At long last, after having his innocence upheld in the Scottish courts, Alex Salmond, the former leader of the Scottish National Party and First Minister of Scotland, gets his day in parliament. Here at the Random Public Journal we will be following the events in Holyrood live and reporting things as they happen. This promises to be an exciting day in Scottish politics, and – as some commenters have suggested – what is revealed today might just be the game changer we have been looking for.
The set-to over Sturgeon and Salmond is not only about Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond, this is a proxy for two very different visions of an independent Scotland. We’re divided down other lines too, wrangling between factions with distinct visions of their own. And this idea of vision is, we can be sure, the key to understanding why we are in this maul. Perhaps without realising it, we have moved to the next stage of the independence campaign; the stage at which we have accepted the defeat of the union and have begun thinking about politics beyond independence.
Given that the constitution is a reserved matter under the Scotland Act (1998), only an act of the Westminster British parliament in London can grant a Section 30 order. It cannot be legislated for under any circumstances in the devolved British parliament in Scotland. And precisely because Westminster – and Westminster alone – is sovereign, no set of conditions or political realities in Scotland can compel the British government in London to grant a Section 30 order. What does this mean?
This question is important because it expresses rather succinctly the sense of uncertainty and worry which is right now spreading like wildfire over the independence movement. While support for independence and the Scottish National Party remain high, a growing number of independentistas are arriving at the conclusion that something stinks in the SNP. Most, as yet, can’t quite put their finger on exactly what it is, but something is wrong. Something is rotten, and the rot is spreading.
Any Assembly representing the entire spectrum of pro-independence sentiment – the majority opinion in Scotland today – is sovereign by its very nature. Its establishment furnishes us immediately with a powerful instrument with which we can challenge both the British administration in Scotland qua the Scottish government and the British colonial hegemon in London. Without reference to Westminster and unencumbered by any obligation to negotiate with the British government, a truly independent Scottish National Assembly representing all...
But there is a darker, more sinister, side to this kind of nostalgia-propaganda – when it employs real people as instruments of this mythology. Again, to some extent, this is something British propaganda has always done, but in the main this instrumentalisation of people has either been in the abstract – as in the token image of a silhouetted soldier at a comrade’s graveside or the Unknown Soldier – or in its use of historical figures – such as Winston Churchill being voted the ‘greatest Briton of all time.’
Contrary to popular opinion, the Republic is not merely a form of government Scotland can choose to adopt after independence. As was the case in Ireland in 1916, the proclamation of the Republic is at once the reaffirmation of the sovereignty of the Scottish people, a declaration of our national independence, and the most powerful instrument by which we can come together to realise and secure an independent Scottish Republic.
If the Scottish National Party succumbs to this crisis – as it may well do – then we are looking at independence being cast a considerable distance into the future. Either the SNP will have to rebuild and regain trust or – having untangled independence from this one party – we will have to start afresh from the beginning with a new party or parties and work ourselves back up to the level we are now at. During all this time the British state will be constantly at work against us.