I might consider Nicola Sturgeon’s new-found fighting spirit more convincing if she hadn’t previously intimated that the Section 30 process was the only ‘legal and constitutional’ route. She seems to have changed her position on that. It turns out those of us who have always insisted that a Section 30 order was not necessary were right all along. So maybe we are also correct when we say that the Section 30 process is not only unnecessary but anathema. Now that Nicola Sturgeon has conceded that a referendum authorised by the Scottish Parliament is perfectly legitimate, she must now explain why she insists on yet another request for a Section 30 order.
I don’t like it when politicians treat us as if we are too stupid to notice their brake-burning U-turns on previously held positions. I don’t like it when they treat us like we’re incapable of understanding the complexities of the situation. I really don’t like it when they make out the situation is a lot more complicated than it really is just so they don’t have to explain themselves. I understand perfectly the implications of what Nicola Sturgeon is now saying. Just as I understood why her earlier position on the viability of a non-Section 30 route wrong and, to coin a term, unsustainable. It was always glaringly obvious to me that the Section 30 route could not possibly lead to a free and fair referendum and that this being so if Nicola Sturgeon was to honour her commitment to delivering a free and fair referendum then the only alternative would be a referendum held entirely under the auspices of the Scottish Parliament. Thus, it was bloody stupid to state with such finality and absolute certainty that the Section 30 process was the only ‘legal and constitutional’ route and so necessarily imply that a referendum held entirely under the auspices of the Scottish Parliament must be ‘illegal and unconstitutional’.
Having so graciously given this weapon to our anti-democratic opponents she can hardly complain if they use it. Which they surely shall.
But we are where we are regardless of how we got here or what a ludicrous length of time it has taken. Having now acknowledged that a referendum sanctioned by the Scottish Parliament is possible Nicola Sturgeon has finally caught up with those of us who reached that conclusion five or six years ago. We can only hope that it doesn’t take another five or six years for her to realise that even asking for a Section 30 order is an even worse idea than effectively declaring all your options bar one ‘illegal and unconstitutional’ when under no pressure to do so. Even worse than issuing a ‘cease and desist’ order to the entire independence movement when there was no need to say anything at all about the independence campaign and when this meant squandering an opportunity of incalculable value.
Best not expect that the #WheeshtForIndy numpties will learn any lessons from this. The ones who accused us of betraying the cause if we didn’t meekly accept the position that Nicola Sturgeon has now reversed will continue to demand unquestioning acceptance of her giving preference to the Section 30 process even now that she has allowed that the alternative is perfectly feasible. We have to wonder whether she would ever have experienced this epiphany had the dumb party loyalists succeeded in silencing all dissenting voices. But they’re dumb party loyalists. So I don’t anticipate them to so much as falter in their efforts to suppress all questioning of the leadership’s wisdom.
It is the people who learn from the past and strive to apply those lessons in the present who shape the future. By definition, defenders of the status quo are the enemies of progress. I shall continue to express such concerns about the SNP’s approach to the constitutional issue as I feel are warranted. I shall continue to criticise positions which I reckon hinder the fight to restore Scotland’s independence. I won’t be silenced.
In that spirit, I now demand an explanation for Nicola Sturgeon’s continued preference for the Section 30 process when, by her own account, there is an evidently more amenable process available. If it is possible to have a referendum process entirely made and managed in Scotland, why does she still insist on inviting the involvement of those who are vehemently opposed to there being any process and who may therefore be assumed to be intent on ensuring the process fails.
I am aware of the argument that says we’re not asking permission but ensuring cooperation. I see that argument for the specious crap it is. If you maintain that a course of action cannot proceed without the cooperation of an external agency then that external agency’s refusal to provide cooperation becomes an effective veto on that course of action. If once you’ve realised that the course of action can proceed perfectly well without either consent or promise of cooperation, you still insist on asking for consent and/or promise of cooperation, that needs to be explained. Why!?
You have a choice. On the one hand you have a process that allows the people of Scotland to exercise our right of self-determination in the unfettered manner required by all international laws and conventions and approved by the international community. A process entirely independent of any external control and excluding external interference to the greatest extent possible. A process formulated and implemented in Scotland in accordance with our laws and informed by our distinctive political culture. A process that puts our Parliament at the centre of our democracy.
On the other hand you have a process which invites an external power known to be implacably opposed to your aims to burden the exercise of our right of self-determination with all manner of conditions and constraints. A process which invites the external interference in a definitively internal matter that is prohibited by international laws and conventions. A process that is critically dependent on cooperation of a kind that there is absolutely no rational reason to suppose might be forthcoming. A process, moreover, which compromises the sovereignty of Scotland’s people – trading that sovereignty for worthless assurances.
Which do you choose?
If you’re Nicola Sturgeon, you choose the latter. If you’re pretty much anyone other than those incapable of doing anything other than taking uncritically adopting her choices as their own, you choose the former. Those who choose the former are entitled to an explanation as to why the latter is being chosen for them.
There are other questions, of course. Questions that must be asked and realities that must be pointed out however much it upsets the #WheeshtForIndy mob. Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘revised’ position on the legitimacy of a referendum sanctioned by the Scottish Parliament has wider and deeper implications which should be part of Scotland’s political discourse. Nicola Sturgeon expects us to be content with her new position as stated as if we are incapable of understanding these implications. We are supposed to simply trust her when she says there will be a referendum regardless of a Section 30 order being refused again. Just as we were supposed to trust her when she said Section 30 was the ‘gold standard’ and the only ‘legal and constitutional’ way. Apparently, we were right to question her judgement then. Let’s not be deterred from questioning her judgement now.
Probably the most significant implication of what Nicola Sturgeon now says about holding a referendum solely sanctioned by the Scottish Parliament is that this cannot be stated without asserting the competence of the Scottish Parliament in this most fundamental aspect of Scotland’s constitutional arrangements. Why isn’t she explicitly asserting that competence? Is she afraid that if she does – or if we figure it out for ourselves – we will demand that this be reflected in the SNP’s manifesto for the 2021 Holyrood election? Is she unprepared for the confrontation with the British state that this would certainly provoke? Is all the talk of being ready to face a legal challenge no more than bluster?
Asserting the sole and exclusive competence of the Scottish Parliament in the matter of our right of self-determination is a game-changer. It is the game-changer. That is why it is the number one item on the #ManifestoForIndependence – repudiation of Section 30 being there only to correct a previous error. It follows that giving this prominence in the SNP’s election manifesto is also a game-changer. Because that means a very strong probability of a Scottish Government with a mandate – potentially a ‘super-mandate’ – to take this essential first step on the road to a truly free and fair referendum and hence to the restoration of Scotland’s independence.
By adopting even this one aspect of the #ManifestoForIndependence Nicola Sturgeon would make a plebiscitary election redundant and the so-called list parties even more obviously pointless than they already are. She would give the party membership and the entire Yes movement something to rally around. She would ensure a landslide victory for the SNP in May so as to give the Scottish Government a massive mandate to seize for our Parliament the status that it deserves and thereby seize for it the powers that should rightfully rest with the only Parliament that has democratic legitimacy in Scotland.
Asserting the primacy of the Scottish Parliament on the basis of the impeccable democratic legitimacy it derives from the sovereignty of Scotland’s people is the bold and decisive action that Scotland’s predicament demands. Nicola Sturgeon is almost there. And yet still has a long way to go. Let’s encourage her on that journey.