Mike Russell is, of course perfectly entitled and unquestionably correct to point out the inane inconsistencies and contradictions in Boris Johnson’s most recent semi-coherent maundering on the subject of Scotland’s right to hold a constitutional referendum. But Mr Russell misses the most important point of all. While Boris Johnson is surely free to hold and express such views as he may be capable of forming – and is under no moral obligation to ensure that those views make any kind of sense – the fact is that his pronouncements on this matter are no more than the opinion of one individual. An individual, moreover, who has given no cause to suppose their opinions should be afforded any respect beyond the obligations of common courtesy. An obligation which is disputed.
The essential point here is that Boris Johnson has no say – either as a citizen of England or as the British Prime Minister – in the matter of whether or when the people of Scotland exercise our right of self-determination. He has no rightful authority in the matter. It’s really none of his f****** business!
The choice of whether and when to exercise the democratic right of self determination belongs entirely and exclusively to the people of Scotland. Indeed, how might it be otherwise? For what manner of inalienable democratic right is it which may not be exercised but with the consent and honest cooperation of a third party? Would anybody, Boris Johnson included, seriously contend that an individual’s exercise of the right of freedom of expression might, on each and every occasion, be conditional on gaining the permission of some unconnected person who must also be allowed to influence what is being expressed?
The way Mike Russell has formulated his response to Johnson’s remarks risks validating the latter’s claim to rightful authority in the matter. For the avoidance of such unintended implications no opportunity should be missed to explicitly put on record the total absence of any such authority. Perhaps by pointing out that it really is none of his f****** business!
Mike Russell is also correct when he states that,
If the people of Scotland vote for a referendum in the election in May then there will be one, and just as soon as it can take place.‘I’m not waiting till I’m 102’: Michael Russell slams PM’s ‘daft’ indyref claims
An election may not be the only means by which the people might express a wish to exercise their right of self-determination, but it is undoubtedly a very powerful way of doing this. The democratic legitimacy of a choice expressed in this manner cannot be challenged without casting aspersions on the fundamental principles of democracy. But Mr Russell has missed a crucial point here as well. (Although I suspect he is well aware of it.) That point being that the people of Scotland can only vote for a referendum in May’s election with confidence that there will be one in timely fashion, if an undertaking to this effect is included in the manifesto of one of the parties contesting the election.
Needless to say, having given this undertaking to hold a referendum within a specified time-frame the party must then get elected and form a government strong enough to overcome any obstacles or hindrances which may be placed in the way of them honouring the mandate provided by voters. As things stand, only the SNP is in a position to do this. Other parties may include an appropriate undertaking in their election manifestos, but only votes for the winning party give their full weight to the mandate.
The conclusion is clear. Mike Russell may be correct to say that the people of Scotland can vote for a referendum in the Holyrood election. He declines to add, however, that for them to do so the SNP must go into the election on a very explicit and quite unambiguous manifesto commitment to a process which will deliver a free and fair referendum at the earliest possible date. He might further have noted that, as things stand, the party of which he is President has given no such commitment.
In principle. if the people of Scotland vote for a referendum in the election in May then there will be one, and just as soon as it can take place. But the principle remains merely academic and without political effect unless and until it is made concrete in a party manifesto. For Mike Russell’s statement to be more than empty rhetoric the SNP has to adopt a Manifesto for Independence. Voters must then afford this the most conclusive mandate possible. Only thus will the people of Scotland be able to compensate for Mike Russell’s earlier omission by telling Boris Johnson in no uncertain terms that it really is none of his f****** business!