By Alasdair Galloway, the thinking man’s Galloway on Iain Macwhirter, the thinking man’s…..em, er….Glenn Campbell:
How easy it is to earn a nice wedge for doing not very much. This https://www.heraldscotland.com/…/19119385.scottish…/ will take you to Iain McWhirter tells us what will happen in the event Johnson says No. he works through the usual stuff – not “a generation”, not the right time etc, though he does have the decency to accept that this argument is thin.
Perhaps more importantly, he makes the observation that Johnson doesn’t want to go down in history as the 21st century version of Lord North (who was PM when America won its independence).
But neither will the present First Minister “call a “wildcat” or unauthorised referendum such as the one in Catalonia in 2017, but rather faced with a refusal of Holyroods’s request for a S30 Order will take “the UK government to the Supreme Court, claiming the right of self-determination.” McWhirter rejects this because in his view the Supreme Court made clear in the Miller case in 2017 that Westminster could not be overruled on constitutional matters. Eh, sorry Iain, but I dont think that is what they said. What they did say was to confirm – yet again! – that the House of Commons is sovereign. This does not explicitly rule out the possibility of Holyrood having their own referendum – for instance to test public opinion. Actually, the problem with a “wildcat” referendum is that Westminster is likely to say – even to a Yes majority – “oh that’s nice. Jolly good” and just ignore it. What do we do then?
But let’s say we end up at the Supreme Court and let us also assume that the Scottish Government case is successful. I would hazard a guess that the first thing Westminster will do is to change the law so that referenda on any topic you care to name, can only be carried out if Westminster says it’s ok. Westminster is sovereign after all. An earlier example is what they did with Holyrood’s Continuity Bill in 2018/19 – if Scotland is doing something you don’t like then change the law.
So McWhirter works through the pretty obvious territory then pretty much condemns the whole independence project with little more than a wave of his hand. However, thinking it through a bit further demonstrates that we are between a rock and a hard place.
The hard place is Westminster which is not, or not easily, going to engage with the possibility of a legal referendum that they could quite easily lose (McWhirter also makes something of the possibility that we would make the same mistake as 2014, but of course forgets that this time we start off from somewhere around 50% support and not half that as we did last time).
The rock on which I rather fear we might perish is that with the present regime in Bute House, if there is no possibility of a “legal” (ie S30 referendum, or one endorsed by the Supreme Court) referendum then the will simply not go beyond this. Yet if Westminster keep saying No and we do nothing to respond, folk are going to get fed up and wander off, so we will lose that way instead.
Johnson saying No cannot be the end of the story. At worst it must be the “end of the beginning”.