The gauntlet is thrown

This is where I get to say, “Ah telt ye!” Since the EU referendum was announced I have been warning that the British establishment would seek to use withdrawal from the EU as an opportunity to constitutionally redefine the UK; and that this would inevitably be to Scotland’s detriment.

To be fair, you didn’t have to be all that smart to see it coming. The British establishment is desperate for an ‘enduring’ solution to the Scottish problem. Devolution was supposed to keep a lid on Scotland’s aspirations. It was meant to mask the fundamental flaws that make the political union between Scotland and England untenable. Flaws that have lain at the heart of this constitutional lash-up from its inception, awaiting only a time when simmering discontent with the arrangement might find a voice, and a forum in which that voice might be heard.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) was, for decades, the voice of Scotland’s independence movement. The niggling, nagging voice that kept alive the realisation that there was something not right about the Union. That, in fact, there was something very wrong with it. Firstly, there was the asymmetry; a gross imbalance of power which, even in the pre-democratic era, rankled with those possessed of a basic sense of fairness.

Then there was the intractable conflict between the incompatible concepts of parliamentary and popular sovereignty. To put it more simply than might be deemed wise but must suffice for present purposes, the Union represented an affront to something residing deep in the Scottish psyche. Something that was, and is, far from unique to the people of Scotland. But which was directly and noticeably offended by being denied with the imposition of the alien idea of parliamentary sovereignty.

These two things – asymmetry and denial of the sovereignty of the people – sparked a resentment that was never going to dissipate. It would be submerged in times of prosperity and peril. But it would always return. Because the causes would always remain. The SNP became the political agency of those who were not prepared to meekly accept the abiding constitutional injustice of the Union. It is opposed by those who regard that injustice as a price worth paying for access to the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

Scotland’s independence movement now had a voice. It needed a forum. That forum was provided when, on 12 May 1999, Winnie Ewing declared,

“The Scottish Parliament, which adjourned on March 25, 1707, is hereby reconvened.”

From the perspective of the British state, those words were the trigger for chain of unintended consequences. The rise of the SNP with growing awareness of the true nature of the Union; the evolution of a particular form of civic nationalism; the development of a distinctive political culture; the organic blossoming of the gloriously democratic Yes movement, and, perhaps most importantly, the shifting of the locus of Scottish politics from Westminster to Holyrood.

Yesterday, Theresa May declared her intention to put an end to all of this. A politician who has absolutely no mandate in Scotland announced her intention to impose on Scotland the authority of a government that has no mandate here.

Her tone was imperious. Her attitude was arrogant. Her language was confrontational. Her purpose was unmistakeable. Scotland is to be locked into a United Kingdom reconstituted as the embodiment of a British nationalist ideology which is anathema to at least half the people of Scotland.

Ah telt ye!

The only thing that I didn’t predict was the manner of this challenge to Scotland’s democracy and identity. I didn’t foresee that it would be quite so massively unsubtle and brazenly combative. Although, in my own defence, I have lately been voicing concerns that Theresa May seemed capable of any kind of madness. We now know something of the extent of this madness.

It will take some time to properly come to terms with the full implications of Theresa May’s speech. But know this! The implications are profound. The choices facing the people of Scotland are crystallising in a way, and at a rate, that I had not anticipated. I am wary of hasty reactions to major developments. But my immediate response is to welcome this.

If the issue is to be reduced to a choice between Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon; between Westminster and Holyrood; between the British state being created by the Tories and the Scotland to which we aspire, I’m pretty sure I know which way most of Scotland will go.

Bring it on!

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24 thoughts on “The gauntlet is thrown

  1. Col

    Wow, sobering too think what is being proposed. So is this really it? Vote for indy and shape our country the way we see fit or willingly give the Tories the right to trample over our country. Which they gladly will.
    The gloves need to come off as soon as the referendum is called.
    Folk will disagree but we should have spent a little more time in indy ref 1 explaining the negative points of the UK. We need our best at the front line to make a passionate case and not be drawn into meaningless arguments.
    We have some amazing online sources for information, some of your faces are less well known in Scotland. How good will it be for you to use your relatively low profiles and great understanding of issues which in all honesty our politicians can sometimes lack.
    Politicians are all too often bound in the arguments they feel they can make for fear of a backlash from the unionists and their media attack dogs.
    Let the politicians play their part but we need others who can REALLY put the boot in without fear of reprisals. We have way too much to lose. We are almost there. Let’s not fuck this up.

  2. bringiton

    We will only ever be allowed to share power with England’s Tories at Westminster,so long as we vote for political parties they approve of i.e. only political parties based in London.Even then,the “sharing” will be on the basis that we do as we are told.
    Devolution is stone dead.
    May has now completely polarised the political debate in Scotland between independence or London rule and the doggie bone of devolved power thrown at Scots by Blair is about to be reduced to just a lingering odour.

  3. Corrado Mella

    I find very much solace in a frolic I’ve been gifting myself of late.

    I do not listen to what any mentally challenged sociopathic psychopath vomits out of their upper hole, as it has the same smell of what comes out of my lower one.

