Now is the time!

I am surely not alone in appreciating the irony of the First Minister’s comment about not squandering valuable time. Four years and eight months after it became plain to see that another referendum would be required our elected leaders are only now talking about introducing the necessary legislation. Legislation that will not be passed by MSPs until the end of this year. By which time fully five years will have elapsed without any action to address the constitutional issue.

Nor, as far as can be determined, has there been any planning for a new campaign. There may, of course, have been much activity behind the scenes. Activity to which the rest of us have not been privy. But all available evidence suggests that here has been no fresh thinking at all. Statements and remarks from those ‘leading SNP figures’ who might be expected to have at least an inkling of Nicola Sturgeon’s intentions almost invariably refer to some variation on the theme of ‘getting the positive case for independence out there’. In other words, a repeat of the 2014 referendum campaign.

The impression that there has been no new thinking on a second independence referendum campaign is only reinforced by the First Minister’s talk of taking the Section 30 route again. I am surely not the only one to react with despair and not a little anger to talk of meekly petitioning the British political elite for permission to exercise the right of self-determination which is the inalienable entitlement of Scotland’s people.

The only vaguely hopeful sign is that FM has intimated she doesn’t intend to go cap in hand to Theresa May (and it will be Theresa May) immediately. It seems that she is keeping her options open on the timing of her humiliating mission. Which leaves the slight hope that she is preserving the option to eschew the Section 30 process and all the problems that it implies. If, however, the Section 30 route is written into the legislation then, barring a late amendment in the Scottish Parliament, those problems become inescapable.

Suppose the First Minister’s pleading falls on deaf ears, as expected. What happens then? The British government will claim that, by requesting the gracious consent of a failed and doomed Prime Minister, the Scottish Government has conceded that it cannot proceed without that consent. Will an alternative course of action be written into the legislation? It would seem that is has to be. Otherwise, the First Minister will be obliged to go back to the Scottish Parliament for approval of this alternative. More delay.

What might this alternative course of action involve? An ‘advisory’ referendum of some sort, perhaps. Followed by further months of wrangling with the British government. Maybe a belated realisation that there can be no new referendum without seizing total control of the entire process. That Westminster has to be cut out altogether. But this would require a decidedly inelegant U-turn on the earlier legitimising of the British state’s authority to deny Scotland’s right of self-determination. If the Scottish government is maintaining that the British government cannot reverse its acknowledgement of Scotland’s right of self-determination as per the Edinburgh Agreement, how can the Scottish Government then insist on its right to reverse its recognition of the British state’s authority to deny Scotland’s right of self-determination? It looks very much like the kind of self-serving double standards we so deplore when it is deployed by the British political elite. And it will surely lead to yet more time-consuming ‘discussions’ between the two governments.

Why request a Section 30 order at all when it is sure to be refused? Requesting a Section 30 order and proceeding without one both lead to precisely the same confrontation with the British government. But requesting a Section 30 order severely weakens the Scottish Government’s position.

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What if the request is not refused? A possibility little considered by commentators. Politically, however, it could be the British state’s smartest move. Giving the Scottish Government permission to proceed with a new constitutional referendum allows the British establishment to avoid much of the backlash that refusal would entail. And it would allow the British political elite a degree of influence over the process which could even allow them to sabotage that process.

By requesting and accepting a Section 30 order the Scottish Government commits to proceeding only on the basis of a formal agreement between the two sides. It would be very easy for the British side to prevent any such agreement. Or, at least, to render negotiations interminable. All they’d have to do is demand something that the Scottish Government cannot possibly agree to – such as the exclusion of 16- and 17-year olds.

Once again, this leads to confrontation. That confrontation is inevitable. There is no path to the restoration of Scotland’s rightful constitutional status which does not pass through a point at which there is direct and potentially acrimonious confrontation with the British state.

Even if taking the Section 30 route didn’t do anything else; even if it didn’t mean that the Scottish Government would be approaching that point of confrontation weakened by having already conceded so much, there would still be the matter of time. Long months and years have already been squandered. It is only the stunning incompetence of the British political elite which has put off the full impact of Brexit’s constitutional implications. Further delay poses an unacceptable risk that Scotland may find itself locked into an anomalous and dysfunctional political union on terms imposed by ‘One Nation’ British Nationalists.

