Scotland in the UK : The form but not the substance of democracy

Ever since the First Minister made her announcement about how she plans to progress the second independence referendum which Scotland gave the Scottish Parliament a clear and unequivocal mandate for at last year’s Holyrood election, the anti-independence media in this country has shown that it has precisely zero interest in defending democracy, and even less interest in standing up for the basic principle of traditional Scottish unionism, the understanding that Scotland is a sovereign nation which chose to pool its sovereignty with the Kingdom of England and its dependencies in 1707 and that the union thus created will last as long as the people of Scotland want it to. It is a fundamental tenet of traditional Scottish unionism that the people of Scotland have the absolute right to decide whether Scotland becomes independent. Even Margaret Thatcher accepted that. That right is not to be subject to a veto from a Prime Minister in Downing Street that Scotland didn’t vote for.

Why the flying f*ck don’t the likes of the Herald’s Iain MacWhirter or the supposedly liberal Guardian’ s columnists write about how outrageous it is that the Conservative party aided and abetted by Labour and the Lib Dems are changing the nature of the UK from a voluntary union to a coercive one, and moreover are doing so without bothering to obtain even the pretence of a mandate from the people of Scotland? Why do they not write about how incredible it is that the First Minister has to come up with a plan for a plebiscite election in order to force Westminster to do something that Westminster’s apologists have always insisted that Scotland has an absolute right to do?

You might have thought that any journalist journalist interested in championing democracy would be screaming about that from the rooftops. You would have thought that they would be highlighting the fact that the 2021 Scottish Parliament Election was utterly dominated by the issue of another independence referendum and that whether voters were supportive of or opposed to another independence referendum we all clearly knew what we were voting for. We also know that even despite a suspiciously well funded anti-independence tactical voting campaign, the voters chose to elect a Scottish Parliament with a substantial majority in favour of another referendum. However it now appears that we are being told that none of that matters. The losers won. The parties which lost that election campaign have decided to retroactively rewrite the rules so that they can run roughshod over the will of the electorate and get their way anyway. Apparently we have government by opinion poll in this country now, but only when those polls are to the liking of the opponents of independence. Polls showing majority support for independence or for another referendum magically don’t seem to count.

Those journalists with a platform have a public duty to call this development out for the anti-democratic descent into authoritarianism that it really is. But no. They are instead fully occupied with gloating about how the UK Supreme Court will rule that the Scottish Government’s referendum plan is unlawful and how the plan to turn the next UK General Election into a de facto referendum is, in their opinion, unworkable.

From the anti-independence media there is a resounding silence on the threat to democracy, they only want to talk about process and are supremely comfortable with the notion of a Scotland in which it makes no difference how the people of Scotland have voted. Scottish democracy can be vetoed by a British Prime Minister whose party has not won an election in Scotland since the 1950s, and that is just fine with them. They do not want to examine the consequences of this or what it means for the character of this union that they are desperate to keep Scotland a part of.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. If Scotland had a media that was genuinely representative of the range of opinion in this country, we’d be independent already. Instead we have a media which is so terrified of the possibility of stoking support for independence that it enables the hollowing out of democracy and the destruction of Scottish sovereignty. Scotland, we assume, is just supposed to – in the words of Conservative Scotland Secretary Alister Jack – suck it up. The anti-independence Scottish media will just nod along in agreement like a British bulldog nodding dog on the dashboard of the Brexit bus that Johnson is driving off a cliff.

The anti-independence journalists and commentators express their incredulity about how a de facto referendum could work. The SNP don’t get to determine the terms of a UK General Election, they sniff. They wonder contemptuously how the SNP – and it’s only the SNP that they ever talk about, not the Greens, Alba, the other pro-independence parties, or the wider independence movement – is going to campaign against British parties with fully detailed manifestos. Tom Gordon in the Herald scoffed, wondering if the SNP would just reply “independence” when asked about health policy, defence policy, or education policy. He is however spectacularly missing the point, just like Macwhirter in his contribution to anti-independence miserabilism in today’s Sunday Herald.

