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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