Not good enough!

The LibDems are throwing vows at the Scottish electorate again. I’m sure we all remember the one that was signed by the then LibDem leader, Nick Clegg, a couple of days before the 2014 vote. Now Jo Swinson is promising “practical steps to ensure that Scotland and Wales both have strong voices in the future of the family of nations”. It’s déjà vu all over again!

Of course, Swinson could only sensibly make this promise if the one made more than five years ago hadn’t been honoured. Even in the crazy world of British politics it wouldn’t make any sense to offer in an election manifesto something that had already been delivered. In 2014 we were assured that Scotland would “lead” if we did not leave. The voters chose to accept that offer. But instead of the promised leading role, we got EVEL.

The promise to ensure that Scotland has a “strong voice” in the UK has to be treated with great scepticism. Even if it was possible, why would we want a “strong voice” in the UK when we can have a strong voice in the world simply by dissolving the Union and becoming a normal country once more?

But it isn’t possible. We know that Swinson’s promise won’t be kept for two reasons. Firstly, the fact that the LibDems are proven liars. Secondly, the fact that the main purpose of Union is to ensure that Scotland cannot have a meaningfully influential role in the UK.

The Union is a constitutional device by which the people of Scotland are denied the full and proper exercise of their sovereignty. This, too, is proved by observable the reality. Scotland actually has a strong voice. The Scottish Parliament is our voice. But the British establishment parties deny the authority of the only parliament which has democratic legitimacy in Scotland. When our Parliament. When our Parliament says there is a mandate for a new independence referendum, the British parties simply refuse to recognise the validity of that mandate.

Scotland has a strong voice in the large number of SNP MPs we elect. But when they try to speak in the British parliament they are treated with utter contempt.

Scotland has a strong voice in it’s people. But when the people of Scotland vote decisive in favour of remaining part of the EU, we are told our vote doesn’t count. It doesn’t count because the Union decrees that, no matter how strong it may be, Scotland’s can never be stronger than that of England-as-Britain.

On Thursday 12 December, we have an opportunity to speak loud and clear to Jo Swinson and her counterparts in the other British establishment parties. By voting in overwhelming numbers for SNP candidates in the coming UK general election we can send the message that we do not want a “strong voice!. We want an equal voice! And the only we can have an equal voice is by dissolving the archaic, anomalous, grotesquely asymmetric Union and restoring Scotland’s status as a normal independent nation.

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All hypocrites together

Does anybody other than Jo Swinson believe that Jo Swinson might be the next British Prime MInister? She obviously believes it with all her mendacious, duplicitous, hypocritical heart. How else might she revoke Article 50 absent a new referendum on the matter – a so-called “peoples’ referendum”. Which, we note in passing, continues to be official Liberal Democrat policy despite the fact that Swinson made no mention of it.

Of course, she was speaking in Scotland. Like all British politicians, Swinson has two faces – the one she shows to voters in England, and the mask she puts on when she ventures north. In Scotland, she must occupy the throne recently vacated by Ruth Davidson. She must don the crown as ‘Queen of the BritNats’. She must strive to be the champion of British Nationalism in Scotland, because she is chasing the same votes that the ‘Ruth Davidson Say No To Indyref2 Party’ took in 2017. The votes of the most ardent British nationalists.

Although she has yet to be formally crowned by the British media, Swinson is the de facto ‘Queen of the BritNats’ and, as such, she must be as fervently opposed to a new independence referendum as her lately de-pedestalled predecessor. To avoid the accusations of hypocrisy and double-standards which inevitably follow from supporting a new referendum on EU membership whilst opposing a new referendum on restoring Scotland’s independence, Swinson has hit on the brilliantly simple tactic of omitting any mention of official Liberal Democrat policy on the former in the hope that nobody will contrast it with her opposition to the latter.

But then, we all do that, don’t we? We try to conceal or minimise inconvenient truths. I’m guilty myself. Look at how I’ve avoided alluding to the discomfiting hypocrisy of the SNP criticising Swinson for prioritising ‘Tory Brexit’ over Scotland’s cause.

