Five Years Clear

Memory is supposed to fade dreams. Time is supposed to make things hazy and indistinct. But the craziness of Brexit and the rapid disintegration of Britain has had the opposite effect.

Five years on and all of the issues around ‘sovereignty’ seem more focused, more clear, more precise than ever.

Sovereignty lies with the people of Scotland, and all of the obstacles put in our way, for our own good, are just obstacles to our democracy.

We thought we wanted a parliament, but it was a democracy that we needed.

This week David Cameron released his memoirs which were full of sorrow, mostly for himself.

The ‘revelations’ that he had suggested the Queen make an intervention in the last few days of the referendum, and that she did, and the further revelation that the whole thing was staged and then followed up with a phone call to the BBCs “Royal Correspondents” to suggest they make more of it (as revealed on Radio 4) makes a mockery of British democracy. But then, by this stage in the game, there’s not much left to mock. Sure we have a feudal relic of a sovereign, but we also have a Prime Minister who has publicly abandoned the rule of law and shut down parliament, so a bit off aristocratic black-ops to shut down the recalcitrant Jocks is small beer.

But the revelation shows us more than Better Together’s state of high-panic this time five years ago. They show us we need a much deeper level of change.

Cameron’s crude propaganda efforts were in response to Alex Salmond’s own claims that the Queen “would be happy to reign over an independent Scotland”. Given that the Queen reigns over dozens of former colonies this seems possible, but closer to home this might have been a little less comfortable. But Salmon’s efforts to sugar-coat the indy offering and reassure Middle Scotland and enthusiasts for Celebrity Feudalism seems less a good idea today.

Given the constitutional carnage of Brexitland Britain, given the revelations about the politicisation of the monarchy and given the role of the scribes of Royal Correspondents on the public broadcaster, a new approach is needed. “Don’t frighten the horses” has failed.  What we need is a clean break.

This week Nicola Sturgeon was asked about Mr Cameron’s remarks during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood by Patrick Harvie, the co-convenor of the Scottish Greens.
“Another referendum is coming,” he said. “Does the First Minister think that we can trust that the head of state won’t once again be invited to interfere in a vote of the sovereign people?”

Time for a Scottish Republic

The idea that we can disentangle ourselves from the British state whilst still clinging on to the monarchy seems now improbable. The idea that we can claim ‘sovereignty’ whilst retaining a ‘sovereign’ seems odd. The idea that we can gain independence while remaining attached to the figurehead of the state we’re breaking with just doesn’t make sense.

If the argument is that we are breaking with the Union of 1707 not the Union of 1603 then fine, but the political value of Elizabeth is spent. She is the Queen of England. The numbers of pro-indy Scottish monarchists must be dwindling, and their numbers must dwindle further when Queen Camilla sits beside daft Charlie Boy?

We need a radical re-imagining of Scotland with a new written constitution.

Whilst that sentence would, a few years ago been thought to be another outlandish notion from the nationalist left, in the light of the Brexit meltdown, the need for new constitutional visioning seems like an urgent practical act, rather than some lofty daydreaming pretension. Boris and Farage and Brexit screams out: “How your democracy is structured actually matters!”

Andy Wightman has this week suggested we start that process by returning Holyrood Palace to the people – and instead it should be used to host an elected second parliamentary chamber.

Mr Wightman said: “The Scottish Greens believe Scotland should be a normal, independent, European republic where the power is invested in all the people, not simply in those who have been born into a particular family.”

“When Scotland does regain its independence it will be because the people have chosen that path and I think it would be particularly fitting if at that point the people and their institutions were returned to complete democratic control. The Palace of Holyroodhouse is ideally situated to host an elected second parliamentary chamber, which will no doubt be needed to assist with scrutiny of the considerable additional administrative responsibilities that an independent Scotland would take on.”

It makes perfect sense that we start by declaring ourselves a republic. Who in the world would form a new democracy in the 21st Century and hang on to a monarchy?

But not having written our new constitution yet I don’t think we can second guess that we would just mirror it on Westminster.

