I have frequently observed that there is no path to independence which does not pass through a point at which there is direct and potentially acrimonious confrontation with the British state. This is necessarily so as to imagine that it might be possible to end the Union whilst adhering to laws and procedures designed to preserve it is to go against all logic.
Given that there must be confrontation – that the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament must breach the British state’s rules in order to restore constitutional normality to Scotland – then it is clearly vital that this confrontation be on terms determined by the Scottish Government. It would be obvious folly to go head-to-head with the British state on ground of their choosing. The Scottish Government must choose the rule to break. It must decide the issue on which to confront the British state. And it must decide the manner and the timing of this confrontation.
There is no better issue on which to confront the British state than the matter of Scotland’s right of self-determination. On this issue in particular, the Scottish Government is on absolutely solid ground. The right of self-determination is guaranteed by the Charter of the United nations. The British state cannot have the power to deny or constrain that right. It’s asserted authority to effectively veto the right of Scotland’s people to determine the constitutional status of their nation and choose the form of government which best suits their needs cannot withstand challenge.
For this reason, the point of confrontation should be the requirement that the Scottish Parliament seek Westminster’s permission to hold a constitutional referendum.
The so-called ‘Section 30 order’ purports to be no more than a procedural device by which power in a reserved area is temporarily transferred to the Scottish Parliament. It is merely assumed that the British state is entitled to withhold said power in the first place. It is time that assumption was challenged.
But the ‘Section 30’ requirement is much more than a mere procedural technicality. Without that requirement, and the provisions within which it is enshrined, devolution would not be possible. This is how the British state retains the power that is devolved. This is how the British ruling elite ensures that the sovereignty of the ‘Crown in Parliament’ is not challenged by the competing and wholly irreconcilable principle of popular sovereignty. It is only by putting shackles on the right of self-determination that the British state can play with devolution without compromising the single underlying and overarching purpose of the Union – to be a constitutional device whereby the people of Scotland are denied the full and effective exercise of their sovereignty.
The ‘Section 30’ requirement protects the Union. The Union protects the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.
Doubtless some will object that this represents an oversimplification of the issue. Perhaps. Or perhaps it reduces the issue to its essentials, stripping away the entanglements of legal argumentation that would bind us to a ‘status quo’ which disadvantages us not least by the manner in which it entangles us in legal argumentation.
The Scottish Government must explicitly reject the need for Westminster’s permission; declare its intention to proceed with a constitutional referendum on the basis of Scotland’s inalienable right of self-determination; and dare the British state to try and prevent the people of Scotland exercising a fundamental democratic right.
This must happen soon. There simply is no reason to delay. It is perfectly clear that, wherever the British state is heading, it is a place that Scotland does not want to go. Arguments about waiting to see the outcome of this or that process are without merit when there are no outcomes which are acceptable to Scotland.
I therefore suggest Thursday 19 September 2019 as the date of a referendum on the question of dissolving the Union.
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