Scotland Needs To Leave This Supposed ‘United’ Kingdom
The days of standing against proud Edward’s army are past. But Boris Johnson’s dominion is breaking the UK’s social union – Scotland can and must rise now.
In December last year, the leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, wrote to the freshly instated Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, formally requesting a Section 30 order under the 1998 Scotland Act – aka, the transfer of powers from Westminster to Holyrood to ensure a second referendum (hereby, IndyRef2) is perfectly legal and valid.
Yesterday, January 13, anything but shock and awe left Downing Street: Johnson, as expected, denied Sturgeon’s request in a replying letter – citing the promise made to ‘the Scottish people’ to uphold the 2014 No result among other reasons. However, in his figurehead stubbornness, he’s forgetting one word: mandate.
Sturgeon had also sent a further document to the Prime Minister, entitled: ‘Scotland’s Right to Choose’, outlining the ‘constitutional and democratic case for Scotland’ having the choice to leave the UK. Alas, the arguments within were in vain – in Sturgeon’s view, a ‘predictable – but also unsustainable and self-defeating’ outcome from Johnson.
Sturgeon’s response was clear and succinct, writing:
The Tories – and their allies in the leaderships of Labour and the Lib Dems – lack any positive case for the Union, so all they can do is try to block democracy.
It shows utter contempt for the votes, views and interests of the people of Scotland and it is a strategy that is doomed to failure.
While today’s response is not surprising – indeed we anticipated it – it will not stand. It is not politically sustainable for any Westminster government to stand in the way of the right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future and to seek to block the clear democratic mandate for an independence referendum.
As the Tories continue to guffaw and relish their earth-shattering majority from the 2019 General Election, with Brexiteers smugly battening down the hatches in heady anticipation of exiting the EU at the end of the month, despair has since ravaged the emotional makeup of England and Wales’ ‘minority’.
Yet, in the north, something is brewing. With a sweeping yield of seats in perhaps the nation’s most indicative vote, the SNP have more fuel than ever: no maybes, Scotland’s independence is coming, it’s just a matter of when (despite Boris’ point-blank refusals).
Late last year, Labour suffered their worst loss since the days of the Second World War, and with 365 seats, it was the largest Conservative victory since the days of Maggie Thatcher. Though, an electoral map tells a different story for Tory rule: they cannot penetrate Scotland’s nationalist lean.
Out of 59 possible seats, the SNP swooped 48, with the Tories taking six, Lib Dems winning four and Labour with a measly one. As per the SNP’s manifesto, this clearly shows somewhat of an appetite for breaking apart the union in the north.
The manifesto read:
Whatever people’s view on the European Union, and however they voted on Brexit, it is obvious that Westminster is broken. Three years of political chaos has exposed that for all to see. There is no end in sight. A vote for the SNP at this election offers an escape route for Scotland. It’s a vote for Scotland’s right to choose our own future in a new independence referendum.
The Scottish Conservatives blazed an anti-IndyRef2 trail from the off, with the number one guarantee on their manifesto reading: ‘We will stop Nicola Sturgeon’s plan for a second independence referendum next year.’
Whether the voters heard or read their parties ideas or absorbed tidbits here and there, a clear choice was made that day. Johnson may insist his refusal is upholding the democratic decision of the Scottish people – alas, he’s ultimately inhibiting free will in action.
Combing through Johnson’s letter, a further troubling part stuck out: ‘Another independence referendum would continue the political stagnation that Scotland has seen for the last decade, with Scottish schools, hospitals and jobs again left behind because of a campaign to separate the UK.’
Firstly, some facts: the SNP scrapped graduate endowment, thereby introducing free university education; the second-highest level of top universities per person in the world; an extra 1,239 teachers in classrooms; 847 schools upgraded since 2007; and £5 billion invested in health infrastructure since coming to power. As for jobs, investment in the economy has one big deterrent: Brexit.
Staunch is the claim that Scotland has been rife with political stagnation when Westminster has been plagued by it ever since the UK voted to leave the European Union. It’s the whole bloody reason Johnson steered his winning campaign on three words alone: ‘Get Brexit done!’
The B-word is cursed. For many now, it’s associated with the dread of the unknown and speculation over the collapse of UK-wide businesses and commodities. However, there are sensible arguments to be had on both sides of the coin – this isn’t an ode or polemic to the EU. What’s plainly obvious is the polarity of voting cultures between England and Scotland.
In 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU by 52% to 48%, with the most of the Leave votes coming from England and Wales – and not a single Leave majority across the entirety of Scotland. As a country, Scotland voted to stay in the EU. However, Scotland’s position in the union has prevented it from being a major player in Westminster discussions – really, we’ve just been a vocal force on the sidelines.
Ergo, how can one argue there isn’t a mandate for independence? The UK’s stature as a partnership of equals has faded even more critically over the course of the Brexit rigmarole. Yes, the first vote was dubbed a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ event. But the Leave campaign was also found to have broken electoral law – things change, and steps must be taken to address such changes.
Also, if stagnation is defined as a state of not flowing or moving, it’s not applicable to the energy of Scotland’s politics, particularly among the people. The result of the 2014 referendum (in which I, myself, even voted No) was arguably the framing device independence needed: this time, the Yes campaign can hone in on their failings and capitalise on people’s reluctance to give in to another ‘Project Fear’.
Since 2014, Yes marches have regularly flooded the coasts, towns and cities of Scotland (in October last year, more than 200,000 joined in on a peaceful rally of optimism in Edinburgh). Unlike the catastrophic Catalonia situation, the independence movement is amicably accepted – but how will Sturgeon get that referendum?
Court action is a risky route: the UK government is under no legal obligation to grant a Section 30 order when requested, and as the tension between two nations has never been so brittle, there’s never been a requirement for legal action (however, going down that route would break the ground on Westminster’s upper-hold on devolution legislation).
A popular option often spouted in political chatter and opinion columns is an ‘advisory vote’ of sorts. Essentially, an under-the-table referendum which would be used to strengthen Sturgeon’s pre-existing mandate, if successful. It’s an intriguing, if problematic tool: councils could refuse to host such a vote, and unionists could boycott it, thereby negating its value (even further).
In the document sent to the PM, Sturgeon made it very clear that she supports civil action à la Yes marches up and down the country – this is the key.
While constitutional stalemate will likely ping-pong for the near-future, 2021’s Holyrood elections will be an unflappable indicator of Scotland’s wants as a population, especially if the SNP achieve an overwhelming majority. Sensible, attentive campaigning must be a made a priority (especially since pro-indy polls aren’t exactly glowing, with Yes numbers regularly dipping under that critical 50%).
With Johnson’s post-General Election rejection, the battle for IndyRef2 has truly begun – and the constitution is already reaching the fringes of a crisis.
‘Oh Flower of Scotland, when will we see your like again?’
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