Traveller, your footprintsAntonio Machado
Are the path and nothing more;
Traveller, there is no path,
The path is made by walking.
We commonly talk about the path or route to independence. People will refer to this or that path. They will insist that their favoured route is best. They will decry other paths as too rugged and potholed or leading in the wrong direction. It is a powerful idea; the image of a well-signposted road leading to a desired destination is very alluring. All we must do to reach that destination is choose that road and go where it takes us. The path need not be straight or smooth. It is accepted that if a place is worth going to then it is worth making some effort to get there. The path may be winding, rutted and steep but the need to reach that destination – or the imperative to leave the place you are – make even an arduous journey worthwhile.
We speak, also, of people making the journey from No to Yes. From rejecting the idea of restoring Scotland’s independence to embracing that aspiration wholeheartedly. People describe that journey. They describe the path that led them from one place to another. They tell of the obstacles they had to overcome. They tell of the things that urged them on. They acknowledge the people who have helped them on their journey. The people who have pointed out the path and given directions as required.
But what if there is no path. How would people make that journey from No to Yes if the independence movement had not pioneered a route. How might they even contemplate the sojourn if they were unable to see the destination or the path leading there? There being no path, how might they even know that such a journey was possible? Even if they could imagine the journey, the absence of any path would mean they had no starting point.
Now consider that there is no path to independence. No route by which Scotland’s rightful constitutional status might be restored. Suppose that the destination can be seen well enough, but that there is no apparent way of getting there.
I came close to this conclusion back in January when I wrote an article titled Shackled! which, with your indulgence, I shall quote at some length. The opening paragraph should give a feel for the piece.
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.
The point I was making in that article is that the Section 30 route is most definitely not the path to independence. I described it as,
…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.
I was put in mind of this article as I ploughed my uncomprehending and incredulous way through British Labour MP Ian Murray’s mind-bendingly, jaw-droppingly deranged responses to Michael Kettle as he was interviewed for the Sunday Herald. To venture into this article is to step through the looking-glass, go down the helter-skelter and out the back of the wardrobe. About a third of the way through I began to be genuinely concerned for Mr Murray’s mental well-being. At the two-thirds mark I started to fret for Mr Kettle. By the end I was seriously worried that I might be adversely affected by what I’d read. Some things are so detached from reality that in reaching for such sense as might be found one fears for ones own grip on sanity. You have been warned.
When it was suggested that if the SNP won an overall majority in next year’s Holyrood poll, it would insist it had a mandate to demand a second referendum, Mr Murray stressed how this would become a “ridiculous” proposition in 2024, three years after the Holyrood elections, if Labour took power.“By that hypothetical, Keir Starmer would take the Labour manifesto into government and then rip up everything he has talked about on radical federalism to give somebody a referendum he disagrees with on the basis of a mandate that could be less than 50%,” argued the Shadow Scottish Secretary.
Please take a moment to cautiously try and get your head around this. It’s as if he’s talking about two things each and either of which can be whatever he needs it to be for the purposes of whatever argument he’s utterly failing to make. Foolishly, Ian Murray tries to clarify this puddle of murky pish.
He added: “You can’t say one half of the equation has a mandate and not the other. The mandate for Keir Starmer, if he becomes PM in 2024, would be to deliver on the manifesto commitment of the radical federalism that he wants to try and achieve.”
Apparently, you “can’t say” exactly what he then goes on to say. He says that his half of the equation must have a mandate and the other half can’t even if its numbers are bigger. Whatever mandate the SNP is granted by the Scottish electorate that mandate is outweighed and overruled by whatever mandate British Labour might get from voters in England-as-Britain. Plug whatever numbers you like into Ian Murray’s “equation” and the result is always the same – Scotland loses!
Take the most extreme scenario you can imagine. Suppose the SNP, standing on an explicit independence manifesto, wins every single seat in the Scottish Parliament at the next Holyrood election. Suppose that in the following UK general election British Labour suffers the loss of its sole remaining MP (A tragedy for them made measurably less traumatic by the fact that this happens to be Ian Murray.), while the SNP again sweeps the board and takes all 59 seats with 100% of the vote on a 100% turnout. (Shut up! I’m making a point!) Suppose further that by some quirk of the British political system British Labour actually manages to ‘win’ that UK election despite getting precisely no votes in Scotland and with only 35% of the UK-wide vote. Apply the ‘Murray Maths’ and what do you find? There still isn’t a mandate for a new referendum and it is “ridiculous” to think there might be!
Heads they win! Tails we lose! Even if it’s a double-header!
Stu Campbell has emptied out some more of Murray’s big box of inanities and poked them with his forensic stick if you feel like delving deeper into the murk and mire of a monumentally muddled mind. (Murray’s mind, that is. Lest there be any misunderstanding.)
There is only one conclusion to be drawn from all of this. Within the Union there is no democratic route out of the Union. Because the situation which Ian Murray has tried to explain, or tried to avoid explaining or whatever, is the same regardless of which of the British parties holds power in London. It’s just that the other parties have more sense than try to explain this. And far more sense than try make it sound like democracy. Look at the fool Ian Murray has made of himself as he attempted this.
Back to that article of mine from January.
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.
There is no path, There is no route. Scotland is trapped. Shackled to England-as-Britain and whatever corrupt, incompetent bunch of imbeciles manages to pauchle the reins of power in that increasing foreign land. As Antonio Machado says, the path must be made by walking. There is no path we can take, Therefore we must make our own path.
Scotland’s situation is unique. Scotland’s circumstances are unprecedented. Anybody who claims to be able to show us the path out of the Union is a liar and a fraud. No such path exists. It remains to be constructed. Which is good news for us. It means there are no constraints. Or no more than are imposed by the basic principles of democracy. There is no map. There is no defined procedure. The process by which we restore Scotland’s independence will have to be devised anew. We start from scratch. Let no-one tell you this or that is ‘illegal’. How can there be precise and detailed rules for something that is being done for the first time ever?
We must forge our own path. We don’t need lawyers. We need adventurers! Trail-blazers! Pioneers!
By walking the path is madeAntonio Machado
And when you look back
You’ll see a road
Never to be trodden again.
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