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By Jason Michael
IT IS NOT THE CASE that I am against the Scottish National Party. Certainly, in light of recent developments, of which we are all aware, I have serious misgivings about the current leadership. It looks to me, at least, that a group of senior figures in the party acted to recruit complainants against Alex Salmond and, against the advice of its own legal experts, sought to have him convicted and imprisoned on a catalogue of dirty charges. Ever since the court upheld Mr Salmon’s innocence this group has collaborated with the British media in Scotland to create the impression of his guilt, has deeply divided the party and the movement for independence between those who ‘believe women’ and those who believe in the rule of law, and has strenuously resisted – with the assistance of the British civil service – the efforts of the former First Minister to defend his reputation and make public the details supporting his belief that this was the work of a high-level conspiracy against him.
So, naturally, having followed this story very closely and having paid careful attention to all the evidence submitted to the present inquiry, I have become rather suspicious of Nicola Sturgeon and many of those around her. It may, of course, be the case that many others and myself have arrived at the wrong conclusion, that we do not have all the information. One must always be open to this possibility. The easiest thing for Ms Sturgeon to do then would be share the evidence that there was no conspiracy. We are intelligent enough to weigh up the evidence. But rather than doing this she and her inner circle have made every effort to block evidence coming to light. We have had nothing but rhetoric and obfuscation from the party leadership, and this does not exactly inspire confidence in its claim to be telling the truth.
But this is not about losing faith in the SNP. The National Party is a large organisation made up of many individuals, and there are many good and sincere people in the party. I am not a party member, and after this fiasco I think I will just park any thoughts of ever joining for the time being. But this does not mean I am not prepared to work with and lend my support to the Scottish National Party. Insofar as the SNP is working towards independence, we have common cause. If the SNP can deliver an independence referendum in 2021, as it has promised, then I will advocate voting for it in the May election. However, I have my reservations. I do not believe the party is being honest with people, and I believe this because I know the SNP cannot deliver an independence referendum in 2021 – and I know the SNP knows this too.
I do not believe the party is being honest with people, and I believe this because I know the SNP cannot deliver an independence referendum in 2021 – and I know the SNP knows this too.
On the 19 December 2019 the SNP-led Scottish government passed the Referendums (Scotland) Act 2020, an Act which made it a legal requirement in Scots Law to obtain from the British government a Section 30 order in order to hold an advisory referendum (all referenda in the United Kingdom are advisory) on the question of independence.1 It is important to note here that this law was enacted by the Scottish and not the British government. In 2014 the purpose of the Section 30 order was to temporarily increase the constitutional authority of the Edinburgh parliament so as to act on the decision of the 18 September 2014 referendum – not permission to hold the referendum. In 2014 a Section 30 order was not legally required. Today it is.
Westminster alone has the right to grant such a transfer of powers by an act of parliament, and so we have to think about what this means. Crucially, it highlights the constitutional and legal reality that the Scottish parliament – as a legislative body exercising powers merely devolved from Westminster – is not a sovereign parliamentary institution. Regardless of the affection we have for ‘our parliament,’ Holyrood is a department of the Westminster British parliament in Scotland – this is what devolution means. The Referendums (Scotland) Act 2020 and all other acts of the Scottish parliament acknowledge and reinforce this reality. Where elections in Scotland may reflect the ancient notion of Scots popular sovereignty, Holyrood is an extension of English sovereignty; that is to say that its ‘power’ is derived from the sovereignty of the crown in parliament – id est Westminster’s sovereignty in Scotland. Therefore, the very idea of a Section 30 order legally nullifies Scots sovereignty – reducing it to a romantic and sentimental notion. No sovereign nation requires the permission of another parliament in another country to legislate for its own governance. The Claim of Right – a claim which asserts ‘the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs’ has no legal force in Westminster – and so, by extension, in the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh.
…the very idea of a Section 30 order legally nullifies Scots sovereignty – reducing it to a romantic and sentimental notion.
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? In effect, this means that no matter who holds a majority on the Scottish benches at Westminster or in the Scottish parliament and no matter what the opinion polls say, no legal mechanism exists to trigger the granting of an extension of powers qua a Section 30 order. Theoretically, the SNP – or another pro-independence party or a coalition of pro-independence parties – can hold every single seat in Westminster and Holyrood and we can have an unbroken record of a hundred years of opinion polls showing 100 percent support for independence, and still London – and London alone – has the sovereign power to grant or refuse such a request. Simply put, a Section 30 order is not within the democratic reach of Scotland. It is not a matter of democracy. Rather, it is a central element of Britain’s colonial domination and ownership of Scotland.
