Hands off Scotland’s Parliament!

I’m not sure why Dr Kirsty Hughes imagines that Nicola Sturgeon’s hand would have to be “forced” over a new Scottish independence referendum. The SNP Conference earlier this month surely left no room for doubt that the SNP is gearing up for #ScotRef. How might anybody be left wondering about this after the party’s Depute Leader declared in the most unequivocal and unambiguous terms possible. “There will be a referendum!”? Having listened to the conference speeches from Angus Robertson, John Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon, how could anyone continue to suppose that the SNP doesn’t have a plan for every eventuality?

Curiously, Dr Hughes herself makes a pretty good job of setting out the reasons why the date of the new referendum is not a mystery. In particular, with this observation,

“The massive internal re-engineering of UK, and devolved, regulatory frameworks and laws that Brexit requires adds to the political challenges.”

That sentence must set off a cacophony of alarm bells in the minds of even the most minimally politically aware. Especially when we have the example of current events in Catalonia serving to bring home the message with all the skull-crunching force of baton wielded by some uniformed Fascist thug.

Does Dr Hughes seriously think Nicola Sturgeon and those around her might be oblivious to what is implied for Scotland and the other devolved administrations by the phrase “massive internal re-engineering”?

Does she really think Sturgeon would have to be “forced” to act in defence of the Scottish Parliament? Was there something unclear about the warning she issued to the British government?

“Hands off Scotland’s Parliament!”

And does anybody suppose that, having been cruelly pushed off a Brexit cliff by a British political elite plainly in the grip of an intellectually debilitating ideological frenzy, Scotland must await the landing in order to figure out that it’s not going to end well?

There is no soft landing. There is no ‘deal’ which negates the democratic choice made by the people of Scotland when we voted 62% Remain. There is no way in which that “massive internal re-engineering” of the UK does anything other than massively disadvantage Scotland and the other devolved administrations. That re-engineering must inevitably be driven by the ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist agenda which now prevails within the British political system.

You don’t have to be the director of the Scottish Centre for European Relations and a former European Commission official to figure out that #IndyRef2 was going to be held no later than September 2018. That was obvious from the very moment Article 50 was invoked.

When, in spring next year, Nicola Sturgeon announces the date of the new referendum, it will not be because her hand has been forced. This was always one of the options available to and anticipated by the SNP administration. It is what has been planned for over a period of many months.

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For Scotland. Against the Union.

I have now booked a ticket for the SIC Conference. I did so somewhat belatedly and a bit reluctantly after initially having decided to give it a miss. I have serious reservations about SIC. Reading Elaine C Smith’s promo piece does nothing to dispel those concerns.

Some of those concerns relate to the organisation itself. I’ve dealt with this previously and see little point in going over old ground again. But there are two things about Elaine C Smith’s article which lead me to wonder about the direction in which the SIC is seeking to lead the Yes movement.

The reference to “sound personal or political reasons” for voting No in 2014 is gravely misguided. Let’s clear that one up right away. There are no “sound” reasons for voting No. There were none in 2014. There are none now. In the first referendum, people voted No for one of two reasons. Either they were ideologically opposed to the very concept of Scottish independence; or they were deceived by a totally dishonest and unprincipled propaganda campaign.

Those who were ideologically opposed then almost certainly still are, and always will be. Many, perhaps most, won’t even hear any argument for independence. Their minds are closed. The rest use the aforementioned propaganda to rationalise what is, essentially, an emotional choice. They differ from the hard-line Unionist bigots in that the rationalisations they use can be challenged; even if to very doubtful purpose.

But it is worth the effort because the process of challenging those excuses for voting no is pretty much identical to the process by which we must address those who bought the false prospectus proffered by Better Together/Project Fear. And that process is far less to do with making a better case for independence than with dismantling that false prospectus.

The case for restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status is not going to get any better. The case for independence is, in it’s essentials, the same now as it was when the Union was imposed on Scotland by the very same elites which now strive to keep Scotland locked into it’s subordinate status within a grotesquely asymmetric political union.

