Shall there be a Scottish Parliament?

national_power_grabThere shall be a Scottish Parliament. But only if we are prepared to fight for it.

There shall be a Scottish Parliament. But not if we allow the British political elite to have its way.

There shall be a Scottish Parliament. But we must now decide, as a matter of great urgency whether it is to be a Parliament which exists and functions only by the grace and favour of the British state, or a Parliament which exists by the command of Scotland’s people and functions as the instrument of their democratic will.

This matters. It is important. It is crucial. It matters because the fundamental nature of our Parliament, and the manner in which it operates, reflects and defines what kind of nation Scotland is and what kind of people we are. If we are to be a nation where all political authority derives from the people, we must fight to be that kind of nation. If we, the people of Scotland, are to be sovereign in our own land, we must forcefully affirm and vigorously defend our sovereignty.

The Scottish Parliament is the rock upon which our sovereignty rests. It is the sole guarantor of our democracy. It is the only Parliament with democratic legitimacy in Scotland. It is not just the Scottish Parliament, it is the Parliament of Scotland. It belongs to the people of Scotland.

Only the people of Scotland possess the rightful authority to define and constrain the powers of our Parliament. The British government – unelected by and unaccountable to the people of Scotland – has no such authority. A lawfully established and democratically elected Parliament cannot be subordinate to any external power that is not ultimately answerable to the people of Scotland. The attempt by the British political elite to assert supreme authority over the Scottish Parliament is an assault on democracy. It is an affront to the nation of Scotland. It is an insult to the people of Scotland.

The time has come to choose what kind of people we are and what kind of nation we want Scotland to be. The time has come to decide where power lies now and in the future. Will it lie with a Scottish Parliament serving the needs, priorities and aspirations of the people of Scotland? Or is power to be usurped by faceless, unelected, unaccountable appointees of the British state serving only the structures of power, privilege and patronage which advantage the few at increasing cost to the many?

There shall be a Scottish Parliament. But only if we resolve to make it so.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

 

Decline to cringe!

scotlands_parliamentI’m not sure why we should be expected to pay any heed whatever to Lord Lang of Monkton and/or Lord Forsyth of Drumlean. The very manner in which they demand to be addressed resonates with a presumption of privileged power which is an affront to democracy. They, along with their 800-odd colleagues in the British Parliament, are products of the system of patronage which rewards loyal service to the few at whatever expense to the many. Their aristocratic titles signify their tried and tested allegiance to established power.

Lang and Forsyth speak for nobody other than the pampered elites of the British state. A fact only underlined by their having previously held the position of the British state’s representative in Scotland. They played no legitimate part in Scotland’s democracy then. They have no legitimate role in Scotland’s democracy now.

What these ermined nonentities say is of interest only because the attitudes evinced are not peculiar to denizens of the House of Dead Stoat Cloaks but characteristic of the entire British political elite. Contempt for the concerns of the electorate and disdain for the essentials of democracy are hallmarks of the British political system.

Note how those concerns are dismissed as mere ‘grievances’, absent any attempt to address the cause of the complaint. Note how care for constitutional matters is brushed aside as if the fundamentals of democracy are of no consequence.

Note, also, how Their Bladderships accuse the Scottish Government of neglecting “education, the economy and all the other matters that are their responsibility”, not because the SNP administration isn’t fulfilling its responsibilities in these areas, but because it is doing so differently, and with a degree of success which is an increasing embarrassment to a British political elite with its constant mantra of ‘no other way’ as it piles the gross iniquities of austerity on the absurd inequities of neo-liberal orthodoxy and the perpetual inequalities of British ‘demockracy’.

Thus, they display those other defining characteristics of the British ruling elite – duplicity, mendacity and a burning, bilious resentment of any challenge to or questioning of the imperious authority of the British state.

Imagine describing your ailments to your GP only to have them dismiss this as a tedious cataloguing of mere symptoms. Consider your reaction should your doctor inform you that they attach no importance whatever to respiration and blood circulation and that, instead, health is to be measured by the quality of your apparel and the contents of your wallet. This would surely be cause for alarm. But, ludicrous as the proposition may be, it is directly analogous to the narrative being peddled by the men in the polecat coats.

It matters not at all what is the cause and content of your grievance. You are not entitled to have a grievance against the British political elite. Nor do you, or your elected representatives, have any right to meddle in matters of political power and rightful authority and democratic legitimacy such as are the concern of constitutional politics. As a citizen of a subordinate region of the realm, you are supposed to know your place on the unimportant periphery of a ‘One Nation’ British state, and behave accordingly.

You are supposed to cringe. You may choose not to.

