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?
If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.