Scotland That Could Be

Edinburgh in autumnal tones

The journalist Sean Bell takes some moments to indulge in reverie and some poetic license upon the vision of an ideal Scotland. We, of course, can create a fine land fit for all, if we stop believing the anti-independence propaganda, the utter fear-immobalising bilge, shot at us every day by the agents of the status quo, or better still, begin thinking like a Scot, not like a Brit.

LET’S IMAGINE

Welcome to the Scotland that could be. Look out across the skyline of Edinburgh at sunset; caught in the glimmer of countless solar panels silently drinking in the last of the pink and purple light, you will see a thousand roof gardens, abundant with fruit and flower, their greenery garlanding the Gothic architecture like jungle temples.

The streets below, free from cars or the sirens of a long-abolished police, are quiet – so quiet, as the night draws on, that you may see a curious boar wandering into town from the rewilded fringes of the capital, drawn to the tantalising scents emanating from every window. From zero-carbon homes that belong no longer to landlords but to people, you too can smell a whole city cooking food to which every citizen has a right – the cuisines of all the mingling cultures which found themselves welcomed here, prepared with bounties from the vast expanse of sustainable commune farms established when the estates were finally broken up.

An undeclared republic

You turn from this once-impossible vista, and sit down to dinner with friends. It is a good night to be in Scotland. It is also, as many would probably object, a complete and utter fantasy – better suited for science fiction than political argument, with no more bearing upon our nation or reality than Oz or Wonderland. I might as well have included flying cars, streets paved with gold or a permanent place for Hibs at the top of the Premiership. Surely the debate over Scottish independence deserves more than utopian delusion?

Well, it certainly deserves more of something. For lack of a better term, call it political imagination – a pursuit which should, wherever possible, not be left in the hands of politicians.

Benedict Anderson defined a nation as an “imagined community”, arguing that, among its people, “in the minds of each lives the image of their communion”. Scotland, as much as anywhere, provides proof of this; yet while we may always be, in part, a republic of the mind, we remain for the moment as the poet Douglas Dunn described us: an “undeclared republic”, the road back to which has been long and hard.

Arguments in support of independence can generally be divided between those that come from within or without; those drawn from a sense of what we might wish to achieve for ourselves, and those predicated upon the conditions, limitations and injustices imposed upon Scotland without the consent of its people.

Don’t talk, do

Understandably, more of our time is spent discussing and debating the latter of these than the former. One provokes consideration, while the other demands active resistance. Only the most cloistered and privileged among us can afford to ignore the daily iniquities that represent our enforced participation in the British experiment which failed long ago – Tory rule to which we did not consent, welfare provisions on which we cannot survive, nuclear weapons we do not desire and neo-imperialist warfare we do not support are just some of the examples provided by the century thus far.

It is not unreasonable to argue that these require more attention than picking out the wallpaper and measuring the drapes for a liberation not yet realised.

For the more hard-headed among us, there are also strategic benefits to hammering away at what’s in front of us, rather than losing ourselves in contemplative revery over the alternatives. Those who keep track of such developments may have noted that a great deal of the Union’s self-appointed stalwarts grow noticeably weary of justifying its existence to the nations which comprise it. One can understand (if not necessarily sympathise) with their exhaustion, but this does not bode well for their future. The enemies of independence are being worn down – not just by their political opponents, but by the daily grind of defending the indefensible.

Among other reasons, this explains why so many Unionists have, in less than a decade, more or less ceased trying to instil pride and common purpose, like a nervous high-school football coach, and now prefer to shore up the non-voluntary nature of the British enterprise with a distinctly authoritarian relish (as in the case of a new Act of Union, an anti-democratic wheeze recently endorsed by former Tory MSP Adam Tomkins. You can take it, runs the argument, but you can never, ever leave it.

The past and the future are ours

In Scotland, we are born between those realities of the past which we are told we cannot return to, and those aspects of the future we are told we cannot control, leaving us only with the injustices of the present. There is no reason we should accept such a constrained perspective.

The perennial Unionist demand is that the Scottish people be told, in impossible detail, what independence would entail (a rank hypocrisy, since as these past few strange years have ruthlessly demonstrated, their own talents for prediction are less reliable than Nostradamus). Instead of letting such voices set the terms for debate, we should ask not what independence would look like, but what it could look like. Again, Unionist critics tend to bristle at this.

It is always easier, they grumble, to make “what if?” sound better than “what is”, and in that they have a point. Yet every time they resort to this gambit, they provide further proof that the capacity of the United Kingdom for change is minimal at best.

Hobbyists of federalism

Despite periodic fantasies from the lonely hobbyists of federalism, this is not a Union interested in becoming ever-more perfect; the evolution of Britain keeps pace with that of the crocodile, so comfortable with its Jurassic countenance it sees no good reason to bother changing now. As a result, constitutional reform of the British state is a pursuit reserved only for those who find pulling teeth too easy.

The peoples of Britain, like those of anywhere else, resist easy categorisation – anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something they couldn’t otherwise give away for free. The Union, however, is only open to so much interpretation – it exists beyond the eye of the beholder. The British state and the constitutional arrangement underpinning it configure a machine designed only to maximise its own self-preservation. When it indulges in its occasional, grudging bouts of self-reform, the purpose is inevitably to head off or forestall greater and more meaningful transformation, the apogee of which would be its dissolution.

The most relevant proof of this is of course Scottish devolution, personified by a parliament built on sand and defined by its limitations; it was envisaged as a project to frustrate the cause of independence, and is thus now widely disdained by Unionists as having failed to cement their desired outcome. To such a view, Scottish democracy – such as it is – only has worth if it delivers certain predetermined results. This should tell you all you need to know about the sovereignty of the people (or lack thereof) once spoken of in the Claim of Right.

Damn the status quo

Those who believe in Scottish independence have no such investment in maintaining the status quo, or pretending that change may yet emerge from institutions that exist to prevent it. Instead, we can and must free our imaginations – there lies not only the countless futures available to our nation, but the salvation of the world of which we are a part. I believe more would be added to that world by the independence of Scotland than would be taken away. We can all survive without Britain, but as we face down the innumerable challenges that lie ahead in our post-Covid recovery – from the ravages of economic depression to the approaching climate apocalypse – I am less sure we can survive without our own self-determination. I believe our range of options, of solutions, of potential transformations that may come to pass a year or a century hence, would not be restricted by our sovereignty, but expanded beyond our present comprehension.

Others, even among those who seem to share the goal of self-determination, sometimes disagree. Independence will only come, some tell us, if we stop arguing about this, avoid mention of that, and keep our dreams of a new nation carefully non-specific. According to such logic, hopes – of political change, of social and economic justice, of a new kind of life – occupy a strict order of hierarchy and succession, and some must bide their time so that others can advance.

One can understand how this conclusion might be reached – the appeal of independence lies not just in and of itself, but as a dream that allows other dreams to follow in its stead. Nevertheless, prioritisation of this kind is more unrealistic than any utopian fantasy. You want to try suppressing the imagination of those who every day perceive the gulf between the Scotland that is, and the Scotland that could be?

King Knut was a nutcase

Those who have seen, known and felt deprivation, inequality, prejudice and oppression, and don’t feel like keeping quiet about it? Even King Cnut would tell you to give it up. The cause of independence rests upon a sea of our collective aspirations, and it cannot be held back.

Independence may be more than a means to an end, but if it cannot comprehend and rally alongside the many struggles contained within it, embodying a liberation not just for Scotland but for all its people, then nationhood itself becomes a hollow pursuit. For what good is self-determination if we shirk from determining what kind of nation we will be? Still, I refuse to believe that independence would become unachievable because we had too many plans, too many ideas, too many great, grand, mad notions for what a country could be, or simply too much faith in our own potential. Optimism, as you may have heard, is a revolutionary act.

Following that optimism would make that revolution a reality. The first step to changing the world is asserting our place within it, by making Scotland a nation among nations; by adding detail and colour and perspective to a picture that is forever being redrawn. The history of great endeavours is that of goals which at one point appeared either insurmountable, or lay at the end of unmapped journeys.

