If the “federalisation” proposals advanced by the Constitution Reform Group (CRG) are a game of spot the fallacy then it will be a very short game indeed. Listen to the language. Does not talk of a “bottom up” process necessarily imply a hierarchy of power? Does not the very mention of powers being “reserved” to the centre tell us where the real power is presumed to reside, as if by some unquestionable default of nature?
What is the identifiable priority here if not contriving something akin to the infamous “vow” by which it is hoped to fend off a humiliating result for the unionist parties in May?
What is the clear imperative if not the preservation of the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state?
How credible can these supposed constitutional reformers be when they refer to the SNP’s unequivocal and unshakeable commitment to always seek more powers for Scotland’s parliament as a “horrible probability”?
How sickeningly patronising and hypocritical is the insistence that redistribution of resources must always be controlled by the very elites of the British state responsible for creating and maintaining gross social and economic inequalities?
Underlying everything that the Constitution Reform Group (CRG) proposes is the assumption that sovereignty is divisible. That it is a commodity under the (apparently divinely ordained) monopoly control of the British political establishment, packets of which can be traded in the market place of common politics to buy off democratic dissent. There is no place in this self-serving perspective for the concept of popular sovereignty. There is not even the possibility of scrutinising the idea that ultimate authority rests with the British parliament rather than with the people.
What CRG is proposing is no more than yet another round of constitutional tinkering. Another “solution” imposed by the British state with Scotland (and the rest) able to influence the process only to the extent permitted by the British state. It all comes down to a question of who decides. In the model adopted by CRG, the British state determines who decides; the extent of the decision-making power; and the options available. This is constitutional democracy British-style.
Even if we give CRG the benefit of the doubt and assume that its intentions are, at least be its own lights, entirely benign, we cannot escape the fact that none of the issues it seeks to address would not be more effectively resolved by the restoration of Scotland’s (and England’s) independence.
National independence may be defined as the capacity to freely negotiate the terms on which a nation engages with other nations. Scotland’s independence movement is not about the kind of isolated “separation” portrayed in the grotesque caricatures peddled by the British state’s propaganda machine. Independence is about abandoning a self-evidently defunct political union – else why the incessant constitutional jiggery-pokery – so as to allow development of a new form of association more in keeping with the context of the 21st century than an arrangement contrived three centuries ago entirely for the purpose of securing the very structures of power, privilege and patronage which CRG continues to prioritise.
This new relationship cannot be imposed. No such settlement can possibly endure. Independence is inevitable because any devolution measure which succeeds in terms of the aims and objectives of the British state must inevitably fail in terms of the aspirations and priorities of Scotland’s people.
Independence is desirable because only independence will return to the people of Scotland the ability to exercise their rightful authority in deciding the terms on which Scotland associates with the rest of the UK, and the world beyond.
To Peter Hain and his colleagues I say, “Thanks! But, no thanks!” Independence! Nothing less!