British nationalism: making a mockery of Scottish democracy

The anti-independence parties and their friends in the media are convinced that the British Government has “blocked off all legal routes to indyref2 next year,” according to a headline in the increasingly British nationalist Herald newspaper on Sunday. The actual article was more nuanced, Professor Ciaran Martin, the man responsible for the quote, which the paper wrenched from all context, also said that he thought that some form of consultative referendum might be legally possible, which isn’t quite the absolute closing down of any legal route to a referendum next year which was screamed by the headline.

Under what passes for a constitution in this increasingly disunited Kingdom, all referendums are consultative anyway. The EU referendum was a consultative referendum. The Edinburgh Agreement underpinning the 2014 referendum was a political agreement, it did not make the result legally binding. What it did was to put the referendum itself beyond legal challange. In the event that Yes had won, Westminster would not have been legally compelled to implement the result. The fundamental principle of the British constitution is that the sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament is absolute. There would have been a massive and overwhelming political imperative to implement the result, but as we all know, the British nationalist parties tell lies.

However even if the British nationalist parties had indeed created an absolute slam dunk and had blocked any possible route to a lawful independence referendum, this would not be the death blow to any chance of Scottish independence that some of the frothier British nationalist who infest the comments section of the Herald seem to think it would be, and that was the real thrust of Professor Ciaran Martin’s comments, for all that they were cherry picked by the rabidly anti-independence Herald in order to generate a click bait headline.

Professor Martin was pointing out that resorting to legal means to thwart the operation of Scottish democracy is a short term tactic which risks backfiring in the longer term. He cited the example of the infamous 40% rule in the Scottish Assembly referendum of 1979. It was a wheeze which succeeded in blocking Scottish demand for some form of autonomy in the short term, but the anger it generated and the way in which subsequent Conservative governments ran roughshod over the will of the Scottish people in the following years converted the desire for a Scottish Parliament into the settled will of the people of Scotland and when the Parliament did come into being it was considerably more powerful than the limited proposals of 1979 for an assembly had foreseen. The narrow victory for very limited Home Rule in 1979 became overwhelming support for a much more far reaching form of devolution by the time of the referendum of 1997.

Right now opinion polls suggest that support for independence is pretty evenly matched by opposition to it. The real point that Professor Martin was making was that Conservative intransigence on the issue of another referendum, just like Conservative intransigence on the issue of devolution in the 1980s and 1990s, risks converting support for independence into the settled will of the people of Scotland.

A point he did not raise, but which is obvious to anyone who has been paying attention to the Scottish constitutional debate is that even if it were possible for the Conservatives and their fellow travellers to create a legal bar tpreventing Holyrood from holding another independence referendum without the consent of a Prime Minister who can not even count on the support of most of his Scottish MPs, they still cannot prevent the people of Scotland from expressing their democratic will in other ways, and the more that they close down the path which led to the referendum of 2014, the greater the likelihood that an alternative route will enjoy widespread support from an increasingly alienated Scottish electorate.

The key problem for the anti-independence parties is that they have no real strategy for preventing Scottish independence. All that they have are short term delaying tactics. There is a fundamental contradiction between the assertion of the Unionist parties that the people of Scotland have the right to decide the future of Scotland and their refusal to specify how that right can be exercised. That’s an avoidance tactic that cannot last forever even with the assistance of an overwhelmingly anti-independence media. In an interview with the BBC’s Sunday Show Douglas Ross pointedly refused to say exactly how how Scotland could exercise its right to self-determination if not through a referendum, even though it was pointed out to him that the United Nations deems this a to be key principle of democracy.

As Professor Martin noted,the current constitutional position in the UK is that Scotland is in principle allowed to choose independence, but no matter how Scotland votes, Westminster blocks the implementation of Scotland choosing to revisit the question of independence. At some point this contradiction will have to be resolved. It cannot go on forever. The independence question is not merely mainstream in Scottish politics, it is the single most important issue in Scottish politics, the prism through which all other matters are reflected. It is not just going to go away, no matter how much the likes of Douglas Ross or Anas Sarwar wish it would. If is natural course is blocked, it will find another path, whether a plebiscite election or some other democratic means, and by that time the parties of Ross and Sarwar will have lost all influence over the course of events.

The fact is that the people of Scotland have clearly and unequivocally stated their demand for another independence referendum through the only democratic avenue open to them an election to the Scottish Parliament. For a party with just six Westminster MPs in Scotland and only 31 MSPs at Holyrood to resort to legal chicanery to block the will of the people makes a mockery of democracy.

Tomorrow (Tuesday), the First Minister will lay out the Scottish Government’s strategy for holding a lawful referendum even without the consent of the Prime Law Breaker. Hopefully we will then see how the Gordian knot can be cut through.

Many thanks to everyone who kindly supported the annual fundraiser. It’s always a nerve wracking time, I’m literally asking people to put their money where my mouth is. I’m delighted to say that the target of £5000 wasn’t just reached it was smashed. From all sources, the Gofundme page, PayPal donations, and direct donations by cheque or into my bank account, the grand total raised was an incredible £11,094. In my wildest dreams  Icould not have expected it to go so well and my deepest thanks to everyone who contributed.  It is heartening to know that so many people value my writing and that there is still an appreciative audience for a positive pro-independence message that concentrates on making the case for independence and debunking the arguments of the real enemies of Scottish independence, the Conservatives and their little helpers.  That’s what I will keep doing thanks to you.

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Being the media that we need

The veteran BBC presenter Andrew Marr has spoken out against Scottish independence, claiming that it would be “rotten” for ordinary working people and would cause an “angry, rancorous” separation from the rest of the UK. If you are at all surprised that one of the BBC’s former senior political editors was a dyed in the wool unionist who parrots the tropes of the British nationalist parties, just wait until you find out that the Pope believes in god and that bright orange is not actually Donald Trump’s natural skin colour.

Of course Marr is a unionist. The BBC, where he had a very long and successful career, is an institutionally British nationalist organisation which thinks it is not political to force feed us a diet of royalist sycophancy and whose idea of balance when the topic of Scottish independence is being discussed is to have one person from the SNP against one each from the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems, and that SNP representative is all too often not physically present, but appearing via a shonky video link from Dundee, a city which according to an infamous edition of Question Time broadcast from the city, is predominantly inhabited by Brexit supporting Tories with posh English accents.

For the BBC framing the independence debate in this way achieves a number of anti-independence goals while still allowing the BBC to claim that it is unbiased. By featuring representatives from the four main parties it ensures that pro-independence voices are outnumbered three to one in what is essentially a binary debate. It also frames the debate as a party political debate and not as a Scottish national debate. It identifies the cause of independence as the cause of the SNP, while portraying opposition to independence as a cross-party cause. This plays into the British nationalist narrative of the issue of independence being divisive, and encourages the mistaken belief that support for independence equates to support for the SNP. It conveniently sidelines and marginalises those in Scotland who believe in independence but who for one reason or another do not support the SNP.

