Section 30 is not Scotland’s salvation

I wonder if those who say things like “we are not at the end of the Section 30 order road” have ever stopped to think about what a Section 30 order actually is. When I hear people insisting that a Section 30 order is absolutely required for a referendum on restoring Scotland’s independence to be ‘legal and ‘binding’, I tend to wonder if they have considered what a Section 30 order is for and why this ‘loophole’ was made part of the Scotland Act 1998. After all, we know that the core purpose of the legislation is, not to empower the Scottish Parliament, but to keep it in check. We know that the devolution experiment never had anything to do with addressing the democratic deficit imposed by the Union or improving Scotland’s governance, but was always about creating a new and superficially more democratic framework within which powers could be ‘managed’ without the risk of compromising the Union. So why would the legislation include a provision for granting additional powers to the Scottish Parliament?

The answer, of course, is that it doesn’t. As becomes immediately clear when one reads the relevant text at Section 30(2).

Her Majesty may by Order in Council make any modifications of Schedule 4 or 5 which She considers necessary or expedient.

Scotland Act 1998

Expressed in a less legalistic, and more forthright, fashion what this says is that the British Prime Minister – currently a malignant child-clown named Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson – can alter the powers of the Scottish Parliament whenever they want and in any way they deem “necessary or expedient” for their purposes – that purpose being ever and always the preservation of the Union. I think it’s fair to say that Section 30 isn’t sounding like quite the boon to Scotland some seem to suppose it to be. It is simply another device by which the British state may rein in the Scottish Parliament. Or, at least, that was the intention. Belt and braces legislation. Just in case there were any loopholes which might allow Holyrood more power than was intended, Section 30 allows the British political elite to quickly patch up any chink in the armour protecting the Union.

You may be asking how, if the purpose of Section 30 is to provide extra protection for the Union, did it come to be used to secure a ‘legal and binding’ independence referendum in 2014? To understand how this came about you need know just one thing – Alex Salmond is a lot smarter than David Cameron. Alex Salmond played Cameron like the proverbial old fiddle. He knew his opponent and was keenly aware that he could rely on a mix of hubris, arrogance and ignorance to enable him to extract what he wanted from the then British Prime Minister. And what he wanted was, not the Section 30 order itself, but the Edinburgh Agreement that accompanied it.

Of course, the drafters of the legislation never envisaged Section 30 being used in this way. They assumed the Scottish Parliament would always be controlled by the the British parties; who would never do anything to jeopardise the Union. That’s the way the electoral system was set up. Not, as some imagine, to keep the SNP out, but to keep some combination or permutation of British parties perpetually in. Another safeguard for the Union. You may be starting to discern a pattern.

Alex Salmond is a brilliant political operator. A master of the art of keeping open as many options as possible and a man who can calculate, on the fly, all the values in a complex trade-off. Setting a precedent by requesting a Section 30 order was dangerous because, on the face of it, this might limit the options available in the future. Remember that, in 2012, Salmond had little reason to suppose that a referendum could be won. He was pretty much bounced into going for it because, in 2011, the Scottish electorate broke the voting system in a way that not even Alex Salmond could have predicted. He had to declare the referendum. And he would do his utmost to win it. But he was also planning for the loss and looking to get as much out of the whole exercise as he could.

Aware that the precedent-setting risk involved in requesting a Section 30 order was at least mitigated and almost certainly negated by the unlawfulness of any attempt to deny the right of self-determination, Salmond figured the trade-off was worth it to secure the Edinburgh Agreement and, crucially, formal recognition of Scotland’s right of self-determination by the British state. Asking permission from Cameron must have grated severely on Salmond’s Scottish sensibilities. But, ever the pragmatist, he got on with doing what was necessary.

So, to summarise – the purpose of Section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998, is to afford the British Prime Minister the legal authority to unilaterally and arbitrarily alter the powers of the Scottish Parliament. So much for the ‘most powerful devolved parliament in the world’!

Alex Salmond used the Section 30 procedure to manipulate David Cameron into formally acknowledging Scotland’s right of self-determination as part of a subsidiary plan to ease the way for a new referendum in the event that the 2014 vote went the wrong way.

Salmond realised that this could not set an awkward precedent as the Section 30 procedure would always be trumped by international laws and conventions relating to the right of self-determination. Which does not mean that we should take the British government to court – whatever that may entail. What it means, and what Salmond no doubt intended, is that the British state is powerfully deterred from taking the Scottish Government to court. It is highly unlikely that any constitutional court, including the UK Supreme Court, would uphold the British government’s right to exercise what is effectively a veto over Scotland’s right of self-determination. To do so would be to strike down the Charter of the United Nations. No constitutional court would risk its credibility in this way. No judge would want that on their Debrett’s entry, or their Wikipedia page.

