Sometimes a ‘gamechanger’ really is just that

In the immortal words of Dad’s Army’s Corporal Jones, “They don’t like it up ’em.” It is safe to say that British nationalists are not reacting at all well to the realisation that they do not after all get to dictate the terms, timing, and conditions of the Scottish independence process. The term ‘game-changer’ is much over-used, but yesterday’s announcement from the First Minister about how the Scottish Government intends to proceed towards a lawful vote on Scottish independence with or without a Section 30 order was just that. Nicola Sturgeon made it clear that Scotland is not going to be consumed by a sterile debate about a Section 30 order, a debate which only benefits opponents of independence as it allows them to avoid confronting the substantive issues in the independence debate.

Scotland will not be held prisoner by a British Prime Minister who Scotland didn’t vote for and whose party has only six MPs in Scotland, four of whom have no confidence in him. Scotland will take its destiny into its own hands and will have its say on independence no matter what Johnson wants, because this is a matter for the people of Scotland to decide, not him.

The usual British nationalist suspects are deeply unhappy about this, how dare Nicola Sturgeon pursue her “divisive” and “damaging” referendum. Being divisive and damaging is Boris Johnson’s job.

Margaret Thatcher’s Scotland Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, who spent the 1980s and 1990s denying the people of Scotland any form of self-government despite overwhelming evidence that Scotland wanted its own Parliament, told BBC Radio 4 through pursed lips that “little Scotland” was going to be lonely and friendless without Westminster, the classic trope of the spurned abusive lover, “You are pathetic and useless and no one else will have you.” Rifkind also insisted that the Holyrood election in 2021 only gave Nicola Sturgeon the mandate to “ask for” a referendum, but he insisted that it did not give her a mandate to deserve one. What one might take from this condescending attempt to avoid the issue is that Rifkind doesn’t appear to grasp how democracy works, but then those of us who can remember his time as Scottish Secretary of State knew that already.

When the electorate of Scotland voted for a Scottish Parliament with an unassailable majority of pro-independence MSPs in an election campaign which was dominated by the single issue of whether there should be another independence referendum, that is what gave the Scottish Parliament the mandate to deserve the referendum. It is for the people of Scotland to decide whether another referendum is deserved, not unelected appointees to the House of Lords like Malcolm Rifkind who were awarded a seat in that undemocratic institution by their cronies for services to the denial of Scottish democracy. The people of Scotland gave their answer to that question in last year’s Holyrood election, it is not for Rifkind or any Conservative minister to gainsay them, particularly not one who has no mandate themselves from the people of Scotland.

Meanwhile Conservative Ministers are doing their usual run away and hide routine, Rifkind’s successor, the supremely useless Alister Jack, has refused all requests to be interviewed on BBC Scotland’s morning news show as have all other senior Scotland Office ministers and other senior Tories. That’s because they fear being questioned even by the institutionally unionist BBC on their refusal to acknowledge the democratic right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future.

The reason for their panic is that they were blindsided by yesterday’s announcement. This was not how the script was supposed to go. What was supposed to happen was that the Scottish Government announced its intention to press ahead with a referendum bill even without a Section 30 order. The British nationalists – we can’t really call them unionists any more – would then decry it as unlawful, and we would spend the rest of the year arguing about process and not the substance of the independence question while the British Government took its time over referring the matter to the courts in order to avoid being seen as the destroyers of traditional Scottish unionism and to eat up time so that it would become impossible to hold the referendum on the intended date of 19 October 2023. As all this was going on the anti-independence parties and their friends in the media would be demanding that the Scottish Government publish all its legal advice in full. And all the time the clock would be ticking and the anti-independence parties could continue to avoid dealing with the substance of the independence issue while they maintained their cosy lies about the nature of this supposed voluntary union of nations.

The decision of the Scottish Government to refer the question to the Supreme Court itself cuts through all that. Scotland is now in control of the timetable, not the British nationalists. What this means is that we will have a definitive answer to the legal questions within a couple of months, and if the UK Supreme Court does rule that Scotland is a hostage to Boris Johnson’s whims the UK Government itself and not some convenient proxy will be a party to that ruling. Traditional unionism as it has always been understood will be dead, and it will clearly be seen as the Conservatives who killed it. They will be forced to own that political reality, devastating as it is for the anti-independence cause. They will no longer be able to pose as “anti-nationalist unionists” but will be clearly seen for what they really are, Anglo-British nationalists who deny the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to choose the form of government best suited to their needs. If it’s not voluntary it’s not a union, it’s a prison.

Worst of all for the Anglo-British nationalists, they have lost control of the course of events. If they do win that court ruling they will not only have destroyed traditional unionism ,they still won’t be able to prevent Scotland having a vote on independence by which time they will be forced to go to the people of Scotland to defend a United Kingdom whose Supreme Court has ruled that Scotland does not after all have the right to self-determination. That’s not a defensible proposition.

You could see how unprepared the opponents of independence were in the perplexed questioning of presenters in the anti-independence media on Wednesday morning. Kay Burley on Sky News and John Kay on BBC Breakfast persisted in questioning the First Minister about “wildcat” and “unlawful” referendums despite the announcement yesterday making it clear that the independence vote will be entirely lawful. That’s British nationalism in a nutshell. It’s just not listening.

Many thanks to everyone who kindly supported the annual fundraiser. It’s always a nerve wracking time, I’m literally asking people to put their money where my mouth is. I’m delighted to say that the target of £5000 wasn’t just reached it was smashed. From all sources, the Gofundme page, PayPal donations, and direct donations by cheque or into my bank account, the grand total raised was an incredible £11,094. In my wildest dreams  I could not have expected it to go so well and my deepest thanks to everyone who contributed.  It is heartening to know that so many people value my writing and that there is still an appreciative audience for a positive pro-independence message that concentrates on making the case for independence and debunking the arguments of the real enemies of Scottish independence, the Conservatives and their little helpers.  That’s what I will keep doing thanks to you.

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