The fact that an independent Scotland exists, for now, only in potential, in an as-yet-unknown future, should not dissuade us from pursuing it any more than the problems facing our planet should put us off attempting to save it from environmental catastrophe and the broken systems which brought us to this point. We identify where we want to go and what we want to change, and then we begin figuring out how to achieve it.

The times they are a-changin’

The world is ever-changing; it should be no point of controversy to suggest that we should change too – but also that this change should be an expression of our own intent, identity and imagination. We cannot say for certain where our journey – whether as a nation, or a part of humanity – may take us in the days to come. We can, however, put our hand on the tiller, and whether with the tide or against it, turn in a direction of our choosing.

I could tell you, in great and probably absurd detail, about the Scotland that could be – the one I visit in my imagination, when the one outside my window is more than I can bear. At best, that would amuse some, intrigue others and leave everyone else – whose dreams I cannot articulate, and would not dare to try – distinctly cold. Speculative fiction is a fine thing, but it can only take us so far. Asserting the incalculable possibilities independence would unlock has no such limits.

There are an infinite number of potential Scotlands, and I cannot say definitively which one we will eventually arrive at. I can only ask what excuse we have for not exploring them together. Either we go looking for a Scotland that could be, or we remain trapped in the Britain that is. Despite what some would have you believe, the choice is ours – and always will be.

NOTE: This article was ws published in The National newpaper.

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Referenda Franchise

Polling stations close across Great Britain after bumper set of elections |  ITV News

At least four million Scots were displaced from Scotland owing to the chronic lack of economic opportunities in their own land, often helped to abandon their country of birth by United Kingdom state ‘incentives’, such as the Empire Settlement Acts. This is a grand method to reduce a rebellious colonial territory to one of quiet subservience.

English political perfidy exercised in this manner is continued today with the British state loading the dice in Scottish parliamentary elections with the D’Hondt voting system, a device to stop independence parties from gaining power, cannot then be dismissed by arguing to revisit and revise referenda franchise is ‘counter-productive’. The conditions of the 2014 Referendum wer e agreed between Alex Salmond and the then UK Prime Minister David Cameron. The one concession Salmond secured was a reduction in the voting age from 18 to 16. It was based on local elections, not categories in a general election.

The reasons given for this glaring contradiction come from two sources, unionists keen to pretend a parliament with severely limited powers represents full democracy, and from anxiety-prone Scots who call franchise revision ‘counter-productive, without staing why. They fail the test of their resolve to see their country free of oppression. They would rather not hurt the alleged sensibilities of unnamed friends than see a free Scotland.

The final insult is the one about Scotland’s ‘blood and soil nationalists’. No one can imagine the Japanese suffering doubts and guilt faced with the same moronic charge, breaking down in anguish to admit their race is an amalgam of influences, their heritage uncertain, agreeing they have no right to govern their own country.

This site has written, and published articles from others aimed at an understanding Scotland’s dilemma with its demographics. (See Professor Alfred Baird’s article linked below.) Scotland needs immigrants to settle here and enrich its economy, but a mass influx of them, people with no affiliation to Scottish traditions, culture or values, is gauranteed to defeat another independence referendum. This is probably why the British press has been light of criticism of our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, she having taken the ‘one and only’ path to liberation, the one already blocked by Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister. Our opponents know she is incapable of delivering anything except failure.

Scotland’s demographics are a legitimate subject of scrutiny, no matter who prefers censorship. In a slightly abridged version, we publish ‘Mia’s’ article on franchise re-evaluation. She find excuses and caveats wanting.

A LOP-SIDED REFERENDUM FRANCHISE

It has been reported that a majority of native Scots voted Yes in 2014, but that vote was frustrated by the No vote from the non natives. One could argue therefore that the only reason why the no vote won is because an excessively open franchise was used. One could question then the legitimacy of such a referendum when the non natives were allowed to frustrate in such fashion the right to self determination of the natives. I don’t remember Nicola Sturgeon opening her mouth about this.

You can give those in charge the benefit of the doubt and consider that the first time they used a flawed franchise they made a mistake because they did not know any better. Now that the evidence showing how the vote of the natives was frustrated has been in the open since 2015, if they still insist in forcing through the same flawed franchise again, then it can no longer be considered a mistake. It will be either unforgivable negligence or simply a deliberate strategy to make yes fail. Both unacceptable.

Nicola Sturgeon has been in power for seven long years. During that time she has had the opportunity to change that franchise 100 times over. So why didn’t she?

Precedents set

Gibraltar and the Falklands, UK colonies, have a rudimentary form of citizenship and a constitution. Scotland is an ancient nation and we don’t have any of those. Why not? We have had for more than ten years a nationalist government in Holyrood. That is plenty of time to start a new census and form the basis for that citizenship. If other UK colonies have that citizenship and constitution, albeit rudimentary, there is absolutely no excuse for Scotland not to have one. So what is Nicola Sturgeon’s excuse?

In the case of the Falklands, for example, this rudimentary citizenship status is called Falklands Islands status. It may be rudimentary, but in order to obtain it, the candidate must pledge loyalty to the Falkland Islands. Gibraltar has citizenship too. Citizenship is fundamental to take part in referendums or general elections, not just in Falklands or Gibraltar but in countries all over the world. So where is Scotland’s?

In every country in the world, to gain citizenship you either are a native of the country, or a child of a native of the country, or you have been naturalised, which implies invariably to have lived in the country for a certain length of time and having acquired citizenship by pledging allegiance to the country. If Gibraltar and Falklands, significantly smaller than Scotland and not older as nations than Scotland can demand allegiance, then what is the reason why Scotland cannot have hers?

Weak leadership

Is it because of Nicola Sturgeon’s lack of interest? Is it because of her incompetence as a pro-indy leader? Or rather because setting up a citizenship would leave her and her masters with no credible excuse whatsoever to restrict the franchise to only those who hold Scotland’s citizenship?

A quick glance at the Census 2011 shows immediately that the number of people from outwith Scotland being added to our population is many, many times bigger than the increase of Scottish population due to people being born here. Actually, if my calculations are not wrong, this should send alarm bells ringing and will immediately cast doubts about the legitimacy of a referendum with such an open franchise to be used as a valid exercise in self determination.

According to the National Records of Scotland, the total population in Scotland at the moment of writing the 2011 census that were 16 years of age or older and that had been born in Scotland were 3,569,936. 473,695 were born in the rUK and 335,441 were born outside the UK. All those could vote in a referendum with an open franchise.

Based in that 2011 census, when you calculate the total number of potential voters born out of Scotland the figure is 809,136, which is equivalent to a 22.7% of the voters born in Scotland. Those 22.7% might have no allegiance to Scotland at all. That percentage is huge and can totally trash the expressed democratic will of the native population.

Born in Scotland

These figures do not take into account how many of those born in Scotland have no allegiance at all to Scotland because they are of direct rUK ascendency and do not see Scotland as their country (or worse, as a nation). The figure of 22.7% may well be a huge underestimation of the infiltration of rUK population into Scotland’s and therefore now how flawed the use of such an open franchise has been.

Why is this important? Because there is something that nobody likes to talk about for fear of being called racist, blood and soil nationalist, extreme ethnic nationalist or some other vacuous and meaningless insult of the sort. That something is the inexcapable fact that being born in Scotland does not immediately give you natural allegiance to Scotland.

You may have been born in Scotland just because your parents were passing by or because your parents moved from another country and brought with them their own allegiance to the country where they came from and that they transferred to you. I should know this very well because it defines me and my siblings down to a Tee. Where I am going with this? Well, an increase in population from outwith Scotland does not increase the sense of Scottish nationhood but rather dilutes it.

An imaginary scenario

On the day of the referendum, let’s imagine that only 70% of those born in Scotland go to the polls (that would be 2,498,955 natives voting). Let’s imagine that due to the strong motivation of “not allowing Scots to breaking up their country” or avoiding depriving the rUK of Scotland’s natural assets, or stopping Scots separating them from the rest of their family down in England, or fear of a hard border that may force them to use a passport to come and use their holiday home in Scotland, 90% of those born outside Scotland go to the polls (that would be 768,679 voters).