The question, therefore, is not whether we are “at the end of the Section 30 order road”, but whether we should be on that road at all.

Some insist that a Section 30 order is required to make a referendum legal. This is the colonised mind speaking. Note how such people constantly fret about the legality of what Scotland does and its bearing on independent Scotland gaining recognition by the international community. Note how they rarely, if ever, think about questioning the legality of what the British state does. They never ask how a law prohibiting or constraining a fundamental democratic right can possibly be valid. The British political elite has only to assert a power, and the colonised mind unthinkingly accepts it. The superiority of the British state is mindlessly assumed.

What matters in relation to the right of self-determination is, not formal legality, but democratic legitimacy. So long as the process by which the right of self-determination is exercised can be shown to be open and democratic, any law purporting to prohibit or constrain that right cannot itself be legitimate. Especially when that law is imposed by a parliament and a government which itself lacks even the semblance of democratic legitimacy. Who says so? Well, among others, the British government. It is stated with great clarity and concision in the British government’s statement(s) to the International Court of Justice inquiry as to whether the declaration of independence by the provisional institutions of self-government of Kosovo was in accordance
with international law.

5.5 Consistent with this general approach, international law has not treated the legality of the act of secession under the internal law of the predecessor State as determining the effect of that act on the international plane. In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor State‟s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition.

5.6 Nor is compliance with the law of the predecessor State a condition for the declaration of independence to be recognised by third States, if other conditions for recognition are fulfilled. The conditions do not include compliance with the internal legal requirements of the predecessor State. Otherwise the international legality of a secession would be predetermined by the very system of internal law called in question by the circumstances in
which the secession is occurring.

5.7 For the same reason, the constitutional authority of the seceding entity to proclaim independence within the predecessor State is not determinative as a matter of international law. In most if not all cases, provincial or regional authorities will lack the constitutional authority to secede. The act of secession is not thereby excluded. Moreover, representative institutions may legitimately act, and seek to reflect the views of their constituents, beyond the scope of already conferred power.


It is abundantly clear that there is no necessity to follow the Section 30 procedure. So the question becomes one of what, if anything, makes it desirable to do so? And that is a far more difficult question, because it concerns subjective judgement Personally, I just hope that those ‘influencers’ who are advocating for the Section 30 procedure have actually thought it through. And, if our elected leaders are opting for the Section 30 procedure, I feel entitled to demand to know why, and to be assured that they have fully considered the kind of implications outlined in a previous article.

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42 thoughts on “Section 30 is not Scotland’s salvation

  1. What your saying is absolutely right Peter, but as I said to Maria earlier, the problem we have in Scotland is we are unfortunately a divided country, we have a sizeable union supporting population. And knowing the shi**y London Media and this despicable Westminster shower of shi*e, they will try everything to sabotage any referendum held without a section 30 and easily persuade the unionist population of Scotland to boycott it. They will then say a huge percentage of the population haven’t voted and boycotted indy ref2 and you had no section 30 so it has no legal standing. They will make it very very difficult and we may enter a whole new ball game, it would be a constitutional mess. And Westminster knows this and would jump all over it. Unfortunately Westminster still has huge influence over the brainwashed idiots in the country, that’s how they have been doing it for centuries, in every country in the world the divide and conquer ideology. I don’t envy Nicola’s predicament, Its a tricky one. But one things for sure its not going to be easy, because this corrupt disgusting shower of shi** will do anything to preserve the power and wealth of Westminster and I mean anything. The section 30 order is more like window dressing trying to bring some sort of legal standing to the process, it doesn’t really have any sway, but it would at least hold the shower of shite that is Westminster to account, I don’t even think that will help these two faced deceitful duplicitous bastards to account. They’ll stoop to lows unimaginable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If we allow ourselves to be deterred by the kind of concerns you express then, not only do we not get independence, we don’t deserve it. Isn’t it curious how you denounce the “shi**y London Media” but allow yourself to be influenced by them. The Union supporting population is not as sizeable as you suppose and not as committed to the status quo either. The only thing stopping the floodgates of support for independence opening is the lack of action from our government.

      The idea that asking for a Section 30 order is a trivial matter because it’s just “window dressing” is dangerously naive. Read this – The whole point of the article on which you are commenting is that a Section 30 order DOES NOT “bring some sort of legal standing to the process”. And that ‘legality’ is not the issue in any case. I have to wonder if you even read it.


      1. “…The Union supporting population is not as sizeable as you suppose and not as committed to the status quo either…”

        I agree, and I think the SNP needs to put it to the test by running a referendum without a S30 Order and by running a parallel case in the international courts to resile the Treaty.


