The cleverness of the referendum bill


The Scottish Government has published its referendums bill, and as Andrew Tickell points out in The National, it makes for some very interesting reading.

I’ve always been wary of an independence referendum without a Section 30 order because of the risk that it would be boycotted by the anti-independence parties. This is despite the fact that there are, as Andrew Tickell pointed out, legal arguments both for and against an independence referendum without a Section 30 order. Right now the likes of Ruth Davidson and her pals in the press assert it would be illegal, but the truth is that we don’t actually know whether it would be illegal because the matter has never been tested in the courts. Until such time as it is tested in the courts and there is a definitive legal ruling, anyone who asserts that an independence referendum without a Section 30 order would be illegal is not presenting you with a fact, they’re offering you a political opinion.

However since it’s always been thought that any legal challenge would go directly to the UK Supreme Court, any legal challenge to an Independence Referendum Act passed by Holyrood would have been dealt with in pretty short order. The Scotland Act contains a provision allowing the UK Government to take objections by UK Government ministers to Acts of the Scottish Parliament directly to the UK Supreme Court, by-passing the Scottish courts.

So it has always been assumed by the anti-independence parties and the British Government that they could fast-track their legal objections to another Scottish independence referendum and have them dealt with immediately in the UK Supreme Court, a court which has a majority of English judges who have shown in the past that they tend to side with the British Government concerning devolved issues. That provision meant that it was considered by many to be more likely than not that an independence referendum without a Section 30 order would be found to be illegal. After all, Scotland would be arguing its case in a court composed mostly of judges schooled in English law who have no sympathy with or understanding of the Scottish doctrine of popular sovereignty.

This picture has now changed radically thanks to the new referendum bill. The beauty of the construction of the Scottish Government’s referendum bill is that it makes legal challenges to an independence referendum far more difficult. The bill deals with general provisions for holding referendums, it’s not specifically about an independence referendum. In fact the phrase independence referendum doesn’t appear anywhere in the bill. The provisions in this bill apply equally to local referendums on parking charges, congestion charges, or any other topic.

One notable provision that it establishes is that all UK, EU, and Commonwealth citizens resident in Scotland aged 16 or over will be eligible to vote. It also ensures that the framing of the question will be for the Scottish Parliament to decide, subject to consultation with the Electoral Commission. This reduces the risk of biased interference from a Westminster which would seek to restrict the franchise or pose the question in a way which slants it towards opposition to independence, as Scotland in Union are prone to doing in their opinion polls.

As it is framed, this referendums bill is clearly within the competence of Holyrood and cannot be challenged as dealing with matters reserved to Westminster. The Tories can gnash, wail, complain, and do their pouty thing, but there is nothing in this bill that allows them to challenge it legally. The SNP and the Greens have a clear majority in Holyrood, and this bill is going to pass. There’s nothing Ruth Davidson, Wullie Rennie, or whoever is the leader of Labour in Scotland next week can do to stop it.

That’s a clever piece of legislative sleight of hand, but it’s not the really clever bit. The really clever bit is that having established a general framework for the holding of referendums the bill authorises Scottish ministers to proceed with a referendum subject only to a majority vote in Holyrood. That’s significant because decisions by Scottish ministers which Westminster objects to are not liable to immediate transferral to the UK Supreme Court. Objections to ministerial decisions have to be dealt with by the Scottish courts and make their way through the Scottish legal system.

This bill does not negate the need for a Section 30 order for Scotland to have an independence referendum which can’t be legally challenged by the anti-independence parties, but crucially it makes a legal challenge by the Westminster Government far more difficult. The anti-independence parties can no longer rely upon an immediate referral to the UK Supreme Court, now they will have to go all the way through the Scottish legal process. We saw with the ruling on the revocation of Article 50 that the Scottish courts are less likely to automatically rule in favour of Westminster than the UK Supreme Court is. And just as it did during that particular case, if a Scottish court found against the British Government, it is not impossible that it could refuse to allow the British Government to take the matter further to the UK Supreme Court.

However the really important effect of this bill isn’t legal, it’s political. This bill introduces significant political obstacles for opponents of independence because should a Scottish court rule in favour of the Scottish Government, but the British Government then appeals to the UK Supreme Court, they will be seen to be overruling not just Holyrood but also the Scottish legal system. There will be a political outcry in Scotland should a Scottish court rule in favour of the Scottish Government, only for the British Government to seek to overrule that in a court composed largely of English judges. It raises the important political question of the independence of the Scottish legal system which was supposed to have been guaranteed by the Treaty of Union. Westminster then runs the significant risk of being seen to break the spirit of that Treaty. That won’t play well as opponents of independence seek to persuade Scotland that it’s a valued partner in a family of nations.

