British Army camps in Scotland following the Battle of Culloden. –

If you know where you want to go but need to figure out how to get there then you also need to know where you are. Only when you know the starting point and the end point can you begin to plot a course from one to the other. I say “begin” because identifying the start and end points is only part of the task. Arguably, the easiest part. Because plotting a course between the two requires that you take account of all the points that lie on your proposed course. You need to know where all the obstacles and potential bottlenecks are. You need to know as much as possible about everything that you may encounter on your journey.

Of course, if there is a long, straight road in good condition with no tolls and guaranteed ideal weather, your task is easy. But even then there may be unforeseen impediments such as breakdowns and pile-ups. You have to be prepared to deal with these.

Most of you will have realised by now that I’m not talking about an excursion from Perth to the beach at Aberdour. I’m talking about the journey from Scotland’s present situation to the restoration of our nation’s independence.

We have a pretty good idea of the destination. In fact, we have a plethora of such ideas. Everybody in Scotland’s independence movement may be broadly in agreement about where we want to be when we arrive, but there is considerable difference of opinion about what this place looks like. Not that it is necessary to know what it looks like in order to travel there. But if descriptions differ too much then people will come to think they are headed for a different place altogether. This is what I mean when I say that ‘independence’ is a disputed concept.

It is not possible to build an effective single-issue political campaign around a disputed concept. Such a campaign requires unity, focus and discipline. It can have none of these while there is disagreement about the campaign’s objective. Even a relatively small disagreement will impair focus and fracture unity and lead to indiscipline. Where the disagreement is significant, the campaign will effectively become two or more campaigns competing amongst themselves and failing to adequately engage with the opposition.

That’s what happened in the 2014 referendum campaign. The diversity of the Yes movement became division within the campaign. There was a failure to properly identify and clearly define the common aim. The campaign had nothing around which to coalesce – other than the disputed concept of ‘independence’. As a consequence, the Yes campaign tended to be diffuse, diluted and depleted. It may be argued that the effect was slight. But when an issue is as finely balanced as the constitutional question, small errors can have an impact disproportionate to their size.

The common factor in all visions of independence is the dissolution of the Union. No matter how you envisage independence dissolving the Union is a prerequisite.

Since the first Scottish independence referendum I have been mostly concerned with process – the route by which we reach our destination. I very quickly came to some conclusions. I came to realise that there is no route to independence which abides by the rules set down by the British government. And that there is no route to independence that doesn’t involve confrontation with the British establishment.

Annexation, a formal act whereby a state proclaims its sovereignty over territory hitherto outside its domain. Unlike cession, whereby territory is given or sold through treaty, annexation is a unilateral act made effective by actual possession and legitimized by general recognition.

Annexation is frequently preceded by conquest and military occupation of the conquered territory.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

We were told, and most believed, that Scotland had a democratic route to independence by way of a referendum sanctioned by the UK Government. This is the Section 30 process which was followed for the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. But there is a major problem with this in that the Section 30 process can only work with the full and willing and honest cooperation of the British state. And there is less than no reason to believe that such cooperation might ever be forthcoming.

England-as-Britain not only won’t allow Scotland to restore its independence, it can’t. It is politically impossible for England-as-Britain to permit the dissolution of the Union because, without Scotland, England-as-Britain becomes just England. Without Scotland, the Britain which is the conceit of the ruling elites ceases to exist. Without the Union, the structures of power, privilege and patronage which maintain established power will be weakened to the point of disintegration. The Union is the keystone of those structures. Scotland is a supporting pillar.

So long as there was a democratic route to independence, however questionable, the pretence of a “Union of equals” could be maintained. Many – and one suspects Nicola Sturgeon to be among them – believed, and continue to believe as Michael Fry does. This from his column in The National.

Outrageous as it may be for Boris to deny that the result of the UK General Election makes any difference, there is, legally and constitutionally, no alternative to waiting till he changes his mind. So we will get no new referendum in 2020. We’ll just have to wait and see if outright SNP victory in the Holyrood election of 2021 causes a political rethink in Downing Street. Not only the Scottish government but also various respected independent commentators have been saying it would surely need to.

