Out of time

I probably shouldn’t dwell on it, but I can’t help pondering how different things might have been if we’d had a new independence referendum on Thursday 20 September 2018. Looking back may be futile. But looking to the future has rarely been more disturbing and depressing. So indulge me! Allow me this brief reverie. Who knows? It may even prove illuminating.

Suppose we’d had that referendum in 2018. Suppose we’d won. Four months on we’d be well into the process of getting Scotland out of the Union – instead of being in the position of desperately struggling to keep Scotland in the EU – in keeping with the wishes of 62% of the Scottish voters who expressed a preference in the 2016 EU referendum.

If the Brexit process hadn’t ground to a total halt as everybody tried to figure out the implications of the decision to normalise Scotland’s constitutional status then at least we wouldn’t be part of the mess. By now, we might well have agreement from the EU that Scotland would effectively be treated as the continuing state after 29 March 2019.

There is no reason to suppose that the British government’s handling of the Brexit process would have been any less catastrophically inept. Scotland’s elected representatives – along with those of the other ‘peripheral’ parts of the UK – had been denied any meaningful role in the process. So taking them out of the equation with a Yes vote couldn’t really make much difference. Of course, the (r)UK position would be considerably weaker given that they could not claim to speak for Scotland. And given that they would no longer have any claim on Scotland’s resources. But it’s hard to imagine how this could make things any worse than May and her fractious rabble managed even while the UK was relatively intact.

Obviously, there would still be ‘issues’. Many of these would impinge on Scotland. But, as a de facto independent nation, we would have effective input. We would have a say in how these issues were resolved. Scotland’s interests would be represented in a way they never could be as a mere adjunct of England. Which is not to say that we would get everything we wanted from either the EU or the rump UK. But whatever compromises were made would be our compromises. They wouldn’t be compromises made on our behalf without consultation or consideration.

We might well suppose that the departure from the EU of those who actually voted for this – England and Wales – would be made easier in our imagined scenario. It is at least probable that a Yes vote in Scotland’s referendum would prompt a reunification vote in Ireland. Thus resolving cleanly, democratically, peacefully and in a most rational manner, the Irish border/ Good Friday Agreement problem which has been the greatest obstacle to a Withdrawal Agreement not wholly reliant on Santa Claus pulling some ‘alternative arrangements’ out of his sack. (You’ll understand that I didn’t really want to write ‘sack’.)

Had Scotland voted Yes on Thursday 20 September 2018, the increasingly ludicrous Brexit farce played out in Westminster and in the media over the last few months would have been largely avoided. Although this may be to underestimate the capacity of the British political elite to render farcical pretty much anything it is associated with. But this is my reverie. So I get to give them the benefit of whatever doubt I can scrape up. I elect to suppose that, as January 2019 passes, the Brexit thing would be going swimmingly. Even if some way from Olympic-standard synchronised swimming.

Then there’s the parallel negotiations between Scotland and rUK and between Scotland and the EU. The latter would be at an advanced stage by now. With Scotland taking on the UK’s membership of the EU there really wouldn’t be that much to negotiate. Think of it as Scotland inheriting the UK’s EU member’s uniform and having it adjusted to fit. Given that whatever negotiations were required would be conducted in a spirit of trust and constructive good will, there would surely be no impediment to reaching agreement amicably and rapidly. Instead of regarding 29 March with dread, we would be looking forward to Scotland taking its place as an independent nation in the European Union.

As such, Scotland would require a written constitution. An interim constitution to take effect on Independence Day is little more than a formality. It need only establish the basics – which are uncontroversial. We know they are uncontroversial because, if they were at all controversial they wouldn’t belong in an interim constitution. Work on a full draft constitution is ongoing and we can anticipate this this would have accelerated following the Yes vote last September.