        1. It is exceedingly unlikely that the ICJ would accept an application from Scotland in circumstances where a referendum was being held. The referendum supersedes any judgement of the court. If the people vote to dissolve the Union then the application is redundant. If the people vote No then the application has no basis.

          Forget the courts. This will be made in Scotland, or it won’t be made at all.


      2. I, like yourself, have been frustrated by the lack of action by the SNP but careful deliberation has persuaded me that they have no other choice.

        Even if, as you believe, a second independence referendum will see the floodgates of support open, I believe that it will not be enough because it is reasonable to assume that unionists will simply boycott it. This will be their only option and like it or not, it will cast doubt on the result which will be all the justification needed to ignore it. The best it can achieve therefore, is to demonstrate that there is a significant number, possibly even a majority, of Scots who believe that Scotland should be an independent country but that too, will be ignored.

        I agree with you that a Section 30 does not in itself bring legal standing. It is however, a means to begin the process which will necessitate the establishment of an agreement which would lock the British Government into accepting the result regardless of any boycott.


        1. The colonised mind. Read your last paragraph again with that phrase in mind. If you’re not familiar with the concept of the colonised mind, look it up. Then come back and read your final paragraph to see a perfect example of the colonised mind at work.

          Those of us whose minds at not – or no longer – colonised by the narratives of British exceptionalism read your words and wonder why recognition of the democratic will of the people of Scotland requires an “agreement” with the British state. Those of us who hold the Scottish people to be sovereign take as our default position that the will of the Scottish people is the final word on all matters. We do not suppose that our choices and decisions must receive the approval of any foreign government or external agency in order to be truly legitimate.

          That colonised mind is also in evidence in your comments about a boycott of a referendum by British Nationalists. Here too, you defer to the British as if they are the superior authority. You accept, without thought or question, that such a boycott must nullify the referendum. In which case, restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status becomes an impossible dream. Because you grant the British the power to nullify the necessary referendum simply by them choosing not to participate.

          The mind which has freed itself of British colonisation does not so readily concede defeat. Such a minds does not simply assume that Scotland must always succumb to the manoeuvrings of the British state. Such a mind does not just shut down when presented with an obstacle devised by the British.

          Think it through. For a boycott to be effective, the British Nationalist would have to gain support from at least 50% of the electorate. If the legislation governing the referendum stipulates that it will be regarded as valid so long as turnout is over 50% then no boycott can possibly work.

          They will whine. They will protest. They will say it’s just not British. But they will do that anyway. Only the colonised mind cares.


    1. The First Minister declares her government’s intention to #DissolveTheUnion subject to a referendum. Parliament approves the proposal. There is a maximum six week campaign. The people of Scotland vote on the following question –

      The Scottish Parliament proposes that the Union between Scotland and England be dissolved. Do you agree with this proposal? YES/NO

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think we also have to look at what we have legally agreed to, and can be held to have agreed to, and which might just be used against us, and that is the Treaty of Union itself – and, although I think Westminster would challenge any attempt to resile it, initially, the bounce back against rUK and Westminster could, and probably would, be devastating. If it is an international contract between two independent sovereign nation states (which it was and still is), then both are bound by it. That is in keeping with what you have written about the S30 Order and all the other constitutional rules and conventions that are not ours, but wholly English. We might ask: when did Scotland agree to abide by any of these? Magna Carta? This is precisely where it all falls down because the British State and the UK it serves, are both English constructs and have little or no relevance to our legal and constitutional obligations except insofar as we allow them to be and how much we adhere to them willingly – which is almost always.

    It was assumed, from day one, by the English MPs and administrators, but not, I believe the monarch (Queen Anne or her English Commissioners and jurists (draftsmen) that Scotland was now to be subsumed by a Greater England (One Nation State to you and me), and, indeed, the Crawford and Boyle Report based its entire argument on that false premise – which, I might remind everyone, no one in authority in Scotland challenged more than half-heartedly at the time, albeit it was never adopted by Cameron after its commission – for very telling and salient reasons, those being that it was legally flawed and dead in the water. The Union we have today was never intended to be the Union we should have had. That is the most crucial point. The Union was hi-jacked and used, illegally and ultra vires, by the UK of GB and the British State to ensure that England and only England made the decisions for the entire UK. It is akin to two people, equal in all matters relevant, coming together to invest in a contract (and Scotland’s investment was as much as, if not greater than, England’s) from which both should profit. Instead, one of the two decides that he/she should be the superior and the other the inferior, belied totally by the very terms (articles in treaty parlance, another proof that it is an international document) of the contract itself. In those circumstances the other party would be perfectly entitled in law to withdraw from the contract on the grounds of bad faith and illegal actings (illegitimacy and ultra vires, for a state).

