Independence is radical

Writing in The National today, Professor Gregor Gall refers to ‘independence first’ as if it were both a choice and an alternative to progressive radicalism (‘Independence first’? Or is radical the way to win hearts and minds for Yes?). It is not. Constitutional justice is the essential precondition for social justice. The latter can only be delivered and secured when the former is achieved. This is necessarily so because constitutional justice is about power. More particularly, it is about effective political power – the power to effect change. The change necessary to institute self-sustaining social justice can only be brought about if and when effective political power is appropriately relocated.

I can’t help but get the sense that Professor Gall is being dismissive in a way that suggests a certain lack of dispassion when he talks of what he labels the “independence first” position as a “campaign for independence as simply the right to national self-determination”. For those of us who maintain that restoring Scotland’s independence is an end in itself – even if not the only one – the campaign is not simple at all. And it is certainly not merely about the “right to national self-determination” – a very odd phrase. Surely a nation has the right of self-determination by definition. To characterise the fight to restore Scotland’s independence thus suggests that we are fighting for that which we must assume in order to want to fight for it.

Self-determination is the process by which the people choose how to answer this paraphrasing of Tony Benn’s questions about effective political power –

  • Where does power reside?
  • How is power acquired?
  • How is power legitimised?
  • What effect does power have?
  • Whose interests are served by power?
  • To whom is power accountable?
  • By what means may power be relocated?

Considered thus, “independence first” is the most radical idea imaginable. It is the radical idea from which all other radical ideas flow.

The Union is an unjust constitutional arrangement. It is a device by which the people of Scotland are denied the full and effective exercise of our ability to answer those questions about power in a manner that is informed by our needs, priorities and aspirations. The Union is an essential underpinning of the structures of unaccountable power, unearned privilege and unscrupulous patronage which define the British state and serve the few at whatever cost to the many. What more radical idea might there be than removing that oppressive burden from the backs of Scotland’s people?

There can be no progressive agenda while the Union persists. There can be no social justice without first restoring constitutional justice. To restore constitutional justice we must first dissolve the Union.

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7 thoughts on “Independence is radical

  1. It continues to astonish me how some folk, and in this case a learned professor, confuse means with ends.

    The one thing that genuine supporters have in common is termination of the Union.

    What comes after is open to debate. Constitutions can be argued over before agreed and written down. The economic, political and social policy priorities can be established in party manifestos and campaigned for at national parliamentary elections.

    The means to alter society is independence. The end is whatever we decide it will be thereafter, something that can be reviewed periodically.

    It is Independence, thus, that ‘comes first’.

    Anything else is divisive and distracting. It is folly.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Hi Peter,

    Tried to add this comment, however WordPress appears to mess me around…

    Setting aside the excellent points made above, no-one (whether Professor Gall, the First Minister or any of the other independence ‘leaders and influencers’) have mentioned that the U.K. is a signatory to three conventions and all three are enshrined in law in the U.K. These three conventions are;


    The first in the list was signed into law in the 1950s, the two remains ratified in 1976. All three say pretty much the same thing, if not identical wording in Part 1, Article 1.

    “Part 1 (Article 1) recognizes the right of all peoples to self-determination, including the right to “freely determine their political status”, pursue their economic, social and cultural goals, and manage and dispose of their own resources. It recognises a negative right of a people not to be deprived of its means of subsistence, and imposes an obligation on those parties still responsible for non-self governing and trust territories (colonies) to encourage and respect their self-determination.”

    Three times the U.K. has committed to this and despite it, the Scottish Government has failed to hit home this point when discussing the right to hold a referendum.

    Article 2, obliges – not requests – all state parties (signatories) “to legislate where necessary to give effect to the rights recognised in the Covenant“

    The wording of article 1 is very interesting whether or not a majority of voters are in favour of independence. <<


    Liked by 3 people

    1. This is the approach to restoring independence favoured, or at least suggested, by Alf Baird. Unfortunately, it involves first getting Scotland listed by the UN as a ‘non-self-governing’ territory. Apart from the fact that the devolution settlement might make this problematic, there is the time factor. Going down the ‘decolonisation’ route could take years or even decades. We simply don’t have that kind of time. We have until the next UK general election.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. As you rightly say Peter, I was asked to comment on the UN decolonization process though I believe I did remark that it might be considered as perhaps ‘the last throw of the dice’ option after every other route is blocked. In this regard I very much support your argument on UDI. It may also be possible of course for a Scottish court to opine that Scotland’s Treaty of Union and Claim of Right has been extensively violated, but this will still require our MP’s to act accordingly and render it void, which UDI would effect.

        On the subject of Prof Gall’s perspective, my understanding of postcolonial theory is that intellectuals on the Left generally and sometimes tragically fail to appreciate that independence is neither a matter of Left or Right, nor of Socialism versus Capitalism. As you rightly imply the only and most urgent priority is that of freeing the people from their colonial oppression and domination/exploitation by another power and culture (incl. native elites) and once liberated the people can then make their own decisions as to whatever political ideologies they may wish to adopt, or compromise between.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. I am still intrigued by the fact that UDI has ‘suddenly’ become part of our normal political discourse. If I am correct in my conclusion that there is no way to restore independence that isn’t some form of UDI, I suppose it was inevitable that it would be talked of openly and in a totally matter-of-fact way. But the change seems to have happened with remarkable speed. Or maybe I just need to get out more.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Yes Peter, and we perhaps see a similar phenomenon with the term ‘colonialism’ once a subjugated ‘people’ begin to better understand their socio-economic-political subordination as what it actually is, i.e. colonial oppression, and which in turn confirms that independence is decolonisation, much as UN C-24 maintains.

            Liked by 4 people

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