This is why ‘DIY’ indyref2 won’t be able to deliver independence

Depressing as this description of the situation may be, it accurately reflects Scotland’s true predicament in all respects other than the implied hope that something might make Boris Johnson change his mind and grant a Section 30 order. Or the variation on this hope which supposes that a change of attitude may come with a change of government at Westminster. Both are forlorn hopes. There will be no change of heart; no change of mind; no rethink. No British Prime Minister will ever sanction any process which places the Union in jeopardy. Even if they were minded to do so, they would be prevented.

The Section 30 process is, as I have long maintained, nothing more than a device by which the pretence of democracy could be maintained. A way of keeping alive the hope and belief that Scotland has a democratic route out of the Union. The Section 30 process is a lie.

Why then, you may ask, do we have the likes of Gordon “Intervention Man” Brown striding out of the shadows and onto the stage to warn in doom-lade tones that London rule may ‘soon be over’? There are a number of reasons. Rallying the forces of British Nationalism would be one. Ensuring that the Tories get the blame for putting the Union at risk another. Brown being a pompous, self-regarding, attention-seeking prick who craves the status of a senior statesman that he cannot earn might have something to do with it. But the most important reason, and the one most people may not recognise, is the need to maintain the illusion of the Union being under threat. The illusion that Scotland has a way of dissolving the Union.

Without this pretence, only one conclusion is possible. That there is no democratic route to independence. Or, at least, that there is no democratic route which is both guaranteed and accessible. That is to say, a process which exists and cannot be unilaterally altered. A process which is entirely internal to Scotland. A process which can be initiated and followed by the democratically elected representatives of Scotland’s people without interference or hindrance from any external power.

That is the reality of Scotland’s predicament. It has been the clearly recognisable reality for several years. It is the reality behind the concerns I have expressed about the Section 30 process. It is the reality which I preferred not to explicitly acknowledge whilst it was still possible to pretend that the Section 30 process is what it purports to be.

Without a process such as I have described by which Scotland’s constitutional status can be normalised according to the will of Scotland’s people our present constitutional status cannot be what we have long believed it to be. The starting point on our journey to independence is not what we thought it was. We are not in the place we imagined we were. And this has massive implications for the independence movement and for the Scottish Government.

Without a process by which Scotland can get out of the Union at will it can no longer be maintained that Scotland remains in the Union by consent. Consent that cannot be withdrawn as readily as it is given isn’t consent at all.

Without an accessible process by which consent can be freely withdrawn Scotland’s status cannot be that of a party to a political union freely entered into and continued. Rather, Scotland must be regarded as annexed territory. Scotland must be regarded as having been annexed by England by stealth over the period since the Union was first imposed on us. Either the Treaty of Union was, in reality, a Declaration of Annexation, or the terms of that treaty have been unilaterally altered by or on behalf of England over the last 313 years.

The question facing Scotland, therefore, is not whether we wish to become independent – that choice is not available to us – but whether we are prepared to tolerate the annexation of our country. And if not, what are we to do about it. Particularly as such a large proportion of Scotland’s people appear eager or content to accept Scotland’s status as a shackled nation.

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26 thoughts on “Shackled!

  1. “There will be no change of heart; no change of mind; no rethink. No British Prime Minister will ever sanction any process which places the Union in jeopardy. Even if they were minded to do so, they would be prevented.” Why would Nicola and the SNP mandarins imagine that this is not the case? All the evidence declares the truth of what you write. I really fear that without a radical metanoia by Nicola and the mandarins or a change in who leads the party, or a new party arising, then independence will have been lost, and the blame will have to laid at the door of the SNP.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Aidan O’Neil QC has advised that a Holyrood referendum is within the competence of the Scottish parliament.

    The fact that so many in the SNP hierarchy either ignore or dismiss this suggestion. Reflects the reluctance of the party(The SNP), to act on it’s own authority. The question we should be asking Nicola is, why not?