We might well re-think rather than replicate the idea of a central government. We might not want a bicameral set up at all. We might want to radically de-centralise our government. We might want to create far more participatory forms of democracy. After all, in the economy of the near future the idea that we would produce lots of goods that we don’t need, and a propaganda industry to persuade us to buy them, will be obsolete. Any credible response to the climate crisis will mean we will work less and produce less and buy less, giving us more and more time to be. This will provide more time to participate in a functioning democracy. There is no functioning democracy in 2020 and beyond that requires a monarch. It’s time to throw off the pathological deference of Unionism that has its heart the idea of a hierarchy of lords and nobles and kings and queens.

We need to think bigger and look beyond the trappings of this failed imperial state, as we watch it faltering and collapsing before our eyes.

Comments (34)

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  1. Irenecrichton says:

    I am thinking the balcony at the palace will collapse soon, there are so many hangers on. There are now over 200 lords and ladies in-the house of lords where will that end ? They dont retire they can earn? their £300 per day til they drop dead . I dont hear anyone complain about old people living longer,in the house of Lords ?they dont have to pay for their seat by selling their mansion as people who can no longer look after themselves after working all their lives to hold on to their two up two downs do . The whole thing is ridiculous, the sooner normal people realise it the better for everyone.

  2. Josef Ó Luain says:

    (Celebrity Feudalism, indeed!) Countless opportunities and many more that we haven’t even thought about await us. Let’s all work hard to bring the Republic into being.

  3. James Mills says:

    Read this in The National today . Excellent piece, Mike !
    Everything that is wrong with the UK should be a template for what NOT to do in an Independent Scotland . Let’s start with the monarchy .

    1. Thanks James, definitely now an emerging consensus for deeper change

  4. bringiton says:

    Our independence referendum should have been a matter solely for the people of Scotland but due to the actions of the British state became a conflict between them and us.
    Prior to the Queen’s intervention,I was quite happy with the idea of her as a titular head of state to represent us on state occasions and to guarantee our constitution (Scottish that is).
    Having subsequently thought very carefully about it,I now realise that we need to sever all connections with the British establishment,including the monarchy which is at the very heart of all that nonsense.
    Anything else will result in the British state continuing to meddle in our affairs.

  5. David McCann says:

    Mike.
    Prepare yourself to be called by Brenda any day now.
    No doubt to purr some advice regarding your seditious article, and scrub your name off the honours list!

  6. Daniel Raphael says:

    Another excellent, timely, and well-articulated analysis; I tweeted it moments ago: https://twitter.com/bunkybun/status/1175794312476426240
    Please continue.

  7. Alistair Taylor says:

    A fine article, Mike. Thank you.

    Some incredibly deep changes are needed in the way that we live. You are totally right to say that we will work less, produce less, and buy less. And out of all this, we can have a better quality of life. Time to be, as you say.
    Enough of the rat-race and the scrabble for money and possessions. Enough of the work slavery.
    In my more hopeful, romantic, poetic moments, I feel that we’re on the verge of the new Scottish enlightenment.

    The monarchy, and everything associated with it, is obsolete.
    It is time to take stock of where we are are. Time to do things better.
    It’s time to live a simpler, but better, life.

  8. squigglypen says:

    The balcony will not collapse..it will have to be dismantled stone by stone by us….the inhabitants will hang on with their claws… forever if need be.. until we disentangle them..Perceptive article..thank you.

  9. florian albert says:

    The most noticeable point about the five years since the Independence Referendum has been the failure of the Independence supporters to move the argument forward.
    The Growth Commission has proposed a more moderate economic policy; the pro-Independence left has proposed moving quickly to establish an independent Scottish currency. (It is doubtful that many voters have noticed either development.) The SNP – by far the most important players – have largely sat on their hands.

    The SNP’S ‘strategy’ appears to be to wait in the belief that Scots’ anger at Brexit/The Tories/Boris will deliver victory into their lap.
    This might happen but other outcomes are also possible. Boris might produce a deal which would just about satisfy a majority of people, bearing in mind how many people seem to want the whole business resolved – rather than drag on. Also, the huge difficulties in exiting the Treaty of Rome might lead people to think twice about the difficulties involved in exiting a much older and deeper union. Finally, the SNP’s failures in government make it less and less convincing as the standard bearer for a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.

  10. MBC says:

    Has Andy visited Holyrood Palace recently? It’s a museum of significant historical artefacts and not a particularly practical building for a modern Senate. However there is land around it on which a modern building and offices could be built and the Palace kept for state occasions.