The BBC is very much aware of itself as the last major publicly owned British institution, after the Conservative privatisations of the 1980s and 1990s, apart from the Westminster Parliament itself the BBC is one third of the unholy trinity of the armed services and the monarchy which are the only institutional forces that remain to create and foster a sense of a British identity. You are not going to have the career that Marr had at the BBC if you do not fully subscribe to the British nationalism which infuses and defines the Corporation.

This is not Marr’s first intervention on the side of opposition to independence. In2013, during the run up to the first referendum in 2014, Marr told an audience at the Edinburgh Book Festival that he was very worried by the “tone” of the Scottish independence debate, claiming that it was defined by a toxic anglophobia, saying : “There is very strong anti-English feeling and everybody knows it, there always has been.” All this told us, other than Marr’s instinctive British nationalism, is that his understanding of the Scottish independence debate is mired in the 1970s. Judging from his most recent comments, that is pretty much still where it remains. Admittedly there has been some progress of sorts. Marr admits that he understands the anger and frustration that so many people in Scotland feel, saying : “I do get that people in Scotland are outraged. Nobody here voted for Boris Johnson or for Dominic Raab or Liz Truss, or that lot. You didn’t vote for Brexit. So things have been imposed on Scotland and I can absolutely understand the annoyance.”

However he remains unconvinced by the case for independence so essentially he is giving Scotland the exact same message as the arrogantly patrician Conservative Governor General Alister Jack, it doesn’t really matter if Scotland doesn’t like what the Conservatives are imposing on it, you can suck it up.

Back in 2013 when Marr made his remarks about Scotland’s supposedly toxic anglophobia, many people in Scotland were still prepared to give the BBC and the British media in general the benefit of the doubt and hope that they would treat the Scottish independence debate impartially and fairly. Those hopes were well and truly smashed during the 2014 campaign and by everything that has happened since.

It is now beyond any doubt that the BBC will not be an impartial observer of and reporter on the independence campaign in this second referendum which lies ahead but rather, along with the explicitly anti-independence print media, it will be an active and enthusiastic participant in the independence campaign on the anti-independence side. The BBC is going to behave in this second campaign exactly as it behaved the first time around. It is clear that it has already dusted off the BBC British nationalist playbook from 2014. Following the publication of the first in the Scottish government’s series of papers making a fresh case for an independent Scotland, the BBC has focused almost exclusively on the lawfulness of another referendum should Johnson withhold a Section 30 order. It has paid very little attention to the substance of the paper, comparing Scotland’s performance as a part of the UK with that of a range of similar Northern European nations, a comparison which proves that Westminster is holding Scotland back and preventing it from achieving its full potential. The agenda of the BBC in response to the publication of the paper is very much that of the anti-independence parties.

What the BBC has carefully avoided is any discussion of what it would mean for the character and nature of this supposed union and for democracy in Scotland if the anti-independence parties resort to the courts or to appeals to Boris Johnson in order to veto the democratic right of the people of Scotland to determine for themselves the form of government best suited to their needs.

The BBC is not a reporter on Scotland’s constitutional debate but a participant in it. An organisation whose charter dictates that its role is to “contribute to the social cohesion and well being of the United Kingdom” is institutionally incapable of reporting objectively and fairly on a debate in which a part of the United Kingdom weighs up whether it wishes to continue being a part of the United Kingdom.

As we enter a second independence referendum campaign it is vital that the independence movement develops and builds upon its alternative means of reaching out to the people of this country. The British nationalists will not be as complacent this time around as they were in the early stages of the 2014 campaign. This time they know that they could lose, and they know that they have destroyed most of their strongest arguments and claims from the first referendum campaign. Our job is to make sure that the people of Scotland know it too. We need to be our own media, the media that we need. As yer maw always telt ye, if ye want something done, ye need tae dae it yersel.

I am currently running the annual crowdfunder to allow me to keep blogging and to earn the equivalent of the minimum wage. Please click the following link to donate directly to the crowdfunder. The crowdfunder has gone extremely well and I’d like to give my immense thanks to everyone who has contributed.  The initial target has now been met, which is a huge relief as next month we have to pay over £5000 in lawyer’s fees and Home Office fees in order to renew my husband’s visa.  It is heartening to know that people value the work that I do and wish to support it.  The link to the crowdfunder page will remain active for the rest of this week and I will give a final report on how it has gone at the end of this week.

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Not sucking it up

There’s a lot going on in the Britnatosphere this week, none of it good, and all of it received by the anti-independence media in Scotland with that collective shrugging of the shoulders and faux outrage about a broken down ferry which we have all come to know and loathe. After all, if the media in Scotland actually did its job and held the Conservatives and the British Government to account with the same energy and tenacity with which they pursue a story about a broken down ferry on Berneray, then people in Scotland might just start to wonder whether this country is indeed best served by an institutionally corrupt British Government which is already more than half way down the road to authoritarianism and a sclerotic Westminster system which is even worse at holding the British Government to account than the anti-independence media in Scotland, yes *that* bad.

Boris Johnson is far from being chastened by the recent failed attempt to unseat him, he has learned only that there is no outrage against democracy and decency in high office that he cannot get away with. All he needs to do is to run off to Kyiv to demonstrate that he’s besties with Volodymyr Zelenskyy and all is forgiven because Putin and there’s a war on you know.

This week Johnson, or someone in his office, leaned on the Times newspaper to pull a story about how when he was Foreign Secretary Johnson had tried to arrange a government job paying some £100K annually for his then girlfriend, now his wife, Carrie Johnson. Using their connections in order to land cushy and well paid government jobs for family members is the sort of thing that Nigerian princes do in between sending mass emails offering an amazing investment opportunity. This is not a story about Carrie Johnson. It’s about Boris Johnson. This is a story about a senior government minister trying to get his mistress a lucrative job paid for out of the public purse, and then as Prime Minister using the immense power and influence afforded to him by that aforementioned sclerotic Westminster system, in order to try and silence a journalist from talking about it.

This is a depressing and troubling story on a number of levels. We all expect Johnson to be sleazy and unethical. That is who he is. It is not unsurprising that such an unprincipled and entitled individual should attempt to pressurise the press into covering up yet another of his misdeeds. However what is truly shameful is that the Times, a newspaper which claims to represent fearless and diligent journalism, caved in to Johnson’s demands. Rather than being scared-off by lawyers, or shadowy court orders, or super injunctions, the Times seems to have merely folded to political pressure and a quiet word in its editor’s ear from someone in the Prime Minister’s office, an individual who if they were not acting on Johnson’s direct instruction, most certainly did so with his full knowledge and consent. The UK is already woefully short of meaningful ways in which power can be held to account. If the press starts to collude in enabling the corruption of a corrupt, lying, law-breaker of a Prime Minister there is absolutely nothing that stands in the way of the UK making a descent into a fully blown authoritarian kleptocracy.

The Times likes to call itself the Thunderer. In this instance it’s not so much the thunderer as an apologetic fart which it blamed on the dog.