It’s more difficult to say what would be happening on the rUK front. British Nationalists have vowed all manner of retribution should Scotland’s people presume to assert their sovereignty. But I seriously doubt that there will be UK Border Agency machine gun towers along the border and RAF bombs raining down on Glasgow Airport. It’s possible that aliens might take advantage of the situation to launch the invasion of Scotland they’ve been planning since Grmthul descended from Blntrmed with the Cclt of Dryf. We’ll take our chances with a bit of intergalactic conflict. We’ll have more immediate, and proximate, ‘foes’ to deal with. Although some of them do have the appearance of alien creatures struggling to maintain human form. Aye! That’s you, Michael Gove!

In reality, or as close to it as we might get in a purely hypothetical exercise, the British establishment is likely to opt for a rather more pragmatic approach than is to be found in the spittle-flecked rhetoric of British Nationalist fanatics. There’s every chance the British political elite will claim independence was being gifted to Scotland by an endlessly beneficent British state which had, of course, always respected the democratic right of Scotland’s people to choose their nation’s status and the form of government that best suits their needs. In much the same way as the 2014 referendum was graciously presented to Scotland by a kindly British Prime Minister, and Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

There is no rational reason why dissolving the Union should not be a fairly straightforward matter. It’s not like there isn’t a lot of precedent to draw on. It’s basically a question of attitude. The Brexit mess may give cause to doubt that British politicians are capable of the spirit of trust and constructive good will I mentioned earlier. But we can help them find that spirit by presenting them with as conclusive a Yes vote as we can muster. Assuming an effective registration drive, 60% of an 85% turnout would suffice. That’s 51% of the electorate. 65%, or just over 55% of the electorate would be better. 70% (59.5%) would silence all but the most fanatical British Nationalists and force the British political elite to behave like grown-ups. Or, perhaps, delegate that task to professional civil servants.

Had we voted Yes in a referendum on Thursday 20 September 2018, we could now be be in a place indistinguishable from that where we find ourselves at the start of February 2019. We could be assured of our EU membership, with all the positives that this implies for our economy and society. Our EU citizenship would be secure. Our freedom of movement would be secure. Our access to the single market would be secure. More importantly, these things would be secured on terms freely negotiated by the people elected or appointed to represent Scotland. Politicians and civil servants whose imperatives are informed by the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people.

And what if we’d voted No in September 2014? Well, we’d surely be pretty much where we are now. We really had nothing to lose.

Of course, British Nationalists would be bawling about how this had killed the independence movement ‘stone dead’. Rhetoric which would, if history is any guide, be parroted by many in the Yes movement. But these protestations would be no more valid after two referendums than at any other time. However often the people of Scotland inexplicably vote to remain shackled to the British state, they cannot vote away the right of self-determination that is vested wholly in the people to be exercised entirely at their discretion. In terms of the cause of independence, a No vote in a referendum is merely a setback. It does nothing more than delay the inevitable. And the authority to determine the duration of that delay lies entirely with the Scottish people.

Had we voted No in September 2018 we’d be facing precisely the same threat to Scotland’s democracy that confronts us now. We’d be getting dragged out of the EU. Just as we are now. We’d be listening to warnings about shortages of food and medicine. Just as we are now. We’d be looking at the prospect of economic chaos and civil disturbance and martial law. Just as we are now. We’d be seeing powers stripped from the Scottish Parliament and anticipating further assaults on our democratic institutions. Just as we are now. We’d be f***ed! Just as we are now.

But at least we’d have tried to avoid all this. At least we’d have made the effort. At least we’d have shown some resolve to save Scotland from the depredations that come with the Union.

Now, it may be too late. Awakening from my reverie, I must face the reality that we are, if not already too late, then fast approaching a point when that will be the case. It is unlikely that anything other than the most bold and assertive action by the First Minister can possibly prevent us being dragged out of the EU – with all that this implies. None of it good.

Nicola Sturgeon seems no more disposed to take such action than she did in September 2018. Despite everything that has happened since that regrettable outcome in 2014, and despite the real and imminent threat to Scotland’s democracy and identity, the SNP administration’s attitude to taking the cause of independence forward appears unchanged. Their strategy is still a mystery. Their intentions unclear.

Right now, we have even less to lose by bold, decisive action than we did last September. Right now, the threat is greater than it has ever been. Right now, the need for urgency should be absolutely compelling. But I see little sign that any of this has touched our political leaders.