Now then, let us return to that election promise. The Scottish National Party is asking us to give it a majority in May this year in order that it might put into motion a programme that will result in an independence referendum in 2021. The SNP is promising something that it itself has put beyond our reach. It is promising a referendum it does not have the power to grant – and Nicola Sturgeon is on record saying that she will not have a referendum without a Section 30 order. The Westminster government can and will deny this request – and there is not a single thing Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP, or the Scottish government can do about it.
So, why then is the SNP asking us to give them another majority? Well, most interestingly, the SNP is not looking for a pro-independence supermajority, only a narrow SNP majority. Under the D’Hondt electoral system it is mathematically impossible for one party to win a supermajority – the only condition which would completely expose the undemocratic nature of British rule in Scotland and so strengthen the moral argument for a Section 30 order. But the SNP is asking us to give both votes – the constituency and the regional list vote – to it, an election which, even in the most favourable circumstance, would give the SNP only a narrow majority. The idea has been put to the National Party to work with another pro-independence party so as to achieve a supermajority, but no – this idea is anathema. The SNP only wants a small SNP majority.
Simply put, a Section 30 order is not within the democratic reach of Scotland. It is not a matter of democracy. Rather, it is a central element of Britain’s colonial domination and ownership of Scotland.
But why? There has been a pro-independence majority in Holyrood since 2015. Right now, there is a pro-independence majority in Holyrood. The SNP has been given mandate after mandate to move on independence. At one point it had a triple lock mandate. And in spite of the screams from its own rank and file and from the wider independence movement to ‘use the mandate,’ the SNP did exactly nothing – nothing – to advance the campaign for independence. It now wants yet another mandate and another majority all to itself. But why? There is only one reason the SNP wants a majority in May – just to have a majority, just to have unnegotiated [limited] power in a British owned Scotland, to have its own fiefdom within the union. And we can know this is what the party wants because there is nothing else it can have – it cannot grant itself an independence referendum.
It is certainly not my desire to tell you how to vote. I am not telling you not to vote SNP. Vote according to your own conscience and vote for who you want. What I am saying is don’t vote for the SNP thinking this will result in a 2021 independence referendum. It will do no such thing – it can’t. And don’t imagine that not voting for the SNP will endanger independence. It will not. An independence referendum is not on the table – it can’t be. Of course, an SNP government is infinitely better than the alternative. So, in my opinion, it will still be
good better to have the SNP in government, but this 2021 independence referendum business is nothing but an empty election promise, and we deserve so much better than this. It infuriates me that the SNP has made this promise, because independence is not an election promise – it is the highest aspiration of our nation. It is not there as some cheap trick to guarantee election victories.
Independence is not an election promise – it is the highest aspiration of our nation.
My friend on Twitter, ‘Nicola’s No1 Comrade,’ is a firm advocate of returning an SNP majority in May – as is his right. But I asked him to explain to me how this would lead to an independence referendum the Scottish government had no power to grant. He couldn’t. But what he did was offer a perfectly good reason to still support the SNP – so that we might ‘hold their feet to the fire.’ But still, I have questions. How can we hold their feet to the fire? At the last election, after the party failed to deliver on a triple lock mandate, the word was to vote for them again and if we still got nothing, we could withhold our vote next time – that’s this time. His answer to this was:
By constantly progressing left policies with the socialist group & the trade union group we can keep them to the left. That way we keep our conscience clear that we all, individually know that we have done as much as we can in order to achieve our common goal for our country.
Now, up to a point, I can respect this – but it’s not a referendum and it’s not independence. Absolutely, I want a socialist Scotland. Left policies make me happy. So, sure, we can vote them in to keep the pressure on them to make Scotland a more economically just and equitable country. I like that – but it’s not independence. The unionist Labour Party are offering the same thing. The independence campaign is not a campaign for a more left leaning nation, it is a campaign for independence in which every idea on the political spectrum can compete for attention in a sovereign Scottish parliament. Everything short of this is just – well – short of this.
Independence will not come as a result of a 2021 referendum Nicola Sturgeon does not have the power to deliver. We will have our referendum in one of two ways; either by voting for a pro-independence supermajority in Holyrood and thereby embarrassing England into granting a Section 30 order or by legislating it out of our way and holding a referendum without it. We are not children, and we have to quit thinking like children. Stop telling yourself and each other fantastical little stories about us being sovereign and just rocking up one day and declaring independence. It doesn’t work like this and the SNP certainly is not doing it like that. We are in a real-world process and we have to navigate realities and not just blow them away with wishful thinking.
