There is a truly inspiring article in The National today by a long-time acquaintance of mine, Jim Fairlie. The headline pretty much says it all, if in the rather clumsy way that headlines tend to. Scotland must reassert sovereignty to decide constitutional future. That is precisely the point. It is the point which I have been trying to convey for what seems like decades. I cannot overstate how gratifying and encouraging it is to have this crucial message conveyed by a man of Jim’s standing. Could his column mark a turning point for our beleaguered nation?
We in Scotland, and in particular the SNP, are now, politically, legally and morally in a position to right that mistake and to reassert our sovereign rights over our constitutional future.
Aye, Jim! But will we? In particular, will the SNP? Will Nicola Sturgeon prove herself to be something more than the competent, charismatic leader she has been? Can she now abandon her commitment to the Section 30 process? Will she listen to Jim Fairlie and heed his advice?
What can we do to help her in this? As Jim quite rightly points out, the responsibility to act rests not only on the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon, but on all of us – all the people of Scotland. He could just as appositely have said,
We in Scotland, and in particular the SNP, are politically, legally and morally obliged to right that mistake and to reassert our sovereign rights over our constitutional future.
The constitutional status of our nation is our responsibility. The responsibility comes with the right of self-determination. We, the people of Scotland, not only have the right to determine the constitutional status of the nation, we have a responsibility to do so. We not only have the right to choose the form of government which best serves our needs, priorities, obligations and aspirations, we have a solemn duty to do so. A duty to future generations. A duty, no less importantly, to our own conception of ourselves; our self-respect.
In a speech I gave in Dundee during the 2014 referendum campaign I suggested that the kind of nation Scotland is depends on what kind of people we are. As it is for all other nations, so it is for Scotland. Or so it should be. But among the deleterious effects of the Union is the disconnect between the kind of people we are and the kind of nation we are allowed to be. With your indulgence I shall reproduce part of that speech here.
“We want independence, not because we regard ourselves as superior, but because we refuse to accept that we are inferior. We refuse to accept that we are less than the people of other nations who take their independence for granted.
So, if the kind of nation we are depends on the kind of people we are, what kind of people are we? In a very real sense, that is what will be determined by this referendum and the campaign leading up to the vote. How that campaign is conducted will say a lot about who we are. Which is why I so deeply resent the way that the British parties in Scotland are behaving. But that is a whole other topic.
Let’s consider instead what the vote says about us. Think about the question we are being asked.
Should Scotland be an independent country?
Can you imagine that question being asked in any other country? Can you conceive of the people of any other nation even considering the possibility of answering No to that question?
The fact that we are asking this question of ourselves tells us what kind of people we have been. People who have, for too long, been meekly content to accept a subordinate status within a Union that was contrived in a different age for purposes that were never relevant to us. A union that we, the people, had no part in creating or sanctioning. An anachronistic, dysfunctional, corrupt union which serves none of the people off these islands well.
A union which was always intended to serve the purposes of the ruling elites. A union which, in that regard if no other, has not changed one iota in the last three centuries.
A union that sucks the human and material resources out of our nation and in return gives us government by parties that we have emphatically rejected at the polls.
A union that imposes policies which are anathema to our people. Policies which have been rejected by our democratically elected representatives.
A union which, were we being given that option now, not one of us would vote to join – but which we are nonetheless being asked to vote to remain in.
All of this and more is what we have accepted in the past. And our acceptance of all this has defined us in the eyes of our neighbours, the world, aye! and ourselves.
Ladies and gentlemen, I put it to you that the fact that we are asking ourselves this question says nothing very flattering about who we have been in the past.“
The fact that we are still asking that question says nothing very flattering about who we are now. The fact that we, as a nation, voted to take the power we held in our hands for 15 glorious hours on Thursday 18 September and hand it to a British political elite which treats Scotland only with cold, callous, casual contempt says nothing at all flattering about us. What began as as a glorious exercise in democracy ended as an ignominious retreat into subordination. On that day we shirked our responsibility. We failed in our duty. We made ourselves less than we might be and in the process made Scotland less than it might be.
