What happens next

On Sunday on the Marr show, Nicola Sturgeon stated the obvious. The case for independence is not affected by legal difficulties faced by any individual. If indeed it were the case that personal legal problems had constitutional implications, then given the number of legal issues which have been faced by British politicians, Westminster would be indistinguishable from a smouldering crater in the aftermath of a nuclear strike.  The only certainty in the British state these days is that almost everything is uncertain.

Nicola Sturgeon has reiterated her intention to provide some clarity about her plans for an independence vote in a few weeks’ time. I don’t know what Nicola is going to announce. I only know what I’d announce if I were the First Minister. Admittedly if I were First Minister there would be a whole lot more swearing and sarcasm in public life, so possibly it’s just as well that I’m not.

The polls are still not showing a clear and consistent majority for independence. They’re not going to until there is a clear and definite date for a vote, and an official campaign. Those of us who are politics geeks often make the mistake of assuming that everyone shares our interest. They don’t. Most people will not engage with the arguments about independence until they have a reason to. That reason can only be an upcoming vote on the topic. It’s only when an official campaign is in full swing that the polls will start to change.

The best method of getting an independence referendum in which everyone participates and the result of which is recognised and accepted by all parties is for the British Government to agree to a Section 30 order. It’s likely that when she does make her announcement the First Minister will renew her call to Theresa May to grant a Section 30 order in order to allow the referendum to go ahead. When this call was made previously, Theresa May rebuffed it, saying “Now is not the time.” When Nicola makes a renewed call, the times and circumstances will have changed.

It is not inconceivable that we will be facing a no deal Brexit. If a no deal Brexit is avoided, we may find ourselves being taken out of the EU on some version of Theresa May’s deal, taking Scotland out of the customs union and single market and ending freedom of movement. That is a hard Brexit by the definition used back when the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of another indepedence referendum. Brexiteers may wish to rewrite their definitions retrospectively, that doesn’t mean that Scotland should allow them to do so. Both a no deal Brexit or Theresa May’s hard Brexit were seen as unlikely, we now know that they’re frighteningly plausible. That’s a major change in circumstances compared to the situation back in the early months of 2017.

However it’s unlikely that the notoriously obdurate Theresa May will change her tune. Uncooked spaghetti is more flexible and less brittle. In her mind in her most perfect of unions, she has an absolute veto on whether the people of Scotland get to choose the form of government best suited to their needs. So while it’s important that the Scottish Government renews the call for Theresa May to grant a Section 30 order and respect the Scottish Claim of Right which the Westminster Parliament itself endorsed on 4 July 2018, it’s also important that it spells out the political consequences if Theresa May refuses to do so.

If Scotland is trapped in the UK and its future is subject to an absolute veto by a Prime Minister whose mandate derives from votes from elsewhere in the UK, then it is clear that Scotland is not in a union at all. It’s going to be very difficult for anti-independence parties to continue to argue that Scotland is freely and willingly a part of the UK when the British government refuses point blank to allow the people of Scotland to have a say on the very changed circumstances of the British state.

The British government should be given every opportunity to agree to a Section 30 order, but if I were the First Minister I’d give them a tight deadline. If Theresa May, or whoever is Prime Minister by then, is still refusing to grant a Section 30 order, then the Scottish government must start legal action in order to test the legality of a consultative referendum held without a Section 30 order. This need not, as certain anti-independence commentators are so keen to make out, be automatically outwith the competence of Holyrood. A consultative referendum would not impact upon reserved powers. It would remain for Westminster to act upon the outcome and give it legal effect. The effect of a consultative referendum would be political, not legal, and it would be very much within the spirit of the Scottish Claim of Right which Westminster has agreed to.

Should the court determine that a consultative referendum was indeed legal, the Scottish Parliament should press ahead with one. During the following campaign, independence campaigners will then be able to point to opponents who had sought to silence the people of Scotland and prevent them from having a say. This is why it’s very much in the interests of opponents of independence to agree to a Section 30 order. It’s the only way in which they will be able to maintain the fiction that Scotland is a partner in a union, and not trapped in a loveless marriage with a bullying partner who refuses to allow marriage guidance counselling, never mind a divorce.

