Sovereign is as sovereign does

scotlands_parliamentWe hold this truth to be self-evident; that the people of Scotland are sovereign. That the people alone are the source of legitimate political authority. That the people are the final arbiters of all public policy.

This is the starting point for any discussion of the process by which Scotland’s rightful constitutional status is to be restored. Not the labyrinthine confusion of Brexit or the arcane complexities of the British political system or the bureaucratic procedures of the EU. Only this! That the people of Scotland are sovereign!

It is reasonable, therefore, to ask why the people of Scotland should suffer constraints on the exercise of our sovereignty such as are imposed by the Union. Why should we accept that the will of the Scottish electorate may be overridden by the choices of voters in England and Wales?

Why do we submit to the authority of the British state? How, in the 21st century, can executive power based on the claim of a divinely-ordained monarchy take precedence over the democratic mandate of the people? How can the asserted authority of the British state possibly be superior to the authority of the sovereign people of Scotland and the Parliament which we elect?

Why should we accept that the exercise of those rights which flow from our sovereignty, such as our right of self-determination, may be subject to a veto by the British political elite?

Why the excessively circuitous route to the point where our democratically elected representatives make “a strong political commitment to another independence vote“? What requires us to first jump through all those hoops contrived by the British political elite? What is to prevent them continuing to manufacture hoops until we are exhausted jumping? How long must we continue in the forlorn hope that there might be a final hoop and a last weary leap to independence?

How can we sensibly suppose that the ‘right time’ for a new referendum will spontaneously emerge from conditions all but entirely under the control of forces which are determined that there should never be another referendum?

How might we win the fight to restore Scotland’s independence if we do not first seize ownership of the process by which our independence will be restored? How can we claim to be worthy of independence if we allow that process to be controlled by others?

Power is not given. Power is taken. Power that is given is not real power. If we accept that independence is conditional on the permission and approval of the British state then the best that we can hope for is something far less than that to which we aspire.

The people of Scotland are sovereign. It’s time we started acting accordingly.

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Empty choices


This ‘People’s Vote’ campaign is almost as nonsensical as Brexit. A referendum is the crudest of democratic instruments. It’s an axe, not a scalpel. It is only useful for binary choices where the two options are distinct, discrete and deliverable.

The 2014 independence referendum was disastrous for Scotland, not only because of the failure to secure a Yes vote, but because the implications of a No vote were all but totally unspecified. Nobody knew what a No vote meant. It was defined only as ‘Not Yes’. The No campaign was never properly scrutinised. In fact, it was barely examined. The media failed to ask any meaningful questions of Better Together or the British parties or the UK Government. They declined to challenge any of the lies, smears, threats or empty promises.

Initially, a No vote was supposed to be a vote for the status quo. But this quickly changed when the dullards running Better Together realised that this was by far the least popular option. The meaning of a No vote then became fluid. Pretty much anybody on the anti-independence side could make any claim about what would follow from a No vote. This culminated in ‘The Vow’. Within the space of less than 18 months a No vote had gone from meaning ‘no change’ to promising massive constitutional reform.

It has since become clear that the No vote was sold on a totally false prospectus. How could it be otherwise? An option which can mean anything inevitably means nothing. A No vote was effectively a vote to let the British political elite decide what you’d just voted for. It gave the British state a licence to do as it pleased with Scotland. They’d been handed a ballot that was marked with a cross but otherwise blank. They were left to fill in the details in whatever way suited them. So they’ve decided that a No vote was a vote to roll back devolution and tack forward the ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist project.

Much the same thing happened with the EU referendum. The implications of a Leave vote were never properly explored. The Brexiteers were never seriously interrogated. Not only were their plans afforded no scrutiny, for the most part they weren’t even asked if they had any plans. Once again, the mainstream media failed shamefully in its duty to inform and explain.

A Leave vote in the EU referendum ended up being an unspecified choice in much the same way as a No vote in Scotland’s first independence referendum. What ensued is a farce inside a fiasco wrapped in a bourach as the British political elite squabbles over what should fill the empty vessel of Leave and fails abysmally to find anything that will actually fit.