    The Treaty is still extant or the Lords under Lord Wallace would be far less keen to replace it, and it must contain within its articles matters that are not advantageous to rUK and Westminster’s stance on the Union as it is today, or they really would not bother. The occupants of the Lords, venal as they may be, many of them, are a step up in intellect from the Commons. If this did not advantage Scotland, they would have ignored it. Even in the domestic arena, and not the EU arena, for which it was initially commissioned by Cameron to thwart Scotland’s ability to stay within the EU, it is vital to rUK’s (England’s) international status that Scotland was subsumed in 1707. That would ensure that Scotland could not be the continuity state, or, more likely in law, one of the two continuity states. Continuity state status for Scotland is not, in my humble opinion, necessary or advisable. Let rUK (England) have it and walk away with all pre-1707 assets intact. The debt and joint assets since the Union can be divested or negotiated to the mutual benefit of both, as necessity entails and, believe me, rUK and Westminster will want to negotiate. That would also mean that we would not be able to simply take over rUK’s EU membership or step into rUK’s shoes, but, since over a million in Scotland voted for Brexit, perhaps some form of associated membership might suit us better in the longer term?

    I am not averse to a second indyref if, even in taking the risk, we might succeed this time, but I do think that we should be taking the Treaty to the international courts for adjudication and to resile on the grounds of bad faith and illegitimate and ultra vires actings for 312 years on the part of the other signatory. At no point in those 312 years has the English part of the Union treated us as anything other than a subsidiary, a satellite, an inferior, a ‘colony’, for want of a better word. That is not what the Treaty was intended to do, and that is what the law looks at: the intention behind the words. In that, Westminster and Whitehall and the British State have been acting illegally and ultra vires, and the Treaty cannot be superseded by devolution legislation because no founding document that creates legitimacy from pre-existing legitimacy (the Scottish and English parliaments’ legitimacy) can supersede itself. If it does so, the new state must fall. The Union must fall.

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    1. I should add that the Treaty of Union will still come into play in any negotiations between the two original co-signatories to it. That cannot be avoided because, no subsequent legislation can supersede primary legislation. The primary legislation of the UK of GB, the original Union is the Treaty of Union and it cannot simply be set aside. That is why Lord Wallace wants a new one drafted, but even that would require the signature of the Scottish administration, the SG, and the agreement of the Scottish parliament, Holyrood, or another referendum to decide whether we want a new Treaty. If we either sign up to a new one or decide in a referendum to legislate a new one, we are snookered.

      All legislation flowing from primary legislation is secondary, and that includes devolved legislation because it could not possibly exist without the founding legislation, the Treaty, which England has appropriated, illegally, to itself and itself only, in the guise of the British parliament, Westminster. If the Union is dissolved or falls, everything stemming from the 312 years of the Union remains to be negotiated, within reason. Some matters are well-founded in international law and will be governed by it, meaning yet again that international law will allow us a say, not, as happens in domestic affairs, when we have none at all. There can, and will, be no immediate severing of the two original countries to the Union without legal ramifications.

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  3. Norway and Sweden were in a union, where Sweden held the upper hand, much like England in the UK.

    The Norwegians broke the domestic law by setting up a foreign embassy. Sweden refused to recognise this, and a challenge was laid down. The Norwegians proceeded to declare the union dissolved , and made that declaration via the King at the time.

    Sweden and Norway then divorced. Uncannily similar to our set up.

    Peter you always said that the SG would need to break the law to get independence. The answer is above! We have our referendum, WM refuses to recognise it and or the result, and then we dissolve the union.

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    1. Norway and Sweden’s Union was rather different from ours in that Norway held all institutions of sovereignty, and, finally, it was a monarchical union only. Ours is very much a political union, stemming originally from a monarchical union. Norway had her own currency, armed forces, etc. and it was after a conflict that the two joined up when Norway was defeated. They might appear very similar, Big Jock, but they are very different. Norwegian power did not derive from a devolution ceded by the central state’s legislature as ours does. Norway simply carried on as Norway. We should have done but did not because we never challenged seriously the English right to hegemony in the Union. That is where it all falls down. We have silently and by deed, allowed England to usurp our rightful place in the Union, and that is why we are having so much difficulty in persuading people that we the right of it. They are not convinced, many of them because we have collaborated in our own imprisonment. The recognition of our Claim of Right was a recognition that we have a Claim of Right, but only through the auspices of Westminster. Did the English MPs agree that we have an ancient Claim of Right that goes back centuries? I’ll think you’ll find they didn’t, and that is precisely the kind of oversight that the constitutional lawyers will jump on. They were recognising our Claim of Right from 1999 and the setting up of Holyrood. This type of misunderstanding is why we absolutely need to have the Treaty ‘sound’ in law. Too many people quote it as being either no longer extant or having no relevance to the present day when neither is true.

