There are no legal routes to independence. We cannot challenge the British government over its refusal to grant a Section 30 because there is no mechanism in law with which to do this, and there is no constitutional requirement of the British government to do it either. This was always a fiction. Scotland does not have the same relationship of consent with the London government the people of the north of Ireland have in the Good Friday Agreement. Britain does not legally require the consent of the Scottish people to government Scotland.
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.
Last time round, in 2012, the Scottish and British governments agreed on a Section 30 Order. In the Edinburgh Agreement arising from this the negotiated terms and conditions of an independence referendum were laid out, giving the Scottish people – for one day – the freedom to decide the constitutional future of their country. It is altogether likely the Scottish government feels that the best way forward from here is to seek another Section 30 and, in effect, have another referendum in the form and likeness of the 2014 referendum.
Part of this impatience, I suspect, is the demand for a UDI – a unilateral declaration of independence. Now, some of my closest friends in the movement are supporters of such a declaration. It forces our elected representatives to pin their colours to the mast and act, at our behest, for Scotland and independence. It sounds good. It’s attractive. It would certainly get us where we want to go. But my thoughts on it might land me in a spot of bother. I am not a fan.
Every confidence trick has its mark, and every mark has to be reeled in with a story – this is the prose or the narrative of union. Over time the prose of the union has changed but the purpose has always been the same, to keep us in the game. It was once about benefiting from England’s other colonies. Yes, we benefitted alright. We got progress: The Clearances, emigration, industrialised poverty, a metropolis in London that soaked up our best and brightest. If being bled dry was our objective, we did alright out of the union.
By 2014 the Russian money was in play, ready to play its part in the total subversion of British and possibly US democracy. We have two people in Britain linked to the game plan; the money launderer Richard Cook and the then Prime Minister David Cameron, who intervened in Cook’s general election campaign in East Renfrewshire in Scotland – selling him as the Tory environmental option – and who put the EU referendum on the table [exit Mr Cameron, stage left].
The referendum we were granted in 2014 was an anomaly. We would never have been given the opportunity to vote on independence if those in power in Westminster thought for a single moment that we would elect to leave. They were banking on our defeat, and they expected a defeat so humiliating, so utter and comprehensive it would, in a single blow, send our smouldering hope flying off into the abyss of history and ancient and half-remembered lore. But we took up that gauntlet and we bloodied their nose. Our defeat then was the pallid victory of the swindler...
Next year is too late, and it is troubling – quite frankly – to see how many people in the independence movement do not get this. Brexit fundamentally alters the political landscape on which we are campaigning for independence. Outside the European Union and without anything approaching an equitable trade agreement; which is the most likely outcome, the United Kingdom will be forced to rely on Scotland’s mineral resources. Britain cannot survive a southbound Brexit without its northern lifeline.