Is David Mundell the most dangerous man in Scotland? You may be accustomed to thinking of him as the comically disgusting character, Baron Snackbeard, absently nibbling chunks picked out of his whiskers as he lounges on the lush green leather benches of his Westminster club. Or perhaps you’re more inclined to see him simply as Theresa May’s yapping wee lapdog. Or maybe as Ruth Davidson’s sidekick – the bumbling Laurel to her bumptious Hardy. But it might be wiser to regard Mundell as the British establishment’s obedient bulldog set on Scotland to seize it and hold it and shake it into submission.
I have written previously about how we should attend well to the words spoken by politicians. How we should be wary of too readily accepting their utterances at face value. How we must “be mindful of the wider political context as well as being attentive to the precise form of words used”. What, then, should we make of the following comment from David Mundell.
So I want to use this opportunity to say to Sturgeon, it is time to end the constitutional uncertainty that we have lived with for the past four years.
It is time for Scotland’s two governments to work together in the best interests of the Scottish people. It is time to move on.
Let’s gloss over the discourteous manner in which Mundell refers to Scotland’s First Minister. Although we should recognise, in passing, that this disrespect is purposeful and part of the ongoing effort to diminish and delegitimise Scotland’s democratic institutions, we can hardly dwell on every such instance. The next phrase, however, warrants closer attention. It is an illustrative example of a remark which may seem totally innocuous or even quite sensible, but which may take on a darker meaning when viewed in the light of current political reality. Surely ‘uncertainty’ is a ‘bad thing’. Surely ending uncertainty is a ‘good thing’. Surely it is perfectly reasonable to state that “it is time to end the constitutional uncertainty that we have lived with for the past four years”. But, as always, the key to rewarding analysis is to ask the right questions.
Is constitutional uncertainty necessarily a bad thing? Given that it is fundamental to our democracy, shouldn’t the constitutional settlement always be subject to scrutiny? Given that the constitution is about political power and where it lies, shouldn’t we heed Tony Benn’s urging and constantly interrogate the powerful demanding to know what power they have; how they obtained that power; in whose interests they use that power; to whom are they accountable for the the exercise of that power; and how they can be deprived of that power?
What constitutional uncertainty is Mundell referring to? Whose uncertainty is he talking about? Is he referring to the precariousness of the British state? Is he talking about the unease felt by by those whose purpose is to lock Scotland into a ‘One Nation’ British state? Does his remark reflect only the fears of a British Nationalist ideologue?
We can, I think, safely assume that Mundell is not referring to the constitutional uncertainty occasioned by Scotland being dragged out of the EU against the democratically expressed wishes of the people. He’s not talking about the distress caused to EU nationals living in Scotland. He’s not talking about the concerns of those who are being forcibly stripped of their EU citizenship with no satisfactory explanation as to what status is to be imposed in its stead.
It is not Mundell’s intention to draw attention to the uncertainty caused by Brexit. When he refers to constitutional uncertainty he is talking only about the fact that, while the 2014 independence referendum provided an indisputable result, it did not produce a decision. It did not resolve the constitutional issue. And the blame for that rests, once again, with the British political elite.
While it was perfectly clear that a Yes vote meant independence by way of a reasonably well described process, there was no indication whatever of what a No vote meant. Initially, it was said to be a vote for the status quo. As the referendum campaign progressed, however, all manner of stuff was hooked onto the No vote – up to and including ‘The Vow’.
In practice, a No vote meant whatever the British establishment wanted it to mean. This turned out to be pretty much the opposite of everything that had been promised. And something very, very far from the status quo that was originally offered. Thus, the referendum produced an indisputable result, but no decision. Because the No option was effectively undefined, a No vote in the referendum could not settle the issue. There was nothing to settle on.
How does Mundell propose to end the constitutional uncertainty which does trouble him? How does he intend to prevent us asking those five questions? How does he plan on fixing Scotland’s constitutional settlement so that he and his fellow British Nationalists can feel secure in their status and power?
We know the answer to this. We know, because the likes of Mundell and Davidson have been unabashedly explicit about their anti-democratic intentions. We know that their malign ambition is to deny Scotland’s right of self-determination. We know, because they’ve come right out and told us, that they mean to deprive the people of Scotland of the right to choose the form of government best suits our needs.
When David Mundell speaks of ending constitutional uncertainty he is talking about nothing less than stilling the beating heart of Scotland’s democracy.
Mundell also says he wants “Scotland’s two governments to work together”. Fine words! Until we juxtapose the expressed sentiment with the actual behaviour of the British state towards the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament. But first let’s ask some more questions.
Does Scotland actually have two governments? That rather depends on how one defines the term ‘government’. If democratic legitimacy is a criterion, then we have only one government. The term ‘government’ is generally understood to mean the group of people with the authority to govern a country. But if we stipulate rightful authority, then that must rule out people who obtained power against the wishes of Scotland’s voters; who use that power against the interests of Scotland’s people; who are not answerable to Scotland’s electorate; and who cannot be removed from power by Scotland’s democratic processes.
Democratic legitimacy derives solely and exclusively from the consent of the people. Only the Scottish Government enjoys the consent of Scotland’s people. That consent has been consistently and decisively denied to the people David Mundell represents. Those people cannot claim rightful authority. In terms of our definition, therefore, they cannot be regarded as a government. For want of a better term, we might justifiably call them a ‘regime’.
What does Mundell mean when he says “work together”? What does recent history tell us of cooperation between the Scottish Government and the British regime? Is such cooperation likely, or even possible?
When answering these questions people will probably tend to reflect on the way in which the Scottish Government has been excluded from the Brexit negotiations. But we see the British regime’s contempt for Scotland’s elected representatives very plainly in EVEL. And in their insistence that there is ‘no demand’ for a new independence referendum despite electoral and parliamentary mandates. And in the Brexit power-grab. And in the UK Supreme Court action against the Continuity Bill. And in David Mundell referring to our First Minister as ‘Sturgeon’.
In fact, we see in pretty much every aspect of the Scottish Government’s dealings with the British regime a lack of respect which ranges from the thoughtlessly casual to the mindlessly hateful. There is no basis on which to “work together”. The British regime will not allow it.
Mundell isn’t asking for cooperation, he’s demanding compliance. As a British Nationalist, he is absolutely committed to concept of parliamentary sovereignty. He is intellectually incapable of doubting the supremacy of Westminster. He cannot question the British ‘right to rule’. He is the loyal servant of established power.
When Mundell talks of “the best interests of the Scottish people” we have to ask what definition of those interests he has in mind. Who decides what Scotland’s best interests are? Who is entitled to decide? Who speaks for Scotland? Is it the Scottish Parliament, with its democratic legitimacy? Is it the Scottish Government, with its rightful authority? Is it the First Minister, with her mandate to speak and act for the people of Scotland?
Or is it the corrupt and incompetent British political elite at Westminster? Is it the chaotic cliques and fractious factions and puffed-up personalities of the British regime? Is it the likes of David Mundell, who presumes to govern without consent?
Mundell has no doubt. He is unshakably persuaded of the righteousness of his ‘mission’. He is implacably opposed to anything which threatens the established order. And that is what makes him so dangerous. Mundell represents authority without consent. He represents power without accountability. He represents a British regime which is resolutely determined to destroy Scotland’s democracy and install a shadow administration that is neither elected by nor answerable to Scotland’s people.
Davidson is a distraction. She is the British media’s poodle. Mundell is the one to watch. He is the British state’s bulldog.
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