If there is one thing on which you might find general agreement among the sundry factions and cliques which are all that remain of the Yes movement it is that Philippa Whitford MP is wonderful. A few might balk at ‘wonderful’. But far fewer would dispute the claim that she is among the brightest stars in the admittedly rather dull firmament of the SNP Westminster group. Philippa Whitford is a tremendous asset to Scotland’s rag-tag independence movement, a great servant to Scotland’s people and a boon to the SNP. I state that as fact without fear of contradiction.
I am inclined to bemoan the poverty of communication skills among politicians in general and among SNP politicians in particular. Not that they are necessarily particularly poor communicators so much as because it is particularly important that they be particularly effective communicators, given their importance to Scotland’s cause. And given the peculiar difficulties they face when trying to get their message across. Philippa Whitford is in this regard as in so many others, the exception. It may be tweaking fate’s nose to say so, but oor Philippa disnae dae gaffes. Gaffe-prone people don’t get to be highly respected breast surgeons. Philippa Whitford brings to her role as an MP skills honed explaining often very complex medical matters to understandably stressed patients and their invariably distraught loved ones. Whenever she speaks and on whatever subject, Philippa Whitford always does so with confidence and clarity. She never sounds evasive even when circumstances necessitate some evasion. She never gives the impression of having failed to think things through. She never sounds as if she’s just making it up as she goes along. Sensible interviewers don’t try to trip her up. The lady’s not for tripping.
It is understandable, therefore, that it should be headline-worthy news when Philippa Whitford makes a pronouncement on one or other of the seemingly endless list of things independence supporters contrive to find contentious – as if they lived in constant dread of running out of things on which to cobble together a senseless squabble. We all agree that the ultimate aim is that Scotland should have no MPs at all sitting in the British parliament. Some, however, move straight from this agreed objective eschewing a stopover at the thinky-place, to demand that Scotland’s MPs should depart Westminster forthwith and with a theatrical flounce. Philippa Whitford neatly skewers this ill-thought notion with a lucid and logical argument.
[The SNP is] not an abstentionist party.
I think if you’re going to do that you need to stand on that basis. People need to vote for you on the basis that they will not have any direct physical representation in the parliament.
I don’t think you could take votes as representing people and then just decide that you’re not going to.MP explains why SNP won’t simply walk out of Westminster
While being a perfectly valid argument this does rather beg the question as to why, if the ultimate aim is to have no Scottish MPs in the British parliament, the SNP is not standing candidates on that basis. We’ll come back to that. Firstly, I’d like to add another argument against the flounce-out urged by many independence supporters. And argument which connects with and augments what Philippa Whitford says. When our MPs should walk out of Westminster this action must be part of a plan. It must have a justification above and beyond being the kind of political theatre which will grab the headlines for a few days. The (former?) MPs must have somewhere to go when they return to Scotland. They must have something to do. They must have a purpose.
The problem Philippa Whitford identifies doesn’t arise if arrangements are in place to ensure that those taking votes on the basis of a promise to represent their constituents continue to do so if not in the British parliament then in some other body that is more relevant to Scotland’s needs. Whether we call this body a National Assembly or a National Convention or some other title matters a lot less than that it should be established in advance of Scottish MPs walking out of the British parliament for the last time.
Returning to the issue raised by Philippa Whitford regarding a mandate to quit Westminster, it is perfectly legitimate to ask why such a mandate has not been sought. It might be argued that the removal of our MPs from the British parliament is implicit in the policy of restoring Scotland’s independence. But it might also be argued that this mandate needs to be explicit. And that it should be explained as having a particular purpose.
- Repudiate the Section 30 process as an illegitimate constraint on Scotland’s right of self-determination
- Assert the primacy of the Scottish Parliament on the basis of its democratic legitimacy and the sovereignty of Scotland’s people
- Recall Scotland’s Members of Parliament from Westminster to sit on a National Convention with Members of the Scottish Parliament and such representatives of civic society as are deemed appropriate by the Scottish Parliament for the purpose of overseeing the drafting of a Constitution for Scotland
- Propose dissolution of the Union with England subject to approval by the Scottish Parliament and ratification by the people of Scotland in a referendum
- Hold referendum on the question of the Union under the auspices of the Scottish Parliament and subject to oversight and management by the National Convention and such bodies as may be appointed by the Scottish Parliament
Ask me why the SNP didn’t seek such a mandate in last May’s Holyrood elections and I have a ready answer. The SNP didn’t adopt a Manifesto for Independence because nobody made them do so. It was always the case that the party would have to be pressured into adopting a Manifesto for Independence. It was perfectly obvious that only a united Yes movement might have the clout to ‘persuade’ the SNP to make a commitment that didn’t chime with the Sturgeon doctrine. We can only mourn the fact that the opportunity to pin down the SNP on the constitutional issue was squandered.
As ever, there are lessons to be learned from this. As ever, there is no reason to suppose that will happen.
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.