    Boris has delivered his rebuttal. Now the SNP must explain why they won’t take Aidan O’Neil’s advice.

    The reasoning so far seems to be about fear!


    1. Actually, as you are referring to Martin Keatings’s Case against WM, if you check the notes on it (Martin’s timeline), you’ll see that SNP is also represented as part of the proceedings but because of legal reasons, they have to be put down as adversaries (against Martin). Martin has explained why, but sorry – memory has gone totally blank on that!)… Again, I’m sure you’ll find it on his timeline.

      SNP/Scotgov are actually on Martin’s side & Nicola Sturgeon gets regular updates from Martin & gets copies of all relevant they come into play. So it isn’t really the case that SNP hierarchy are ignoring or dismissing the case. And that’s a good thing. Because if/when the case is won by Martin (his QC, Aidan O’Neil as you rightly point out, seems pretty certainly they will.), then there will be no excuses for Scotgov NOT to hold a Ref. The old excuse ‘waiting on a Sec.30 will be totally invalid. So we shall see what happens in roughly 8 weeks time. Martin seems to feel the case should be concluded in that time, give or take…


      1. Having said that, I just want to make clear – I’m of the same persuasion as Peter, in that I don’t believe a Sec.30 is necessary to obtain independence. However, AFTER the Independence fact, I think it would be the best way to prove consensus. But that could be done a couple of years down the road of independence having been declared & negotiations well under way & living like a free country. I think the absolute contempt for Scotland is proving to be such that the country will be decimated by WM’s brexit decision & the means by which they will punish the workers for the COVID economy, it will be proof enough to United Nations that SCOTLAND CANNOT REMAIN UNDER WM RULE.

        There are other ways & means to obtain Independence (read: Craig Murray). And I have no patience with this idea of waiting for LARGER consensus… waiting for Sec.30… waiting for brexit to be done…… blah blah blah… SCOTLAND IS HURTING. We need to move forward NOW & get Independence done.


  3. FYI – Nicola is to update us next week and she still intends to have indy-ref 2 this year! Maybe she will surprise us doubters.


    1. Jock the words she said was “We have to TRY to have a vote in 2020 after all thats what the Scots voted for.” No very determined sounding there is it? I like you hope for something while fearing that for the umpteenth time since 2014, getting a load of meaningless rhetoric

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You are right that sovereignty will never be restored to Scotland without confrontation with Westminster. Though there are some that think a gradualist route as taken by New Zealand might arrive at the same destination. Like you, I disagree, for the simple reason that NZ is thousands of miles away but we are part of the same island which they regard as their territory, not ours. We are 34% of the territory of the UK. And 80% of the coastline. They are not going to let that chunk go easily. I think that this confrontation can only come when Scotland as a whole comes to identify that it is economically clobbered and constrained by Westminster and when there is such a head of steam over this that in some way Westminster agrees to us leaving the union that was more or less forced on us in 1707. Hopefully this will not come to troops being sent in to quell the Scots but it can’t be ruled out. More recent examples suggest that rational governments pull back from military confrontation when they perceive the extent of civil opposition they are faced with on the same landmass and agree to a treaty. The example of Norway is interesting here.

    In Norway in the 19th century the Norwegians managed to break the shackles of the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden (which they had voluntarily entered in the 14th century after the devastation of the Great Plague which impacted Scandinavia badly). They managed this because they were united in wanting to pull out of this union having suffered greatly by it during the Napoleonic wars when Denmark was invaded by Napoleon and forced onto that side and the allies on the other side placed an embargo on Denmark-Norway causing starvation in Norway. After Britain and allies won, a group of leading citizens met at Eidsvoll and made a declaration of independence from Denmark, everyone agreeing that this union was outdated and no longer advantageous to Norway. This feeling had been building for a long time, but the deprivations caused by the recent embargo concentrated minds. (Sweden had pulled out of the union in the 16th century and had taken the allies’ side during the wars). At the Congress of Vienna which settled international relations following Napoleon’s defeat the Swedes now argued that given this historic union and for security reasons they needed military control of Norway, so the allies agreed that Norway should be shackled to Sweden but only as far as defence and foreign policy were concerned. The Norwegians set up a parliament which had far greater powers than we do under devolution which was independent in all but defence and foreign policy.