What the referendum bill does is to immensely strengthen the hand of the Scottish Government in negotiations with the British Government for a Section 30 order. It removes the arrogant assumption of the British Government that it would immediately be able to refer a unilateral Scottish decision to proceed to a referendum to a friendly court and have it overturned. Instead it makes the legal process far lengthier, far less predictable, and far more likely to produce an outcome unfavourable to the British Government. It significantly increases the pressure on whoever is Prime Minister to accede to a Section 30 order or to risk losing any semblance of control over the process.

Crucially, this bill makes a consultative referendum without a Section 30 order a far more realistic prospect, because if a Scottish court rules that it’s legal, then the anti-independence parties have no principled grounds for boycotting it. The bill has crowbarred open another route to an independence referendum in the teeth of the objections of Tory leadership candidates.

Most importantly of all, this bill establishes the principle that it’s for the people of Scotland and their elected representatives to decide when and if Scotland gets a say on its future. We don’t need Sajid Javid’s or any other Tory’s permission.

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53 comments on “The cleverness of the referendum bill

  1. weegingerdug says:

    Just a wee note for people whose comments take a while to get authorised. WordPress has changed how it notifies me of comments needing to be authorised, so I don’t see them as clearly as I did before. That means I’ve missed some and they’ve consequently taken longer to appear. My apologies.

  2. JSM says:

    Reblogged this on Ramblings of a 50+ Female.

  3. Kate Meyer says:

    I read Andrew Trickle’s accounts of this in the National today. However the dug explains it more simply – a section 30 will not be needed for another referendum on Scot independence. Let’s see how this plays out.

    xxx Kate xxx


  4. fairliered says:

    You’ve burst ma baw!
    Savid Javid

  5. Graham says:

    I was so delighted to read this that l gladly made a donation for your thoughtful and insightful article. Many thanks for your efforts!

  6. Anne says:

    I hope you lot asked for permission tae make comments on here. #PermissionFromSajid

  7. annraynet says:

    Fantastic analysis by the dug (and Paul) and also to those who came up with this plan. We’re on our way to Independence.

  8. Robert Harrison says:

    I see the British nationalists have stopped calling nicola sturgeon a chicken in calling indyref2 now the torys are fumming and now English supremacists cons are trying to dictate terms because the snp pulled the rug from under them only thing that could top this is independence and voting for our frist independent Scottish government with no English of Westminster thinking they can dictate to us ever again.

  9. heathermclean19 says:

    Thanks for this clear, concise and simplified explanation of the bill, in language everyone can understand. Well done again for your brilliant analysis!
    Sajid and co will be raging, hahahaha!

  10. alisonscot says:

    I read Andrew Tickell’s explanation of the bill this morning and couldn’t quite get what he was on about but your article makes it totally understandable. Thank you, Paul.

  11. Macart says:

    Ayup! You can see why they’ve come over all stressed right enough. 😉

  12. Welsh Sion says:

    Here’s something we’re towards:

    57. (of 60.)

    Scott, Dr Sturgeon and Indyref Two Gel

    Scott walked into his doctor’s surgery in the town of Essennpee. He was a little anxious but he had been feeling a pain in his right shoulder for some time and thought it best to visit his doctor. Dr. Sturgeon had quite a reputation for treating various ailments in town and was always ready to listen to her patients.

    “If anyone can cure my pain,” thought Scott. “It will be Dr. Sturgeon.”

    Scott then, like all the good townsfolk of Essennpee, felt he could trust Dr. Sturgeon and she would be able to help alleviate his pain.

    “And what seems to be the problem today, Scott?” asked Dr. Sturgeon, when his turn came.

    The good doctor always adopted a very friendly manner and her patients were happy to be called by their first names.This did not diminish in any way from Dr. Sturgeon’s exemplary professional conduct.

    “Well,” replied Scott. “It’s just that I’ve been having this awful pain on my right shoulder. I think part of the affected area is inflamed and is causing me agony on a daily basis. I thought it right to come and see you about it.”

    He grimaced at the doctor. Dr. Sturgeon returned Scott’s smile.

    “Let me see if I can help you,” she said. “Please take off your shirt and I’ll examine you.”

    Scott did as he was asked and Dr. Sturgeon bent down to look at the shoulder. She noticed a large red, white and blue patch on the skin. Dr. Sturgeon frowned.

