Remarks to the Scottish Sovereignty Research Group (SSRG) Conference 29/07/2022
First, the Manifesto for Independence. Not Manifesto for Indy. Although they had the same origin they are quite different. The Manifesto for Independence sets out the essentials of the process of restoring Scotland’s independence in four steps – plus one. The plus one isn’t really part of the process and is only necessary because of the Scottish Government’s inexplicable commitment to the Section 30 process. The plus one says,
+1. Repudiate the Section 30 process as an illegitimate constraint on Scotland’s right of self-determination and denial of the sovereignty of Scotland’s people.
Then we get to the process proper –
- Assert the competence of the Scottish Parliament in all matters relating to the constitution on the basis of the Parliament’s 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 a formal constitutional referendum and the drafting of a Provisional 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 which satisfies all criteria to be regarded as a formal exercise by the people of Scotland of our inalienable right of self-determination
- Hold a formal constitutional referendum on a proposal to dissolve the Union. This referendum to be held solely 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
The intention with MfI was to consider the essentials of the process by which Scotland’s independence will be restored and set these down in a simple form such as pro-independence parties might include in their election manifestos.
My hope in 2020 was that the Yes movement might unite so as to put pressure on the pro-independence parties to adopt some form of MfI. The idea was that we would then campaign for a supermandate in the 2021 election. The ideal would have been a secure working majority with over 50% on both ballots. Something short of this would have sufficed. But that had to be the target.
Didn’t happen! The Yes movement thought it had better things to do. But the Manifesto for Independence was far from a waste of time.
Re-reading the documents on the SSRG website in preparation for today and with the MfI in mind, I was struck by how much consensus there is on the basics that MfI seeks to identify.
There is, to put it mildly, little enthusiasm for the Section 30 process. Even those who favour requesting a Section 30 order – which is wrong in itself – only do so on the understanding that it will be refused. So, why compromise the sovereignty of Scotland’s people by asking?
Asserting the competence of the Scottish Parliament is very much in keeping with the work done by Sara Salyers and others. Again, there seems to be broad agreement that the constitutional question is a question that can only be asked and answered in Scotland by the people of Scotland using Scotland’s democratic institutions and procedures.
The National Convention I suggest has much in common with the concept of the Convention of the Estates and the idea of Citizen’s Assemblies.
Dissolution of the Union is what we all want. That is the thing we have in common. Even if it’s the only thing we have in common it is the only shared interest we really need. You want unity of purpose? That is the unifying purpose! #DissolveTheUnion!
Proposing the dissolution of the Union gives people something specific to vote on in a referendum. Not some slanted question about the vague, ill-defined, variously-defined notion of ‘independence’. Here is a basic truth! You cannot build an effective single-issue political campaign around a contested concept. Independence is a contested concept. The Union is our lived reality!
Finally, the referendum. It seems most of us agree most of the time that there must be a referendum. The differences are mainly about where in the process the referendum occurs. I contend that it must be when there is a specific proposal on which to vote. Which means a confirmatory or ratifying referendum.
I further contend that no matter what route is taken, they all converge at this point. The point at which the people of Scotland have their say – and the rest of us just shut up for a wee while.
There must be a referendum. But it must be the right kind of referendum. It must be done in the right way. What I haven’t found is any listing of the criteria for a referendum that serves as a formal exercise of our right of self-determination. This is an unfortunate omission as the form of the referendum required dictates the practicalities of holding it. I have some thoughts.
The referendum must be binary. It’s a binary issue. A single one-word response. Yes or No.
Binary means two options. Those options must be distinct, defined and deliverable.
The outcome must be not merely a result but a decision. The direct and immediate consequences of either result must be known beforehand. The ensuing action must be known and subsequent to the result being known must be taken in a timely manner and exactly as stated prior to the launch of the referendum campaign.
These criteria may need refined. But there must be criteria. Otherwise, how do we know that the referendum we’re being offered is the referendum we need? Does the proposed 2023 referendum meet these criteria? No, it doesn’t It doesn’t even purport to.
I didn’t realise it at first. But put all of this together and what you have is a unilateral declaration of independence. More precisely, a Scottish UDI. A form of UDI that is appropriate to Scotland’s unique circumstances.
More and more people are realising that if Scotland’s independence is to be restored it can only be by some form of UDI. So we better make it the right form. The search for a ‘legal’ means to restore independence is futile. There is no ‘legal’ way. There can be no ‘legal’ way when what is ‘legal’ is defined by those who are vehemently opposed to Scotland restoring constitutional normality.
There is no ‘legal’ way out of the Union for Scotland. There is no way out of the Union for Scotland that will not be deemed illegal or unlawful or illegitimate or invalid by the British ruling elite. There is no way for us to restore Scotland’s independence that will not be labelled ‘UDI’ by the British state, while their propaganda machine hangs every imaginable negative connotation on that term. All that is left to us is to decide what form that ‘UDI’ should take – and how soon before the next UK general election it can be initiated.
Whatever route is followed to get there, we always come to the point where the Scottish Parliament has to do something which the British state insists it is not empowered to do.
The only way the Scottish Parliament can acquire the necessary power is by taking it. Just taking it. There simply is no other way it can happen.
The act of asserting competence in constitutional matters in order to facilitate the exercise of our right of self-determination is a de facto unilateral declaration of independence. But it is the Scottish way and has nothing to do with any other UDI plucked from the history books.
You want independence? You need to prepare for #ScottishUDI.
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