A 'UDI' of our own

James Kelly seems to have changed his tune about a course of action which he previously denounced as unthinkably irresponsible ‘UDI’. More acute observers, of course, realised a long time ago that if Scotland’s independence is to be restored this will never be by any process deemed ‘legal’ by the UK government. It’s either ‘UDI’ or nothing. Where ‘UDI’ is understood to mean a process which excludes the UK government from any involvement and which must, therefore, be branded ‘illegal’ by a British political elite intent on preserving the Union at any cost.

Calling the referendum at the centre of this process “consultative” is a cop-out. It is an attempt to appease British Nationalists by assuring them that we’re only pretending to exercise our right of self-determination and won’t actually do anything. It’s a binary question of the kind that is perfectly suited to being decided by plebiscite. Assuming a properly framed ballot question and an adequate turnout, the result cannot be other than a clear expression of the will of Scotland’s people. Which, in turn, cannot be other than binding on the government and parliament elected by the people of Scotland and accountable to them.

It didn’t take a survey to know that it was nonsense to assume that ‘UDI’ would alienate large numbers of voters. All it took was some understanding of human nature. To anybody with a modicum of such understanding, bold, assertive action is obviously just the thing to catch the public’s imagination – and the mood of the nation.

The only question remaining is who might take this bold, assertive action that will inevitably be dubbed ‘UDI’ by anti-democratic British Nationalists. And whether it will be done properly. Whether the words “bold” and “assertive” are taken to heart.

The current SNP administration doesn’t look a likely candidate. But we shouldn’t give up on them just yet. To get the job done, we need a particular tool. The SNP is what we have to hand. The parlousness of Scotland’s predicament makes delay seriously inadvisable. So we must use what we have. The Yes movement has to get its act together and force Nicola Sturgeon to do what needs to be done – or to step aside in favour of someone who will. The latter trailing as the second choice some distance behind the former.

Forget the less than half-measure of a “consultative” referendum. Appeasement will always be perceived as weakness and encourage retaliatory action. The Scottish Government must be absolutely resolved and determined. The aim is to break the Union, not caress it.



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It's Scotland's decision!

Jim Sillars puts words in my mouth when he says that I am suggesting UDI. This is a term I choose not to use, in part because of its negative historical associations and also because it is profoundly silly.

What does the term ‘unilateral declaration of independence’ mean? Isn’t independence always declared? If it wasn’t declared, how would people know that it has happened? And aren’t all such declarations ‘unilateral’? Who else could declare independence on our behalf?

More to the point, whose agreement do we need? If restoring Scotland’s independence mustn’t be a unilateral act by the people of Scotland, our Government and our Parliament then this implies it must be at least a bilateral act. Why would we expect some other party or external agency to restore our independence for us?

Even further to the point, why would we suppose our independence cannot be restored other than with the consent and cooperation of a ‘foreign’ government which has declared itself implacably opposed to the restoration of Scotland’s independence?

The term UDI is used by the British state to imply that the act of restoring Scotland’s independence is somehow improper if it is done without their approval. It is easy to understand why the British political elite would wish to promulgate such a belief. It is impossible to understand why the people of Scotland would accept such curtailment of our right of self-determination.

Nothing I wrote in the letter to which Jim Sillars has responded implies that I favour UDI. I favour the restoration of Scotland’s independence. That is all. And I see absolutely no reason why a government and parliament furth of Scotland should have any role in the process of restoring Scotland’s independence. It is a decision for Scotland alone. Only Scotland should be involved in the process.

I do not accept that this process requires the imprimatur of a British Prime Minister in order to be legal and constitutional. I maintain, rather, that the process derives legal validity from the body of international laws and conventions guaranteeing the right of self-determination; and its constitutional legitimacy from the sovereignty of Scotland’s people.

I do not accept that the process of becoming independent must necessarily be undemocratic, and be perceived as such by the international community if it eschews the involvement of and disallows external interference by the government of England-as-Britain. I maintain, rather, that Scotland is perfectly capable of ensuring an impeccably democratic process absent any outside ‘assistance’.