  11. MBC says:

    Excellent article Mike, we need to continue with the visioning of a new Scotland. The monarchy must go. The Queen is an Englishwoman, as are the entire ‘Scottish’ aristocratic class. Not a patriot amongst them. The Queen has shown herself to be a partisan Tory Brexiter Little Englander and not a queen of four nations. Scotland’s history was stolen. In the last parliament before dissolution they passed acts that were republican in tone and direction, like the Act Anent War and Peace, or the Wine Act, during the War of the Spanish Succession, which declared that the parliament, not the monarch, would decide on such matters, as it would on economic alliances. That was what so alarmed Queen Anne’s ministers that they decided the Scottish Parliament had to go. There was a clear republican sentiment and direction of travel. Instead they abolished this proto-republican upstart, and ‘celebrity feudalism’ continued, our toils obscured.

  12. maxwell macleod says:

    Wonderful writing Mike. Small problem. We are not rational beings, we are human beings.

  13. Jack collatin says:

    We are not going to turn Edinburgh into the new London.
    Back in the heady days of ’13 / ’14 I mooted the idea that New Scotland would spread the Wealth and decentralise Government.
    The Dept for Industry in Glasgow, Fisheries and Ag in Aberdeen, Education in Dundee and so on.
    What we don’t want is big fat Edinburgh getting bigger and fatter at the expense of the rest of the country.
    Auld Lizzie can be a figurehead as far as I’m concerned.
    She and her family are cartoon characters who shall have no say in the running of Scotland.
    But there are many Royalists who vote YES. Why are you trying to scare them off?
    The Windsors will be a harmless plaything come independence.
    We won’t be paying for them, and our FM will not be taking part in weekly secret ‘audiences’ with the Queen.
    She wont appear on our money, and she won’t be allowed to shoot innocent animals for fun Up Here if we ban blood sports.
    No independence unless it’s the Marxist/ Leninist Momentum Cooperative?
    You Lefties are doing it again.
    Split the YES Movement?
    I almost think that you don’t want Scotland to be a Self Determining country.
    You want a Marxist region of Greater England.
    When we are independent, then you can decide on side shows like the Royals at the ballot box.

    1. John McLeod says:

      I completely agree with Jack. Getting rid of the royals is a fight for another day . The discussion will really start to open up when the Queen passes away or stand down. I also think that Mike’s final paragraph (“we might well re-think rather than replicate the idea of a central government. …”) is describing really important work that needs to be done. There are lots of ideas around about the possible structure of government in a new Scotland. One way forward would be to create an arena in which as wide a cross-section of the population as possible can contribute their suggestions, followed by citizen assemblies that would work through the options and come up with some concrete proposals for the parliament to consider. The university sector has the facilities and skills to carry this out. It is not rocket science – it is a form of participatory action research, which is a well-understood methodology.

      1. Jean de McKluskey says:

        I heartily welcome the Scottish Green’s calls for a Scottish Republic. The disclosures regarding the Crown’s biased intervention in 2014, and the revolting spectacle of the monarch assenting to BoJo’s prorogation “advice “, must signal to thinking people that we can trust the Windsors about as far as the next PM visit. Jack Collatin’s name calling rant symbolizes all that is worst in that part of the Yes camp that claims hegemony: bullying and authoritarian. Any position departing from a (fictional, because not tested at any poll) Yes-majority position is discredited a priori, because it might “split the Yes vote.” Almost any Yes position that departs from their own is dismissed with an ignorant assertion that it is leftist/ Marxist. Where is the Marxism, a substantial engagement with Marxism, in ant of Andy Whightman’s published writings?

    2. Jack you write: “there are many Royalists who vote YES. Why are you trying to scare them off?”

      Are there? How many? Who are they? Ive never met one? Are they not paying attention?

      As I said I suspect they are very few and will dwindle further when the present Queen dies.

      I think it makes far more political sense to have a clear political strategy than to try and appease a few Perthshire landowners or wherever these Yes Monarchists are.

      1. Jack collatin says:

        Perhaps you should get out more.
        I am heartened that my humble tuppence worth is considered a ‘name calling rant’.
        Marx Engels and Stalin will be turning in their mausolea.
        The Greens are always banging on about decentralising Government, advocating that most decisions should be made at local level, yet would have a centralised Upper Chamber sitting in one of Liz’s Palaces in Edinburgh.