Now let’s imagine that as much as 55% of those born in Scotland who go to vote, vote Yes (that would be 1,374,425 yes votes from the Scots natives). Let’s imagine that only 10% of those born out of Scotland vote yes (that would be 76,868 yes votes from those born out of Scotland). The total number of Yes votes would be 1,451,293. For those who think 90% against yes is an exaggeration, I invite you to look at the figures for the last indyref in Quebec. In some anglo speaking areas in Quebec, the vote against independence was 100%. If 45% of those born in Scotland and 90% of those born outwith Scotland vote No, then the total figure for No would be 1,816,341

If only – the eternal regret

In that imaginary scenario, if only Scots natives had voted, Yes would have won by 55%. When you include those not born in Scotland with a strong motivation for the UK to remain intact, then that Yes vote plummets to a 44.4%. Do those figures sound familiar?

The information available in the 2011 census does not allow you to work out how many of the voters born in Scotland will never vote yes because their ancestry is from the rUK (for example with MOD, civil servant parents or oil workers for example). Needless to say, that there are others who will never vote Yes because members of their family live outwith Scotland and perceive Scotland’s independence as an obstacle to see their family. The message that Nicola Sturgeon has sent for five years that “we have to convert more No voters” is bollocks of the highest order.

Given the demographics and ancestry in front of us, in my personal view, expecting anything more than a 55% yes vote among the natives is unrealistic with such a percentage of people from a different ancestry among natives Scots.

Between 2001 and 2011 Scotland’s population increased by over 233.000 people. Of that number only 1484 were Scots born ( a net gain of Scots born). What this tells us is that of the extra 233,392 people Scotland gained in those 10 years, a huge 99% are from different ancestry, with no sense of Scottish nationhood and much less motivation to vote Yes. Scotland seems to be haemorrhaging Yes voters and swapping them for No voters.

Again, when you see that of all the extra people Scotland gets in 10 years, only a 1% are more likely to be Yes voters because have some form of allegiance to Scotland. Using the 2011 census figures, for every 1484 natives that you convert to Yes in 5 years, you get another 231,000 extra No voters of which you will have to convert at least half to keep the balance and ensure Yes wins.

I would have liked to use more up to date figures but Nicola Sturgeon ensured that could not happen by blocking the 2020 census, using the excuse of Covid. Amazingly the census went ahead in England, Wales and Northern Ireland it was just in Scotland that it proved impossible.

NOTES

1. This article was first published in ‘Yours For Scotland‘ website.

2. The data above was extracted from the census 2001-2011, at https://www.scotlandscensus.gov.uk/ or calculated from that data after downloading the tables. “Majority of Scottish born voters said ‘yes”, written by MIntosh, L, March 2015 in The Sunday Times “Independence referendum figures revealed: Majority of Scots born here voted YES while voters from elsewhere in UK said NO”, by Clegg D, March 2015, in The Daily Record.

3. Scottish Demographics by Professor Alfred Baird: https://wp.me/p4fd9j-q6v

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Played For Fools

Alba's manifesto alone in taking Scottish independence seriously – Alex  Salmond | Evening Standard
Right Hon. Alex Salmond MP

The former First Minister of Scotland, the Right Hon Alex Salmond MP, now leader of the ALBA party reminds us we are still at the mercy of vindictive colonials who think Scotland has to be tamed. This is what London MPs said in 1707, and in many successive occasions since when the populace rebelled over iniquitous laws, policies and taxes imposed on the people of Scotland. Wesminster acknowledges Scotland is a separate country but refuses to drop the habit of a lifetime – kleptomania – the desperate need of our wealth for its economy and our youth for wars.

Alex Salmond reminds us Tory and Labour are as bad as each other when it comes to hobbling Scotland’s progress. England keeps telling us the truth, it needs Scotland, just not our affection.

WE CAN’T ALLOW OURSELVES TO BE PLAYED FOR FOOLS

Scotland’s crucial carbon capture hopes have now been sunk by the Westminster Government for the third time in 15 years – once by Labour and now twice by the Tories.

The plans are truly revolutionary – take Scotland’s biggest carbon emitting problems at Grangemouth, Peterhead and St Fergus and turn them into solutions. Instead of just taking world warming hydrocarbons out of the North Sea fields, send the carbon dioxide back to store and save us all. And, in the process, generate tens of thousands of jobs in new clean hydrogen gas technology.

That was the plan for Peterhead power station that Labour politicians Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling sunk in 2007. It was an even more ambitious “Goldeneye” proposal that the Tories and Liberal Democrats sabotaged in 2015, after falsely promising its go-ahead to buy votes in the independence referendum campaign. And now Prime Minister Johnson adds his name to this Ragman Rolls of treachery by refusing to place the Acorn project, or Scottish cluster, based at St Fergus at the front of the carbon capture queue.

Of course at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday “sunshine” Boris claimed it really was a triumph for Scotland to be on the subs bench and we should all be very, very happy. That is what was said in 2007 and 2015! The hopes and technology for carbon capture are not pie in the sky. They are now going ahead in the Humber and Liverpool. And totally overwhelmingly the prime location place for the key project is St Fergus with a ready baked pipeline system to transport the CO2 back from whence it came.

Without the prospect of carbon capture on a serious scale, the UK Government does not have a prayer of meeting its carbon reduction targets and Johnson would be further embarrassed and humiliated in front of the planet in Glasgow in just ten days’ time.Instead it’s now Scotland to be humiliated, stabbed in the back yet again by perfidious Westminster.

After sending £350 billion of oil revenues straight into the maw of the London Treasury since the 1980s, we get zero return instead of zero carbon. Who is there to defend Scottish workers and Scottish based technology? Not the SNP/Green coalition in Edinburgh, arm wrestling over the lunacy of closing down the North Sea, instead of embracing the hydrogen economy.

A justification for carbon capture is that it makes feasible new field consents in the North Sea and to place an enforceable zero carbon obligation on these consents. It makes continuing North Sea production compatible with the future of the planet.Not the Union jokes in the Scottish Conservative Party whose political influence is negligible as Johnson targets consolidating the Tory breakthrough in the north of England with carbon capture investment and sinks yet more countless billions into ageing and failed nuclear technology in Suffolk.

Scotland welcomes the world to Glasgow with the ability to be an exemplar in all things green. No country on earth has more access to renewables and no hydrocarbon producer is better placed to embrace the clean hydrogen fuel of the future.

But none of this happens spontaneously. It requires industrial strategy. In any modern economy lots of things are important but only a few are really important. For Scotland carbon capture is one of these. With it we consolidate our position as a world energy capital.

Without it the key plants of our industrial structure –Grangemouth, St Fergus, the North Sea itself – will fall like nine pins. Scotland does not lack power sources but the political power to turn these opportunities into reality and transform our country into one of the green engines of the planet.

If we allow ourselves to be played for fools again then we will have no-one to blame but ourselves.

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Referendum Blues

Scotland’s working class voted overwhelmingly to restore independence

By putting all her eggs in one basket, a referendum as the final arbiter, Nicola Sturgeon risks making her mark on Scotland’s history as an all-time loser, for the divisiveness of policies she has appropriated from others and subsequently mismanaged, the hunting of Alex Salmond that has stained Scotland’s legal system (some might argue illuminated its corrupt centre), and in being the keeper of they keys of liberty who handed them over to the British state for the next hundred years. ALBA MP, Kenny MacAskill lays out hi fears of another referendum, a free-for-all vote of the same type that was lost in 2014, though 53% of Scots who voted, voted Yes.

Ceding Power to the Enemy

Boris says no to another referendum, so is that it? Well, that may suit some and even the First Minister seems phlegmatic about it, saying she has time on her side. But for many independence cannot wait, and with the hardship being inflicted and the economy being wrecked, it’s neither an option nor sustainable for many. So, it’s no wonder many in the independence movement are looking at other democratic ways of delivering change.

In any event circumstances are making a second referendum less and less likely. Not only did the First Minister cede a veto to Boris Johnson with her requirement for Westminster consent but she even conceded the timing, by saying not until coronavirus recovery.

No amount of posturing by the Scottish Government or bellicosity by SNP representatives can hide that there’s just been no preparation made for a second plebiscite. Organisation, strategy and funding have all been left by the wayside. The now almost annual statements by senior party leaders of another one coming later this year, definitely next year or whenever, have as much authenticity as saying there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Faux outrage over the Supreme Court can’t hide that fact that they’ve conceded the Westminster veto. To be fair it’s always been there but to explicitly cede it was inept and to continue to pursue it as a strategy when it’s doomed’ s an abrogation of leadership. Bluster can’t change what they already knew. If it’s a reserved competency they need Westminster consent.

