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By Jason Michael
Apparently under British rule the people of Scotland are only supposed to have a say in their constitution but once in a generation. This is a quasi-legal fiction that has one single purpose: To keep Scotland in the United Kingdom, even against its will.
British nationalists are irate that the Scottish government has had the audacity to threaten their beloved Union after having supposedly promised, vowed, and declared that the referendum in 2014 was a “once in a generation” constitutional decision. There is something about democracy that Britain’s unionists just don’t seem to get. Britain’s uneasiness with democracy is rather easy to understand, especially after years of the Westminster state denying civil and political rights to the Catholic population of Northern Ireland. A quick look at Westminster, where no more than 24 percent of registered voters voted Conservative and still returned a Tory majority, is enough to dispel any illusions that Britain is a democracy.
Government of the people, by the people, for the people is precisely that. It is not the purpose of a political system in a democratic society to guarantee power for people and parties the people do not want. It means that the people – and only the people – have the power to choose their government, and this choice comes with the right to change our minds whenever we, the people, see fit. The demand that the people of Scotland should be denied this right for generations at a time is an absurdity, and an outright distortion of the very principles of democracy.
In restricting the people of Scotland – or of anywhere – to a “once in a generation” democratic decision on how they wish to be governed and by whom is nothing more than a legal fiction devised, in this case, by the British government to maintain the Union – even against the will of the Scottish people. This notion of legal fiction is important here because there exists nothing in British law or indeed in its infamous unwritten Constitution – clearly not worth the price of paper – that limits any constitutional decision anywhere in the United Kingdom to “once in a generation.” What this is, is a clever rhetorical tool manufactured by the unionist media in the 2012-14 Scottish independence campaign and spoon fed into the mouths of the leaders of the independence movement.
So what we have then is Alex Salmond and his then deputy Nicola Sturgeon on film using these meaningless words; “Once in a generation.” It is interesting to note that neither Salmond nor Sturgeon ever qualified this phrase or anything similar to it as implying their decision only to ask this question once in their – or our – lifetimes. What Mr. Salmond repeatedly said was that constitutional referenda were not regular events in Scotland. He said, that in his experience, these were typically once in a generation. He did not say that he thought this was the way it ought to be. Of course the British media were never going to interoperate him correctly.
If we wanted to – which of course we don’t – we could have a referendum on independence every six months. There is nothing in law – be that Scots law or the British law that has been imposed upon us – that states we cannot do this. But this silliness takes us right to the core of the problem with democracy in the United Kingdom; Britain is a state that has a sort of bollocksy-nonsense legal system that is specifically designed – as all law ultimately is – to ensure the status quo and confuse the living daylights out of anyone who desires to upset the applecart. It’s a garbage argument and position for the unionists to take, but – then – we can always adopt out own legal fiction, which isn’t actually too far from the truth, that a generation in Scotland under London rule has always been quite short.
Hilarious example of the ‘once in a generation’ myth
One thought on “Once in a Generation?”
Spot on ! Alba Gu Brath
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