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Stumbling start

When asked at FMQ about Boris Johnson’s apparent threat to strip the Scottish Parliament of its powers over NHS Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon responded thus

The way to ensure that we protect our health service – not to magic away all its problems and challenges, because health services everywhere have challenges – and invest in it, keep it in public hands and ensure that it remains the best-performing NHS anywhere in the UK, is to continue with the investment and reform that this government is taking forward.

Wrong answer, First Minister! The way to ensure that we protect our health service is by restoring Scotland’s independence. That is the only way to protect both our valued public services and our democratic institutions from the British Nationalist threat.

I am surely not the only person wondering why this wasn’t Nicola Sturgeon’s response. It is the obvious answer. It is the correct and truthful answer. So it is difficult to understand why the FM didn’t take this opportunity to deliver the election message she described in her address to the SNP Conference in Aberdeen less than three weeks ago.

A general election is imminent. And it cannot come soon enough. When it does our message will be clear, simple and unambiguous. Vote SNP to demand independence and secure Scotland’s right to choose.

What happened to that “clear, simple and unambiguous” message? The constitutional issue was supposed to be ‘at the very heart’ of this election campaign. It was supposed to be ‘front and centre’. The election campaign has barely started and already there are disturbing signs that the independence issue is being sidelined.

Yesterday, we discovered that John Nicolson, the SNP’s candidate for Ochil and South Perthshire, had published an election leaflet which contained not a single mention of independence. The leaflet (pictured above) lists five “SNP Priorities”. Independence doesn’t make the list.

On Twitter, John Nicolson seized on a suggestion that independence was implied by the last of the five “SNP Priorities” identified in the leaflet – “Fight for Scotland’s place in Europe – vital for jobs and investment”. Does that satisfy the criteria spelled out by Nicola Sturgeon? As a professional communicator, does John Nicolson seriously claim that this qualifies as a “clear, simple and unambiguous” message about independence?

I don’t know how they go about things in the SNP backrooms, but when I used to write copy for print and web the first part of the process always involved identifying the core message and the key words and phrases associated with that message. It is not at all clear what John Nicolson’s core message is – other than ‘Vote for me!’ – but the key terms he has selected include –

Boris Johnson
Universal Credit
Various terms associated with business, such as “producers” and “exporters”

‘Independence’ is not considered a key term. Whatever the core message is, it has nothing to do with independence. At best, there is a tangential connection with independence which the reader must work out for themselves. But they won’t!

The vast majority of election leaflets go straight from doormat to recycling bin. Of the remainder, only a few will be given a glance. A tiny proportion of the tens of thousands of leaflets delivered by the SNP’s formidable election machine will actually be read. It is essential, therefore, to do everything possible to grab the reader’s attention. It’s the glancers you’re targeting. You have one chance and perhaps a quarter of a second to convey something which will make them pause. Once you’ve done that, you have to lead them through different levels of information, starting with bullet points and working up to greater detail.

Do it well, and instead of 5% of your leaflets being even partially read, you might get up to 10%. More than that, and you’ve really cracked it.

I am not privy to what goes on in those back rooms at SNP HQ. But if I were asked to identify a core message for this election campaign it would be –

‘The Union is the problem! Independence is the solution! Vote SNP for independence! ‘

That is the starting point. Every candidate and everyone who works for the candidates and every campaigner on street or web should have that message seared into their brain. Everything they write or say in the course of the campaign should derive from and lead back to that message. Every word that goes out from the SNP, in print, pixel or audio, must be checked and double-checked to ensure that it is doing the work of conveying the core message.

Unity! Focus! Discipline! These are the vital attributes of an effective political campaign. To date, we’re seeing little evidence that the SNP has taken this on board. Some will plead that it is early days. That the campaign has barely begun. But it’s not as if this election has been sprung on us out of the blue. It has been expected for weeks, if not months. I would expect the party to hit the ground running. Instead, it has already stumbled badly.