Recent remarks by the SNP President about the striking down of recent Scottish Parliament legislation were fatuous. The signing off of a Bill by the Presiding Officer simply says that its within scope at the stage when it’s lodged. Not that it will be if amended, as it was, or even that it won’t be liable to challenge in the courts. Similarly, Lord Advocates, as with any legal advisor, can declare a case to be stateable but that’s a far cry from them viewing it as winnable.

There’s precedent. Legislation on Minimum Unit Pricing was always within scope but arguable. It was clear at the outset that it was going to be challenged all the way through legal process. Neither the PO sign off, nor Lord Advocates advice could absolve that.

However, they were always confident of the legal position and were justified by the outcome. In the most recent instance though almost every legal voice thought differently. It was a political move to be seen to be doing something, when you weren’t doing much at all.

But it’s reaffirmed that Westminster calls the shots and no Scottish Parliament Bill will achieve a second referendum without their approval. A consultative one was possible but disdained by the Scottish Government and now with a unionist boycott, it’s doomed.

Nicola Sturgeon mightn’t have a Plan B but others do. The referendum road may be run, but independence’s still going, albeit down new routes. There are other ways.

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The Last Duel – a Review

Jodie Comer in The Last Duel.
Acting honours belong to the women, in particular Jodie Comer as the defiled wife

The last time I wrote about Matt Damon was his almost solo performance as a marooned astronaut in ‘The Martian‘. I commented he had a habit of choosing storylines in which his character always gets rescued. In Ridley Scott’s medievil epic Damon rescues others for a change, principally his wife. This film carries the same director and cinematographer and lots of the same set designers.

One of the reasons I wanted to see the film, besides never missing a Ridley movie, was being told it had a battle in Scotland at its centre, a reconstruction. This was back in the day when the Auld Alliance fell apart, albeit for a short time, with Normandy as it was then. I have to advise moviegoers the battle is there alright, all thirty seconds of it, in woods that could have been on the backlot of Pinewood studios. No Scots are identifiable, we get a rustle in the bushes followed by a whoosh of fiery arrows.

To the weaknesses first. The Last Duel is an ambitious text demanding a European auteur who understands human complexity and psychology. Only in the third act does the plot get close to contemporary parallels it so cleary hopes to illustrate, namely the violent sexual assault of a women and the assault of her mind thereafter that she is forced to undergo by prurient men in a trial to prove her innocence. The film could lose almost an hour of its two-and-a-half hour length, an hour devoted to the trial wherein lies all the drama, tension, and male guile and guilt.

You can see why the film was cold-shouldered when premiered at Cannes. For all the film’s MeToo credentials, it stays determinedly bogged down in its own misogyny and macho soup. This is a Hollywood movie, remember, with big stars, so women have to be depicted as saintly wives or randy sluts. There is nothing in between, except dried old mothers and peasant women in moth-eaten sack cloth. The film’s loss of face has to be disappointing for its creative team of writer-actors. Nicole Holofcener, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

Initiator of the project, Holofcener needs more of an introduction. He mother was once a set designer, her father acted on Broadway, her stepfather was Woody Allen’s long-time producer. (To get into the movie business it helps to have good connections.) Holofcener was apprentice editor on Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and her films have all been compared to those of Woody Allen, wealthy characters, talkative and funny, her last, Enough Said, in 2013. Her films are generally interested in female consciousness and young woman’s merciless emotional maturity. (Her description.) This is Holofcener’s first commercial film and probably why she teamed up with Scott of Gladiator, plus Damon and Affleck to get the historical battle side of the plot as plausible as possible.

One other reason the film was not overly praised, the plot is a straight steal from the master filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa’s Roshomon, in which the attack on a woman is seen from three sides, the woman’s memory, the attacker and her husband’s recall. That film remains a truly great piece of original story telling. The Last Duel is merely entertaining. It doesn’t leave you questioning male attitudes as you exit the cinema. It does not teach you anything, and some dim men will think it is all about a woman’s duty to stand by their man. What lingers in your thoughts is Hollywood got the obligatory scene of violence on women repeated three times.

To my mind, what irked the most is a film supposedly investigating rape, is really a film about men in armour, carousing, fighting, and jousting. It should be better than Hollywood swordplay with penis and steel.

It is based on Eric Jager’s bestseller The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial By Combat in Medieval France. In 1386, the Norman knight Jean de Carrouges demands of King Charles VI the right to a fight-to-the-death with Jacques Le Gris, his one-time close friend with whom he gets embroiled over a land and military captaincy dispute. After much shouting and sueing, the king grants de Carrouges his wish, more looking for a day’s enjoyment watching the killing arts than justice.

Matt Damon as Jean de Carrouges.
Matt Damon, armour clad and still giving one of his best performances.

For most of its length the story is told from the perspective of the victim’s husband, It ends with a well-known Ridley Scott farewell, the extended hand-to-hand battle watched by a baying crowd – the gist of Gladiator – followed by the birth of a baby. (Not a spoiler.)

Damon plays the pompous and quick to anger, Jean de Carrouges, and the visually rivetting Adam Driver plays his evil nemesis, Jacques Le Gris, a man always on the make, even to losing the trust of friends just to gain a bit of rape on the side. ‘Le Gris’ is a wonderfully onomatopoeic name for a villain.

Ben Afflick takes a blonde-hair role as friend and employer to Le Gris, Pierre d’Alençon, offering him free goes at roistering, or is it rogering, three in a bed. (I remain unconvinced a raddled alcoholic can bed three women simultaneously while intoxified.) Pierre d’Alençon becomes Le Gris’ patron but lives to regret it. While Afflick has always had the problem of being a really nice guy who should never play bad guys, Driver is well-suited to his role, carpetbagger, liar, and self-pitying bastard of the first degree. In this case, Adam Driver is as watchable as ever, that is, ever smirk, glance, and body language.

Accents are all over the place; is it north France, middle France, the south downs of merry England, eastern Europe? We do not quite get a “Go, go, go!”, or a Bronx “Yonder is da castle where ma true love dwells”, yet the speeches don’t always exise the wrong idiom. It manages to avoid idiosyncratic Americanisms though we feel sure we will hear one. There is one ‘I beseech you, sire’, to allay our fears, as for a heightened language, none is evident, but it does stay clear of post-modern banality – just.

Those who rise above the believable derry-do, clanking metal, whinnying horses, mud, gory blood and rooms lit by a hundred candles and a roaring log fire, the women stand out way above the men, though too many play super-numerary roles. I noticed Harriet Walter as Nicole de Carrouges, mother to Matt Damon’s Jean. (How time flies. I remember meeting her when she was in a Shakespearian production at Edinburgh’s Kings Theatre.) She is alternately, steely, affectionate, wise, of smart counsel, but knowing her place as a woman in a man’s world, useless to help in the final conflict.

It’s when the film finally gives Jodie Comer as Marguerite her freedom to act more than a piece of meat, in the third chapter, that The Last Duel elevates to a tense, emotionally powerful portrait of systemic misogyny. Here we get close to the best dialogue that might have been an Arthur Miller first draft.

Surrounding by powerful men, Comer shows how her character is absoluely alone, left to save herself from the possibility of burnt at the stake if proven a liar. She exudes real strength of character, loyalty, honesty and nobility none of the men have managed to show in all their dealings with each other. It is here where Comer really takes over with an Oscar-worthy performance, and gives truth to the film’s marketing tagline of “the woman who defied a nation.”

Considering everything is bathed in a cold blue light to denote Normandy in winter, Marguerite is far from the frigid aristocrat. She has something to say to us, and to her husband post-trial, the moment actually the strongest scene between Comer and Damon. Marguerite really ought to have been centre of the drama for its full length.

After almost two years watching old films on television, cinemas closed, it was good to be in the back row again taking notes, though wearing a Covid mask. No doubt there are other films in town that might be of greater intellectual weight, at least The Last Duel was not Monty Python and the Holy Grail – 2.