This week we have the rail strikes, caused by an intransigent Conservative government which refuses to negotiate with the unions but which instead threatens to introduce legislation to crack down even further on the right of union members to take industrial action to protect their jobs and working conditions.

Can you imagine if either of these developments had been the work of SNP ministers? If it had been a Scottish Government transport minister who had refused to intervene in order to reach a settlement which could have prevented industrial action and then compounded their arrogance by announcing that the Scottish Government intended to legislate in order to restrict the rights of unions, the Scottish media would explode in a paroxysm of SNPbaddery. We’d be told that at interminable length and in tedious detail how the government was failing the people of Scotland. It would be relentless.

Equally it does not bear thinking about how the anti-independence media in Scotland would have reacted if it had been a senior figure in the Scottish Government who had tried to land a cushy and well paid government job for his mistress and then the First Minister’s office had leaned on a newspaper to pull the story. Glenn Campbell would be parked outside Bute House for weeks doing his sad face and doorstepping government ministers. The story would dominate Reporting Scotland for weeks, and they might even forget about the ferries for the duration, although not about the murrdurrs, the fitba, and the wee cute kittens. But as far as the Scottish media is concerned, this appalling scandal will be covered in a blink and you’d miss it sort of way, because the primary job of most of the media in Scotland is not to do anything that might foster dissatisfaction with Westminster and stoke up support for independence. Power is only to be held to account when it’s devolved power, the authority that the power is devolved from is not to be challenged.

The Tories know this too. They know that they cannot be held to account at Westminster and that the Scottish media is focused on stemming support for independence. This is why on a farce of a Scottish Affairs committee on which sat the Tory MP for Milton Keynes, Iain Stewart, Lord Malcolm Offord, who got his peerage for donations to the Tory party, and Alister Jack, one of only two Scottish Tories who didn’t vote to remove Boris, Jack told an SNP MP who complained about the way in which the British Government by passes Holyrood and undermines the devolution settlement to “Suck it up.” It was a remark dripping in arrogance and contempt. That’s what the Conservatives think of Scotland, a subordinate to be ordered to suck up the orders of its imperial masters. This is why an independence referendum is an imperative, in order to teach these arrogant and entitled British nationalist patricians that Scotland will not suck it up. As part of this corrupt and dysfunctional UK we have to suck it up. As an independent nation it’s the likes of Jack who will have to suck up what Scotland wants. That’s a lesson we need to teach him.

I am currently running the annual crowdfunder to allow me to keep blogging and to earn the equivalent of the minimum wage. Please click the following link to donate directly to the crowdfunder. The crowdfunder has gone extremely well and I’d like to give my immense thanks to everyone who has contributed.  The initial target has now been met, which is a huge relief as next month we have to pay over £5000 in lawyer’s fees and Home Office fees in order to renew my husband’s visa.  It is heartening to know that people value the work that I do and wish to support it.  The link to the crowdfunder page will remain active for the rest of this week and I will give a final report on how it has gone at the end of this week.

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The dilemma for British nationalism

Since the publication of the first paper in the Scottish Government’s series of papers setting out a fresh case for independence, there has been much talk of the difficulties that the Scottish Government will face in securing a lawful and recognised ballot. However, perhaps unsurprisingly given the overwhelmingly anti-independence bias of the majority of the Scottish media, far less attention has been paid to the quandary in which the anti-independence parties now find themselves.

Basically, the Tories and Labour will either have to concede that there needs to be a second independence referendum, one which they know they have only a poor chance of winning, or they will have to admit that the entire foundation of traditional Scottish unionism is a lie and tell Scotland that the operation of democracy in Scotland is subject to a veto from an unpopular Prime Minister whom Scotland didn’t vote for – a Prime Minister who doesn’t need an ethics advisor but rather a probation officer – and that everything that they have told us about the people of Scotland having the absolute right to choose for themselves the form of government best suited to their needs was only ever a convenient fairy story which they agreed to when they didn’t think that Scotland would opt for a form of government which did not include the Westminster parliament.

The mandate which Holyrood possesses for another independence referendum is, as the First Minister has pointed out “cast iron”. The subject of another independence referendum absolutely dominated the Holyrood election last year. Everyone was fully aware of what it meant when they cast their ballot in a certain way, not least that shadowy and suspiciously well funded British nationalist group which organised a tactical voting campaign in order to deprive the new Parliament of a pro-independence majority. It failed. The Tories knew that a pro-independence majority in Holyrood meant that there would be another referendum, which is why they threw all their energies and dark money into trying to ensure that didn’t happen. They failed.

Labour knew that a pro-independence majority in Holyrood would mean that the electorate had voted for another referendum. That was why Anas Sarwar went on interminably about all the reasons why he thought there shouldn’t be one. The voters listened, and then voted for parties that wanted another referendum. Holyrood now has the greatest pro-independence majority it has ever had, and the two pro-independence parties represented in Parliament both stood on unequivocal and explicit manifesto commitments to another referendum. However the anti-independence parties and their friends in the media are desperately trying to gaslight Scotland int believing that there isn’t really a legitimate democratic demand for another referendum. For Labour and the Tories to imply now that people didn’t know what they were voting for is a gross insult to the intelligence of the people of Scotland. Opponents of independence are now reduced to delaying tactics and unconvincing sophistry in order to escape the dilemma in which they are now trapped.

The Unionist columnist Alex Massie is a case in point, during much of the first independence referendum campaign Massie spent months posing as an undecided voter before triumphantly announcing just before the vote that he was unconvinced by the Yes campaign’s arguments and intended to vote no. Based upon his writings ever since it’s hard to escape the conclusion that he intended to vote no all along and was merely pretending to be undecided in order to get publicity for himself and to inflict damage on the Yes campaign at a crucial juncture before the vote.

Massie has now published a piece in the Sunday Times in which he argues that the current push for a referendum is “doomed to fail”, claiming that there is no appetite for it in Scotland. This claim is based upon his and his anti-independence colleagues’ interpretation of opinion polls. But government is not carried out on the basis of opinion polling, it is carried out on the basis of election victories, and despite Massie’s protestations to the contrary it very much *is* democracy denying to seek recourse in the courts or to appeal to the veto of a British Prime Minister who has no mandate in Scotland in order to prevent the Scottish Parliament from implementing the policy that the Scottish electorate elected it for.

Massie also makes the frankly outlandish and ludicrous suggestion that a future referendum should only take place when all the parties agree to it – no matter what the people of Scotland have voted for. In other words Scotland should only ever have a chance to ask itself if it wants to become independent if the parties opposed to independence agree to allow it. Those parties are not going to consent to a referendum when, as now, it seems likely that they could lose it. So in other words what Massie is saying is that Scotland can only ever have an independence referendum if it is a foregone conclusion that the result will be a victory for opponents of independence, which makes a travesty of the entire idea of referendums. Still, at least he’s honest about it, which is more than can be said for the Labour or Conservative parties.

