UDI

I’d like to thank Dave Coull for the following, which was originally published as a comment on Scot Goes Pop. I republish it here, with his kind permission, as it provides timely and valuable context for discussion of UDI.

In August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. War is something done by Declaration, because it does not require the agreement of the other party. However, when it was announced that there would be an Armistice from the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, this was an “Announcement”, not a “Declaration”, because Germany had agreed.

When I declared my house a smoke-free zone, that was a Declaration. I did not consult my neighbours. I did not ask anybody likely to visit my house if that would be okay. I just declared that, if they were visiting my house, and they wanted to smoke, they would have to go outside.

Declarations are ALWAYS “unilateral”. Saying “unilateral declaration” is like saying “wet water”. The first word is superfluous.

So, what’s the point of this stupid expression?

The expression “UDI” was invented in 1965. It did not exist at all before that year. I was in my mid-20s, and I was already a “veteran” of five years in the British armed forces, when the expression “UDI” was first invented. I can remember the exact circumstances of it being invented very well. There was a lot of talk in the press and media about a “Unilateral Declaration of Independence” by the racist government of the apartheid regime in Rhodesia.

Rhodesian “UDI” did in fact happen. But in the end the country got into such a mess, they had to ask the British Government to step in to help to sort it out. As a result. “UDI” carries connotations of both illegality and failure.

But, of course, there have been other Declarations of Independence. Most famously, the one whose anniversary gets celebrated every Fourth of July. That one doesn’t carry connotations of illegality and failure. Why not?

The answer to the question, “why not?”, is because, although the British Government refused to recognise that Declaration of Independence to begin with, it nevertheless succeeded. Within ten years, a lawyer from Boston, Massachusetts, was presenting his credentials to King George as the first Ambassador of the USA, and even lawyers in London were producing proofs that it had all been perfectly legal all along.

But of course it was “unilateral”. Declarations are ALWAYS unilateral. “UDI” is like saying “wet water”. It’s a bloody idiotic expression, and the only reason for using it is to link a Declaration with the Rhodesian failure, instead of with the American success. Stop it. Stop playing the game according to rules laid down by agents of the British State. Stop talking about UDI. It’s stupid.


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STFU about UDI!

The concept of a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) is inappropriate and inapplicable. Scotland is neither a colony nor a possession. Ask the analytical questions. From what would we be unilaterally declaring independence? England? Scotland hasn’t been annexed by England. Suppose England wanted to declare it’s independence. What would it be declaring independence from? Itself? The UK? The UK isn’t a nation. It is a political union. Leaving a political union isn’t at all equivalent to declaring independence.

Forget UDI! It shouldn’t even be mentioned in relation to Scotland’s independence cause.

What people actually mean when they refer to UDI; what they mistakenly identify as UDI, is a process in which a declaration of intent to change Scotland’s constitutional status precedes a plebiscite to ratify that proposed change.

The closest analogy may be the dissolution of the political union between Norway and Sweden. A union which was, in some significant respects, similar to that between Scotland and England. Certainly, it was the cause of the same kind of tensions between the two nations.

With all the usual caveats about the dangers of simplification, the story starts, as all such stories must, with the nation that wishes to dissolve the union breaking the rules which bind it together. Norway declared its intention to set up its own consular service thus breaching the terms of the political union which reserved foreign policy to Sweden. Sweden refused to recognise the legislation passed by the Norwegian parliament and the Norwegian government resigned; provoking a constitutional crisis when it proved impossible to form a new government.

To resolve the issue of Norway’s constitutional status, the Storting (Norwegian parliament) voted unanimously to dissolve the political union with Sweden. This was on 7 June 1905. Crucially, in order to seize total control of the process, Norway avoided the offer of a negotiated settlement which would have allowed Sweden a measure of influence. Instead, the Storting immediately scheduled a referendum for 13 August – around nine weeks after the vote to dissolve the union.

That referendum resulted in a ‘Yes’ vote of 99.5%.

It shouldn’t be difficult to work out from this how Scotland should proceed. And it has absolutely nothing to do with UDI.


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