    It would be foolish to give heed to the demented, unhinged stream of keech these gibbons fling against the fan that’s blowing our gale of rational, heartfelt self-awareness.

    The only crumb of power remaining to the BritNat Establishment is its ability to befuddle and dismay us with their inane rants.

    I’ve wiped it off the table. Ah canny care less aboot thon bawbags.

    My life is now solidly better for it. I recommend it to everyone.

  4. AndyD

    Indeed. May’s speech is nothing short of a declaration of war. Which means we are entering new territory. I will continue to support the SNP as it attempts to administer Scotland within the restrictions imposed upon it by UK law, and as it works at Westminster as the only functional opposition. But it is time to throw off the pretence that the existing political process will enable the democratic voice of the Scottish people to be heard. To some extent the SNP will, by being forced to respond to May, become engaged in a rearguard action. Which is presumably part of the plan. In which case, insurrection becomes necessary. These people have absolutely no desire to cede power. Which means we have to seize it.

    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      I, and I’m sure the vast majority of people on the Yes movement, remain steadfastly committed to restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status by lawful, peaceful, democratic means.

      1. J tasker

        Dear Peter, thanks for the talk yesterday. I note you touched upon this subject in answer to some of the questions the panel took.

        I’m afraid I agree with Andy, I think the Tory’s position leaves us Scots with no out under the “democratic” process.

        The British state is incapable of equanimity. Even if we do vote to leave they’ll stir it with partition and foment loyalist violence. We must therefore be ready for confrontation either way. “If you want peace, prepare for war”. But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

        1. Peter A Bell Post author

          I am disturbed that the British political elite now seems intent on closing the democratic route to restoring Scotland’s independence. But I I think that, rather than acquiescing in this, we should defy them and be doubly determined to keep that route open.

          1. Alan Johnson

            I admire your belief, Peter, but history has shown repeatedly that those who possess power will never willingly relinquish it. What we are seeing is not democracy, but a complete abuse and distortion of the democratic process. Yes, we should defy them – but by the Scottish Parliament declaring its immediate intention to leave the UK unilaterally.
            I believe that we have passed a point of no return, be are being patronised, ignored, and treated quite abominably, and I believe most sincerely that UDI is now our only way forward. Bring it on!

    2. grizebard

      Wrong, so wrong, so defeatist.

      Independence is only going to be won by convincing the majority of people in Scotland that it serves their interest far better than the alternative – a whole-life sentence in HMP Brexittania.

      I trust the people of Scotland, and believe they are very near to recognising that sovereignity is their only hope of a viable future. When they do, no amount of UK finagling will be able to stop them. A true “Berlin Wall” moment. If you are sincere about this country and its people, you should believe that such a moment is coming too.

  5. Alasdair Macdonald

    In tandem with this announcement there was the ‘interview’ of Mrs May by Ms Jackie Bird, in which she repeatedly stated (pleaded?), ‘you have the power to stop this’ (i.e. a new referendum on independence), and the repeated trailing of Ms Davidson’s speech about the ‘failings of Scottish education’.

    This is the development of the ‘get back to the day job’ argument which was repeated frequently during the current Conservative conference – it seemed every interviewee was primed to say it. Education will continue to be attacked, the NHS will continue to be attacked, transport will continue to be attacked. BBC Scotland has turned up the volume on the ‘Better Together’ propaganda, although rebranded as ‘Together We’re Stronger’.

    The next Council elections are going to be about far more than the usual issues. The will be a big test of public opinion. So, SNP and Greens need to get their voters out and also need to be clear about the STV voting strategy. ConLabLibDem will vote tactically to maximise the number of unionist councillors, irrespective of the specific party. They will vote for whomever has the best chance of being elected.

    Across the North Channel, we have just seen a sea change in the balance of power. The Northern Irish unionist parties no longer have a majority. SF are within 2000 votes and one seat of the DUP. With the passing of Ian Paisley, the DUP has lost much of its momentum and the strongly ‘churchy’ dimension he imposed on it is fading. Whether a new power sharing agreement can be reached some time soon is problematic. If it is, and I hope it is, ‘all is changed, changed utterly’.

  6. Alan Crerar

    The choice is even simpler than your final paragraph, Peter: Is it to be Scottish nationalism or English nationalism for us? There is nothing else left.

  7. stewartb

    The direction being set by May and the Tories towards taking back power to Westminster – to interfering in the remit of the Holyrood parliament – is hardly conducive to any sort of cross-unionist party agreement to even begin to explore federalism. Surprise, surprise, Labour’s fantasy fix for the UK constitution looks to be a non starter.

  8. Alan Johnson

    To me the answer is clear. Our democratically elected SNP MPs at Westminster, true to their principles and vocal in their stance, are dismissed and ignored. Enough is enough. Now our very own Parliament is under threat. May’s disgraceful and patronising speech yesterday was indeed a declaration of war, and there can only be one fitting response. The Scottish Parliament should declare UDI for Scotland, without hesitation, and with immediate effect. If Westminster seek a constitutional crisis, let them have one, unprecedented in its scope, and right now.