He further suggests that the threshold for victory should be increased to two thirds, which could potentially lead to a majority in Scotland voting for independence yet it still being refused. It seems that Massie hasn’t quite grasped the concept of “democracy denial.” But then he’s a British nationalist which means that by definition he’s not a nationalist because he’s British, so a self-serving rewriting of the rules is very much on brand. Just as British nationalism isn’t nationalist in the eyes of British nationalists, British nationalist democracy denial isn’t a denial of democracy, because it’s British.

Despite the sophistry, the gaslighting and the self-serving attempts to rewrite the rules, it’s really very simple. As Massie points out, it is perfectly legitimate for the anti-independence parties to continue to oppose independence and another referendum, and they can do so by voting according to their beliefs when the matter is put to a vote at Holyrood. However the anti-independence parties do not have a majority in Holyrood, so they can only thwart the will of Holyrood and block the referendum by having recourse to extra-parliamentary means. To do so is very much the denial of Scottish democracy, no matter how much Massie and his ilk assert otherwise. And that opens up the fundamental question, if the UK cannot or will not respect the democratic will of the people of Scotland then this is not a democratic union but an authoritarian state of coercion.

I am currently running the annual crowdfunder to allow me to keep blogging and to earn the equivalent of the minimum wage. Please click the following link to donate directly to the crowdfunder. The crowdfunder has gone extremely well and I’d like to give my immense thanks to everyone who has contributed.  The initial target has now been met, which is a huge relief as next month we have to pay over £5000 in lawyer’s fees and Home Office fees in order to renew my husband’s visa.  It is heartening to know that people value the work that I do and wish to support it.  The link to the crowdfunder page will remain active for the rest of this week and I will give a final report on how it has gone at the end of this week.

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Labour and devo max: Flogging a dead distraction

Labour MSP Alex Rowley has called for “home rule” to be considered as part of the ongoing debate around a second independence referendum. The MSP said that “all options” should be on the table as part of the ongoing debate around a second independence referendum, and that devo max should be included alongside yes and no options.

It’s progress of sorts that a representative from the Labour party is prepared to put his head above the parapet and challenge the Conservative enabling British nationalism which dominates in Labour’s Scottish branch office management and is at least acknowledging that a referendum needs to be had. Rowley thinks that including the option of devo-max in a multi-option referendum would allow Labour to differentiate itself from the Conservatives in the referendum campaign and would allow the party to participate in the constitutional debate in a way distinct from the Conservatives. Rowley conceded that it was difficult to see how Scotland’s constitutional debate could be resolved without another referendum.

To an outside observer it seems that Rowley’s proposal is aimed more at extricating the Labour party from between the independence rock and the Tory British nationalist hard place to which Anas Sarwar’s hard line and uncompromising unionism has confined it. Many in the party fear that Labour in Scotland could not survive being seen as allies of the Conservatives in a Better Together Mk 2. The experience of appearing on the same platform as the Tories in Better Together destroyed Labour’s previous electoral dominance in Scotland and saw it lose almost all its Westminster MPs. Labour has struggled to find a space for itself in Scotland’s post referendum political landscape, which is dominated by the constitutional issue and in which, whether you support or oppose it, you have to take the idea of Scottish independence seriously. The prospect of another referendum where Labour shares a platform with Johnson, Gove, Rees-Mogg and the Anglo-British nationalist Brextremists could consign Labour in Scotland to an oblivion from which there would be no escape.

Even Anas Sarwar has been trying to backtrack on his absolute rejection of Scotland’s democratic right to determine its own future, telling the BBC on Sunday that he is not opposed in principle to another independence referendum, explaining that he and his party stood during last year’s Holyrood election on a platform of opposition to another referendum during the term of this Parliament. Aye, so and you did, Anas, that’s just lovely, and that would be the election in which your party came third would it not. So let’s just file you under “sore loser who willnae take a telling.” The questions of whether to have another referendum and the timescale on which it would be held were decided by the electorate during that election.

Labour sees the offer of devo-max on the indyref ballot as its get out of jail free card for the next referendum, but for Scotland it would be a trap. There are several problems with the idea, problems which are insurmountable. First of all there is the problem of definition. What exactly is meant by the phrase “home rule” or devo max”? The Labour party’s idea of what it means is likely to be very different from the understanding of its meaning held by an independence supporter such as myself, and both those understandings are going to be different yet again from what a Conservative government at Westminster believes it to mean.

Even if a definition could be settled upon which all parties agreed on, we would still face the problem that if devo-max did indeed come out of the referendum as the preferred option of the Scottish electorate, we would have to rely on a Conservative government at Westminster which seeks to roll back the existing devolution settlement to implement this “neo devo max.” Good luck with that one. Or are we to be expected to hope that voters in England will vote for a Labour government to introduce devo max for us.

The essential problem here is that whereas independence is a decision for the people of Scotland alone to make, such a far reaching change to the devolution settlement requires a fundamental and permanent cession of powers from Westminter, and that will require the approval and consent of the English electorate. There is no evidence that there is sufficient support in England for such a radical set of constitutional changes.

More immediately,what guarantees would Scotland have that the proposal would not be eviscerated by the anti-independence parties following the defeat of independence in the referendum? We saw what happened to the Vow in the years following 2014. It turned out that the promise that no Westminster government would ever make changes to the devolution settlement without the express consent of the people of Scotland and their parliament was not worth the newsprint it was printed on. So how can we be certain that devo max would not go the exact same way. We can’t, is the short answer. If there is one thing that we can trust this Conservative government to do it is to lie, lie and lie again.

Even in the unlikely event that this devo max was implemented in full, how can Scotland be sure that it will not be undone by some future Westminster government? It is a fundamental tenet of Britain’s unwritten constitution that no government can bind the hands of a future parliament. The doctrine that “Parliament can do anything except bind its successor” is the official ideology of the British constitution. This means that even if devo max was agreed upon and fully implemented, there can be no guarantee that some future British Government will not decide to rip it up.

We saw this with the devolution settlement. The Sewel Convention which states that he UK Parliament “would not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters, except with the agreement of the devolved bodies in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.” was written into the Scotland Act following the 2014 referendum but the UK Supreme Court later ruled that it had no force in law as it violates the doctrine that that “Parliament can do anything except bind its successor.” The Conservative Government has since made a number of unilateral changes to the devolution settlement, all of which have allowed Westminster to by pass Holyrood and intervene directly in matters which are supposed to be devolved. The Conservatives have not bothered with even the pretence of seeking a democratic mandate from the people of Scotland to do so. If Scotland has learned anything frombeing stabbed in the back after 2014 it is that backstabbers are only powerful when your back is turned. Now we see the British nationalists for what they are. Remember, a mistake is an accident, lying and cheating are deliberate choices. Scotland cannot afford to let the British nationalists do it again.

Promises of devo max are a distraction, and a dead distraction at that. The time for Labour to flesh out a detailed and credible proposaol for devo max was during the 2014 campaign and to implement it afterwards. But after the No victory that year Labour was too busy trying to water down the promises made in Gordon Brown’s vow. The devo max ship has sailed, hit the iceberg of Gordon Brown’s duplicity, and now rests rusting at the bottom of an ocean of British nationalist lies and broken promises.

