The reluctant rebel

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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32 thoughts on “The reluctant rebel

  1. I can’t help concluding that yours is a position nobody really wants to talk about, or even understands. There was a letter in the paper the other day which seemed wilfully to miss the point (and to which I felt compelled to reply) apparently because of un unwillingness or inability to see any world beyond the institutional arrangements and customs of the British state.

    Media (social and otherwise) remains focused on Section 30, the so called plan B, and a number of versions of UDI. I still understand the strategic necessity to ask for a Section 30 order, even if it is unlikely to be granted, in the same way I understand the process of triage. But the other two are too convoluted and uncertain to be at all workable.

    Your position seems to me the most sensible and doable. But it requires people to think outside the box a little – or at least to realise that international laws and conventions are as powerful as domestic arrangements.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. In case you missed it 🙂

      “I write in response to Paddy Farrington’s letter complaining that Peter A Bell offers no alternative to grovelling to Westminster for permission to hold another referendum. We must, he says, act within the “current constitutional framework”.
      I do not believe he has thought through Mr Bell’s argument very carefully.
      As I understand his position, there exist perfectly transparent international treaties that recognise the rights of nations and regions to secede if they so wish, and that would enable the Scottish Government to present a straightforward referendum question of the form: “do you want to dissolve the Union?”
      The “current constitutional framework” does not stop at the borders of the allegedly “United” Kingdom.
      To believe otherwise is to pander to the same exceptionalism that has motivated the British state for centuries.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Of course, I can’t possibly respond to everyone who fails to understand – or wilfully misrepresents – my position. The insistence that I have offered no alternative to the Section 30 process is disturbingly reminiscent of Project Fear’s constant insistence that questions had not been answered.

        Thank you also for responding so effectively to Paddy Farrington’s letter. I know from experience that explaining someone else’s thinking is fraught with dangers. But you make my point very well. Perhaps I need to restate my position for the benefit of those who don’t get it. Then again, if they haven’t already grasped such a simple argument then there is good reason to suppose they never will. Ho-hum!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You are welcome.

          I think it would be a good idea to state this position is as many straightforward and accessible ways as possible, and spread it about widely.

          And I will continue to spread and clarify when necessary.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s a sad day when one hears an echo … “There is no alternative!” and one becomes witness to the appearance that “The lady is not for turning” – it is a sad day, very very sad!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Well said again Peter nobody can say you haven’t backed the SNP for years but as you imply the SNP or any politician isn’t our country. To paraphrase the declaration of Arbroath “if the Lord Robert doesn’t come up to scratch then we reserve the right to cast him out and choose another King”. Well there’s no King or Queen of Scots anymore but those in power need to step up to the plate or stand aside. I haven’t spent 55 years and over supporting the SNP’s raison d’etre of Independence to ASK permission for my country’s freedom from another.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Peter. I get the impression that Nicola knows this is going to end up in court, when the Section 30 is refused.

    Stu Campbell pointed out that this might be the case 1 year ago , when he talked about the 2 wasted years. He maintained that we should have sorted this out in court, after May refused the Section 30. Instead of sorting this out last year. Nicola has not done a thing about it. She will ask for a Section 30 in December. It will be refused. She will spend the next few months moaning about it.

    Then it will go to court in March next year. That will drag on for maybe a year. If the decision is in our favour . Indy Ref 2 will not happen until at least 2022. By that time the whole political and economic spectrum will have changed forever.

    I am sorry Peter but we need to get someone in who will not go down Nicola’s path. We need a fighter!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My view is that, if an issue is going to end up in court than you should decide the manner in which this happens to the fullest extent possible. I have long maintained that the Scottish Government should break the rules and defy the UK Government to take them to court over it. If the particular rule to be broken is chosen carefully, and the way it is broken is sufficiently well thought out then the UK Government might be reluctant to pursue the matter. And that one break could alter the entire constitutional issue.

      Suppose, for example, the Scottish Government simply proposed to dissolve the Union subject to confirmation by way of a referendum. Suppose this is passed by the Scottish Parliament. Would the British state challenge this? If they did, would they win? Suppose they did win, what harm has been done? Scotland simply finds itself where it was. But the fact of defying the British state has an impact. It changes the ground on which the independence campaign is fought.

