A democratic route to another referendum can’t exist if it’s a secret

democracy dies

Most of Scotland is now at the “Who cares?” stage in the parade of grotesques extremists, chancers and fools which passes for a Conservative leadership contest. All of them are vile, all of them enabled and all of them colluded in the corruption. lies, and law breaking of Boris Johnson, which not one of them had any problem with as long as they thought that Johnson was a vote winner for their party and the key to advancing their careers and ambition. Now all of a sudden they’re all about ‘integrity’ and are trying to appeal to the frothing zoomers who make up the Conservative party membership by trying to outdo one another in fantasy tax cuts and victim blaming.

All of the candidates are equally determined to block the operation of democracy in Scotland, and determined to fob Scotland off with one spurious reason after another for why Scotland really can’t be allowed the referendum that Scotland voted for in last year’s Holyrood elections. They are all insistent that Scotland really does, pinkie promise I swear on my expenses claim, have a democratic route to another independence referendum, but are all equally determined to side step any questions about how Scotland can exercise that right to self-determination that they keep telling us Scotland has. That’s because they don’t want to admit that if Scotland’s sovereign national right to decide its future for itself is contingent upon obtaining the permission of a British Prime Minister then Scotland does not actually have a sovereign national right to Scottish self-determination, All that the UK’s recognises is a Prime Minister’s sovereign right to determination, which is not the same thing at all.

The absolute best that any of them can offer is that they will be every bit as callous, anti-democratic, and inhumane as Boris Johnson, but will be more efficient at it. Meanwhile, while we are on the topic of the Prime Law Breaker, the Times has reported that Johnson has voted not to ‘fade into the background after his successor is appointed and has not ruled out making a come back should his successor’s government collapse. You can be quite certain that Johnson and his allies will be devoting their time and energies over the coming months to ensuring that his successor’s government will collapse, especially if the winner is Rishi Sunak, who is loathed by Johnson and his cronies. Johnson’s statement today is a signal that this Conservative leadership contest will solve nothing, the focus of a deeply divided Tory party will continue to be on internal party battles for the foreseeable future. Johnson is going to keep the Tories divided and fighting among themselves for years. So it’s not all bad news.

And let us not forget, these Conservatives, fighting with one another like rats in a sack, are the very same people who keep telling Scotland that Scotland can’t have another referendum because we should all be concentrating on recovering from the pandemic, the cost of living crisis, and the war in Ukraine.

On Tuesday what currently passes for a British Government made a legal submission to the Supreme Court, asking it to throw out the case brought by the Scottish Government which asks for a ruling on the lawfulness of the Scottish Government’s referendum bill in the absence of a Section 30 order. The British Government is seeking to have the case dismissed immediately, without any ruling on the substance of the issue, leaving the question in the same legal limbo where it has been for years. The British Government’s position seems to be that Holyrood has no right to hold a referendum on independence, even a consultative referendum, without the consent of Westminster, and that Holyrood does not even have the right to ask the Supreme Court to clarify the legal situation.

It looks as though the British Government is asking the Supreme Court not to rule on the case until after the bill has been passed by Holyrood, knowing that the bill cannot be put before Holyrood because the Lord advocate hasn’t consented to it, thus trapping the entire process in a Catch 22. Then they can continue to insist that there really is a democratic route for Scotland to hold another independence referendum while refusing to say what that route is. It’s a super dooper invisible magic route which is to be found at the end of a British nationalist rainbow.

This is because the British nationalists know that whatever way the ruling goes, they will lose control over the political process, Their entire strategy for avoiding another independence referendum rests upon maintaining the legal ambiguity which allows them to continue to assert that the union is voluntary while refusing to specify how Scotland might exercise its right to end it. But the truth is that democracy means the rule of the people and if a political party keeps the democratic route to another referendum a secret from the people, then it cannot exist.

A Supreme Court ruling puts an end to that fairy story and creates a concrete foundation. Either the court rules that Holyrood does have the right to hold a referendum without a Section 30 order, or it rules that it does not.

If the court were to rule that Holyrood could hold the referendum the anti-independence parties would be forced to contend a referendum that they had fought tooth and nail to stop happening. They’d be forced to explain to the people of Scotland why they refused to accept that Scotland has a sovereign right to self-determination. However if the court were to rule against the Scottish Government, as many observers think would be more likely, the political consequences for opponents of independence could be catastrophic.

Such a result would not spell the end for hopes of a vote on independence, it would merely trigger the conversion of the next UK General Election into a de facto referendum, and that would be the British nationalists’ worst nightmare. Although this development would give the British nationalists the advantage that it would be contested on the Westminster franchise, 16 and 17 year olds and non-British citizens would not have the vote, they would be unable boycott the vote, and would be forced to stand as individual parties facing a potentially united Yes campaign. Under Westminster’s first past the post system, a British nationalist wipe out is a distinct possibility.

Additionally the British nationalists will have been stripped of their beloved fiction that they are anti-nationalist unionists because the Supreme Court will have ruled that the generations long cornerstone of traditional Scottish unionism, that this is a voluntary union, has no standing in law and that a British Prime Minister that Scotland didn’t vote for has the absolute right to overrule the people of Scotland and the Parliament which they voted for.

It will effectively be a ruling that there is no union, there is no sovereignty inherent in the people of Scotland, there is only a unitary British state in which the Scottish Parliament has no greater legal standing than an English county council, both ultimately subject to the absolute authority of whoever leads the party with most seats in a Parliament where Scotland’s representatives are a small and permanent minority. No wonder it’s a ruling that the Conservatives don’t want.

With this farce of a Tory leadership contest and the British Government’s legal machinations, the UK’s democratic deficit has never been more starkly apparent. The issue of democracy itself will be crucial in the independence campaign in the months ahead.


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