The film can be summed up in one word ‘gritty’. Ridley Scott’s training in television commercials keeps the pace moving, the camera work excellent, music forgettable, but enough dramatic material, commited performances, and moments of gruesome action to stop you looking for a break in the cinema bar.

  • STAR RATING: THREE STARS
  • Cast: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Ben Afflick
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Writer: Nicole Holofcener, Matt Damon, Ben Afflick, based on the book by Eric Jager
  • Cinematographer: Dariusz Wolski
  • Composer:  Harry Greghson Williams
  • Certificate: 18
  • Duration: 2 hours 32 minutes
  • RATING CRITERIA
  • 5 plus: potential classic, innovative. 5: outstanding. 4: excellent. 3.5: excellent but flawed. 3: very good if formulaic. 2: straight to DVD. 1: crap; why did they bother?

Posted in Film review | 2 Comments

Scotland’s Rights – a Discussion

A nation’s right to free will and peaceful co-existence is a basic of democracy

Very rarely does this site post a video, and usually only when it is tied to an historic event. But this is one occasion when a video is better than the written word. International readers are not all following Grouse Beater’s Twitter News Bite account, hence this essay site is a good place to publish the contents of a discussion.

At the invitation of broadcaster, blogger and host, Roddy MacLeod, domiciled in sunny Catalonia, I got together with Iain Lawson, the former SNP apparatchik of the SNP now an unrepentant ALBA party member, and the eminent maritime industry expert, Professor Alfred Baird, to discuss Scotland’s current crisis – that is, the alarming inertia and depressing colonial outlook of the SNP. The platform offered by Roddy is one of the many that have arisen from the outcome of the 2014 vote on autonomy, about as close to a free press as any that disappeared early in the 19th century when press barons gobbled up newspapers national and local to build their empires and sway public opinion.

Gravelly voiced Iain Lawson is a walking encyclopedia of SNP history, the down-to-earth Alfred Baird now much vaunted for his clinical study of colonial Scotland, his collected research published by Kindle under the title ‘Doun-Howden: The Socio-Political Determinants of Scottish Independence‘. The book is a synthesis of what so many Scottish patriots have been arguing about for generations, liberty, fearful of seeing the dissolution of our country under increasingly intolerant and vindictive English rule.

The discussion ranges over who should vote in a franchise for an independence referendum (the 2014 referendum was almost an all-comers welcome vote), Scotland’s ambitions to rejoin the European union, and how inept or antagonistic is the current Scottish Government in protecting our civil rights. Above all, the key question is, how do we protect our sovereignty?

You could call the panelists the Four Horsemen of the Apocalyse, if you enjoy a joke, but I think we have things to say that are well-informed unlike most opponents of Scotland’s conmstitutional legality to exist again as a separate state. At the very least, nosy readers might wish to see what books I have on my office shelves if their their attention drifts from the debate.

The discussion lasts one hour. Just click on the image below.

Posted in Scottish Independence Referendum | 3 Comments

England Goes Over the Top

Frost, former boss of the Scotch Whisky Association, once said the EU Single Market was critical to the UK

David George Hamilton Frost, Baron Frost, CMG, PC, is a British diplomat, politician and appointed member of the House of Lords serving as Minister of State at the Cabinet Office since 2021. He is also that old-fashioned thing but in a suit and tie not army fatigues – a mercenary.

Frost is happy to take the King’s shilling to do his bidding even when he knows his task goes against his beliefs. Frost has hardened his rhetoric considerably. He has submitted legal texts based on a thorough rewriting of the agreement, which he acknowledged would involve replacing the existing protocol with a new one. “What does it cost the EU to put a new protocol in place? As it seems to us, very little,” he asked blithely.

Frost is on record extolling the virtues of European membership and the Single Market, yet we see him telling the Irish and the world, that under Boris Johnson, a treaty he negotiated and signed weeks ago is worthless. He wants it altered. “For the EU now to say that the protocol – drawn up in extreme haste in a time of great uncertainty – can never be improved upon, when it is so self-evidently causing such significant problems, would be a historic misjudgement.” With that kind of self-serving thuggery the English built an empire.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said the latest British government demands on Brexit are “very hard to accept” and insisted that the ECJ has to be the body that interprets European law and oversees the single market. “Our consistent position as the European Union and as the Irish Government is that the ECJ has to be the body that interprets European law and European standards,” he said at a post-budget press conference in Dublin. “I don’t understand how a British court or any other court could do that.” Earlier he said the protocol was designed to do three things – avoid a hard border in Ireland, protect the integrity of the EU’s single market and allow Northern Ireland to trade freely with both Britain and the EU.

The other David, David Henig, is a specialist student of post-Brexit chaos and here takes a sober look at the repercussions with particular attention to Frost’s attempts at bullying the EU into submission. One suspects most Scots are bored to death hearing about Brexit, far more concerned about rising fuel prices and food shortages, wishing instead we were cut loose from England’s exceptionalism, but it is worth reading what Henig has to say.

England Goes Over the Top

In the last two years the United Kingdom has signed two treaties with the European Union, the withdrawal agreement containing the Northern Ireland protocol, and a trade and co-operation agreement. It is worth recalling this because to listen to the government would give the impression it faces a deeply hostile EU which wants nothing more than to see Brexit fail economically and Northern Ireland suffer most.

According to the UK’s lead EU negotiator, Lord Frost, speaking in Lisbon this week, the government of which he is part is no longer obsessed with Brexit. Any appearance to the contrary, such as repeatedly suggesting the EU is unreasonable, is merely an unfortunate misunderstanding.

If this sounds familiar, there is good reason. For it suggests a UK government which 5½ years after the Brexit vote still does not understand the difficulty this causes in Northern Ireland.

Equally it suggests that its negotiating tactics remain the same. If the UK speaks a bit more clearly, sends some more legal text, makes a few more threats, that the EU will finally see reason; it will realise borders are not required for goods going from Great Britain to the EU via Ireland, and the single market will be protected all the same.

It is often stated that Britain has not got over victory in the second World War, but these tactics are more suggestive of the first World War: once more over the top and this time it will be different. And, so far, with the same lack of success. But this time, or at least some time, it will be successful, for anything other than Northern Ireland fully Brexiting on the same basis as the rest of the country will always be a problem to Frost.

Now it may seem incredible that the UK government has not enhanced its understanding of Brexit in 5½ years. Some think that it must be deliberate, an attempt to undermine the EU or Belfast Agreement. Yet, a close reading of actions and words suggests it’s more a case of genuine belief.

Most prominent in this regard is Frost’s constant underplaying of the risks to the single market to support the argument that a light touch regulatory approach cannot be a threat. In the latest speech he suggests the UK will never check imported products as the EU does, as if this issue is simply unimportant.

The latest focus on the unacceptability of the European Court of Justice ruling in Northern Ireland also fits the incomprehension theory. If the entire protocol is unnecessary then that goes for the governance structures as much as anything else.

It is unsurprising that someone so convinced they are right in turn becomes frustrated at the failure of the other side to understand them. This looks like provocation to him and in turn makes the constant suggestions of invoking Article 16 seem like the appropriate response. Not that he actually wants trade conflict, in case things get messy. It is just that he thinks the repeated threats will eventually make the EU see sense.

That a UK minister has such a simplistic world view might sound unbelievable, but it fits with a wider view at odds with conventional wisdom. In a February 2020 speech Frost suggested without evidence that the impact of regulatory barriers to trade were exaggerated. This week’s sequel offered the surprising thought that the UK had no interest in what happened in the EU, a view unlikely to be shared by business.

At the Conservative party conference he described the UK’s EU membership as a long bad dream and now suggests EU countries are essentially undemocratic. For an ex-diplomat and negotiator, his remarks seemed poorly framed to win friends. His incitement of Northern Ireland’s unionists is downright dangerous. But he is convinced that with the EU only tough talk delivers change.

None of which is easy to handle for Ireland and the EU. For assuming Frost doesn’t change his views, and the EU maintains a belief the single market needs protection, there is no possible stable solution.

Declare victory

Compromise proposals are of no use when one side doesn’t recognise an issue, even if it may temporarily accept them and declare victory, to return to the subject later.