We are almost out of time. And I don’t know if I can face the prospect of sitting here in four months time contemplating what might have been.


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Beware the liars!

Lot’s of things annoy me. It’s the ‘Grumpy Old Man’ syndrome. Age brings the knowledge and experience to better recognise all manner of faults and follies. And, often, less reticence about commenting on these. If one is fortunate, or blessed with a sufficient degree of self-awareness, age also brings the capacity to control anger. To harness it for constructive purposes rather than allowing to become destructive, incoherent rage. Like the song says, anger is an energy. Sometimes, I get quite energised.

Among the things that irks me greatly in the context of the online political debate for which I have a certain enthusiasm, is a particular form of dishonest arrogance amounting, at the extreme, to offensive idiocy. I refer to the practice of telling people what they think rather than asking them. You will all have seen some manifestation of this unfortunate habit. In perhaps it’s most common form it is found in comments which commence, “So you think…”, going on to expound some demented interpretation of what has been stated. Often so demented as to have no evident connection to what has been stated.

“I want Scotland to be a normal independent nation.”

“So you think it’s OK to barbecue babies!”

At another level, we find this curious claim to know another person’s mind better than they themselves do expressed in a more detailed pronouncement prefixed by a phrase such as, “So what you are actually saying is…”. This is followed by some gross distortion of what has, in fact, been said. A falsification which may be malicious, but which is at least as likely to be the consequence of ignorance prideful enough to discount the need for niceties such as research.

This annoys me. The people who indulge in this kind of puerile behaviour annoy me. James Kelly annoys me.

You probably haven’t heard of this James Kelly. He has a blog called ‘Scot Goes Pop’ which sometimes offers mildly interesting analysis of polls. He should stick to that. Because when he starts telling his readers what others views, attitudes, opinions and positions are, he embarrasses himself with his ill-informed presumption.

It was recently brought to my attention that, in a fit of grotesque hauteur, Kelly had taken it upon himself to inform those readers that I was an advocate of a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) as a means of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. This came as a great surprise to those who informed me of Kelly’s dishonesty, and to anybody who, unlike the hapless Kelly, had taken the trouble to inform themselves. Needless to say, it also came as both a shock and an irritation to me as I had always supposed myself to be totally dismissive of the very concept of UDI. In fact, I had written frequently and at length about how inappropriate and inapplicable it is in the the context of Scotland’s constitutional issue.

Apparently, the bold Kelly knows better. Apparently, I am an ardent proponent of UDI. Apparently, I only needed some presumptuous little creep to point it out to me. You can imagine how grateful I am to said presumptuous little creep for putting me right on the content of my own mind.

I was not alone in being maliciously misrepresented by Kelly. Craig Murray was likewise informed that his position wasn’t what he’d always supposed it to be. He too was generously afforded the benefit of Kelly’s corrective wisdom. But Craig Murray was at least able to respond directly pointing out that Kelly is nowhere near as clever as he imagines. Not that Kelly paid the slightest attention. After all, what does Craig know about his own views on the process by which the independence campaign moves forward? Kelly is arrogant enough to suppose that his personal ‘interpretation’ takes precedence.

I was not able to directly refute Kelly’s lies because I am blocked from commenting on his blog. He denies this, of course. But he also claims that there is no means of blocking users on the blogging platform that he uses. Which, you won’t be surprised to discover, is another lie.

James Kelly has now followed up his original lies with another article which is, if anything, even more brazenly dishonest. I am not providing a link to it because I despise liars and don’t believe they should be encouraged or supported in any way.

The gist of Kelly’s fetid little diatribe is that, although I state that I do not advocate UDI, I actually advocate UDI. According to Kelly, everything I have said about UDI means the opposite of whatever I’ve said. The explanation for this weird perspective – insofar as there is one – appears to be that Kelly holds with the view that Scotland was ‘extinguished’ by the 1707 Acts of Union and that the only way Scotland’s constitutional status can be altered is with the gracious consent of the British political elite.

