If you’d told me in 2019 where Scottish politics would be in 2023 I wouldn’t have believed you. However, if you had told me my appetite and determination for the cause would be undiminished, you would have been telling me the truth.
And the truth matters, however unpalatable it may be.
Throughout my NHS career I’ve had too many conversations where I have had to break news to parents and their children of the most terrible of truths.
Perhaps this is why I have developed my forthright approach to truth telling especially when it’s clear the emperor has no clothes. Dealing with facts, however difficult they may be, is the only way to meet any challenge. One of the most invigorating aspects of the independence referendum campaign was the explosion of interest in all aspects of policy and healthy workplace, coffee house and pub debates.
Back then, we were unafraid to have differences of opinion, to propose various solutions to decades old problems and most importantly we spoke truth to the distortions of the Unionist “Better Together” No camp. And that appetite for truth and facts is something we must now rediscover, and our movement must demand, if we are to make any progress.
The first issue we must come to terms with is that another independence referendum is not going to happen for the foreseeable future, and certainly won’t be achieved by sending less MPs to Westminster than before. Thanks to the folly of asking them, the UK Supreme Court made it clear a referendum on Scottish independence was a reserved matter, and a Section 30 Order to temporarily transfer those powers to the Scottish Parliament is entirely in the gift of Westminster.
This underscores the unavoidable fact that our Parliament is a creature of the British State and is increasingly being squeezed under the heel of Whitehall. Securing mandates to ask for a referendum only to be rebuffed is now the equivalent of the Monty Python parrot that has ceased to be; it’s stone dead as viable option.
The Tories have become increasingly bold, going from “now is not the time” to a straight-out “no”. They’ve also made clear they will plunder Scotland as a cash cow until the wind stops blowing. Westminster will rob our resources at their leisure.
There is no way – even if the First Minister was to actually ask – that Rishi Sunak would agree to an independence referendum in his final months as PM. As for an incoming UK Labour government, rebranded in as many Union Jacks as they can stuff into a photo opportunity, Sir Keir Starmer has made it clear his priority is continuity with Tory economic and social policy and he intends to persist with the robbery of Scottish assets.
Any fantasy that pleas for more devolution will be accommodated by Labour are also pie in the sky. As reported in The National, North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll accused Starmer of censoring, diluting and striking down key recommendations contained in Gordon Brown’s report on the constitution and further devolution across the UK.
These attempts to prevent the “Break Up of Britain” by refusing to devolve power away from London will ultimately fuel the case for Scottish independence and Irish re-unification. Starmer’s deeds put paid to any notion that former PM Gordon Brown’s report would break new ground or offer any meaningful change within the UK to the benefit Scotland.
Brown’s attempt to reframe the debate to one of “change within Britain versus change by leaving Britain” has been utterly dismantled by Starmer and fuelled the urgent need for independence.
All of this leads us to the position where Scotland urgently needs a robust strategy that not only deals with the facts of the day, but overcomes that central hurdle of the denial of a democratic process.
The Alba Party – and our Scotland United colleague Angus MacNeil – believe every Scottish and UK election should be used to secure majority support for independence negotiations to commence.
This reinstates the position of the national movement before devolution. As with all democratic expressions, the threshold would be a simple majority of votes cast for all pro-independence parties.
This approach is supported by the expert legal opinion of Professor Robert McCorquodale that “the people of Scotland are distinct within the UK and have a right to self-determination”.
Furthermore, McCorquodale explains the UK, as a signatory to multilateral international human rights treaties has “expressly accepted that the right to self-determination is a human right” and “not just as an international legal principle – which is binding under international law on all States.”
These are not obscure or arcane points of law. They are precise and purposeful.
I understand why the UK Government doesn’t want to hear the facts McCorquodale has set out, but I can’t comprehend why the Scottish Government and many in the SNP are steadfast in their refusal to even acknowledge this landmark legal opinion.
The Alba Party amendment to the King’s Speech repeated the democratic principles contained in my Scotland (self-determination) Bill. That is for the recognition of the right of the people of Scotland to self-determination by amending the Scotland Act 1998 to transfer the power to the Scottish Parliament to legislate for an independence referendum.
The amendment was signed by myself, Kenny MacAskill MP, Angus MacNeil MP and Welsh nationalist Jonathan Edwards. While Stephen Flynn was kind enough to explain to me why he could not personally support the amendment, I remain disappointed and bewildered that not a single other SNP MP felt this was worth putting their name to.
Focus must again be on delivering good governance and tangible improvements for the people of Scotland. Confidence that a better Scotland is possible rests firmly on effectiveness in government. The SNP need to get back on track, in government and on independence.
A Section 30 order is not a “gold standard”, any democratic vote in favour of self-determination is the only standard required – providing that is the clear and unclouded purpose of such a vote – unless of course the UK Government don’t want to recognise democratic elections as legitimate expressions of the will of the people? Sunak, Starmer and whichever UK PM that comes next might be able to stifle their Scottish Parliament creature, but they have no locus on the inalienable rights of the people of Scotland.
The independence movement must find a way to unite in the central purpose of independence. Ultimately the people are the standard bearers for Scottish independence, not politicians. Politicians must demonstrate they are true to the cause of independence for Scotland or stand aside for others with the guts and gumption to do so.