      Imagine when we discover, in the event of dissolving the Union, that it has a great deal of relevance and we are then called upon to answer to its relevance? Cameron did not try to undermine Scotland’s real status within the Union in order to make things easier for us in the EU. He specifically wanted Crawford and Boyle to spell out (wrongly, as English aspirations around the Treaty have always been, and founded on thin air) that resting leverage on Scotland having been subsumed would force us to back off from continuity state status within the EU, in 2013/14, and challenge rUK’s place. Scotland was not subsumed and that can be shown to be so with evidence, but it was on the question of continuity state status that Cameron was gambling on, that Scotland had none and rUK would have it all in the event of Scottish independence. That does not change with Brexit; if anything, it makes it more imperative that we show that both countries have equal claims to continuity state status, if only to afford us a very much stronger hand in any future negotiations. Why does anyone imagine they want to reduce us to regional status within the Tory One Nation State? Because we could not lay claim to the oil, the gas, the foreshore, terrestrial and maritime integrity, and so on or only a per capita share, if that… We would also have great difficulty in claiming compensation for decommissioning/or demanding removal of, the oil rigs, the defunct nuclear subs, etc. The Treaty has massive significance for all these areas.


      1. Nobody has claimed that the entire Norway/Sweden union was a direct parallel for the Scotland/England union. So lets throw that straw man on the bonfire right away. The analogy being drawn is only with the manner in which Norway broke the union. Just that. Nothing else.


  4. I have to disagree. While the monarch can alter things as does the royal prerogative, the monarch has limited authority in and over Scotland and can be removed should the Scots so choose. The status and position of the monarch in Scotland and England is completely different and should not be thought of as a singular crown with the same authorities. The monarch is sovereign in England and appoints her English government. The English government has authority in and over England. In Scotland the PEOPLE are sovereign both individually and collectively. The monarch has limited status and authority. It can be removed. The Scots are the supreme authority in and over Scotland not the monarch and certainly not the government of a foreign country.
    In 1707 the queen’s commissioners drew up a trade Agreement which was merely ratified by the parliaments. It did not have the authority nor ability to abolish the other international treaties which were in place enshrining Scotland’s independence and sovereignty. Indeed, the English establishment were forced to admit as much in parliament recently.
    A section 30 is not and never has been necessary nor an opinion poll (referendum). It is just politeness that seeking both provides and lest folk should forget it is against international law for anyone including government both domestic and foreign, institution, parliament or other to interfere in the freely given expression of self determination. It also states in international law that in order to remove all forms of colonisation in all its guises and to provide world peace the state must PROMOTE the right to self determination of any nation, people or non self governing territory.


    1. I’m not sure what you’re disagreeing with. We seem to be on the same page in most regards. I would only say that the Union had/has greater impact than you seem to suppose in that it effectively denies the sovereignty of the people of Scotland and serves as a constitutional device by which we are prevented from effectively exercising that sovereignty. Brexit being a glaring example.

      I would also insist that a referendum, or “opinion poll” as you so derisively refer to the democratic process, is very much more than a courtesy. It is essential to democratic legitimacy. The Scottish people being sovereign, their will must prevail. Therefore, there must be a means by which their will may be determined. Otherwise, who is to say what that will is?

      Your comments regarding the legality, or otherwise, of the British government’s stance on the constitutional issue and its behaviour towards Scotland, are both accurate and timely. Too many people are eager to question the legality of what Scotland does while never thinking to scrutinise the legality of what the British state does. Like so much in the independence campaign, we need to turn that around.

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  5. Putting all legal niceties aside – and they will come back to bite us – the central point is this: if we fail to persuade the requisite number of people (let’s say 50% +1) to vote for independence) and even if that referendum is brought by the Scottish government and does not have either a S30 Order or an Edinburgh Agreement, what happens then? We will certainly be in that Tory One Nation State. Can we assume that the full horror of that position will galvanize the people?

    Let’s be absolutely straight about what happened in 2014. Scots-born Scots voted for independence by around 5% than Scots-born Unionists/British Nationalists. Those figures have not been challenged, and even the 3% margin of error still gives YES the referendum. The NO vote was won by 55%, so, the Scots-born 48% who voted NO must have been augmented substantially by rUK and foreign-born (EU and others) NO voters. It was estimated by the psephologists that around 55%, or just under, rUK voters, mainly English-born decided that their allegiance lay with Westminster.