This objectionable absurdity was promulgated as part of the British state’s anti-independence propaganda effort during the 2014 referendum campaign. I shan’t trouble with refuting this nonsense here, Others have already done a more than adequate job in that regard. I would simply note that the individual now propounding the notion that Scotland doesn’t exist professes to be a supporter of the Yes movement.

It is this belief in the non-existence and powerlessness of Scotland which allows Kelly to stick a woefully simplistic UDI label on any suggested process which does not involve the democratically elected representatives of Scotland’s people going cap-in-hand to Westminster as supplicants craving favour from a power which is superior despite not having any mandate from the people of Scotland.

Thus, Kelly boldly asserts that what has come to be known as the #DissolveTheUnion position is promoting UDI, despite the complete and comprehensive rejection of UDI which is one of the defining features of that position. We have to keep reminding ourselves that James Kelly knows what any position is better than the people who subscribe to that position. You may opine that this makes him something of an arse. I couldn’t possibly comment.

Had this arse thought to do a little research; or – perish the thought – had he deigned to ask one of those who subscribe to the #DissolveTheUnion position what it means… But that was never going to happen. And, even if Kelly was informed of the facts, there is no reason to suppose he wouldn’t simply ignore them – as he did Craig Murray’s intervention – in favour of his own ‘superior’ knowledge.

For the benefit of those who are interested in the truth and wish some clarification, I am probably as well qualified as anyone to explain what is implied by #DissolveTheUnion. Certainly better qualified than James Kelly, notwithstanding his vaunting self-regard. I can claim to be so qualified on the grounds that I have been ‘officially’ credited by some ‘academics’ as the originator of the hashtag.

Let’s be clear about a couple of things! #DissolveTheUnion does not mean UDI. I do not advocate UDI – quite the contrary. James Kelly is obdurately and shamelessly lying on at least these two counts.

The thinking behind #DissolveTheUnion derives from the concept of framing/reframing. This is too complex a matter to describe in detail, and any attempt at a brief summary by me would doubtless meet with the disapproval of Bill Dale. What is relevant here is the very simple idea of turning an argument around. Reformulating the issue in a way that induces people to think differently about it. Or merely to think about it.

Those who subscribe to the #DissolveTheUnion position are persuaded that, for various reasons, it would be a mistake to adhere to the process which was followed in the 2014 referendum. What, for convenience, we refer to as the Section 30 process. Realising that a process in any way influenced by the British state is unlikely to be the best way forward – for reasons which should be obvious – an alternative is required.

Recognising also that there is no route to independence which does not involve breaking the rules devised by the British state for the purpose of preserving the Union, it is clear that the process chosen must involve more defiance than compliance. With characteristic opinionated finality, James Kelly asserts that,

Neither the Scottish government, nor the Scottish Parliament, has the legal power to “dissolve the union”.  There is no debate to be had over that – it is simply a fact.

He might as well have advised us to give up our aspirations. Because there is no way that either the Scottish government or the Scottish Parliament can possess that “legal power” until we overcome the obstacle of the British state withholding the relevant “legal power” from our Parliament.

Nothing happens unless and until the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament does something that it does not have the “legal power” to do. Nothing changes until the asserted authority of the British state to deny or constrain our right of self-determination is challenged – and defeated!

This is how Norway launched the process which led to the dissolution of the political union with Sweden. Norway breached the terms of that union and defied the Swedish state to stand in its way.

It is important to understand that this is not an alternative to a referendum. There can be no significant constitutional change without the informed consent of the people. The suggestion, by Kelly or anyone else, that those who favour the #DissolveTheUnion process are opposed to a referendum is either ignorant drivel or a malicious lie.

#DissolveTheUnion is merely a different process leading up to a referendum. Instead of pleading with our masters in London for permission to exercise or right of self-determination – or exercising it in a manner constrained by the British state’s self-serving rules – we assume the right to hold that referendum. We challenged the legitimacy of the British state’s effort to prevent or limit the exercise of our right of self-determination.

In the process, we turn the entire referendum debate on its head. No longer is the burden of ‘proof’ with those who propose normalising Scotland’s constitutional status. Instead, the onus is on those who would preserve the constitutional anomaly of the Union.

