Regardless of who chairs it, I am yet to be persuaded that this Citizens’ Assembly can serve any useful purpose. What is it supposed to do? On this occasion, the “WTF?’ in the title of the article means ‘What’s This For?’.
Nicola Sturgeon apparently hopes it will “lay a foundation that allows us to move forward together, whatever decisions we ultimately arrive at”. But I’m no closer to understanding exactly how she hopes yet another talking-shop will achieve this. Or even what that little gobbet of Politicese actually means.
What seems to be missing from the comparison with Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly is the fact that it was tasked with examining and debating an issue of policy. The question of Scotland’s constitutional status is an issue of principle. The starting point for debate on this issue must be that independence is normal and that the Union is, therefore, anomalous. The debate is not about a choice between or among policies on the basis of their relative merits. It is solely about whether there can possibly be benefits to Scotland deriving the Union which compensate for the grotesque democratic deficit and the denial of Scotland’s sovereignty.
Look at the language!
The assembly will bring together a randomly selected group reflecting Scotland’s population in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and social class, to discuss giving powers to Holyrood.
The first part of that is all very well. But GIVING powers to Holyrood? That’s devolution! Devolution is dead! The constitutional debate long since moved on from petitioning Westminster for more devolution set about with fiscal and political traps intended to undermine Scotland’s government and parliament. The debate now is about how the British state justifies continuing to withhold powers that rightfully belong with the Scottish Parliament. And how long the people of Scotland are supposed to tolerate the affront to democracy and dignity that the Union represents.
How does Nicola Sturgeon see that debate proceeding in a Citizens’ Assembly?
There is no nuance to the constitutional issue. It is a binary question. Either the people of Scotland are sovereign, or sovereignty rests with a disreputable and increasingly despicable rabble at Westminster. There is no question of degree. There is no debate to be had about to what extent and by what means sovereignty is pooled. The Union expressly excludes the pooled sovereignty which is the very foundation of democracy. You cannot have the Union and have popular sovereignty. The two things are mutually exclusive. Incompatible. Irreconcilable. You choose the Union, you forfeit the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. That is the price that the Union demands. The only question is whether we are prepared to continue paying it.
What is the Citizens’ Assembly supposed to discuss? What is it for?
And before anybody attempts a glib answer just bear in mind that the Citizens’ Assembly cannot hold meaningful discussions about matters of policy in Scotland after the restoration of our rightful constitutional status. It can have no authority to formulate policy for any existing party, far less any party which might come into existence only after independence. It certainly cannot bind any future Scottish Government. If it is no more than a policy forum then it is entirely redundant.
What the Citizens’ Assembly looks like is a giant focus group. But what it is supposed to be focusing on remains a mystery.
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