The spluttering indignation expressed by Lang and Forsyth is occasioned by the fact that more and more people in Scotland are declining to cringe in the way we’re meant to. The more we assert and exercise our democratic rights, the greater their outrage.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

 

Crunch time!

scotlands_parliament.pngMike Russell notes that the primary duty of the Scottish Parliament and its Members is to serve the people of Scotland and protect their interests. One would hope and expect this to be no more than a statement of the obvious. We would tend to assume that this is a sentiment with which every MSP would concur. It would seem to be a fundamental principle, that those elected to a Parliament owe full allegiance to the people who elect them. In most circumstances, this would simply be taken for granted.

But Scotland’s circumstances are exceptional. The great divide in Scottish politics is such that the allegiances of those on one side of that divide cannot be assumed.

We hear a great deal of talk about ‘divisive’ politics. Much of it is strident and angry. As if division was some horrifying new phenomenon being introduced to our politics by ‘bad’ politicians, rather than simply a perfectly normal feature of all politics. Without division, there is no politics. Politics is a contest of ideas. Democratic politics allows everybody to participate in that contest. Democracy provides a means by which the people can be active in the contest of ideas, both as advocates and as judges. In a true and properly functioning democracy, all political authority derives from the people, and only the people can be the ultimate arbiters in the contest of ideas. In an ideal democracy, all the people affected by political choices participate in the process of debate and decision-making.

It is not politicians who create division. Their role is to represent the people in the contest of ideas. To facilitate the democratic process. To conduct the process of debate and decision-making for and on behalf of the electorate.

Politicians should be judged on whether, and how well, they serve the polity. That is all. But there may be a question as to which polity they actually serve.

There are, of course, many divisions in politics. Where politicians seek to portray division as a bad thing, it will always be only very particular forms or instances of division that are condemned. Commonly, the division being denounced will be on a matter where the politician doing the condemning feels their arguments are weak. Rather than engage in the contest of ideas on a particular issue, they object to there being a contest at all. Typically, they will seek to award themselves a bye in that particular contest. They declare themselves winners, not by dint of their superior arguments, but by rejecting the idea that they should have been called upon to formulate and advance any arguments in the first place.

It goes without saying that these are politicians who cannot be judged favourably on the basis of their service to a democratic process that they are trying to obstruct and circumvent. The politician’s job is to address divisions – hopefully, in a mature and rational fashion – not to deny them. Divisions denied or inadequately addressed will tend to fester and degenerate into conflicts.

There are few, if any, trivial divisions in politics. Political divisions reflect social divisions. The contest of ideas is not an abstract intellectual exercise. The ideas being contested derive from various social imbalances, the way these are perceived and proposals for rectifying or ameliorating them. Every division is important to someone. The outcome of every bout in the political tournament impacts on real people. Politics matters to everyone.

Having said that, there is a scale of greater and lesser divisions. It must be so, for surely there is a scale of greater and lesser ideas to be contested in the political arena. While no division is totally insignificant, there are ideas – concepts – which lie at the very core of our politics, because they relate to the very nature of our politics and our society.

The greatest of divisions are, inevitably, constitutional. It is necessarily so because all other divisions ultimately come back to the matter of who decides and how the decisions are made and how they are implemented and how they are upheld and how they may be amended or rescinded. The late Tony Benn elegantly and succinctly captured the essence of constitutional politics when he formulated the five questions which must be asked of established power.

What power have you got?
Where did you get it from?
In whose interests do you use it?
To whom are you accountable?
How do we get rid of you?

However much some politicians may deny and evade and minimise and deflect, it is an incontrovertible fact that the greatest division in Scottish politics is on the matter of the Union. More specifically, to the flaws which make the Union constitutionally untenable. The asymmetry – or ‘democratic deficit’ – which means Scotland’s interests can never be adequately represented, served or protected. And the explicit denial of the principle of popular sovereignty in favour of a concept of parliamentary sovereignty which is at best archaic, and, at worst, anti-democratic.

To properly understand Scotland’s politics it is essential to understand the core constitutional issue. To adequately appreciate the ‘Grand Divide’ in Scottish politics it is necessary to grasp the ideas which lie on either side of that divide. Ideas which are being ever more vigorously contested.

Articles, long essays and entire books have been written exploring and explaining and critiquing these ideas. Here, brevity is required – even at the cost of oversimplification and generalisation.

On the one side, we have the idea of Union and those who wish to preserve an archaic, anachronistic, anomalous and evidently dysfunctional constitutional settlement.

On the other we have the idea of independence and those who favour the normalisation of Scotland’s constitutional status, the restoration of powers to the Scottish Parliament and government by a democratically elected administration.

Which brings us back to the matter of our MSPs and the question of their loyalties. Whatever else it may be, the Scottish Government’s Continuity Bill is a test of the allegiance of MSPs. In supporting or opposing the Bill they will effectively be choosing between.

  • The Scottish Parliament to which they were elected and which has genuine democratic legitimacy.
  • A different parliament in a different country with a different political culture voted by a different electorate and serving a different polity. A parliament where Scotland has little more than token representation and where sits a government with no mandate from the Scottish electorate.