But the responsibility still rests on our shoulders. We are still bound by the duty we owe to Scotland, to future generations, to democracy and to ourselves. We are responsible. We have a duty to rectify the mistake we made in 2014. A mistake which compounded all the earlier mistakes noted by Jim Fairlie and laid the groundwork for all the mistakes that have been made since.
We can rectify the aggregate of all those mistakes. As Jim Fairlie says,
There is a road through this impasse however. It is bold. It is forthright, and it answers only to the people of Scotland.
What is it we are demanding of Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP and the Scottish Greens and all those who hold the potential to connect the strength of Scotland’s people with the effective political power of the Scottish Parliament – the only Parliament which can lay claim to democratic legitimacy in Scotland? The only Parliament which has a rightful claim to speak and act for Scotland’s people. The Parliament which is actually elected by Scotland’s people and accountable to them. Our Parliament! What do we want?
Jim Fairlie expresses it well.
The SNP Government, the Greens and any other party of independence should make a manifesto pledge that if a majority of SNP and pro-independence MSPs are returned to Holyrood in 2021, they will bring forward a bill “to assume the responsibility for constitutional affairs as directed by the people of Scotland”.
Where Jim says “should” I say “must”. Our elected representatives all must commit to bold, decisive action in the early years of the next parliament which asserts the primacy of the Scottish Parliament in all constitutional matters. Effectively, a declaration of independence. Because two parliaments cannot hold primacy in one nation. All the more so when one of them has absolutely no claim to be the guardian of Scotland’s interests and in which neither Scotland’s interests nor Scotland’s people are meaningfully represented. (I’m sorry Mr Blackford! But them’s the hard facts. You and your colleagues should know better than anyone that the Union does not allow Scotland to be duly represented in the British parliament.)
I would go further than Jim Fairlie in another regard. I would insist that the “manifesto pledge” of which he speaks should not be left to the parties. The action to which the SNP and others must commit needs to be spelled out. It needs to be formalised as a Manifesto for Independence drafted by the people of Scotland. This is the aim, purpose and ambition of White Rose Rising.
We need an entirely new approach to the constitutional issue. We must, if I might presume to paraphrase the late Alasdair Gray, conduct ourselves as if we are already in the early days of a better nation; a nation with its independence restored’ a nation with its pride restored. We need to approach the constitutional issue with a different mindset. The mindset of the people we aspire to be. The mindset of a sovereign people. The mindset of a man like Jim Fairlie. Only then will be be a nation again.
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14 thoughts on “A Manifesto for Independence”
I think it’s unfair to say that the people failed in 2014. There were black arts at work in the ballot counting and if the whole thing had been conducted legitimately I believe we would’ve won that referendum and already be a free and independent nation. Just as I believe that in the next referendum our biggest problem will be to ensure that it is all above board. The polls are very good just now but I don’t believe they are accurate, 65% pro Indy is nearer reality I believe but again dark arts are at work to make sure this is not known.
Tell us how the count was rigged. In fact, don’t bother. I’ve been asking that question ever since the first conspiracy theories emerged within two minutes of the polls closing. Nobody has ever been able to explain how it would be possible to interfere with the count such as to affect the result.
Start with a simple question. What would be the minimum number of people who would have had to be involved?
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I dont think the count was rigged but lots of voters in the 2014 referendum weren’t domiciled here. That was pretty evident in areas such as Angus and Perthshire. rUK students etc shouldn’t have been allowed to vote and we all know the Daily Mail proclaimed English voters in Scotland would stop secession.
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Only a couple of folk would need to be involved. The folk responsible for researching who never votes, and inserting their No vote into the computer system.
That’s what I thought. You actually don’t have a clue how the count was conducted.
That’s an end to it! I’ve done my share of ridiculing pathetically ill-informed conspiracy theorists. I am not about to start again. It’s like trying to have a rational debate with religious fanatics. Whatever they need to support their faith just gets magicked into existence. Like the maic computer that magically alters masses of physically counted product without anybody noticing.