Now, we have this campaign for a ‘People’s Vote’. Which sounds very worthy. But which actually means only that they want to use the UK electorate as a big fist to force something into that empty vessel regardless of whether it fits or not. The very fact that it proposes three options is evidence enough of the idiocy of this campaign. Idiocy which only grows more profound as one realises that none of the three options can be anything like as tightly defined as the blunt instrument of a referendum absolutely requires.

Quite apart from the rather obvious inanity of having two Leave options and one Remain option, nobody can possibly say with any certainty what any of these options would mean in practice. Because it won’t be the voters who ultimately decide the outcome. It will be the EU. At best, people can only be voting for what they imagine is the option which comes closest to what they hope for.

A vote for the UK Government’s Leave ‘deal’ – supposing one is ever agreed – isn’t a vote for an outcome. At best, it is a vote for a negotiating position which is liable to change depending on which faction of the British political elite has the upper hand at any given time. A negotiating position which, furthermore, has already been largely rejected by the EU or is subject to severe reservations.

A vote for Leave with no ‘deal’ is even more of a mystery bundle. Although the revolting stench coming off it strongly hints at the unpleasant nature of what lies beneath the layers of packaging.

Even a Remain vote cannot be defined. Supposing it is possible to revoke Article 50 and abandon the entire Brexit mess, would this restore the status quo ante? Or might the EU impose terms? Is there the political will among the British political elite to implement such a decision? And what if Remain ‘wins’ but without an absolute majority? Pick your permutation of problematic poll results. How about 35% Remain; 35% Leave with ‘deal’; 30% Leave without ‘deal’. What is the will of the electorate?

And even in the highly improbably event that the ‘People’s Vote’ did give a clear result, what if that result serves only to confirm and emphasise the democratic deficit inherent in the Union? What if, once again, it’s a Leave vote in England and Wales outweighing a decisive Remain vote in Scotland? Nothing is resolved. We’re back where we started.

Brexit can’t be fixed. That’s the bottom line. It simply cannot be sorted. There is no way to make it OK. The only way that Scotland can avoid being dragged down by Brexit is to cease being part of the UK. The Scottish Government must initiate the process of dissolving the Union as a matter of extreme urgency.

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A good day’s work

saltire_eu“With ambition and pragmatism and energy on all sides, we can get there in October,” says Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab. For which we should read that it’ll all work out fine so long as others are prepared to pander to British exceptionalism, accommodate the UK Government’s incompetence and accede to impossible demands which demonstrate only that the British political elite doesn’t comprehend either the EU’s position or their own situation.

The implication is that, while the British side is working hard, being realistic and bringing innovative ideas to the process, Michel Barnier and his team are being lackadaisical, unhelpful and obdurate.

But that was always going to be the spin. In the entire Brexit process the UK Government’s approach has been concerned less with ultimate outcomes and more with the eventual apportioning of credit and blame. It’s not about what the final ‘deal’ actually is. It’s about how it can be made to appear to the relatively tiny number of English voters who decide elections in this Great British Demockracy. And, of course, how it can be painted and polished to look like it’s what is being demanded by the snarling factions within the British Conservative & Unionist Party. A title which looks more and more grotesquely ironic by the day.

The problem is much the same for British Labour. As in all things, they must differentiate themselves sufficiently from the other British establishment party to maintain the illusion of real parliamentary opposition and meaningful electoral choice whilst appealing to the same small section of the electorate. This perennial problem now featuring the added dilemma of which Tory faction they should be differentiating themselves from.

What the British parties have in common is the idea that Brexit is a presentational problem. If the two sides – by which I mean the UK and EU negotiating teams and not the Tory party factions – appear to be talking about different things it’s because they are. Michel Barnier and his team are concerned with the practicalities of the UK quitting the EU. Dominic Raab and the sack of fractious rats he’s been left holding are mainly worried about how the latest episode in this farce will play in the media and among those vital voters.

Raab got his soundbite suggesting it’s the EU which lacks “ambition and pragmatism and energy”. For him, that’s a good day’s work.

