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.