It’s the constitution, stupid!

It is gratifying to hear Robbie Mochrie acknowledge that making an economic case for independence is pointless. Restoring Scotland’s independence is indeed a purely political project. More precisely, a constitutional project.

There can be no economic case against independence. Inadequacy of political, economic, social or educational preparedness should never serve as a pretext for delaying independence. It’s not me saying this. It is from UN Resolution 1514. Given that there can be no economic case against independence, why would we need an economic case for independence. Why would we feel the need to counter economic arguments against independence which the UN has declared irrelevant?

And yet we have done little else since the modern phase of the fight to restore our independence began in 2011. Early on in the 2014 referendum campaign, the British state sought to move the entire debate onto the ground of economics. This was done for one very simple reason – the British state has no response to the constitutional case for restoring Scotland’s independence. Had the debate focused on the constitutional issue, the outcome of the 2014 referendum might have been very different.

If there is one lesson that should have been learned from the first Yes campaign it is that we should not let our opponents define the terms of debate. Those terms are a function of the question to be put to voters. Asking whether Scotland should be an independent country made independence the contentious option. Independence is normal. It is the default status of all nations and peoples. Something else that is stated by the UN. It is the Union which is anomalous. It is the Union which must be justified.

Knowing that they had no constitutional argument to justify preservation of the Union which would not be found offensive by most people in Scotland, the British political elite ensured that only the independence option would be put under scrutiny and that this scrutiny would deal predominantly with economic issues. Why? Because there can be no definitive economic answers or solutions. The economic orthodoxy that prevails is the one that is served by the most powerful propaganda machine. The British state has a massively powerful propaganda machine. That the No campaign didn’t succeed by a bigger margin is a tribute to the work done by the Yes movement while the politicians obsessed about the pointless economic case.

The Yes campaign was put on the back foot from the outset in the 2014 referendum campaign. Yet the conventional wisdom has it that we should do the same again. The idea of doing things differently in the hope and expectation of a different outcome doesn’t seem to have occurred to our political leaders.

The SNP leadership contest offers an opportunity to change this. At least one of the candidates should take on board what Robbie Mochrie says. They should propose to reframe the entire constitutional issue and rethink the campaign. They should state their intention, if elected, to turn the question around so that it is the Union which is subject to scrutiny. They should accept that making an economic case for independence is pointless. They should instead concentrate on the constitutional argument. The Union is bad for Scotland. We need to normalise our constitutional status.

It’s the constitution, stupid!

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13 thoughts on “It’s the constitution, stupid!

  1. Totally agree – and I do totally agree – BUT!

    We are so ill-prepared – if it is the Constitution stupid – why haven’t we got one ready? Yes, I know there are many working on that – I applaud their efforts – BUT!

    We also need much more in the way of institutions, ready and waiting – and sorry but they do relate to economics – PLEASE take 2 minutes and scroll RIGHT down this link as just one example of just one Financial Regulator we will need – ever seen any detailed preparatory work?

    Independence is normal – so is the work that is need to prepare for it – in all the areas that will be needed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Inadequacy of political, economic, social or educational preparedness should never serve as a pretext for delaying independence.” ─ UN General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960

      Liked by 5 people

  2. I quite agree with you and with Mike Fenwick. Project Fear, based on economics, has a long history:

    ‘We had better remain in union with England, even at the risk of becoming a subordinate species of Northumberland, as far as national consequence is concerned, than remedy ourselves by even hinting the possibility of a rupture…’
    Sir Walter Scott, ‘Letters… on the Proposed Change of Currency’. ‘ (1826).

    Independence is independence – everything else is everything else…

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Yes Peter, a key problem with trying to make the ‘economic case for independence’ for any colonised people is their prevailing ‘colonial condition’. Starved of their own plundered resources, and supplied/exploited by the colonial power at inflated prices (land, energy etc), a native population mostly living in or close to poverty and lacking economic opportunity (aside from the usual ‘culturally assimilated’ elites and ‘pampered’ proletariat), it stands to reason that a colonial society will be an economically under-developed society.

