I don’t know which bit of Keir Starmer’s ‘major’ speech on the constitution earned the biggest laugh; advising the architect of Brexit against being “irresponsible”, or the claim that British Labour would “play a key role in defeating the forces of separatism”. [Ed. – ‘Separatism’ is the term used by British Nationalists to refer to any tendency to question the innate superiority or challenge the beneficent dominance within the Union of England-as-Britain.] But it’s evident that he takes himself seriously enough to make up for a general disinclination to do so.
I’m not going to bother with any comment on or analysis of the content of this ‘major’ speech. Why would I? Why would anybody? Not only is Starmer and his party irrelevant to Scotland, we have we heard it all before. It’s the same soft soap and empty promises we’ve been getting from British Labour for what certainly feels like a lifetime. It quite literally never changes. There is always this great plan which turns out to be no more than another talking shop that will try and figure out some way of persuading the uppity Jocks that they’re getting something close to what they want while always the priority is the preservation of the Union at whatever cost to Scotland.
The gist of what Starmer is saying not only isn’t any different from the insipid gruel British Labour has been feeding us for decades (see any speech by Gordon Brown in the last ten years.), neither is it any different from what we hear from their Tory allies. The message is the same no matter which British Nationalist trumpet you might listen to in a moment of carelessness. That message is very simple – there shall be no exercise of the democratic right of self-determination while there is a possibility that this might put the Union in jeopardy. It is a message we would do well to heed.
As you listen to Starmer and other British Nationalist mouthpieces proclaiming what they intend for Scotland regardless of what we actually want, bear in mind that these are the same people Nicola Sturgeon hopes will graciously and honestly cooperate in providing a free and fair referendum. People who are quite open about their contempt for Scotland and perfectly explicit about their disdain for the principles of democracy. All we’ve had from Sturgeon for the last several years is the incessantly reiterated assurance that the British political elite’s denial of democracy cannot be sustained. Meanwhile, the British political elite has sustained its denial of democracy apparently without effort.
Have you seen any hint of wavering in Boris Johnson’s casually imperious dismissals of Nicola Sturgeon’s pleas? Do you find in the words of Starmer or any of the other British Nationalists who presume to pontificate on the matter any sign that their resistance to Scotland’s democratic will is weakening? The fact is that the more support for independence grows the more determined that resistance becomes. And yet still we are told that this resistance is on the verge of collapsing. Always on the verge. Any day now the British establishment is going to be suddenly and magically transformed into something unrecognisable as the British establishment that is known to history. Aye, right!
If there is irresponsible behaviour here then it is on the part of those who obdurately insist that Scotland’s people may only exercise our absolute and inalienable right of self-determination with the willing consent and cooperation of the same people as have loudly proclaimed their implacable opposition to Scotland’s people exercising our democratic right of self-determination if there is the slightest chance of an outcome which they don’t like. The inescapable corollary to this being that if they do give seemingly willing consent and the straight-faced promise of cooperation it can only be because they are sure of their ability to scupper the entire process at some stage.
Irresponsible is not a strong enough word to describe the SNP leadership’s stubborn insistence that a new constitutional referendum absolutely must replicate every aspect of the 2014 referendum despite the massive changes to the context. Mindless adherence to the Section 30 process with all that it entails is beyond irresponsible. It is foolhardy in the truest sense of that word. In her insistence on dutiful compliance with whatever rules are set down by the British state Nicola Sturgeon exhibits a defiant disregard for dangers that are clearly evident and consequences that are frighteningly foreseeable.
The danger is that Boris Johnson says yes. That he agrees to grant a Section 30 order. Because he will only do so in the sure and certain knowledge of his ability to prevent a free and fair referendum. The consequences are far reaching. We know that the British government is determined to ‘roll back devolution’ – a euphemism for re-imposing direct rule from London. As predicted prior to the 2016 EU referendum, they are using Brexit as a way of withholding further powers that rightfully belong with the only Parliament which has democratic legitimacy in Scotland. Only the pathologically naive imagine it will end there. The British haven’t gone to the trouble and expense of setting up an unelected and unaccountable shadow administration in Scotland just for that to play second fiddle to Holyrood. More powers will be stripped from the Scottish Parliament and handed to this shadow administration. Section 30 of the Scotland Act (1998) provides the means.
Let me remind you what Section 30 actually says.
Her Majesty may by Order in Council make any modifications of Schedule 4 or 5 which She considers necessary or expedient.Scotland Act 1998
Schedule 4 and 5 basically define the powers of the Scottish Parliament. For “Her Majesty” read the British Prime Minister, who wields the powers of the monarchy. For years I have been pointing out what this means.
Expressed in a less legalistic, and more forthright, fashion what this says is that the British Prime Minister – currently a malignant child-clown named Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson – can alter the powers of the Scottish Parliament whenever they want and in any way they deem “necessary or expedient” for their purposes – that purpose being ever and always the preservation of the Union. I think it’s fair to say that Section 30 isn’t sounding like quite the boon to Scotland some seem to suppose it to be. It is simply another device by which the British state may rein in the Scottish Parliament. Or, at least, that was the intention. Belt and braces legislation. Just in case there were any loopholes which might allow Holyrood more power than was intended, Section 30 allows the British political elite to quickly patch up any chink in the armour protecting the Union.Section 30 Is Not Scotland’s Salvation
Section 30 gives the British Prime Minister authority to claw back any of the devolved competencies at will and at any time and without any explanation. There is nothing to limit this power. Nothing to prevent it being used to cripple or kill Scotland’s Parliament.
To request a Section 30 order is to legitimise the provision which will be used to disempower the people of Scotland by destroying our democratic institutions and replacing them with something barely distinguishable from a colonial administration. Scotland will be governed as the annexed territory of England-as-Britain. Eventually – probably within two years – the UK will be constitutionally redefined in such a way as to lock Scotland into a political union on terms defined by the British government in London and signed-off on behalf of the Scottish people by Alister Jack or his successor as Governor General of the former nation of Scotland.
We may object. We may protest. Only to be told that we have no grounds for complaint because all of this is being done by the letter of a legal provision that our own First Minister hailed as the “gold standard” of democracy.
Some may accuse me of exaggerating and scaremongering. To them I would say that it is not scaremongering if it refers to something that is actually happening before our very eyes if we would but open them to see. The dismantling of Scotland’s democracy is not some vague threat dimly discerned somewhere in the uncertain future. It is a process which is under way even as I write this. And suppose I am exaggerating. Although there is no reason to suppose the British state will stop short of destroying the Scottish Parliament so as to eliminate a threat to their precious Union, let’s say I’ve overstated things by half. Is that not enough? At what point does denial of democracy become unacceptable?
Requesting a Section 30 order would be an act of unforgivable political irresponsibility. It cannot be justified. It must not be allowed. If Nicola Sturgeon goes cap-in-hand to Boris Johnson again I want it to be clear that she does not speak for me. I do not consent. I will not accept the sovereignty of Scotland’s people being compromised. I cannot stay silent in the face of what I am obliged to regard as a betrayal of Scotland’s democracy and behaviour which may constitute a threat to Scotland’s very existence as a nation.
Starmer is of no consequence. It is all on Nicola Sturgeon’s shoulders. She wanted the job. Not even a pandemic can excuse her from the responsibilities that come with being First Minister. If that doesn’t include a responsibility to defend this nation against the British Nationalist onslaught as much as from a virus then what is the point?