I am currently running the annual crowdfunder to allow me to keep blogging and to earn the equivalent of the minimum wage. Please click the following link to donate directly to the crowdfunder. The crowdfunder has gone extremely well and I’d like to give my immense thanks to everyone who has contributed.  The initial target has now been met, which is a huge relief as next month we have to pay over £5000 in lawyer’s fees and Home Office fees in order to renew my husband’s visa.  It is heartening to know that people value the work that I do and wish to support it.  The link to the crowdfunder page will remain active for the rest of this week and I will give a final report on how it has gone at the end of this week.

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Assets, debt, and British nationalist desperation

According to a report in the Sunday Times, the Scottish Government intends to hold a consultative referendum in order to avoid any potential legal issues if a Section 30 order is not forthcoming from the British Government. The report claims that the Scottish Government believes that a consultative vote is within the powers of the Scottish Government and has a better chance of bypassing possible legal challenges. Essentially what this boils down to is that a Yes vote in the referendum would not result in Holyrood making an immediate declaration of independence but rather would give Holyrood a popular mandate to open independence negotiations with Westminster. This is basically what would have happened anyway in 2014 had that year’s referendum produced a Yes vote.

It should be pointed out straight away that under what passes for a constitution in the UK, referendums are always consultative. The British nationalist fetish for the absolute sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament means that nothing can bind the hands of Parliament, no government can pass legislation that a subsequent government is unable to repeal, by pass, or overrule, and it is up to Westminster to legislate in order to put into effect any decisions made by the electorate in a referendum. The EU referendum was a consultative referendum, but the second that the result was declared, the political pressure to implement it became overwhelming, and was immediately taken advantage of by the right wing of the Conservative party.

The key issue here is to ensure that the referendum is lawful, if it is lawful, the Conservatives, the Lib Dems and Labour as political parties could choose to boycott the referendum but they would not be lawfully able to order Conservative or Labour controlled local authorities not to participate in the referendum and to deny the vote to residents of those local authorities.

As I mentioned in my previous piece, right now we are in the same stage of proceedings as we were in 2012 before the Edinburgh Agreement when the British nationalist parties refused to accept that Holyrood does have a mandate for a referendum and are intent on arguing about process, about the legality of the referendum, rather than engaging in the substantive arguments of the merits of an independent Scotland versus their assertions that Scotland is better served by remaining under Westminster rule. This is not a debate that they want to have because they are painfully aware, even if they would never admit it in public, that they themselves have destroyed the strongest weapons that were in their persuasive arsenal in the 2014 campaign. No one in Scotland will now believe a Westminster promise that following a No vote there will be greater powers for Holyrood. Instead we know that Westminster will seize on a No vote and eviscerate the remaining powers of Holyrood in order to turn it into a toothless talking shop. The only thing that has prevented the Tories from doing this already is their fear of another independence referendum. One that fear is removed the Anglo-British nationalist gloves will be off and we will see an all out assault on the devolution settlement from the Tories.

Equally no one will believe any commitments to investment or promises that jobs will be secure. Those 26 frigates have sailed off into imaginary waters. Crucially they also know that we enter the second independence with the two sides neck and neck in the polls and that the No campaign no longer possesses the massive lead in opinion polling that it enjoyed at the start of the 2014 campaign and that opposition to independence and support for the British state can no longer be portrayed as opposition to “nationalism”. We can all see for ourselves the xenophobic Anglo-British nationalism of this Conservative government.

This is why the anti-independence parties are hoping to use any means that they can in order to frustrate the democratic will of the people of Scotland for a second independence referendum. They realise the weakness of their own position. It is because they know that their union flag jaikets are on a very shoogly peg that they are desperate enough to try and block the operation of democracy in Scotland by asserting its unlawfulness. However as Matt Qvortup, a professor of political science at Coventry University who has studied referendums around the world, pointed out, there was no doubt ­that the Scottish Government did have a democratic ­mandate for a fresh vote and he predicted that attempts by the Westminster parties or their British nationalist surrogates to use the courts in an attempt to thwart that mandate could significantly boost support for independence by as much as 5%.

The professor also pointed out that one of the persistent claims of the anti-independence parties is categorically untrue. We have heard a lot that an independent Scotland would immediately be saddled with a debt of £180 billion as its pro-rata share of debt from the UK. However Professor Qvortup noted that an independent Scotland would be under no legal obligation to pay any share of UK debt after independence and could use this fact as a negotiating tactic. Scotland could point out that legally it was perfectly free to walk away from the UK’s debt but negotiate to take on a share of it in return for a share of the UK’s assets. No assets, no debt.

Professor Qvortup also said that we should not rule out the possibility that Johnson might after all agree to a Section 30 order and another referendum. It has always struck me as odd that certain people are prepared to accept at face value Johnson’s claim that he will not agree to a Section 30 order when he lies about everything else. From Johnson’s point of view there are political advantages to facilitating another Scottish independence referendum. If he wins it he can pose as the great champion of the Union and can use the victory in order to destroy the power of the Scottish Parliament, removing an inconvenient and annoying source of political power and authority which is independent of him. If he loses, he removes a block of fifty anti-Conservative MPs from Westminster, which in Qvortup’s words would “fireproof” the Conservatives at Westminster for a very long time, adding : “So either he saves the Union or he goes down as a democrat and also guarantees his majority for a very long time. If somebody were to think that thought then it [a section 30 order] may not be quite so unlikely.”

I am currently running the annual crowdfunder to allow me to keep blogging and to earn the equivalent of the minimum wage. Please click the following link to donate directly to the crowdfunder. The crowdfunder has gone extremely well and I’d like to give my immense thanks to everyone who has contributed.  The initial target has now been met, which is a huge relief as next month we have to pay over £5000 in lawyer’s fees and Home Office fees in order to renew my husband’s visa.  It is heartening to know that people value the work that I do and wish to support it.  The link to the crowdfunder page will remain active for the rest of this week and I will give a final report on how it has gone at the end of this week.

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That’s what democracy is all about

For the anti-independence parties it’s 2011 all over again. When then First Minister Alex Salmond announced the Scottish Government’s intention to hold an independence referendum following the SNP victory in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, the Conservatives and Labour immediately denounced it.

Westminster would never allow a referendum, we were told, and in any case Labour and the Tories were quite certain that it was unlawful, divisive and unnecessary and the people of Scotland didn’t really want it anyway. In the months that followed there were threats that the referendum would be struck down by the courts, warnings about “wildcat” or “illegal” referendums, and the confident assertion that the British Government would slap an uppity Holyrood down. There was much talk in the media of whether Scotland would or would not be “allowed” to hold another referendum, a discussion which was underpinned by the unspoken and unchallenged assumption that Scotland could have no agency in determining its own fate. Scotland was but a supplicant begging Westminster for a ballot that was in Westminster’s sole power to give. Talk of “granting” a Section 30 order is a telling admission of how British nationalism really perceives Scotland’s place in what they like to tell us is a family of nations.  It’s a decidedly subordinate place.