    “Hmmm. Just as I thought, really”, she said. “You have a very unpleasant case of Unionitis there, Scott. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s of the Mundellis Vulgaris strain. A lot of people are suffering from that at the moment.” She smiled, almost wistfully. “Too many, in fact.”

    “I’ve heard of that,” said Scott. He paused. “Is there any cure?” he added fearfully.

    “Unionitis is a strong and persistent condition,” replied Dr. Sturgeon. “I’ve seen it in many of my patients and in some cases it can indeed prove to be intractable. I’m sure you’re familiar with our neighbouring town of Larkhall?”

    Scott nodded. Larkhall had a reputation and any sensible inhabitant of Essennpee always gave the place a wide berth. Not for nothing was it known as “Orange County.”

    “I’ve seen patients from there – and even beyond. They’re suffering from a particularly bad strain of Unionitis,” went on Dr. Sturgeon solemnly. “In fact, some are absolutely covered in a malignant blue rash. This form of Unionitis, which we in the medical profession have identified as being of the R. Davidsonii variety, is particularly worrisome. It is also an awful irritant to those suffering from it. Sometimes, it is so ingrained nothing works to remove it.”

    She was silent for a while and the tension in the room bore down heavily on Scott.

    “But what about me?” he asked nervously.

    “Well, your case of Unionitis is not so well-advanced,” replied Dr. Sturgeon. I’m pleased to tell you that I can prescribe something for you.” She was smiling.

    Scott couldn’t resist returning her smile and sighing a deep sigh of relief.

    “Oh, thank you. Thank you, Dr. Sturgeon!” he gushed. “What are you going to prescribe?”

    “I have the very thing,” smiled the doctor.

    She wrote on her prescription pad. Then she handed the paper to Scott.

    “I’m recommending that you apply this Indyref Two Gel to the affected areas. Apply it first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I can assure you that Indyref Two Gel will work wonders on your Unionitis and that the irritation will clear up in a pretty short time. The pain will also go and you will be left with unblemished skin when the red, white and blue stain disappears.”

    Scott couldn’t thank Dr. Sturgeon enough.

    “You’ve made my day, doctor,” he beamed. “I’m going to the nearest pharmacy as soon as possible to get my prescription and apply Indyref Two Gel to my affected areas. You really are a marvellous doctor! I’m going to recommend you to all my friends, too!”

    “And thank you, Scott for your confidence in me,” replied Dr Sturgeon. “But you see, it’s not really me,” she added modestly. “It was really down to you coming to see me about your painful affliction. I am, as a doctor, only a facilitator in helping my patients get over their aches and pains.”

    “I can’t thank you enough though, doctor.” Scott smiled. “I want to get over this Unionitis as soon as possible – and I’m sure the good citizens of Essennpee do too. No more Mundellis Vulgaris! You can keep your R. Davidsonii! Oh, what a wonderful day that will be!”

    “Go forth, my friend,” smiled Dr Sturgeon. “Go, and tell your fellow citizens suffering from Unionitis that they too can be free of it by applying Indyref Two Gel to their afflicted areas. Tell them that as you will feel far better as a result of taking it, that they can too. Face the future with confidence without pain, rashes and nasty irritants.”

    “You can be sure I will,” replied Scott, beaming from ear to ear.

    And with that, he strolled out of Dr. Sturgeon’s surgery into the sunshine.

    Parables for the New Politics

    • Cubby says:

      Excellent story Welsh Sion.

    • Macart says:

      Neatly done.

      “It was really down to you coming to see me about your painful affliction. I am, as a doctor, only a facilitator in helping my patients get over their aches and pains.”

      READ between the lines folks. Popular sovereignty. The Claim of Right. NOT serving suggestions.

  13. Ronald Gillies says:

    I really enjoy your essays. And that’s my comment.

  14. I know that I shouldn’t have but I dipped in to QT tonight.
    From Epsom, there was a question on English Uni Tuition Fees.

    Jo Swinson, speaking in that tortured Anglo accent she adopts on ‘nationwide’ TV, coyly announced that she was standing for the leadership of the Beige Tories, and you can’t get any more beige than this lass. (Can I say ‘lass’? Yes, I can, I’m an old curmudgeon in my seventh decade, so there.)