The point is that a de facto referendum is only going to happen if the British Government continues to deny the result of the most recent Holyrood election and if the UK Supreme Court rules that the British state considers it unlawful for Holyrood to implement the mandate given to it by the people of Scotland. We are used to a situation where the British parties use their seats won in the rest of the UK to overrule Scotland in Westminster. If a de facto referendum does come about it will be because the British parties have appealed to sources of authority outwith Scotland in order to overrule the Scottish Parliament as well. Under such circumstances it makes not a blind bit of difference what any Scottish political party puts to the people of Scotland in a manifesto. Scotland is only ever going to get what a Westminster in which Scottish representatives are a small minority chooses to allow it. In UK General Elections Scotland is effectively just a spectator, and the winner of that predominantly English General Election can overrule the Scottish Parliament too. So who cares what is in the manifesto for a UK General Election or a Scottish Parliamentary election? Scotland is only ever going to get what the British nationalist parties decide to allow. Within the UK Scotland has only the form of democracy, but not its substance. And all this is just fine with the Scottish media’s enablers of Anglo-British nationalism.

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32 comments on “Scotland in the UK : The form but not the substance of democracy

  1. Hamish100 says:

    I suppose the bottom line is that many see themselves as Brits- the poor persons form of English.

    Wrapped up,with their schooling, what team to support, BB, Guides, the middle class kitsch and cringe of anything Scotch- excepting episodes of Mrs Mac and Take the High Road”

    Those of us who believe in Independence have no rights. We should just be glad for a job wi the council, as the establishment of the church, BBC, Legal, Rugger, NTS type betters, decide our course and our children’s course in life. Have we never seen the map of the world glorified in red?
    Of course even our betters look upwards for patronage from sweaty royals with suitcases full of reject £10 notes and await loyally like a dug salivating for a bone for their eagerly awaited empire medal – any type is welcomed. A sir or dame even better -it shows you have made it. A Lord ? have you enough cash?

    The lies deceive those persons who believe that they arrra peepel. March on, play the tin flute, wear their Sunday best and the poor souls don’t recognise that they are being used by the elite who wouldn’t give them an aperitif at the drop in food bank.

    The journalist’s complicit with the right wing british nationalists deserve our condemnation. Don’t buy their paper rags.

    • Indepedant says:

      Apart from the proviso that the sweaty (as opposed to the non-sweaty type) ‘royals’ accepted euros (!) as cash payment, fair comment Hamish.

    • Paul …. Extraordinarily Facebook has taken down your blog today from my pro-SNP/Indy Facebook page “We support An SNP Government.” Every one of your blogs are posted by me to the site and we’ve never had problems before. I’ve “screenshot” the message from Facebook and put that up on the site under the following bit of script …. “Facebook Bollox
      Earlier today I posted the latest blog from Paul Kavanagh, The Wee Ginger Dug.
      Extraordinarily Facebook has seen fit to take it down!
      I cannot see any possible reason what Facebook see that is wrong with Paul’s blog and needless to say I have appealed this ludicrous decision!
      I will also be contacting Paul. … N.B. I always do a short intro to the blog with a “taster” paragraph I’ve also PM’d you on this

  2. Completely agree Paul. IMO British nationalism is making a fatal mistake in thinking it represents Scottish unionism. They are two different things. For one, the nation is Britain, and Scotland a region of it with no more right to indy than Essex. For the other, the nation is Scotland and Britain a union which Scotland is freely choosing to be in.

    If forced to choose, just 23% of people in Scotland are British. By contrast, around 7 in 10 are Scottish / European.*

    https://whatscotlandthinks.org/questions/forced-choice-national-identity-5/

    How the hell else could you have got 3/4 voting for a Scottish parliament in 1997? That’s implicit recognition of Scotland as a country / nation. It wasn’t the North British Regional Assembly they were asked to vote for.

    I agree there should be a Scottish Parliament

    That’s a parliament for Scottish people. The Scots. Their parliament. They are not British, but Scottish and they declared it loudly at the ballot box.

    And polling shows 7/10 either support independence or are ‘not in principle against it’. That 20% on top of the 50% Yessers who are Scottish through and through. It’s their home, their country, their democracy. But for their own reasons, they have chosen the union option freely. Taking that choice off them is not an attack on Scottish nationalism, but on Scottish unionism.

    However, the Anglo-British parties are dominated by people of that identity because Scottish unionists don’t get to rise through the ranks. They don’t understand many of their own voters never mind Scots as a whole.

    Sturgeon has played blinder by sending this to the English supreme court. If that’s simply needed, it shows the UK to be an Brenglish prison to all those extra Scots. She can’t lose by doing this. If rejected it’s a win, if approved it’s a win.

    By sending to the supreme could, she has got Brengland legally challenging the international human right of the Scottish people to self-determine without them actually doing that. But they made the mistake of threatening to block it, so setting themselves up for this.

    If Brengland fights democracy here, just as it did post 1979, the Yes vote could readily hit the mid 70’s.