The people of Scotland are surely entitled to expect that, at a minimum, those they elect to represent them at Holyrood should accept the authority of the Scottish Parliament. We might reasonably anticipate that they would acknowledge the democratic legitimacy of the Scottish Parliament and respect it’s decisions and rulings as truly representing the will of Scotland’s people.

Further, are we not entitled to insist that those we elect to the Scottish Parliament be willing to affirm the democratic right of self-determination and acknowledge that this right is vested wholly in the people of Scotland to be exercised entirely at their discretion? How can someone legitimately sit in the Scottish Parliament who denies the right of Scotland’s people to freely chose the form of government that best suits their needs?

The question for MSPs is clear and simply. Do you accept that your primary role is to serve the people of Scotland and protect their interests? Or is your allegiance to a British state which is inherently incapable of serving the people of Scotland and which is actively working against their interests in ways that are countless, but vividly exemplified by Brexit?

The people of Scotland are watching their elected representatives in the Scottish Parliament. We are waiting to see which of them deserve to be there.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

 

Petulant children and mindless vandals

James Kelly MSP
James Kelly MSP – Petulant child? Or mindless vandal?

When Alex Salmond talks about the way the British parties at Holyrood are behaving in relation to the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act (OBFA) his anger is genuine, palpable and fully justified. He allows his emotions to show to an extent which is rare in politicians. I think that is very much to his credit.

We should all be angry about this. Regardless of what interest we have in football; or our political or religious affiliation; or even any informed and considered opinion of the legislation, we should all be outraged by the way British Labour in Scotland (BLiS), in particular, has sought to exploit the issue solely to satisfy a base and vulgar urge to land some sort of blow on the SNP.

This has nothing whatever to do with whether or not OBFA is effective as a weapon in the fight against sectarianism. If that were the case then BLiS and their Tory allies would be proposing changes to the legislation in order to make it more effective.

Claims that this is not the way to tackle the blight of sectarianism beg questions about what other measures might. That the legislation is unlikely to be one hundred percent effective in eradicating sectarianism cannot, in itself, justify removing it from the statute books. Society uses laws, not only as a means of eliminating or minimising anti-social behaviour, but as markers which signal moral or ethical stance. Laws serve as a statement of our shared mores and standards. We don’t make laws against rape and murder in the hope or expectation that this will put an end to such offences.

We make such laws not least to define and formalise society’s attitude to certain behaviours. The effectiveness of OBFA in combating sectarianism may well be less important than its utility as a means of re-shaping public attitudes. The mere fact of the law’s existence may impact on awareness and perception of sectarian behaviour which is so ingrained as to have become accepted as an inherent and ineluctable aspect of our society.

We are entitled to wonder why certain politicians want this signal of social disapprobation removed. In fact, we have a duty and a responsibility as citizens to demand to know what motivates politicians who object so strongly to legislation which, even if it does nothing else, attaches a social stigma to behaviour which none of them would publicly admit to finding anything other than totally abhorrent.

It has nothing whatever to do with justice. Nobody has suffered any injustice as a consequence of the legislation. There is no human or civil right to public expression of sectarian abuse or provocation which might be infringed. To claim that OBFA unfairly targets football supporters is like saying drunk driving legislation unfairly targets motorists. Regrettably, football matches and their environs is where you find overt sectarian abuse just as the road network is where you find drunk drivers.

It has nothing whatever to do with responding to public demand. All the evidence is that OBFA is approved by an overwhelming majority of people in Scotland. The campaign to repeal OBFA totally disregards the views of Scotland’s people. Those responsible for this campaign exhibit a casual, sneering, supercilious contempt for the public which is now firmly established as a defining characteristic of the British parties in Scotland.

The only thing driving this campaign is British Labour in Scotland’s burning, bitter, intellect-crippling resentment of the SNP. There may be an argument that OBFA should never have made it to the statute books. Or that it should not have been enacted in its present form. There was ample opportunity to advance those arguments as the legislation made its way through Parliament. Self-evidently, no such case was ever adequately made. The legislation was passed by the Scottish Parliament. The only Parliament with any democratic legitimacy in Scotland. The only Parliament which has the rightful authority to represent the will of Scotland’s people. The Parliament which speaks for Scotland. That Parliament spoke for Scotland when it declared our rejection of sectarianism and our determination to drive it from the sphere of our nation’s public life.

To now repeal OBFA is to retract that declaration. It is a very different proposition to not implementing the measure in the first place. To now remove it from the statute books is to recant our previously stated detestation of sectarian bigotry. It is to say that sectarianism in football maybe isn’t so bad after all. Actively renouncing our refusal to tolerate sectarianism has to be perceived as demonstrating a willingness to tolerate it.

Such a momentously regressive change to our social conventions would be difficult to justify under any circumstances. To do it for reasons no more worthy than the pettiest of political point-scoring is the conduct of a petulant, over-privileged child or a mindless political vandal.

No wonder Alex Salmond is angry. Aren’t you?


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate