The Hanvey Bill

Neale Hanvey ALBA MP

Published below is Neale Hanvey’s Self-Determination Bill asserting the right of the Scottish people to hold an independence referendum whenever it suits the Scottish Parliament. Smoke them out: our oppressors vote for it, we get a referendum. Our oppressors vote against it, they let the world know the Union is a phony, a one-sided, treaty breaking, international law violating, act of colonisation. It’s presented with the support of SNP MPs Joanna Cherry KC MP, Douglas Chapman MP and Angus Brendan MacNeil MP.

ALBA Westminster Leader Neale Hanvey MP states:


Mr. Speaker

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Scotland Act 1998 to transfer the power to legislate for a Scottish independence referendum to the Scottish Parliament; to provide that such power may only be exercised where the Scottish public has demonstrated its support for the holding of such a referendum; to provide that no such referendum may be held sooner than seven years following any previous such referendum; and for connected purposes.

The question of whether the ancient nation of Scotland should be an independent country once again continues to be the subject of much debate, indicating that the matter is far from settled. Of course, it is entirely proper for any country to review such matters because Scotland will only become independent, as and when, a majority of the people of Scotland choose that path. 

Yet this requires a democratic mechanism that is constitutional and satisfies international legal precedent. This Bill seeks to standardise and codify such a requirement in line with the motion passed by this House which endorsed the principles of the 1989 Claim of Right and which acknowledged “the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs.”

The Bill is explicit on the necessary conditions to bring this mechanism into play.

Firstly, that the power to legislate for a referendum requires a democratic mandate from the Scottish public to do so. Since 2014 that criterion has been met in successive general elections to the Scottish Parliament, most recently in 2021 where a majority of MSPs were elected on a manifesto commitment to deliver an independence referendum. In addition to this a majority of the votes cast on the D’Hondt regional list were won by parties that support Independence – the SNP, the Scottish Green Party and ALBA party.

Secondly, This Bill states that no such referendum may be held any sooner than seven years after any previous such referendum. In terms of established UK precedent this would bring Scotland into line with the provisions for a border poll in Northern Ireland regarding the constitutional future of the island of Ireland.

And as Robert McCorquodale, Professor of International Law and Human Rights, sets out this would be in keeping with the UK’s international legal obligations applicable “to all states, including to peoples within states… worldwide to seek to exercise their right to self-determination.”

Mr. Speaker, it is necessary to put this Bill into its political and historical context. In 1707 a majority of Scottish Parliamentarians may have been persuaded, but the people were never consulted. The Acts of Union 1707 between England and Scotland created the Kingdom of Great Britain establishing a single political entity, yet preserving the territorial, legal and institutional integrity of each partner country.

The UK’s constitution is not codified in a single document, so the question of whether the Acts of Union can be unilaterally dissolved by one party is not clear. However, the accepted position hitherto is that the union is a voluntary association of equal partners, and that Scotland has an unquestioned right of self-determination. And, that is a right underpinned by Scots common law which rests not on the Magna Carta, but on the Claim of Right which continues to assert that it is the people who are sovereign.

The Scotland Act of 1998 established the Scottish Parliament, which has the power to legislate on agreed devolved matters within Scotland, while the UK parliament retains legislative competency on matters reserved to Westminster. It is generally understood that for a country to gain independence there requires to be a legal process, such as a vote in a referendum. Such a process was established in 2012 through the Edinburgh Agreement which was signed by First Minister Alex Salmond and Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Edinburgh Agreement established a clear process whereby a Scottish General Election that returned a government with a mandate for an independence referendum would enable that government to petition for authority under Section 30 of the Scotland Act to respect the democratic force of that vote in a referendum.While respect for this established process has since been affirmed by the UK Government, in absence of any legal constitutional consensus the matter of Scottish Independence has reached a political impasse to the detriment of Scotland’s democratic process.

This Bill seeks to remedy that by setting out the process by which the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland can be respected and enacted. This would preserve their inalienable human rights as a distinct people of the ancient nation of Scotland in accordance with the constitutional tradition of Scotland, the UN Charter and extant international law.

Scotland’s Constitutional Tradition

Scotland’s distinct constitutional tradition is best expressed by Lord Cooper, in the case of MacCormick v Lord Advocate, “The principle of the unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle, which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law.”

And in the pleadings of the hon and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) in her prorogation case to the UK Supreme Court, it is noted that the 1707 parliamentary Union between England and Scotland may have created a new state but it did not create one nation.

The UK government enthusiastically claims it seeks to preserve democracy the world over, yet it has moved to block Scotland’s consistently expressed democratic aspirations, at each and every turn. Surely it is now time to move to eliminate accusations and counter accusations of brinkmanship and set out a clear pathway consistent with precedent across these islands where constitutional friction exists. Can Members opposite imagine the circumstances where, having entered the common market and ratified every, subsequent treaty – leading to the European Union – the EU Parliament moved to block or interfere with their Brexit vote, or set a limit on when and if such a vote could be held?  The notion is, of course, ludicrous, because democracy is not a single event but an evolving and continuous process. That is how civilised people behave, and how fundamental rights of freedom of thought and expression are peacefully demonstrated.

As a member of the EU, the UK Government possessed and exercised a veto, yet claimed its sovereignty was impeded by membership.  Scotland has no such equivalent mechanism available to our people and remains subject to the wiles of its larger neighbour, exemplified by Brexit. How does that constitute access to meaningful political process, as claimed in the recent UK Supreme Court judgement?

Self Determination

Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s signing of the 1941 Atlantic charter brought into being the principle of self-determination of peoples, as now enshrined in the United Nations charter. Margaret Thatcher in her memoirs said of Scotland: “As a nation, they have an undoubted right to national self-determination.” John Major, when Prime Minister, said of Scotland: “No nation could be held irrevocably in a Union against its will.”

