The problem with assuming the next ­Holyrood election in 2026 could be used by the SNP as a de facto ­independence referendum is that the British political elite are also aware of this possibility. Given their behaviour to date, we must assume that they will do whatever is necessary to prevent the 2026 election being used as a de facto referendum. We have no way of knowing precisely how they will do this. But bearing in mind that they are bound by no constitutional or ethical constraints, we can be sure they’ll find a way.

What Angus MacNeil recognises with his intervention is the cold hard reality which has always lurked beneath the facile assurance of the Sturgeon doctrine. Notwithstanding her continuing pretence to the contrary, there is no route to the restoration of Scotland’s independence through the legal and constitutional framework constructed by the British state for the purpose of protecting and preserving the Union. To play by their rules is to lose.

Sturgeon’s lauding of the Section 30 process as the democratic ‘gold standard’ and the only ‘legal and constitutional’ way to ‘win’ independence was always an act of gross political folly born of an arrogance that precludes strategic thinking. How can you think strategically if you’re unable to contemplate the possibility of being wrong?

Sturgeon has tacitly acknowledged her mistake She now says that she would unilaterally pass legislation at Holyrood and dare UK ministers to challenge it in court. But only after requesting the consent that this necessarily implies is not required. She now holds two totally contradictory positions – that a Section 30 is required, and that it isn’t. Which I suppose we must allow is one way of hedging her bets. How can she be wrong if she holds both possible positions? It makes perfect sense if not being wrong is the priority.

But Sturgeon is not alone in this doublethink. Her faithful followers are just as bad. Their response to Angus MacNeil will doubtless be as it always has been to those who have pointed out the idiocy of pinning all hope on a process which is critically dependent on the goodwill, good faith and good offices of the British state. In one breath they will fervently deny that their leader is capable of such ineptitude. In the next they will demand that Angus provide a solution to the problem caused by this ineptitude. As if analysis that identifies a ‘misstep’ can only possibly be worthy of consideration if accompanied by a plan to rectify the error. In which case doctors would never diagnose ailments for which they cannot provide a cure.

The capacity for doublethink means it simply never occurs to the Sturgeon faithful that there would be no need for a solution if the problem they deny is a problem really wasn’t a problem. But that’s merely an aspect of the perversity of human nature.

The problem would never have arisen had Sturgeon been willing to listen to those such as Angus MacNeil who are at least prepared to consider the possibility that she may have got things wrong. The problem might have been rectified at an early stage had the Sturgeon/SNP faithful not striven quite so hard to silence and exclude all dissenting voices.

None of which helps, of course. Other than to the extent that it allows a better understanding of the problem. Which is, of course, essential if a solution is to be found. Unfortunately, Angus’s suggestion that the next Holyrood election be turned into a plebiscite on ending the Union does not qualify as a solution. Apart from anything else, if the British political elite is capable of denying that the Scottish Government has a mandate for a referendum then it follows that they are perfectly capable of refusing to accept the validity of an election pretending to be a referendum. So we’d be right back where we are now.

The main obstacle confronting Angus’s ‘solution’, however, is that there will never again be an election to the Scottish Parliament such as he envisages. There will never again be an election to the Scottish Parliament as we know it. Or at least, we must proceed on that basis because to do otherwise is to take an unacceptable gamble with unthinkable stakes. If there is an election in 2026 it will be to a Scottish Parliament even more limited and constrained than it is now. If Holyrood cannot be so shackled and muzzled that it is incapable of doing anything that threatens the Union then the British will simply abolish it. Anybody who imagines this is a step too far even for the Johnson regime really doesn’t understand the British Nationalist mentality.

What can be done? Again, understanding and fully taking on board the reality of the situation is the essential first step. A massive part of that reality about which there is equally massive denial is that it really is ‘all about the SNP’. It cannot be otherwise because the SNP is the party of government right now, and right now is when action must be taken. The notion that there is some alternative to the SNP as the source of the effective political power Scotland’s cause needs is a delusion which seriously weakens the Yes movement.

Another massive part of our reality is that Nicola Sturgeon is fallible and has demonstrated that fallibility in her approach to the constitutional issue. This remains true no matter how competently she has handled other aspects of her brief as First Minister and/or SNP leader.

Yet another significant part of the reality is that just as Sturgeon’s competence in other areas is irrelevant to her handling of the constitutional issue, so her ineptitude – real or perceived – in other areas in no way alters the fact that she is the First Minister at the time when we need the First Minister to act for Scotland’s cause.

