No reply

We are told that Boris Johnson will respond to Nicola Sturgeon’s Section 30 order demand/request “in due course”. What does that mean?

Nicola Sturgeon last made a Section 30 order request at the end of March 2017, when she sent a letter to then British Prime Minister Theresa May. On 7 June 2019 May resigned without ever having made a formal response to Sturgeon’s letter. As far as Theresa May was concerned “due course meant never.

It is now approaching three years since the First Minister sent that letter. It still has not been answered. It was sent to Theresa May in her capacity as British Prime Minister. Boris Johnson took over that role, and responsibility for answering the letter, in late July 2019. He simply continued to disregard it as his predecessor had done.

If a formal request to the British Prime Minister for a Section 30 order from the First Minister of Scotland can be ignored for three years, it can be ignored for four. Or eight. Or indefinitely.

What did Nicola Sturgeon do about her letter being contemptuously ignored? Nothing! Because there was nothing she could do. She must have been aware that she had neither the power nor the political leverage to force a response. That is the nature of the Section 30 process to which she has committed. That is the nature of the relationship between Scotland and England-as-Britain. That is the nature of the Union.

On 19 December 2019, having been given yet another mandate by the people of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon finally gave up hope of receiving a response to her first letter and sent a new one to Boris Johnson. She did so knowing that nothing had changed in the 30 months since the first letter was sent. She knew that this new letter could be ignored just as its predecessor was. But she sent it anyway.

Along with this second letter the First Minister sent a 38-page document outlining her arguments for the granting of powers which rightfully belong with the Scottish Parliament. Boris Johnson was not unaware of these arguments. Or, at least, the people who advise him were fully acquainted and able to inform him. Theresa May was also aware of these arguments. The arguments carried no weight with her. They carry no weight with Johnson. Nicola Sturgeon is aware of this also.

The curious thing about the case for a Section 30 order being granted is that, if the arguments are sound, there should be no need for the Section 30 order. If Scotland is incontestably entitled to a Section 30 order, as Nicola Sturgeon asserts, then Scotland is unarguably entitled to hold a constitutional referendum.

Once it is accepted that consent is required, it follows that it is accepted that consent may be refused. The argument that something which absolutely cannot be refused absolutely must be requested sounds like something out of Alice in Wonderland.

By committing to the Section 30 process the First Minister has accepted that she can simply be ignored. Something she didn’t mention even when acknowledging that she expected her demand/request to be refused. She stressed that refusal would not be the end of the matter. But she gave no clue as to what that meant.

We only have clues to what “in due course” means and how Nicola Sturgeon deals with being ignored. Those clues suggest “in due course” means whatever the British Prime Minister wants it to mean up to and including never. We also know what action Nicola Sturgeon takes in response to being ignored – none! Because there is no action she can take.

The ‘gold standard’ Section 30 process gives all the power to the British political elite. Boris Johnson can ignore a Section 30 request for as long as he wishes because there is nothing in law that says he must respond at all, never mind within a specified period. Neither does the ‘gold standard’ Section 30 process offer the First Minister any redress. Having embraced this process as necessary and ideal, she has no alternative but to accept the fact that this means giving all the power to the British Prime Minister.

The Section 30 process only works to the extent that the British Prime Minister is prepared to play along. The Section 30 process can only lead to a free and fair referendum if the British state cooperates. There are countless ways in which the Section 30 process can fail to or be prevented from bringing about a properly democratic referendum. There is only one way that it can succeed in doing so. And that way is entirely conditional on the goodwill, good grace and good faith of the British political elite.

And the British Nationalists are loving it! Expect to see more gleeful headlines like this from The Daily Express Monday 6 January.

Boris Johnson ignores Nicola Sturgeon’s second independence referendum demands

As you read such headlines bear in mind that they are not just gloating over Nicola Sturgeon’s powerlessness and Scotland’s humiliation, they are applauding Boris Johnson. Those who imagine that he might somehow be forced by public option to grant a Section 30 order are as deluded as any who thought he might feel obliged to do so due democratic principles weighing on his mind.

Johnson needn’t even feel obliged to offer the courtesy of a response. And the more he treats Scotland with high-handed contempt the more the voters he cares about will cheer him on.

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28 thoughts on “No reply

  1. What will Ian Blackford do or say after the 31st January when we are removed from the EU against our will.

    He has made clear time after time that “Scotland will not be taken out of the EU against its will”

    When you make statements such as these you better be able to back them up.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s obvious..

      —-IB will say “Scotland HAS been taken out of the EU against its will”
      —-BJ will just reply “You voted for it in 2014”
      Rinse and repeat.

