I suppose it depends on the question. If the question is merely how do we break the deadlock between those who favour the Section 30 process and those who maintain that the principle of popular sovereignty may not be compromised, then Plan B might be the answer – so long as not too many party members in that second category bother to read and understand the resolution. But if the question is how do we restore Scotland’s independence without pandering to British imperialist pretensions by trading the sovereignty of the people of Scotland for a referendum absent tantrums from the British Nationalist zealots, then the answer is a resounding NO! Plan B most certainly is NOT the answer!
I have been unable to immediately find the full text of the resolution to be put to the next SNP Conference. But assuming reports in The National to be accurate, and being familiar with what was originally proposed by Councillor Chris McEleny and Angus Brendan MacNeil MP, the language in which the proposal is couched makes it incompatible with the principle of popular sovereignty and totally unacceptable to anyone who holds the sovereignty of Scotland’s people to be non-negotiable.
… conference reaffirms that holding a consented referendum on Scottish independence is our first preference…
Is it? Is it our “first preference”? Conference may well decide that it is the SNP’s “first preference”. But as one of those who regards the principle that all legitimate political authority derives from the democratically expressed will of the people, the idea that the consent and approval of a government with no democratic legitimacy in Scotland should be a precondition to the exercise by the people of Scotland of our inalienable right of self-determination should be any kind of preference is anathema.
The people decide! The people considering Plan B must first decide who is referred to by the “self-” in “self-determination”.
Conference instructs that if a referendum on Scotland’s future is denied by the UK Government…
Again we are obliged to recognise that Plan B is not compatible with the principle of popular sovereignty. Why, if the people of Scotland are sovereign, would the people of Scotland feel it necessary to allow what is for all purposes relating to the constitutional issue a foreign government that they had no part in electing, any role at all in the exercise of their sovereignty. The idea defies logic, never mind that it is an affront to fundamental democratic principles.
To request a Section 30 order is to compromise the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. It is to reduce that most precious thing to a mere bargaining chip to be traded for… what? Well, let’s just think about that for a moment. What are we doing when we request a Section 30 order? We are inviting a foreign government with no democratic legitimacy in Scotland; a foreign government that is neither elected by nor accountable to the people of Scotland; a foreign government that has a vested interest in ensuring that the process fails; a foreign government which regards the preservation of the Union an existential imperative; a foreign government which exhibits only cold, callous, casual but calculated contempt for Scotland; a foreign government that has demonstrated its readiness to resort to any means to prevent the people of Scotland choosing the form of government which best serves their needs, priorities and aspirations; we are inviting that foreign government to exert significant influence over the process by which we exercise our right of self-determination.
If that sounds like madness it’s for the very best reason.
… and the competence to hold a consultative referendum is not established…
Why should the competence of the Scottish Parliament need to be “established”? It is the Parliament elected by and ultimately answerable to the people of Scotland from whom its political authority is derived. It is the only Parliament with democratic legitimacy in Scotland. Surely the competence of the Scottish Parliament in all matters of public policy in Scotland is beyond question. Surely that competence need only be asserted. Surely it is for those who would deny that competence establish the legal basis of their claim to have the legitimate authority to do so.
And why a “consultative referendum”? Why the weasel words? How can the exercise by the people of their right of self-determination possibly be “consultative”? How could any democratic government and parliament possibly reject the outcome of such a referendum? How can the people possibly endorse a proposal which makes their democratic will subordinate to the will of the parliament they elect to ensure that their will is respected?
If that too sounds like madness it’s for the very same very best reason.
Some of you me be aware that I previously gave my support to the Plan B proposed by Chris McEleny and Angus MacNeil. You may be wondering why I appear to have changed my opinion. In fact, I haven’t. I never considered Plan B satisfactory. I always considered it totally unsatisfactory, for the reasons stated and probably a few that I have left out in the hope of achieving the brevity which I know to be readers’ preference.
I supported what Chris and Angus were doing because – all credit to them – they were the only prominent figures in the party seriously challenging the leadership’s approach to the constitutional issue. I supported them because their efforts were at least provoking people to think about the implications of Nicola Sturgeon’s apparently unshakeable commitment to the Section 30 process. I continue to support them because they are putting independence at the top of the agenda where it unquestionably belongs.
There are unmistakeable indications that both within the SNP and across the Yes movement the tide of opinion is turning against the Section 30 process and in favour of bold, assertive action by the next SNP Scottish Government to initiate a process that allows no involvement or interference by a foreign government. A process which is validated entirely by the self-evident democratic legitimacy of the Scottish Parliament and the non-negotiable sovereignty of Scotland’s people.
If the question is how do we restore Scotland’s independence, Plan B is not the answer.