    Now Ms Beige mentioned in passing that she represented a constituency in Scotland, and almost muttered under her breath that we don’t have tuition fees in Scotland, but blurted over this one would have thought a relevant fact in a tuition fees debate, by arguing that as 80% of her constituents out Bearsden and Milngavie way went to Uni (not true btw), only 4% of youngsters in Glasgow received tertiary education (again not true), presumably arguing that access to Uni with no student debt at the end of it wasn’t a factor in University take up.
    Fiona Bruce, chairperson, fell silent, as did the audience, with no one in the room asking, if Scotland can do it, why can’t England?

    Or even more poignantly, how could Swinson be the Leader of the UK Beiges, when she represented a Scots constituency, with a different Education, Health, Law and Order programme?

    EVEL would apply to all things Educational surely, therefore she would be barred from Beige Tory Policy making; a leader who had to leave the room when police numbers, nurse and doctor training, and classroom ratios were being discussed.

    The East Dunbartonshire Question?

    You could taste the deadly silence in the room.
    That horrible EssEnnPee and their freebies.

    Barrie Gardiner, who must be the biggest waffle in the Red Tory ranks, and believe me, that takes some doing, mused, do not ask what England can do for you, but what you can do for England, and Rory Middle Britain Stewart mused ‘all we need is love’ when asked by the audience why everybody was so angry all the time.

    England is another country now.

    Swinson will be turfed out at the next GE or Independence Day, whichever comes first.

    An American Harvard neuroscientist with an wiry unkempt Einstein mop of white hair, opined that compared with an annual tuition fees of $37,000 in the US ,England’s £82,000 Tuition Fee debt per student, or £150,000 to train as a pilot, was a ‘bargain’.

    The cultural, societal, and political gap between Scotland and England has never been wider.
    We ask no one’s ‘permission’ to mount a Self Determination campaign.

    Not one person spoke up for cancelling fees all together; US ‘college fees’ are now the accepted norm in Fantasy Island England.
    How can Brit Nats Up Here justify denying their fellow Scots the Claim of Right to decide their own fate.
    Do Davidson Findlay Leonard sincerely believe that their loyalties are to the QT audience tonight, or the people of Scotland, whom they are getting paid to serve?

    There is no going back.
    We have virtually nothing in common with our neighbours to the South now.

    • Dave tewart says:

      Yes Jack
      Just to confirm the pilot’s training costs. VAT is charged on these courses at 20%.
      Early this year Hammond said he would look into removing the VAT charged on pilot training courses, yes they charge VAT on this.
      Of course we hear nothing more of the LOOKING INTO, Just a sound bite and move on.
      Your quote of an American can be explained as ‘They don’t have VAT or Sales Tax in some States’ and as fuel is costed in US dollars, linked to the Petro Dollar, courses are much cheaper in some US states, not all.
      Currently AVgas in the USA is priced at $3 a US gallon, approx 4 litres, in the rUK it is £2 a litre.
      Fuel is a large part of the actual flying part of the course, eventually the pilot has to fly a real aircraft after being trained on full motion simulators, still charged VAT by the hour.
      Education is the gift of all us oldies to the upcoming generation and should be free at the point of uptake. Pilot training should be at the very least VAT free for the education part, vat on the fuel part can be discounted in the courses, IF you want your pilot to be familiar with actually flying in the AIR and not a simulator.

      • Thanks for this, Dave.
        Your expertise and knowledge here is priceless.
        I’ve just been ‘deleted’ for a BTL comment over on the Scotsman for challenging the writer’s assertion that Scotland rejected Trump because we were ‘Presbyterian Scotland.

        I quoted from The COS’ own figures, 325,695 in 2018, down 14% from 380,164 in 2014, which, in a population of 5.4 million Scots, 51% of whom described themselves as having no religion at all at the last census, hardly justifies the ‘Presbyterian Scotland’ description.
        We are not a ‘Protestant Country’ as is often declared on TV and in the Dead Tree Scrolls. Far from it.

        I also mentioned Swinson’s 4% Uni Take Up in Govan lie on QT from Epsom last night (it’s 22.8%) and was promptly ‘deleted’ by the Britsman.
        God save us from the Unseen Hand and corrupt influence of religions.
        The Scandal of Nazareth House shames us all, but especially the ‘dog collars’.
        Decades of Cover Up by the Establishment; clerics, politicians, Law Lords…
        It’s time to hose out the stables.

        • No sooner do I click on the Guardian, than I read this:-

          “A Labour peer claimed almost £50,000 in attendance and travel expenses covering every single day the House of Lords was sitting last year, despite never speaking or asking any written questions, a Guardian investigation reveals.

          The former trade union general secretary David Brookman was among dozens of other lords and baronesses who never took part in a single debate, while almost a third of the 800 peers barely participated in parliamentary business over a 12-month period despite costing almost £3.2m in allowances.”

