A guest post by Jim McWilliam
First of all let me set my stall out. I have been an advocate for Scottish Independence for as long as I can remember, perhaps it was because Alex Salmond was my MP when I was growing up in Banff and Buchan. He certainly had an effect, even if it was just to highlight the issue.
Having left school, and not doing particularly well at college, I joined the British Army when I was at the tender age of 18. It was the best thing I ever did. As a part of the process for becoming a member of the regular Army I had to swear allegiance to the Queen, as well as her heirs and successors. This I did, and I meant what I said when I said it. I served for 10 years and I enjoyed most of it, seeing active service in Northern Ireland and the former Yugoslavia.
While I was serving I would console myself, whilst doing some god awful and sometimes very dangerous job, that I was protecting the people of the UK and standing up for their rights. One of those rights was the right of free speech, something which was denied to me as a serving member of HM Forces. One of the other rights that I was standing up for was the right of self-determination, which is enshrined in various articles of law to which the UK has subscribed. So it was with a feeling of delight that I saw the current Scottish Government elected, with an overall majority, and with a clear mandate to ask the people of Scotland whether they wished to remain as a part of the United Kingdom or become an independent country.
They were as good as their word and they brought us the referendum, backed by the UK parliament. They also brought us the white paper, which I ordered but I have read only a wee bit. That book is a piece of history and I am going to cherish it. The Scottish government also brought us a draft constitution, a document which I place up there Declaration of Arbroath. But, being a draft document, it was always going to be subject to revision.
Part 2-2 of the draft constitution states, “In Scotland, the people are sovereign.” These are noble words indeed, but let us examine what they mean. If the people in a country are sovereign, that means that it is the people’s will which determines the direction of that country. In effect, all of the power within that country is vested in the people. The people wield that power by electing candidates to a parliament where, they hope, their elected representatives will make the changes which they said they would do as part of the election process.
This is in contrast to the current constitutional settlement which we have in the UK. We have an unelected head of state. She has the right to veto all legislation and nobody can find out how often that power is used because the monarch is not subject to any laws. In effect the Queen IS the law of the land. She is sovereign.
This arrangement leads to a system of patronage and privilege in which the rich get richer at the expense of everyone else. It leads to a governmental system in which the government of the day can stuff the unelected second chamber with rich party donors, burned out politicians and other chums. There they can rest their weary legs on red, upholstered benches and claim £300 per day expenses for the chore of doing so. They can become a minister in the government, even though they have not been elected. These people are called “lords” and they have the power to amend government legislation.
Which leads me to Part 2-7 of the draft constitution which states,”Scotland is an independent, constitutional monarchy.” What does that mean? Does it mean that we will be ceding our sovereignty to an unelected head of state that will have the power of veto over all laws and not be subject to them? Does it mean that we will recreate the system of patronage which exists around the palaces of London? I don’t have the answers to these questions but I have a question of my own; why do we need to have a monarch to which we are subject, to which we cede sovereignty?
There is a fundamental contradiction in the draft constitution, either the people are sovereign or the monarch is. It cannot be both. Why would we vote to regain our sovereignty then give it away to someone just because of who their mum and dad was? It’s just plain daft.
This is why I would like to see a Scottish Republic. A country where the people are sovereign and they exercise their power through the ballot box. A country where all people are equal and not subjects to an anachronism, a country where we don’t need kings and queens. That is the Scotland that I want to create once we have our independence. If this sounds like the Scotland that you would like to live in, the one that you will bequeath to future generations, then I would urge you to read the draft constitution and to decide for yourselves if it represents what you would want from an independent Scotland. Once you have done so then you can make representations to your elected representatives and tell them what you think.
But what of my contradiction I here you ask? Didn’t you once swear allegiance to the Queen? Yes, I did.
It is a difficult one to reconcile. The way I see it now is that the Oath of Allegiance which I swore, and I meant it at the time, was a part of the terms and conditions of employment. It was a part of the contract between me and the Crown if you like. But I am no longer employed by the Crown, so the contract is no longer valid. Now I choose to exercise my rights and no longer be subject to a royal command. Now I choose to vote Yes on 18th September, hopefully the majority of the Scottish people will do the same. That will give us the opportunity to rid ourselves of the monarchy and keep our sovereignty in our own hands. To do otherwise would be a betrayal of the future generations.