- The Referendums (Scotland) Act 2020, s1(1), sets out both the reach and the limitations of the Act: ‘This Act applies to any referendum held throughout Scotland in pursuance of provision made by or under an Act of the Scottish Parliament (emphasis added).’ It therefore places beyond the legislative competence of the Scottish parliament referenda in pursuance of matters reserved to the Westminster parliament set out in Schedule 5 of the Scotland Act 1998 (Reserved Matters), specifically in this instance Sch 5.1(c), ‘the Parliament of the United Kingdom.’ Therefore, in accordance with the 2020 Act, the Scottish parliament must request an Order in Council (Section 30 order) for the temporary transfer of powers from the British government to hold such a referendum.
Indyref 2 without a Section 30 Order?
29 thoughts on “Explain to Me”
So having read this article and as fully understood it as I always do with your writing, it begs the question, why did the SNP pass the Referendums (Scotland) Act 2020,
Why did I not know about it until now?
Is Scotland’s democracy a sham from our side too?
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Indeed, that is the question.
Having read through all 175 pages of the Referendums (Scotland) Act 2020, I see no mention of, or allusion to, S30 what-so-ever. It would be great if our host could actually point to the piece of the legislation that he claims enshrined S30 in law.
If the requirement for a Section 30 was legislated for in 2019, why cannot that be repealed by the Scottish parliament? I have to ask why that requirement was actually made. No need for it.
Sorry just back from my annual 3rd wave hair cut and see that my question on Twitter has been answered.
Can you tease this point out in an essay?
I am going back to my bed, just because I can.
Which question and point is that, James?
After reading Hamish MacPherson’s article in The National yesterday I wrote to him asking if there was any route to gaining independence. He responded with the following 2 options: take our case to the U.K. Supreme Court for the Good Friday Agreement of a referendum timescale of seven years, or take the case to the United Nations where the U.K. will be forced to defend its anti-democratic processes.
So this would appear to be the route ahead.
Can we hold an advisory referendum without a section 30 order?
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The Murrels do not want independence that much is certain. They want the power and control they currently have and will sacrifice anyone anything to keep that power and control. An independent Scotland would almost certainly start to move away from this cluster of self regarding, woke megalomaniacs on the make. They know that and act accordingly.
Not good news for the ondependence movement, currently fractured by this diseased leadership into Now Scotland, ISP and AFI groups. Some are independence party oriented, some are independence movement oriented and some are both.
The SNP is neither.
We need either a firm date for indyref2 (with or without westmonster approval) as a manifesto pledge for May. Or a notification that May is a plebiscite and a majority of pro-independence MSPs will result in Scotland withdrawing from the treaty of union.
As you have so clearly written we are getting neither with the murrells.
Iain Lawson is much more forthright ( and , in my opinion , correct ) :
A manifesto is not legally binding and I wouldn’t trust the current SNP leadership to deliver on any promise they made in a manifesto. If it isn’t a plebiscite they are not getting my vote.
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The question about the silence on the S 30 incorporation as a requirement for Scotland.
The text of the Act can be read here:
“Referendums (Scotland) Act 2020”
Web search finds a readable introduction & summary piece here:
“More Than IndyRef2? The Referendums (Scotland) Act 2020”
It would be helpful if someone would post here identifying clearly the most contentious section(s).
Just being pedantic. It is not “mathematically impossible” to achieve a super majority. If 100% of voters cast both ballots for SNP then they would achieve 100% of the seats. This is of course extraordinarily unlikely. It would be more accurate to say “mathematically extremely improbable”. Of course the Government could rule all non-SNP votes illegal … haha just joking. No, wait
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Reblogged this on Ramblings of a now 60+ Female.
My argument, I do not recognise the so called sovereignty of another nation, regardless of any agreements ,treaties, laws they have made .
A section 30 was set down in relation to , what should be between honest and moral politicians.
Unfortunately , the English state is not and never has been an honest and moral institution.
Just look at the history between Ireland and this perfidious state.
Look at India, Palestine Chagossian islanders.
Difficult to know where to start.
I use the term politicians, at arm’s length, whilst holding my nose.
So! are we to wash away our historical sovereignty as a nation, because of the actions of “A parcel of rogues in a nation” where the people were suppressed at the actions of a few.
That was then , this is now, laws treaties are made by humans, they can be changed, just as the theft of Scottish land was illegally written up by those that could, to say they owned it, doesn’t make it so.
