Wrong target II

Once again, I find myself unable to be shocked by this ‘revelation’. I, and many others, were warning well ahead of polling in the 2014 referendum that one obvious consequence of a No vote would be increased, and more brazenly invasive, efforts to bypass and undermine the Scottish Parliament.

Holyrood’s fate was sealed in 2007 when voters ended the British parties’ domination by electing an SNP government. The British state’s imperative to rein in Scotland’s democracy was made all the more urgent when, in 2011, the Scottish electorate casually broke the system which had been designed to ensure that the Scottish Parliament would always be under the control of one or more of the British establishment parties.

The enthusiasm of British Labour in Scotland for devolution was almost entirely a function of their belief that this would guarantee them a permanent power-base in Scotland. Their Tory partners were prepared to tolerate devolution only because they were confident that, whatever power the Scottish Parliament might afford British Labour, it would always be insufficient to pose a threat to a Tory government in Westminster. And, of course, because they were assured that the Union would never be compromised. For all the rhetoric, when it comes to keeping Scotland in check, British Labour is considered a safe pair of hands by the British establishment.

No voters handed the British political elite a licence to dispose of Scotland as they pleased. Did hose No voters seriously imagine the British political elite wouldn’t use that licence to the full? What was it about the history of the British state and its treatment of Scotland which led them to this staggeringly naive belief?

For those of us not afflicted by this credulousness, it comes as no surprise whatever to find British politicians conspiring to emasculate Scotland’s only democratically legitimate parliament. The Union requires this. The fact that the Scottish Parliament represents a form of democracy which cannot be managed by the apparatus of the British state means that it must be crippled or destroyed. No challenge to established power can be tolerated. Any moves towards restoring to the people of Scotland the sovereignty which is theirs by absolute right must be thwarted. Dissent must be rendered manageable. Distinctiveness must be wholly eradicated. All in the name of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism.

What is disappointing – if not, in the light of late experience, surprising – is to find SNP politicians presenting this assault on Scotland’s democracy as exclusively, or even particularly, a Tory project. This implies a disturbing failure to recognise the nature of Scotland’s predicament. A predicament which cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of democratic principles simply by a change of government at Westminster, or the installation of a new British Prime Minister in Downing Street.

Correspondence, both private and public, with others in the Yes movement leads me to the certainty that I am not alone in the fervent wish that SNP politicians would desist from treating Scotland’s cause as a mere party political contest with the British Tories and afford that cause its deserved status as a battle for the integrity of Scotland’s democracy.



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5 thoughts on “Wrong target II

  1. Couldn’t agree more. The British Nationalists up here will present a united front up here, and in collaboration with the HQs down there. It has always been about the Union itself and those who represent it.

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  2. My fear also Peter. Can you point to the precise legislative levers that Westminster have used to empower themselves to abolish Holyrood because that is what we will come up against?

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    1. Interesting question, Iain. The answer which springs immediately to mind is the Scotland Act. While this is certainly a true and factual response, I suspect it may be considered a little glib. My assumption is that you are looking for something more precise. Some fine detail. I would respond that it hardly matters. Simply by reserving powers relating to the constitutional integrity of the UK, the Scotland Act allows the British state to abolish the devolved administrations at the stroke of a pen. I doubt a vote at Westminster would be required. But the outcome would, in any case, be a foregone conclusion.

      Abolishing the Scottish Parliament is, of course, the ‘nuclear option’. The British have alternatives. They could, for example, merely ‘suspend’ Holyrood – indefinitely or for a fixed period that they would have the authority to extend so that it too would be effectively indefinite. Or permanent. But with slightly better ‘optics’.

      Another option – and perhaps the most likely – is simply to cripple the Scottish Parliament using devolution. Reimposing direct rule in certain key areas would leave the Parliament no more than the glorified ‘coonty cooncil’ it was always intended to be. Again, the Scotland Act affords them the power to do this. (Actually, it is the Union which affords them this power and it would be more accurate to say that the Scotland Act is contrived so as not to compromise the central point of the Union – the sovereignty of the ‘Crown in Parliament’. It should also be noted that giving the Scottish Parliament powers can be a way of crippling it. With power comes responsibility. But if that responsibility doesn’t have an adequate budget attached, the power becomes toxic.

      Brexit-related legislation gives the British state other “legislative levers”. You may have heard David Mundell talk about ‘UK-wide common frameworks’. This is a euphemism for direct rule in specific areas. It is an option which may be favoured because it can be spun as actually leaving powers in Scotland, but having them administered by ‘the UK Government in Scotland’ rather than the Scottish Government. An additional advantage is that these ‘UK-wide common frameworks’ could be could be so contrived as to make it appear that the Scottish Government is still responsible. It would suit the British Nationalists very nicely if they could take powers relating to fracking, allow it to proceed, and lay the blame on the Scottish Government. Possibly as a prelude to suspension or abolition of the Scottish Parliament as a response to the inevitable protests and refusal to cooperate with the ‘UK-wide common framework’..

      There are, as you can see, a number of ways that it could play out. The important thing is that it will play out. The only question is how brutal the British will be in their measures to rein in a recalcitrant Scotland. Will they go straight for abolition of Holyrood? Or will they go for what they doubtless imagine to be a more subtle approach?

      If you want the truly glib and cynical answer to the question of what “legislative levers’ the British political elite has at its disposal, that would be, whatever legislative levers they choose to make for themselves. There is no constitutional check on their power. No effective parliamentary check. Certainly no democratic check. The Union bestows absolute power on the British political elite to dispose of Scotland as it will. Where previously there may have been political constraints to somewhat compensate for the lack of proper checks, those are now gone.

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      1. Thank you Peter. A dismal prospect and no legal options to defend ourselves with. Begs the question…just how far are Scots prepared to go to, I order to save ourselves from this persecution?

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