There followed a game of brinkmanship between Holyrood and Westminster, until eventually, faced with the realisation that his government risked losing any input into the process, David Cameron agreed to a Section 30 order in order to maintain the political fiction that Westminster was still in control of the course of events. Ten years on and here we are again. Westminster is still desperate to maintain the political fiction that it is in control of the course of events.

It all sounds very familiar the second time around although now we have the added screech notes that the 2014 referendum was “supposed to be once in a generation” as though the campaign rhetoric of Alex Salmond represented a binding commitment – you might even say “Vow”, if it were not for the fact that that’s a word which triggers the heirs of Better Together – that binds the entirety of the Scottish nation for as long as it suits the Westminster parties, parties for whom the shelf life of an unkept promise is shorter than a five day old bottle of milk sitting out in direct sunshine, Viz. The Vow.

The British nationalist parties have learned nothing from their experience of ten years ago and still act as though it is a viable strategy to bully and threaten the people of Scotland and lecture us about how democracy is unlawful when it doesn’t suit the interests of British nationalism. This is not the way to sell the supposed benefits of Westminster rule to an increasingly dubious Scotland. “Stay with us Scotland so we can prevent you from having any say over your future,” is not exactly a winning slogan.

We are now a long way on from former leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson’s words of wisdom, well OK not so much wisdom as a statement of the bleedin’ obvious, back in 2007 at the end of that year’s Holyrood election which produced no majority in the Scottish Parliament for an independence referendum, and as the SNP was about to govern as a minority administration, the would be Saviour of the Union opined: “You don’t get a referendum for free, you have to earn it. So if the Greens and the SNP and the SSP, or any of the other parties who have declared an interest in independence, get it over the line and can make a coalition, make a majority, get the votes in the Parliament, then they’ll vote through a referendum. That’s what democracy is all about.”

Fifteen years later and the Conservatives appear to have forgotten what democracy is all about. Evidence from 2021 Scottish Election Study shows that the majority of people in Scotland – 61% – think that Holyrood has a mandate to deliver an independence referendum. The election was only a year ago but Ross and Sarwar seem to be hoping that we all have very short memories and don’t recall that the election was completely dominated by the issue of a second independence referendum. That election was effectively a referendum on a referendum and by the rules of democratic elections it was decisively settled in favour of those who want another referendum. We are no longer debating whether the people of Scotland want another referendum. That question has been answered. Attempts by Douglas Ross and Anas Sarwar to rehash their arguments from last year are merely the undemocratic complaints of sore losers.  The people of Scotland have decided that this is the time for another referendum.  It’s not a decision for the losers of last year’s election to make.

The fundamental issue here is that those who believe that a referendum and the question of Scottish independence can be halted in its tracks by legal means are committing a category error. The question of Scottish independence is a political question not a legal one, and as such it can only be settled through a political process, not through the courts. An appeal to the courts by opponents of independence can only ever provide a delaying tactic not a definitive solution.

The Scottish Government will shortly set out its plans on holding a lawful vote with or without Westminster “granting” Scotland something which is already inherently Scotland’s, the right of the people of this country to choose for themselves the form of government best suited to their needs. It may only be then that Westminster will realise that if it wishes to maintain the fiction that it is in control of events that it will cooperate in facilitating a referendum and that Westminster’s last best hope of preventing independence is not to show the people of Scotland that democracy in Scotland is impossible as long as Scotland remains a part of a Conservative dominated Westminster.

Indeed politically an appeal to the courts to block the referendum is a very dangerous road for them to go down, because it would provide definitive proof that they do not respect the democratic will of the people of Scotland and create the strong impression that they seek to hide from the ballot box because they are afraid of the answer that the electorate might give. If the courts try to block a referendum, the river of politics will simply find another course, one which flows all the stronger because of the attempt to dam it. And by that time the Conservatives and the Labour party will have lost any chance of influencing the process. The anti independence parties can either accept what democracy is all about or be swept away by democracy. The ball is in the court of the people of Scotland, not theirs.

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Gruesome for Stephen Kerr

Scottish Tory MSP Stephen Kerr has claimed that the 2014 independence referendum campaign was “gruesome” and that the next referendum is going to be even worse. There are indeed many things about the next independence referendum campaign which are going to be gruesome, not the least of which is the appalling prospect of having to deal with more of Stephen Kerr on our TV screens. However he is right in one sense, the 2014 independence referendum campaign was indeed gruesome for British nationalists like Stephen Kerr because despite their early confident predictions that they’d achieve a No vote in excess of 70%, by the time that the vote came around they very nearly lost, and next year’s independence referendum will be even more gruesome for British nationalists because they are going to lose. I suspect however that that is not what Kerr meant.

British nationalist Brexit supporting Tories like Kerr like to wring their hands about how “divisive” the referendum supposedly was and how it divided families, communities, and towns, because Scottish people are apparently so immature that they are incapable of having a democratic debate without getting out the pitchforks and torches dipped in tar. It is funny how Kerr and his Conservative colleagues did not have similar qualms about Brexit and decided to press ahead with the most extreme form of Brexit possible despite the narrowness of the leave victory in the 2016 EU referendum. They were none too concerned about healing divisions then.

Likewise the Anglo-British nationalist parties were not too bothered about reconciling the 45% of Scotland’s voters who voted Yes in 2014 to the No victory, something that they could have done by ensuring that all the promises and commitments made to Scotland by the Better Together parties during the referendum campaign in an effort to secure a victory for the No side were properly fulfilled both in spirit and to the letter. Instead the Better Together parties competed with one another to reduce to a minimum the extra powers promised to Holyrood and then the Conservatives went even further down the path of duplicitous mendacity by using the Brexit that Scotland didn’t vote for in order to unilaterally undermine the devolution settlement and to make changes to devolution without even pretending to seek a democratic mandate from the people of Scotland in order to do so.

Had the Conservatives and their Better Together allies kept all the promises that they made, people like me would still be arguing for Scottish independence, however the steam would well and truly have gone out of the independence movement and we would not currently be looking at a second independence referendum in 2023. Stephen Kerr and his British nationalist fellow travellers have only got themselves to blame for that.

Of course the “divisiveness” that the likes of Kerr is really upset about is that the referendum campaign of 2013 to 2014 overturned the apparently cosy unionist consensus in Scotland, it normalised the idea of independence amongst the wider Scottish public and in Scottish political discourse and meant that Anglo-British nationalist supremacists like Stephen Kerr could no longer mouth off in the golf club bar about how incapable and hopeless they think Scotland is without their assumptions being challenged.

You can bet your last penny however that following a Yes victory in the next independence referendum Kerr and the Scottish Tories will be loudly screaming about the need for the winning Yes side to make huge compromises in order to placate and reassure the losing No side.

