Many Scots have increasingly become more aware, if they needed to be, that the 56 SNP MP’s elected to Westminster in May 2015 are wasting their time there, and wasting Scotland’s time. Scotland’s MP’s appear to have become more interested in process in the UK&EVEL parliament than in Scotland’s nationhood. Yet it matters little what the SNP x 56 do or say in Westminster, because the red and blue Tories will always conspire to vote against Scotland’s interests, and against the will of the Scottish people, Brexit being a case in point.
Some commentators, like former UK Ambassador Craig Murray, Bella Caledonia’s Mike Small, and playwright George Gunn, have argued that Scotland’s MPs should now call it a day at Westminster, each proposing different strategies our MP’s could adopt. It is therefore worth considering the constitutional realities of Scottish independence being achieved in this way, what some might now call the ‘traditional’ accepted method, as opposed to the quite recent, rather neoliberal, and democratically fashionable, received political wisdom which points in the direction of a second referendum on independence as the only ‘proper’ way to proceed.
Negotiations for the moment regarding Brexit are between the EU and the UK. However, there is an argument that Scotland could remain in the EU if it were to become independent prior to the ‘present UK’ announcing Art. 50 withdrawal. If Scotland declared independence now, the entity doing the withdrawing (from the EU) would not then be the UK, as we or the EU currently know it; upon Scotland’s independence, the UK as currently constituted would cease to exist. Once Scotland departs the UK parliamentary union, the UK parliament ceases to exist as far as Scotland is concerned, hence the UK parliament as currently constituted would also end.
The key point here is that the UK as currently constituted ceases to exist whenever Scotland (or England) becomes independent (again); new states are born (or rather old states are re-born). Therefore, the entity that originally became an EU member (i.e. the present UK ‘state’) would no longer exist, only the successor states would exist. What this means is that England (post the end of the UK ‘state’) may take England out of the EU, but it cannot take Scotland out of the EU. In short, by declaring independence now, an independent Scotland would avoid being taken out of the EU.
Also of importance, constitutionally, in this context, is the Claim of Right (recent and past versions) that declares the sovereignty of the Scottish people, not the sovereignty of any UK ‘joint’ Parliament. Scotland’s peoples’ right to assert Scotland’s nationhood does not, never has, and never could depend on the whim of almost 600 MP’s representing other nations; to believe so would be to completely disregard the sovereignty of the Scottish people, and the Claim of Right in that regard, and would also ignore the way in which the union of parliaments was originally constituted, by a simple majority of Scotland’s MP’s.
The SNP x 56, holding as they do the sovereign will of the Scottish people, therefore have a material choice to make prior to any Art.50 EU withdrawal by the current UK ‘state’. The SNP x 56 not only hold the power to declare Scotland independent, now, today; they also hold the power to retain EU membership for Scotland, should they so wish. Scotland does not have to be ‘dragged over a Brexit cliff’ by the UK, more especially if the UK (as currently constituted) no longer exists.
Unionists might argue that forcing independence onto Scots when around half (or a little more) don’t actually support it is not a good recipe for a stable successful country. But we might just as easily consider the situation at the beginning of the ‘union’, which was forced onto Scots when the overwhelming majority of people didn’t actually support it, and which likewise ‘is not a good recipe for a stable successful country’. And if proof of the latter were needed, here we are, almost 310 years later, still searching for the illusion of a ‘union dividend’, whilst pondering Scotland’s painfully diminished colonial status in the eyes of the nations of the rest of the world, most of whom have since moved on from colonial oppression (not least by the UK) and now live in their own independent countries.
