A guest post by Samuel Miller
There’s an itch I’ve been meaning to scratch since I first heard the phrase ‘there is no justification’ malarkey for another referendum on Scottish independence and its about time sandpaper was applied to that itch.
“As far as I’m concerned the Scottish people had their vote, and a very clear message came through, both the United Kingdom and the Scottish Government said they would abide by that.” Theresa May, July 2016
The Scottish Conservative leader insisted there are no “so-called indyref triggers that justify another referendum”, as her party’s manifesto vowed to support a “fresh positive drive to promote the Union”. Ruth Davidson, April 2016
I’d thought of looking for something Willie Rennie or Alistair Carmichael might have said, but frankly life is too short to deal with anything either he or Scotland’s most infamous fibber might have to say on the current crisis, pro or contra. Their encouragement along with the contributions of the more relevant parties above, are kinda why we’re here enjoying all this better togetherness currently.
So when is it justified then? I mean that’s the first question that pops into my mind. Just what would or could possibly justify a referendum on Scottish independence in the minds of Westminster leadership or Scottish branch office leadership? The answer is apparently – Nothing.
There appears to be no argument, no circumstance, no hardship, no democratic deficit, no catastrophic failure of government or constitution, no need great enough within Scotland’s population which would motivate or move their support toward an independence ballot. Why, you might ask? Well, basically any number of reasons in my opinion. Most importantly though, they appear fully invested and committed to their party ideologies and decades of party narrative. Who knew?
I’d hazard that some may actually BELIEVE in the UK experiment and the established order in society. Some may wholeheartedly accept the UK parliament’s concept of ‘British identity’. It’s also entirely possible that some simply may be far more mercenary in their world view. Political machines with only a limited sense of identity, but a whole lot of investment in their career trajectory. Believers in a UK where the parochial ‘region’ of Scotland is a starting point, but the end game is in big lights elsewhere. Come hell or high water though, these politicians and their parties believe in a crown and parliamentary sovereignty. Worse in the case of the branch office management. The local franchise put the parliamentary sovereignty of the UK before the accepted popular sovereignty of Scottish tradition. Essentially they like the idea of the public servants telling you how the country will be run and only require your input once every five years to sign the cheques they write in your name. No change there then for the Conservatives, but as for signatories of the Claim of Right such as Labour or the Libdems?
Here’s the thing though. We live in a modern, western parliamentary democracy (such as it is) and as in any democracy, there exists a covenant between government and the people in its care. A party of government or system of government makes promises, pledges, assurances n’ such through manifestos. The electorate then vote yea or nay on these statements and the party/government of the day gets the opportunity to deliver. If said government does not live up to, or deliver on, the majority of those pledges then there are inevitable electoral ‘consequences’ for such failure. We do live in a democracy, yes? People do have an inalienable right in our democracy to expect that their governments honour their commitments to and their covenant with the population, right?
Now, you kind of expect that no party of government will live up to 100% of its pledges and assurances in any given election. Some will be pie in the sky wishful thinking, or simply poorly thought out and unworkable. Some will be overtaken by events and circumstances beyond the control of the party/government in question. Most, if the party are any good at the day job of governing (and they have any sense), will be kept. Such is day to day politics. How and ever we’re not talking about an election here. We’re talking about referendums past and future. We’re talking about systems of government and their covenant with their population, ALL of their population. So what should happen when there is a catastrophic failure to deliver on core pledges and assurances made to your population during a referendum?
Do the electorate say ‘c’est la vie’ and walk away? Do they say, ah well, their heart was in the right place, let’s just forgive and forget? Or and this may be more likely, do the electorate look for redress, for answers from those who led them to believe one thing, but delivered a significantly different other?
Maybe just me, but I reckon people do have somewhere to go with that last viewpoint.
The list of those failures to deliver on pledges and assurances made during Scotland’s 2014 indyref are pretty damning by this point and have been highlighted or catalogued extensively by this site and others over the past twenty three months, so I’m not going to bore people to death going over what is already common knowledge. I am however going to drop in a couple of links to what I consider some ‘must have’ reading on the subject and let the reader decide for themselves.
Almost two years ago 55% of our electorate voted to retain a political union based on a particular vision. Is there a significant percentage of that vote who believe in the UK experiment right or wrong? Who have no problem with their victory of two years ago? Absolutely, no question and that is, of course, their right.
How and ever, I don’t believe for an instant that 55% of the electorate were deceiving each other or anyone else on the future of the UK. I’d reckon that for many, their beliefs, their uncertainties and their votes were exploited and abused by those who led and backed that winning campaign. The UK they voted for, the Better Togetherness they helped campaign for, simply has not materialized. The state construct they helped to maintain and its system of party politics, is solely responsible for the current constitutional and economic crisis. It is also then surely responsible for the other pledges and assurances it made to Scotland’s population back in September 2014.
At the end of the day this isn’t wordplay in some political debate, a joust where clever semantics and faddling with figures scores points and wins a prize against an opponent. Oh and no, it’s not acceptable for some rent a quote MP to say ‘ well that’s politics’ either. This is our lives, our futures, our most basic rights and freedoms we’re talking about here and no policy wonk, no MP, no public SERVANT has the right to say to the population ‘thus far shall you come, but no farther’. If anyone sets the boundaries of a nation and its governance, it is the population of that nation and it is their right to hold their representatives and public servants to account. It is their right to hold them… to their word.
THAT, you would think, should be justification enough.
Audio version of this blog article, courtesy of @lumi_1984