However should the court rule that it was illegal, and the matter is likely to go to a UK Supreme Court in which Scottish judges are a minority, a court which has previously given the British government the benefit of any possible doubt, then it would be time for a Scottish plebiscite election. That could take place either during a Westminster General Election in Scotland, or during Holyrood elections, whether early or at the end of this Scottish Parliament in 2021.

If the Greens refuse to support the Scottish Government’s budget this week, there could be a Scottish election a lot sooner than 2021. It could be very soon indeed. If that happens and the Scottish government falls, there won’t be time to test a consultative independence referendum in the courts, we’ll be straight into an election. Nicola’s decision will have been made for her.

If it were up to me I’d go for a plebiscite election if there’s an early Holyrood vote, but I suspect Nicola Sturgeon will take a more measured and careful path.  However any coming election will be an election in which Brexit and Scotland’s response to it will be front and foremost. It will be an election in which the question of independence cannot be sidelined or avoided like the SNP tried to do in 2017. Do we want the continuing powerlessness of Scotland in this supposed union, or do we want a Scotland which is empowered and which has a meaningful voice. Do we want the passivity of Scotland in this so-called union, or a Scotland which is an agent in its own destiny. That is going to be the only issue. Evereything else is irrelevant, because everything else is at risk of destruction by the Tories’ insane clueless and chaotic Brexit. A win for pro-independence parties in an early election means an unarguable mandate for a Scottish people’s vote.

A continued refusal from Westminster to allow that Scottish people’s vote would destroy any pretence that the UK is a union, or even a democracy. Such a refusal should be followed immediately by either a consultative referendum or the dissolution of Holyrood and a plebiscite election.

When Nicola Sturgeon makes her announcement to the people of Scotland, she needs to make it clear that one way or another, the people of Scotland will get a legal vote on Brexit and on Scotland’s place within this so-called union. Theresa May does not have a veto on Scotland’s future.

Buckle up. We’re in for a bumpy ride.


 

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42 comments on “What happens next

  1. […] Wee Ginger Dug What happens next On Sunday on the Marr show, Nicola Sturgeon stated the obvious. The case for […]

  2. Illy says:

    I’d forgotten that the Claim of Right “debate” was on the 4th of July.

    Who was it who picked that date?

    “If it were up to me I’d go for a plebiscite election if there’s an early Holyrood vote, but I suspect Nicola Sturgeon will take a more measured and careful path.”

    I’m completely with you on that, and I hope things go according to her plan.

    I also hate holding my tongue on things that I’ve figured out that T.May would legislate against.

    Keeping secrets (especially good news) because someone will shit in your lunch *really* sucks.

    • The claim of rights was only passed in July 2018, without a vote against, because the English parliament Claimed sovereignty from the reigning monarch before the treaty of union. According to the treaty, the claim of rights of both Scotland and England could not be altered.

  3. ScotsCanuck says:

    …. totally nailed it, Paul … 100% … Nicola has been keeping the “powder” dry until we see the break … it’s just about here …. for the folk who live in Scotland, the choice is Black or White … continuity with our Cousins in Europe … or isolation with the “Empire”

  4. Janet says:

    …so the Yoon parties might actually have to support the Nat budget, if only to avoid a Scottish election at which indy becomes the issue. Interesting times.

  5. Derick fae Yell says:

    Spot on.

    My money is on Westminster 2022

  6. CATHY says:

    Brilliant post! Am annoyed that the Greens are having a wee stooshie over the budget at this really crucial time….I wonder if Nicola has had this at the back of her mind and not just Brexit. As you said May is more brittle than spaghetti and I can’t see her agreeing to Indyref….interesting and exciting times!

    • Douglas says:

      Don’t think it’s a bad thing at this moment for the Greens to flex their muscle.
      Normally I get a bit fed up with Greens playing games and Scottish Government ‘falling’ would be a bad thing but this is a case of ‘go ahead and make my day’

  7. Marnie says:

    If May refuses a referendum on independence why not have a referendum on Scotland’s right to have a second independance referendum.
    The Scottish government would dictate the terms and the phrasing of the question.
    It would kick start the national conversation about independence engaging the non political
    This would bypass a biased UK Supreme Court.

