The Manifesto for Independence and Scottish UDI

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 –

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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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21 thoughts on “The Manifesto for Independence and Scottish UDI

  1. U-just Do It!

    Hope it goes well over the weekend. I feel sure there will be an engaged audience and some healthy debate.

    There must be, and I think there will be, actions that result from an agreed way or ways forward.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. It’s interesting that what you proposed with the MfI is converging with with what SSRG are doing. That would indicate that things are on the right track, at least in some form, and there’s a chance to build momentum.

    Has anyone thought / researched on what it will take to change the focus from independence to dissolving the union and how long that process would take? In other words if you posed the question “Should Scotland dissolve the Union with England?” in a referendum, how many people would understand what was being asked?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Salvo launched 03 July, and by my estimation, it has had a very impressive start. Sara Salyers and Peter had a lot in common, and Sara has built a huge expertise in historical politics, on dedicated, hard work; and Scotland has much to thank her for.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Good points, Stuart. I hope to address such matters at length over the coming days. Maybe not today, however, as having skived off to go galavanting in Dunfermline yesterday, I’ll have to do the housework today. You know how it is.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not with you on this, and having been away have no time for any length.

    But an important point to make over your weekend conference is the effect a UDI will have on the UK itself – the shock of it. How very dare Scotland. And maybe look more from the UK point of view. ###


      1. Well Peter, forcing your sensory inputs into a closed zero sum induction loop can have short term advantages for getting your own message out, but means you will suffer from a lack of diversification in the longer term. I’m sure you would have understood that, in times gone by.

        I’ll leave that with you.


  4. The stars are alining.
    Chaos in the west, empire’s decline.
    A change in the world order.
    Mmm, interesting.
    Way to Go Peter!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Excellent Peter . Have a good day in Dunfermline . Hope it gives you a * warm glow * – after the stick you’ve received from various quarters – to see that more and more people are coming round to the argument/s you’ve been making for some time 🙂


    1. I was taken aback by the change in the mood of the people attending that panel event yesterday. Two years ago if I mentioned UDI I’d have been booed off the stage. Now, I get applause! Incredible transformation!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sorry P , I thought you were speaking today . Really glad – and not surprised – your talk went down well , and , yes , there’s a growing interest/appetite for * alternative * ideas re achieving our objective . Good onye

        Liked by 2 people

  6. This all seems much more pragmatic and motivational than what’s been proposed by the Holyrood government. It would definitely shock the Westminster establishment who are used to being pandered to by our government. Bring it on!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It is not very helpful talking about UDI, when the Scottish case is one of “de-pooling” of sovereignty by a country, Scotland, whose status is already undoubted if it would only act sovereignly. Ironically the Brexiteers’ slogan “taking back control” fits more closely.
    A Declaration of Independence is unnecessary if the Treaty of Union is dissolved (whether unilaterally or not): the very fact of abrogating or dismantling the Treaty would simultaneously re-establish Scottish sovereignty, since it is a reassertion of sovereignty to do so. The only question is how to get that agreed to or confirmed by the population.
    One should not talk about UDI, which it isn’t and therefore avoid any associated implication of illegitimacy, which it is doesn’t entail. The important thing is to talk about acting sovereignly, and thus with responsibility. The problem with referring to a democratic deficit is that it is a continuation of the colonised mind-set and a politics of grievance rather than a politics of responsibility. Please use the formulation “reasserting Sovereignty”. That is what is to be expected of our leaders.


    1. I wasn’t talking about UDI. Read more slowly.

      #ScottishUDI is now part of the mainstream discourse within the Yes movement. Not within the SNP, of course, where straying from the Section 30 party line is not tolerated. But everywhere else Yes activists are discussing the actual practicalities of restoring independence.

      You have some catching-up to do.


      1. I’m aware that there is wide discussion about how to dissolve the union. My concern was that the term “UDI”,is “tainted”, and that therefore even the precision of “Scottish UDI” is unavoidably so too, even though we know what we mean by that. I was simply trying to say that if one could find another “catchy” formulation it would be preferable than any variation on the term “UDI”.

        My comment wasn’t a critique of your argument.


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