Perhaps there would be no “rebels” if the First Minister did a bit less asserting and rather more explaining. She could, for example, explain what she intends to do if the British government obdurately refuses to grant her precious Section 30 order. She might outline how she proposes to deal with the British state’s efforts to sabotage the Section 30 process if and when the order is granted. she might, at the very least, give some indication that she has considered these things. She might show some sign of having listened, or being prepared to listen.
Maybe she could explain why the legal validity of Scotland’s exercise of our right of self-determination cannot be based on the very same body of internationally accepted laws and conventions which are considered good enough for every other nation making the transition to independence from some anomalous constitutional arrangement.
Or the First Minister could explain why the democratic legitimacy of our referendum cannot derive from the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. She might even try to give one good reason why the people of Scotland should accept their sovereignty being compromised to satisfy the legally dubious and democratically outrageous strictures of the British state.
She could explain why, if she truly believes Scotland’s constitutional claim to be just, she is afraid of a legal challenge.
She could explain why an openly and unimpeachably democratic referendum might be rendered unacceptable to the international community simply because it hasn’t been approved by the British state.
She could try to convince the doubters of the political wisdom of discarding options as if they were of no value. She could let us in on the new thinking which says it’s a good idea to close off all routes but one and, by effectively declaring the discarded options ‘illegal’ ensure they they are closed off irrevocably and for all time.
Of course, there are no “rebels”. There are only people who are understandably worried when they see a cause to which they are devoted put in jeopardy. It isn’t good enough to just brush those concerns aside. It isn’t acceptable to treat these concerns, and those who hold them, as if they don’t matter. It is, frankly, offensive to dismiss those who are worried by accusing them of causing division. If there is division then it is entirely due to the SNP leadership’s failure to take people along with them.
Speaking as one of those being branded a “rebel”, I have to tell the First Minister that there is nothing I want more than to give her my full support. I have spent much of the last five years striving to the best of my ability to persuade everybody in the Yes movement that we all have to get behind the SNP. I am extremely perturbed to have been put in a position where I have to question the whole approach to the constitutional issue adopted by the party. But question it I must. Because my first loyalty is, not to any party or politician, but to Scotland’s cause.
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