By declaring the dissolution of the Union on a given date, subject to a referendum on a given date, We have a fait accompli. The Union is effectively dissolved. British Nationalists must argue a case for the Union rather than against independence. While the Yes movement has the comparatively simple task of mounting a campaign against a Union whose detriment to Scotland has become painfully obvious.

Ironically, it would also achieve the one thing James Kelly talks sense about. It would inspire the people of Scotland. It would immediately arouse increased support for the Yes campaign.

Of course this is a bold move! Of course it is radical! But nothing less will suffice. So please beware of those peddling falsehoods about ideas they don’t understand.


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Too timid to win?

Ruth Wishart asks, “does hesitancy now really help the cause?”, and rightly concludes that it does not. But what of hesitancy’s sibling, timidity? Ms Wishart neglects to ask whether or how the cause of restoring Scotland’s might be served by approaching the project with anything less than total commitment and absolute determination.

Having decided that action to resolve Scotland’s constitutional issue should not be further postponed, why so half-hearted about the nature of that action? Having quoted Cannon Kenyon Wright’s resounding affirmation of the ultimate authority of the people, why immediately contradict this assertion by allowing that the British political elite may constrain the authority of the people? Either the people are the source of all legitimate political authority, or they aren’t. If you concede that the British state may overrule or limit that authority, then you are putting the British political elite above and before the people.

When the British Prime Minister says, “We are the state, and we say No!”, did Canon Kenyon Wright insist we should respond saying, “We are the people, and we say Yes… so long as that’s OK by you!”? He did not!

Why then does Ruth Wishart say we, the people of Scotland, should limit ourselves to a “consultative, advisory referendum”? What is the “legal impediment” to holding a fully-fledged, binding referendum if not the voice of the British establishment maintaining that it’s authority supersedes that of the people? How might we ever restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status so long as we are too timid to defy that voice?


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Loose talk

A few days ago I chided a fellow pro-independence blogger for “peddling the idea that the mandate for a new independence referendum is entirely conditional on Brexit”. It is bad enough that we have the British media distorting facts and deceiving the public without sections of the Yes movement parroting the British state’s propaganda. And it’s worse still when the disinformation is coming from a senior SNP politician.

Writing in The National, Pete Wishart says,

Such is our endorsement of a People’s Vote that we have unconditionally given our support to a second EU referendum, regardless of its outcome, and without any guarantees for our nation or acknowledgement of a future vote in Scotland. Without the inclusion of a set of conditions we could be expected to “respect’” the outcome even if it meant that Scotland was taken out of the EU against its will again.

If somehow a People’s Vote is successful we remove the very conditions that makes Scottish independence a majority position amongst the Scottish people. Critically, we also remove the specified condition of the current mandate included in our manifesto in 2016.


Why a People’s Vote causes all sorts of problems for independence

Two paragraphs. Two seriously misleading statements. The assertion that Brexit was “the specified condition of the current mandate included in our manifesto in 2016” is just plain untrue. As I pointed out in that previous article,

This is based solely on a single phrase abstracted from a section of the SNP’s 2016 election manifesto – “taken out of the EU”. But it doesn’t just say “taken out of the EU”. It says “…or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will” (my emphasis). You can’t pretend those words aren’t there just because it suits your argument.

A bad place

Don’t take my word for it. Read the SNP 2016 Manifesto for yourself. There is nothing vague or ambiguous about the relevant paragraph. It is perfectly clear that being “taken out of the EU” is merely given as an example of “significant and material change”. The clue is in the words “such as”.

I’m not sure how the myth of Brexit being a “specified condition” got started. I do know that the British media apply themselves diligently to promulgating such myths. And I can understand this. That’s their job. They manipulate public opinion by manipulating the facts. Being part of the British establishment, it is entirely unsurprising that the British media spin stories in whatever way best serves the interests of established power.