          Why in the name of all that’s holy is any Scots citizen prepared to put up with this, and Food and Aaron Banks and the Rape Clause, and Dick Leonard?
          Rise up, Scotland.
          It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven?
          Hose out the stables.

          ‘ I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take any more’.
          WE are done being taken for mugs.

          • It makes my blood boil. Unlimited feeding at the public trough for no public service. It is made all the worse when it is people who should know what it is like to work all your life and come out of it with a pittance of a State Pension, and even then have it snatched away at no notice. What happened to the Labour promises to ‘reform’ the House of Scroungers’. Were they too busy collecting the ermine themselves? INDEPENDENCE asap.

        • Illy says:

          Isn’t Scotland “traditionally” Catholic?

  15. ArtyHetty says:

    Fabulous article thanks.

    re; Jack collatin@12.29am, Jack I think you meant to say £8,200 re Eng tuition fees. But anyway, in fact, students in England keave with far more debt than that,
    it’s per year for a start,and with student loans etc, they can be in debt by as much as £50k at the end of their studies. My cousin’s children have friends with that kind of debt due to studying, in England. Now, £50k is not a tiny sum. It’s not going to get you a good credit score, and, eventually will be called in. No mortgage for anyone with that kind of debt.

    Remember the Tories sold some old student loans off to debt companies a few years ago. Debt companies don’t keave people akone. There are some Tories who even have at least part ownership in businesses like debt companies.

    For poor students to leave uni with such huge debt, well, it can’t be good to have that hanging over you, so no doubt many just forego a university education.

    Nurses bursaries were also scrapped in England, part of a nurses training is working while studying, so they are going into debt to work effectively.

    In Scotland the SNP GOV have retained the nurses bursary, thank goodness.

    Imagine if a Britnat party was at the helm at Holyrood now? They would destroy Scotland, they would remove nurses bursaries, they would impose tuition fees,
    and they would privatise the NHS, and Scottish Water, just for starters. It’s a very chilling thought indeed!

    • Illy says:

      Here’s some questions to chill your bones even more:

      What is the difference between Slaves and Indentured Servants when you can never pay off your debt?

      Does anyone think that the majority of people will be able to pay off these student loans?

      The “jobcenter” has become a “send you to a privatised workhouse” center.

      They’re bringing slavery back into the mainstream 😦

  16. Sorry, ArtyH, I was quoting one of the audience member’s figures: £82,000 was the total debt upon graduating in her case.

    The Red Blue and Beige Tories are for the Few, not the Many, hence their constant litany of lies about being champions of the Just About Managing, and ‘the Many’.
    Lord McConnell, Lord, Reid, Lord Foulkes, Lord Forsyth, Lord Campbell, Lord Darling, Baroness Goldie, Lord oh Lord, shysters who have made an indecent living out of keeping the Great Unwashed in their place.
    What this country doesn’t need is to become part of Old England, the 51st state of the US.
    You never see a poor Brit Nat Politician, do you?
    We are on the brink of an actual revolution, yet wee chubby cheeks and her old bools in the mooth florid face co pilot, and Jo the Beige Mist, seem to believe that we Scots should just lie down to English Domination, and play their perverted ‘democratic’ numbers game.
    There are more of us Down Here so get back behind the barbed wire.
    Over my dead body…
    Swinson can never be Leader of a UK Party, and I’m sure Ed Davey, true English yeoman, will rub this in at the hustings.
    Swinson’s constituents are Scottish, and therefore protected by the Scottish Parliament from Swinson’s destruction of civil society Down There.
    She lied in a panic last night on QT, and I wonder how she will face the good folk of Dunbartonshire as England attempt to drag them out of Europe against their will.
    They must be a clever lot, what with 80% going to Uni, ‘n’at.
    She demands a second Referendum, but not That Second Referendum…who gives a feck about the Scots electorate? certainly not the Beige Miss.
    On QT there was a frozen silence when free tuition in Scotland reared its awkward head, and Swinson’s lies and bluster showed her up in her true colours: Tory through and through, with a Nick Clegg U Turn Beige tint of treachery.
    They’d sell their mothers for money and power.

  17. deelsdugs says:

    Excellent explanation Paul. I had caught the gist of most of it, but smoothed out now.