Recognition of all aspects of the reality of Scotland’s predicament leads to only one conclusion. If our independence is to be restored, the action(s) required to make it happen must be taken in the Scottish Parliament by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government which she heads. There is no other way. There is no time to find or create another way.

The all too common response to this bald statement of cold hard fact is an angry insistence that Sturgeon and the Government she leads will never do what is required. Or a just as adamant insistence on the part of the faithful that she will and indeed is doing what is required. More doublethink! The former are effectively saying that Scotland’s cause is an impossible dream. They will never admit that’s what they are saying. But if there is only one way to do it and you totally discount that way, what’s left? The latter are also effectively saying that the restoration of Scotland’s independence is not going to happen because they insist that it is inevitable with the current approach and therefore there is no need to take the action which will actually make it happen.

That pretty much sums up the parlous condition of the Yes movement at the moment. It’s a mess! Which is a tragedy. Because the Yes movement is the only hope for Scotland’s cause. Only a united Yes movement speaking with one voice can possibly have the capacity to force a rethink by Sturgeon. Only with the backing of a united Yes movement can Sturgeon have the audacity that the situation demands. The audacity to break the Union’s rules in order to break the Union.

Both the ‘sides’ in the Yes movement described above are partially correct. Both fail to take that correct bit and think it through. The doubters are right when they say Sturgeon won’t do what is required. But they fail to follow the logic which says that if she is the only one who can and she won’t then the only thing to do is to put every ounce of effort into changing the ‘won’t’ part of that. The faithful are right when they say Sturgeon is the only one who can do what is required. But they then jump off the train of logic rather than staying aboard until it comes to the conclusion that if Sturgeon is the only one who can do it then we damn well better make sure she does it and does it effectively.

Whatever way you look at it, the solidarity of the Yes movement has never been so urgently needed. Which is sad because solidarity has never been so lacking.

The politicians are making an arse of it. When the politicians are making an arse of things then it falls to the people to put it right. The people can only do that if they act in combination. The corollary to ‘divide and rule’ is ‘combine and prevail’. It may not roll off the tongue quite so nicely. But it is just as true. The idea of ‘people power’ is misleading. There is no such thing. The people don’t have power. What the people have is strength. Only when that strength is combined and directed does it become power. That power, if it can be unleashed and managed, has the potential to achieve any objective.

You ask what is the solution? I give it to you in one word – combination!

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11 thoughts on “Combination

  1. Peter: we don’t have to leave it till 2026 because the GE comes in between. It is a total fallacy and a nonsense to suggest that a GE plebiscitary election cannot do the job because Nicola Sturgeon, as FM is also leader of the MPs at Westminster. Presently, they are the biggest group from Scotland – well, the only ‘group’, really, and though a couple of them are ALBA MPs, they will do whatever it takes to get independence.

    Nicola Sturgeon’s mistake was always that she plumped for domestic law instead of appealing to international law. Has she taken a winning SNP contingent to the UN, with the Treaty, we would be independent now. There is, and never was, any need whatsoever to go to the Supreme Court. None. It was and remains an illegal imposition on Scotland and completely breaches the Treaty terms. The Treaty is an international agreement, and, as such, MUST be ruled upon in the international court. The Supreme Court’s sticky fingers cannot touch it. That is just one of the things in its favour. All this could have been sorted out long since, but, no, we have to go through the most painful, pointless and obtuse legal exercises like poor dumb circus beasts only to be told that, “… we’re nae allowed tae dae that… “. We actually allow ourselves not to be allowed.

    The only reason that the SNP leadership is doing anything at all that appears to be a move towards independence (it isn’t) is because she knows that she is losing support at a fast rate of knots on two issues: independence and the GRA reform. Between them, they will bring her crashing to Earth like Icarus – which she has brought on herself, were it not for the fact that there appears to be no one else to take her place in a way that would see us brought to independence very quickly thereafter. Trying to pursue a second referendum is a waste of energy and time now. If she will do nothing in the wake of this latest ruling by the Supreme Court, then a people’s delegation should approach the UN instead. It might not be successful initially, but it will alert the rest of the world to our predicament and to the very real possibility of conflict in the future if something is not done to take the Union yoke from around our necks.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Even if you’re right, all that happens if the UK general election is used as a pretendy independence referendum and a majority of pro-independence MPs are returned is that it all comes back to the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament again. We are right back where we are now. That’s because returning a majority of pro-independence MPs has no effect. Because they’re sent to a parliament where they cannot have any effect.

