A little misunderstanding

Will we do this at the same time in Scotland as the rest of the UK? That will depend on what the evidence tells us. It’s not a point about constitutional ideology either way.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP

I worry when I hear Nicola Sturgeon say things like this. I worry a lot. The inescapable impression is that she hasn’t grasped the essence of constitutional politics. How can anyone sensibly claim that “constitutional ideology” has nothing to do with the ability to act independently according to a distinct interpretation of evidence? Effective political power is precisely what constitutional ideology is all about.

Scotland’s civic nationalist ideology holds that the power to act as the First Minister says she intends should rest with the government that is democratically elected by the people of Scotland. British Nationalist ideology insists that ultimate power rests with a British government and a British Parliament which no democratic legitimacy in Scotland. Scottish nationalist ideology gives primacy to democratic principles. British Nationalist ideology prioritises the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state over everything else – including democracy, justice and the well-being of people throughout the UK.

Our First Minister can only have the power she claims to the extent that Scottish nationalist ideology prevails. Yet she appears to believe that the efficacy of her office and her Government is “not a point about constitutional ideology”. My sense – and it can be no more than that – is that she regards Scotland’s constitutional status as a matter of party policy like any other. Which implies that policy can change. That a party’s stance on the question of Scotland’s constitutional status can be modified if circumstances justify it. Since she is leader of the SNP, the implications are worthy of consideration.

Constitutional ideology is not at all like any other other area of politics. Constitutional politics both overarches and underpins all of a nation’s politics. Constitutional politics is about the power to decide. A constitutional ideology is position on what is the ultimate source of legitimate political authority. Democrats, including Scottish nationalists, take the position that the people are the ultimate source of legitimate political authority. That sovereignty resides with the people. That only the people can therefore bestow legitimacy on effective political power.

British Nationalism is anti-democratic in that, even while paying lip service, it denies popular sovereignty insisting rather that the ultimate source of legitimate political power is the divinely ordained monarch – or “the Crown in Parliament”.

It is only possible to maintain that Scotland’s constitutional status is not a point of constitutional ideology if one reduces the fundamental democratic principle of popular sovereignty to a matter of party policy. There can be no equivalence between democratic and anti-democratic ideologies. Democracy can accommodate diverse positions on matters such as the operation of the tax/benefit system and education and transport and social welfare and everything else. Democracy cannot accommodate anti-democracy. Fundamental democratic principles must not be compromised for the sake of political expediency. Questions of sovereignty are not rightfully the province of party policy.

Whether we do anything in a distinctive way informed by the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people is by definition a “point about constitutional ideology”. It is deeply disturbing that Scotland should be labouring under a political leadership which denies this.

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5 thoughts on “A little misunderstanding

  1. Ideology

    “A set or system of theories and beliefs held by an individual or group, especially about sociopolitical goals and methods to attain them; in common usage, ideology is such a set of beliefs so strongly held by their adherents as to cause them to ignore evidence against such beliefs and thus fall into error — in this sense it is viewed as a negative trait; contrasted to pragmatism, and distinct from idealism.”

    I don’t think there is any failure to grasp the issue. That use of the i-word by the First Minister clearly shows that the constitutional door is being nailed firmly shut right now.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think people are reading far too much into this. I understand her to be saying that there is no point of constitutional ideology which says we must do it at the same time as rUK and that there is no point of constitutional ideology which demands that we do it at a different time.

    She has laid out her criteria. It is evidence based, ie we do it when the time is right for Scotland according to the evidence relating to Scotland, which is exactly what I would expect.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. She is a member of their club (a fellow Unionist), perhaps with some odd provincial ‘notions’, but a member nevertheless. She may from time to time rock the boat but she will never capsize it. Again and again and again, she has acted in alignment with the interests of our occupiers to the detriment of those of our people.

    This is not rocket surgery. We need not consult the Oracle at Delphi to divine her intent. If it walks like a Unionist and quacks like a Unionists, eventually, after five long years, there should be no mystery as to her motivations nor the meaning of and reasons for, her words and deeds. SHE’ A FRIGGIN’ UNIONIST!

    Quite honestly, given the overwhelming evidence, the willful blindness of many drives me quackers.


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