      How has the SNP got to this sad and sorry state (and YES let them). It’s almost as if the SNP trying to save the Union trapped Scotland in the Union. Who would have guessed that?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Will this not be the time for Ian to channel Capitaine Renault “I am shocked, shocked that Scotland is being taken out of the EU against its will”.


  3. You don’t need a section 30 to hold a referendum. You need a section 30 to make it legally binding. There was no Section 30 for the EU ref, and we know how that ended. Argue that in court as a ‘precedent’ as well as the UN Convention for a nation’s people right of self determination. Power is never given!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t accept that this S30 thing is essential to make any Scottish Ref, “Legally binding”.
      That is playing the Westminster game, and is the whole premise of the the present SNP leadership’s thinking.
      As for the EU vote of 2016, that didn’t need any Section 30,as it was Westminster (English) Parliament, deciding for itself. What Scotland, the partner in the Union thought,didn’t come into it.
      Apart from the fact that EU vote was “Advisory Only”, and actually Westminster Parliament could have refused to go along with the result. They could easily have pointed out, that A. it was just “Advisory Only”and B. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in with EU, and Scotland, too, having had all those famous(now infamous) EU promises, etc.
      But the tories didn’t take that easy, simple option, as that would have destroyed the tory Party. They weren’t gonna let mere concerns over the other parts of the Union, get in the way of keeping them in power.
      What England voted for, mattered more, much more!
      And the SNP leadership learned the hard way, how much more it meant to both the tories, and a greatly deluded English electorate, in December.

      What is needed is for the Scottish Parliament to get to grips with the situation, and vote to end the Treaty of Union, and also withdraw their MPs from Westminster.
      They have done that in summer 2016 with 56 MPs. The Union would have been over by now.
      But so long as SNP leadership, take they view, they need London say so for anything, they are wasting both their time, and Scotland’s time..

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I think that Nicola and the SNP mandarins have secretly become Unionists. They know that relying on a S30O is giving the English Government of the UK complete power over independence, and that they will never grant it. They make demands, they bluster and fluster to play the game of charade at working for independence. By their inaction and their actions they are demonstrating that they do not want independence.

    If someone does not take the matter out of their hands the cause is lost!


  5. Perhaps Nicola’s insistence that only an agreed section 30 was the legal referendum, was a tactical use of wording. It binds her to a section 30, which we know will never come. Thus she can avoid actually doing anything for the next few years.

    Maybe just maybe, she doesn’t want the referendum until after 2021, but can present the case that Westminster is the cause of the delay. When in fact it’s the SNP who are delaying our decision.


    1. Sturgeon asked for a “transfer of power” either by S30 OR Act of the UK Parliament, Here’s her letter to Boris from The National (hope it formats right):

      “Dear Boris,

      I said on Tuesday that I would be publishing the detailed democratic case for the transfer of power from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament, now being sought by the Scottish Government, by order under section 30 of the Scotland Act or an Act of the UK Parliament, to allow for an independence referendum that is beyond legal challenge.

      I am enclosing a copy of that document.

      When we spoke on Friday, you reiterated your Government’s position on this issue – however, you also committed to engaging seriously with our proposals.

      Indeed, I believe that on this – as on any issue – you have a duty to do so in a considered and reasonable manner.

      I therefore look forward to discussing matters further with you in the new year.
      In the meantime, please accept my best wishes for the festive season.

      Best wishes,

      Nicola Sturgeon”

      And she didn’t say it was the only way, she said it would be “beyond legal challenge”, as she has consistently done. Contrary to reporting in the Express etc (does anyone really believe one word they read there?).


      1. The wording implies and does not exclude
        … allow for an independence referendum that is beyond legal challenge, as distinct from the one that shall be announced on Feb 1 in the case of your insufficient response.


      2. Indeed. I think if BoJo has any sense at all he’ll say “No problem I am of course a generous democrat”. To avoid the chance of being embarrassed even beyond his ability to absorb it.


  6. Quite a lot of people including me don’t think a “formal” request for a section 30 order was made at all, what Sturgeon did was ask for early talks, and the reply was “now is not the time”, Which was NOT a refusal, That was then overtaken by the snap General Election in 2017.

    “I am therefore writing to begin early discussions between our governments to agree an Order under section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998 that would enable a referendum to be legislated for by the Scottish Parliament.”

    a Section 30 was (arguably) niether requested nor refused.

    Since the first letter was “Dear Theresa, it’s good to talk”, it needed to be replaced by a more forceful “Dear Boris you’re so dumped” letter, so to speak.

