Nicola Sturgeon is careful these days to avoid explicit mention of the Section 30 process. It would be surprising if she was unaware of the growing opposition to inviting the British state to interfere in Scotland’s exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination. But other than not using the actual words the rest of her language tells us that she remains immovably wedded to the Section 30 process. Which is disturbing.
The Sturgeon/SNP loyalists will doubtless be quick to point out that the First Minister has also stated that she will deliver a referendum even if her grovelling for Boris Johnson’s consent is snubbed, as most people suppose it will be. What she has not done is explain how she can logically concede the need for a Section 30 order by ‘demanding’ one then as soon as it is refused start insisting that it is not needed at all.
Nor has she explained how she intends to go about things if/when the Section 30 order is refused. What process does she have in mind which does not involve a Section 30 order but is “legal and constitutional” by the British standard that she has accepted and which is “capable of delivering independence”? Does any such process even exist?
SNP/Sturgeon loyalists may be able blithely to disregard the confusion and illogic and contradiction and inconsistency in the FM’s position, but thinking people will have great difficulty doing so. I find it impossible to ignore the fact that the position is nonsensical. I lack the unquestioning faith required to turn a blind eye.
The other thing she has failed to address is what happens if her ‘tactic’ of compromising the principle of popular sovereignty in return for worthless British promises of cooperation in the process actually succeeds. It may be unlikely. But there is still the possibility that the British Prime Minister will grant her obsequious petition. Of course, he will only do so with conditions attached and with the intention of using the power afforded him by Sturgeon to sabotage the entire process. What does she do then?
If she refuses to accept the conditions she will be proclaimed to have turned down the chance of a referendum. She will be ridiculed by British Nationalists and condemned by that part of the Yes movement which is stupid enough to suppose that any old referendum will do. If she accepts the conditions she will be condemned by the more thoughtful part of the Yes movement who see where it will lead while the British Nationalists will be orgasmic with glee.
The Section 30 process is, as some of us have been saying for many years, a trap. And Nicola Sturgeon is walking straight into it.
So is her predecessor. It may come as a surprise to those who have been taken in by the rhetoric, but Alba Party’s position on the referendum is almost indistinguishable from the SNP’s. Alba supporters have worked hard to give the impression that their party is offering something different. There is much talk of the urgency of the situation and even more denouncing of the SNP’s pusillanimous procrastination. But in what way does Alba differ on this matter? A single line from the party’s 2021 election manifesto suffices to answer that question.
The Scottish negotiating position should include, but not be restricted to, a formal demand for a Section 30 Order.Alba – A manifesto for Scotland (PDF)
Alba devotees make much of that qualifying clause. But anyone with even basic language skills can see exactly what that line means. It is actually two statements.
The Scottish negotiating position should include a formal demand for a Section 30 Order.
The Scottish negotiating position should not be restricted to a formal demand for a Section 30 Order.
This cannot mean anything other than that Alba would start with a “formal demand” for a Section 30 order. This is a carbon copy of the SNP’s policy even down to the words used. The second statement also precisely echoes the SNP’s position. It is just another way of saying that if the “formal demand” is rejected then they’d do something else. With no further detail on exactly what that something else might be. Just like Nicola Sturgeon.
On Thursday, many people will cast their votes with the constitutional issue foremost in their minds. You may disapprove. You may wish that people would vote in local elections solely on the basis of local issues. But the constitutional issue looms so large in Scotland’s politics that it is bound to be a factor in any democratic exercise. The same may be said of other major national issues, and it is doubtless the case that many (most?) people will be influenced in how they vote by a complex mix of factors. But I am here addressing only those who to any extent are intending to vote for Alba Party candidates for the purpose of registering a protest against Nicola Sturgeon’s approach to the constitutional issue. Those people need to be aware that if they think they are voting for a different approach by voting for Alba then they have been duped – just as were those taken in by the ‘supermajority’ nonsense at last year’s Scottish Parliament elections.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t vote for Alba candidates. Only that you should make informed choices. Frankly, I don’t care who you vote for. Barring a massively unexpected result, the outcome of the council elections is unlikely to have any significant implications for the constitutional issue – that being my greatest concern. Even Alba’s dishonesty is not sufficient reason to reject them in favour of the SNP or any other party. None of them is totally honest. I just think it is right that people are given the information they need in order to deal with the dishonesty as they see fit.
Very few people are deluded enough to imagine that Alba Party is an alternative to the SNP in any practical sense. But if you’ve been led to believe that Alba is an alternative in terms of its approach to the constitutional issue then you have been badly misled. Do with that information what you will.
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