‘More myths than fly around a candle’ (Inspector Clouseau)
In a previous essay I attempted to draw attention to the myth promulgated by latter-day imperialists that Scotland annulled its parliament and sovereignty forever in 1707. (The tediously unreliable Wikipedia also gets it wrong.) They aver what we have now is a loan from Westminster, and if we Scots don’t behave ourselves they will take back again.
In reality it was England that closed its parliament permanently in order to establish an all-encompassing UK parliament, or ‘the Parliament of Great Britain’, as part of the Treaty of Union.
England dictated where the UK Parliament would sit geographically. With a bit of argy-bargy it might have been established anywhere, like Newcastle, but gentrified English parliamentarians didn’t want to walk too far for a quaff and a wench.
Scotland retained and ‘stored’ its parliament, thus justifying its reopening on the 12 May 1999 in the Assembly Halls (before the Parliament was built in Holyrood) with Dr Winnie Ewing’s historic speech which stated:
“The Scottish Parliament, which adjourned on 25 March 1707, is hereby reconvened.”
‘Tradition, tradition, tradition!’ (Tevye, Fiddler on the Roof)
Misconceptions about Scotland’s constitution are usually based on the English tradition of absolute monarchy, and the way that has quietly been transmuted down the decades to become the unlimited authority of the UK Parliament.
We see it exercised today by the UK prime minister and her butler in Scotland, the secretary of state, telling Scotland what Wales accepts Scotland will accept. So there! This is a travesty of the democratic principle.
The oft heard BBC juxtaposition ‘the Queen in Parliament’ is also a bad joke. I call such sly parsing a plausible-falsehood, a 19th century concoction has no status in Scotland.
Simply put, the UK parliament is not omnipotent. It cannot, should not, expect Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland for that matter, automatically to be a part of the UK after every General Election. Scotland was never merged with England as one state though our colonial masters have done their best to achieve that reality.
‘Buy two, get one free’ (Tesco)
There were two Acts of Union, one for Scotland and one for England, which ratified and implemented the 1706 Treaty of Union. The English Parliament was effectively wound up on the 1st of May 1707 to make way for the new body representing the still separate nations of Scotland and England.
Getting zealous unionists to accept this recorded fact is almost impossible, to put it mildly. It was agreed – sadly – all taxes were to be gathered by the new UK parliament’s treasury, and in return Scotland was given unfettered access to trade with England, routes previously frustrated or blocked by hostile English governments.
‘A person’s conscience never abides by majority rule’ (Atticus Finch)
The principle that a Scottish King or Queen is not above the law is of ancient acceptance.
Tepid claims that it was never enshrined in Scots law are waffle, an irrelevance. The people are sovereign, and that’s that. The Declaration of Arbroath guarantees where power lies. That document stated in epitome what was already regarded as sacrosanct – the people ruled, not king or parliament.
Any equivocation is mere carping. But for those unionists adding yes, but no, but yes, but no, here is the clincher: before Scotland was sold for a bag of gold Scottish court did not accept nor concede that parliament alone held all powers of sovereignty. In other words, Scots law had already outlawed any theory of parliament as supreme authority well before we sent MPs to Westminster.
‘Power to the people’ (John Lennon)
What is sovereignty? It’s the place where arbitration ends; from that point there is no further appeal.
Over decades that space has grown smaller, its edifice removed brick by brick by politicians we elected whose allegiances and ambitions lay outside Scotland. The implementation of a Supreme Court in England over-ruling decisions made in Scotland has to be regarded as a betrayal of Scots sovereignty, and an assault on Scots Law.
Yet again, a fervent unionist desperate to have Scotland remain a colonial territory, will claim sovereignty was handed over to Westminster on the signing of the Treaty. This is an egregious falsehood. How could the Scottish Parliament hand over supreme power greater than it exercised?
A non-sovereign parliament cannot transfer powers it does not have. This knowledge blasts a hole in unionist’s argument that Scotland is ruled by Westminster. It offers the freedom to hold a referendum at any time without Westminster’s permission, or agreement. It allows the Scottish Parliament to declare independence because it was in the elected party’s manifesto. If challenged by some rabid colonial, Scotland can take the matter to the United Nations.
‘If the taxman can make one person smile, he’s slipped up’ Grouse Beater
So what’s stopping us? Well, nothing, really, nothing except fear of poverty, a state engineered by generations told the lie our taxes are not enough to sustain us.
We have every justification to argue Scotland has been taxed without full and proper representation, its natural resources exploited, removed or stolen, its industries sacrificed to keep England’s economy safe, it’s people and its interests ignored.
Our wish to throw off colonial rule is a legitimate one. We don’t want brainwashed anymore into thinking we are of no importance as a nation. We want no more to hear British orthodoxy is wisdom we must heed.
‘One for all and all for one’ (Alexandre Dumas)
Of course, there’s a small matter to consider of a majority behind any declaration, the mass of citizens wanting outright autonomy. It is worth remembering, the more power is given to people the less they’ll relinquish it if asked to give it up.
I’ve wondered why supporters of civil rights have yet to reject the unionist trope that we spurn Westminster only to ‘give control’ to the European Union. The EU would be subject to Scots sovereignty in the same way as the English Parliament gave up a little.
The International Bill of Human Rights acknowledges unambiguously a people’s right to self-determination. So, since we managed to keep our Parliament and our sovereignty, we are, in effect, asking for self-governance to be reinstated. How we deal and how we live with our belligerent neighbour is a matter left to political discussion after the event.
The UN is unequivocal in its stance: the right to self-determination is a fundamental right. The UN talks about ‘peoples’ in this regard, not political parties, not governments, not legislatures, not placemen, not the press. This international law is binding on the United Kingdom ever since it signed up to the UN and registered the United Kingdom as ‘two nations, a principality, and a protectorate’. (My italics.)
‘Independence can be trusted nowhere but with the people’ Jefferson
As to the age-old debate, ‘who are ‘the people?’ the answer is easy, we are the people. We define ourselves as ‘the electorate’. Currently, Westminster’s doctrine is might is right. Hence, independence is the only way to protect our constitutional rights indefinitely.
English imperialism and its accompanying authoritarian rule do their best to roll back democratic advances. Take comfort in knowing and upholding the hallowed principle, in Scotland parliament is the servant of the people. I repeat, the English doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty has no validity in Scotland. It is an illegitimate assertion.
What the people never gave away the people still own.