If Boris Johnson’s “smartest advisers” are telling him to grant a Section 30 order promptly following a massive SNP win in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections does anybody seriously imagine that this advice is prompted by regard for Scotland or respect for democracy? Were this the case, does anyone suppose these advisers would be working for the British Prime Minister? Is it even conceivable that the British political elite and their advisers would not have some ulterior motive whatever the specifics or superficial appearance of their plotting and scheming might be?
If Boris Johnson’s “smartest advisers” are telling him to grant a Section 30 order promptly following a massive SNP win in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections then we can be sure it is because this is considered the best strategy by which the Union might be preserved. Because that is what these advisers are employed to advise on. They are employed to advise on the strategies and tactics which best serve the British state’s imperatives – preservation of the Union being high on that list.
If Boris Johnson’s “smartest advisers” are telling him to grant a Section 30 order promptly following a massive SNP win in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections it is either because it is the best way of preserving the Union or because it is the second best way. Their Plan B, if you like. If it is felt that Plan A – preventing the people of Scotland from exercising our democratic right of self-determination – is no longer a winning strategy for whatever reason then does anybody actually think the Brits would simply cave in completely? Of course they wouldn’t! They will do anything to preserve the Union. Absolutely anything!
If they reckon they can’t stop a referendum happening, then their next best option is to ensure that the referendum only happens on their terms. If a referendum is going to happen then they will want to have as much control over the process as possible. Just as the Scotland Act does not provide any way to require the British Prime Minister to grant a Section 30 order, so the Act places no constraints on the British Prime Minister’s power to impose conditions on the granting of a Section 30 order. It is not difficult to figure out what those conditions might be. Basically, anything that would make the referendum unfeasible or unwinnable.
You may use your imagination to come up with ways in which the British political elite could make the granting of a Section 30 order work to the advantage of the British state – and thus almost inevitably to the considerable disadvantage of Scotland. Even if your imagination is not that great, you should be able to come up with something. Even if your imagination frolics in the realm of fantasy it is likely that most of its product in this regard will have a match on the Brit’s wish-list.
Suppose, for example, the British were to insist on following precisely the model set by the 2014 referendum. (Other, of course, than where this model might not suit their purposes. Bear in mind that the British always play by the rules only on condition that they get to make the rules and amend them at will.) This would mean, among other things, that a new Edinburgh Agreement would be required. This agreement would have to be negotiated by the two governments. But this would not be a negotiation between two equal parties on a basis of mutual respect. Having requested and accepted a Section 30 order the Scottish Government will have placed itself at the mythical mercy of malicious Britannia. The British can demand anything they choose knowing that should the Scottish Government refuse then talks will collapse, there will be no Edinburgh Agreement 2 and thus no referendum and the blame will be laid entirely at the door of those uppity Jocks.
Suppose, for example, the British insist on the UK election franchise applying to the referendum. This would exclude all persons aged 16 and 17. A sizeable part of the independence-supporting majority (according to polls) in Scotland. The Scottish Government could not accept such a condition. But by rejecting it they would ensure the failure of talks. The Brits win!
Or they could keep on talking. Indefinitely! The Brits win! Or they might even agree to this condition and thus ensure they never get elected again. And the Brits simply come up with another impossible condition. The Brits win!
If Boris Johnson’s “smartest advisers” are telling him to grant a Section 30 order promptly following a massive SNP win in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections then you can be absolutely certain that this is the way they are thinking. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be Boris Johnson’s advisers no matter how smart they were.
Section 30 is a trap. It would not exist if it did not serve the British state’s purposes. It is clear that Peter Duncan is flying a kite in order that Boris Johnson’s “smartest advisers” can get a sense of the reaction among his voters in England-as-Britain to Boris Johnson ‘giving’ Scotland another referendum. Because it is the granting of a Section 30 order that is likely to provoke the most adverse reaction not continued refusal.
The SNP must renounce the Section 30 process as part of a Manifesto for Independence. They must do so promptly. They must do so before the granting of a Section 30 order starts to look like a realistic possibility. Surely this is what Nicola Sturgeon’s “smartest adviser” are telling her. If not, then they are not nearly smart enough.
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