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Finding unity

Andrew Wilson is almost entirely correct when he says that “the SNP has to unify the independence case and cause and then unify the country behind it“. That is, indeed, the task facing the party. The part of his argument which gives cause for concern is when he refers to “making a comprehensive case for “why independence””. He is wrong because it simply can’t be done.

The Yes movement is famously diverse. Which is a large part of its strength. But while diversity may be advantageous in a political movement, it is likely to be a weakness in a political campaign. Because a political campaign demands unity, focus and discipline, diversity almost inevitably degenerates into division.

There are countless definitions, versions and visions of independence. They cover a broad range of political perspectives from the small ‘c’ conservative right to the radical left. There is just no way these divergent perspectives can be brought together. They are all too often contradictory and mutually exclusive.

It’s easy to say that we all are united by the conviction that Scotland’s independence must be restored. But there is never going to be any substantial agreement on what independence means. There cannot be a single set of policies and positions that satisfies even a significant portion of the independence movement. Andrew Wilson and Robin McAlpine may both live in Indyburgh, but they don’t live on the same street, far less share a political bed.

Alex Salmond made a brave attempt to produce a unified case for independence with ‘Scotland’s Future’. It was intended as a ‘blueprint’ that the whole Yes movement could support, however grudgingly, without seriously compromising their principles or their ideology. It was probably as close as anyone is ever going to get to the kind unified case that Andrew refers to. And it failed!

The ‘White Paper’ for the 2014 didn’t work as intended, in part because many failed to understand its purpose, but mainly because there were too many entrenched positions – and no readiness to compromise.

‘Scotland’s Future’ ended up being a gift to the anti-independence campaign. It provided them with a plethora of targets to attack and countless opportunities to aggravate and exploit divisions in the independence movement. The currency issue is illustrative. There was no rational reason why the entire movement could not support the position set out in the ‘White Paper’. At the very least, even the far left could have just settled for the general fallback position that monetary policy would be decided by a democratically elected Scottish Government after independence was restored. Instead, they attacked the position viciously and incessantly. In so doing, they undermined the Yes campaign.

Better Together / Project Fear exposed and emphasised existing differences by asking the “What currency?” question. It was a trap. And the largest part of the Yes movement walked right into it. They came up with numerous different answer. Then started arguing amongst themselves about which was ‘correct’. None of them were ‘correct’! There is no correct answer to the question because monetary policy cannot be stipulated in advance. All public policy must respond to developments and be shaped by circumstances. Monetary policy is no exception – even if, by the nature of things, it is less responsive and less malleable than, say, fiscal policy.

In a political campaign, when your opponents throw questions at you, your first response should not be to scurry around trying to find an answer which will satisfy both your opponents and your own side. Your opponents will never admit to being satisfied and, if it is a contentious issue, there will be those on your own side who may be genuinely and vociferously dissatisfied. Your opponents, if they are any good, will always ask questions about contentious issues. Your first reaction should be to ask yourself why they are asking a given question.

There are three reasons. Questions generate doubt. The fact that a question is being asked makes the thing it’s being asked about questionable. The more questions that are asked, and the more effort there is to answer them, the more dubious the thing becomes in the minds of those attending to the debate.

Also, your opponents will ask question that they know will bring out the disagreement within your side. That’s pretty much a constant and true of any question.

They might also ask a particular question in order to divert the debate from the question they don’t want asked of them. In the case of the currency issue, the question they didn’t want to have to answer was “Do you believe Scotland is capable of managing its own monetary policy?”. If, instead of the knee-jerk response the Yes movement indulged in, we had thrown that question at British Nationalist politicians, it would have turned things around.