    The cri de coeur that rose from many in the ranks of the happy-clappy SNP and wider YES movement was that it is perfectly understandable for them to vote this way and have this allegiance, even when they have left their native heath and moved north to make Scotland their long-term home. In essence, they were given a carte blanche to do the same again, and let’s put it in stark terms, to stand full-square in the way of Scottish independence that most Scots actually want. Let’s think about that: most Scots actually want independence; and many of those who have moved here want to prevent them from having their independence and would, presumably, support Boris Johnson and his odious Cabinet’s attempts to deny us self-determination. Instead of telling them how entitled they are to do so – and I agree absolutely that we must take the country with us even if that is only after independence, and by offering a ratifying referendum – I really do think it is time to encourage these people to think twice and abstain if they really cannot vote with us.

    No more pandering to their selfish sensibilities. If the majority view is that we must have a pre independence referendum (bearing in mind that all of the recent ones have lost due to the votes of exactly this group of people augmenting the existing anti independence vote – Quebec twice, through the Anglophones; New Caledonia, through the French colonialists; Catalunya through Spanish interference and the Spanish vote in the area; and our own feeble attempt, thwarted through the votes of non-Scots-born Scots) then how are we going to change their minds in time to save ourselves, or, as we do in every other sphere in Scotland, bend the knee to people who are happy to make Scotland their home, with all the benefits that entails, but to deprive the Scots-born population of their right to self-determination. I am not trying to stir the pot or be a racist. My own family is part English and I do not blame the English or wish to castigate them for anything other than their high NO vote in 2014 and would ask them to question their own individual consciences.

    I am asking a perfectly legitimate question that needs to be answered, given the time scale we are talking about, and the seeming consensus that the very legislation that brought us into the Union is not to be challenged, in keeping with our lack of will to challenge anything that gives succour to those who stand in serried ranks against our perfectly normal right to independence. In the end, I do believe that, were so many born-Scots not opposed to independence that we would be at 60-70%, and that it is their colonized mindset that deprives us of the will to act decisively, but, at the end of the day, they did not bring their anti independence views to Scotland with them. I would appeal to all rUK and EU or foreign nationals who feel they cannot vote FOR independence, to abstain in a second indyref.


    1. We don’t persuade people to vote for independence. We persuade them to vote against the Union.

      There is no ethnic component to Scotland’s independence movement. If there ever is, I will have nothing to do with it.


      1. In that we can agree, Mr Bell. However, if it is not us, but they, who bring the ethnic element? Who have already done so in 2014? That is the question I am posing? I am asking: given the timescale within which we must act, and given that the majority appear to insist that a pre independence referendum is the only way forward, how do we stop a whole series of NO results, even if we insisted and were able, to have one on an annual basis? Do we simply say: okay, we ain’t going anywhere, so let’s just allow them to dictate to us – forever and a day? It is a perfectly reasonable question given the circumstances and result of the last referendum? How long will it take us to persuade them? A year? Two years? Five? Ten? Fifty? A hundred? Long after Scotland has ceased to exist as a nation state at all? I want them to be asked what they have against Scottish independence and why they would vote against it. As a Yes supporter, I am asked the question: why do I want independence? I am asked to justify why I vote YES. I want those NO voters who feel they owe Scotland no allegiance at all, to justify why they continue to support a Union and UK that damages the country they supposedly have moved to for positive reasons. I hope you will write a piece that reflects those genuine questions, but, of course, that is up to you. It is a philosophical conundrum, but one that might yet prove vital to any chance we have of leaving the Union by the favoured route. I am trying to play devil’s advocate, and because I genuinely fear for the future if we do not go soon by means of, to my mind, the only viable route that leaves a referendum, and therefore, the means to stifle it, till after de facto independence. I could be very, very wrong, and if I am, I will be only too willing to acknowledge that fact. Indeed, I hope I am.

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        1. I have written often, and with some passion, about the need to demand that the Union be justified as opposed to trying to sell a thousand different ideas of independence. I don’t see ‘non-Scots’ voters as a particular problem. Just part of the same problem. The things we have to do to wean Scottish-born (I’m not even comfortable typing that) voters away from the Union are exactly the same things we need to do for English people living here.

          And if we can’t persuade them, that’s just too bad. Don’t fret the things you can’t change. They live and work here and have children who go to school here so the fate of the nation is of as much concern to them as it is to us. Now I’m writing ‘them and us’! Language can trap us sometimes.

          We’ve always kw that there is a core Unionist/British Nationalist element that will never change. Boris Johnson could order the slaughter of all first-born sons and still these people would cling to the British state and its ruling elites. They are more like religious fundamentalists than mere political ideologues.

