There’s aye a reason

By Alasdair Galloway

As I write this, I am listening with one ear to a dialogue of the deaf between Keith Brown of the SNP and Jamie Greene of the Scottish Conservatives, concerning the SNP’s newly adopted plan B. Greene, as a Tory so not a surprise, is a agin it on the grounds that we are right in the middle of a Covid pandemic. Of course, this is in some regards at least, risible. For one thing, even the SNP are not suggesting a referendum next week or even next month. One of their MPs Kenny MacAskill pointed out in a Wings’ article the other day that with the COP conference in November in Glasgow, the chances of a referendum this year are vanishingly small.

Of course, the pandemic (in which the London government has hardly covered themselves in glory) is just the latest in a long line of reasons to say “no”.

The classic is Theresa May’s “Now is not the time”, which raises the suspicion that it would be a cold day in Hell when it was the time.

Then there are the variants on “you’ve had your referendum”, pointing to the “settled will” of the Scottish people in 2014, treating democracy as an event rather than as a process.

Linked to this are the vacuous claims of “once in a generation”. One definition of a generation is 25-30 years, but it’s pretty clear that it’s a contended number. More importantly, the phrase is nowhere to be found in the Edinburgh Agreement. You will find a reference to the result being “decisive”, but the problem is that it wasn’t. The Unionist camp reckoned in 2012 that the vote would be a “walk in the park”. After all independence was said by Blair McDougall to have about 28% support. The whole exercise was to put Nationalism “in its box”. However, Alistair Darling said that if the Yes vote was 40% or more, it would not settle the matter – and it didn’t. Not really.

Then there are those who accept there will be a referendum, but want to put in such onerous conditions that a successful independence campaign is at best unlikely. One letter writer to the Herald has argued there should be a requirement of 66% of all voters (not just those voting) in favour, just like his Golf Club. The problem with this, of course, is that this is not the UK tradition which is 50%+1. The UK left the EU on a lot less than 66%.

Rearing its head is a Royal Commission to examine how the UK is governed. Royal Commission’s are great for those in power. If the critics moan, it is always possible to say you have appointed a Royal Commission. Ideally they report only after a decent period of time, by which time much of the heat might have gone out of the issue. Alternatively, having kicked the particular can down the road, it is only eventually that you have to address the matter, even if it means abandoning all the proposals of the Royal Commission. But of course, we already have something like that. In July 2019 Lord Dunlop was appointed to “produce an independent report into the UK Government’s Union capability.” Leaving to one side how far we can trust a member of the Conservative & Unionist Party to produce a report which is “independent” in any meaningful sense, by November 2020 Lord Foulkes was asking the Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, when we might expect the report, and was told “by the end of the year” (ie 2020). In January this year, “The chairs of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs, Scottish Affairs, Welsh Affairs and Northern Ireland Affairs committees at Westminster have written to Michael Gove seeking publication of the review and the government’s response by Thursday.”. Various proposals have been leaked – appoint a Union Tsar, move parts of Whitehall into the devolved nations – but earlier this month, we were told it had been “delayed”. We’ll see.

The core point from all of these is that none of them actually confront the issue of the possibility of Scottish independence. Some try to avoid it by coming up with increasingly fanciful justifications to refuse even a referendum. Others focus on a throw away phrase that is not in the Edinburgh Agreement, so lacks the force of law. There are a couple of references in “Scotland’s Future”, but usually by individuals who only believed nothing else in the publication. Perhaps not even the page numbers. So no referendum, but if there is one let’s make it unwinnable. If all that fails, we’ll have a Royal Commission, stuffed with Unionists directed to work out how to make the UK work again. All of them are fundamentally undemocratic being devices to prevent the electorate from giving an opinion via a referendum, or queering the pitch, or just putting it off.

11 thoughts on “There’s aye a reason

  1. The next time you hear a Tory tell us about the ‘settled will’ of the people or the ‘once in generation’ crap it is perhaps worth remembering that in the space of a normal electoral term since 2015 the Tories inflicted three Gen Elections on us and Pro-rogued Parliament to get what they want.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. As for Boris’s arrant nonsense of a generation being 40-50 years, I know a lady who became a grannie at age 32. Maybe we just do things differently in Scotland?


  2. The entire Brexit tragedy was pushed through during a Pandemic. It was apparently critical to take back control as requested by the clear will of the people! (52/48). Although that figure was very, very different in Scotland.

    It appears following the political will of the people depends on which kind people are asking. The Pandemic apparently is only relevant in certain political situations and irrelevant in others!

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Theresa May was offering a second EU referendum to Labour in 2019, for their support of her proposals. Corbyn’s Labour wasn’t interested.
    Northern Ireland can have a referendum every seven years, if there is demand.
    Ireland’s “right to self-determination” is recognised in the Downing Street Declaration: their right to “unity referenda” are recognised in the Good Friday Agreement. These two constitutional concessions are now part of the architecture of the UK constitution.
    If any case regarding Scottish referenda came before the courts (Scottish or Supreme), then surely the judges would look at these as precedents (I know, that is an English legal concept) in the weighing up of evidence.
    The right of self-determination of people is not some airy fairy idea. It is a cardinal principle of international law.
    Scotland is not Catalonia,, handcuffed to a post-Franco constitutional principle, but a founder nation of the UK State and our case should be judged as such, by the international community.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Put most simply, Brexit represents a FACIST COUPE, whereby Westminster has empowered right-wing and populist English nationalism to redefine the state’s legal obligations to Scotland. And not in a good way. These obligations are defined in international law, which is beyond Westminster’s legal powers to re-interoperate. So Westminster is simply enslaving Scots to the political will of reactionary English nationalism, which of course, is counter to the fundamental principles of liberal democracy. Those who have a problem accepting this analysis could do worse than checking out “THE DEMOCRATIC LEGITIMACY OF INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW”.

    Liked by 3 people

    Will allow


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good summary Alasdair.
    A referendum is consultative, it takes takes the political temperature of the electorate at a given time, that no less applies to Indy1 as it did to Brexit, repeating either appears to have become blanked to further examination since those in power got the answers they sought and daren’t risk losing their advantage even after 5 years of bullshit, hence the S30 “apparent” blockage, but does it have any substance ?
    I was reminded of this by one of Ann’s posts on Indyref2 today, where “We can’t accept your petition because this would be a decision for the people of Scotland and not the UK Government or Parliament”.
    Now bear that response in mind, front and centre the people of Scotland.
    The entire fatuous debate over whether Gordosaurus or Johnsonanus, or DRossErsewiteeth hold the upper hand evaporates, it isn’t up to them and that scares the sh!t out of them.
    HMS Sarah Smith may prefer otherwise, but Scotland is leaving this Benighted Kingdom, time we had journalism take precedence over propaganda eh ?
    Perhaps Glenn Campbell could retire to retrain incontinent pigeons to be less BBC like….

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Those with an interest in resisting the state’s turn towards xenophobic populism that denies Scots are agents of international law, could do worse than checking out “WHAT DOES THE EMERGING INTERNATIONAL LAW OF MIGRATION MEAN FOR SOVEREIGNTY?”. Which points towards the “theoretical discourses of sovereignty that create the backdrop for current debates over migration law and policy”.

    Liked by 1 person

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