It is also very noticeable that the Conservatives and their allies never acknowledge that the only violence which resulted from the independence campaign in 2014 came from British nationalist extremists who went on a rampage after the result was announced, attacking and assaulting peaceful independence supporters on the streets of Glasgow. To its eternal shame BBC Scotland reported this ugly outbreak of British nationalist violence as “clashes between supporters and opponents of independence” as though there were a moral equivalence between British nationalist thugs and the peaceful victims of their unprovoked attacks. This time it is vital that Police Scotland make it clear that the violent entitlement of sectarian British nationalists will not be tolerated.

The next independence referendum however will be uglier because although the anti-independence campaign was characterised by its negativity, threats and scaremongering, the Better Together campaign was able to proffer some carrots in the shape of Gordon Brown’s now infamous Vow. That is not a trick that they will be able to pull off in the next referendum. Scotland has learned the hard way that promises made to Scotland by anti-independence parties in order to secure a No vote in an independence referendum are not worth the breath it takes to utter them, and that goes double for anything that issues from the mouth of serial liar and treaty and law breaker Boris Johnson. We all know that it’s only the threat of another referendum which prevents Johnson from abolishing any meaningful powers that Holyrood has, and that the second a No vote is secured the Conservatives will strip the Scottish Parliament of anything that runs counter to Westminster’s wishes and will reduce it to a toothless talking shop.

Equally Better Together 2.0 cannot deploy the tactic it used in the 2014 campaign, framing the debate as one between a parochial and backward looking Scottish nationalism and an internationalist outward looking non-nationalist unionism. Brexit has exposed the true and ugly nature of British nationalism in all its xenophobia, reactionary nostalgia and flag waving hypocrisy. It is Scottish independence which now promises true internationalism and deeper and more meaningful ties to our European neighbours.

All that the anti-independence parties have left now are threats, scare stories and intimidation tactics. The next independence referendum campaign will indeed be gruesome for Stephen Kerr because in that campaign all the consequences of Conservative lies, deceit and British nationalist hypocrisy will come home to roost. They have nothing to offer Scotland except continuing decline, more lies, and a Westminster that can never be held to account. That is why they are going to lose.

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Boycotting Douglas Ross

With the publication of the first in the Scottish Government’s series of papers setting out a renewed case for independence, the second independence referendum campaign has now got underway. As was entirely predictable the usual British nationalist suspects have not taken it well. Kevin Hague of the anti-independence group “These Islands” reacted to the first paper, comparing Scotland in the UK with a range of comparable northern European nations all of which perform better on a number of metrics than Scotland within the UK by sniffing that the Scottish Government had “cherry picked” the comparator nations and saying that on the metrics examined in the paper, Scotland as a part of the UK has a better economic record than the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Greece, or Portugal.

So let’s have a brief look at those countries. The Czech Republic and Slovakia, as Czechoslovakia, had a totalitarian Communist regime for almost 45 years after WW2 with a centrally directed command economy. The Czech Republic, the more economically developed of the two, was occupied by Nazi Germany and after the war deported its huge German minority who made up a third of the entire population and who occupied the most economically advanced parts of the country. Since the fall of communism both the Czech Republic and Slovakia have faced the challenges of building market economies and establishing secure democratic structures.

Like Slovakia, Greece and Portugal were traditionally agrarian economies which never experienced the early and intense industrialisation seen in Scotland. Greece embarked upon a disastrous war with Turkey after WW1 which resulted in the deportation of over a million Turks and Greek speaking Muslims from Greece and the need to integrate over a million and a half refugees from Anatolia into Greek society, many of whom were Turkish speaking Christians who did not know the Greek language. Throughout the inter war period Greece was marked by economic crises and political instability which ended up with a military coup and the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas. in WW2 Greece was occupied by both Italy and Nazi Germany, causing widespread destruction. After the war there was a civil war between pro-communist partisans and the right wing which lasted until 1949. The following years were marked by social strife and political instability until the coup of 1967 installed a far right military dictatorship which lasted until 1974.

Portugal was another traditionally agrarian economy which was marked by political instability. The republican revolution of 1910 abolished the monarchy and over the next 15 years Portugal had 45 different governments. A military coup in 1926 led to the establishment of the right-wing dictatorship of the Estado Novo under António de Oliveira Salazar in 1933. For almost fifty years Portugal languished under a far right dictatorship which was only brought to an end with the left wing military coup of 1974, known as the Carnation Revolution, which paved the way for the restoration of democracy. Portugal’s economy had been devastated throughout the 1950s and 1960s by the dictatorship’s disastrous pursuit of wars in Portugal’s large African colonies of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau, which the dictatorship had refused to decolonise even as Britain and France were granting independence to their African possessions.

So basically Hague is claiming that as part of the UK Scotland has performed better than actual dictatorships which have been scarred by war and political instability. This is not the great advertisement for Westminster rule that he seems to think it is.

Meanwhile, Douglas Ross has insisted that he will boycott an “illegal” “wildcat” referendum, and I am probably not alone in wishing that Scotland could boycott Douglas Ross. He insists that he would still boycott the referendum even though he claims to be confident that the no campaign would win it, which makes Ross possibly the first politician in history to assert that he would not participate in a democratic event which he claims would only bolster his own position. It seems that for Ross it’s the principle of the thing that matters, the principle being that the people of Scotland should only ever be allowed to vote when Boris Johnson says it’s OK, although since Ross also thinks that Boris Johnson is unfit for office then maybe he really ought to ask the people of Scotland why they should respect Johnson’s wishes when he himself so clearly doesn’t. Ross’s branch office has not been on winning side in Scotland for decades and every time that he tells the electorate to tell the SNP that Scotland doesn’t want another referendum his party just gets another kicking.

If Ross’s boycott means he’s also going to boycott all media appearances about the referendum then I’m all for it. We’d get peace and quiet from his purse lipped Tory negativity and one less no voter. What’s not to like?

Of course a referendum held without a Section 30 order need not necessarily be either “illegal” or “wildcat”. The First Minister has made it clear that she does not intend to hold an unlawful referendum and has promised that the Scottish Government will shortly reveal a major update on plans to hold a referendum even without a Section 30 order. However the real question for Ross and his British nationalist cronies – we’re looking at you here Anas Sarwar – is that if the exercise of democracy is “illegal” in this so-called union then why exactly should Scotland remain within the confines of a political structure which criminalises the free and peaceful democratic expression of the will of the people of Scotland. It is also then incumbent upon Ross and Sarwar to spell out exactly how the people of Scotland are supposed to express their wish for another independence referendum and the mechanism by which this supposedly voluntary union will deliver it.

Yet whenever this question is put to Ross and Sarwar all we get are variations on the theme of why they do not want another independence referendum. We know that already, both of them told us at great and tedious length in the 2021 Holyrood election campaign all the reasons why they do not want another independence referendum, and the people of Scotland listened to their arguments and went ahead and voted for a Scottish Parliament with a large majority of MSPs from parties committed to delivering another independence referendum. That is the only process which we have which allows the people of Scotland to say whether or not they want another referendum and the people have unequivocally said that they want one.