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Just another Jock

mundellOf course Mundell would prefer a ‘no deal’ Brexit to independence. Even the best Brexit imaginable would be a national disaster for Scotland. Independence would be a personal disaster for Mundell and his ilk.

Just think what the dissolution of the Union will cost the likes of Mundell. The British state would be broken. The system of patronage which allows easy access to status and power for a privileged few would be massively compromised. The good days would be over. Especially for British Nationalists in Scotland. The trough would be very much smaller. Scottish Unionists like Mundell wouldn’t even be allowed in the queue.

Perhaps a select few might be found sinecures in the rump UK. But they would never be permitted anywhere near real power. The positions they enjoy at present depend entirely on their performance as faithful servants of the British state. They will take the blame for the failure of the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project.

Independence would mean the end of Mundell’s political career. He would find himself rejected by the people of Scotland even as he was snubbed by his former masters in the remnants of the British state. British Nationalists will be as unelectable in Scotland as Scottish citizens will be in England. Even with genuine reconciliation, it is unlikely that Scottish voters could ever bring themselves to trust those who have shown themselves so willing to sacrifice Scotland on the altar of British imperialist pretension.

Doubtless there will be a few theatrical conversions to Scotland’s cause among Unionists desperate to salvage something from the ruins of their political careers. But why would the people of Scotland give a democratic mandate to those who have treated them with utter contempt and exhibited such total disdain for democracy? How could we trust people who, having proclaimed the inevitability of Scotland failing as a normal country, would have a vested interest in working to ensure they were proved to have been correct?

I suspect, however, that being spurned by Scotland is something that Mundell would consider a trivial matter. Being scorned by the British state is what will really hurt. Independence will be a personal catastrophe for Mundell because, to the ruling elites of the British state, he will become just another Jock.

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Scotland’s champion

james_wolffeIt is interesting that James Wolffe QC “wants the case thrown out right at the start”. Does this indicate at last the sense of urgency that many of us have been seeking from the SNP administration? It would be gratifying to think so.

Be that as it may, we can certainly welcome the tone of the Lord Advocate’s submission to the UK Supreme Court. It represents an explicit and forceful challenge to the arrogantly assumed supremacy of Westminster and the idea that the British ruling elites can dispose of Scotland as they please. It may be seen as asserting on behalf of the Scottish Parliament a democratic legitimacy which Westminster lacks. Behind the legalese lies the simple claim that the Scottish Parliament truly speaks for Scotland in a way that Westminster never can.

This is important. This is crucial. Our Parliament is the foundation on which our democracy is built. It is the soil from which has grown Scotland’s distinctive political culture. It is the guardian of our precious public services. It is the guarantor of our right of self-determination. The facilitator of our capacity to choose the form of government which best serves the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people.

The people of Scotland are sovereign. The Scottish Parliament gives agency to that sovereignty. It is the alternative – and the antidote – to the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. It is what stands between us and the anti-democratic British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project. It must be defended by every means available to us. It must be defended in the courts. If necessary, it must be defended on the streets.

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I despair!

referendum_2018_petitionIn all this talk of postponing the new referendum, whether it be until 2019 or 2021 or 2022, I see no explanation of how those commending delay propose to deal with the measures that the UK Government will surely implement in order to make a referendum impossible or unwinnable or both. It’s as if they think the British state is a benign entity which is just going to sit back and wait until we get our act together. It’s as if they are dumbly unaware that locking Scotland into a unilaterally redefined political union is one of the principal imperatives driving British policy.

How do we even know there will be any Holyrood elections in 2021? How do we know there will be any Scottish Parliament in 2021? And, even if it is allowed to survive while the Postponers are warming their fiddle-fingers at the bonfire of Scotland’s democracy, how can anyone even begin to imagine that it won’t have been stripped of the power to call a referendum?

At a minimum, all the British political elite would have to do is transfer powers over the franchise to the new unelected and unaccountable shadow administration under David Mundell.

