WESTMINSTER won’t let Scotland stage another referendum and the SNP should be ready to negotiate independence if it wins a majority at Holyrood in 18 months, a former Deputy leader of the party has said.
Jim Sillars is undoubtedly correct to assume that the British state will do all in its power to prevent the people of Scotland ever again being permitted to have their say on the matter of their nation’s constitutional status. He is also perfectly correct to point out that the electoral process is an alternative means by which the people can make their voice heard. Where Mr Sillars goes wrong, in my view, is in emphasising the parliamentary route to independence over a new referendum.
It is true that a majority of pro-independence candidates returned to Holyrood in 2016 could be interpreted as constituting a mandate to sue for independence. Particularly if this also involved a clear majority of the votes cast with a high turnout. Let’s say, 55% on an 85% turnout. The fly in the ointment is the word “interpreted”. If such a vote is open to interpretation then there will always be those who are prepared to dispute the legitimacy of any claim that it is, in fact, a vote for independence.
Legitimacy is crucial. Which is why we should be working towards achieving a massive vote for the SNP in the 2015 UK election and an even bigger vote for pro-independence parties in the 2016 Scottish election. Not to directly validate a mandate to sue for independence, but to prevent the British state denying the people of Scotland their democratic right of self-determination. And, just as importantly, to prevent them rigging Scotland’s electoral system so as to return power at Holyrood to the “safe pair of hands” that is British Labour.
Jim Sillars is only half right when he says that we were “given” the 2014 referendum by Westminster. It is at least partially true to say that the people of Scotland took that referendum by the way they voted in the 2011 election. We have to do so again. But we must do so even more explicitly.
When the people of Scotland go to the polls in 2015 and 2016 we must do so with the clear purpose of sending and unmistakable message to the ruling elites of the British state. That message is that, notwithstanding the result of the 2014 referendum, sovereignty yet rests with Scotland’s people. We must assert our democratic right of self-determination.
We must insist that the people of Scotland alone have the legitimate authority to determine the powers of their parliament and, by means of a written constitution, the manner in which that power is exercised.
We must demand another referendum and, thereby, put beyond question the legitimacy of the process by which Scotland’s rightful constitutional status is restored.
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