Why have no lessons been learned from the 2014 campaign? That is a question the SNP and the Yes movement do need to answer. Andrew notes that our opponents “won’t even make the positive case for the Union”. Of course they won’t! they have never been required to. We were too busy frantically scabbling around trying to find more and better answers to ever ask them awkward questions. They new better than get into debate about the detail of their case. We obsessed about the detail of ours. There could never be even broad agreement about such detail. The more detail there is, the more scope for disagreement.

Division will always undermine a campaign. Discussion of policy will always create division. The solution? Don’t discuss policy!

A unified, focused and disciplined political campaign cannot be built around a contested concept. As we have learned, ‘independence’ is a highly contested concept. It didn’t help that the framing of the 2014 referendum question made ‘independence’ the contentious issue. Independence is normal. It is the Union which is anomalous. And there is the key to unifying the cause. There can be no unified case for independence. So it is all the more important to bring together the whole independence movement with a unified case against the Union.

Unifying the cause – bringing together all the diverse parts of the independence movement – requires that we find the single factor which is common to all those parts. I call it the point of accommodation. The point at which even the most divergent elements of the Yes movement can reach agreement. The point of accommodation is encapsulated in the hashtag #DissolveTheUnion. That is the thing that every single person in the Yes movement holds in common. We all want independence. But we cannot all agree on what independence is or should be. We can, however, all agree that restoring independence requires that we dissolve the political union between Scotland and England.

That is how we unite the cause. We create a unified case against the Union. We make the Union the contentious issue. We force our opponents to defend the Union. We ask questions about the Union. We exploit already growing doubts about the Union and plant new doubts about the Union in people’s minds.

We explain to people, in a frank, forthright and honest manner, what the Union means for Scotland; and what it promises to mean in the future. We tap into people’s sense of justice and spark their anger at the injustice of the Union.

We do all this while offering the people of Scotland a straightforward solution to the problem of an anomalous, archaic and grotesquely asymmetric, Union. We offer them the option to dissolve the Union. We offer them the chance to restore constitutional normality. We offer them independence.

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Mhairi’s voice

If, as Mhairi Black states, the purpose of this Saturday’s rally is to “send a message to the Westminster establishment” then it will be a wasted effort. The Westminster establishment isn’t listening. The Westminster establishment doesn’t care.

Why should they care what Scotland says? The Union ensures that the Westminster establishment will always have the power to slap Scotland down. The No vote in 2014 gave the Westminster establishment a licence to do as it pleased with Scotland. The Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to the Section 30 process allays any fears the Westminster establishment might have had that the Scottish Government intended to challenge its authority. The Westminster establishment has every reason to be confident that England-as-Britain’s grip on Scotland is secure.

Sending a message to the Westminster establishment will have no effect at all. If Mhairi Black and others want to shake things up, they should be addressing their speeches to Nicola Sturgeon. They should be urging her to take a more assertive approach to the constitutional issue. They should be telling her the time has come to challenge the power of the Westminster establishment. They should be insisting that she defend the principle of popular sovereignty. That she assert the authority of the Scottish Parliament. They should be demanding that she reject the alien concept of parliamentary sovereignty

They should press her to defy the authority of the British establishment. . Authority which may be ‘legal and constitutional’ in terms of British law and the British constitution, but which can never be just or rightful in terms of fundamental democratic principles.

Speakers at The National’s rally on Saturday should not waste their time talking to a British political elite which regards them with open contempt. They would do better to use the opportunity to remind our First Minister that where Scotland goes from here is up to her. It is the decisions she makes at this time which will determine Scotland’s future. It is her actions, and the actions of her government which matter; not the Westminster establishment.

They should be pointing out to the First Minister that, if she truly believes Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands then she must accept that it will only get there if she wrests control from the Westminster establishment, rather than hoping that they might graciously give it up if she abides by their rules.

They should be emphasising that the overriding reason for seeking the restoration of Scotland’s independence is that it is right. The Union must be ended because it is wrong.

Mhairi Black’s is a powerful voice. A persuasive voice. She should not be wasting that voice talking to the Westminster establishment. She should be using it to inspire Nicola Sturgeon to be the bold, assertive leader Scotland needs.

