From Alasdair Galloway:
The previous section I think showed that Angus McNeill is absolutely right to say that if the Supreme Court can strike down these two Bills, they can strike down a Referendum Bill as well.
So what does the Scottish Government say? Their “THE ROAD TO A REFERENDUM THAT IS BEYOND LEGAL CHALLENGE” concludes with this paragraph
“10. In these circumstances, in which there has been an unambiguously expressed democratic decision by the people of Scotland and their Parliament to have a legal referendum the choice of the U.K. government will be clear; to either (1) agree that the Scottish Parliament already has the power to legislate for a referendum or (2) in line with precedent, agree the section 30 order to put that question beyond any doubt; or (3) take legal action to dispute the legal basis of the referendum and seek to block the will of the Scottish people in the courts. Such a legal challenge would be vigorously opposed by an SNP Scottish Government”
While I would hope they “vigorously opposed” Westminster’s case concerning the Children’s Rights Bill and the Local Government Bill. And much good it did them.
Allied to this, it does have to be said that London could hardly be clearer on their attitude toward another referendum, and just in case, their Elections Bill will put the Electoral Commission under direct Westminster control through Westminster publishing a Strategy and Policy Statement for the Electoral Commission, which will set out the Government’s priorities on electoral matters and principles under which the commission will be expected to operate. (so one side in the debate controls the referee!). Minister responsible if this were law now – Michael Gove. Nothing like having the referee on a string!
The SNP statement is rational and, as it claims, within the law. However, the legal route is increasingly clearly blocked off. In some regards this problem originates with 2014 when an agreed referendum was ours for the asking – but I think it seems clear this was achieved only because Westminster thought it would be a walk in the park (kind of like the EU referendum as well!). If support for independence had been where it is today would an agreement have been so easily forthcoming? No I don’t think so either.
At that time there was debate about whether, for instance, a referendum asking a question like “should the Scottish Government open negotiations on independence?” could be held within the terms of the Scotland Act. Even if we suppose that might be possible today, what shade of odds would you give me that Westminster would simply legislate to, for instance, put referenda on the retained list? Would they? Bear in mind powers over elections to the Scottish Parliament were devolved only in 2012 and 2016. Not difficult – legally at least – to go back!
Perhaps, though, the issue is less to be surprised or be not surprised? The conclusion that Craig Murray (now constrained in Sauchton Prison) came to in a blog on 5th October 2018 is informative. There he wrote that “One day, all supporters of Independence are going to be forced to get their heads round the fact that London is going for the Madrid solution (the same strategy the Spanish government is using with the Catalans), and we are not going to achieve Independence without using peaceful, non-violent routes which are nevertheless going to be deemed illegal by the Establishment.”
However, if that is the only route, it will be important to retain support for independence. In general people don’t like illegality (and the BBC would have a field day). It does therefore seem incumbent on the independence movement, to go through the gears – to work through the process set out by the SNP, even if destined to end in failure. It will after all, be difficult for Westminster to justify a blank refusal to allow Scotland to decide its own future. Even the Scotsman, in an opinion piece last May, said it would not be a good idea.
Whitely and Clark claim “When times are bad, they [Scottish electorate] tend to support independence, and when times improve they are more inclined to oppose it.” (https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/indyref-polls-volatility/) – well the coming winter might be just the time – gas prices going through the roof, empty supermarket shelves, agriculture going into meltdown etc etc.
And coming along the road is a yougov poll shows we aren’t feeling optimistic about the current state of the UK’s economy, with three-quarters (73%) of respondents saying it’s in a bad state. Just 9% feel positively about it at the moment”.
So the foundations are being laid. The question is, when we have been told “no”, what then? What next? What does Craig Murray’s enjoinder that “we are not going to achieve Independence without using peaceful, non-violent routes” actually mean?