The British failure of democracy in Scotland

In some parallel universe where British democracy is a functioning reality and the Scottish media is fair, balanced, and truly representative of the views of the population it is supposed to serve, today, Thursday 19 October 2023, would have seen the holding of the second Scottish independence referendum, a referendum which would have been preceded by a passionate campaign during which both sides of the argument would have been fully explored and given equal attention. When the votes were counted, it is almost certain that the people of Scotland would have chosen to vote Yes and after over three hundred years of Westminster rule Scotland would be poised to rejoin the ranks of independent nations where it truly belongs.

Sadly, as we all know too well, that is not the universe which we inhabit. In this universe the British state is characterised by lies and mendacity, claiming on the one hand to be a voluntary union of four nations while acting in practice like a centralised one nation state whose representatives repeatedly refuse to specify exactly how the supposedly voluntary nature of this so-called union can be put to the test through the democratic choices of the people of the smaller nations which are part of this pretendy union.

Meanwhile we have a media which claims to be unbiased and neutral, a claim which has as much basis in reality as the claims of British politicians who wrap themselves in British flags while asserting that they are opposed to nationalism. The reality of the Scottish media, and the wider British media of which it is a part, is that it has a strong right wing British nationalist bias which it typically refuses to acknowledge just as it refuses to acknowledge that British nationalism is indeed a form of nationalism, and a particularly reactionary and self-regarding one at that.

To live in the British state is to live in a state that deludes itself about its true nature, a delusion aided and abetted by a media which is more interested in colluding in the delusion than in holding power to account and defending democratic standards.

The real reason that we are not having a referendum despite the clear and unequivocal mandate for one given to the current Scottish Parliament is that the parties of “we’re not nationalists we’re British” are bricking themselves about the likely verdict that the people would deliver on all their lies and deceit during the last independence referendum campaign and the glaring mismatch between the “union of equal partners,” continuing membership of the European Union, and the imminent arrival of federalism which they promised Scotland in 2014 and the hard Brexit and continual undermining of the devolution settlement which they have actually delivered. And now it appears that Keir Starmer’s Labour party as much as the Tories is committed to a hard Brexit and equally hell bent on continuing to undermine and by pass the Scottish Parliament.

You could not ask for a clearer example of the betrayal of democracy but the anti-independence Scottish media has no interest at all in defending the basic precepts of democracy in this British state which it is so determined to keep Scotland a part of and refuses to hold the Labour and Conservative parties to account. Instead we get the fetishisation of ferry timetables and massive publicity for every big ego with a grudge against the SNP.

There are many who are keen to blame the SNP for the fact that there has been no independence referendum this week. Many of these have their own agenda seeking to promote their own pro-independence political party of choice, and that’s fair enough, that’s how politics works. But let’s be very clear here, it’s not the SNP who have betrayed democracy, it’s the parties of British nationalism.

Realistically what could the Scottish Government have done? Without the democratic expression of a majority for independence through the ballot box, “dissolving the Union” or unilaterally declaring independence is a fantasy.

In a Scotland where the overwhelming majority of the media is vehemently opposed to independence and polling suggests almost a half of the population is yet to be convinced of the case for independence it would be a recipe for civil unrest and violence from those Über-unionists who have a track record of violence. It’s not enough to assert that the people of Scotland are sovereign, you must ensure that a majority of people in Scotland and the international community agree with you. Indeed it is the antithesis of belief in the sovereignty of the people of Scotland to attempt to declare independence without unequivocal majority support for it as expressed through the ballot box.

Alternatively the Scottish Government could have attempted to press ahead with a referendum without the consent of Westminster and without first attempting to put it on a secure legal footing. However the referendum would most likely still have not taken place as the anti-independence parties would have taken legal action to block it, legal action which we now know would have been successful. If the Scottish Government had pressed on regardless local authorities under Labour or Conservative control would have refused to facilitate the voting process and would not have opened ballot stations.

The anti-independence parties would have boycotted the entire process in an attempt to de-legitimise it and reduce voter participation. Meanwhile the Scottish media would have subjected us all to a barrage of negative propaganda, insisting that there was no point in even independence supporters voting as the vote would be illegal and would not be recognised. Unlike Catalonia where there is a large and well funded pro-independence media and the broadcast media is ultimately controlled by the Catalan government, Scotland has only one pro independence newspaper and a broadcast media which is controlled by Westminster and which faithfully acts as an agent of pro-British propaganda.

The Catalan media was able to maximise the participation of independence supporters in the process, ensuring that it had the greatest support possible amongst the wider population. In Scotland the media would have the opposite effect.

There would have been a Yes vote on a very low turn out with many council areas not participating at all. The Scottish media and the anti-independence parties would immediately declare the entire process a failure and thus emboldened the Conservative government would then openly attack the powers of Holyrood in a way that we have not seen before.

Scotland would still not be independent and Holyrood would be rendered impotent while members of the Scottish Government could be finding themselves on trial. This might appeal to those who are fans of hopeless romantic gestures, but it would not have achieved independence and only reduced Scotland’s chances of achieving independence in the future while rendering Scotland powerless to resists the onslaughts of right wing British nationalism.

19 October 2023 is not the day that the SNP failed, it’s the day that the British state failed to uphold democracy in Scotland, and that is precisely why Scotland needs independence, because democracy in Scotland can only be guaranteed with independence.



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