    1. Lisanne Valente

      Totally agree, however should we do this, all manners of legalities in constitution will be broken. Which I susoect is the gameplay of Westminster. They are pushing hard, why? They’re pushing for reaction so they can “control the situation”. As they’ve done in NI upon their rejection of unionism, the tories have taken over their government until “things settle down”! I would bet my house they’re doing same to the Scots’ parliament.

  9. David MacGille-Mhuire

    Alan
    I am more than inclined to agree – abrogate the Union Treaty. Rip it up as it is not and has never been worth the paper it was written on. Recall our WM MPs to Holyrood and fully reinstate our parliament (a task not yet completed) as representative of the sovereign will of the citizens of Scotland.

    However, timing is all, especially given these open changes of circumstances arrogantly asserted by Ms May and her comprador flunkies north of the Border.

    My gut feeling – and I fully accept I may be wrong – is “hold, hold. Steady…” a few more lengths of rope for them to hubristically exploit, then “up and at them” constitutionally and democratically and without sacrificing any of our rights to defend ourselves as enshrined in the U.N. Charter and under EU treaties and laws as well as international law itself.

    That all said, time seems to be increasingly pressing and options may need to be reassessed and I trust our brothers and sisters on the mainland of continental Europe, both within the EU and without it, recognize our precarious predicament engineered by these xenophobic British nationalists and Unionists pumped on exceptionalist steroids.

    1. Alan Johnson

      Thank you, David. I welcome your support, and those of others on here. I am both dismayed and excited at this turn of events, and although I agree that a considered response is needed, we need to act now, and decisively, to bring this Union, which has never acted in our interest, to an immediate end.

  10. Andy McKirdy

    Bringiton, your right about the polarisation of political debate but it’s been this way for 3 years now. Every vote at every level is about YES or NO.
    It’s now the time, cause it’s running out, for the hundreds of thousands of people who live with their heads up their arse, immersed in crap daytime or Saturday night telly to decide how they want their future to look like.
    Up until now most will have existed in their immutably content bubble relatively unaffected by events. This time is coming to an end and they will be the biggest losers.
    These people are the problem for us, they are in the middle of the divide between the dyed in the wool Yoons, with a large number who would gladly live in poverty as long as they could keep their allegiance to the crown intact, and the rest of us.
    We all know people in this middle group, they won’t care until they are personally affected, this has always been the way in all of England’s colonies and is the reason why Independence from England has always had to be taken, by armed conflict or periods of ethnic violence.
    England would rather see a colony destroyed than allow it to go its own way, it’s their natural state and it will apply to Scotland.
    The challenge for us is to engage the apathetic and non-carers and get this done peacefully and democraticly.
    The evidence of 30’years of violence in NI is there for us all to see the lengths the British state will tolerate to protect their position.
    This outcome is not imagined. If we don’t take this opportunity in Indyref 2 then the English government WILL destroy Scottish democracy without batting an eyelid.
    History does not lie!!!!!!

    1. Alan Johnson

      Well said, Andy. The Tories will stop at nothing to get their way, and the main reason that they want to hang on to Scotland is the presence of the obscene Trident weapons system on our shores. Beyond that they have no interest in, or knowledge of, Scotland. You are so right about the lessons of history. We need to fight back, forcefully, and now, with unparalleled determination, while convincing a majority of our fellow Scots of the extreme seriousness of this situation, and taking them with us in leaving the rUK once and for all, at the earliest opportunity.
      Brexit means Scexit!

  11. Robert Graham

    I believe Mayhem is mad enough to take it to the wire , she and her ministers are on a power trip , this PM cant be negotiated with ,its her way or no way, she gave the game away regarding a deal with the EU she signalled her government was willing to walk away without any deal , this was reinforced with the Lords committees opinion that the UK need not pay anything when leaving the EU ,
    Maggie was a problem this current Tory wants a final solution , this is Mayhems Miners strike and she is determined not to lose , Are we determined enough to Win ? .

    1. Alan Johnson

      Well said, Robert. We absolutely must win, and now, because the alternative – years of being dictated to an ignored by a US-orientated, anti-European right wing Tory government of the worst “little Englander” kind, is anathema to the majority of fair-minded Scots, who thankfully put human and social value before personal wealth and sheer greed.

  12. Iain Robertson

    As Lyndon Johnston said – “It’s time to shit or get off the pot”. Hollyrood needs to prepare a cast-iron case and procedure for legally declaring a UDI under UN and International law. When we are pushed too far, and that point is very close, invoke it.

    1. Alan Johnson

      Well said, Iain. I sincerely believe UDI not only that to be the route we should go down, but that it is now left as our only real option to set us free from our patronising Tory oppressors. I do not use that phrase lightly, or for effect – but only because I believe it to be entirely and frighteningly true. No-one should doubt the ruthlessness of the Westminster Tory establishment who will not hesitate to crush anything that stands in its way, and Ruth Davidson is being naive and foolish in her attempts to make naked Unionism look in any sense reasonable or palatable.

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