Lawyers or politicians

I confess to being rather concerned on seeing the reference to “the rules” in the headline over the latest contribution from Scott Crichton Styles in the Sunday National. What rules are those, I wondered. I fervently hoped Scott Crichton Styles wasn’t in the business of lending credibility to the idea that Scotland must be bound by whatever rules the British state contrives to protect its own interests at whatever cost to Scotland. I worried that the headline suggested at least a partial validation of what I have taken to calling the Sturgeon doctrine – which has at its core the inexplicably continuing “respect for Westminster law” Scott Crichton Styles mentions in the penultimate paragraph.

I needn’t have worried. Scott Crichton Styles appears to be much of a mind with Joanna Cherry who wrote in her 7 October column for The National,

…there’s no purely legal route to independence. The route must be a political one in which litigation should be but one strand of a multi-faceted strategy.

We have to bring Westminster to the table for talks on independence

If a lay opinion adds anything to the debate then I have long maintained that there can be no route to the restoration of Scotland’s independence through a legal and constitutional framework whose purpose and/or effect is the protection and preservation of the Union. Moreover and perhaps more pertinently, I have rubbished the notion of a referendum which is “legal and constitutional” by any definition that would be recognised by the British. As I wrote recently,

There is no route to a free and fair referendum that the British state won’t declare illegal and unconstitutional. The British political elite will not allow a free and fair referendum which might end the Union. The Union is far to important to them. They call it ‘precious’ for a reason.

The ‘Great British Box’

This may seem to be repeating the first point about there being no route to independence within the confines of British law. But important as it is to acknowledge this, it is arguably even more important to recognise the implications of that British legal and constitutional framework for the possibility of a free and fair referendum. My great concern at the moment is that feeling compelled to finally make good on her oft-repeated not-quite-a-promise of a new referendum but limited by her own doctrine of adherence to British law, Sturgeon will deliver a referendum which cannot be free and fair because it permits and invites the influential involvement of the British political elite.

She and her party and her endlessly loyal claque will hail this as a triumph. Any who question it or attempt to warn of the danger will be shouted down in all the ways the #WheeshtForIndy mob has developed through long and enthusiastic practice.

A process by which the people of Scotland exercise our right of self-determination which is dependent to even the smallest extent on the honest and willing cooperation of the British political elite is a process which is doomed to fail. Even in the massively unlikely event that this cooperation was forthcoming, the process would be fundamentally flawed. It would be fatally tainted by permitting any role to an external agency. For the purposes of the exercise of our right of self-determination if no other, England-as-Britain must be considered a foreign power. A foreign power, moreover, which is implacably opposed both to Scotland exercising its right of self-determination and the declared purpose of ending the Union.

Scott Crichton Styles may be correct when he writes that,

The Scottish Government and people might well conclude that, if Britain can waive the rules when it suits, Scotia would be a fool to continue playing by Albion’s rules and should go ahead and hold indyref2 even if Westminster says no.

If Westminster won’t follow the rules, why should Scotland on indyref2?

This lay person would suggest that there are reasons for stepping outside the British state’s legal and constitutional framework which are more politically substantial and legally sound than some sauce-for-the-goose tit-for-tat argument. This lay person would submit that abiding by the British state’s rules would not only make a free and fair referendum impossible but would make the entire process ‘illegal and unconstitutional’ for that very reason.

This lay person would maintain that a referendum intended to be a free, fair and truly democratic exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination cannot both abide by the rules devised by the British state and comply with internationally recognised standards. And that the latter must take precedence over the former.

It seems to this lay observer that this is the point at which law and politics meet and shade into one another. It is for the lawyers to construct the legal arguments. But it is for the politicians to determine the principle which that argument is intended to establish or uphold. I don’t doubt that we have lawyers perfectly capable of persuasively arguing in court that the exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination must be in accordance with well-established international conventions rather than amorphous British laws. The question is whether we have the political leader(s) who are both willing and able to stand up for the principle that the people of Scotland are sovereign and that it is for the people of Scotland alone to decide our nation’s constitutional status and choose the form of government which best serves our needs, priorities and aspirations.

We have yet to discover whether Nicola Sturgeon is that leader?

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16 thoughts on “Lawyers or politicians

  1. Sorry but Nicola Sturgeon has already been found wanting in leadership. Yes she has been good as Health Spokesperson through the pandemic but she was given one job and that was not it: her job was to lead us to independence. I’ll repeat that just for devilment: Nicola Sturgeon’s job was to lead us to independence.When was the last time you saw “Nicola Stugeon” and “Independence” in the same sentence?

    Liked by 5 people

    1. None of which even if true alters one iota the fact that if it’s not Nicola Sturgeon then it’s nobody. If you are going to recognise the reality, recognise the whole of it. The entire Yes movement should be bending its every effort to forcing Nicola Sturgeon into a rethink of her approach to the constitutional issue. Far too many get as far as recognising her failures and failings but don’t take the next step which is to recognise that she is indispensable.