    And as I pointed out in other places, it was Sturgeon who negotiated both the terms of the S30 and the Edinburgh Agreement back in 2012 with Michael Moore, with Salmond and Cameron looking on.

    We shall know very soon what the result is – by the end of January at the latest.


    1. This stuff about there being no Section 30 request to Theresa May is demented nonsense. When you have something right in front of you it makes little sense to deny its existence. That a Section 30 order was requested is a matter of documented history. As is the fact that no formal response was ever issued.


      1. No it isn’t, it’s what the unionist media and Sturgeon critics have decided is “documented history”.

        What there IS is the letter I linked to, which people can interpret- any – way – they – want – to.

        “I am therefore writing to begin EARLY DISCUSSIONS”

        seems pretty clear to me.

        If I had an actual order for every time I’d been emailed or phoned for “EARLY DISCUSSIONS” about a possible order, I’d be rich beyond my wildest dreams, and they’re pretty wild right enough.

        “Dear company, we’re looking for 10 million widgets and we’d like to begin early discussions about whether you can fill this order, at what price, and what would be the lead time? Yours sincerely (genuine) buyer from (genuine) company”.


      2. @yesindyref2

        HOLD ON…so you are saying NS deliberately let it sit out there that she had requested a Section 30 knowing full well she hadn’t (complete with staged formal photo deliberately modelled on Thatcher)

        — Section 30 is not a standard form – it is a negotiated item. Hence formally beginning the discussion is the formal “request”.
        — This was reported in Local and international press.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. @yesindyref2

        PB…”That a Section 30 order was requested is a matter of documented history.”…

        YIR2….”No it isn’t, it’s what the unionist media and Sturgeon critics have decided is “documented history”.””

        Tol….Hold on…so you are saying NS deliberately let it sit out there…”

        YIR2…..”No, I said what I said”.

        Cool, can you point me to where NS or the SNP at the time (2017) issued a clarification or asked for a retraction? I have searched and can not find any such 2017 NS/SNP rejection of the letter being a Section 30 request.
        In fact the SNP still have it up on line as “Nicola Sturgeon’s Section 30 letter to Theresa May”.

        Lets not go down that Bill Clinton rabbit hole: “”It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”.


  7. Reading both letters the only letter making the formal request is the one to Johnson. The one to May is of the ‘we plan to request’ variety….As we all know, in dealing with ‘Perfidious Albion’, all ducks must be in a row. Why do you think Johnson has not replied…..because it was a genuine and bona fide request to which he must give due consideration, that is why he has not repeated the ‘off the cuff’ May retort of ‘now is not the time’.


    1. You are wrong. It is not a matter of opinion. The Scottish Government regarded the letter to May as a formal request and so did the British government. That is an end to the matter.


      1. Thank you Peter….May nor the British Govt did not reply formally. Seems to me that this blog is not a discussion group , because you have the final say.


        1. I only have the final say for myself. Otherwise, people are pretty much free to say whatever they like. I have only ever blocked one individual. Trust me! It was warranted.


  8. The solution to Scottish Independance is really quite simple – give all us “elitist” English a vote on whether we want Scotland to be part of our Union – it would be little surprise to find the rest of us can’t wait for you to go!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You and your fellow English people have been fed a diet of lies and half-truths since 1707 and many of you – not all, by any means, have brought that mindset north with you. The ruling elite knows that they can’t – not just won’t – let Scotland go amicably. The reasons are pretty much the same as they were in 1707. You won’t believe me, or Mr Bell, or others on here, but the honest truth is that England would be much reduced even beyond its terminal decline as a world power by the loss of the three satellite states. I feel sorry for you to be so deluded, but that is the truth of the matter. All empires and big cheese nations rob their littler or weaker cousins blind of their resources. What do you think the interference in the Middle East is all about? England has the least natural resources of all four UK nation states, it has nowhere else to put its nuclear arsenal because no one else wants it, including Scotland. Ergo, Scotland’s leaving the Union adds up to a massive realignment politically, economically, socially and environmentally for England. Now, go work it out for yourself and try to answer the question: just why does the English ruling elite want to hang on to us when we are subsidy junkies, whingeing sweaty socks, etc., etc.? Over to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Exactly Lorna, and they do want to hang onto us.

    The proof is the refusal of the Section 30. I bet you any money if this was N Eire requesting a referendum to join the Republic. There would be no hesitation. Because N Eire is an economic and security drain on the UK.

    They will not allow us to leave though their system. It’s something the SNP completely fail to grasp!


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