Things to come

In June 2012 I wrote an article speculating about what a No vote in the first independence referendum would mean for Scotland. The following now seems quite prophetic.

The British political establishment will rapidly move to assert the sovereignty of parliament and affirm the subordinate nature of the devolved Scottish institutions.

I wasn’t right about everything. It would be remarkable if I had been, given the extraordinary nature of Scottish politics in the years following publication of that piece. Some things that I predicted would happen if Scotland voted No, such as the scrapping of the Barnett Formula in favour of a ‘needs based’ calculation, didn’t come to pass simply because of the SNP landslide in the 2015 UK general election. I don’t think anybody could have foreseen that. Things have proceeded at a slower pace than I anticipated. But there can be no disputing that I was correct about the general trend.

What we are witnessing is nothing less than the dismembering of Scotland’s democracy. It is now painfully evident what the price of that No vote in September 2014 will be. As I warned more than five years ago, Scotland is being “well and truly reminded of its place in a union which will come to look more and more like a thinly disguised Greater England.”

This is not intended as bragging about my political perspicacity. That would be the bitterest boast. Much of this was easily foretold. It is no more than realpolitik. The British state sees Scotland’s democracy as a threat. It stands to reason that it will move to nullify that threat. And, being the British state, it will not be constrained by principle or even sound political sense. Brutish Britannia will have her way at any cost.

My purpose here is, not to say, “I told you so!”. although that is a temptation hard to resist. The reason I point out how right I was all these years ago about how things would pan out in the wake of a No vote is to, hopefully, lend some weight to a further warning about where things go from here.

Back in 2012 I said,

The Scotland Office will be given a much bigger role, with scrutiny and oversight powers giving it effective control over much of the work of the Scottish Parliament – even to the extent of significantly expanded veto powers for the Secretary of State.

The British political establishment may not be bold enough to shut down the Scottish Parliament completely. Although I wouldn’t rule it out. Instead, it may be death by a thousand cuts. The so-called ‘Tory power grab’ is, in reality, a move by the British political elite intended, in large part at least, to facilitate the emasculation of Holyrood.

In fact, an eviscerated Scottish Parliament, able to assert a spurious democratic legitimacy but ultimately powerless, might suit the British state’s purposes better than imposed direct rule. The future of Holyrood may be as a ventriloquist’s dummy operated by Westminster with the aid of the British parties in Scotland.

I could be wrong about all this, of course. Just because I got it largely right before, doesn’t mean I must be right now. But, given what the stakes are, do you really want to gamble on me being wrong?

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27 thoughts on “Things to come

  1. Clydebuilt

    Yup a powerless ventriloquist’s dummy . . . That’s how I see it going also. And after a while Scots could get fed up with Holyrood and even want rid of it.. . . . A Torie’s dream come true.

  2. Big Jock

    Whatever else happens. If Scotland stays in this union then I would put my house on Holyrood being gradually diminished to the status of Stormont. There is no choice for the SNP. They can either sit and watch this happen powerless to prevent it. Or they can have the vote on independence before 2019.

    Doing nothing and waiting until 2021 is like watching your house being burnt down and not even trying to stop the fire. If we lose the next referendum then so be it. There is a 50/50 chance we might win it. Not having the vote and there is a 100% chance that Scotland will be lost forever.

    It may sound melodramatic but this is the stark truth. It requires a great deal of staunchness and courage from the SNP. They will have a media assault and London will portray them as destroyers and rabble rousers. That’s what WM does , it’s not news we can’t run scared of such bullshit!

    Time to stand up for Scotland and say right here is your choice and we are giving you one last shot at saving your nation from assimilation and serfdom.

  3. bringiton

    I think you are right Peter.
    It will be interesting to see how Scots react to their parliament being defenestrated by England’s Tories.
    A significant number were influenced by fear during our referendum so let’s see if losing our parliament has an effect.
    Colonel Davidson realises that this might come into play which is why she describes the SNP reaction to present events as “fear mongering”.
    Unionists demand a monopoly on that particular tool.
    So,if we look at the independence fear stakes,on one side we have the loss of our subsidy from England and possible loss of access to England’s market.
    On the other,we have our parliament being dismantled and being subjected to England’s Tory policies long rejected by voters in Scotland.
    What price democracy?

  4. East Neuker

    I don’t believe we are subsidised by England. They just give us back some of the wealth they have extracted from Scotland, and make a profit on the deal. That’s one of the reasons they oppose independence.

