I really do wish The National and others would stop referring to it as an “independence referendum”. The referendum proposed by Nicola Sturgeon is not an independence referendum. Not in the sense of being a referendum on restoring Scotland’s independence. Not in the sense of being a referendum which might lead to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. It simply won’t do that. We know this because the First Minister herself told us that it is not an “independence referendum” in any meaningful sense.
The referendum on which the UK Supreme Court (UKSC) is being asked to rule is a test of the Scottish public’s opinion. It is not a test of the Scottish people’s will. Listen to Tommy Sheppard MP who is the SNP’s constitution spokesperson at Westminster and therefore someone whose perspective should be attended to. He says only that the Scottish Government “should be allowed to let people express a view”. That is all. If the proposed referendum goes ahead we will be allowed to “express a view” on the question of whether Scotland should be an independent country.
Can anybody remember the last time the British government paid any heed to the views of Scotland’s people?
Contrast Tommy Sheppard’s cautious words with the statement from an SNP spokesperson.
The people of Scotland have the inalienable right to determine our own future by choosing the form of government best suited to our needs.UK Government LOSES first major indyref battle in Supreme Court showdown
I wonder if that spokesperson or any of those for whom they speak has ever taken the trouble to check the dictionary definition of the word “inalienable”. It means ‘unable to be removed’. This necessarily implies that the “right to determine our own future by choosing the form of government best suited to our needs” is something we already possess. We must possess it because nobody could take it away from us. If we do not have this right of self-determination then it can only be that we never had it in the first place. The only way for the British government to argue that we don’t have the right to a real independence referendum is to argue that Scotland is not a nation and that the people of Scotland are not sovereign.
But the British government has already conceded that we do have the right of self-determination. That’s what the Edinburgh Agreement was. It was a legal document in which the British government conceded our right of self-determination. Some will argue that the Edinburgh Agreement was time-limited. But that cannot make any difference because the right of self-determination is inalienable. It is ‘unable to be removed’. It cannot be given. It can only be acknowledged. And once it has been acknowledged its applicability cannot be summarily removed with the expiry of some agreement.
Presumably, given the words of an authorised SNP spokesperson, it is the SNP’s position that the people of Scotland have the inalienable right to choose the form of government that best serves our needs, priorities and aspirations. This begs the question of why, if we have an inalienable right to decide the constitutional status of our nation, the Scottish Government is seeking the UKSC’s judgement as to whether we even have the right to “express a view” on the matter. The SNP spokesperson says the party’s position is that we have an inalienable right of self-determination. The SNP Scottish Government’s action says we may not. In referring the question of whether the Scottish Government may legally test the opinion of the Scottish people, the Scottish Government is conceding that it therefore may not have the legal right to test the will of Scotland’s people. But is we had the right of self-determination as confirmed by the Edinburgh Agreement, how is it possible that we might not have that right now. The only way we could not have the right of self-determination is if somebody removed it from us. But it’s an inalienable right. It cannot be removed.
If the UKSC rules against the Scottish Government it is effectively saying that either the court itself somehow has the authority to remove an inalienable right or it is confirming that the British government can legally remove an inalienable right. A right which, by definition, cannot be removed. By taking the matter to the UKSC the SNP Scottish Government has conceded the court’s authority to rule and therefore contradicted the SNP’s own position that the right is inalienable.
The right of self-determination necessarily includes the right to exercise that right, or it would be meaningless. If we have the right of self-determination and therefore the right to exercise that right then why is the Scottish Government seeking confirmation that it has the lesser authority to seek the public’s view? As with a Section 30 order merely by asking, you concede that the matter is open to question. If it is open to question then it cannot be inalienable. But you said it was inalienable. So why are you asking the question?
Perhaps more to the point, why aren’t more people asking that question? Why isn’t everybody asking it?
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