The ‘self’ in self-determination is Scotland. Nobody else!

The process by which Scotland’s independence is restored must be founded on the informed consent of the people of Scotland. There must always be a plebiscite in order to determine that consent. The term UDI is commonly used to imply a process that doesn’t involve a referendum. I would never suggest such a thing.

But neither am I inclined to be a slave to the polls. We campaign to move the polls. Not because the polls have moved. Jim Sillars seems to belong to that faction of the independence movement which pleads for patience on the grounds that the polls have not moved sufficiently in our favour while insisting that we stick rigidly to the campaigning methods which have failed to move the polls sufficiently in our favour.

My own thinking on the matter is that it makes little sense to depend entirely on campaign tactics which have proven ineffective. My assessment of the situation is that the required support for independence already exists, it just needs to be motivated. What the polls tell us is, not that the support for independence isn’t there, but that people are not being inspired by a mix of doorstep chats with clipboard-wielding activists and platitudinous rhetoric from complacent politicians.

Something needs to happen! Something designed to provoke anger at the way the Union affects Scotland and propel people towards the obvious solution of restoring Scotland’s independence. Less craven compliance and more determined defiance!



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UDI

I’d like to thank Dave Coull for the following, which was originally published as a comment on Scot Goes Pop. I republish it here, with his kind permission, as it provides timely and valuable context for discussion of UDI.

In August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. War is something done by Declaration, because it does not require the agreement of the other party. However, when it was announced that there would be an Armistice from the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, this was an “Announcement”, not a “Declaration”, because Germany had agreed.

When I declared my house a smoke-free zone, that was a Declaration. I did not consult my neighbours. I did not ask anybody likely to visit my house if that would be okay. I just declared that, if they were visiting my house, and they wanted to smoke, they would have to go outside.

Declarations are ALWAYS “unilateral”. Saying “unilateral declaration” is like saying “wet water”. The first word is superfluous.

So, what’s the point of this stupid expression?

The expression “UDI” was invented in 1965. It did not exist at all before that year. I was in my mid-20s, and I was already a “veteran” of five years in the British armed forces, when the expression “UDI” was first invented. I can remember the exact circumstances of it being invented very well. There was a lot of talk in the press and media about a “Unilateral Declaration of Independence” by the racist government of the apartheid regime in Rhodesia.

Rhodesian “UDI” did in fact happen. But in the end the country got into such a mess, they had to ask the British Government to step in to help to sort it out. As a result. “UDI” carries connotations of both illegality and failure.

But, of course, there have been other Declarations of Independence. Most famously, the one whose anniversary gets celebrated every Fourth of July. That one doesn’t carry connotations of illegality and failure. Why not?

The answer to the question, “why not?”, is because, although the British Government refused to recognise that Declaration of Independence to begin with, it nevertheless succeeded. Within ten years, a lawyer from Boston, Massachusetts, was presenting his credentials to King George as the first Ambassador of the USA, and even lawyers in London were producing proofs that it had all been perfectly legal all along.

But of course it was “unilateral”. Declarations are ALWAYS unilateral. “UDI” is like saying “wet water”. It’s a bloody idiotic expression, and the only reason for using it is to link a Declaration with the Rhodesian failure, instead of with the American success. Stop it. Stop playing the game according to rules laid down by agents of the British State. Stop talking about UDI. It’s stupid.


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STFU about UDI!

The concept of a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) is inappropriate and inapplicable. Scotland is neither a colony nor a possession. Ask the analytical questions. From what would we be unilaterally declaring independence? England? Scotland hasn’t been annexed by England. Suppose England wanted to declare it’s independence. What would it be declaring independence from? Itself? The UK? The UK isn’t a nation. It is a political union. Leaving a political union isn’t at all equivalent to declaring independence.

Forget UDI! It shouldn’t even be mentioned in relation to Scotland’s independence cause.

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.


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