The Bill that will supposedly pave way for independence is fatally flawed from the outset. We know this before we even see it because it is proposed that the question be tested by the British Electoral Commission. A referendum can only be free and fair if it is entirely made and managed in Scotland under the auspices of the Scottish Parliament and such other democratic institutions or organisations as the Parliament should deem appropriate.
No exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination can possibly be considered free and fair that allows direct participation by or interference from any agency external to Scotland. For the purposes of the exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination – if for no other – the UK Government must be considered an external agent and thus be prohibited from interfering in the process by, for example, UN Declaration 1415.
But if the Bill is not to be condemned as fatally flawed for this reason then there will all but certainly be others. The abomination that is the Section 30 process has been dealt with at length elsewhere. That too provides sufficient reason in itself to reject the SNP’s approach to the constitutional issue. In addition to all this, however, we have the near certainty that the Bill will propose the same question as was on the ballot in the 2014 referendum. The question which makes independence the contentious matter when independence is normal and it is the Union that is anomalous. This gave the anti-independence side an advantage in the campaign then and it would do so again now.
The question defines the campaign. In the 2014 referendum the campaign was defined such that the Yes side must always be on the defensive. Why in the name of reason would we want to repeat that appalling error?
I well remember this passage from the SNP’s The Programme for Government,
if there is majority support for the bill in the Scottish Parliament in the next term, there could then be no moral or democratic justification whatsoever for any UK Government to ignore the rights of the people of Scotland to choose our own future
I recall thinking at the time that this was appallingly, depressingly tame, wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed language for the fight to rescue a nation from a grotesquely asymmetric and incorrigibly anti-democratic political union which denies the people of Scotland the full and proper exercise of the sovereignty that is ours by absolute and inalienable right.
Has it not yet dawned on the ‘party of independence’ that the British state has no need of “moral or democratic justification” while it has the Union?
The May 6 election must be treated as if it is our last chance to save Scotland’s democracy and distinct political culture and identity as a nation. The SNP seems poised to squander this opportunity as it has squandered so many over the past six years. This is intolerable. So why are we tolerating it? Why is the entire party and Yes movement risen in revolt against this plan to fail? Why are we not combined to demand better?
We have allowed the political arm of our movement to succumb to the cancer of factionalism. We have let it become timid and ineffectual at the very moment when we need it to be fierce and uncompromising. We are responsible! We did this. We allowed it to happen. It’s up to us to fix it.