    • Illy says:

      Oh gods not asking if we can ask again.

      We have the right. If May refuses a S.30 then we just hold a Holyrood election, and the SNP stand on a manifesto of “Take Scotland Independent”, and nothing else.

  8. Brian Powell says:

    Labour, Tories, LibDems do not recognise the UK as a Union, they see only Westminster as a the Parliament.
    It would be good to challenge them to state this clearly. I see them as the pudding faces, it is their response when asked difficult questions in Holyrood: blank, slabfaced puddings.

  9. Movy says:

    Is there truly no way this can be challenged through the Act of Union? Either we’re in a Union of equals, or we’re not. The 1707 Act has been broken many times. Is there no way that can be used if the Section 30 order is refused??? And, PS, I am very annoyed with the Greens. This is not the time for this. And, like Brian, pudding faces indeed!

  10. ‘Why is a raven like a writing desk?’ the Hatter asks Alice.
    The analogy with ‘Groundhog Day is referenced often over the past few months in relation to the interminable Brexit conundrum.
    I have a sense that comparing Westminster and Brexit to the Hatter’s Tea party in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is more apposite.
    May is the ‘Mad ‘ Hatter, whose watch is stopped at 6 o’ clock in the evening (teatime) because the Queen of Hearts (The Right Wing English Oligarchy and their Anglo Branch Up Here) ordered time to stop accusing the Hatter of ‘murdering time’ by singing an awful song.
    Hatters in Victorian times suffered from neurological illnesses through a combination of the use of mercury and poorly paid poverty inducing malnourishment.
    It is the Cheshire Cat who observes that the Hatter and the March Hare, in our analogy, Corbyn The Fence sitter, holding the interminable Tea Party are ‘both mad’.

    “… in a conversation between ….Alice and the Cheshire Cat, when she asks “what sort of people live about here?” to which the cat replies “in that direction lives a Hatter, and in that direction, lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad!”

    I suggest that Jacob Rees Mogg is Brexit’s Cheshire Cat, smiling inanely and disappearing when it suits him.
    So May and Corbyn have ‘murdered time’ and are now stuck in a perpetual bun fight, where there is no answer provided to the riddle:- ” Why is a raven like the backstop?’

    The slumbering Dormouse at the Tea Party is WM, napping its way to No Deal Eurmageddon for England and poor hapless Wales, and the Reunification of Ireland and Scottish independence.
    It may be noted that as Alice quits the Tea Party in frustration at the Mad Hatter’s insistence in personifying ‘time’, referring to ‘it’ as ‘he’, the March Hare and the Hatter are attempting to stuff the Dormouse into the teapot, rather like May and her Brit Nat zealots are still trying to do to The Palace of Westminster.

    The Madness of England, The Tribe That Lost Its Head.
    Even today the English politicians refuse to accept that they have ‘murdered time’.
    We are within 60 days of calamity and they are still peddling the notion that if Parliament backed May’s deal with the backstop removed, the EU would ‘blink’ because the English MPs would accept May’s revised Withdrawal Agreement and throw Ireland to the wolves.

    Paul sets out very eloquently where we are now, and the narrowing set of options left if we are to avoid the Madness of May’s Tea Party.

    The English will not ‘allow’ a second Indyref vote, ever.

    We cannot wait until 2021, when it is argued, scots will be so pissed off with Kentucky Scotch, steroid beef, and thousnads of job losses and prices skyrocketing as the carpetbaggers make a ‘killing’.

    Either we set fire to the grouse moors, or we go ahead and hold a plebiscite without our colonial masters’ ‘permission’.
    For me, it is as stark as that.
    I look forward to NS’ statement, which will be delivered before ‘Mad’ March if her Marr appearance yesterday is a step to a hint.

    We grasp the thistle, not the coat tails of the English as they head off into the political, economic and social wilderness in just two months time.

    ‘Why is the raven like a writing desk?’ is never solved in Alice’s Adventures.

    Was it because Edgar Allan Poe ‘wrote on’ a Raven, and ‘wrote on’ a writing Desk?
    Answers on a post card to WM Whitehall.

    Is Lewis Carrol England’s Nostradamus?
    Did he foretell Brexit?

