In my article published in March 2015, I expressed the opinion that the SNP could not be an independence movement and a functioning political party at one and the same time. Since then, many others have said the same thing.
My original observation was based on the ease with which the debate leading up to the independence referendum was diverted into a party political dogfight where largely trivial issues came to be placed at the fore and the concept of independence in the round simply disappeared from debate.
Up until the last month or so before the vote, Alex Salmond very successfully drew on the emotional support of a huge number of Scots, raising the profile of independence support to a level which, while for much of the time since the referendum, did not increase, nevertheless did not decrease either. But, with that increase, a largely complacent unionist movement woke up. At that point, party politics took over. It is, perhaps, small consolation that the Labour party in Scotland effectively committed political suicide – the Scots tend to place too much faith in politicians, the corollary being that, when they see that they have been betrayed, they ditch those self-same politicians in a trice.
But we still have a problem. In fact, several problems, all relating to party politics. To illustrate: last night I watched Newsnight. An entertaining, if anodyne, short film about independence was followed by what I can only describe as the most depressingly pointless discussion between the representatives of two political parties – the Scottish Conservatives and the SNP. With Ross Thomson in the blue corner and Drew Hendry in the yellow, they squared up, Thomson getting his blow in first. “Once in a generation!”, he shouted, followed by “What currency will you use?” Drew followed up with his killer blow: “We’ll do it all legally.” And so the conversation went on, the same pointless soundbites. I think I’ve made my point. Party politics in Scotland has become a circular regurgitation of arguments and counter arguments which have no effect in either drawing the electorate in to real debate or dealing with the true problems that Scotland faces, either in or out of the UK.
Thus, once again, it falls to a “mandate” to be decided at the next election while we stand to experience the uncertainties of life after the end of this year. Once again, the simple question of whether or not we want independence comes down to a debate about when the SNP are going to deliver it. Once again, arguments about the Scotland Act and whether we can secure a Section 30 agreement. And, of course – the virus – itself a matter more of politics than public health.
I quote here, part of an article written by Dr James Wilkie in consequence of the repeal of the 1978 Scotland Act, the two quotations which are as relevant today as they were then:
… there are two quotations that have a bearing on the situation. The first is one of the fundamental documents of the Scottish constitution, the Claim of Right drawn up by the Convention of Estates, which met on its own initiative in Edinburgh in 1689, when it formally deposed James VII as King of Scots. In its statement of reasons for taking this step the Convention asserted that the King, by abuse of prerogative powers, had “invaded the
fundamentall Constitution of the Kingdome. And altered it from a legall limited Monarchy to ane Arbitrary Despotick Power… whereby he hath forefaulted the right to the Crowne, and the Throne is become vacant”.
This principle remains part of the Scottish constitution to the present day – translated into terms of the modern Executive, of course. The second quotation, on the contrary, is part of the modern global constitution, and one that is equally binding on the British government. In accordance with Article 1 Par. 2 of the Charter of the United Nations Organisation, Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is simultaneously Article 1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, states: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”. To determine “freely” means in freedom from the influences to which the Scots were subjected during the referendum campaign, in freedom from the chicanery that has blocked every attempt for a century, and above all in freedom from being “democratically” outvoted by a mindlessly prejudiced foreign majority.
These two points are firmly at the heart of the Digital Covenant, in fact they are the Covenant and upon its success rests the following:
I have arranged a conference with some of my former colleagues. This conference was due to take place on the 23rd August in Brussels but has had to be delayed due to travel restrictions (for a variety of reasons it was deemed necessary for us to meet face-to-face). Nevertheless, we will meet shortly.
The object of our meeting is to lay out plans to take the UK government to court in the International Court of Justice for the right to secure our free and unfettered ability to hold a referendum without interference from outwith Scotland.
The terms we are discussing are:
The statement that Scotland exists as a sovereign nation and thus has the right to make its own decisions.
That any foreign government is legally proscribed from actively, or through third parties, campaigning in the referendum.
That the terms of reference be established formally through written determination by the Court.
There is, of course, much to add to those three points – which is the object of our meeting. It is also accepted that any referendum in the short term will be paper-based. But the Covenant is of the utmost importance if we are to take this forward, because it will be through the Covenant and the People’s Assembly that the application will have its legitimacy.
Of course, the SNP will not be sidelined. They and any other independence supporting parties will be the formal route that we eventually take in making independence happen but it has become obvious that, even with a Section 30 agreement, the chances of holding a free and fair referendum are about zero unless we can obtain a guarantee to that effect and international acceptance of its legitimacy.
I shall report on the progress of this initiative in due course. In the meantime, I hope that as many of you as possible will join us on the Long Walk to Freedom.