Scots are genuinely and rightly concerned about the future of devolution. There is nothing permanent in the current constitutional arrangement, and nor can there ever be. It matters not a jot what the Scotland Act says or what any one politician says; sovereignty in the United Kingdom rests only in Westminster. No law and no treaty can bind the power of this or any future London government to any particular course of action. We can talk about the Claim of Right and Scots Law all we like, the legal reality, for so long as we remain a part of the United Kingdom...
Britain is not going to face the prospect of this level of economic chaos without controlling Scotland’s resources, yet neither can it risk Scotland continuing to upset the Brexit dream and the hoped-for creation of the Great British tax haven. In short, London really does have to have its cake and eat it if any of this is to stand a chance of working. So, how can Westminster get rid of Scotland and keep its paws on our resources at the same time?
Yet, we have such an éminence grise. Dumfries and Galloway MSP Joan McAlpine exploded on social media last night when one “Jordon, Duke of Edinburgh” – the partner of Alyn Smith, allegedly – revealed to his Twitter followers the full details of a Scottish government announcement to Holyrood scheduled for tomorrow. Like my hypothetical example above, he had all the details; the position of the government, details of the consultation process and the working group, and the timeline of the bill going before parliament.
Given that Westminster is not in Scotland’s bests interests and that devolution, as it is, is not fit for purpose – things even Murdo Fraser has conceded, Nicola Sturgeon has proposed an open process of dialogue with the British unionist parties seeking to gain something short of independence but better than what we have. In a world running short on statesmen, this was a splendid – even Bismarckian – act of statesmanship, and kudos to her for it. Some may see this as a sell-out, but I will argue the case that it is not. This is a smart move.
In the coming weeks the United Kingdom is going to slip chaotically into the deepest political and social crisis it has experienced since the outbreak of the Second World War. The very existence of the British state, given the conditions of an “Apocalypse scenario” Brexit crash out, will be on the line. Civil disorder caused by food shortages and lack of essential medicines will bring matters to a head in England, Scotland, Wales, and those parts of Ireland still under British occupation.
Westminster no longer benefits Scotland. Westminster never benefitted Scotland. What is meant here is that Westminster, so long as we remain there, functions to impede the further growth of the independence movement. The problem this causes us has become so glaring, so obvious, that it has become a source of shame. Independence presupposes a nation’s freedom, and Scotland can never and will never be free until it has rejected its slavish place in England’s parliament.
An announcement that an announcement is coming is, however, a welcome development. It is a relief. For too long the independence cause has been bogged down in a waiting game. The movement on the ground has gone stir-crazy, and things aren’t exactly much better up the political chain. At Westminster our SNP MPs – a good few of them at any rate – have splashed out on all the People’s Vote merchandise in the vain hope that being a team player for the benefit of Remain England – the minority of the English electorate – will improve our chances on bettering Scotland.
Time is fast running out. On 29 March, eighty-five days from today, these conditions will be realised when the United Kingdom leaves the EU – and most likely without a deal. If we are to guarantee independence in our lifetimes, then the time to act is now. Nothing, of course, is impossible, but the likelihood of yet another opportunity like this presenting itself within the next fifty years is slim to none. We have a threefold mandate under the present conditions to call another independence referendum, and time on this is even running out.