Executing Irishmen who were fighting for their
Nation was illegal, and should still be called out.
Just because that lot down there think they are all powerful, imperial, sovereign, doesn’t in reality make it so.
We are back to dealing with a
The Independence seeking? SNP led Government at Holyrood have apparently signed into law legislation which precludes referenda excepting the solemn approval of a Parliament which sits in another country, which in its own right is sworn to defend the Union of the Crown, is tantamount to betrayal of Scotland’s right to exist as a Sovereign Nation.
Nicola Sturgeon and the Government over which she presides has at the stroke of a pen condemned Scotland as a Nation to the whim of Westminster and in so doing has demonstrated how disingenuous her position as leader of the SNP the ONLY Party currently committed to delivering Scottish Independence has become.
From this perspective any commitment to deliver a referendum without the consent of Westminster is reminiscent of the Snake Oil Salesmen who once traversed the plains of the American Wild West seeking out simpletons to part with their hard earned cash, however in the present scenario they would seek to acquire their vote.
The SNP candidate for the constituency in which I reside will be Kate Forbes currently Finance spokesperson at Holyrood and due to her endorsing Westminster’s control of Scottish Sovereignty through this legislation she has forfeited her claim to my vote.
The malign forces currently abroad within the SNP are out of control and the blame for that lies squarely on the shoulders of the membership who basked in the apparent sunshine of their leader’s smile and poll ratings at the expense of our Nation’s future.
WAKE UP SNP, SCOTLAND’S DESTINY IS NOT YOURS TO DELIVER UNTO A FOREIGN PARLIAMENT!
There is nothing in the Referendums (Scotland) Act 2020 that sets S30 into law. Just because a blogger says it does, does not make it a fact. Read the legislation for yourself rather than taking someone else’s word for it.
Yes, read the legislation. Look for the details on limitations.
How about we don’t have a referendum at all? How about we do what most other nations have done and declare our independence after a plebiscitary election win, then take the constantly-breached Treaty to the UN (an added bonus most other countries did/do not have)?
That way, everyone who votes is aware of what is at stake. We will be no worse off if we don’t win. The first Indyref was a gamble worth taking because it was a fast and easy route had we pulled it off – and we nearly did. We blew it, though – or allowed others to blow it for us. We were never going to be allowed a second bite of that cherry.
From 2014 onwards, there was never a snowball’s chance in hell of getting another referendum, and, as you say, the SNP does not have the power to hold one. Now, what would any sane, rational person think in those circumstances? Hey, there must be another route? Okay. So let’s find it? That, of course, rests on the premise that the SNPG does actually want independence.
It is less that the SNPG does not want to hold another referendum (and can’t, despite the rhetoric), than the question that needs to be asked now is why is another route not being sought? Because they don’t want independence? Because they are unwilling to do what it will take to deliver independence? Yep, that’s it. Both of those, and more.
A second indyref that so much time and energy has been wasted on, was a non-starter from 19 September, 2014, just as a UK-wide overturning of Brexit was an impossibility from the get-go, and, if you are not going to go for independence either, where does that leave you? With Brexit, of course, and Scotland out of the EU, in tandem, even if very reluctantly, with the UK. Who would have thought it?
If you don’t want another independence referendum, in reality, and you know perfectly well that overturning Brexit is a non-starter, too, why would you keep your followers’ hopes up? Because you want to be in power for ever and a day? Well… yes. And you want to create a distraction that will keep minds off the big prize?
You create a more manageable prize – for the very few – against all advice and sense (because that is how you act now, in all circumstances) and introduce the two least popular policies in the history of the party: GRA Reform and the Hate Crime Bill, linking them so that you can stamp down hard on anyone who disagrees with the first by using the second as a sledgehammer, then (and this is the really ingenious bit) you link both of those to independence so that your supporters are forced to vote for you (and this reactionary tosh) even against their own inclinations.
What can we draw from all that? Well, we can start to appreciate just why keeping Alec Salmond out of frontline politics became a must. We can start to understand that behind all the incompetence and corruption and petty spite, there is a life or death reason why this administration is tearing down legal precepts: self preservation, that age-old instinct to survive whatever the cost to others. Oh, and, of course, none it has anything whatsoever to do with your raison d’être, independence, because you have never intended to push it.
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Well stated Lorna, the cost to others in the form of Scotland as a Nation will never feature in the world of Murrell and Company.
Name one country in the EU that gained its independence through a plebiscitery election. Iain Lawson couldn’t. Perhaps you can.