      There are also those who don’t even get as far as recognising her failures and failings but insist that she is indispensable for reasons that are not entirely rational. They are the ones who tend to insist that Sturgeon shouldn’t be questioned or challenged. They claim she has a plan but cannot explain how that plan might get us from where we are to a free and fair referendum. There’s is an entirely faith-based position.

      Then there are those who not only recognise her failures and failings but massively overstate them as they insist that they have an alternative to which we all should turn. Ask them any questions about this supposed alternative, however, and you won’t get any answers. You’ll get condemnation and abuse just as you will from the SNP/Sturgeon faithfull if you ask them questions about their cult hero. There’s is a position founded on the shifting sands of fantasy.

      The faithful and the fanciful together represent the largest part of the Yes movement by far. Leaving the rational part of the movement bleating like lambs in the desert. If the dissenting voices are not heard and understood and acted on, Scotland’s cause is doomed.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Peter – no-one is indispensable – certainly not any politician I can think of. Have you tried the “bucket of water test” for indispensability ?

        Liked by 3 people

        1. You missed the bit where you explain what the alternative is. The bit where you explain who will replace Nicola Sturgeon in the course of the next few weeks and how. Or how the fight to restore Scotland’s independence can proceed without the active cooperation of the First Minister. Quite a big hole in your statement, there. Far too big to be filled with trite clichés about no one being indispensable.

          PS – I am familiar with ‘The Indispensable Man’. It’s nonsense.


    2. David, I agree. She has always known what the job description was, though I doubt if she was questioned on this at the “interview” – and informed that she was on a fixed term contract for (say) 5 years and that if the job wasn’t complete by then it was time to go. Think football managers – “get us promotion within 2 seasons or you’re out” – deliver the goods and you’ve maybe got another season to achieve the next goal – or guess what you’re out. I think that Nicola realised pretty early on that she was not the person to complete the job. But instead of handing over the reins she has engaged in what is known as “displacement activity” – doing stuff that delays addressing her key priority like intervening in England’s brexit process, like deciding to be Health Minister during the pandemic, and also doing stuff which deliberately makes achievement of the key objective more difficult – like de-democratising the SNP, and pushing through the GRA and Hate crime legislation. Both types of displacement activity are known traits of incompetent workers. The solution – have a quiet and sympathetic word, wish them well , and show them the door.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Ah you see Peter, you’ve changed the rules and introduced a “next few weeks” time limit. Unless the SNP MSPs and/or MPS grow a spine or two then that won’t happen of course, and I’m afraid with a few notable exceptions they are a craven, supine and cowardly bunch, scared of or in thrall to that leadership . It is recognised that the main factor which determined whether Estonia became independent was the courage of the political leadership – If that is true in Scotland then under the current regime, and its so called “leadership” then we are well and truly F****D.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. The next few weeks has always been the rule. The notion that we have plenty of time is another of the myths peddled by both Alba and Sturgeon. So if you don’t have a way of replacing Sturgeon in the next few weeks AND ensuring her replacement is the leader we require AND ensuring that they remain the leader we require when in office, then you really don’t have anything. Alba is, as ever, an exercise in utter pointlessness.

      Whether you like it or not; whether you are prepared to admit it or not, we either force Nicola Sturgeon to be the leader we need or we accept that we’re fucked. I am at least prepared to make that effort. Alba isn’t. Not from what I’ve seen of comments from their supporters. The unmistakable impression is that Alba has totally given up on getting this government to do what is required in this parliament. Insted, they’re flogging the patently false notion of Alba as some kind of alternative. It can only be an alternative if it can actually do something. Alba can do nothing.

      What needs to be done can only be done by the First Minister and the Scottish Government working through the Scottish Parliament. The mistake Alba supporters make is getting hung up on personalities. It’s not about personalities. It’s about roles. It only becomes about particular individuals if they occupy the role in question. And if there is no way to replace them in that role with someone more suitable then there is only one thing left to do – force the incumbent to fulfil the role as required.

      When there’s only one thing that can be done then you are either willing to do that one thing or you are of no use to the cause. You have given up. All that’s left for you is to whine endlessly about the failures and failings of the incumbent – while doing nothing to actually change their behaviour. Read your own comment for an illustrative example.

      All of this is probably academic, in any case. It is all but certain that the May election was the Yes movement’s last chance to be an effective force for Scotland’s cause. Alba scuppered that. With a lot of help from the SNP/Sturgeon loyalists, it must be said. But there is no denying that Alba was a significant factor in preventing Yes movement achieving the solidarity it required if it was to be effective in forcing the SNP to adopt the Manifesto for Independence. The original version, that is. They were NEVER going to sign up to the bastardised version. Waaay to prescriptive!.

      It is possible, of course, that not even the power of a united Yes movement speaking with one voice could have achieved what was needed. We’ll never know. Because the opportunity was squandered. But still I haven’t given up. I still criticise the SNP and in particular the Sturgeon doctrine, as I call her approach to the constitutional issue. But only to the extent that this is necessary in order to highlight what must change about that approach. What I do not do – or at least, what I try very hard to avoid – is the tedious and pointless rehashing of old grievances and the hate-tinged railing that comprises pretty much the entire output of Alba supporters.

