By Alasdair Galloway, the Thinking Mans’s Galloway
Earlier today, Wings triumphantly posted extracts of a piece in his newspaper, the London Evening Standard, by George Osborne, basically saying that the only “legal way to independence” is through a referendum, voted by the House of Commons, and since, for now at least, the best way not to lose this is not to approve one. Simple really. Or maybe its not.
First of all, I suspect the dogs in the street know already that when the Section 30 question is put to Johnson, assuming the SNP win a majority in the assumed Holyrood election in May, or at least there is an independence majority there, Boris is going to say “naw” (or something like that). Quoting George Osborne is pretty pointless if he isn’t telling us anything we don’t already know.
So, why ask the S30 question? Well, there is polling evidence, according to the great Curtice, to the effect that it would be bad strategy during the May election by the SNP NOT to commit to asking for a S30 Order. Basically, I suspect, a lot of the Scottish electorate would like to achieve independence in as orderly and pain free a way as possible – a rerun of 2014, with a different outcome of course – would suit them fine. But I suspect many of the same electorate know what the answer will be but feel we should ask all the same. Even if they don’t know what the answer will be, they soon will when Johnson, in that bombastic, flowery way of his, rejects the request on some grounds or other – attempting to define a generation in a way that suits him for instance. Osborne is right in many regards in this article – why would Boris want to be the UK PM who lost the UK? I mean, would you?
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Osborne has actually got more than that right, for it is arguable that the agreement of the House of Commons is necessary for a legal outcome. It may be that Joanna Cherry and her team can come up with an alternative legal means, but otherwise this might be the only game in town. One thing is certain – I doubt there is a majority of the Scottish electorate who fancy a decade or more as the sort of Kosovo of north west Europe, asserting independence that is recognised by very few of the international community. The international community is crucial in this, as what we want is not just independence, but a sovereignty that is accepted by its other members. For instance, we can kiss good bye to the EU without it. The agreement of the House of Commons is the gold standard (according to Alex Salmond, when he signed the Edinburgh Agreement) in this regard.
So, Johnson says “no”. What then? There are several other strategies that might be followed, though I suspect none of them on their own is going to achieve our aims. These would include non-violent civil disobedience (though the problem with that is that an example is going to be bracketed with the Trump troops assault on the Capitol Building), Parliamentary action on the Irish model, non-payment of taxes, perhaps an unofficial referendum. But basically, anything that keeps the heat on Westminster by making Scotland progressively ungovernable by that House.
Campbell tries to undermine this in his trademark gentle, polite way, by arguing “PS For idiots about to shout, “There’s a brilliant secret plan, Nicola just can’t say what it is before the election because you don’t show your enemy your hand!”: you can’t have a mandate for something that wasn’t in your manifesto, dumdums. Try again” Sorry Stew, but I think you place far too much emphasis on the force of manifestos.
Let’s go through it one more time, shall we? The FM, having secured a majority at Holyrood – either alone or with others – seeks a S30 Order (which was in the manifesto) as part of the SNP’s commitment to independence. The Westminster PM refuses. What then? Campbell’s view is clearly that Sturgeon’s response would be to say “oh well, ok, maybe next time”. But at the point Johnson says “No” to a request to initiate the “gold standard” process, everything changes. The S30 Order has been refused. At no time was it ever more than the means to an end. The objective hasn’t changed. Assuming the sort of polling majority for independence remains (or better still is larger) – maybe Kenny MacAskiill’s idea of voters giving their second vote to the SNP as an indication of support for independence has been implemented (though I have worries about for instance, Green Party voters who have no constituency candidate but want to support their party on the list) – the question then becomes, “ok, what’s next?”. To my mind this is an issue that really cannot be addressed from within one party acting alone. It is an issue for the entire community, and while it may be time- consuming, a “Constitutional Convention” (call it what you like) representing as much of the Scottish community as possible and all shades of independence supporting opinion must meet and decide as soon as possible what the next steps should be.
But let’s be clear, at some point engagement with London is not an option. It is a necessity. For one thing, we need them to accept our independence as much the easiest route to gaining acceptance in the international community. Sure, we can seek their support to bring London round, but, on the basis of their behaviour last time, not much of the international community is going to act against London. If there is to be an enduring settlement, then we need to bring them to negotiation. These are not options, but necessities. How we get them to this point may not be as neat and painless as in 2014. I think much of the electorate know this already, given the outpouring of nonsense from Johnson, Gove and Jack (Mundell is awfy quiet) already.
No London PM wants to be the UK PM who loses the UK (and must tell the Queen). We have to make ourselves as determined and, if necessary, as obstructive and difficult as needed, for any alternative to acceptance of Scottish independence to be the more difficult strategy