Attempting to restore Scotland’s independence while adhering to laws and procedures purposefully designed to preserve the Union is, self-evidently, a doomed enterprise. That point of confrontation with the British state must come. We must approach that confrontation on our own terms and with all our strength intact. We must decide which of the British state’s rules is to be broken. We must decide the manner in which it is broken. We must decide when it is broken. If we do not, then the British state will. And it will do so in a way that seriously, perhaps fatally, disadvantages the independence cause.

The common thread running through all of these issues is the Union – effectively, a constitutional device by which the people of Scotland are denied the full and effective exercise of their sovereignty in order that the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state may be preserved. For the sake of Scotland and in the name of democracy, the British state must be broken. The Union must be dissolved. And now is the time.



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The Union is not an option!

Imagine I had the power to decree that your vote only counts if I agree with it. Imagine I had the power to stipulate all that your democratic choices are always conditional on my approval. Imagine I told you this stipulation would be enshrined in the constitution. Would you,

  1. Laugh in my face
  2. Spit in my face
  3. Punch me in the face

While the last of these would surely be considered excessive, and the second socially unacceptable, none of these adverse reactions would be deemed irrational. Generally speaking, it would be considered quite natural that you should forcefully reject such an anti-democratic proposal.

And yet this is precisely the situation that British Nationalists insist we accept. As a voter in Scotland, you are expected to meekly accept that your vote only counts on those occasions when it coincides with the vote of your counterpart in England. We are told we must accept, without demur, a constitutional arrangement whereby one voter in England can effectively cancel every vote cast by a citizen of Scotland.

Let’s say there are 4,000,000 voters in Scotland. Suppose all of them vote in a binary poll for ‘White’. In England, the corresponding 4,000,000 voters also vote ‘White’. So far, so good. But the 4,000,001st voter in England votes ‘Black’. Instantly, the votes of every single one of Scotland’s citizens are totally discounted. They are rendered meaningless.

Some will respond that this is just the way democracy works. The majority wins. But it is not democracy when the voters in one country can be outvoted by the voters in another.

The 2016 EU referendum was a particularly egregious example of this happening in the real world rather than in the realm of the hypothetical. It was far from the first instance. As far as UK Governments are concerned, Scotland only rarely gets what it votes for. But, because it was as binary as our hypothetical illustration, the EU referendum brought this grotesque constitutional anomaly into stark relief.

This anomaly is very much enshrined in the British constitution. It is often pointed out that the UK doesn’t have a written constitution. It would be more correct to say that the UK lacks a formal, coherent constitution. The constitution, such as it is, will be found scattered throughout a huge body of statutes, treaties, conventions and precedents. The Acts of Union are an important – I would contend crucial – component of that dispersed, vague, ambiguous and highly ‘elastic’ constitution.

It is the Union which gives effect to the situation described at the start of this article. It is the Union which creates the circumstances in which Scottish votes only count to the extent that they concur with at least the same number of English votes.

Unionists and British Nationalists will argue that this is no more than democracy in action. The majority wins. The minority is left to suck it up. In the British political system, it’s winner-take-all. If you’re not first past the post, you’re nowhere. But this argument absolutely requires that those making it are able and willing to completely deny Scotland’s status as a nation, as well as the observable reality of Scotland’s distinctive political culture. The grotesque constitutional anomaly embedded in the Union can only be rationalised by regarding Scotland as but a ‘region’ of a ‘One Nation’ British state. Or ‘Greater England’, as it is often called.

By accepting the Union one accepts that Scotland is no more distinct from England than any one of that nation’s counties. One is also accepting that there are (at least) two classes of voter; and that the lesser of these is the Scottish voter. The Union truly is a constitutional device by which the people of Scotland are denied the full and effective exercise of their sovereignty. The Union is a denial of that sovereignty in favour of the sovereignty of a divinely-ordained monarch whose powers are administered by an executive which, to the limited extent that it can be described as having been elected, is the choice of England’s electorate only. Said executive operating under the auspices of a parliament which is massively dominated by England’s elected representatives.