Previously the threat of EU economic sanctions and US diplomatic pressure stopped the UK government disowning the protocol. That may change if frustration grows and the serious incitement of unionists proves hard to reverse. This time the UK may go over the top, and if not, like those first world war generals Frost will retain this course of action as the main future option. Any statement by the European Union that it will respond in kind will be disbelieved and any climbdown in the face of pressure from business or the US will be temporary.

Ultimately, Frost and Brexit ultras are never going to accept they are wrong about the single market and Northern Ireland. They simply do not accept that EU law should apply to goods there.

British prime minister Boris Johnson may tire of all this if it looks like costing him popularity, or bringing about a trade conflict that could impose real damage. A US trade deal, conditioned on acceptance of the protocol, would keep matters quiet for a while.

For the moment the PM is probably happy to keep the troublemakers onside. The consequential economic damage is unfortunate, like the huge casualties tolerated by first World War generals.

Behind all of this, the case of Northern Ireland and Brexit remains hugely complex. The view of the UK lead negotiator is simplistic. That conflict is irreconcilable.

NOTE:

David Henig: is an specialist on trade and policy issues arising from Brexit and the UK’s new relationship with the EU. Henig is the UK Director at the European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE) and a leading expert and writer on Brexit negotiations and the trade policy issues arising from Brexit. He draws extensively on the experience of three years involvement with US and EU on the ambitious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks, where he worked with negotiators on both sides, particularly on regulatory issues, at one point becoming a formal intermediary. After the UK Brexit referendum vote in 2016 he helped establish the new UK Department for International Trade, joining many of the UK’s first working groups with non-EU countries and developing options for UK trade with the USA. He graduated from Oxford University and started his career in consulting and business development with Capgemini and Serco before joining the UK Civil Service as a trade expert.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The Unionist’s Fear

Jonathan Powell, diplomat, key figure in the NI Good Friday Agreement

Finally, an Englishman of influence admits that if Scotland wants to annul the Union treaty it is free to do so. Jonathan Powell, the former chief of staff to Tony Blair, was the man behind the hard-nosed negotiations for the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement. He still believes in the process of democracy. He made it absolutely plain in a long-form interview with Basque newspaper Gara, published on Wednesday 14th of this month, October.

Powell said it is be “impossible” for the UK to keep Scotland in the Union if a majority wants to leave. In addition, he threw cold water on the unionist claim that Westminster can delay a second referendum indefinitely, and do it for no reason other than frustrating a democratic right. “The UK’s position of not giving into a second referendum will be difficult to sustain. The key to the Union is consent”.

Talking to a journaliust from a Basque newspaper, Iñaki Soto, Powell was asked for his views on Scotland, Northern Ireland and Catalonia. Powell said the key for him was “consent” and nodded to the Good Friday Agreement as an example. “Republicans accepted that the status of Northern Ireland cannot be changed without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. In return, measures were taken on the sharing of power, the Gaelic, the protection of human rights … that is, it was not one-sided, but consent had to be given.” By this he means, Westminster cannot govern by coercion or suppression.

“Something similar is the case with Scotland. In the long run, it is impossible to think that the UK Government can insist that Scotland stay in if a majority wants to leave” His emphasis on majority consent was not made on the basis of wild draconian conditions, such as 60 or 70 percent of voter affirmation must be attained to instruct a referendum, as counselled by colonial-minded SNP politicians, or anti-democratic Tories. He talks as a genuine democrat is expected to speak. “In the end, consent establishes that in a democracy people cannot be governed in the long term against their will.”

Powell then discussed the issue of whether or not there is a majority in favour of a united Ireland and what measures would be used to decide a majority if there was a vote. He said: “On the one hand, because the Catholic population is growing and it is likely that soon there will be more Catholics than Protestants. For another, Brexit has caused people to no longer support the UK project and support a united Ireland.” Powell theorises on how this would be decided – consistent polling, the percentage needed for a majority, surveys over six months, and other critical aspects.

In a final flourish that will upset the rulers of Britannia’s waves he added, “The same goes for Scotland. The Tory government is telling the Scots that they cannot have a referendum when a majority says they want that referendum, it is what they have said in an election and the polls mark that majority. Consent is the key element of politics in the UK.” Or put another way, suppression is tyrannical.

In the intervbiew Powell is discussion Scotland’s future counter to the views of many of his past Labour colleagues, and not just Tony Blair who thought resurrecting Scotland’s Parliament a dangerous thing that would have “the nationalists asking for more” – as if some sort of crime. Powell also reminded the newspaper that one of Blair’s key aides, Pat McFadden, wrote ahead of releasing plans for devolution in 1997, to warn “a couple of very worried Scottish MPs” were concerned about “the slippery slope to independence”.

Blair and Brown”s premiership, privately always conceded that Scotland could hold an independence referendum without Westminster’s consent. As the politically informed know, Brown has never crossed the threshhold of the Scottish Parliament, nor refer to its existence in his increasingly manic, repetitive speeches about “super-devolution”. Brown did his best to undermine Salmond’s SNP on its election night, an action some might consider an attempt at a coup. he also helped to compose the fraudulant ‘Vow’, and refuses to discuss Scotland’s future with Sturgeon’s SNP, preferring instead to lock a few dozen elderely in a room and lecture them unchallenged – a sort of blue rinse fan club.

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Posted in Scottish Independence Referendum | 5 Comments

Dear Scottish Government

Thousands march through Glasgow in support of Scottish Independence |  London Evening Standard | Evening Standard

The following open letter is primarily aimed at the Scottish National Party, (SNP), currently holding the majority of seats in Scotland’s parliament. It tries to show another referendum on Scotland’s future risks another defeat.

The SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, is liable to go down in history as the one leader who stuck rigidly to a false choice and in so doing, destroyed the hopes and aspirations of a nation locked in by its aggressive neighbour.

The Scottish Sovereignty Research Group (SSRG), writes to share their informed collective view on how Scotland could become independent within a short period of time, join the European Free Trade Association, rejoin the single market, and subsequently build the constitution and institutions of the new Scottish state.

The SSRG’s plan is completely at odds with the self-tailored straight jacket that is the SNP’s fictional ‘Gold Standard’, a one-way only solution to a nation fighting for its democratic rights.

A referendum essentially amounts to, be pleasant to the tyranny that is Westminster, treat the regressive right-wing with respect, and if pleas for full democracy are rejected as they will be by a despotic administration – ask again just as nicely, ad infinitum. This strategy could be best described as the circle of strife. (The letter is a 20 minute read if taken carefully.)

Dear Members of Parliament and Members of the Scottish Parliament

A. The Conservative UK Government has reiterated numerous times that it has no intention of granting a Section 30 order to hold a referendum.

B. Holding a referendum outside of a Section 30 order would be subject to legal challenge, likely boycotted by the Unionist parties, and not recognised by the UK state.

C. Even if a Section 30 order were granted, holding a referendum under the auspices of the UK Electoral Commission would be highly problematic for the following reasons.

1. The referendum would be held using the franchise of local elections, which would allow for part-time residents and those with vacation homes to vote in what should be limited to Scots and those who permanently make Scotland their home. Many countries with a written constitution limit the franchise on constitutional matters to its citizens and permanent residents.

2. It would also allow the UK Government undue influence in the timing, framing, and execution of the referendum. Given the UK’s stated opposition to Scottish independence, it is inevitable that this influence would be calculated to damage the prospects for a successful referendum. 

Does Nicola Sturgeon’s timetable for indyref2 stand up to scrutiny?

It is also our view that the situation could not be more urgent for Scotland to become independent, achieve international recognition, rejoin the EU single market, and effectively recover physically and economically from the Covid pandemic. The recent UK Supreme Court ruling over the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law as outwith the competence of the Scottish Parliament only underscores this urgency.

This is why we at the SSRG have developed the following legal, democratic, and peaceful means to rapidly achieve independence and international recognition.
 
I. Pro-independence Scottish MP’s withdraw from the 1707 Treaty of Union  

When the Treaty of Union was negotiated and ratified in 1707, it was to be a Union of equals between Scotland and England. Scotland retained its own legal and educational system, and under the terms of the treaty the UK Parliament could not interfere in Scots Law. Scotland did not renounce its sovereignty, which had been legally established in the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, the Claim of Right in 1689, and reaffirmed numerous times including by the UK Parliament as recently as July 4, 2018. 