      As evidence that I’m still trying, I am supporting and promoting The Saltire Strikes Back as an action which – in theory at least – the entire Yes movement can unite behind. Because it is an action focused of the fundamental issue and stripped of all egos and agendas. Apart perhaps my ego, which is inconsequential, and my agenda, which is only and entirely the restoration of Scotland’s independence by dissolving the Union.

      Despite the fact that The Saltire Strikes Back is as close as you’ll get to the perfect opportunity for the Yes movement to unite, none of the pro-independence parties have come out in support of the action and to the best of my knowledge only one organisation (Scotland Now) and one Yes group (Denny & Dunipace) have done so. That’s a measure of how fragmented the Yes movement is. The task of repairing that is not a job for one person. Or even a small group such as White Rose Rising. But we’ve been left feeling isolated and ineffectual.

      I’m not surprised so many people are stepping away from Scotland’s cause. The atmosphere of distrust and suspicion and animosity grows more palpable by the hour. Everybody is blaming everybody else. And they’re all right!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. “… It seems to this lay observer that this is the point at which law and politics meet and shade into one another. It is for the lawyers to construct the legal arguments. But it is for the politicians to determine the principle which that argument is intended to establish or uphold. I don’t doubt that we have lawyers perfectly capable of persuasively arguing in court that the exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination must be in accordance with well-established international conventions rather than amorphous British laws. The question is whether we have the political leader(s) who are both willing and able to stand up for the principle that the people of Scotland are sovereign and that it is for the people of Scotland alone to decide our nation’s constitutional status and choose the form of government which best serves our needs, priorities and aspirations… ”

    In a nutshell, although I doubt that many of our invertebrate SNP representatives of the people, either at Holyrood or at Westminster would know what a spine was if they tripped over it as they slithered, reptile-like, on the way to their respective chamber.

    Whoever takes over from Nicola Sturgeon will be hiding in plain sight, I suspect, rubbing her back and soothing her fevered brow, as Brutus did to Caesar prior to his “et tu, Brute?” moment. If there is one thing about politics that is eternal, it is that there is always a ‘successor’ even when you can’t see him or her. Every politician is a failure and every politician is replaceable – even overnight.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. But Sturgeon is only replaceable with another invertebrate. Even if there was any appetite in either the party or the country for a change of leadership (for want of a better term) Scotland’s cause would be no better off. And no further forward. Political realism sucks!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I wonder if one brave SNP MP at Westminster, were to address the assembly and state, my colleagues and I sitting in this place, hereby declare the Treaty of Union dissolved. Without having consulted his colleagues at all. What would be the outcome? Margaret Thatcher in her biography stated that all that was required for Scotland to end the Union was to send a majority of independence supporting Scottish MP’s and declare it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “back in the real world” – people are constrained from thinking outside their self-limiting thought boxes – there’s the “S30 box” – lots of misguided folks in there, there’s the “referendum at all costs box” – pretty full, there’s the “the SNP is crap box and there’s this other lot who want to do something about that , but they must be crap too because I don’t know anything about them, box” quite a few in there. These boxes may look and feel strong, but they’re not – time to break out bauxites.


    1. Not sure what aluminium ore has to do with anything. Except aluminium, of course. Typo? Auto-correct? Dementia?

      Along with ‘the SNP is shite therefore we must be gold’ the main thrust of Alba’s election campaign was ‘if you don’t support/join/vote for Alba you’re ignorant or stupid or a secret unionist’. Seems little has changed since then.

      It’s odd, is it not, given their assumption that folk are less than enthusiastic about Alba because they don’t know anything about them, that the party’s spokespeople are so stubbornly reluctant to rectify this lack. Personally, I’m not much interested in what Alba discusses and decides on at its conferences. A party polling less than 2% can indulge in all manner of grand gestures when it comes to policy matters. They can promise pretty much anything knowing they’re not going to be in a position where they’re expected to deliver before they’ve had time to think up an excuse for not delivering. It’s a familiar part of the political game and can be safely disregarded other than for the purpose of getting a general feel for the party’s approximate position on the ideological spectrum.

      What interests me a great deal is Alba’s stance on and approach to the constitutional issue. This is, after all, its main raison d’etre. And my own lifelong preoccupation. So when the party claims that it is going to ‘drive’ the campaign for independence, I naturally want to know how. So I aske. But instead of an informative answer I get accused of being negative or being an SNP loyalist. The latter being ridiculous and the former being true only because I’m given no cause to be positive.

      I then try to work out for myself what Alba might bring to Scotland’s cause. I give the matter a great deal of thought and present my somewhat damning conclusions in a couple of blog articles published in the expectation of a response from Alba putting some kind of counter-argument and/or pointing out where I’ve gone wrong. That was several months ago. Still nothing. Apart from the puerile abuse, that is.

      Which leads me to conclude that my initial conclusions must be correct. Alba brings precisely nothing to the fight to restore Scotland’s independence, and may even be detrimental to Scotland’s cause in ways I’ve explained repeatedly with no rebuttal.

      It seems that I fit in a box you neglected to mention, Geoff. A box labelled ‘the SNP is crap but we still need them and there’s this other lot pretending to be an alternative but in fact they’re just a different kind of crap’.


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