Needless to say, I do not accept any of this. I do not accept the denial of popular sovereignty. I do not accept the sovereignty of ‘the crown in parliament’. I do not accept the democratic legitimacy of a parliament which is neither elected by nor accountable to the people of Scotland. I utterly reject the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

One would expect that, while she would doubtless wish to express the foregoing in her own way, the leader of the Scottish National Party would be in pretty much full accord with these sentiments. But I’m not so sure.

Nicola Sturgeon describes a so-called ‘people’s vote’ as “the only option, within the UK, that would allow Scotland’s democratic wish to remain in Europe to be respected.” She might well have added, “So long as England’s voters agree!”

Why would we want a second EU referendum? Scotland voted Remain. Decisively! Who in Scotland is clamouring for a chance to change their mind? A second EU membership referendum has only one purpose – to afford the people of England a chance to change their collective mind. Why does our vote only count if voters in England ‘ratify’ it?

Why aren’t Scotland’s voters worthy of respect in their own right?

I would be delighted if our First Minister were to explicitly acknowledge the subordinate status of Scotland and its people withing this benighted Union. But I am perplexed and concerned that, by actively supporting the idea of a new EU referendum, she appears to be accepting all the things that I, as a lifelong advocate of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status, categorically reject.

Seeking England’s endorsement of our democratic choice to remain in the EU should not be an option at all for those who wish Scotland to be a normal independent nation once again. If that is the only option “within the UK”, then remaining within the UK cannot be an option. It is time to #DissolveTheUnion.


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Is it me?

This is video from the Women for Independence AGM. At 50 minutes we hear the First Minister answering a question about the timing of action to resolve Scotland’s constitutional issue. I find her response both disappointing and disturbing?

It is disappointing that Nicola Sturgeon sees fit to dismiss the #DissolveTheUnion hashtag with a joke. If it was that easy, she says, she would have done it long ago. We are told that there are no “shortcuts” to independence. As if anybody thought there was. As if that is what the hashtag refers to. It is extremely disappointing that Nicola Sturgeon has so woefully misunderstood the import of the hashtag.

#DissolveTheUnion is not the simplistic demand that the First Minister seems to have taken it for. In fact, it is rather insulting that she could think Yes campaign activists might be so naive. It suggests she may have badly lost touch with a grassroots movement which, I can assure her, is considerably more sophisticated than she appears to suppose. Nobody is foolish enough to imagine that the restoration of Scotland’s independence is a simple matter. Everybody is well aware of the nature of the opposition we face.

#DissolveTheUnion is intended to suggest a changed mindset in our approach to the independence project. A mindset imbued with the sense that we are, not supplicants petitioning for some boon from a superior authority, but a sovereign people insisting that our right of self-determination be respected. It implies rejection of the British political elite’s asserted power of veto over our fundamental democratic rights. It says that we do not accept the notion of independence being something that is in the gift of the British state. It says independence is not theirs for the giving, but ours for the taking.

There is nothing naive or simplistic about the thinking behind this hashtag. It denotes a significant and necessary shift in our thinking about the manner in which the independence campaign should be conducted. I had hoped, and expected, that Nicola Sturgeon would understand this. I have been left deeply disappointed by her remarks.

Even more disturbing, however, is the First Minister’s insistence that we should not concern ourselves with process. Apparently, the process by which we achieve our goal is unimportant. Apparently, we can afford to disregard that process. We must put all our efforts into selling the idea of independence and trouble ourselves not at all about the means and methods by which this goal might be realised.

I find this astounding. It seems obvious to me that one of the greatest impediments to the restoration of Scotland’s independence is that fact that the constitutional process is all but entirely determined and controlled by the British state. It occurs to me to wonder how we might hope to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status whilst the process by which this would come about is so entirely in the hands of forces which are resolved to deny even our fundamental democratic right to choose the form of government which suits us best.

Here’s our First Minister telling us that process is not important. And I am unable to understand how that can possibly be so. I’m listening to the politician I most trust and respect – someone the entire Yes movement looks to for leadership – and what she’s saying simply makes no sense.

Is it me? Am I missing something? Have I got it so seriously wrong? Is it really nonsense to suppose that, in order to restore our independence, we must first seize control of the process by which our independence will be restored?


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