      Think of it this way – the Scottish Parliament is subordinate to Westminster… until it isn’t. It is subordinate as long as we accept that it is;. There are only two ways in which this can change. The British state can acknowledge the superior democratic legitimacy of the Scottish Parliament and hand over all powers. That’ll happen on the same day that I win an Olympic gold in the gymnastics.

      Alternatively, the Scottish Parliament asserts its supremacy in Scotland on the grounds of it being the only Parliament with democratic legitimacy. Let the UK Government challenge that is court. Let them try to prove that the Scottish Parliament isn’t more democratically legitimate than Westminster. Let them try to justify the primacy of Westminster. Let them try to defend the Union.

      Or watch as they are so daunted by this task as to concede the point. Independence ensues as a matter of course.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My faith in the SNP is wavering. Nichola says there’s no quick route to
    independence and plan A (a section 30 order) is the only way ahead. And so.. even an election of a big majority of SNP MPs by a large proportion of the electorate (over 55% say) is not a mandate to seek a dissolution of the Union. Is it at least going to force Westminster to grant the section 30 order or are they just going to say no, and no, and no, followed by some endless drivel of excuses. Where are we going from here?
    As you say Peter, independence will not be given, it has to be taken. And as Nichola waits for the stars to align, we wait and hope that she knows what the bloody hell she’s doing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What the First Minister says of a majority of MPs, is that, by itself would be insufficient for Independence, without an actual overall majority of the the votes cast.
      Fair enough, but those who voted for SNP MPs would at least know, they were voting for Independence, dso even without that overall majority of votes, the greatest number of MPs is good enough.
      They had their chance, when we had 56 out of 59 MPs, and when the Brexit vote came, June 2016.
      But did nothing with those numbers of MPs.
      That was a wasted opportunity.
      This approach from SNP leadership will mean we drag this on and on, and Scotland will be out of EU in the meantime.
      At this forthcoming General Election, SNP must use it as a platform for Independence.


  6. JSM – There is no secret. Nicola isn’t going to pull a rabbit out of the hat. She is not that type of politician.

    As a movement we have to decide if this is good enough. I think we know the answer to that!


  7. Jeezo I’m so glad this popped up on my timeline thingy as I thought that it was only me that was thinking we are on a hiding to nothing following this path, to put it bluntly NS is a manager but what we need is a brawler,(something I’ve been saying for a while and have been criticised for) this constant asking for permission is nothing short of ridiculous and if anything undermines independence, my own take is that NS must go as soon as possible, we have people of the caliber we need to get this done.


    1. I understand your frustration. You are certainly not alone. But there is no mood for removing Nicola Sturgeon. And neither should there be. We have neither the time nor the energy to spare trying to find a new leader. Better that we put our efforts into persuading the leader we have that a rethink is required.


  8. Peter, I admire your writing and utterly share your desire for independence – indeed, I have a constant bubbling, boiling rage that when the people of Scotland were offered the choice, they chose dependence. However, the elephant in the room of all of your arguments seems to me to be just that, – the people of Scotland chose. Can you not imagine what would follow if the SG simply ignored that, and went ahead with either UDI or another referendum? We would be destroyed, and any hope of independence would be gone forever. What are your thoughts on this please?


    1. Nobody has suggested ignoring the 2014 result and I cringe at the term ‘UDI’. But we are now five years on from the tragedy if 2014. It would be difficult to catalogue all the material change. And we have a mandate for a new referendum in any case. All I am talking about is options for getting to that referendum. Frankly, I don’t see what the problem is with that.


      1. Why would you cringe at the term UDI? Do you cringe when think about Ireland TAKING it’s independence via UDI? I cringe when I hear Scots so spineless they think UDI is some sort of dirty word. At least he Irish have the conviction in their sovereignty to declare UDI, where is it for the Scots? Shame!


  9. Referendum without section 30 is legal and legitimate. To suggest it isn’t, which Nicola infers. Is to accept that Scotland is a possession of England. Which by default suggests that anything Scotland does without Westminster approval is illegitimate.


  10. The constant talk of delay until a section 30 is “granted” (that very word shows the belief that Scotland is a chattel of England), ignores the possibility (probability?) that Westminster are more likely to pass laws preventing the Scottish Government from ever holding a referendum or even suspending Holyrood on the pretext of some post Brexit national emergency than they are to grant a section 30 order. Thinking that Westminster will eventually be embarrassed into doing the right thing seems so unlikely that it would be rejected as an extra chapter in Alice in Wonderland.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. As Nicola Sturgeon “EXPLAINS” to us, as per your demands, she’s informing our enemies of exactly what she plans to do. Have you ever known of any successful leader adopting such a tactic? You know just blah, blah, blah their own side into oblivion.