    Onto tuition fees:

    I had the biased broadcasting radio on at noon time yesterday and there was a 30 yr old (I think) southerner talking about how she had put herself through uni, worked full time throughout, graduated, and then ‘started work’. And that tuition fees need to be in place as higher education should be only for those who can afford it. She then went on to say there are too many young people out there with a degree for all the wrong reasons, and that they should study a course purely for the job opportunities.

    I wonder where that leaves this extra mature student…But then, I’m a Scot living in Scotland. Education is lifelong, it’s not just for the younger generations. Thank goodness for our quality of life in Scotland.

    • deeldugs, your average Brit Nat ProudScotButter Nutters will talk any amount of pish about tuition fees to defend England charging for education, water, care for the elderly, or a spare bedroom to store a dialysis machine.

      Swinson lied last night, and in the heart of her true Motherland, Merrie Middle England, without a Scot to challenge her, she got away with decrying the policy of No Tuition fees, ‘Scot free’. (Couldn’t resist it.)

      Ergo, she doesn’t represent her E Dunbartonshire constituents on tuition fees.

      She’s all for selling Education on the Free Market, like Mars Bars or Yo-Yos. as were Clegg and Rennie and Tavish and Rumble in the Jungle last time, just to get power and loads of cash.

      Vote in a Brit Nat Government Up Here and Murdo Fraser will introduce toll booths to that pesky Queensferry Bridge, or as the Brit Nats would immediately rename it, the ‘Her Gracious Royal Majesty, Empress of Empire 2, Hammer of the Jocks, before whose Heavenly Light we all kneel and bow our heads in veneration, Queen Elizabeth II, Bridge’.

      Swinson is a fat liar vying for top spot in the Beige English Tories Party with the promise of great wealth and a fat pension if she ascends the Beige Fence upon which she can sit for the rest of her ‘political’ life.
      Check out the CV’s of our Brit Nat Politicos. University, politics, law, then a stint as bag carrier for an MP, then on the Gravy Train proper without so much as getting their hands dirty on anything as common as a real job.
      Now that’s what I call ‘a degree for all the wrong reasons’.
      Time to hose this shit from the stables once and for all.

      • Robert Graham says:

        Jack looks like all Unionist politicians are playing the same game ” Bare Faced Lies ” , they have worked out that this actually works , The only wee fly in the ointment is the recent case brought against BoJo for lying in public office, very similar to the case against Mr Libdem Carmichael, maybe if the charge levied against Carmichael was along the same lines as Bojos then Mr Libdem would be having his breakfast this morning at her Majesties Pleasure , and Fluffy would be keeping him company .

        • Welsh Sion says:

          Here’s my story about Carmichael and his (butcher’s) apron for you, Robert Graham. Admittedly, it dates from before his particular court case, but I hope you will enjoy it nonetheless.

          56. (of 60.)

          Carmichael’s the Butcher’s

          Carmichael’s was a large butcher’s shop, located at the far end of Orkney Street. It was very well known in town, but few people had actually seen the owner, known locally as ‘Big Al,’ if you’ll excuse the pun, ‘in the flesh.’

          One day, a young lady, who was up on her holiday in the area from down south came into the butcher’s shop. Her name was Tori Graff and she was looking for something to cook to go alongside her leek bake. She was holding a dinner party that very night and she wanted to impress her friends.

          “How about some mince?” suggested the friendly shop assistant. “I find that leaks and mince complement each other very nicely. We also serve very good tripe”

          Tori Graff was so impressed by the good-looking mince under the counter that she bought some there and then and took it home to cook.

          But alas and woe! Having cooked it in the appropriate manner, (the leek bake however was not done so well and some would later whisper it was only half-baked), Tori Graff and her guests began to feel decidedly unwell. Could there be something the matter with Carmichael’s mince?

          The nearest Trading Standards Office was in the nearby town of Essennpee, and one of its officers was quickly called in. He promptly paid a visit to Carmichael’s butcher’s shop. The same assistant who had served Tori Graff the previous day was behind the counter – but he did not satisfy the man from Trading Standards: he wanted to see the Manager, ‘Big Al’ Carmichael himself.

          After a long wait, ‘Big Al’ Carmichael shambled into the shop from the back. His nickname was well-earned: he was quite a large man, not out of place as a doorman at a nightclub, perhaps. Carmichael was wearing his standard butcher’s apron and straw hat. He stared indignantly at the man from Essennpee Trading Standards.

          “What’s this all about, then?” he asked gruffly.

          “We suspect that there is some issue with your mince,” replied the Trading Standards Officer grimly.

          “Poppycock!” exclaimed Carmichael. “I only sell the best quality mince in my shop. My meat is the best in town – you ask Mrs Cameron in Number 10. How dare you slander me like this!”