    Secondly, if they denied a Scotland which has membership of the EU or EFTA market access to England they would risk being denied any market access to Europe.

    In the long term an independent Scotland would be much better off. The problem lies in persuading enough Scots about this.

  5. Big Jock

    East -:” The problem lies in persuading enough Scots about this.”

    The problem is in persuading enough non native Scots to vote for it. Remember those born here voted for independence by a margin of 4%.

    I would fully expect a similar result for those born in Scotland and add in the EU nationals to that. However 11% of Scotland’s population is English born and they object to independence for many misguided reasons. 80% of them voted no and I suspect that this is now 90% . We aren’t going to win them over this way, but we need to!

    The question is how we do it. This is how we get independence. The other way requires over 65% of Scots born to vote yes and I can’t see us winning by such a margin with the natives I am afraid.

    1. Clydebuilt


      The Beeb are working hard at telling people living in England his good things are up here . . . On Monday Redio 4 and local stations were broadcasting that Scotland has more psychiatrists than any other part of the UK . . . Channel 4’s reality survival private from Ardnamurchan etc. . . . . .

  6. Col

    Westminster plays dirty and we must do this also. Why should nationals not from Scotland get to have a say on our future? Why should someone who lives down south but owns a holiday home here get to vote? It may be unpopular with many but I’d ask those English people who would vote for independence to understand our plight and not take it the wrong way if we deny them a vote. Too many folk from England will move here in the future thinking they will get some of their generous subsidy back but this could be a huge problem in that we end up as a country full of retirees and because of decisions made in England Scotland will not be able to create the policies from which to cope with an ageing population. There’s so many nightmare scenarios that will come to fruition if we don’t vote for independence it’s scary to think about.

  7. Big Jock

    Col- I see your logic. Deny the minority of English yes voters the right to vote in order to prevent the majority English no voters blocking independence. Sometimes you have to play dirty.

    Of course we would automatically be barring EU nationals from voting on the same franchise. Which we wouldn’t want ethically but again it comes down to the hard facts of strategy.

    The Irish got their independence despite the colonists from England. However I believe that only about 5% of Eire’s population in the 1920’s hailed from blighty and the natives were 90% in favour of independence.

    The bigger problem for Scotland is cultural colonisation. In other words they have tapped into our psyches rather than just physically colonising us. The Irish were always Irish and nothing else. In Scotland we have Scots who are Scottish and Scots who are British. This presents a problem to what should be a really simple vote for any national.

    Then there is the inferiority complex which many unionists suffer from. They see themselves as minor players in the bigger stage of mother England. The Scottish cringe. Anything that comes from Scotland must be viewed through the prism of Britannia. You represent Scotland at Rugby but not in international politics. We are too wee, poor and stupid for that big boys world. Best leave that to London.

    Christ what a fuck up of a country we are!

  8. John MacLeod

    There is no doubt that every increasing numbers of people moving here from south of the border will make independence harder. How calculated it is we will never know and although I have nothing against English people I have found myself becoming increasingly suspicious of why so many older people, especially many on benefits are moving here? surely free prescriptions isn’t enough to make you move home?. Is it possible in the next referendum to exclude people who haven’t lived here full time for a minimum of say 10 years??

  9. William Ross


    You state that “What we are witnessing is nothing less than the dismantling of Scotland`s democracy” For balance, can you tell us what specific existing powers of the Scottish Parliament and Government are proposed to be taken away by Westminster?


    1. Peter A Bell Post author

      Mike Russell has compiled a list of 111 powers which should come directly to Holyrood but which are being hijacked by Westminster. It doesn’t matter what these powers are. what matters is the underlying principle. The British state should not be able to withhold any powers from the democratically elected Scottish parliament. The starting point for anyone who respects democratic principles is that ALL powers should rest with the parliament that is elected by the people.

  10. Jockanese Wind Talker

    The EU Reform Bill now allows Westminster to pass legislation without a vote in Parliament as long as it passes committee.

    The UKs version of this:

    The Tories have now rigged the Committees in their favour (along with their partners in crime the DUP) thanks to the impotence of the UK Labour Party.

    We now live in a Neo Facist Dictatorship.

    Regardless of whether you support an Indy Scotland or The Union, if you support Democracy ask yourself why this is not top of the news agenda in the U.K. As it should be.