    But even that proved too little, as, when Norway began to recover from its shackles from Denmark after 400 years of sleep, its ambitions and competence began to be constrained by Sweden continuing to control foreign relations such as embassies, restraints which did not suit Norwegian growth in foreign trade through its merchant marine. Things came to a head in 1905 when the Norwegians defied the Swedes over this, and in response, the king of Sweden threatened to invade. But pulled back when a referendum of the Norwegians showed 98% support for independence from Sweden.

    But it took the Norwegians to identify and be agreed that their economic interests were being severely constrained by these unions before they got up the spirit to oppose them, and in my view, until there is some non-party political consensus arrived at in Scotland that our interests are similarly being squashed, there is little hope of a mass confrontation with Westminster. I think the impact of leaving the EU is similar in economic damage to that faced by Norway at similar junctions in its history and calling some civil convention to examine this, identify clearly the impact, and be agreed on the solutions, is the only way to recover our sovereignty.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. MBC – I think Eire is the best example of how things pan out when you defy Westminster Rule. Like Scotland their MP’s sat in Westminster. Like Scotland they are part of the British Isles and very close to England. Like Scotland , Ireland was full of landed gentry who owned great swathes of their land. Like Scotland they have a rich celtic culture , which the English tried to extinguish.

    Unlike Scotland they never gave away their sovereignty. Their country was taken by force for centuries. But the spirit of the Irish never waned. At least 50% of Scots allowed their nationality and heritage to be amalgamated into a pseudo British nationality. Many of these people have a cultural identity crisis. They have an inferiority complex. They have a schizophrenic nationality. A nationality that moves from Scottish to British depending on what sport they are watching.

    I have never had this. My father never had this. We knew we were Scots from the age of understanding. When I hear the word Brit , it makes me cringe. I will never be a Brit.

    So we are up against it from some of our own people. I find most incomers to Scotland are more Scottish than the union Scots. They have no British hangover!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I have never had this either. My mother and grandparents too. I have never felt British in my life, being of the common Scottish people. You are so right about the crisis of identity felt by Anglo-Scots.

      For many years I did the English a great disservice. I thought they sneered and mocked us Scots. (Admittedly some do – but most don’t). It was only when I went to university and was taught by English academics who respected my intellectual ability and encouraged it, that it began to dawn on me that the sneering English that had been putting me down my whole life, mocking Scotland and my Scottishness, weren’t English at all. They were Anglo-Scots who had lost any semblance of Scottishness and spoke with English accents.

      These people are afraid of losing ‘their’ country and their identity by our bid to regain ours. Because if we regain it, where are they? What is their country? Anglo-Scotland will have gone. But the English will still have England. Like you, I have frequently found that English people who have moved to Scotland are more positive about us and the country and independence than the Anglo-Scots. They see it is a tolerant open place with plenty of potential, and they know they can live here in an independent Scotland as adopted Scots. They may still feel English, and what’s wrong with that? There are secure in their Englishness and in their adopted Scottishness, just as we might be if we moved to Canada and were welcomed by Canadians and accepted for who we were as people, and for what we wanted to contribute, not for where we came from.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. The common people have long accepted that we were de facto annexed and conquered in 1707. It has depressed the hell out of them. It’s the collaborating elites, the ‘proud Scots’ like Ruth Davidson and her cronies who have kept up the pretence of the union being a beneficial and statesmanlike partnership of equals. As long as the British Empire existed and we had our snouts well and truly in that trough, there was some truth in that claim. But the empire is long gone, imperial opportunities for advancement are no more, and it is now they who have their snouts in our trough and are eating us from within.