What has changed is, not the case for independence, but the case against remaining part of the UK. And that is the case which must now be made with as much force and fervour as the Yes movement can muster.

The argument for independence need only be restated. That case has been made. It can be stated in myriad ways. But it always comes back to an issue of democratic legitimacy and constitutional justice. The obsession with a plethora of post-independence policy options which so totally preoccupies those who control the SIC is a distraction from the core constitutional question.

Discussing Scotland’s potential as an independent nation is a worthwhile exercise. But it is not the independence campaign. We must distinguish between the Yes movement and the independence campaign. The key terms for the former include diversity and openness and absence of constraints. The key words for the latter include solidarity and focus and discipline.

It’s a constitutional referendum we’re talking about, not a parliamentary election. It’s not about policy options. It’s about a single constitutional question. A choice between two options. As well as telling people what independence means – which we’ve already done – we have to ensure that they fully understand what it means to submit to the British state.

Whatever the SIC decides to do, somebody will have to mount a campaign against the Union. A powerful, principled, honest campaign with the aim of destroying British Nationalist propaganda and dispelling deep-seated misconceptions about the Union and its deleterious effect on Scotland.

We are where we are because more and more people began to question the status quo. For most people, the journey from No to Yes starts with a reason to question the Union. The new referendum campaign must be dedicated to giving them that reason.

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British Labour will never support independence!

Les Huckfield really must understand that there is no option for ‘Scottish Labour’ to back independence, for the simple and glaringly obvious reason that there is no ‘Scottish Labour’. Not in the sense that he appears to imagine. Not in the sense of a real political party with real leaders and a real ability to formulate policy.

British Labour in Scotland (BLiS), as it is more correctly known, is none of these things. It is not a Scottish party. It is a branch operation of a British party. A party of the British establishment. A party inextricably embedded in the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. A party which can’t even bring itself to accept Scotland’s right to self-determination, far less sympathise with our aspiration for independence.

British Labour in Scotland showed its true colours during the first independence referendum campaign, when it stood shoulder to shoulder with the Tories and other elements of the British establishment – such as the Orange Order – in Better Together/Project Fear. Anybody who imagines British Labour has been transformed by Jeremy Corbyn is naive to the point of idiocy. Anybody who supposes British Labour in Scotland could be transformed by yet another change of leader is ignoring the lessons of history and disregarding the reality of the pretendy wee party’s subordinate status.

On one point I can agree with Les Huckfield – restoring Scotland’s independence is essential. But it is essential regardless of Brexit. And British Labour cannot ever be anything other than an impediment to the realisation of this objective.

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To the people of Catalonia and all the peoples of the world.

The bases of the constitution of the Catalan Republic are justice and intrinsic individual and collective human rights, being irrenunciable foundations which give meaning to the historical legitimacy and the legal and institutional traditions of Catalonia.

The Catalan nation, its language and its culture have a thousand years of history. For centuries, Catalonia has been endowed with and enjoyed its own institutions that have fully exercised self-government, with the Generalitat as the greatest expression of the historic rights of Catalonia. During periods of freedom, Parliamentarism has been the pedestal upon which these institutions have been based, channeled through the Catalan Parliaments and crystalized in the Constitutions of Catalonia.

Having been lost and longed for, today Catalonia restores its full sovereignty after decades of honestly and loyally seeking institutional coexistence with the people of the Iberian Peninsula.

Since the adoption of the Spanish Constitution of 1978, Catalan politics has played a key role with an exemplary, loyal and democratic attitude towards Spain, with a deep sentiment of being part of the State.

The Spanish State has responded to this loyalty with the denial of the recognition of Catalonia as a nation; and has granted limited autonomy, more administrative than political, and in the process of re-centralization; excercising a profoundly unjust economic treatment in addition to linguistic and cultural discrimination.