          “Be that as it may,” rejoined the Trading Standards Officer evenly, “I will still need to take a sample of your mince to study it in the lab. A rather virulent strain of Libus Demus Smearus is currently doing the rounds and I’d like to do my duty to ensure – as you claim – that your meat products are not affected.”

          ‘Big Al’ Carmichael harrumphed and swore blind that his mince was not contaminated. However, he could not very easily stop the Trading Standards Officer from Essennpee from upholding the law, so with a shrug of his shoulders, a deep groan and a defiant statement that he would be vindicated, ‘Big Al’ Carmichael shambled back to his office.


          Essennpee Trading Standards were meticulous in their analysis of ‘Big Al’ Carmichael’s mince. All this cost a lot of money and a lot of time and effort was also expended, but when one considers that the safety and well-being of the town and possible breaches of the Food Act that were involved, Trading Standards did a thoroughly professional job.

          The results from the laboratory eventually came through. As Essennpee Trading Standards had initially thought, there was a strong strain of the bacteria Libus Demus Smearus in ‘Big Al’ Carmichael’s mince.

          Upon hearing the result, the Trading Standards Officer acted promptly, and immediately returned to Carmichael’s butcher’s shop.

          Again, there was a lengthy delay before the man himself appeared, clad as usual in his butcher’s apron and straw hat.

          “I have to inform you that you have been found selling food which is unfit for human consumption,” announced the Trading Standards Officer from Essennpee gravely. “To whit, your mince has been proven to contain a most unpleasant strain of Libus Demus Smearus,” he went on. “This has been demonstrated to be the cause of the ill-effects in everyone who has swallowed your mince.”

          ‘Big Al’ Carmichael was silent for a little while.

          Then he blurted out,

          “It wasnae me! It was my shop assistant … It was Mundell! He made me do it!”

          “Be that as it may,” replied the Trading Standards Officer. “This is a strict liability offence under the Food Act.” He paused for his words to sink in. “I will be obliged to make a report that Carmichael’s the Butcher’s should be closed forthwith and that you will never sell any meat product ever again in the future.”

          “B-b-b-b-ut you can’t do that!” stuttered ‘Big Al’ Carmichael. “Think of my livelihood. My good name here on Orkney Street.” He paused. “I am NOT going to submit to your blackmailing innuendo, sir!” ‘Big Al’ was shouting.

          “We shall see what Mr Justice Scott and Mrs Justice Shetland have to say when we take you to court, Mr Carmichael,” replied the Essennpee Trading Standards Officer with a smile as he walked out of the shop, into the sunshine.

          Will ‘Big Al’ Carmichael now face the chop?

          Watch this space …

          Parables for the New Politics

      • Robert Harrison says:

        Jo swinson cant even tell if shes born in somaset England or Glasgow Scotland because one file says shes English the other says shes glaswegian.

  18. Terry callachan says:

    This is the best most understandable explanation of the Scottish referendum bill I’ve seen anywhere I’ve sent it to my sister in Canada she will be pleased.

    Protestant Scotland.I think it’s too soon to say Scotland is not a Protestant country, yes many people in Scotland say they have no religion but the institutions of this country still have the after affects of Protestantism lingering its not really that long ago that Protestantism ensured catholics could not vote or be a lawyer join HM forces or be a doctor or work for the local council or be a policeman or policewoman or even get a council house etc and we do still see these orange order marches being protected from abolition and although the church is not as well attended as it used to be I think it is still a powerful institution the Protestant more so than the catholic for sure.
    Northern Ireland has similar issues they passed laws years ago to get a more even spread of catholic and Protestant police in the force but it’s still a large Protestant majority not in keeping with the population religious preferences.
    The church has gone quiet politically in recent years but still plays a huge part in politics there is the Scottish churches parliamentary office and the church has a representative in each local authority with a lot of input to education in particular.
    Different to England of course where something like thirty archbishops are lords in the House of Lords , Scotland doesn’t have any church reps in the House of Lords.

    Tuition fees are an abomination Scotland is ahead of the game , the idea that you should only go to university to learn a particular skill is so silly , many many students change their mind what they want to study after the first year and let’s face it learning never ends in life anyway so education for as many as possible at the highest level is best.People decide to educate themselves at different times of life , at different ages depending on so many factors in their life so we should make it easy to take part for all people of all ages it benefits the individual and society at large.
    The rich love to exclude the poor from education it makes it easier for them to rob the poor and to maintain the inequality that they and their family benefit from.
    Scotland is a great place to live especially right now you just get the feeling we are on the brink of something big that will change the way we live and redress the balance.