          We have always know also that a proportion of this core element are ‘incomers’. The rest are ‘native-born’. How do we differentiate? More to the point, how do we justify any differentiation? By allowing even the hint of ethnic nationalism we destroy what we seek to create.

          Many English people are independence supporters. Which proves that simply being English in Scotland doesn’t make you a hopeless case. If some can come to reject the Union, others can too. We just have to make them start thinking about it first. Because the difference between a Unionist and a British Nationalist is that the former is yet to question the Union, while the latter insists it should never be questioned.


      2. Me too. It is THE PEOPLE OF SCOTLAND who are sovereign. And that means those of us who LIVE here, PAY OUR TAXES here and can VOTE here. And no-one else. Any other criteria are racist nonsense. I am a refugee Brummie who hated Thatcher and all her works, moved to Scotland as soon as I could, voted YES in 2014, and NO to Brexit, and am a member of the SNP and Alba as well. The People of Scotland comprise members whose origins are truly international, and from a wide range of cultures, and that is as it should be. Alex Salmond NEVER talked about ‘Scots’ – always ‘The People of Scotland’ – and he was and is absolutely right to do so.


  6. I have always been a student of history, Mr Bell, and while I accept that it never repeats itself exactly – how could it? – there are always parallels to be drawn. I have given the Bosnian/Balkan War a great deal of attention, and I think it is the paradigm example of a political, social and ethnic union that worked extremely well so long as it held. I recall thinking, when I heard that hostilities had broken out between Serbia and Croatia, that the UN should step in and oversee the transition of what was obviously going to be a disintegration of the old order and the emergence of more than one independent republic. I was horrified to realize that it had left it too late, and that even when it was there, it failed on occasion to protect the innocent civilians who were clamouring for its protection. To my mind, all break-ups of former unions, federations and confederations should be managed by the international community from the earliest moment. Inter-marriage, social relationships, neighbourliness all vanished into the ether in the face of long-held resentments and grudges in the Balkans. I would never try to suggest that it could happen here, but it is my greatest fear that we will not be able to free ourselves of the Union peacefully if too many people are hell-bent on not allowing the perfectly normal independent state to emerge, and frustrate every attempt and all patience. Sometimes, there is no alternative but to break-up but reactionaries refuse always to understand that simple concept, and what should have been a straightforward move away from union becomes something else through the sheer intransigence and utter selfish motives of some. This, above all, is my fundamental reason for wishing to resile the Treaty of Union through the ICJ and have the UN oversee our departure from the UK.


    1. I am extremely uncomfortable with your Balkans references, but take your point about “reactionaries”. However, we cannot always be looking to external agencies to do things for us. Eventually, we will have to deal with those reactionaries ourselves. I see no advantage in putting that off. And no way that the UN can help in any case. All that happens is that the division become defined by a line of blue helmets. And, being defined, is perpetuated.

      The UN will not, in any case, involve itself in the internal affairs of a member state. And the ICJ won’t accept an application if there is another resolution process under way. So you idea for idea for international agency intervention can’t come into effect until after a referendum has been held – in the case of the ICJ; and after Scotland is already independent – in the case of the UN. Sorry! But I just don’t see how this helps.

      Our predicament is urgent. Thinking about stuff running months and years into the future is pointless. We have a matter of weeks.


  7. But a referendum was held in 2014, and the No vote demographic was as I have outlined, or near enough. Since then, every avenue has been blocked and closed off to us. That chappie who took over from Mundell is talking about setting up an anti independence unit under the auspices of the UK. It is no longer the result of a referendum that can be engineered, but the refusal to ‘allow’ a referendum at all. The SNP leadership has already stated that we will not have a referendum without another Edinburgh Agreement, i.e. without Westminster’s express agreement.

    The UN has specific exemptions to deal with such a situation, but we won’t get them without applying for them. The fundamental problem for Scotland, Mr Bell, is that we simply do not have the numbers willing to back independence, and I think that the very opposite will happen after Brexit – that even fewer will be willing to back independence but will settle for the Devil they know, even if they go on voting for the SNP – which will also become untenable in the face of Brexit and no headway on independence, and a return to the ‘norm’ of British Nationalism is more likely. Compared to other countries that have gained – or taken – their independence, the Scots are a pitiful bunch. That is the point that I have been trying – perhaps not very lucidly – to articulate: no one else has or has had our problem because no one else has the Treaty of Union which has not even been ‘sound’ in law. So many in Scotland just accept that we are in the Union – end of – and believe all the rubbish that they are fed. If we cannot even show that the Union is flawed, is almost wholly an English construct, not by design, but by deliberate manipulation, what are we going to do iff and when another NO vote is our lot – if it is, which we must own is a possibility.