    Willie Wolfe used to talk about this cultural dichotomy, this cognitive dissonance, and the impact it had on the Scottish psyche, particularly of Scottish males. The fact that there was no admission of effective conquest. The fact of the way we were clobbered in the end, was not in a manful martial way by force of arms, but by a trick. He thought that Scottish males felt subtly emasculated by this but couldn’t quite figure out how. And that this inner turmoil, this crisis of manly virtue, instead of anger and rebellion, resulted in a kind of paralysis of will.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Aye MBC- It was the Anglo/Scots who gave away our country in 1707.

    Now we want it back, they are tightening their grip. It’s to do with money and power. They fear the will of the people. That’s why Tory Scots are so toxic. They hate us more than Boris ever could. They lost something along the way. Their culture, their identity, their accents and their real country. Deep down some part of them must feel the guilt that goes with betraying your people and your nation.

    There is a hollowness to their invented identity. That hollowness is an invented sense of an imagined country called Britain , which never really existed. The English Brexit has forced them to realise that there never was a Britain. There was an England and a regional union Scotland attached to it.

    They despise us MBC.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Agree Big Jock. But only some were Anglo-Scots, who aped the English, John Clerk of Penicuik for instance. Others were that other breed, the Canny Scot, even more despicable, who saw opportunities in selling their country to further their careers, like the Duke of Argyll. A strange thing has happened though. As long as the empire lasted and was being built, and they could pretend Britain was a noble enterprise in which they, being from a superior sturdy martial race, could out-British the English, (see the Tank Commander as the most recent incarnation of this) they were really proud to call themselves Scots. Scots-as-empire builders, Scotland the Brave. They would defend Scottishness from English snobbery because Scottishness was really British (in their minds). To be really, really, Scottish was to be really, really British. You couldn’t get more British than the Proud Scots. They played a disproportionate role in building the empire. In fighting battles, in governing newly conquered territories. Scots were everywhere. The empire did sod all for the common Scot, except provide him/her with a ticket out to the white settler colonies, depleting the land of its best and fittest, but never mind. They were even so proud they called themselves North Britons. Perhaps we should go back to calling them that, the name they called themselves?

    But then, after the empire was gone, rapidly, between 1947-1964, a period of less than 20 years, mind, they turned on Scotland. They were no longer so proud of their Scottishness, now that it had no imperial purpose. The empire wasn’t great after all. They were suddenly faced with reality. What had the British empire actually ever done for Scotland itself? Zilch. What were they left with after it was gone? Zilch. 250 years of union and we had hardly moved an inch. Scotland was still poor, run-down, but now it was also hollowed out, its industry, coal and steel gone, its people departed. At the union we had been 20-25% the population of Britain. Now we are 8%. And when they saw reality, instead of seeing the folly of their ways, instead of seeing the British imperial project had delivered nothing of lasting value, they saw they were left with nothing and at that point they started hating us and blaming us for our poverty because they could no longer make use of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks again Peter for some of the thought-leadership on this. We just need to tear the public away from the telly long enough to set some minds in motion. It becomes irresistible once the questions arise.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Not directly. I don’t think that would be possible. The grounds for such an appeal may seem obvious to us. But persuading hard-headed diplomats is another matter.


      1. Our desire to leave will hold no sway with any international force until we can prove beyond doubt that the overwhelming majority of the people are with us. With a British State Media that is harder than ever. It will perhaps only start happening when the fishermen are betrayed, along with our farmers, and many many more people start feeling the effects.


  10. The declaration of Annexation is contained within the EU Withdrawal Bill.
    Article 38(1)…”It is recognised that the Parliament of theUnited Kingdom is Sovereign”.

    Carmyn Jones suggested this was “Constitutional Grafitti” but it is much more sinister than that. This is a blatant attempt to deny that the people of Scotland are Sovereign, and place it in the realm of International Law. It cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged by the Scottish Government.
    Three short video clips in this thread.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Surely we need to push forward and when we are denied any democratic way of taking control of our ancient country and possibly with law and order breaking down we could appeal to the UN to avoid a repeat of the troubles in Northern Ireland


    1. Nope! Scotland is not a member of the UN. Forget any external agency riding to the rescue of our democracy. If we are prepared to save it ourselves nobody is going to do it for us.


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