What I find inexplicable is that Yes supporters should go along with the deception. I can’t believe that they are knowingly aiding and abetting the British state’s anti-SNP propaganda effort. Although this may be true in a very few cases, for the most part the best, if nonetheless profoundly regrettable, explanation is mere intellectual indolence. Laziness! Checking facts is a task. Questioning one’s own assumptions and preconceptions doesn’t come naturally. It calls for a conscious effort. Not to mention awareness that healthy scepticism begins at home. Questioning all media messages is important. Being prepared to question one’s own understanding of things is crucial. But going with what you ‘know’ is easier. Following your prejudices requires less effort than interrogating them.

In an ideal world, everybody in the Yes movement wouldn’t make a statement such as ‘Brexit was the specified condition of the current mandate included in our manifesto in 2016’ without asking themselves if this was correct. It’s a useful habit to acquire. For SNP politicians such as Pete Wishart, it should be instinctive.

Certain statements should ring alarm bells. They should immediately prompt questions about accuracy and veracity. And about advisability. No professional politician or competent political campaigner should ever make a statement without first asking themselves whether, and how, it can be defended. Which means asking how the statement will be misrepresented by their political opponents and hostile media. For political campaigners, statements about the aims and purposes of the campaign call for particular care. Politicians must be particularly cautious with references to party policies and positions.

As Pete Wishart stated that the SNP has “unconditionally given our support to a second EU referendum, regardless of its outcome, and without any guarantees for our nation” those alarm bells should have been deafening. Is this really the party’s position? How likely is it that an astute political operator such as Nicola Sturgeon would adopt such a position? How credible is it that she would casually commit to a totally unspecified arrangement? Are we to believe that she would voluntarily squander her options in the manner suggested?

Did Pete Wishart ask himself any of these questions? Apparently not! But he can be sure that others are now asking some very serious questions about his judgement.


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Kick the box!

Michael Fry correctly points out that “there is a crucial margin of sceptical voters, 5 or 10% of the whole electorate, needing to be converted to the cause of independence”. While he doesn’t say as much, the clear implication is that this “crucial margin” is “sceptical” about independence. That may be true of some. But at least as many are, for the very reasons so eloquently set out in the article, likely to be sceptical about the Union. After all, it is the Union which is allowing a disastrous Brexit to be imposed on an unwilling Scotland.

It is, therefore, the Union which is threatening the “personal interest” which Mr Fry seems to suppose is the overriding – if not the only – consideration for voters. So it stands to reason that many who voted No in 2014 because they calculated this would make them richer – or, at least, safeguard their personal wealth – are now busy at their abacuses rerunning those calculations in the light of Brexit.

Of course, in the real world, not everybody is primarily motivated by greed. And vanishingly few are motivated solely by greed. For most people, “personal interest” will be one consideration among many. Michael Fry might be startled to discover that there are even those who will gladly sacrifice some part of their personal interest for what they regard as a more vital cause and/or a more worthy principle.

Not everybody sees politics as merely a matter of economic management. Not everybody is concerned only with having the economy managed for their personal benefit. Those who are not sociopaths are, by definition, burdened with a social conscience. How heavily this weighs is a matter of individual character. As is willingness to bear the discomfort of what can often be an awkward load. But, in general, people will assess public policy and government action on criteria other than the impact on their own bank account.

Such people will see Brexit as more than just the act of economic self-harm it undoubtedly is. They will see it also as an act of social and cultural vandalism. They will see it as an insult to rationality. They will see it as an affront to democracy. And they will tend to address it as such, even at some personal cost.

In terms of the conduct of the independence campaign, however, all of those beginning to be sceptical of the Union can be counted pretty much the same. Whether they are concerned for the welfare of their own bank balance or for the welfare of society as a whole, they are starting to wonder if it is the Union, rather than independence, which represents the greatest threat.

The part of that “5 or 10% of the whole electorate” which is ripe for plucking by the independence campaign is the part which is increasingly dubious about or disgruntled with the Union. It is people who won’t be “converted to the cause of independence” by promises of personal gain, national prosperity and social progress. They won’t be converted by even the most perfectly formed independence ‘message’ for the simple reason that they are not listening to that message. They won’t start to listen until there is a loosening of the Union’s grip on them, and their grip on the Union.