    She’s stated categorically that Indyref2 will take place next year. She’s stated that she won’t make a move until this Brexit fiasco is clarified and as we all know that hadn’t happened yet. How on earth can she promote Independence to the Scots, get involved in public debates, when there’s nothing to compare it to? For example is it a No Deal Brexit, no Brexit at all or one encompassing a wet border only, etc, etc?

    Do you really think that someone who has been deemed to be the most dangerous woman in the UK, the greatest threat to the UK Establishment in centuries, with all that entails hanging HEAVILY over her head, and who receives death threats, and worse, on a regular basis is actually afraid of a legal challenge? Get real, FGS. Stop being so bl**dy idiotic. Are you Mystic Meg or what? How do you know what she’s afraid of? A legal challenge is the least of her worries, I’m sure, and more so nothing that you’ve ever had to worry about on a daily basis. Would you for example walk around Glasgow, for years on end with no protection, if you were in her position knowing that many a right wing nutter would just love to assassinate you? She’s afraid?

    Why can’t you just believe her, more so get behind her? Sites like this, and there’s a couple of others now, just seem to be hell bent on attracting people who don’t support Independence at all, imo. (do they even live in Scotland?) or if they do you are drip, drip, drip undermining our only chance of getting us out of this hellhole and I for one won’t ever forget the part that you are playing in this.

    I would also be grateful if you could point out the period of time whereby you actually made any effort to persuade people to support the SNP and when you do, if you did, it’ll be interesting, for me at least, to see when your attitude actually changed.


  12. No offence to you or the other ” concerned ” commentators Peter , but the post by Petra above is the most pertinent and constructive I’ve read on the subject , and I wholeheartedly agree with her


      1. Fair point – it’s not that I think yourself or others should not express their concerns , it’s good ,and necessary , that the SNP Gov are subjected to informed criticism , just that I earlier read a piece by your sometime sparring partner -Robin McAlpine – ( much more scathing than your own ) and the combined effect , along with less thoughtful cries of ” Sturgeon must go ” , was a bit depressing .I’m not in the ” Nicola knows best ,just shut-up ” camp but I think she merits our trust and support – for the time being at least


        1. Nicola Sturgeon gets my support where it matters. I will happily slap down those who call for her removal.

          She is not just First Minister. Nor is she just the leader of the SNP. She is asli the de facto leader of the independence movement. That movement desperately needs leadership. And it has been sadly lacking.

          I get that juggling those three roles is difficult. But if there is one that Nicola Sturgeon should be focused on right now it is her duty as leader of the independence movement. The other roles can survive her absence. She is the only one who can be the figurehead for Scotland’s cause.


      2. All good and well, but what do we do about the individuals who are unnecessarily creating “the concerns”, in the process depressing people and winding them up? ….. and I’m not talking about Nicola Sturgeon.


  13. In the absence of a Section 30, back in the day (1776) a Declaration of Independence was presented as the final draft before Congress on June 28, 1776, and Congress adopted the final text of the Declaration of Independence on July 4.

    The British Government did its best to dismiss the Declaration as a trivial document issued by disgruntled colonists. British officials commissioned propagandists to highlight the declaration’s flaws and to rebut the colonists’ complaints.

    7 years later: The 1783 Treaty of Paris. Under the terms of the treaty, which ended the War of the American Revolution, Great Britain officially acknowledged the United States as a sovereign and independent nation.

    ( Note the similarities of what was involved prior to the signing of that Treaty) Two months of hard bargaining resulted in a preliminary articles of peace in which the British accepted American independence and boundaries, resolved the difficult issues of fishing rights on the Newfoundland banks and prewar debts owed British creditors, promised restitution of property lost during the war by Americans loyal to the British cause, and provided for the evacuation of British forces from the thirteen states.

    Perhaps (imho) the single most important element from the outset, and through those 7 years, were the allies that the Americans had established (principally but not exclusively France).

    So questions:

    Do those of us amongst the Sovereign people of Scotland who MAY wish to follow the above example have such allies?

    Do we as a country have attributes whether economic, political or cultural that would encourage such allies in the wider world?

    As matters unfold, as they will, the answers to such questions may prove to be a crucial factor in Scotland’s future.


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