Well now we know. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Westminster Parliament must have a voice on triggering Article 50 and starting the Brexit process, and that Theresa May cannot take us out of the EU and undo law and strip civil and legal rights without legislation. This is to be welcomed. But there was a less welcome message in the Supreme Court’s ruling. The British state has now achieved a legal ruling that in law, in fact, and in practice, Scotland isn’t an equal partner in a family of nations after all. The Sewell Convention which was written into the Scotland Act has no legal force, no meaning, and exists merely as window dressing to disguise Scotland’s powerlessness with nice words that have no effect.
Scotland isn’t a much loved and respected part of a Union whose voice must be heard and whose opinions and views must be taken into account. Scotland is in fact merely a region, a glorified county, a tartan ribbon making a pretty bow on the package of Britishness. Rejoice in your inferior status Scotland. Being British means Scotland is not a country and its status as a nation has no legal meaning. Welcome to monolithic Unionism where the monolith will crush all life and distinctiveness from you.
The Supreme Court has decided that the Westminster Parliament must have a vote on triggering Article 50, but when it comes to having a voice on major changes to the devolution settlement that could strip the Scottish Parliament of important rights and Scottish people of important rights, the law says that Scotland, along with Wales and Northern Ireland, can go screw itself. Your opinion, Scotland, is not required. If you look up the Sewell Convention in a dictionary of legal terms, you won’t find it.
We know now that when the Unionist parties swore that they were enshrining the permanency and powers of the Scottish Parliament into law, that it was just meaningless cant, a sleight of words to confuse and mislead, a deceit. The Supreme Court of the UK has ruled that a power devolved is a power retained by Westminster, and that Westminster needn’t even bother consulting Scotland if it decides to revoke or change those powers. The Scotland Bill is based on a lie and empty rhetoric than means nothing. It’s fine words to soothe but which have no meaning or force. The Sewell Convention is worthless verbiage whose purpose was to placate Scotland. We didn’t get the permanency of the Scottish Parliament, we got a carrot on a stick that forever remains out of reach, an unreachable treat to keep the donkey of Unionism on the road to submission.
We were promised that Scotland would get the most powerful devolved parliament in the world, but the unelected unrepresentative House of Lords, stuffed full of Tory and Labour party donors, rich businessmen, and Michelle Mone, has more say over devolution than the Scottish Parliament itself. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovenia, Croatia, all countries which have fewer people than Scotland, will have a seat at the table during Brexit negotiations and will infinitely more power over the future of Scotland than the people of Scotland themselves. Even the Belgian regions of Wallonia and Flanders have more power over Scotland’s future than Scotland does, because those regions have the legal right to veto any Brexit deal that they don’t like. Never mind not having a right to veto a deal that could cause immense damage to our economy and society, Scotland doesn’t even have the right to voice an opinion, doesn’t have the right to be consulted, doesn’t have the right to a say.
They told us we could have the nearest thing possible to federalism. But you can’t have federalism in a state where one of the members is larger than the rest combined and which believes that it has an inalienable right to impose its views on the others. If Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland cannot prevent England going down a particular path, but England can always drag the other three along with it irrespective of their own views, we are not talking about a Union. We’re talking about a state with its subordinate quasi-colonial possessions. That’s not what was on offer from the Better Together campaign back in 2014, but that’s what they have delivered. Scotland’s role in this so-called Union is to make Britain look diverse and mask the ugliness of English nationalism with a veneer of Britishness that English nationalists can use as a comfort blanket to tell themselves that their nationalism isn’t nationalist at all. And if you’re a Scottish Unionist, you’re helping them in their delusion, and you’re deluding yourself that you’re opposing nationalism when all you’re doing is to foster someone else’s.
This is not the Union that Scotland was promised in 2014 in return for a No vote. This is not the safety and security of EU membership they told us a No vote would achieve. This is not the Scotland which is a much loved and respected equal partner in the great project of Britishness. This is not the Scotland whose parliament and legal rights are enshrined permanently in legislation beyond the reach of capricious British governments which Scotland didn’t vote for. We are living in a bunting bedecked lie. They lied until they were red white and blue in the face. The only surprising thing is that the liars and cheats who drafted the infamous vow didn’t expect that they’d be found out so quickly. They sold us a lie. They sold us a cheat. They deceived, they dissembled. Democracy is dead if the people can be sold a lie and not have any redress. If the powerful cannot be held to account then the people are chattel. There must be another referendum.
The UK won’t respect Scotland. Their judges have ruled that there is no reason to grant Scotland respect, no reason to give Scotland a hearing. Today’s the day that Scotland’s No voters discovered that the UK is not a Union of equals after all, and they’ve only got their cognitive dissonance as a comfort. Scotland won’t get a voice in the UK, we know that now. The only way in which Scotland’s voice can be heard is to stop the pretence that Britain speaks for Scotland and to start to speak for ourselves. It’s time for a second independence referendum.
Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-24th-jan-2017
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