There is none, but Venice tried it in 2014. Any more of your trolling and you’ll be removed.
Define “trolling”. It seems if you support the views of the blogger you can post as much as you like. But if you question them …. you’re a troll. I have asked people pertinent questions about the bald claims they are making. How is that “trolling”?
Bung: the Baltic States elected (in an election overwhelmingly for independence from the Soviet Union) members to the Soviet Parliament and carried out undermining tactics as the Soviet collapse was starting to gain momentum. They eventually declared themselves independent and held ratifying referendums AFTER independence. The two parts of the old Czechoslovakia agreed to separate quite amicably – no election, no referendum. Just irreconcilable differences and the willingness on the part of the politicians to avoid bloodshed. The problem in Scotland is not the Scots, who want independence; it is the foot-dragging SNPG and Westminster.
No one is suggesting that we actually set up an independent Scottish state the day after the election. What a plebiscitary election would mean is that the people of Scotland will have shown their wish for an independent Scotland to be set up ASAP, effective immediately (another form of referendum, in fact, but within the powers of the SNPG NOW, and less likely to be tampered with). In other words, we win, we declare our intention to invite England aka the UK to negotiate our withdrawal, to begin within a matter of days, and, failing that, we take our case to the UN, based on the Treaty breaching, which has been consistent and one-sided in England’s aka the UK’s favour. A ratifying referendum would be necessary, of course before declaring independence. The Treaty, whatever happens, however it happens, will require to be negotiated and resiled. The UK cannot be dismantled without its being resiled. The Acts of Union also would require to be repealed, but their repeal would not affect the Treaty, which is governed by international law.
The situation in Scotland is quite unique in that it is rare for a country to vote on independence without a background of political unrest, war and violence. That uniqueness can be displayed effectively at the ballot box. What stands in our way now is the SNPG, and its determination not to take us to independence, and, of course, Westminster, which needs what we have and will do anything in its power to keep us corralled within the ‘Union’, so-called.
I must assume that you would prefer political unrest (we already have that) and violence? Carry on in your Westminster manner, crushing hopes, and conflict may well follow as the only route available, as has happened so often with Westminster intransigence and bone-headed stupidity, Bung. It always does when people are thwarted once too often. You might well get your wish, but I wonder whether you will think it worth it when we could behave democratically and legally and avoid it?
I’m not in a position to finance you in any way, but I wish I could. You speak the truth every word. Section 30 the lot, Iam an independent Scotland I want my country free, for my grandkids, I do not need to support the SNP, They should be extremely grateful I loan then my vote year in year out
I’ll leave off any discussion of S.30 & comment on the first part of your article, Jason.
NS states there is no evidence of a conspiracy & I would like to believe her. I truly would. I’ve met her twice & liked her & she is well regarded by my aunt & uncle who know her from interactions within Govan. Similarly I’ve met AS twice & did not warm to him at all. I’ve met quite a few predatory people (I was once a police officer) & can see AS fitting that bill all too well. Which is not to say he is anything but a decent man because I don’t know him (or NS) & one should – absolutely not! – never judge a book by its cover. But if I was forced to tell you who I hoped was telling the truth I’d say ‘I believe in Nicola’. Except that I don’t.
I voluntarily restrict my (Scottish politics) reading to a small handful of bloggers whom I’ve been following since 2014. I’ve deserted a few others in this time as the things they’ve written have annoyed me in one way or another. I am very much in a bubble of my own choosing so I get to read statements & blogs that I generally agree with. So I’m definitely in danger of being sucked into the narrative that others – you included, Jason – have chosen for me. And yet…
And yet it would be so easy for NS to prove (in my eyes) you all wrong. To prove you & Wings & Craig Murray & Grouse Beater & Iain Lawson & Gordon Dangerfield & & & all wrong by simply publishing a believable account of what actually took place. But she hasn’t & the selective actions of the Crown (Office) against the likes of Mark Hirst & Craig Murray do nothing to support her assertion that AS is making false accusation.
I know there is always a danger of being in a bubble of belief about anything but if everything anyone outside that bubble says can be shown to be flawed, if not downright wrong, then being in the bubble is only the correct place to be.
I only have to look at the kind of people NS admires to know the content of her character.
I have always felt her smile is fake and forced, as are her displays of ’empathy’.
And she doesn’t like dogs…
Well done Jason!
Your article has become particularly relevant with the arrival of Alba.
I was thinking this myself over the last week – If they’re pushing “SNP 1+2”, are they even interested in winning?