue the point that the giving of consent is always in the present continual – that we have the right to refuse at any time. What I had hoped to convey was that we must not consent to be dominated against our will in the manner that Catalonia is being dominated and violated by Spain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we are not so much disputing points as reinforcing them. What is, perhaps, most important is that people recognise the very real threat to Scotland’s democracy posed by British Nationalism.

      While there are dangers in drawing too close parallels with Catalonia, it is certainly valid to see Madrid’s denial of the right of self-determination as foreshadowing what we can anticipate from London.

      The constitutional and legal circumstances may be different. But be in no doubt that the British political elite is watching closely to discover what can be learned from Rajoy’s Fascist regime.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, this is exactly what I was meaning by reassessing the terrain – that the terrain has changed from the referendum of 2014 to the Spain-like refusal of now.

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  2. Except that, as yet, there has been no “refusal”. Not of the Section 30 order. My thinking on the matter having developed, as any open-minded person’s should, I now take the view that we should preempt/obviate such refusal by declining to acknowledge the British state’s authority in the matter.

    I call it the ‘Fuckem Strategy’.

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    1. In reality there is (thankfully) vanishingly little chance of those likely to be making the decisions listening to your advice. Whether the current or any foreseeable Westminster government would have the “cojones”, still less the support, to rip up the precedent of the Edinburgh Agreement and refuse to grant a Section 30 order must be open to considerable doubt. However, even in the unlikely event they were to do so, there is already no necessity for the Scottish Government to resort to your misguided “Fuckem Strategy”. Neither Scotland Act makes the holding of referendums a reserved power, ergo they are permissible. That much has been apparent for some time; there was legal discussion about it as far back as 2012.

      There is no legal or constitutional consensus that a Section 30 is required. The Scottish Government has to my knowledge never formally accepted that holding an independence referendum is in the gift of Westminster. Salmond is on record as saying he’d have gone ahead and held #indyref1 anyway if Cameron had refused a S30 and I can’t believe Sturgeon would do less if May or any of her successors were unwise enough to attempt a veto. The Edinburgh Agreement was a sign of yoon weakness, not strength. If any government in London tries to shift the goalposts and place unacceptable limits on whether or when we are “allowed” a referendum we have a choices; hold it anyway and see them in court, or revert to the situation before the referendum route was chosen and simply make it clear that the next Holyrood or Westminster election which returned a pro-independence majority would be taken as both a de-facto& de-jure declaration of independence.

      We don’t need to change. There is a process in place and an existing precedent. If Westminster try to change that precedent, that is the time for us to re-assert the sovereign rights we have always, and will always, have. Bloviating about what demands we should make now is counter productive in a situation where pro-independence support hasn’t broached 50% yet, and we probably need the support of “soft” No/Remain voters to ensure we get there for #indyref2 in the next 12-18 months.

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      1. You are correct, of course. Nobody should say anything without running it past you or one of the many, many other self-appointed gate-keepers of the Yes campaign. We cannot risk someone deviating from the one true Yes message. We can’t have people being informed about the reality of a very troubling situation. Mustn’t frighten the horses.

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  3. “Scotland is an equal partner in a political union”

    missing the word alleged – ‘alleged equal partner’

    and yes let’s go for a ‘Feckem Strategy’

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  4. Well, what if there is no black and white “refusal” to sanction a section 30 order, but rather a deliberate attempt to stall and stall and stall, ad finitum.

    What then? What if May does not say “No” but just says “Not now”. She has done this before and will try it again.

    What then?

    How do we respond? We need to be ready for this likely reaction by the British government.

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    1. That’s still the mindset of accepting British superiority. The idea that everything stems from what the British state does. That we can only respond. We must rid ourselves of that mindset, which has been inculcated in us over generations. We have the power to act. We don’t have to ask the British political elite for anything. We simply take what is ours by right.

      The Scottish Government declares its intention to dissolve the Union with effect from a specified date, subject to this being ratified by a simple majority of the Scottish Parliamentary electorate in a referendum.

      The question then becomes, not a cringing ‘what will we do?’, but an assertive ‘what can they do?’.

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  5. I don’t think it’s a case of cringing, accepting British superiority. Nobody is suggesting that. It is how it will be seen by the crucial 50+% of the electorate. I’m thinking of the people, the waverers who will decide the outcome. Perception.