An excellent and stirring piece! You should take this and, in a Martin Luther-like moment, nail it to the doors of The Scottish Parliament. You are very good at hitting nails squarely on the head.
We blew it in 2014 but 2021 will be different. In the words of Peter Gabriel in his anthem to Steve Biko, ‘You can blow out a candle but you can’t blow out a fire, once the flames begin to catch the wind will blow it higher.’
The winds of change are blowing throughout the world. Our day will come.
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The cats out the bag Peter and the path has been laid at the feet of our Scottish politicians. The SNP MUST take decisive action to free this Nation from its own servility to the British state. The U.K. Is rotten to its very core and its institutions are morally and politically corrupt and time is running out for the SNP. The membership is extremely upset by the lack of direct action from the current leadership and the way AS was treated. There can be no more excuses, the path is clear all they have to do is to take the first step.
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Reblogged this on Ramblings of a 50+ Female.
Jim Fairlie’s article in today’s National is the most significant thing I’ve read for a long time. His idea should definitely be adopted by at least the SNP and Greens in their manifestos for Holyrood 2021.
I’m wondering if it is inconsistent with the so called “plan B” where independence supporting parties would use achieving a majority of seats at Holyrood as a mandate to begin negotiations immediately on independence.
I think that there is both consistency and synergy between the proposals.
If both were included in manifestos, then negotiations could begin immediately, and firstly be made to happen, secondly be made more meaningful by the knowledge that the Jim Fairlie bill was progressing through Holyrood which would permanently give Holyrood the power over all constitutional matters.
What then of section 30 ? Should the Scottish government make another section 30 “request” (hate that word) in order to have 3 horses running in the race ? Personally I don’t think so but I can’t claim to have thought it through. Even if it were “granted” (hate that word too), any referendum would have to be conducted without interference from the British state, including its broadcast and propaganda arms. Chances of that happening ? nah, we should not even consider a further section 30 request.
I can claim to have thought it through, Geoff. And it’s a definite No to any more flirting with Section 30. It’s the British state’s ‘gold standard’. So it’s safe to assume it’s our ‘shit standard’. It won’t be granted. And we’d be even worse off if it was. So… that’s a big NO.
What Jim is referring to is exactly what I’ve been pushing for a long time now. We must recognise that Scotland’s independence can only be restored through Scotland’s Parliament. Having typed that yet again it seems like such a statement of the obvious. It all happens in the Scottish Parliament. Where else could it happen? It all starts with the Scottish Parliament asserting its primacy in some fundamental area. Which is the same as saying that we confront the British state. We reject its authority. Only the Scottish Parliament has democratic legitimacy in Scotland. So only the Scottish Parliament can implement constitutional change in Scotland.
As I said the the Inveryess folks on Zoom last night, it’s actually very simple. Part of the British state’s propaganda has been to portray the restoration of independence as this massive complicated process. It isn’t! There is no necessity for it to be at all complicated. The people of Scotland are sovereign. Scotland’s constitutional status is whatever the people of Scotland say it is. NOBODY else gets any say whatever!
Only the Scottish Parliament has the legitimate and rightful authority to speak and act for and on behalf of the people of Scotland. If the Scottish Government proposes that the Scottish Parliament declare its sole competence in all constitutional matters then none can gainsay this.
If we want to be independent all we have to do is say we are no longer part of the Union. Done!
I agree completely but, we do need a plebiscite…and quick!
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I see Sturgeon is banging on again about Brexit and Cummings’ deputy Boris has told her to swing for it again.
She is an utter failure- Chief civil servant she is ideal: leader of a secessionist movement hopeless.
For me, lots of questions surround NS and the ‘senior’ parts of the SNP. But we should not forget that after 2014, Indy was off the menu for a good long time – 2021 was of the radar after Indyref1.
Sturgeon was chosen as the Good Management option, steady as she goes, let’s wait it out. If we had known about brexit in 2014, Sturgeon might not have been the choice and probably possibly, we might even have got Indy .
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