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Anger is an energy

Given all that is happening, the relevant question must surely be why support for independence isn’t soaring. Or, to put it another way, why support for the Union remains so strong. We are quibbling over single-digit shifts that barely get out of margin-of-error territory when, by all accounts, we should be seeing changes dramatic enough to reflect the unprecedented political circumstances into which Scotland has been dragged because of the Union.

Day in and day out we have Nicola Sturgeon taking to Twitter to ‘slam’ some fresh iniquity perpetrated against Scotland by the British political elite. Ian Blackford endlessly reminds us of how awful everything is. Even the Unionist media can’t entirely conceal the preposterous fumble-fest that is British politics. So, why is this reality not reflected in polling?

Why is the claimed disintegration of the UK not translating into a massive surge in support for independence?

Why are people not angry about what is being done to Scotland?

In part, I suspect, the apparent unresponsiveness of public opinion may be explained by farce fatigue. People have grown weary of the whole Brexit bungle-circus. The have become inured to catastrophe as a constant. Even the most rambunctious parliamentary slapstick can’t long hold the attention of minds accustomed to the fresh gratifications at forty-second intervals offered by mass media entertainment. Rolling news on a twenty-minute loop of carefully orchestrated sensation, salacity and silliness has anaesthetised us to all but the most outrageous incidents.

Ian Blackford’s belligerent bombast has blended into the background noise of a political sideshow which many (most?) people are barely aware of. The condemnatory tirades which litter Nicola Sturgeon’s Twitter timeline have become as monotonous as the sponsored announcements – and as likely to capture attention. The interminable third-rate sitcom of Brexit is into its seventh season, and sharks are being jumped in every episode. People are switching off in droves.

Much of this tedium is strategically contrived, of course. Politicians know that, if you want the public to stop paying attention to something, the best was is to shove it in their faces 24/7. Even if the seeming decades-long dragging out of Brexit isn’t deliberately engineered, it nonetheless suits the purposes of a British political elite for whom apathy, alienation and anomie are favoured instruments of social control. Where diversion and distraction are not options, inundation may serve to let many a mistake and misdeed go unnoticed.

So it will be until someone throws a metaphorical grenade into the room. Something rude enough to bestir Scotland’s populace from the slumber of indifference. Something dramatic enough to seize both flitting attention and dulled imagination. Something extraordinary even in a time of unexampled political upheaval.

Scotland’s independence movement needs to be energised. Scotland’s cause requires an injection of anger. It’s no use simply informing people that something bad is happening. It has to be made personal and intolerable. It’s no use just telling people about this or that injustice. We need political leaders ready to inveigh against the source of that injustice. We need them to rail against the Union. We need them to fulminate. We need, not the quiet voice of reason and diplomacy, but the ear-splitting roar of outrage and indignation.

Mahatma Ghandi said,

I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world.

We don’t seek to move the world. We seek only to end the undemocratic and unjust anomaly of the Union and restore constitutional normality to Scotland. Whatever some may claim, this is not happening. The independence campaign is not where it should be at this time and in prevailing circumstances. It isn’t where it should be because nobody in a position of power is acting so as to take it there.

The mindset of the independence campaign must change – and with it, the mood.

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How to restore independence

It is hardly a secret that, lately. I have been increasingly critical of the Scottish Government’s whole approach to the constitutional issue. In particular, the absolute commitment to the Section 30 process and the concomitant ruling out of all other options; but also the insistence that the Yes campaign in a new independence referendum – should such ever transpire – must replicate that of the 2014 referendum and the implied failure to learn any lessons from that earlier campaign.

Nobody, either in the SNP or in the wider independence movement has responded meaningfully to my detailed criticisms of the approach adopted by the Scottish Government and the SNP group at Westminster. Instead, I have been denounced in ways that range from the infantile to the defamatory, but always woefully ill-informed and ill-thought. Or I have simply been ignored. None of the substantive points raised has been addressed. None of the questions asked has been answered. None of the conclusions reached has been challenged by rational argument.