The Statute of Autonomy, approved by the Catalan Parliament, the Spanish Parliament, and the Catalan citizenry in a referendum, was to be the new stable and lasting framework for bilateral relations between Catalonia and Spain. But it was a political agreement broken by the ruling of the Constitutional Court, engendering new grievances among citizens.

Channeling the demands of a large majority of citizens of Catalonia; the Parliament, the Government and civil society have repeatedly called for the holding of a referendum on self-determination.

Upon finding that the institutions of the State have rejected any negotiation, they have violated the principles of democracy and autonomy, and have ignored the legal mechanisms available in the Constitution. The Generalitat of Catalunya has therefore called for a referendum to exercise the right to self-determination recognized under international law.

The organization and holding of the referendum led to the suspension of self-government in Catalonia and the de facto application of a state of emergency.

The brutal police operation of a military nature and style orchestrated by the Spanish state against Catalan citizens has repeatedly and severely violated their civil and political liberties and principles of Human Rights, and has contravened international agreements signed and ratified by the Spanish state.

Thousands of people have been investigated, detained, tried, questioned and threatened with harsh prison sentences, including hundreds of elected and institutional officials and professionals linked to the the sectors of communications, administration, and civil society.

Spanish institutions, which should remain neutral, protect fundamental rights and arbitrate political conflict, have become part and instrument of these attacks and have left the citizens of Catalonia unprotected.

In spite of the violence and the repression to try to prevent a democratic and peaceful process, the citizens of Catalonia have voted mostly in favor of the constitution of the Catalan Republic.

The constitution of the Catalan Republic is based on the need to protect the freedom, security, and coexistence of all citizens of Catalonia, and to move towards a state based on the rule of law and a democracy of greater quality, and respond to the Spanish State impeding the enforcement of the right to self-determination of peoples.

The people of Catalonia are lovers of law, and respect for the law is and will be a cornerstone of the Republic. The Catalan state will meet and legally comply with all the provisions that make up this declaration and ensure that the legal security and maintenance of the subscribed agreements will be part of the founding spirit of the Catalan Republic.

The constitution of the Republic is a hand extended to dialogue. In honor of the Catalan tradition of the pact, we maintain our commitment to agreements as a way of resolving political conflicts. At the same time, we reaffirm our fraternity and solidarity with the rest of the people of the world and, especially, those with whom we share the language and culture and the Euro-Mediterranean region in defense of individual and collective freedoms.

The Catalan Republic is an opportunity to correct the current democratic and social deficits and build a society which is more prosperous, fairer, more secure, more sustainable and with more solidarity.

By virtue of all that has just been presented, WE, the democratic representatives of the people of Catalonia, in the free exercise of the right of self-determination, and in accordance with the mandate received from the citizens of Catalonia:

CONSTITUTE the Catalan Republic, as an independent and sovereign State based on law, democracy, and social welfare.

ENTER into force the Llei de transitorietat jurídica i fundacional de la República.

INITIATE the constituent process which shall be democratic, citizen-based, transversal, participatory and binding.

AFFIRM the desire to open negotiations with Spain without any preconditions, aimed at establishing a collaborative system for the benefit of both parties. The negotiations shall necessarily be on an equal basis.

INFORM the international community and the authorities of the European Union of the constitution of the Catalan Republic and the proposal for negotiations with Spain.

URGE the international community and the European Union authorities to intervene to stop the continued violation of civil and political rights, and to monitor and oversee the negotiation process with the Spanish State.

EXPRESS the desire to build a European project that reinforces the social and democratic rights of citizens, as well as commiting to continue to apply without the solution of continuity and in a unilateral manner the norms of the legal orders of the European Union, the Spanish State, and the Catalan autonomy that transpose this norm.

AFFIRM that Catalonia has the unequivocal desire to integrate into the international community as quickly as possible. The new State agrees to respect the international obligations that are currently applied in its territory and continue to adhere to the international treaties to which the Kingdom of Spain is signator.

APPEAL to all States and international organizations to recognize the Catalan Republic as an independent and sovereign State.