    *Note that brexit has caused a number of Scots to ‘rebel’ by identifying as European, but the combined total remains the same. The number of Europeans in Scotland as not increased by 80% since 2016! 🙂 It’s increased as they flee here seeking refuge, but not that much!

  3. Joe McDonagh says:

    I’ve read a comment, valid in my opinion, that 16 year olds and foreign nationals resident and registered to vote in Scotland will be able to vote in the referendum. However the same demographic will not be eligible to vote in a General Election. At a stroke a sizeable number of pro independence voters are taken out of the GE equation.

    • If England doesn’t let us vote in a referendum, we won’t be needed 16/17 year olds or Europeans to pass 50%. The Yes vote will be well over that without them.

  4. Duncan Mitchell says:

    I am disappointed at the post from Hamish 100
    I have supported Scottish independence since I was in primary school and am now 70.
    For all of that time I was in the Boys’ Brigade finally as Captain for 40 years. No cringe here!
    Please remember that the Boys’ Brigade was founded in Glasgow.

    • Hamish100 says:

      Sorry Duncan,
      I was in the Life Boys, Junior BB and BB too. Never saw a saltire in all my days singing “sure and steadfast” and “will your anchor hold” . Yes I know they were formed in Glasgow but you cannot but agree they are Brit promoting and Brit supporting organisation with a Christian heart.

      Of course some boys and young men benefitted from the comadarie and the rest but at its heart was also red, white and blue. Some grew up to be referees or Glasgow’s Police officers.
      I must be a disappointment to my peers at the Kirk session meeting!

      • grizebard says:

        I don’t know why you seem to take so much pleasure in singling out various groups as supposedly “enemies of independence”. Are you omnipotent? Or more likely, a sufferer from multiple chip-on-shoulder syndrome? Why all the negativity? It’s greater social cohesion across the board we need in order to win, not petty witchfinding.

        • Hamish100 says:

          And your negativity is what exactly?
          It’s a blog, it’s conversation, it’s opinion.

          Greater social cohesion sounds great but sometimes you need you challenge previous behaviours and views sometimes viewed as standard. That applies to me and to everyone else.

          Petty withchfinding? Don’t believe in them.
          Still enjoy your social cohesion with the royals. A OBE on its way .

    • Alex Clark says:

      I was in the Scouts and enjoyed my time with them. I still remember the Scouts promise.

      On my honour,
      I promise that I will do my best
      to do my duty to God and to the Queen,
      to help other people
      and to keep the Scout Law.

      That was the oath I gave as a wee boy, times have changed now and there is a version of the Scouts promise for all religions and none. So those of no faith, no longer have to give an oath to do their duty to God,

      They do still have to swear to do their duty to the Queen and so do Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Humanist who each have their own version of the Scouts promise. There is no opt-out for those who wish to become a Scout but chose not to swear to do their duty to the Queen.

  5. Golfnut says:

    Whatever your ails Paul, the fire in your belly burns redhot and I thank you for that. A brilliant passionate and sincere article. I’m away to read it again, by God that was good.

  6. Robert Langlands says:

    I found this to be a very good article. I’ve thought for a while that the SNP manifesto for a UK general election should only be about one issue (independence). As the SNP are never going to win enough seats to form the UK government all other manifesto pledges are meaningless.

    • The comical nature of the Anglo-British party position is that they are all saying they’d never work with the SNP in coalition at Westminster while at the same time exclaiming ‘Nobody will vote for you unless you put forward domestic policies in your UKGE manifesto [i.e. just use it as an indy plebiscite]!’.

      Scots dinnae button up the back.

  7. ArtyHetty says:

    Another great article Paul.
    Just one thing though, the fact that Scotland, the people of Scotland really, did not enter into a voluntary union, it was seriously opposed and what led up to it was much deception and neutering and blocking of trade etc for Scotland, by England, at least that’s what I understand of it, I could be wrong! The people of Scotland did not vote for the union back in 1707.

    The media is in charge, and we just have to ask and we know the answer, who owns the media and where do they base themselves. I watched an interview yesterday about a poll held in the US, on matters of dissatisfaction of their government. It’s very scary indeed. Many people believe it would be OK to use violence against the government and take them down! Asking why the people in the film are of that belief, they mostly put the media at the centre of the outcome of the polls. Of course again it’s about who owns the media, and of course ‘social media’ gets a bad press as usual.