    The plot thins.

  11. Macart says:

    I do get that they’re doing what they think is right by their ethics and motivation. How and ever, it makes no sense for the Greens to be doing this right now. No amount of budget shuffling or negotiation is going to prevent the economic damage of Brexit. It’s going to be catastrophic on a scale few alive in the UK could imagine. As for the constitutional damage inflicted by Westminster, the endangering of an international peace treaty, the devolution settlement, the plans to review workers and human rights? Their actions won’t give Westminster government a seconds pause.

    So…(shrugs in frustrated puzzlement). 😥

    I s’pose it’s par for the course in politics about now right enough.

    • It’s the ‘James Cagney’ effect, Sam.
      Many of us have encountered this in real life.
      The pint sized drunk in the pub squaring up to the Big Guy demanding to know what the F he’s looking at?
      The Greens are at best a small peripheral political niche, who find themselves in a DUP position of contrariness.
      It is getting their name in the Dead Tree Scrolls, after all.
      The Red Blue and Yellow Tories will not vote for Christmas and play along with Harvie’s ridiculous strategy to scupper McKay’s budget and precipitate a SGE

      The List MSPs will not risk their £1200 a week plus exes for sitting on their generous arses at Holyrood doing and saying nothing, to further the Scottish Green’s curious agenda of disruption on the Eve of Destruction of the English Oligarchy.
      The Red Tories will abstain, and the Yellow Tories will back the budget.

      For the life of me, I cannot fathom the thinking of our wee clutch of Green MSPs.

      Scotland is fighting for its life, yet they behave like cantankerous back bench councillors.

      What will it take? Pharmacies running out of medicine, looting in Lidl’s or tanks in George Square?
      I exhort the Greens to wake up and smell the GM roast Java.

      • Macart says:

        I have a lot of respect for Mr Wightman, but this is crazy with so few weeks remaining till Brexit hits and no one knowing which way Westminster government will screw up next. A devolved budget for the years ahead is simply laughable at this point and current arguments over its dispersal even more so.

        Scotland’s parliament, now more than ever, need to display as united a front as possible. Put aside party politics and say (LOUD AND CLEAR) ‘We have a different way forward’.

        • Sam, I do not dispute that the policies followed by the Green Party are laudable; they are.
          It’s their political nous which I challenge.
          It is just plain crazy to create schism at this time.
          The only way to resolve adequate LA funding is through Independence.
          Our Government needs FFA NOW,
          Our own money kept here, to spend on what’s right for Scotland; not HS2 WMD London Crossrail London Sewers or another runway at Heathrow or Gatwick or Luton.
          I suggest that the Scottish Greens just don’t get the Big Picture,, is all.

          • Macart says:

            I despair of them sometimes Jack.

            • Jan Cowan says:

              Strange. Wightman always appeared to be a trustworthy politician, so I just don’t understand his game at the moment. Perhaps he has some especially clever move up his sleeve. I hope so. Otherwise extremely disappointing.

              • Douglas says:

                As I said earlier on a different thread, this is actually one of the few times that it is helpful for the Greens to flex their muscle. Normally it would be a bad thing for SG budget to be voted down but it might be helpful (for all the reasons outlined by Paul) for an election to be forced.

  12. Grafter says:

    The “Greens”. What are they all about ? Same as “Liberals”. Yet another political distraction leading us away from the path of independence. We are not being heard above the continuous Brexit bombardment and the will of the “British People” as espoused by the corrupt MSM and the BBC. We need to get off our backsides and take the initiative. Here is what is happening in France which will never be mentioned by the BBC and MSM in this country,

    https://off-guardian.org/2019/01/27/the-gilet-jaune-and-france-profound/

  13. Millsy says:

    What do we want ? An independence referendum

    When do want it ? Before we all disappear down the Brexit plughole !

  14. Heilan Coo says:

    The plebiscite election option is intruiging, but I’m wary of how that would work with the Hollywood single transferable vote setup. We’d probably all agree that this system was instantiated deliberately to prevent the SNP ever achieving a majority but I’m not clear how this could be used in the case of a plebiscite election, *and* make the result clear and undeniable to everyone.