(I will note at this juncture that I am far from being alone in expressing concerns about the SNP’s strategy. But I do not presume to speak for others.)

As well as denunciation, there has been much in the way of diversion; a favourite form of which is to ask what I would do, or what I reckon should be done. The evasion is obvious. I am merely a commentator. I am not empowered to do anything. The question is not what would I do but whether what is being done by those who do have power is adequate and appropriate.

Having said that, and in no way contradicting the observation that asking what I would do is evasive, it is fair to say that if it is claimed that a given course of action is wrong then there is a necessary corollary that an alternative course of action exists which would be right. It is perfectly legitimate to ask what that alternative course of action might be. It is not legitimate to put this as if it were a meaningful response to criticism of the course of action being followed. It is an entirely separate question and not a reasoned response to the concerns being expressed.

It is also perfectly legitimate to express concerns about a particular course of action without offering an alternative. Consideration of an alternative course of action must always be subsequent – and, perhaps, subordinate – to the identification of defects and/or deficiencies in the current approach. It is perfectly sensible when a number of different routes present themselves, to vociferously condemn taking the one leading to a precipice without offering any advice as to which route should be followed instead. Were there a rule that said one could only urge against driving towards a cliff-edge when and if one had worked out a detailed alternative route, then there would be a lot more driving off cliffs.

If those who demand to know my alternative in attempt to divert from my criticism of the SNP’s approach to the independence issue had bothered to do a little research they would be aware that this question has already been answered. I had intended to restate and clarify the preferred alternative course of action so as to have something to which people could be referred when they ask what I would do instead. But I find that I cannot do better than start by repeating the relevant portion of that previous article.

What people actually mean when they refer to UDI; what they mistakenly identify as UDI, is a process in which a declaration of intent to change Scotland’s constitutional status precedes a plebiscite to ratify that proposed change.

The closest analogy may be the dissolution of the political union between Norway and Sweden. A union which was, in some significant respects, similar to that between Scotland and England. Certainly, it was the cause of the same kind of tensions between the two nations.

With all the usual caveats about the dangers of simplification, the story starts, as all such stories must, with the nation that wishes to dissolve the union breaking the rules which bind it together. Norway declared its intention to set up its own consular service thus breaching the terms of the political union which reserved foreign policy to Sweden. Sweden refused to recognise the legislation passed by the Norwegian parliament and the Norwegian government resigned; provoking a constitutional crisis when it proved impossible to form a new government.

To resolve the issue of Norway’s constitutional status, the Storting (Norwegian parliament) voted unanimously to dissolve the political union with Sweden. This was on 7 June 1905. Crucially, in order to seize total control of the process, Norway avoided the offer of a negotiated settlement which would have allowed Sweden a measure of influence. Instead, the Storting immediately scheduled a referendum for 13 August – around nine weeks after the vote to dissolve the union.

That referendum resulted in a ‘Yes’ vote of 99.5%.

It shouldn’t be difficult to work out from this how Scotland should proceed. And it has absolutely nothing to do with UDI.

As stated in that final paragraph, it shouldn’t be necessary to expand on how this historic example relates to Scotland’s current predicament. Anyone with a modicum of intellectual acumen and a little understanding of the situation should be able to work out what all of this implies in terms of an alternative approach to resolving the issue of Scotland’s constitutional status. But I strongly suspect that those ill-equipped to think it through for themselves may be vastly outnumbered by those ill-disposed towards doing so. Inducing the latter group to open their minds is, by far, the greatest challenge. They will always find a way to rationalise clinging to their entrenched viewpoint.

It is first necessary to accept that there is no route to the restoration of Scotland’s independence which adheres to the laws, regulations, rules and procedures imposed by the British state for the purpose of preserving the Union and perpetuating established structures of power, privilege and patronage. At some point, the rules must be broken just as Norway breached the rules by declaring the intention to set up its own consular service.