URGE the Government of the Generalitat to adopt the measures necessary to fully enact this Declaration of independence and the provisions of the Llei de transitorietat jurídica i fundacional de la República.

CALL on all and each of the citizens of the Catalan Republic to make us worthy of the freedom that we have granted ourselves and to build a State that translates collective aspirations into action and conduct.

The legitimate representatives of the people of Catalonia:
Barcelona, ​​October 10, 2017

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An obvious solution

So one million fewer bottles of whisky are sold in the UK. And this is detrimental to Scotland’s economy. “So what?”, say the British Nationalists with a dismissive shrug and a contemptuous sneer, “The British Chancellor of the British Exchequer must manage the economy for the benefit of the British state.”

And so they must. That is the solemn duty of the British Chancellor of the British Exchequer. Whatever your opinion as to how effectively they fulfil this role, you cannot deny that this is what the role demands. The British Chancellor of the British exchequer is obliged to manage the economy in the interests of the established structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. If doing this disadvantages Scotland or damages our economy, that’s just too bad. We are all grist to the mill of established power.

But to say that the British Chancellor of the British Exchequer must manage the economy in the service of the British state is not the same as saying that Scotland’s economy must be sacrificed in the interests of the British state. There is an alternative. Scotland’s economy could be managed for the benefit of Scotland and all of Scotland’s people.

The Union demands ever greater sacrifice from Scotland. Unionists insist that we must tolerate this sacrifice without complaint and without resort to the obvious remedy. Not only do they say that we must meekly thole the damage being wrought by successive British governments, British Nationalists compound this insult to our intelligence and our dignity by seeking to deny our democratic right of self-determination.

As part of the UK, we are not only prevented from managing our own economy in our own interests, we are expected to accept that we are expendable in the interests of the British state. This is what Unionism means. This is what British Nationalist ideology demands.

We could do things differently. We could take control of our own affairs. We could manage our own economy without detriment to anyone. We could bring our government home.

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SNP Conference 2017: Being Scotland’s voice

Day three of #SNP17 and the walk down from Garnethill to the SECC is taking longer each time. My right hip is making it known that there bloody well better not be a day four. It’s growing noticeably colder too. Especially the otherwise very pleasant stretch along the riverside.

I’m seated in the media room today. Ken McDonald from iScot Magazine persuaded me that, as one of his publication’s regular contributors, I was entitled to make use of the marginally better facilities. I tried to point out to him that this was not really the issue. But his gracious insistence was such that I felt it would be churlish to refuse. So it is, dear reader, that I find myself sharing a room with a pack of professional journalists. Fortunately, it is a very large room. Nonetheless, I trust you appreciate the sacrifices I make on behalf of alternative media.

On the subject of the media, I caught the BBC’s report on Derek Mackay’s speech to Conference yesterday. There is no way anybody would recognise the speech from the report. According to the BBC, it was all about raising taxes for middle-earners. I don’t recall hearing any of that. What I heard was a frank, factual appraisal of the SNP administrations management of the economy, and an forthright, realistic assessment of how things might progress on the economic front. What I heard was almost entirely positive without being at all complacent.

What I heard was the honest counter to the grotesque distortions of British Nationalist propaganda.

The ‘hot’ debates on day two of the SNP Conference concerned, firstly, the British state’s contemptuous and contemptible seizing of powers as part of the increasingly chaotic Brexit process; particularly in relation to agriculture and fisheries. And, secondly, a call for immigration policy to be restored to the Scottish Parliament, where such powers obviously belong.

But the highlight of the day must have been the topical resolution on Catalonia and the moment when Douglas Chapman MP introduced two members of Assemblea Nacional Catalana (Catalan National Assembly) who were then given a standing ovation such as is usually reserved for Nicola Sturgeon. If there had been any lingering doubts about where the SNP stands on the issue of Catalonia’s right of self determination, those doubts were thoroughly dispelled at that moment.