    • Sincerely, I’m not getting at the Proddies or the Kafflicks among us.

      Each to his own; however, (not a ‘but’, you’ll notice) how can any man or woman of the cloth read the Sermon on The Mount, and not ‘man the barricades’ condemning food Banks, the 5 year Benefits’ freeze, the two child UCS cap, the privatised Disablement Benefits Assessors, and the truly dreadful totalitarian Rape Clause?
      It is surely against any religion that we sit silent while children starve and it is officially recorded that 120,000 of our fellow citizens have been killed by state engineered welfare Cuts since 2010?
      WMD? Iraq?
      Silence from the pulpits.
      Shame on you all.
      1984 is 70 years old today.
      Even Orwell would not believe the state of 2019 UK.

      Baroness Smith, her daughter, and now Dugdale want us to be ‘nice’ to politicians;
      well, I couldn’t be in the same building as some of them.

      Blessed are the Poor, but not in Blue Red or Beige Britain.

      Time to hose out the stable.

      On a dreich miserable dank day, I’ve had too much time on my hands.
      You, dear duggers ,must be fed up listening to my moans.
      I’ll shut up now.
      Peace and Love to all no matter your belief system.

  19. Luigi says:

    If the British establishment uses its SC to thwart a “legal” independence referendum in Scotland, that would be the fnal straw. A critical portion of the people would quickly support an “ilegal” referendum IMO. I don’t want to go down the Catalonia route, but the British establishment can only push us so far. They would give us no choice. Something has to give.

  20. Luigi says:

    The British establishment and its MSM completely distracted by Brexit and the Tory leadership contest. Now is the perfect time to set a constitutional bear trap. Just sayin. 🙂

  21. Bob Lamont says:

    Indeed a more digestible read than others, an excellent job which will go a long way to soothing the impatience many feel.
    Given HMG’s recent previous, best be ready for some legislative spanner to be thrown in the works if the massed pipes and drums of Roothie’s media army fail to derail it before enactment, however unlikely.
    All those David Davis etc quotes over being able to freely leave a Treaty during the Brexit campaign should be getting plastered on every available billboard to expose their hypocrisy over the referendum issue. Best form of defence etc…

  22. wullie says:

    The church has gone quiet politically in recent years but still plays a huge part in politics there is the Scottish churches parliamentary office and the church has a representative in each local authority with a lot of input to education in particular.
    I have never seen any political handouts about these Scottish church people, nor have I seen their names on any ballot paper. If they are not elected they should not be in any position to influence Scottish life in any way whatsoever.

  23. RevStu says:

    “This bill does not negate the need for a Section 30 order for Scotland to have an independence referendum which can’t be legally challenged by the anti-independence parties, but crucially it makes a legal challenge by the Westminster Government far more difficult. The anti-independence parties can no longer rely upon an immediate referral to the UK Supreme Court, now they will have to go all the way through the Scottish legal process.”

    I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me why making the legal argument take much longer is a good thing.

  24. Eckle Fechan says:

    Extended thanks to yourself Paul, the Dug and Andrew Tickell and for this incisive and insightful summary of recent strategic events, which I hadn’t quite realised the significance of. Careful navigation of the line is required, viz a viz “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

  25. Welsh Sion says:


    David Cameron awarded important job @ an American AI company.

    Half right.

    Everything about him is ‘Artificial’.
    He has no ‘Intelligence’.

  26. Bob Lamont says:

    One of the aspects of this Referendum Bill laid before Holyrood that greatly amuses me is the timing of it. May is busy clearing out all the discarded staples from her drawers (desk I hasten to add), the wannabee PMs are busily conspiring among themselves (and backstabbing, sorry for that omission Messrs Gove and Johnson) such their eyes are “off the ball”. Ruth the Mooth will try to slow things down, but the principle consideration of this Bill should pass before any concerted
    action can be taken.. Very clever indeed…

  27. Clydebuilt says:

    An obvious attack on the safeguards / benefits afforded by the referendum act is for Westminster’s agents to have put in place Unionist members of the Scottish Judiciary.

    Its a great piece of work by the Scot. Gov. You have to think Westminster will try to subvert it by any means available.

    • Andy Anderson says:

      Could they not alter the Scotland Act that set up Holyrood and block it?

      • Clydebuilt says:

        They can even Close down Holyrood. Certain actions will get backs up, increasing support for Independence.

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