    Do we simply go by number of MSPs elected? Does that include the list MSPs like rubber faced Murdo Fraser (he’d lose again, obviously but still get a seat) and squinty mooth Adam Tompkins – and does that really give a clear and/or fair indication of what would be a (presumably) binary issue?

  15. John McLeod says:

    Paul – thanks for this article, which lays out the issues very clearly. It seems to me that one of the implications of your analysis is that it is highly desirable for the First Minister to make an announcement right now, based on the following factors: 1. The Scottish Government has an electoral mandate to call an independence referendum if the UK government takes any action that might comprise a material change to the existing devolution settlement. 2. Both the “no deal” and “May deal” options represent such a change. 3. If either of them is enacted, then the SG will seek appropriate legal approval to initiate an independence referendum. The implication is that an alternative arrangement with the EU (e.g. some kind of Norway-type deal) would not be comprise sufficient grounds for a referendum at this time. Obviously, such an announcement could be made later, for example the day after UK leaves the EU. However, making such an announcement now is more transparent in terms of making it clear to the public (and MPs) about the consequences of the various pathways open to the UK government. At a pragmatic level, it may be that the UK is in a state of chaos immediately after it leaves the UK, and that any such announcement at that time might be viewed as a panic response, lost in the noise, or a distraction from the core tasks of feeding the population and keeping it safe and healthy.

  16. Ken Clark says:

    Neat summing up of our situation, Paul.

    Every future election will be fought as a constitutional plebiscite. The 2016 general election was framed as such by the unionist cabal. They lost.

    A fact conveniently overlooked by May during her arrogant reply to Ian Blackford at last week’s PMQs.

    The “we” voted to leave mantra from our southern neighbours, along with the clamour for English independence is royally pissing a lot of Scots off.

    I don’t anticipate much in the way of love bombing next time. As you rightly caution, buckle up.

    • Tanks the next time, Ken.
      They’ll manufactures ‘civil unrest’ Up Here.
      Project Fear II would be laughed at.
      They’ll revert to Imperial type and pit Scot and Scot.

      • Ken Clark says:

        I wouldn’t put anything past them, Jack.

        London has no doubt taken confidence from a lack of concerted international condemnation of Madrid’s treatment of Catalonia.

        Given the rampant stupidity on display daily from our imperial masters, they may take that as a green light to do what the hell they like up here.

        The rude 21st century awakening they are experiencing at present will be as nothing should they repeat 1919’s action in present-day Scotland.

    • Robert Harrison says:

      Let them throw there hate you’ll all see the supremacist bs I had to grow up with in England that infects the southerners like a disease for yourselfs and make it so easy to get independence.

  17. grizebard says:

    Strictly speaking, post-2014, the SG has not yet formally made any S.30 request to UKGov. In the Spring of 2017, Nicola signalled her intention to do so, and May responded with her notorious “now is not the time”, but the formal request was overtaken by the ensuing snap UKGE. (Possibly not entirely unconnected.)

    So while we have had a lot of BritNat bluster in that election and since, it is pure bluff. It could be very tricky for May to reject a formal request once it has been made, both constitutionally and politically.

    And it must be done soon. Marking time for a pointless UKGE in several years’ time, where even an unlikely “full score” of SNP MPs would still leave us totally at the mercy of English dominance, is not merely stupid, it’s criminally stupid. (Or worse.)

  18. Alex says:

    Marnie and Movy and the rest of you would you PLEASE read Craig
    Murray’s ” The Scottish Government Does Have the Right to Withdraw
    from the Act of Union.”
    It truly is worth the read and he was a former ambassador so he knows
    what he is talking about

  19. grumpydubai says:

    WGD,

    So much of what you say needs to get out to our fellow Countrywomen and men but I particularly think the following paragraph by you is particularly succinct and important:

    ‘If Scotland is trapped in the UK and its future is subject to an absolute veto by a Prime Minister whose mandate derives from votes from elsewhere in the UK, then it is clear that Scotland is not in a union at all. It’s going to be very difficult for anti-independence parties to continue to argue that Scotland is freely and willingly a part of the UK when the British government refuses point blank to allow the people of Scotland to have a say on the very changed circumstances of the British state.’

    Thank you.

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