Back to today, and this morning we have speeches from Humza Yousaf MSP and Mhairi Black MP – two of the party’s most popular and charismatic figures – on the topic of ‘Making Scotland’s Voice Heard’. In the afternoon, it’s the turn of Depute Leader, Angus Robertson, before the closing set-piece address by Nicola Sturgeon.

This last is, of course, the main event. At least as far as the media are concerned. It’s also a chance for the delegates to demonstrate their support for the party’s leader and Scotland’s First Minister. For Nicola Sturgeon herself, it’s an opportunity to address the big issues and to make the big announcement.

What the big announcement will be on this occasion is a bit of a puzzle. I know that many in the party and the wider Yes movement want to hear her declare the date of a new independence referendum. That, as I said on the first day of Conference, is very unlikely. It’s just too early to fire the starting pistol on the new Yes campaign. In my view, a long campaign favours the grinding negativity of the British Nationalists. A short, sharp campaign will suit the independence movement better.

But Nicola Sturgeon will have to say something on the constitutional issue, short of pressing the #ScotRef button. What might this be? Perhaps she might use the Catalonia issue to emphasise and reassert Scotland’s right of self-determination. It’s not difficult to imagine how that speech might sound.

Alternatively, or even additionally, she could issue a hard warning to Theresa May that the SNP will not stand idly by while the British state seeks to disregard the Scottish Government, delegitimise the Scottish Parliament and deny the democratic choices of the Scottish people.

But Nicola Sturgeon must also heed a warning. Neither the party nor the Yes movement want to hear talk of waiting to see the precise nature of the catastrophe that Brexit will bring to Scotland. When someone is threatening to push you off a tall building, you don’t have to wait until you land to know that it isn’t going to turn out well. Nicola Sturgeon must make it clear that she and her government will put Scotland’s interests first. There must be no doubt in anyone’s mind that she will preempt the constitutional implications and economic consequences of Brexit.

The people of Scotland have an alternative to the British establishment’s economic vandalism, political ineptitude and constitutional machinations. We have the right to choose independence instead. We will not tolerate being denied the opportunity to exercise our democratic right of self-determination.

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SNP Conference 2017: Defending democracy

Time is tight so I’m only going to make a couple of brief points about day one of #SNP17. The outstanding debate, without question was on the issue of raising the military recruitment age from 16 (or under in some case) to 18. This was a matter about which I was undecided. On a previous occasion, I voted to remit back a similar resolution. But yesterday I was persuade by the powerful arguments of the young people who have campaigned for years inside and outside the party on this issue.

My reservations centred around the matter of choice, and the principle that people should never be denied choice unless there was a powerful case for doing so. I would hesitate to describe the case made by SNP Youth and their supporters as overwhelming, but it was strong enough to persuade me to vote for the resolution. I have to say also that this decision was made easier by some rather poor arguments from those opposing the resolution.

Defence is, of course a reserved area. But by endorsing the raising of the military recruitment age the SNP is once again demonstrating that it is in tune with the stance taken by other EU and Nato nations and at odds with the position of the British state. I’m fine with that. The way things are, I want to distance my country as much as possible from the thing that the British state has become under the pernicious influence of a vile British Nationalist ideology.

The other thing that stood out for me was the fact that all the SNP politicians who took to the stage in the course of the session seemed to be at some pains to mention the ‘I” word – independence. Without exception, they sought to reaffirm the party’s commitment to independence while also emphasising the SNP’s role  – and its achievements – as an administration toiling under the stultifying constraints of devolution.

The message was clear. The SNP is different from the British parties. The party seeks always to serve the interests of Scotland and its people. It does this in government whilst remaining steadfast on the constitutional issue at the heart of Scottish politics. The SNP is the national party of Scotland as well as being the party of independence.

The themes for today look like being public services and democracy, and the SNP’s role in defending both. Tomorrow, I expect to be writing about public sector pay; the British state’s seizing of powers that rightfully belong with the Scottish Parliament; and probably something about the situation in Catalonia.


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