The reason Michael Fry sees “no surge in public opinion likely to carry us past 50% in indyref2” can be summed up in one word – inertia. The “crucial margin” needs a jolt of political action to break that inertia. It needs to be induced to review it’s assumptions about and attachment to the Union. Only when that crucial margin starts to question the efficacy and basis of the Union will it become open to the independence message.

It’s a double, or even a treble win for the independence campaign. Because the jolt of political action may also stir the apathetic, and it will certainly energise the already enthusiastic.

Scotland desperately, urgently requires bold, decisive, assertive action from the First Minister. Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t just need to think outside the box, she needs to step outside it and give it a hefty kick.


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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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Women against democracy!

There is a powerful and disturbing irony in the fact that, women having fought so hard for so long and at such great cost to secure the right to vote, it is now women who are leading the clamour to have this right curtailed or denied.

Ruth “Queen of the BritNats” Davidson long since established herself as the leading anti-democracy campaigner in Scotland with her shrill, demagogic demands that the Scottish people be denied the right to choose the constitutional status of their nation and the form of government which best suits their needs.

Now, Davidson’s boss – Theresa May – is proving equally strident in her insistence that people across the UK should not have the opportunity to make an informed choice about leaving the EU. Or, at least, a marginally better informed choice than they were presented with in 2016.

The anti-democratic nature of British Nationalism was strikingly revealed last week when disgraced MSP and total bollard, Annie Wells, responded on behalf of the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) to the launch of the Scottish Government’s public consultation on prisoner voting. In a Tweet seething with self-righteous rage, Wells boasted that “we [BCUPS] are the only party that oppose prisoners having the right to vote”.

I don’t know if this boast is true. What I do know is that Wells doesn’t much care about such niceties as truth and accuracy. But the remark is illuminating anyway. Note how Wells acknowledges that voting is a right. And how ready she is to deny that right with all the vehemence she has left over from supporting her boss’s anti-democratic campaign against a new independence referendum.

Set aside, for a moment, the fact that this relates to persons incarcerated for criminal acts. A right is a right – as Wells’s boss’s boss might put it. While talking of voting as a right, Wells treats it as a privilege. Something that is in the gift of established power; to be gracious granted or spitefully withheld according to the whim of those who wield that power.

In a true democracy, the right to vote is absolute and inalienable. It is a necessary and ineluctable function of citizenship or qualifying residency. Any working definition of democracy must start from the assumption that everybody has the right to vote. The right to vote is not granted and does not need to be claimed or won. It is as much part of the individual born into a truly democratic society as their skin.

From the default assumption that all persons own the right to vote, an argument must be made, under rules set out in the constitution, for withholding this right from defined groups or specified individuals. It is trivial to argue that the right to vote must be rendered functionally inoperative in the case of infants. Nonetheless, the argument must be made. Qualifying as a true democracy demands that the right to vote is in no circumstances withheld lightly.

It is less and less easy to argue that the right to vote should be withheld from individuals as they get older. Strong counter-arguments can be made in the case of persons aged twelve. There are no rational and persuasive arguments for withholding the right to vote from persons aged sixteen.

Once an individual has reached the constitutionally established age at which their right to vote ceases to be withheld, any argument for withholding that right must apply to the specific individual. Any blanket withholding of voting rights across a group is a breach of individual human rights and definitively undemocratic.

Annie Wells expresses pride in being part of a campaign to impose just such a blanket ban. Her attitude, and the attitude generally evinced by British Nationalists, is that voting is a privilege. More ominously, she espouses the principle of denying this ‘privilege’ to groups delineated, not by any human universal such as age, but by criteria determined by the state or its agencies. Groups such as that labelled ‘prisoners’.

Labels are cheap. I’m sure Annie Wells has an abundant supply of them. You might even find that you are already wearing one or more of them. Just such a discovery was made in the wake of the 2014 referendum by a group which the British establishment labelled ‘Scottish MPs’.

Annie Wells. Ruth Davidson. Theresa May. They shame the memory of such as Flora Drummond, Emily Wilding Davison and Emmeline Pankhurst.


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