It is the informed view of the SSRG that there is nothing in the UK unwritten constitution that prevents a majority of Scottish MPs, representing the Scottish party to the Treaty of Union, to collectively vote to withdraw from it. This would mean that if 30 of the 59 Scottish MPs voted to withdraw, the Treaty of Union would be annulled. While it may be argued that only the full UK Parliament may vote on such matters, English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) set a precedent which Westminster Parliamentary procedure can allow MPs from the UK nations to vote on issues uniquely concerning that nation. Scottish MPs can do likewise in voting to withdraw from the 1707 Treaty of Union.

Nicola Sturgeon cannot assume today’s young folk are tomorrow’s Yes voters

Previously, this was essentially the view held by Margaret Thatcher and politicians of all political stripes, that if in a General Election Scotland elected a majority of pro-independence MPs to the Westminster Parliament, this would constitute a mandate to dissolve the Union. This has now occurred in three General Elections: 2015, 2017, and 2019. Based on this view, this incontestably represents three mandates in a row to withdraw from the Treaty of Union. Nothing in the unwritten UK constitution prevents this method to achieve independence from being employed.

II. The Scottish Parliament Reaffirms the Sovereignty of the Scottish People and declares that it is the only Parliament which Represents their Sovereign Will

It has been legally established and is beyond doubt that Scotland is a sovereign nation and that the people of Scotland are a sovereign people, and that they and they alone can determine the form of governance they so choose.

The current Scottish Parliament was elected by the Scottish people in a general election on May 6 2021, and comprises a majority of MSPs whose parties declared their support for Scottish independence in their manifestos for that general election. 

This majority has empowered the Scottish Parliament to seek independence, and the Scottish Government has indicated that it will pursue the referendum route to achieve that end, whether the proposed referendum is held with or without a Section 30 request to the UK Government. However, by the power vested in it by the sovereign Scottish people the Scottish Government can choose to use whatever democratic means it deems suitable to achieve independence.  

The Scottish Parliament should declare that it is the only parliament which represents the sovereign will of the Scottish people. To this end, it should pass a motion to declare that Scotland as a sovereign nation is withdrawing with immediate effect from the Treaty of Union with England, citing the myriad of ways in which the UK (English) Government has broken the terms of the Treaty over the years, and continues to do so in respect of Brexit and the Internal Market Bill among others.

It could be argued that the independence majority in the Scottish Parliament was not elected with a mandate to withdraw from the Treaty of Union, and therefore cannot pursue this route. However, elected governments are empowered, and indeed duty bound to take whatever actions they see fit to best serve the interests of their electorate and the nation they represent. Achieving independence in a post-Brexit UK is clearly in Scotland’s interest. 

The Scottish Government is on record with frequent declarations that independence is the only real solution to the serious problems facing the country. They should be aware that as these problems increase and UK constitutional obstacles continue to impede progress,  they already hold the power to implement the solution they continually advocate.

III. Withdrawing from the Treaty of Union and assertion of Scottish Democratic Parliamentary Supremacy to be followed by a Two-Year Transition Period to Full Independence

During the two-year transition period between the assertion of sovereignty and full independence, commissions will be formed by a national assembly to perform key tasks, including but not limited to the following:

1. National Assembly
The Scottish Government should establish a National Assembly comprising all the talents from the MSPs and MPs (MPs recalled from the House of Commons) and representatives of all facets of Scottish civic society, research groups, business, industry and the law to manage and implement the changes required during transition.

2. International recognition 
Widespread international recognition is essential to Scotland being recognised as a sovereign independent nation. Dissolution of the Union, the reassertion of Scottish sovereignty and affirmation of the supreme governance of the Scottish Parliament will confer the competences necessary to negotiate and ratify international treaties and the powers to abide by them. The Scottish Government shall immediately seek recognition from other nations and international organisations, clearly explaining and emphasising the peaceful and democratic nature of the means whereby full independence was achieved.

International law is silent on how the independence of a nation can be legitimately achieved, leading to international recognition. The 2010 Kosovo case is instructive regarding how this method of Scotland achieving independence would be perceived by the international community and organisations.  

The following are excerpts from the written statement by the United Kingdom over the request for an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice regarding the question: “Is the unilateral declaration of independence by the provisional institutions of self-government of Kosovo in accordance with international law?” By a vote of 10 to four, the ICJ advisory opinion of July 22 2010 on Kosovo held that “the adoption of the declaration of independence of February 17 2008 did not violate general international law because international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence.” 

5.5 Consistent with this general approach, international law has not treated the legality of the act of secession under the internal law of the predecessor State as determining the effect of that act on the international plane. In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor State’s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition.

5.6 Nor is compliance with the law of the predecessor State a condition for the declaration of independence to be recognised by third States, if other conditions for recognition are fulfilled. The conditions do not include compliance with the internal legal requirements of the predecessor State. Otherwise the international legality of a secession would be predetermined by the very system of internal law called in question by the circumstances in which the secession is occurring.

5.7 For the same reason, the constitutional authority of the seceding entity to proclaim independence within the predecessor State is not determinative as a matter of international law. In most if not all cases, provincial or regional authorities will lack the constitutional authority to secede. The act of secession is not thereby excluded. Moreover, representative institutions may legitimately act, and seek to reflect the views of their constituents, beyond the scope of already conferred power.

Therefore, according to the UK’s own submission in the Kosovo case, UK law cannot determine the legality of Scottish secession under international law. Whether the UK Government grants a Section 30 order or not is irrelevant. It is up to individual states and the wider international community to determine whether this means of achieving independence is a peaceful, democratic means of self-determination, and whether or not to recognise Scotland as an independent state. This submission also holds that Scotland can act outside the Scotland Act to achieve self-determination and independence.

Because self-determination is applicable to all peoples, it would be illegal under international law for the United Kingdom Government to prevent this democratic expression of self-determination. It could not legally prevent other states from recognising Scotland and establishing bilateral and multilateral relations. Nor will it be able to prevent Scotland from building the state in the form it chooses. Furthermore, as a successor state, Scotland will be under no legal obligation to assume any of the UK debt. 

3. Membership of EFTA and re-entering the European Economic Area (EEA)

Upon dissolving the Union and reaffirming the sovereignty of the Scottish people, the government should immediately apply to join EFTA (European Free Trade Association), which currently comprises Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. EFTA membership will not prevent Scotland from joining the European Union at a later date, if that is the informed will of the Scottish people. 

Recent expert advice from EFTA has informed the SSRG that Scotland would be rapidly accepted into EFTA, provided the Scottish Government has the competences to negotiate and ratify international treaties and the powers to abide by them. Scottish MPs withdrawing from the 1707 Treaty of Union, and the Scottish Parliament reaffirming the sovereignty of the Scottish people and its democratic legislative supremacy, would fulfill these criteria.  

The support of the EFTA members of the European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein) will enable Scotland to rejoin the EEA. This will allow Scottish producers to export into the EU Single Market without the need for customs tax or tariffs, in effect free movement of goods and services, thus beginning to reverse the damage inflicted on Scotland’s economy by Brexit.

The Scottish Government should agree protocols with the EU covering Scottish agriculture and fisheries. This would give Scottish producers access to the EU single market. Given that Andorra, Turkey, and Monaco are members of the customs union but members of neither the EU nor EFTA, Scotland could probably negotiate membership as well. 

EFTA and the UK signed a free trade deal in June 2021 which means that when Scotland joins EFTA it will be a party to that trade deal and effectively be in a free trade arrangement with England.

4. Freedom of Movement

Membership of the EEA will reinstate reciprocal rights of EEA citizens and Scottish citizens to freedom of movement and other rights. Scottish companies would be able to hire workers from EU and EFTA countries to fill the vacancies in key sectors of the economy brought about by Brexit.

5. Erasmus and other Common EU Schemes. 

Membership of the EEA will enable full reinstatement of the full benefits of the Erasmus Scheme for Scottish students to study in the EU and EU students to study in Scotland. Scotland would be free to participate in the other common EU programmes in research and other fields of their choosing. 

