Thinking it through

Skipping past the principled objections to the sovereignty of Scotland’s people being compromised and glossing over the nonsense used to justify the SNP leadership’s absolute commitment to the Section 30 process, it’s good to see somebody addressing the question of what happens if/when the British Prime Minister either outright refuses the request for a Section 30 order or simply dismisses it with some flippant remark.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the only course of action then open to the Scottish Government is to go to the courts. It has to be the only option available to them because, incomprehensibly, they have gone to great lengths to completely rule out all other conceivable options. This is a novel form of political adroitness that has baffled observers who realise the value of keeping options open. But we are assured that it is, nonetheless, politically adroit to have ruled out every option bar one and it is those of us who are unable to see the benefits of such a move who are deficient in our comprehension. Just don’t ask anybody to spell out the benefits or you will be accused of disloyalty or treachery and you will still be no closer to understanding the reasoning behind the ‘strategy’.

That strategy has painted the Scottish Government into a corner with the only window of escape being a court action to force the British Prime Minister to grant a Section 30 order. Of course, if the formal request hasn’t been formally refused, there may not be a case. Which is just as true of a formal demand. Presumably, that would put the Scottish Government in the uncomfortable position of having to ask the court to force the British Prime Minister to issue a formal rejection of the formal demand. A bit like begging to be humiliated.

Let’s assume that, after whatever length of time the British Prime Minister chooses to dither and delay, a formal rejection of the formal demand is issued in precisely the same way as for a formal refusal of a formal request. What next?

The courts may, initially, rule that the matter is not justiciable. Various people have cited the proroguing case as a precedent, but it isn’t. That case dealt with executive authority in a matter of parliamentary procedure. Challenging the British Prime Minister’s power to refuse a Section 30 order relates to an Act of the UK Parliament and strikes right at the heart of the principle of parliamentary sovereignty. Or so it may be argued.

Even if the matter proceeds through the courts, this argument could swing it in favour of the British Prime Minister. And it is safe to assume that the British establishment will have other arguments just as powerful. Doubtless, the Scottish Government will also make an excellent case. But there is no escaping the fact that taking the matter to court is a gamble. A huge gamble!

Just how huge a gamble it is can be accurately summed up in the phrase ‘all or nothing’. It’s a coin-toss. Heads or tails. But what does the Scottish Government stand to gain should the case go there way and what is lost if it doesn’t?

The prize for winning is a Section 30 order? The ungraciously given permission of the British Prime Minister for the people of Scotland to exercise the right of self-determination that is ours anyway. So not a huge return on the gamble. It doesn’t mean a referendum can be held. It means the British government get the right to interfere in the process before it can go ahead. It may even mean that they can sabotage the process completely by imposing unacceptable conditions. In fact, if the Scottish Government wins in court, the British government gets more than the Scottish Government does.

And if the Scottish Government loses in court? Well, it’s difficult to see where Scotland’s cause goes from there. Every course of action that the Scottish Government deems acceptable will have been exhausted. They will be out of options.

That is the nature of the gamble that the SNP administration has embarked upon. They are wagering Scotland’s cause in a bet where the odds may be stacked against them and where, even if the odds were fair or favourable, to win is to lose and to lose is to lose even more.

What is, perhaps, worse than this ‘quaint’ strategy is the fact that nobody in the SNP is prepared to address any concerns about it. We are, it seems, supposed to accept it without question. Those who can’t are labelled “zoomers” and “Unionist plants”. This is not the SNP that I was proud to be part of. It is not the politics of the Scotland to which I aspire.

If you intend to comment on this article please be aware that I intend to ignore all comments which do not at least attempt to address the substantive issues.



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7 thoughts on “Thinking it through

  1. I agree with this but I also wonder what will be the effect on public opinion of a rejection of a Section 30 request. I know it will be spun as a victory for the Union, but at least half of the population will be mightily pissed off and are not going to simply sit down and shut up. An unpredictable and slightly scary situation. Perhaps the leadership of the party is betting on threats of refusal as more bluster, which will dissolve under popular pressure. Otherwise, who knows?

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  2. It’s not about public opinion Duncan. The Brits can ignore that. It matters not a jot if we take to the streets like Catalonia.

    What matters is the Scottish government expressing sovereignty by proceeding without a Section 30. It would then be up to the world to recognise Scotland as independent. Right now the Brits don’t think Scotland is a country at all!

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  3. If the lever of the SNP proves inadequate to pry Scotland from the Union (and there’s currently every indication that it is) then we have to fashion a new one. It will take time (10 years? more?) and effort, but the prize is worth it.

    Hopefully the threats of a Wings Party and Lesley Riddoch doing the same will act to push the SNP to redouble their efforts and avoid going the way of ‘Scottish’ Labour. UKIP/Brexit party didn’t actually need to get any MPs to force the Tories to follow the ‘leave the EU’ agenda.

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    1. We don’t have 10 years. We don’t have 10 months. We probably don’t have 10 weeks. Why is it that the concept of time gets lost whenever people start talking about the independence campaign?

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