None of these senior conservative politicians’ sough to constrain the democratic right to self-determination. In the aftermath of the 2014 referendum, the all-party Smith commission agreement was signed by all of Scotland’s main political parties and it stated: “It is agreed that nothing in this report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland so choose.”

Northern Ireland

The effect of this bill should be uncontroversial for every member, it merely establishes in law an equivalent mechanism to the principle, already conceded by the UK Government, in relation to a border poll in Northern Ireland, that no such referendum may be held sooner than seven years after any previously mandated referendum.

In 1889 in this place the equality of UK Partner countries was asserted by one William Ewart Gladstone MP, saying “I am to suppose a case in which Scotland unanimously, or by a clearly preponderating voice, were to make the demand on the United Parliament to be treated, not only on the same principle, but in the same manner as Ireland, I could not deny the title of Scotland to urge such a claim.” This begs the question. Why would the UK Government deny democracy to Scotland but not to Northern Ireland?

Could the clue lie in the words of former Prime Minister John Major from 1993’s Downing Street Declaration that the UK has “no selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland” whereas, in the case of Scotland the opposite is true, where unconstrained access to our vast resources, energy is transmitted south to millions at no cost.


Mr Speaker, the decision on Scotland’s future ultimately and rightly must rest in the hands of the people of Scotland. And in the constitutional tradition of popular sovereignty in our great country, it is the Scottish people who remain sovereign. This Bill is neutral in its effect. It favours neither once side nor the other, but it seeks to codify the Scottish people’s right to choose their own constitutional future. 

To return to 1889, Dr Gavin Clark, MP for Caithness said “Everybody, even old Tories on the other side, must admit that some change is necessary. Then what is the remedy to be?”

If democracy matters at all, every member in this house should support the remedy contained in this Bill regardless of their view on Scottish independence.

I commend it to the House.



Video link here:



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11 Responses to The Hanvey Bill

  1. magchetty says:

    This has been a very welcome intervention by Neale Hanvey MP and the Alba Party with support from Scottish SNP MPs and Independent MP Margaret Ferrier. This will have gladdened the hearts of a large proportion of Indy supporters in Scotland.
    The Bill has been well put together with a moderate democratic tone and sensibly incorporating the Seven Year rule of the Northern Ireland legislation.
    Excellent timing with a weakened Westminster leadership and a wounded Holyrood leadership -perhaps an opportunity for Indy supporters to come together without bitterness or rancour.
    I hope that we can think of an appropriate demonstration to mark the Second Reading of the Bill on March 24th. Is this the time for an Indy London demonstration? I personally favour Pensioners for Indy in the Public Gallery in Westminster perhaps releasing the giant Caledonia flag YesGlasgowNW had on the 2022 Climate Change Rally.But I’m open to suggestions!

  2. monkmains says:

    Admirably straightforward and concise. Logically unanswerable, but political? I’m sure the usual suspects will do their political damnest!

    How did the SNP miss this opportunity years ago?

  3. monkmains says:

    Correction: ‘ Logically unanswerable, but politically?’

  4. benmadigan says:

    “but politically?’”
    Without the support of most of the SNP, the so-called party of Scottish Independence?
    In my view it’s unlikely to pass but will lay down yet another marker that Scotland is not in a “voluntary” Union

  5. monkmains says:

    This is surely the most significant initiative relating to Scottish independence in Westminster since 2014. So where were the forty-odd SNP MPs?

    If the SNP had been seriously interested in independence, would every SNP member not have been whipped to be in attendance to give maximum support and publicity?

    For god’s sake, Sturgeon, when the blue blazes are you going to start doing the job you were elected to do????

  6. gunnbarrett says:

    Also support from Margaret Ferrier, Independent, and Kenny McAskill

  7. Howard Cairns says:

    A good tactic to get a response from the Tories. Either way they vote will add to our ammunition for a push for a new Scottish Referendum. Keep pushing, please.

  8. lorncal says:

    I will be very surprised if this bill makes it through, but that doesn’t matter as such because it will either signify the beginning of the end of the Union, forcing the SNP/Greens to openly support independence via this bill or, alternatively, acceptance of the status quo by all SNP/Greens + ALBA. What comes afterwards, if it heralds the beginning of the end of the Union, as I have no doubt it is intended to do by forcing the SNP/Greens to give tacit agreement to it. then political action will become essential. However, it must be coupled to international action, too.

    If it passes, if a referendum is held quickly, if we win that referendum, then we can go straight to negotiations with Westminster. If it does not pass, as seems likely, then that is yet another avenue closed off, albeit Westminster voted several years back to recognise Scottish sovereignty, and the field is narrowed even more. That is when our case must go to the international court.

    The SNP/Greens cannot afford to be seen to be not backing this initiative because it will be telling the Scottish people that independence is no longer its core policy (de facto, we know that already, of course) and the leadership will be reduced even further, on the back of the GRRB debacle, as will the ‘woke’ element at the heart of the stasis on independence. Both will be exposed for what they are on the issue of independence: foot-draggers and despoilers who have all but wrecked the party that once stood proudly for Scotland’s independence in favour of a policy very, very few, among independistas and unionists alike, actually want to see implemented.

  9. diabloandco says:

    It seems that the party of independence , the SNP, has given up the ghost and become the party of perversion.

    Viva ALBA.

  10. peeliewallie says:

    Excellent presentation (I watched on Youtube) of a really well thought out and expressed self -determination bill. But as someone else has commented, where were our so called representatives, i.e. the SNP members. With a very few honourable exceptions, they’re a useless shower.

  11. Grouse Beater says:

    A longer, more detailed version is needed to present to the UN Colonialism Committee.

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