    I use social media to actually counter the ‘main stream’ media lies and propaganda and I can block or unsubscribe very easily should I feel the need. I use the internet to access many different news outlets across the globe, and to try to take a balanced view of what’s going on. I could not do that via the likes of the EngGov controlled BBC and STV, or the daily right rags decorating the shop shelves day in day out.

    Here is the interview hope it’s Ok to post here…interesting in terms of polls and influence and the media etc.

    Ps, the SNP need to make sure they are the ones asking questions of the BritNats this time round, and repeat them and repeat them. About Brexit, about voting systems, about finances, about Scotland’s vast resources and about defunding of the EngNHS, (Scotland’s NHS is only safe with devolution and the SNP/Greens) which currency will actually be viable post Brexit and the utter mess the UK is now in re the economy.

    • Golfnut says:

      Legally Scotland did vote, though the franchise, meaning those who where entitled to vote, voted by majority to create the Union between England and Scotland. The system in Scotland was little different to any other European state including England, the general English population didn’t get a choice in the matter either. The system hasn’t changed but the franchise has, that is the law has changed to include all males and females 18 and over are now entitled to vote.
      The system that took us into the Union is the same system that will take us out.

    • grizebard says:

      Democracy is under mortal threat across the world right now, but our immediate task is to defend it here on our own wee patch. However, I do very much agree with your PS there. Having a positive story to tell is important, but this time the bland default assumptions of the damned Union also need to be vigorously challenged and eviscerated. Never mind the distant background history – about which though you’re quite correct – the period post WW2 will suffice, and particularly the last bitter decade of comprehensively trashed BT promises. And also to look forward, the looming threat of cultural and political extinction that awaits if we are foolish enough to concede again. The Union may be institutionally incapable of reform, but it is eminently capable of exacting retribution.

  8. ArtyHetty says:

    PPS, in the section below WP articles, at the moment is mainly about Scottish independence, via the Brit/EngNats. They are out in force using the terrible ‘social media’ to try and influence or control the narrative.

  9. Independence plebiscite manifesto:

    Front page:

    A vote for the SNP is a vote in support of Scottish independence. Greater than 50% of votes for pro-indy parties means the Scottish government will begin negotiations on independence with the British government

    Second page:

    If less than 50% of Scots vote for indy, here are the policies we’d pursue for the UK

    This is pretty simple stuff!

    • Alex Clark says:

      Second Page:

      A referendum on Independence if they obtain more than 50% of the seats in Scotland 🙂

      • Golfnut says:

        I like that better.

      • Golfnut says:

        At this stage there is no reason to agree or set parameters on what are legitimate grounds to declare independence.

        • grizebard says:

          I agree. We take the most promising route available, expose Unionism for what it truly is, and always be prepared to be “light on our feet” and adapt as the situation evolves. In the end it’s about accumulating a visible settled will for freedom. All else follows.

    • It’s clearly easy to make your manifesto all about independence and about domestic policy if folks vote No at the same time. This was pointing things out to unionists.

      Anyway, we can be 100% sure that if the SNP, Greens etc stick indy in an election manifesto, the British parties will be like ‘A vote for the SNP/Green is a vote for independence / to break up our special union’. Same as 2021, but minus the word ‘referendum’.

      Aye, the Brits would ram that plebiscite home, making sure Scots know exactly what they are voting for! 🙂

  10. Hamish100 says:

    So the world recognised Metropolitan Police has dropped,the investigation into Patrick Grady.

    I suppose they are busy with other issues.

    How will the daily heil, express , record and co spin that? I’m sure they will move down their list.

  11. Alex Clark says:

    The Met have announced that they dropped their investigation of MP Partrick Grady, I’d like to know when they will be announcing their investigation into the behaviour of the disgraced Tory MP Chris Pincher.

  12. Ok, so it seems Grady is an innocent man.

    I’ve not followed this and maybe he was being creepy or something – I can’t judge as I was not there – but short of any legal action, he’s an innocent man, just like Salmond is whether you like him or not.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-62030355

    Police drop probe into Patrick Grady harassment allegations

    • The lass on BBC News added ‘at this time’ to the piece announcing that the Met had investigated, including interviewing the alleged victim and that there was no crime committed.
      Her face was a picture.
      I’ll put money on that the Met did not include the Damaclean ‘at this time’ in their statement.
      They are really worried.

  13. John says:

    I’m remembering the Commons vote passed several years ago on the people of Scotland being sovereign. At the time it might have seemed like a bit of a pointless gesture, but I wondered, and wonder now, if it were being set up to provide ammunition for exactly this scenario.

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