    Dark and dangerous times lie ahead and the BBC and MSM were complicit in our arrival at this point in history.

  11. Big Jock

    The SNP are being presented as spoilers by the MSM. All part of the Tories plan.

    The SNP are actually the ones trying to make sense out of Brexit. It’s a shambles and the MSM want the SNP just to go along with it. Standing up for Scotland is now seen as grievance politics. We live in a world full of crazy people.

  12. Ayrshirelass

    Westminsters actions make a complete farce of the 1st referendum.
    They not only have not delivered on the extensive new powers which is a flagrant breach of the vow and in my view is in itself enough to declare the result null and void.

    But to try to dismantle the settlement which 75 percent of people in Scotland support and continue to support will cost them dearly. In their arrogance they think they will get away with it.
    It was the Council of Europe which pointed out the undemocratic nature of the UK and why we had our referendum on devolution.
    Its time to elist their support again now we witness the stripping away of democracy

  13. Brian Powell

    And all aided and abetted by Labour in Scotland. Tragedy is they claim they are doing it for the good of all the UK, but they can’t win England, so a more disingenuous, empty claim is hard to find.

  14. William Ross


    Thanks for your response on my powers question. Now we are clear that there is no evidence at all that Westminster has shown any intention to take away any existing power from the Scottish Parliament.

    You have an idea that any power divested by Brussels must return to Holyrood and you derive your conclusion from the Scotland Act setting up the devolved settlement. It is quite true that legislation, powers reserved to Westminster must be specified and anything else is devolved except that the Scottish Parliament must legislate in accordance with EU Law. This settlement emerged from a time when no-one questioned the continuance of the EU and our membership of said EU transferred vital powers from Westminster to Brussels. We are now in a new situation. If post-Brexit, all powers over agriculture for example, were to return to Edinburgh, then Holyrood would have to set up a separate subsidy system for Scotland but where would the funding come from?

    My first objective is an independent Scotland. But we are currently in the Union. In the Union, I want to see the powers of Edinburgh maximised but there is nuance to this. New powers must be workable and be appropriate for a Union. What we don`t need is nonsense about “dismantling our democracy”.


    1. Gregor

      You are missing the most important fundamental points.

      Scotland and Scottish democracy does not belong to the UK (minority) government, and it has no right to assume ownership of it – ever.

      The people of Scotland have clearly conveyed (through a referendum which was fostered upon them by an ideologically driven Tory spat which has little relevance to Scotland) that they do not want to leave the EU, yet are being dragged out against their democratic will. Scotland isn’t even permitted to take part and play a proper role in the negotiations which will fundamentally alter the nature and shape of its nation/society.

      Relatively recently, the people of Scotland were provided clear assurances by the UK government/’Better Together’, that Scotland’s place in the EU was best protected under the UK (if you don’t believe me look it up).

      Scotland is not being properly being recognised by the UK government. The UK government is not treating Scotland and its parliament as an equal partner (another explicit assurance). The UK government holds a superior autonomous position over Scotland (it’s people, resources, democracy, parliament and sovereignty…).

      The UK government’s superiority over and wilful lack of recognition of Scotland makes a complete mockery of civilised democracy, parliamentary/national sovereignty, and is setting a diabolical precedent…

  15. manandboy

    For the majority in Scotland, as things stand, the future will be grim, increasing to dire before becoming desperate.

    Only a political awakening by the financially secure, the illiterate and the disenfranchised in Scotland, perhaps triggered by the effects of Brexit can change No to Yes, assuming the facts are widely disseminated.

    However, even then, the issue of security in the conduct of the next referendum remains .
    Without the independent administration of the next referendum, we will remain victims of our own naivety. Westminster knows how to rig a referendum. Apparently, the SNP leadership are in denial about this. If true, then they too will have to wake up.

    The 2014 Scottish Independence referendum , administered by Unionists, was pre-defined as secure by the Scottish Government. Let’s get real. Be in no doubt whatsoever, the security of the ballot will be THE crucial element in the next Independence referendum.

    Scotland. Country or Colony. You choose.

  16. William Ross


    I am certainly an independence supporter of some 50 years vintage but we are presently living in a UK Union. The whole debate about transfer of powers from Brussels is going on in that context. The Scottish people ratified that Union in 2014. By all means lets try to change that by a future Indy ref 2, but right now lets observe some measure of reality.