      What do you think might happen with those MPs? Is Pete Wishart going to stand up in the Commons and declare Scotland independent? Well… He might. But only because he’s a clown. The point is that the British state will simply ignore him. Restoring Scotland’s independence is all about changing the status of the Scottish Parliament. Independence is restored when Holyrood is ‘upgraded’ to a full national legislature. That isn’t going to happen through Westminster. The British state isn’t going to ‘upgrade’ the Scottish Parliament. They’re certainly not going to do so at the behest of a relatively tiny number of MPs.

      You can argue that they represent a massive majority of Scottish MPs. But that means nothing. So long as they are at Westminster they are lumped in with all those British MPs. They will always be outvoted.

      The Scottish Parliament can only be upgraded by the Scottish Parliament. Actually, by the people of Scotland. But the action will all be at Holyrood conducted by the democratically elected representatives of the people of Scotland. There simply is no other way it can happen. And it will still have to happen that way even if the SNP and Alba win every single Westminster seat in Scotland.

      Which is not to say we shouldn’t aim for that in the UK general election. Having a majority of pro-independence MPs has to be better than not having a majority of pro-independence MPs. But they can’t restore Scotland’s independence. It all starts with a proposal that the Scottish Parliament assert its primacy in Scotland on the basis of its democratic legitimacy and the sovereignty of the people of Scotland which underpins that legitimacy. Whatever other scheme anybody contrives, it always comes back to this.


      1. Taking the Treaty for a ruling in the international court is the beginning of re-asserting Scotland’s autonomy, and that can be done right now, in advance of the GE in 2024. Of course it all comes back to Holyrood and the Scottish parliament. We won the SE just gone, and every election since 2007. If that’s not a mandate, what is? If every Westminster administration can introduce legislation, have it passed and put into into legal effect, why can’t Scotland? Because we need the sanction of the Supreme Court? The Supreme Court was an illegal imposition on Scotland in the first place, so we kow tow to an institution that was imposed on us and is actually in breach of the Treaty, the very Treaty that we are so scared to use? Our primary source of legitimacy and sovereignty is an election. We have won all elections since 2007? How many more do we need to take our case to the international court if Westminster refuses? The only thing that stands between Scotland and independence is the spinelessness of its government and representatives, on the one hand, and the lying mendacity and manipulation of Westminster that knows, and has always known, that it is acting ultra vires in relation to Scotland. When are the Scots going to get it through their heads that Westminster knows it is dealing with us illegally? It knows and will never care a fig so long as we do nothing about it. Break the stasis and do something: take the Treaty to the international court. A people’s committee can do that. They might not win through immediately, but, by God, they will let the world know that we mean business and, to boot, they would let Westminster know. I no longer care about Westminster implied threats because we are headed for conflict anyway if we carry on like this for much longer. Our situation now mirrors Ireland’s at the beginning of the 20th century, when Parnell’s, then Redmond’s party, just could not break through because it would not take the risk. It was eventually turfed out of the way by Sinn Fein and the IRA. We are in a very much better position, with the Treaty, to take the peaceful route, but we stupidly won’t take it. As with all situations of this kind which are mired in stasis, something will give and all hell will break loose.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Peter, would it not be the case that if the majority of MPs from Scotland walked out of the UK Parliament, it would mean the Union could not continue?
        For how could it, if Scotland’s MPs refused to take any part in it?
        Sure, UK Govt (England’s) would try at first to ignore such a move, but I don’t see how it could do that for too long.
        It would be an untenable situation.
        And it was very disappointing when the SNP MPs did walk out with Ian Blackford a few years ago, only to walk back in again, the next day!
        It was Margaret Thatcher who once said that Scotland can be Independent, when it votes in a majority of MPs.
        Obviously, she didn’t see that happening at that time.
        The pity is that when it actually did happen, SNP policy was different, and so did not make use of those MPs in anay effective manner.
        So long as they insist on playing by Westminster rules, as you say, they don’t matter at all, and in fact, are and have been wasting their time, and Scotlands, in doing so.
        But as you also say, Westminster MPs by themselves are not going to get very far.
        It must be done with coordination of MSPs, and MPs.
        The both have to work together in pushing for Independence.
        Unfortunately, at present both are working together, but in following Westminster rules!
        Only when they stop that policy, will we get anywhere.
        I also agree with Lorna. If SNP refuses to do anything as we have outlined, the voters of Scotland will push them aside. It seems very much like London and its treacherous allies in Scotland, really are pursuing a new Irish policy similar to 100 years ago.
        They, like Margaret Thatcher before, don’t think anything will come of their anti Scottish stance.
        They expect nothing to happen, and we just keep putting up with it.

