Reading The Sunday National’s preview of Alex Salmond’s address to the Alba Party conference, one two-word phrase leapt out at me ─ “agreed referendum”. Ominous words indeed to anybody who adheres to the principle of popular sovereignty. Because what that little phrase actually refers to is a Section 30 referendum. Which is to say, a referendum in which the British state is invited to take a role and exert influence. If you genuinely believe that the people of Scotland are sovereign then a Section 30 referendum must be anathema to you. The very act of requesting the consent of anyone other than the people of Scotland is a denial of the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. It must be so because asking for a Section 30 order acknowledges a higher authority than the people of Scotland. It allows that there is an authority to which the people of Scotland must defer.
Apologists for the SNP insist that requesting a Section 30 order isn’t asking for permission. It is merely seeking cooperation. The purpose of the Section 30 order is to ‘put the referendum beyond legal challenge’. But if the people of Scotland are sovereign then, by definition, exercising our right of self-determination must be beyond legal challenge. And the idea that the British political elite might willingly and honestly cooperate with a process intended to dissolve their ‘precious’ Union is just as ridiculous as it seems.
Attentive observers will have noticed that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP stopped using the term ‘Section 30’ some time ago. It disappeared from the party’s lexicon in late 2020 or early 2021, as I recall. Alba Party follows suit, using the euphemism “agreed referendum” instead. But nothing can disguise the fact that the SNP and Alba Party are both equally committed to the Section 30 process. On the constitutional issue the only difference between the two parties is that Alba evinces a greater sense of urgency. Basically, they want to move more quickly on compromising the sovereignty of Scotland’s people with a Section 30 request.
Those of us who genuinely and resolutely maintain that the people of Scotland are sovereign are left with no electoral choice. I am aware of no political party which advocates the restoration of Scotland’s independence by way of a referendum entirely made and managed under the auspices of the Scottish Parliament. I know of no party which explicitly rejects the notion that an external power such as the British Government can have the right to veto our inalienable right of self-determination. I know of no party which rejects the notion that the British government can impose conditions on the exercise of our right of self-determination. I know of no party that I can vote for which unequivocally embraces the idea of Scotland as a nation that is as all independent nations but for being imprisoned in an anachronistic and grotesquely asymmetric political union.
When I resigned from the SNP in April 2021, I was urged to join Alba Party. Many people assumed that I would join Alba Party. Even now, I am often pigeon-holed as an Alba Party member by tribal SNP members. Just as dumb tribalism leads some (most?) Alba members/supporters to label me an SNP loyalist. It all depends on which party I’m criticising at the time. There simply wouldn’t be any point in me joining Alba. It no more represents my position on Scotland’s nationhood and the sovereignty of Scotland’s people than does the SNP. On these issues, Alba Party is as ambivalent and timid as the SNP. Were I a younger man, I might consider launching a true independence party. It would be good if somebody did.
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