6. EU/EEA Scotland Trade Links

Scottish trade with the EEA requires direct transport links with the EU single market. The Scottish Government should support the establishment of direct sea ferry links between Scottish ports and EU and EFTA markets. (Ireland has successfully established direct ferry routes to the EU following the UK Brexit.)

7. State Pensions

The Scottish Government will introduce measures to increase the Scottish state pension to the level of the EU average pension within a reasonable period of time. (The UK currently has the lowest state pension in Europe.)

8. Free Movement between Scotland and England for People and Trade

The Scottish Government should support free movement of people across the border between Scotland and England during the transition period and thereafter. As a result of the June 2021 free trade deal between EFTA and the UK, there will be a free trade arrangement between Scotland and England from almost the very start of the transition period, and this would naturally continue following the transition period.

9. Building the Infrastructure of Government

The newly independent Scottish Government should build all necessary Scottish state infrastructures, including defence, taxation and welfare, international relations, currency and competent economic management. During the two-year transition process, shadow ministries should be created for reserved responsibilities to work alongside the currently devolved ministries to design the institutions, ready and able to properly function on day one of full independence. 

10. The Scottish Constitution

The Scottish Constitutional Convention will create a written constitution based on current international best practice and work already carried out. The new constitution will be subject to a confirmatory referendum, then the Scottish Government shall adopt the Scottish Constitution ultimately developed and ratified. Elected officials should play a very limited role in the process. 

11. A Confirmatory Referendum

At the end of the two-year transition period, as a sovereign and fully independent state the Scottish Government would hold a confirmatory referendum on whether the Scottish people want to remain fully independent and adopt the constitution developed, or enter into a new treaty with England. Particular attention should be devoted to the franchise, specifying what criteria would define a Scottish national in line with international best practice. The UN “secondary criteria” as used in New Caledonia could be a model to emulate. Voters in this confirmatory referendum will have full knowledge of what they are voting for unlike the situation in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

We are publishing this letter on our website (scottishsovereigntyresearchgroup.org) and in the press with a view to generating wider political debate across Scotland and the independence movement as we seek to help establish the means to achieving independence in the shortest practicable, peaceful and democratic way. We in the SSRG have worked with members of the Common Weal, the Constitutional Commission, Constitution for Scotland and others, and will enthusiastically continue to do so in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation. 

Above all, it is our sincere hope that the Scottish MPs and MSPs avail themselves of this opportunity to become recognised as a fully independent state within the international community. Otherwise Scotland will effectively continue to be a Westminster vassal state for the foreseeable future. Scotland has nothing to lose by pursuing this strategy, and everything to gain.

Yours for Scotland
SSRG Team

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An Homage to Twitter

Participants in marches have been critical of the SNP leadership
Participants in marches have been critical of SNP leadership – they have a right to be heard

Journalist Kevin McKenna retains his wry form in a column belittling politicians who belittle Twitter and those using the platform to exchange political opinion, jokes, cute cat photographs, meeting times, and sports results. For those looking to learn how to indentify Twitter trolls, snark and sociopaths, see my essay link at the foot of McKenna’s article.

THOSE WHO CRITICISE POLITICIANS HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO EXPRESS OPINION

By Kevin McKenna

Those of us who have an edgy relationship with Twitter are often eager to disparage it, even as we use it as a means of exhibiting our latest work. It is a platform for the quack theories of uninformed zealots and allows the sanctimonious and the pious to gather with their burning crosses and hunt down their carefully chosen victims.

Yet, over the piece, Twitter remains rather wonderful. Politicians and journalists who were previously beyond reach are now subject to the rough scrutiny of voters and readers. There was a time not so long ago when journalists could sally forth into print each day with their opinions and agendas knowing that only an anointed handful of readers would be permitted to oppose them in a carefully edited letters page.

Meanwhile, beyond weekly surgeries held in locations and at times of a politician’s choosing, the voters might only glimpse their elected representative for a few minutes every five years at election time.

People power

Social media – and Twitter in particular – has tilted the balance in favour of the people. It’s also been good for our politicians. In Scotland especially you can engage openly and robustly with dozens of them in a way that would have been considered unthinkable and perhaps even disrespectful a generation ago.

Occasionally, I’ll lament the group-think uniformity exhibited by some of them but most are cheerfully open to a discussion, even when they’re being maligned. Nor can I protest too much when some of them choose to have a pop at me. I’m often moved to criticise their motives and abilities from the privileged vantage point of a newspaper column and so I can hardly complain when they return fire in like manner. It shows that they care and that they’re human. They bleed too and it makes me respect them more and perhaps even empathise with them.

That said, I’d caution a few SNP politicians to be careful about the views they have recently expressed about independence supporters in the wider Yes movement. When the All Under One Banner marches began to gather pace a few years ago you could observed a collective curled lip of disdain from the professional political elites. They claimed not to like the look of some speakers and questioned the credentials of others.

Yet, I think this concealed something more primeval. When large groups of rank-and-file activists, bound merely by their devotion to a single, overarching goal, become vociferous it scares the bejesus out of their paid, political representatives.

This is common across all of the UK’s main parties. It’s as though, knowing their immediate economic futures depend on absolute loyalty to the party leadership, they must show they can be relied upon to defend its interests when faced with criticism.

Westminster gaggle

The SNP groups at both Holyrood and Westminster are particularly susceptible to this form of hive thinking. The extraordinary electoral successes of the SNP in the past seven years have seen the emergence of dozens of MPs and MSPs largely unknown to the wider Yes movement. Indeed, many were barely even recognised by their own party managers.

This presented both opportunity and threat for SNP executives. In a short space of time available, the vetting of some may have been less than rigorous, leading to potentially troubling and unkempt outbursts and revelations further down the line. This though, would be offset in the knowledge that many of them, exultant to be receiving salaries and expenses beyond their abilities in the real world, would rarely dare to express dissent from the agreed party line.

We witnessed this last week following another of those gnarly pro-independence marches. This one featured participants bearing placards that were critical of Nicola Sturgeon and Ian Blackford. Indeed the criticism of Blackford spilled into outright mockery.

THE leader of the SNP’s Westminster group ought to have expected this at some point. You don’t try to pose as a “humble crofter” when you are in fact a very rich entrepreneur and not expect to attract some degree of derision.

That several pro-independence supporters would dare to express criticism of the party’s high command was simply too much for some MPs and MSPs. One of them, James Dornan, seemed especially irked. In one tweet he said: “And not a brain in sight. Infiltrators or morons. They can take their pick which column they think they belong in. In which world could this possibly be construed as helping the cause of independence?”

The obvious answer to Dornan’s spluttering outrage of course, is “the real world”. To be fair to the MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, he wasn’t the only one expressing contempt for the masses. Predictably, he was joined by Pete Wishart, a chap who thinks the cause of independence is best served by him aiming to don the apparel of an 18th-century English toff in the role of Speaker of the House of Commons.

Decent, hard working with closed ears

Look, I don’t really know either of these chaps and they seem decent and hard-working enough. But when volunteer marchers give up their weekends to support the cause that provides you with a very generous income it’s probably best that you listen to them rather than revile them. Especially so if you couldn’t actually spare the time to be present yourself. It’s called democratic engagement, chaps; you might once have heard of it.

These people pay your wages and you serve at their pleasure. When the time comes they will campaign unpaid and endlessly for your cause. At elections they will set aside their doubts about the party’s perceived direction of travel and help you to get elected again. Without them you are lost.

At least grant them the occasional right to criticise the leadership without anyone dismissing them as “infiltrators and morons” as Dornan did. In the long absence of anything resembling an effective opposition at Holyrood it’s only natural that the actions of the government – even the one they support – are held accountable by them. Nor is the source of their displeasure hard to find.

Many are understandably frustrated at the glacial pace of moves towards a second referendum, and they have reasonable grounds for asking questions about the present whereabouts of funding for that.

They also harbour reasonable concerns about what they regard as the systematic quashing of any internal dissent in the party machinery.

In particular, they have grave reservations about alleged bullying and intimidation of some women in the party. They merely want the SNP to be the best version of itself. To express these concerns isn’t a sign of delinquency; it’s evidence of a big heart. So, just chill, lads. It’ll get a lot rougher than this during an actual referendum campaign.

NOTE: ‘Jumping the Snark‘ – https://wp.me/p4fd9j-3Tl

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