        They see no consequences, and thus have no fears of going down that same route as 100 years ago with Ireland.
        But there will come a moment when the Scottish patience snaps.
        If SNP keeps doing nothing as at present, or insists on following what rules London says it must, which will never get Independence, the wrath of Scotland will descend upon SNP, the same way it has with Labour, (for its siding with the tories in 2014), in its quest to keep the Union.

        We would rather SNP did act now, Scotland needs them to act now. Waiting any longer is not acceptable. Not for Scotland, and not for SNP.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I think it’s easier if done in accordance with the general (UK) perception of what is domestic Law. Indeed, by following the S30 process as long as accepted by Westminster. Why make problems if we don’t have to. But it isn’t the only way, and Sturgeon and Co have made that clear, or at least, some of us think so.

      But going back to that Annex A of the UK Gov’s first white paper in 2013, Crawford & Boyle went to great lengths to demonstrate that in their opinion, the Treaty of Union was no longer extant. Despite it being clearly mentioned in the 1998 Scotland Act even with later amendments. And then it’s worth looking once again at that David Walker article back in 2007:

      for instance:

      It cannot, however, be conceded that because Parliament has purported to do something, it had legal power to do so. It is submitted that Parliament did not have legal power to amend or repeal a provision of an international treaty, unless the treaty gives power to do so.

      I totally go along with that – Walker effectively subordinates the Act of Union with England to the Treaty of Union itself, whereas the UKG ignore the Treaty of Union – or try to. The question is – does anyone in the Scottish Government believe in the Treaty these days, or is it all about the 1998 Act?


      1. yesindy: if they don’t, they should because Westminster sure as hell believes in it, as we would discover if we ever became independent. They would try to negotiate, initially, on the Treaty terms. There is no way round that Treaty. None. It underpins the UK itself, and, if the UK is broken up, the Treaty itself must be resiled. They cannot simply move on to an rUK footing because the UK bit means, literally, the United Kingdom of Great Britain (and NI, which took the place of I) and is Scotland and England (and Wales). It would be completely unconstitutional to not recognize the Treaty even if they have succeeded in fooling our Unionists (and a goodly number of independence supporters, including the SG) that they no longer regard it. That is the real shame and the stupidity: it is there for us if we ever become less stupid, less venal and less obsequious to Westminster. We allow ourselves to be not allowed to do anything.


  2. This is tangential, but I won’t pay to post on The National, whoever heard of such a thing? And I don’t Twit so can’t ask Adam Tomkins directly, though perhaps one of his Glasgow Uni students could. To turn the tables on the Unionists, here’s a question for them:

    Under what circumstances (the Constitution) should a Court with 5 unelected Judges (the Judiciary) – appointed via UK Government (the Executive) approval and the Queen (Head of State), have the right to overturn legislation passed by the 649 members of the UK Parliament (the Legislature), with those members representing 65 million people of the UK (the Citizens), and voted in by 40 million enfranchised voters (the Democracy)?

    The UK Gov role in judge selection is via Dominc Raab, the Lord Chancellor, and the Tories wanted to give themselves even more rights in the appointment of UKSC judges after losing in the UKSC – twice (Article 50 and premature prorogation)


    1. Regards the the UK Supreme Court, that was a Gordon Brown invention.
      It was quite a deliberate move on his part, to be able to intervene, and over rule Scotland’s Parliament, as suited it.
      It goes totally against the Treaty of Union, and that by itself, was enough the void the Treaty.
      That the SNP leadership, has gone along with it, is to use a phrase from the First Minister, regrettable!
      And with yesterday’s Court ruling, we are seeing just how anti Scottish this Labour invention can be.
      And we must take note of who it is that set the whole thing up. And the why of it.

      Labour in Scotland has much to answer for.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Indeed, Gordon. I do recall that Alec Salmond tried to get the Scottish legal establishment and the parliament to resist it, but they didn’t and the rest is history. They get away with all of this because we let them. I believe that Brown backs a renegotiation of the Treaty as a domestic law Act, which would suit Westminster down to the ground because it would also have jurisdiction.


  3. Gordon: because the Treaty underpins the UK of GB, if all the Scottish MPs, or even a majority walked out of Westminster, the Union would be over to all intents and purposes. The Irish MPs did do that but their Union with the UK of GB was not the underpinning one, and NI took over from Ireland. With Scotland, it would cause a constitutional melt-down, especially if the Treaty had already been lodged with the UN and the international court. That would take nerves of steel and a spine, both of which are singularly lacking in modern Scotland.

    Liked by 2 people

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