Once again, David Cameron’s first instinct is to deliver a contemptuous slap in the face to the people of Scotland.
After the referendum, it was talk of English votes for English laws (EVEL) and his decision to arbitrarily impose conditions on delivery of the infamous “vow” signed up to by the British parties in the panicky final days of the referendum.
The Smith Commission itself was a further slap in the face for Scotland. A rigged talking-shop charged with rationalising the withholding of powers from the Scottish Parliament while maintaining the pretence of honouring the “vow”.
The entire 2015 UK General Election campaign was one long slap in the face for Scotland as the British parties vied with one another in a contest to find who could best pander to the basest and most ill-informed prejudices of their target voters in England.
And now, Cameron responds to Scotland’s unequivocal affirmation of its distinct political identity with his his own contradictory affirmation of a “One Nation” dogma that disdainfully declares irrelevant and unworthy the democratic voice of the people of Scotland.
How should we react to this. With anger? Of course! But not with rage. Our anger is righteous. But it must also be controlled. It must be directed. It must energise a movement to defend the fundamental democratic rights of Scotland’s people against a British state which sees those rights as an inconvenience; an obstacle to the “One Nation” (Greater England) project; and a threat to the very structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.
We must put our trust the people we have elected. We must recognise that our SNP MPs will have the difficult task of working within a corrupt, archaic Westminster system which does little more than pay lip service to their right to be there. And do so while maintaining the principled pragmatism that helped them win an unchallengeable mandate from the people of Scotland.
We will not always agree with everything that our representatives do in our name. But we must allow that compromise is part of democracy and that it is sometimes necessary to grit your teeth and tolerate some discomfort for the sake of achieving a greater objective.
But while we support those who now speak for us in the British parliament, we must never lose sight of the fact that, ultimately, it is our voice, the voice of the people of Scotland, which takes precedence. Sovereignty is ours. We merely lend it to our elected representatives in order that they can use our power to serve our interests.
If the British parties in Scotland, and particularly British Labour, had remembered this essential truth they might have fared better. As it is, they lost sight of their role. They forgot their place. And they have been chastised for it.
We have replaced those who failed us with those in whom we have faith. I do not for one moment doubt that those 56 SNP MPs will prove themselves worthy of our trust – even as I recognise that they are human and subject to the same flaws and frailties as any of the rest of us.
As the people of Scotland continue to speak with the powerful collective democratic voice that is the proud legacy of the aspirational Yes movement, we should be wary of undermining our MPs with petty squabbles that will be spun by the British media as major divisions. Criticism should be considered and constructive. That seems no less than obviously sensible.
But continue to speak we must! There are important battles to be fought on many fronts to secure social justice and sustainable prosperity. Much of this campaigning will be, to a greater or lesser extent, in tune with what our elected representatives are doing on our behalf. It will lend strength to their efforts to steer the UK Government away from such follies as continued austerity and the squandering of resources on weapons of mass destruction.
Some of the campaigning will not be so helpful. So be it! We can live with a diversity of views. We are enriched by diversity. It is to be hoped only that such campaigning should not put unreasonable pressure on SNP MPs to deliver something they cannot.
There can be no turning of the other cheek. We must meet Cameron’s arrogant scorn with a response that is resolute but measured. The more he refuses to accept the reality of the new political landscape, the greater must be our effort to put that reality beyond the denial of everyone but the most blinkered bigot.
The starting point must be an affirmation of the sovereignty of the people of Scotland and of the right of self-determination that this implies. Let there be no mistake, these things are under imminent threat from the British establishment. We must raise our voice in determined defiance.
Part of this defiance is a movement called Referendum 2018. Its initial aim is to demand that all parties standing candidates in the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections should include in there manifestos an affirmation of the sovereignty of Scotland’s people and of Scotland’s right of self determination.
The longer-term aim of Referendum 2018 is to be a focal point for the popular demand for a second referendum on the issue of restoring Scotland’s rightful constitutional status which will inform and influence party policy on the matter.
I urge everyone who respects fundamental democratic principles and values Scotland’s distinct political identity to sign and share the petition –
You can also support the campaign on Facebook –
Use the hashtag #Referendum2018