But STILL the Postponers have absolutely nothing to say about such matters. They are so wrapped up in trying to think of ways to game the British political system it never occurs to them that there is actually no reason at all why we should be playing according to the rules of that system.

Worse! They genuinely seem to suppose that the ‘right time’ for a new referendum will just magically emerge from conditions which – by THEIR choice! – are all but entirely determined by forces that are intractably opposed to the people of Scotland EVER being permitted to exercise their right of self-determination.

I despair!

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It’s what we make it

saltire_breakoutI have news for Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp. Brexit is not the only thing happening in the world. It’s not even the only thing happening in Scotland. Were he but able to tear his attention away from Brexit for a second he might notice a few other things going on. Things that might just throw his nice tidy independence timeline into disarray.

Scour that timeline as you may, you will find no mention of the steps the British government will be taking in order to make a new independence referendum impossible or unwinnable of both. Which is odd given that Gordon otherwise seems to suppose the British government to be the only effective actor in all of politics. His timeline is almost entirely a tale of what the British elite does, and how the Scottish Government might react.

No account is taken of the fact that the British state has already started to strip powers from the Scottish Parliament and explicitly signalled its intention to further undermine Scotland’s democratic institutions. The timeline totally ignores the unelected and unaccountable shadow administration under David Mundell which is being readied to take over powers stripped from Holyrood. It blithely disregards things like the transfer to the ‘UK Government in Scotland’ of powers over the franchise. Simply by excluding 16 and 17-year olds Mundell could deal a crippling blow to any new independence referendum. And that’s just one example. Spend a few moments reflecting, in a way Gordon signally fails to do, on the myriad ways the British government might seek to thwart the democratic process.

It seems that the whole Brexit bourach looms so large in Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp’s view that he seems oblivious to the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project that is running in parallel with it. A project which, more importantly, would be proceeding regardless of Brexit. Concern for the economic impact of Brexit is understandable. But it should not blind us to the fundamental constitutional issue and the threat to Scotland’s democracy.

While the casual disregard for this real and imminent constitutional threat is perplexing, the stuff about asking for a Section 30 Order is just bloody annoying. I know that Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is fully aware of the importance of reframing the arguments for the new referendum. He knows what reframing means. He is well aware of how it works. He appreciates that it involves altering perceptions by changing the way an issue is presented. So why is he still mired in the now outmoded mindset of the 2014 referendum? Why is he still thinking in terms of independence being something that is in the gift of the British state, rather than something that is Scotland’s natural right?

Why does he continue to maintain that Scotland’s constitutional status has to be negotiated with the British government as if it required their agreement, rather than simply the expressed will of Scotland’s people?

Why does he so readily accept the notion that the British political elite might have the legitimate authority to veto the right of self-determination that is vested wholly in the people of Scotland?

We do not need Westminster’s permission to exercise our right of self-determination. We don’t need the British political elite’s approval to end a political union in which we are equal partners. The British has neither the right nor the authority to demand that we pass some contrived test in order to qualify for independence. Unless, of course, we afford them that authority. Unless we choose to concede that right.

The approach outlined by Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is demeaning. The time for asking is past. This is the time for taking.

More and more people in the Yes movement are coming to this conclusion. The idea of Scotland as a supplicant petitioning a superior power for the granting of a constitutional boon is being rejected as inappropriate, offensive and politically ill-judged.

Which brings us to the final flaw in Gordon’s independence timeline. As well as neglecting to have due regard for the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project and woefully failing to reframe the issue, no account is taken of the momentum building in the Yes movement. Across Scotland, thousands of individuals and groups are poised, ready for a new referendum campaign. How long does Gordon imagine the enthusiasm and energy can be kept on hold? The reserves are not infinite. At some point, either the dam bursts or the reserves begin to deplete faster than they can be replenished.

People will weary of waiting. They need to act. They will tire of marching. They need to get somewhere. They will only endure so much. They need to see an end to it.

It is time for bold, decisive, assertive action. It is time to do, rather than be done to. It is time for defiance, not compliance. It is time to assert the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. It is time to dissolve the Union and dare the British political elite to stand in Scotland’s way.

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