So if this process does not suffice for Ross and Sarwar, they have an obligation to say what does suffice, them rehashing their arguments from an election which they lost is not going to cut it. The fact is that every time they refuse to specify exactly how the people of Scotland are supposed to exercise their right to choose the form of government best suited to their needs, they bolster the case for independence because they merely reinforce the view that the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland will not be heeded within this so called union. After all, if the right of the people of Scotland to choose the form of government best suited to their needs really is subject to a veto from a Prime Minister which Scotland did not vote for and whose party has a mere six Westminster seats in Scotland, four of which are held by MPs who recently voted that they had no confidence in him, then the people of Scotland do not after all have the right to choose the form of government best suited to their needs. That right then belongs to the aforementioned Prime Minister. British nationalism may be defined by its exceptionalism but Ross and Sarwar cannot have it both ways.

The anti-independence media in Scotland proves that it sees its primary task not as informing the people of Scotland but rather as acting as agents of British nationalism because it consistently tells us that a Section 30 order is needed for a referendum and that Johnson is not disposed to grant one and then as sure as a ferry crisis story in the Herald fails to follow up on what this means for Scotland and for the character of this supposed union that those same anti-independence media outlets are keen to inform us is defined by its voluntary nature. Neither do they press Ross and Sarwar and the other apologists for the British state on exactly how the people of Scotland are supposed to express their will for another referendum. However if the democratic choices of the people of Scotland really are subject to the whims of the occupant of Downing Street then this is not a voluntary union and the unionism sold to us by the Scotsman, the Herald, the Record and the BBC is founded on a lie.

This question goes to the very heart of the matter of independence. Independence is fundamentally about ensuring that the people of Scotland get what they choose in a democratic free and fair election. If Scotland cannot get that within the UK then the UK is neither democratic nor free and fair. It is telling indeed that the British nationalist parties and the anti-independence media consistently dodge this question. It’s almost as though they are terrified of the response of the people of Scotland when they get the answer. A refusal by Johnson to a Section 30 order is not the get out of jail free card that British nationalists think it is, it merely confirms that the union is dead and that the people of Scotland can only exercise their democratic rights in an independent and sovereign Scottish state.

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Grasping the thistle

The first in the Scottish Government’s series of papers laying the groundwork for a fresh case for independence has been published. With its publication the second independence referendum campaign has now officially got underway. Today’s paper, entitled : ‘Independence in the Modern World. Wealthier, Happier, Fairer: Why Not Scotland?’ looks at an uncomfortable truth that opponents of independence are keen to gloss over, why is it that every comparable northern European country which is similar to Scotland in size does so much better than Scotland does as a part of the UK.

This is true across diverse metrics, equality, wealth, productivity and the happiness of their citizens. Yet these countries often do not possess the many advantages that Scotland does, such as Scotland’s wealth of natural resources, the skills and talents of a high educated English speaking population It seems clear from the evidence presented by this paper that the status quo is not allowing Scotland to fulfill its potential, and that the UK economic model, and Westminster decision-making, are holding the country back. The paper demonstrates, objectively and with an abundance of supporting information and examples that we are decidedly not “better together”. As the SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown pointed out : “A decade of Tory austerity coupled with a Brexit that Scotland didn’t vote for has made us poorer.”

And as the First Minister said in an interview on the BBC this morning, if the people of Scotland had known in 2014 the path that British governments were going to take in the years since the referendum she has no doubt that Scotland would have given a very different answer to the referendum question in the ballot in September that year. Indeed the failure of the Better Together parties to deliver on the promises and commitments that they made to Scotland in the 2014 campaign is by itself reason enough to revisit the question of independence. After all if the electorate cannot hold politicians to account at the ballot box for the promises they made, then democracy is dead. The people of Scotland gave their verdict on whether they wanted another independence referendum at last year’s Holyrood election, no matter how much the Better Together parties might wish to argue otherwise, the question of whether Scotland wants to revisit the independence issue has been asked and has been settled. Democracy demands another independence referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon has also addressed the question of how the referendum will be held saying that it will take place with or without a Section 30 order. Speaking to the BBC the First Minister suggested the Scottish Government would explore other avenues to hold an independence referendum outside of the route used in 2014. One way or another, Scotland will have its say. The future of this nation is for the people of Scotland to decide, not Boris Johnson.

The building a new Scotland series of documents will together form the prospectus for an independent Scotland, addressing the huge potential an independent Scotland will have and challenges that will be faced after a Yes vote. The First Minister said that future papers, which are already in development, would address issues such as international trade and currency. I do not propose in this blog piece to rehash all the arguments presented in the paper. The best thing you can do is to read the 72 page document for yourself. You can download it here in pdf format by clicking the following link : Independence in the Modern World. Wealthier, Happier, Fairer: Why Not Scotland pdf. CLICK HERE.

Of course finances and the economy are vitally important and I have not the slightest doubt that independence is key to unleashing Scotland’s immense economic potential and using it for the benefit of the people of Scotland instead of syphoning it off to give a further boost to the already wealthy city of London and South East of England. With independence Scotland can be more prosperous, fairer, and more just. However these are topics which are best addressed by people with greater financial and economic expertise than I possess and in the weeks and months ahead I will use this blog to give a platform to some of their arguments and ideas. However today as the starting pistol is fired on a reinvigorated and renewed independence campaign, what I’d like to talk about instead is a more profound and fundamental reason why independence is vital.

I touched on this at the end of yesterday’s blog piece in which I pointed out that in the eyes of the rest of the world as a part of the UK Scotland is tarred with the ugly British nationalist exceptionalist brush which is so enthusiastically wielded by the Westminster Conservatives and the Johnson regime. Independence gives Scotland the opportunity to define itself as a nation, to say to the world what it stands for and what it represents.

Today the Johnson regime is determined to press ahead with its callous cruel and immoral policy of sending asylum seekers on a one way ticket to Rwanda despite the policy being denounced by the UN as an egregious breach of international law. The British Government is also going ahead with its decision to rip up an international treaty which it itself negotiated and in the process risk a trade war with the EU just as people are struggling to cope with the worst cost of living crisis for decades. This is what the UK is now, a law breaking state governed by a liar and a law breaker where corruption, entitlement and privilege enrich a few at the expense of the many, where the rich and connected are free to ignore those rules that they find inconvenient and which feeds the masses flags, the glorification of the military and the monarchy instead of a dignified standard of living. If we remain with Westminster the future is one of continuing decline, of a hollowing out of democracy, of a further descent into a right wing British nationalist nostalgia where flags, parades and royal events substitute for the participation of citizens in power and decision making.

Scotland doesn’t have to be like this. We can be better than what Johnson and the sclerotic and corrupt Westminster system can offer. Scotland can be a beacon of respect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Scotland can be a nation which prioritises fairness and equality, and which is an honest and trustworthy partner to its international friends and allies. We can be a nation which is seamlessly integrated into the network of advanced European economies. Scotland can be a nation which looks to the future, a future which respects the environment and strives to build a sustainable economy so that generations to come can continue to share equally in the bounty which this rich land of ours has to offer. All we have to do is to grasp the thistle.

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