    We will see just how assertive the Scottish government is, because it is going to have to be pretty damn assertive IMO. It will be a case of “who blinks first”. A declaration of Union dissolution would be a pretty massive, earth-shattering development, Peter. If (and it’s a big “if”) that happens, then I will raise my hands and shout “Wow!”. At the moment, I just can’t see it. If this is the only way to force the issue and stop May running down the clock, then maybe it ain’t going to happen for a long time.

    Maybe, just maybe, if we already had 60% support for independence, but as you know, we are not even close to that yet.

    Those people among us that are the true cringers are really holding us back. Infuriating as it may be, we need to be patient and convert at least some of them, or at least take them with us. No other way. Perception.

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  6. There’s also the crucial question of mandate, Peter.

    Do you think the Scottish government has a mandate to dissolve the union?

    Nope, not IMO. Even if, as you suggest it could be linked to a referendum to ratify (or nullify). We were never asked to vote on dissolving the union. Referendum – aye ok, but if we start adding stuff like breaking up the union in advance, we end up like those deceitful Brexiteers. We venture on shaky ground when we start talking about dissolving the union. It would hand the moral high ground back t WM. The MSM would have a field day.

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      1. by perception only, of course – but how do you think the MSM would play it?

        WM jolly decent, as usual
        SNP BADDDDDDDD !

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  7. I don’t know how much support there is for independence. And neither do you. Because the question hasn’t been put yet. What matters is, not what the polls say now, but what the people say once they have been presented with the arguments.

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  8. I suppose one way to force the issue would be to call a snap Scottish election and campaign on a mandate for dissolution. All hell would break loose. Now that would be worth seeing. 🙂

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    1. The Scottish Government cannot call a snap election.

      We can’t be constrained by fear of what the media will say. We know what they will say. If we pander to them then we’ll never do anything.

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  9. Labour looked at this and voted with the Tories to give away our sovereignty in 2014. Even now, when some minor Tory in Westminster, says Scotland is the same as Linconshire, they say not a word.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. At the moment Scotland is, under the SNP, effectively doing Independence, going its own way, which is the New Zealand Route. IF the predicted powers bonanza for Scotland arrives, and I think that was a lie but it could still happen, then we would be further down the route to federalism and home rule, which might bring us closer to true independence.

    An election predicated on independence, which I see suggested here, is at last as much a risk as a referendum, but does mean that each election would, if the first failed, give a chance for independence: we would only need to win once. However we need polls with questions like “Who would you vote for if a pro independence majority would mean UDI?” I suspect many SNP supporters who want independence might put respond” “I would not vote” or “I would vote Labour/Tory” i.e they would hesitate at the prospect of seeing independence actually happen: some time it is more fun to fight than to win.

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    1. There is precisely zero possibility of any “powers bonanza”. Forget it! It’s not happening. If we do not secure a Yes vote in September the process of stripping powers from the Scottish Parliament will be accelerated. What do you imagine is meant by ‘UK-wide common framework’?

      The concept of UDI is inappropriate and irrelevant. Scotland is neither a colony nor a possession. Scotland is an equal partner in a political union which may be dissolved at any time by either party.

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  11. Quote: “The Scottish Government declares its intention to dissolve the Union with effect from a specified date, subject to this being ratified by a simple majority of the Scottish Parliamentary electorate in a referendum.”

    Three thoughts, Peter …

    1: There are many indications that we are heading for a constitutional event (I stop short of calling it a crisis, but only just for now – see 2). Such an event once it reaches “crisis” proportions may well precipitate the actions listed in your words (Quote above)..

    2: However, and the momentum for this is building, I would prefer the initial and wholly visible source of the constitutional “crisis” to be emanating from the decisions at Westminster with (again referring to the above quote) the response you suggest then emanating from Holyrood, as respondent not instigator, that to me is the preferable sequence. It contains both political, and more importantly legal status.

    3: However neither 1 nor 2 include nor demonstrate the sovereignty of the people, nor its central and critical importance, and for me that sovereignty and its strength, not Westminster nor Holyrood, will prove the true genesis of Scotland’s independence. Time is short, but it is sufficient, still, to see that power unleashed.

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  12. In the early 20th Century, Jean Sibelius wrote a stirring piece of music “Finland Awakes”, part of “Tableaux of the Past”. Finland did awake and become independent of Russia in 1917. “Finlandia” is now their national anthem.
    Scotland is awaking, but slowly. Too many of us are pulling the covers over our heads and accepting the damaging status quo of the Union with England.

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