For some reason I have stopped receiving notifications of new posts on some blogs that I follow. It’s probably some setting that I’ve changed somewhere which has had unintended consequences. Unfortunately, life doesn’t have an undo feature and my memory isn’t as efficient as my clipboard manager (Ditto), so resolving the issue will have to wait until I have the time. Or until I have the inclination. Whichever is longer.
The point is that I’ve missed numerous articles that I would normally have read and have only today started to catch up on. A process that was hindered as I was brought up short by the very first thing I read – apost by Stu Campbell on Wings Over Scotland from a couple of days ago. The title strongly hinted at the content – The SNP Manifesto 2021. By the Reverend Campbell’s own account the principal content of the article is what he suggests should be the SNP’s “entire manifesto” for the 2021 Holyrood election.
The proposed text begins excellently enough,
We believe that the Scottish people are sovereign, and we hereby announce our intention to declare Scotland independent and submit that intention to the will of the people in this election for their approval.
We might quibble with the lack of any mention of ending the Union or the democratic legitimacy of the Scottish Parliament. We may have serious doubts about the feasibility of pretending an election is a referendum. But it cannot be denied that the spirit of the thing is spot on. Nothing that commences with an affirmation of the sovereignty of Scotland’s people can be to harshly criticised.
What a pity then that the Reverend Campbell almost immediately commences to pish all over the popular sovereignty that he has just acknowledged. Am I alone in seeing a number of problems with the following.
Should the UK Government wish, we are willing to confirm that mandate via a referendum, to be held no later than three months from the date of the election, on the same question as that used in 2014. If no such referendum is requested or conducted, the declaration of independence based on the election result will automatically be considered to stand.
Let’s start at the beginning with good ol’ Stu’s exceedingly generous offer to allow the British government an immediate veto on the result of the plebiscitary election that he has proposed. He munificently grants the British government the ‘right’ to demand that a referendum be held to confirm the result of said plebiscitary election. Admittedly, this would make a novel change from the British state insisting that the people of Scotland should be prohibited from exercising their right of self-determination. But the novelty value wears off very rapidly.
Why? The King of Questions! Why would we make such an offer? Why would we grant such power over to what is in the context of the constitutional issue a ‘foreign power’? And an unfriendly foreign power at that!
Why would we, in one breath assert the sovereignty of the people of Scotland and in the next allow that the British state has the rightful authority to question the choices made by the sovereign people of Scotland? What kind of ‘sovereignty-lite’ does the Reverend Campbell envisage? Is this conditional sovereignty conceptually similar to the idea of ‘managed democracy’? I think we should be told before we commit to anything.
On the subject of committing to stuff, we next have the Reverend Stu deciding the question to be asked in the referendum being held to pander to the British state’s claim of sovereignty over the sovereignty Stu claims for the people of Scotland. No, I haven’t got my head around that yet either. Stu Campbell suggests that, with no consultation or consideration, the SNP should commit to asking the same question as was asked in the 2014 referendum. Here comes old Kingy again! Why?
Why would we ask the same question again? Never mind (for the moment) the question of why we would commit to this in advance, why would we want that question on the ballot again? The question largely dictates the form of the campaign. Do we want a rerun of the 2014 referendum campaign? Or do we want a new referendum with a fresh campaign?
Why would we want the same question and the same campaign? Are all or indeed any circumstances the same now as at the time of the 2014 referendum campaign? Has nothing changed?
Why would we not take the opportunity to put into practice the lessons learned from the first referendum campaign? Would the first lesson not be that we shouldn’t have a question which establishes ‘independence’ as the contentious issue? Having had a referendum campaign in which the idea of ‘independence’ was bombarded with questions, would we not wish to use the opportunity of a new referendum to reframe the entire constitutional issue in such a way as to put the Union under intense scrutiny?
This is some seriously shallow thinking from Stu Campbell. The term ‘colonised mind’ is not something I would normally associate with someone who is capable of the kind of forensic journalism that is his forte.
What may be the worst thing about this proposed SNP manifesto, however, is the fact that while the British state is afforded the ‘right’ to demand a referendum apparently the people of Scotland are not to be so privileged. It seems that there will only be a confirmatory referendum if the British government wants it. Otherwise, the election is to be held to be an adequate expression of the democratic will of Scotland’s people. The Reverend seems to imagine he has contrived the very acme of mandates.
An absolutely clear, impeccably democratic mandate that the international community would have no reason to object to.
I can’t speak for the international community, but I can find many reasons to object. An election – even a ‘plebiscitary election’ – cannot be a satisfactory substitute for a single-issue referendum. The result, and therefore the mandate, cannot possibly be “clear” when it derives from an election which whether the fans of plebiscitary elections like it or not, will involve numerous issues. There is no way to prevent other parties bringing all manner of policy issues into the pre-election debate. It may be said that the people still know what they are voting for when they vote for this manifesto. But I am not at all sure that the international community would regard it as “impeccably democratic”.
The bullet points of a Manifesto for Independence have been offered.
- Renounce Section 30 process
- Assert competence of Scottish Parliament
- Recall MPs to join MSPs in National Convention
- Propose dissolution of Union subject to referendum
- Call referendum entirely made and managed in Scotland
It is no secret that numerous SNP branches are working on resolutions to be submitted for consideration at the party’s conference in October. A number of these resolutions are based on these bullet points or something similar. The idea is to have the SNP commit to a completely new approach to the entire constitutional issue. And to a course of action which will immediately start the process of restoring Scotland’s process while ensuring that this process is kept entirely within the orbit of Scotland’s democratic institutions.
The people of Scotland are sovereign. The Scottish Parliament alone has democratic legitimacy in Scotland. The two facts are the basis of a process which will make the restoration of Scotland’s independence possible, if the people of Scotland so choose. Only by adopting a Manifesto for Independence which embraces such a process can the SNP gain a mandate to restore Scotland’s independence which is clear and impeccably democratic.