Precious space

One thing we can be sure of is that London is extremely jealous of Madrid’s constitutional power over Catalonia and would dearly like to have similar means to ‘discourage’ Scotland’s civic nationalist movement. But this would inevitably alter the political space in which the campaign for independence is conducted. And that should be a matter of serious concern to everyone.

This is a topic that I addressed in a recent article for iScot Magazine. What follows is an edited extract from that article.

Society comprises various power centres. For our purposes, we will consider only two general categories – prevailing, or established power; and countervailing power. The point is that the form taken by countervailing power is defined by prevailing power. To put it simply, established authority ‘decides’ the nature of any challenge to that authority. The countervailing power can only be what the prevailing power ‘allows’ it to be.

We might think of it as a liquid filling a vessel. The liquid, or countervailence, must take the shape of the space defined by the vessel, or prevailing power.

Not in any absolute sense, of course. Things are rarely that simple. Human affairs are not commonly mechanistic. The vessel may be flexible and/or elastic. The degree of flexibility and/or elasticity may vary across the internal surface which constrains the countervailing power. The countervailing power itself may not be a homogeneous mass. It may not entirely fill the vessel. It may, therefore, only be defined by certain parts of that internal surface. And it need not be of a regular consistency. It may be, in whole or part, more or less viscous.

The overarching rule is that, to qualify as such, countervailing power must exist and function within the confines of of the space defined by prevailing power. The form and nature and effect of countervailence ultimately depends on the form and nature and effect of established authority.

There are lessons in this concept of prevailing/countervailing power for all of us. Not least, and by way of an illustrative example, for a Yes movement in Scotland which, if these theories are at all valid, has become the positive, peaceful aspirational political force that it is in large part due to the space allowed it by the British state. Some will claim, with considerable justification, that this was down to the complacency of firmly entrenched traditional power rather than any respect for the democratic process. But both sides in this political interplay should be mindful that all actions have consequences.

The fight to restore Scotland’s independence is being conducted in a political space which is not fixed. That space can change. It is most likely to change due to the actions of the prevailing power. For the simple reason that it is the prevailing power and, therefore, has the greatest capacity to effect change. Let’s all just pause to appreciate the space that we have. And to reflect on what implications changes to this space might imply for the nature of countervailing power in our little corner of history’s ocean.

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2 thoughts on “Precious space

  1. alasdairB

    If the SNP wait for the stars and planets to align before calling Indyref2 we could be waiting indefinitely and in the meantime Westminster could do untold damage to the Independence cause by restricting funding, withdrawing powers and generally weakening the powers of Holyrood to those of an English regional council.

    These are no idle thoughts as the process has already started. The Supreme Court has ruled the Sewal Convention as a political arrangement and has no basis in law. We have been told we will have no say over Scottish immigration post Brexit ; there will be no special arrangemen within the Brexit negotiations for Scotland ; there is unlikely to be any repatriation of retained powers such as fisheries and agriculture . In short we are being shafted, even as we debate, by one of the most unpleasant administrations in living memory with Mays placements in Scotland Mundell & Davidson feeding the government supporting media with a daily dose of invective comment and dodgy statistics.

    We cannot therefore allow the unionist opposition much more untrammelled access to their friends in the media . The decisive Holyrood vote tomorrow should be the trigger for our first moves on Independence Mark2, followed soon after by a Constitutional Convention as suggested by Craig Murray &!where we specifically repudiate the Acts of Union and thereafter declare Scotland as an Independent Nation.

    Thereafter we would quite quickly be able to hold a Referendum on the Constitution and the type of parliament whilst simultaneously holding negotiations with the EU and Westminster. With some experience in a similar project I believe all of this could be achieved in a 9/12 month period.

    We cannot wait around much longer whilst the unionists marshall their troops and design project fear on another level. We have to be more clever & devious than the opposition and a short sharp campaign as outlined above would in my opinion wrong foot Westminster and lead to Independence in the shortest possible timescale.

    After all good fortune always smiles on the brave.

  2. baronesssamedi bb

    “Thereafter we would quite quickly be able to hold a Referendum on the Constitution and the type of parliament whilst simultaneously holding negotiations with the EU and Westminster. With some experience in a similar project I believe all of this could be achieved in a 9/12 month period.”

    Interesting, alasdair B. Tell us more.

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