    Quebec at least has the consolation of being one of the most devolved areas in the world, and even Catalunya has more power than we do. That leaves the New Caledonians and us, each at the mercy of groups who feel no need to identify with us or even actively refuse to co-operate with us in what is a normal political ambition.

    Anyway, it was a good debate, and I hope that, between us and the others on this blog that the whole question of Scottish independence has been opened up just a tad more, and more light shone on the topic. Action is needed and soon, whatever route we take.


    1. Good grief, LC. You say ” The fundamental problem for Scotland, Mr Bell, is that we simply do not have the numbers willing to back independence,”

      To the extent that this is true and for long as it is true, we don’t waste a shot at a referendum. Instead we work at convincing people until we do have the numbers.

      It is no good blaming me as you did the other night: [“I do not wish to be unkind, оптик, but it is people like you, with your attitude, and the reactionaries against change, no matter how desperately required it is, who bring disaster down on others because they wait too long or try to halt the march …”].

      AFAICS, you accept my point that we don’t have the numbers, but you imply I am a reactionary bringing disaster on others, for suggesting as I did the other night that we should work on getting the numbers. Or are you actually proposing that because we don’t have the numbers, we should get Independence by other means?


      1. I have been away and only just got back to see this. First of all, I’d like to correct the rUK NO vote figure I quoted (by mistake) and forgot to edit: it should have read, almost 75% (almost three-quarters of all rUK residents in Scotland voted NO in 2014!) If that is not an ethnic vote, I don’t know what is. I am sorry, оптик, but I blamed you for nothing We have a massive problem in Scotland because we simply do not have the time to waste on people who are not going to vote for you. The minute the Brexit vote was brought and we were denied a voice, we should have gone to an advisory referendum. Now, we just look weak, and Westminster and Whitehall have not the slightest intention of letting us off the hook. I did not say that you were a reactionary. What I said was that people like you who believe you can persuade are maybe not thinking straight, but, even as more and more evidence stacks up, you refuse to see it and that aids the reactionaries.

        For the thousandth time, I am saying that the SNP should go now for another referendum if that is what the majority of those who want independent decide (I do not, and never have favoured that option, personally, unless there is shown a massive swing towards independence, but now, not in some ethereal future); if that is denied, go for an advisory referendum at the precise same time as we present a case for resiling the Treaty on the grounds that the Union was hi-jacked by the English MPs in 1707, and still is being hi-jacked by the English MPs, and that we have no way, according to the constitutional rules of the state from which we wish to withdraw, which rules are themselves wholly English, to remove ourselves peacefully and democratically from the Union. Where is the Scottish element of the Union as agreed in the Treaty of Union? It is non-existent. It was non-existent from day one precisely because the Union was hi-jacked by the English MPs. What I am saying is that Barbara from Wiltshire and Nicky Campbell from Scotland are two sides of the same coin.

        What I am saying is, if that is how Barbara from Wiltshire thinks, what makes you believe that the nearly a million rUK residents now in Scotland think differently? Undoubtedly some do, but do we have the decades available to persuade the rest, if they could ever be persuaded, and if those who come to Scotland in the next years don’t feel the same way as Barbara from Wiltshire, because, if we can’t, that One Nation British State awaits? That is the reality. It is not the reality in some parallel universe. Our only hope of salvation in those circumstances is the Treaty; there is no other for as long as the circumstances we are in remain the same. If we are unwilling to use every weapon to hand, we are doomed to incorporation into that One Nation State as a region because no one else out there in the big, wide world cares whether the English part of the Union envelopes and swallows us whole; and, if we don’t care enough to hurt the sensibilities of our own Unionists and British Nationalists, as well as those of the English/British Nationalists, then we might as well resign ourselves to what is coming.


  8. If I remember correctly the full wording of Section 30 mentions agreement between Westminster and Holyrood governments. So yes it transfers powers but it is not the sole provenance of the PM or his government.

    To illustrate this look at how the method for locking Holyrood into any deal agreed by Westminster is being undertaken.

    The powers being “intercepted” aren’t officially removed but rather the word “normal” is being abused due to the abnormality of the situation to allow Westminster to legislate on Holyrood’s behalf and then invoke a clause that locks that in place.

    To actually remove those powers entirely would require a S30 agreement between Westminster and Holyrood which given the SNP and Greens aren’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future then the prospects of any “Scottish” unionist party or alliance being in power at Holyrood in order to agree is near zero.

    Regardless of which. In the case of independence the only power Holyrood would want is that of enacting legislation in Westminster to redraw the territorial limits of it’s jurisdiction to exclude Scotland’s. As a reminder Ireland was still technically part of the UK until the declaration of the republic at which point Westminster had no choice but do exactly what it would have to do if Scotland declared independence as the result of a referendum.


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