  17. Robert Graham

    I wonder if the ones currently being protected from this Tory government will miss the Scottish parliament if the Tory government get their way and do as what they plan , The plan is not more powers it’s too make the present powers unusable, just as the Tax raising powers are , they were meant to ensure if used the howls of derision would be deafening, spend this spend that with no reguard where the money comes from , Of course all opposition parties miss the Tory austerity program this incidentally was supported by labour in Westminster.
    F them all , we have been landed with a billion pound PFI annual bill from the previous administrations, maybe the SNP should say ah f/it you want this lot back fine ,because we have had enough of bloody moaners and constant complaints, How about the BBC run things as they seem to know all the bloody answers .

  18. William Ross


    I presume that your contribution is directed at me. I have the following responses.

    1. The Scottish Parliament was created as a devolved legislature by virtue of the Scotland Act, a UK statute. The UK is a unitary state with special rights for Scotland as provided in the Treaty of Union.

    2.The Scottish people voted for the UK to remain in the EU in 2016 and nothing else. They were never asked whether Scotland should remain in the EU as a separate country. The UK is conducting the exit negotiations and no-one else can do so as the EU member is the UK.

    3. Scotland`s place in the EU was indeed best served by a NO vote in 2014 as the EU Commission both in 2014 and 2016 made clear that an independent Scotland would have to apply to re-join. The SNP explicitly warned voters that a NO vote might well lead to Brexit and an EU vote was clearly in contemplation in 2014. Cameron`s Bloomberg speech was given in 2013. I say all that as a YES voter. I was not very concerned about our place in the EU. ( just like 40% of all Yessers)

    4. Scotland is not an equal partner in the UK and never could be. That is why I am a life-long SNP supporter!

    5.The UK government must implement the mandate of the British people in favour of Brexit. That is what happening and it would be better to accept it.


  19. Gregor

    Thanks for the response William.

    I agree with much of your sentiment and accept that Scotland is leaving the EU under the unequal and unfair terms of the UK unitary State, however, once the picture is clear, in terms of potential implications and proposed fundamental changes for Scotland and rUK – I believe that Scotland holds the right (democratic & parliamentary) to make an informed choice, and it would be a grotesque dereliction of national duty and societal responsibility for the elected Scottish government not to provide such.

    Scotland is an asset to the EU and the role it plays is valued by other members and EU citizens. ‘Better Together’ took great effort in talking down Scotland’s EU aspirations for individually recognised EU membership. It would be absurd if Scotland was taken out of the EU against its democratic will and other EU member states do not take such unprecedented and unjust circumstances into context upon any application via independent nation means.

    The UK government must implement the mandate of the British people (whether it does or not is another matter…).

    More importantly, Scotland is nothing if it does not hold ultimate authority of itself and future.

  20. Simon

    Just observations from Skye. I understand that there’s few online and media outlets and it’s important for the voice of Scottish Independendance to be heard, even if it’s mainly feeding the mouths of those who are already full.

    I see that many feel much is being achived and the campaign on the ground is good and strong. Some may become defensive if this is questioned, so I won’t question it. I can only speak for the area I’m familiar with.

    I can only hope that there’s good discussions and storming in progress by the people who can push forward a successful referendum. Can you imagine a failed second referendum and what that would mean for us all! I’d probably leave Scotland, but I won’t be able too with ease, thanks brexit! That word doesn’t warrant the use of upper case!!!

    I would like to see answers for the questions people who do not want a free Scotland answered and now, not a month before the next referendum. You know, use the negatively charged media as a tool, it might be difficult for them to igonre everything and some of it might actually get through to the mouths that need fed. They should have their questions answered, hopefully it will change how they vote. It also needs time to sink into their subconscious minds. I understand why their has been an eerie silence on the subject of independence, even the Express is quieter than usual, that is worrying indeed! 😀 leave it too long and it might be difficult to clean up the tumble weed…

  21. William Ross


    I agree with your first paragraph. There should be an Indyref 2 but it must be post-Brexit.. Indeed, I voted SNP in June to support the decision of the Parliament to move for a Section 30 order. I would never have moved for the order in the way and when it was done. Still, it was the decision of our Parliament based on manifesto pledges.

    On your second para, I do not share your positive view of the EU. You will see that Juncker has just said that Catalonia will have to leave the EU on independence and re-apply. The same will true about Scotland. The EU is going in the direction of a federal state. I want none of it.


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