If people are seeking a ray of hope in the understandable gloom of the constitutional issue, it to be found in Joanna Cherry’s weekly column for The National. Not that I have no quibbles with what she says. It would be a remarkable feat indeed for Ms Cherry – or anyone else for that matter – to write something with which I was in total agreement. But the basics are sound. And growing more sound over the weeks.
I anticipate that this column will become one of the most referenced articles in the constitutional debate. It’s fair encrusted wi’ gems o’ truth an’ pearls o’ wisdom!
Acts of the UK Parliament cannot be challenged in court. Westminster could abolish the Scottish Parliament if it wanted to and no legal action could change that.Joanna Cherry: Politics is not on hold – we must keep independence in sight
A truth long known but all too seldom told and recognised.
Well, first off, we must not fall into the trap of conceding that the fight against the coronavirus and dealing with its economic fallout precludes pursuing the goal of independence. Politics is plainly not on hold. Brexit is proceeding at full speed. Devolution is under attack. The Tories are continuing to pursue their constitutional agenda. We must do likewise.Joanna Cherry: Politics is not on hold – we must keep independence in sight
Denying this is not a good look for any politician. It’s the wrong shoes for Nicola Sturgeon.
A strategy which rests solely on the assumption that Boris Johnson will grant a Section 30 Order if the SNP win just one more mandate is a risky one.Joanna Cherry: Politics is not on hold – we must keep independence in sight
An understatement, for sure. But an understandable one. Joanna Cherry is working towards a position that would be difficult for her to approach other than with a modicum of caution. As someone who has the utmost regard for gravity and an abiding awareness of the almost proverbial inelasticity of rock and who has, therefore never looked at a mountain and thought it’s height a gauntlet thrown before my ego, I hesitate to deploy a mountaineering metaphor. But we might think of what Joanna Cherry is doing as hammering in pitons to aid her ascent to the summit of a position on the constitutional issue which (even more) directly challenges that taken by the First Minister.
I for one look forward eagerly to the moment when Ms Cherry plants Scotland’s flag atop that peak.
Meanwhile, I cannot possibly agree that “the route followed in 2014 is the gold standard”. But I can appreciate why Ms Cherry might say such a thing. It is politic for her to do so at this stage. Nor can I go along with the focus on developing post-independence policies in the hope of winning over wavering No voters. Quite apart from the fact that restoring Scotland’s independence is a question that will be decided in a referendum and not an election, any policy position is liable to be disliked as much as it’s liked. As Elliot Bulmer so succinctly put it in a comment an a recent Facebook post of mine “The choice is between states, not governments.”
Policy development is essential, and much good work is being done in that area. But none of it should be thought of as part of a referendum campaign. That was one of the mistakes made in the 2014 referendum. The constitutional issue got lost in a fog of policy debate. When (if?) a new referendum is held, we will not be electing a party to govern after independence. We will be choosing between the British state and the Scottish nation. We will be choosing between the constitutional anomaly of the Union and the constitutional normality of independence. That is all we will be choosing! These will be the only two options! Focus!
But we can surely forgive this lapse. It relates to matters of campaign tactics rather than overall strategy and is something that can be fairly easily rectified. Besides, Joanna Cherry has other things to say which are more deserving of our attention and consideration both for what they say and what they imply. My pick of the quotes would be the following,
But the reality is that because “power devolved is power retained” we cannot win this fight in the context of a devolved settlement which is designed to ensure Westminster’s supremacy. Nor, in the face of Westminster legislation, can we win this fight in the courts.Joanna Cherry: Politics is not on hold – we must keep independence in sight
What is not explicitly stated but is necessarily implied is the matter of what’s left when you discount the courts and the “context of a devolved settlement” – which must be understood as implying the constitutional and legal framework constructed by the British state for the purpose of preserving the Union and “the dominance of England[-as-Britain] in our unequal Union”.
What is left is the Scottish Parliament and a new constitutional and legal framework constructed for the defence of democracy in Scotland. A constitutional and legal framework informed by the distinctive political culture which British Nationalists are seeking to eradicate along with such other distinctiveness as is deemed inimical to the ‘Little Britain/Greater England’ fantasised about by those British Nationalists. A constitutional and legal framework built on the solid foundation of the sovereignty of Scotland’s people and the democratic legitimacy of the Scottish Parliament.
Joanna Cherry may well be hinting at, and perhaps working towards, the very conclusion arrived by myself and others in the thoughtful portion of the Yes movement. The conclusion that Scotland’s independence can only be restored by the Scottish Parliament. And only if we break free of the “context of a devolved settlement”. Precious few listen to me when I say this. Very many listen to Joanna Cherry. As they should.
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