I suppose we take it for granted that people associated with Scotland’s Yes movement will have more respect for the principles of democracy than British Nationalists. Not that this would be difficult. On a daily basis, British politicians – particularly those squatting in the Scottish Parliament – are at pains to demonstrate their disdain for voters as well as their sneering contempt for the institutions and processes of democracy. British Nationalism is anti-democratic. To be a British Nationalist is to believe that political authority derives from the monarch, rather than from the people. And that the exercise of fundamental democratic rights is legitimate only to the extent that the outcome serves the interests of the British state. It is an abiding tenet of British Nationalist ideology that the people are subordinate to parliament.
The concept of parliamentary sovereignty is anathema to the Yes movement. We hold this truth to be self-evident – the people are sovereign. We hold it to be the single most important defining characteristic of true democracy that ultimate political authority is vested wholly and exclusively in the people. We tend to assume that awareness of and regard for the basic precepts of democracy is common to the entire Yes movement. Carolyn Leckie shows why we should, perhaps, be more cautious about that assumption.
Not that I’m saying Carolyn is anti-democratic in the way that British Nationalists are. It’s just that she hasn’t thought things through. She hasn’t asked the important questions about her suggestion that the SNP should “pledge” a post-independence referendum on Scotland’s relationship with the European Union. Most obviously – at least to those of us who relate all policy proposals to the ideals of democracy – she has failed to consider the question of a democratic mandate.
Carolyn chooses to disregard the fact that ‘Independence in Europe’ is the official policy of the Scottish National Party. She appears to attach no significance whatever to the fact that this position has been repeatedly and comprehensively endorsed by the party membership.
Worse still, she opts to disregard the fact that remaining a full member f the EU is the settled will of Scotland’s people. We voted 62% Remain, in the best test of public opinion that we can possibly have this side of independence. Carolyin Leckie not only expects Nicola Sturgeon to set aside the democratic will of party members, she wants them to show the same contempt for the electorate as is habitual among British Nationalists. All in the name of political expediency.
I have an alternative suggestion. Instead of pandering to minority Leave voters to the extent of affording them parity of status with the Remain majority, let’s try being honest with them. Let’s tell them that the question of Scotland’s membership of the EU is a settled matter. If they want a referendum on the issue then they are perfectly at liberty to campaign for one after Scotland’s independence is restored.
And if they, or Carolyn Leckie, want to change the SNP’s position on EU membership then they can do it the democratic way. They can join the party, pay their dues, and work through the internal democratic procedures.
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