When Nicola Sturgeon tells Boris Johnson he can’t imprison Scotland in the Union I hear Johnson retort, “Watch me!”.
The reality is that there is nothing to prevent the British state from effectively locking Scotland into the Union so long as Scotland’s First Minister and the Scottish Government accept that the laws designed to preserve the Union take precedence over everything else – including ‘natural justice’. That is what they have done by committing to the Section 30 process.
Nicola Sturgeon can insist all she wants that Johnson’s position is “unsustainable”. He need only sustain that position in order to prove her wrong. He can stick his tongue out at Sturgeon – metaphorically or literally – and say “Wotchagonnadoboutit?”.
What is she going to do? What can she do? She can wave her mandate at him. But that mandate only has power if Johnson acknowledges it. If he decides he’s not going to recognise the mandate, it counts for nothing. Had Nicola Sturgeon learned this lesson then she would not have committed so absolutely and irrevocably to the Section 30 process. Having accepted the power that this affords Johnson, she can hardly complain about him using that power.
Having burned all her political boats by declaring the Section 30 process the only “legal and constitutional” route to a referendum, Nicola Sturgeon has nowhere to turn but the courts. She has no “legal and constitutional” option but to take the issue out of the political arena and take it into the realm of law. That is not the good news that some suppose it to be.
If you can stand another wet blanket being thrown on the fires of your enthusiasm lit by the SNP’s success in the election, read Andrew Tickell’s column in today’s Sunday National. Basically, he confirms everything I’ve been saying for months now. The law will not rescue Nicola Sturgeon from the corner into which she has painted herself.
Going to the courts was always a huge gamble. Because a finding in favour of the British state would end the matter. Once the courts have confirmed the British Prime Minister’s right to refuse a Section 30 order request ad infinitum, there are no options left for the Scottish First Minister who has acknowledged the power of that refusal to serve as a veto on Scotland’s right of self-determination.
Unless Nicola Sturgeon knows differently! Unless she has some option in mind which keeps the constitutional issue in the political arena and arms the campaign to restore Scotland’s independence for battle with the British state. If such an option exists, then Nicola Sturgeon alone is aware of it. It must be an option that has not occurred to any of the thousands of amateur and professional observers of Scottish politics. How likely is that?
If such an option exists, then it is time for Nicola Sturgeon to get it out in the open. It is time to deploy whatever ace it is that she has up her sleeve. Or, at the very least, to confirm that she does indeed have a political ace up her sleeve.
I don’t think there’s anything up her sleeves but her arms. I would be delighted to be proved wrong, but I strongly suspect Nicola Sturgeon’s fallback strategy all along was to take the matter to court when the Section 30 order was refused. I reckon talk of “all other options” is nothing more than political bluster. There is no ace up her sleeve. We know this because we know precisely how many cards are in the pack and what every one of them looks like. We can see all the cards. There is no 53rd card.
A First Minister who had not committed to the Section 30 process in the way Nicola Sturgeon has would enjoy the benefit of political options that Nicola Sturgeon has denied herself. It has always been clear to those who have thought the matter through that there is no route to independence which does not involve confrontation with the British state. There is no route to independence adhering to the rules put in place to preserve the Union. There is no route to independence which does not involve breaking those rules. For someone who is determined to avoid confrontation and abide by the British state’s rules, there is no route to independence at all.
A First Minister who had not committed to the Section 30 process in the way Nicola Sturgeon has would have the option to take the cause of independence forward through the Scottish Parliament cutting Westminster out of the process altogether. The obvious conclusion, therefore, is that ether Nicola Sturgeon renounces her commitment to the Section 30 process, or we need a First Minister who is not subject to the constraints that Nicola Sturgeon has imposed on herself.
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