Neither is there a route to the restoration of Scotland’s independence which does not pass through a point at which there is direct and almost certainly acrimonious confrontation with the British state. To attempt to avoid this confrontation is to diverge from the path which leads to the restoration of independence and risk being unable to regain that path.

It is further necessary to accept that Scotland’s independence cannot and shall not be restored via Westminster. Independence can only be restored by Scotland’s First Minister leading the Scottish Government under the auspices of the Scottish Parliament and with the support of the Scottish people. For independence to be restored, the authority of the Scottish Parliament must be asserted on the basis of its democratic legitimacy.

Basically, the Scottish Parliament is a subordinate annexe of the British parliament because the British parliament says that it is. It will remain so, either until the British parliament says differently or until the Scottish Parliament itself says differently. Given that Westminster is never going to relinquish its asserted superiority, nothing will change until Scotland challenges the established order and defies the British state to do something about it. Just as Norway defied Sweden to hold its referendum on dissolving the Union.

Power is not given, it is only taken. The established order does not change unless and until action is taken to change it.

Finally, it is necessary to recognise that the exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination derives its legal validity from a body of international laws and conventions and its democratic legitimacy from the sovereignty of Scotland’s people. That is all! Westminster has no legally necessary (or even permissible?) role, and certainly no democratically legitimate authority, in the process. As established power elsewhere has discovered, it is no match for the determined defiance of the people.

Putting all of this together, we come to a clear conclusion as to how Scotland’s independence might be restored, given the improbability of the current approach being successful. I say “improbability” because it is just about conceivable that the SNP’s strategy might succeed. It may turn out that the Scottish Government proves to have been right in relying on the goodwill, good grace and good faith of the British political elite. Or it might be that the strategy succeeds simply because the British political elite fails to take advantage of the many opportunities inherent in the strategy to ensure that it fails.

We cannot entirely rule out the British establishment cooperating with the process of ending the Union, despite this being counter to its most fundamental imperatives. Nor can we completely dismiss the possibility that the British political elite might be so incompetent as to let the SNP strategy succeed despite the ease with which it could be thwarted.

Alternatively, we could rely on our own competence and do away with any need for the cooperation of the British establishment.

Norway chose to confront Sweden on the issue of overseas representation. In principle, it doesn’t matter what the issue is. But it is essential that the Scottish Government select the issue and that it be something which is critical to the integrity of the Union. I choose to illustrate the point using what may be considered the ultimate such issue. With a little imagination, others might substitute different issues which have the same effect. I also choose to state the process very simply and starkly, recognising that this is a thinking exercise intended to challenge an existing mindset rather than a detailed political strategy.

It begins with the First Minister declaring the Scottish Government’s intention to ask the Scottish Parliament to approve a proposal to dissolve the Union between Scotland and England subject to endorsement by the Scottish people in a referendum.

This referendum, being the exercise of the right of self-determination guaranteed by international law, to be conducted entirely under the auspices of the Scottish Parliament and such independent agencies as the Parliament may appoint, and in accordance with legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament..

What subsequently happens depends largely on how the British government responds to this challenge to its asserted authority. The ways in which it might respond are, however, limited and hence largely predictable. They can be dealt with. If we are not confident that Scotland can deal with these challenges then we invite questions as to our fitness to function as a normal independent nation.

Assuming we stand firm and overcome these challenges, we proceed to a referendum which, it goes without saying, must be unimpeachably democratic in all its aspects. Leaving only the matter of how we conduct the campaign to secure a decisive vote in favour of the proposition to dissolve the Union. But that is a matter for another article.

I fully recognise that what is being proposed is not a lawyerly solution. I suggest that few things might better serve to commend it. For what our nation needs at this time is, not the tremulous timidity of lawyers cramped by caution, but the bold assertiveness of political leaders inspired by the justice of Scotland’s cause.

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