Depend on democracy

Aberdein Considine partner, Rob Aberdein, said the referendum took up “a lot of internal resources” in financial services in contingency planning for independence, as well as “causing uncertainty” for customers.

He said: “Does the continuing narrative around a referendum and further devolution make this a bad place to do business?”*

Rob Aberdein of Aberdein Considine seems to feel that democracy is OK only so long as it doesn’t inconvenience his business in the slightest. Doubtless he would prefer that we do away with the “uncertainty” of elections.

However outlandish it may seem to those of us who adhere to fundamental democratic principles, the idea that democracy should be subordinate to the needs of business is not at all uncommon. There is a widespread belief that all of society should be so ordered as to serve profit rather than people. It is a pernicious dogma which, towards the extreme, denies altogether the very concept of society and holds that all individual suffering is a price worth paying in the service of an economic elite. Like a religion, it demands total subservience to the gods of the neo-liberal economic imperative.

Fortunately, we have not yet totally succumbed to this cult. As has been so magnificently demonstrated by the Yes movement during and after the referendum campaign, the people still have a voice. We still have power, despite the fact that 55% of us decided they would prefer to surrender power to the ruling elites of the British state.

We still have the power that won us the referendum against concerted anti-democratic opposition from the entire British establishment. Nobody voted to relinquish our right of self determination. When the people of Scotland demand another referendum, the British state can no more deny us now than it could before.

So, Kenny MacAskill is perfectly correct. There will be another referendum. We need not concern ourselves with the question of whether a suitable cause will arise. By its very nature, the British state simply cannot avoid providing such cause. We need only concern ourselves with ensuring that, when that cause provides the necessary  momentum, we have the required political voice.

Simply stated, we must choose our elected representatives exclusively from the Scottish parties which will respect the demand for another referendum, rather than the British parties which will surely show the same contempt for democracy and the people of Scotland that they did when they tried to block the last referendum.

Kenny MacAskill is only half right, however, when he says that the political battleground will be “home rule not independence”. It would be more correct to say that home rule has now become part of the political battle for independence – in the same way that the fight for a Scottish Parliament and the fight for a referendum were part of the battle for independence. Home rule is simply the next phase of a gradualist approach which, notwithstanding the whining of absolutists such as Jim Fairlie, has been remarkably successful in advancing the cause of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status.

Both independence fundamentalists and (somewhat absurdly) unionists complain that the SNP’s support for home rule signals abandonment of the policy of independence. This is nonsense, of course. The SNP has been totally consistent in stating that it would go along with anything that meant more powers for the Scottish Parliament. The party recognised many years ago that all or nothing inevitably meant nothing.

And unionists would have complained even more if the SNP had declined to support the idea of home rule. Blind to their own hypocrisy, unionists would have accused the Scottish Government of reneging on the Edinburgh Agreement. Because, despite the duplicitous efforts of British nationalists to pretend otherwise, home rule is what was promised to the people of Scotland in return for a No vote. At the very least, it is what they were led to believe would be delivered.

Despite the doubts which have subsequently been raised as to the provenance of “The Vow”, while the British media was trumpeting it, all of the British parties were content to allow the impression to be given that they were committed to home rule or devo max or something akin to federalism.

With characteristic duplicity, British nationalists are now trying to portray home rule as something that the SNP came up with subsequent to their “defeat” in the referendum (Whose devo max plan?). The truth is that the Scottish Government is doing no more than demanding that the British parties honour the panicky pledge that they gave to the people of Scotland in the last days before the vote.

Let there be no mistake. Whatever support the SNP may give to home rule at the moment, it is not and never can be a substitute for independence. However it is formulated, a home rule settlement will turn out to be no more acceptable or viable in the longer term than any of the other devolution packages that have been cobbled together by British politicians whose overarching imperative is the preservation of the structures of power and privilege which define the British state at whatever cost to the people of Scotland and, for that matter, the people of the rest of the UK.

Whatever else home rule may mean for Scotland, it must mean that it will be easier to hold another independence referendum. For that reason alone, we should embrace it wholeheartedly, confident that our democracy is still working and will continue to serve us on our journey to independence.

Second indyref ‘in a few years’ – Kenny MacAskill

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