    However, in order to better understand our ‘condition’ we need a more comprehensive explanatory framework, which is also wider than the ‘constitution’ as being a single ‘determinant’. In this connection I have a wee booklet coming out shortly entitled ‘The Theoretical Case for Scottish Independence’, which summarises and condenses further my research textbook ‘Doun-Hauden’ and the related academic article on what is the only developed theoretical framework on the subject (‘The Socio-Political Determinants of Scottish Independence’):

    Click to access The-Socio-Political-Determinants-of-Scottish-Independence.pdf

    Liked by 6 people

  4. Excellent article Peter: I agree totally.
    I have one quibble and I don’t know if you can sort it. The typeface in your articles is extremely light and I have difficulties reading it. I admit my eyes are not the best, but would it be possible to darken it a bit.


    1. Regarding the font issue – it appears to relate to Helvetica. Particularly Helvetica Neue Thin. For whatever reason, when the Helvetica font-family property is set in the html, the browser defaults to the Helvetica Neue Thin instead or Regular. You could try removing the offending font from your fonts folder. Alternatively, in your browser go to Settings > Appearance > Customise fonts and select Tahoma as the standard font.

      Another thing to try is downloading and installing the Roboto font family. It should take precedence over Helvetica.


  5. Re. The Socio-Political-Determinants of Scottish Independence. Good stuff, Alf!

    Scots have never suffered from a lack of identity. However, for two centuries after the ‘free’ and ‘voluntary’ Treaty of Union, it can be understood that the Industrial Revolution did bring many material advances, especially to the expanding Scottish middle class. Although Scotland was poorer than the heartlands of England, there was no groundswell for independence. Scots lacked the intellectuals and leaders to inspire independence. Scotland was benefiting from the Empire. Why go back to pre 1707 times?

    The UK merchant class were not too interested in stamping out Scottish culture and identity as long as Scotland played ball economically. Politically, Scotland was in the bag…

    Now, with the slow, and quickening, political and economic decline of the UK since WW2, and especially with the boom in the oil industry, economic and political conditions have changed dramatically. A fault line has been well and truly reached.

    As Peter writes, there is no case for unionists to make on the constitutional issue. Scotland is a nation, and of course it has every right to remove itself from the international Treaty of Union. All that remains to do is to do it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Robert.

      On your statement that “Scots have never suffered from a lack of identity”, worth noting that, in a colonial society the enforced process of ‘cultural (or colonial) assimilation’ is intended to marginalise or even eradicate native identity (culture and language) and replace it with the ‘superior’ identity and culture of the colonizer. This is the reason many colonised Asians, Irish, Welsh and Scots etc. consider themselves ‘British’.

      The result is what historian Prof Devine calls the Scots ‘dual identity’ or ‘dual persona’ (Scots AND British), but what culture/linguistic and postcolonialism experts refer to as a ‘false persona’ or a ‘cultural illusion’. Enforcement of ‘English Studies’ (with Scots deprived of their native Scots languages) clearly formed/forms a key role in this process, which also relates to/creates the ‘Scottish Cultural Cringe’ psychological condition.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Alf… Yes indeed, colonial theory is useful in understanding the machinations at work. Scotland has been subjected for over 300 years to colonial brainwashing despite Scotland never officially being labeled as a colony of England. The Supreme Court ruling recently now makes the status of colony official.

        What is interesting is the particular Scottish context. Scottish civic society was far too established to be assimilated carte blanche into a greater UK. The Act of Union ‘allowed’ Scotland, for all time, to retain distinct institutions: Its own legal system, Church, education system and Royal Burghs (local Authorities.). This distinct identity went beyond these institutions and extended into popular culture.

        Scots have been rather schizophrenic when it come to identity. Many Scots were, and are, assimilated into the unionist paradigm. ( Scottish Enlightenment intellectuals like Adam Smith.) However, there has always been a Scottish national consciousness. (I certainly always put down ‘Scottish’ and not ‘British’ on official forms.) This consciousness did not take the form of nationalism right up until the 1970’s. Scotland was sleepwalking. What changed was the growing realisation that the UK was a sinking ship politically and economically relative to the glory days of Empire and that Scotland was incapable of moving the dial.

        Successive Westminster governments ruled Scotland in recent decades despite Scotland not voting for them. Scots have not voted Tory since the 1950’s. Brexit was a wake up for many as Scots have always seen themselves as outward looking.

        Scotland’s relatively well preserved identity is one of the main reasons the SNP grew so rapidly. The seeds were in the ground already and just needed watering. Now that the plants have grown the next natural phase is for them to flower. Oh flower of Scotland…

        Liked by 3 people

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