Until very recently, Westminster politicians of all parties have always acknowledged (and regularly taunted as much) that if the Scottish ‘nationalists’ ever secured a majority of Scotland’s Westminster seats then that would amount to de facto independence, i.e. independence is there for the taking. What is required thereafter, and to bring about de jure independence, is for that majority of Scotland’s elected MP’s to re-establish the independent Scottish Parliament, and to pass an Act ending the union of UK parliaments, at least as far as Scotland is concerned. That would essentially mirror the 1707 process in reverse, which created the UK parliament through a majority of Scottish MP’s voting for it, thereby making Scotland an independent state again. What England does is essentially a matter for England. If the sovereignty of the Scottish people, demonstrated by the actions of a majority of Scotland’s MP’s, is respected, then England should likewise pass an act to end the union of UK parliaments, again at least as far as Scotland is concerned. This would then mean that, just as an act in the English and the Scottish parliaments brought into force the union of parliaments in 1707, so an act in both parliaments brings the same union to a close. That seems right, fair, and constitutionally consistent.
Some unionists may say that SNP MPs at Westminster do not hold any sovereign will. That they are there merely to represent their constituencies. That they cannot and will not be able to force any political ideology on the people of Scotland (unlike Scotland’s unelected Tory governments!). And that they sit as a minority party in the UK Parliament. Such views, however, all ignore the reality of the way the union of parliaments came about, how the UK parliament was and is constituted, and the specific constitutional reality of Scottish sovereignty.
Scots have never been in any doubt that Scotland’s elected MP’s could end the ‘union’ in precisely the same way it began, i.e. through a majority decision of Scottish MP’s. Scotland does not need to wait to be ‘granted permission’ to hold a referendum on independence by a Westminster parliament dominated by representatives of other nations. Constitutionally, Scotland does not even need a referendum, and never has needed one to become an independent state again. An advisory referendum would still depend on the votes of all MP’s at Westminster, which in turn means that that route to Scotland’s independence would likewise depend on the votes of elected representatives from other nations, who may simply conspire to refuse (or seek to water down) Scotland’s right to independence. Moreover, the latter is unconstitutional because Scottish nationhood depends only on the sovereign will of the Scottish people; it does not and should not depend on elected representatives of other nations. No nation depends on seeking permission from another nation to become independent; nations assert their own independence.
Scotland’s sovereignty is for the moment vested in Scotland’s MP’s to do as they think best, in the interests of Scotland. If these MP’s think it best for Scotland to become independent, prior to the UK’s Art.50 withdrawal from the EU, then constitutionally they have every right to make Scotland independent. To claim otherwise would be to call into question the very constitutional foundations of the present joint UK parliament, an arrangement constituted by a majority of Scotland’s MP’s. Thus, as the union of parliaments was initially began for Scotland, so it can and should be undone for Scotland in a like manner.
The question arises as to Scotland’s future, more especially if the SNP x 56 fail to extend their present political advantage of already achieving de facto independence (despite the fact they do not appear to realise this) and to then declare and deliver de jure independence. With continued inaction on the part of Scotland’s MP’s, the political, social, economic, and national risks for Scotland are indeed dire, and such inaction also demonstrates a disregard for the sovereign will of Scotland’s people. For example: Scotland will be taken out of the EU, against the will of Scotland’s people; a further referendum on independence may be refused, against the will of Scotland’s people; the devolved yet power-neutered Holyrood Parliament could even be abolished, against the will of Scotland’s people; and, Scotland would continue to be controlled by and suffer from the policies of politicians in Westminster that our people do not vote for, i.e. against the will of Scotland’s people. Furthermore, even if a second referendum were permitted, any Yes result is never guaranteed to be respected by Westminster, and could be watered down to such an extent that it becomes meaningless, against the will of Scotland’s people.
Scotland’s continued participation (or rather continued subjugation) within the UK parliamentary union is, therefore, only likely to work increasingly against the sovereign will of the Scottish people. In addition, there is a real risk that the UK parliamentary union will endeavour to reduce Scotland’s constitutional relevance further, possibly to the point that the nation is effectively dissolved, as some unionists already believe to be the case. Ultimately, the only certain, and constitutionally consistent way to re-establish Scotland’s nationhood is for a majority of Scotland’s MP’s to declare Scotland’s Independence. Now would be a good time to do so.