        The imagery that Andy Wightman attempts to conjure up, of the people storming a Royal Palace and overthrowing the Crown, is not lost on us less enlightened souls who may consider that Momentum, and the hessian garments and rope sandals NOW! of the Green Lobby , to be a tad overambitious and, well incredibly boring and totalitarian in equal measures.

        AUOB. Does what it says on the tin.

        If you are not part of the solution, Self Determination, where the people of Scotland decide its future, then you are part of the problem.

        My sainted mother, Labour all her life, would sit and watch the Trooping of the Colour, in all its ‘majesty’, in front of a black and white 14″ screen.
        There are many elderly potential Yes votes who still consider themselves ‘royalists’.
        I tire of the erstwhile Militants, now Momentum, who have destroyed the Labour Movement.
        Corbyn as PM?
        Job done. Anarchy in the UK.

        ‘Name calling’ Ranter. I like that.

        Perhaps I’ll adopt this as a nom de guerre, so that I can hide my identity, like others on here?

        1. Nowhere do I describe your comment as a ‘name calling rant’?

          Maybe you’re thinking of somebody else?

          1. Jack collatin says:

            q.v ‘Jean De McKluskey’ post. A relative of Len’s?
            It’s growing on me.
            I may start a Blog: ‘Name Calling Ranter’.
            It has a ring to it, non?

  14. Robert says:

    No, Holyrood Palace wouldn’t be a very good place for a second chamber. It should probably be in Glasgow (or maybe peripatetic, sitting in different cities) and I’d suggest it should be selected randomly, via sortition, as a Citizens’ Assembly.

  15. Derek Stewart Macpherson says:

    Mike, you raise many good points here. I have always been a republican personally, but five years ago I was persuaded to put that issue off until we’d won our independence. Indeed that was the proposal, a constitutional convention following a Yes vote. The logic of your position would appear to be that we have that constitutional convention first, so as to have a constitution to put in place on day one of independence. Would you agree? And if so, do you see any reason why we should not call for the convention to be set up immediately?

    1. Yes – I’m in favour of having a crowd-sourced constitution – as was attempted by Iceland { we covered it here : https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2015/07/23/icelands-pirates/ and here: https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/06/09/a-choice-of-paths/%5D in advance of independence as part of a wider constitutional convention and deep democratic renewal (but one that should be far less stuffy than previously)

      1. Daniel Raphael says:

        The link to the 2014 article produces a 404 error, FYI.

  16. Don't Just Book It, Thomas Cook It... says:

    Good dry run at Europe’s airports today for No Deal chaos to come on Nov 1st, written, directed and produced by the Brexit mad monarchy and unelected Etonian common room- head boy twat – govt with no parliamentary majority currently in charge of bankrupt floating casino / island off North West coast of Europe up for sale to Saudis, Chinese and any other totalitarian plutocrats or tyrants with some cash…

    Elite rule gone mad. Stop. Country on the brink. Stop. Man the lifeboats. Stop….

  17. Kenny Smith says:

    I understand why certain people might feel some attachment to the monarchy. I suppose some feel it connects them to history and a sense of tradition. Personally being of a more socialist leaning I would probably vote for a Republic but if the people voted to keep her like Australia did then I think I could just about swallow it. I don’t have anything against her or her family personally, I mean they never asked to be born into it but what they represent is against my ideals of a modern 21st century democracy. I wish the woman no ill will but if we go independent then I think it does really have to be a clean break for me anyway but if keeping her as head of state was still part of becoming independent then I would still vote yes.

  18. SleepingDog says:

    Yes, pretty much, to all of this.

    The supreme British value appears to nepotism, with sovereignty decided by God, whose imaginary ballot papers are for ever unavailable for public scrutiny.

    Far from being just a figurehead, the reigning monarch performs a range of vital (if largely secretive) functions for the Establishment, including muddying waters of accountability with fictions of non-executive power (in spite of being commander of armed forces, established church and head of countless other organizations). Look at the royal prerogative powers, the secret councils, arcane dormant powers waiting to be reactivated in any threat to the status quo, the life sentence in treason felony law for any subject calling for a republic, the royal family suppressing key tranches of British history under the excuse that these are private family papers, the above-the-lawness…

    As the world’s longest-serving nuclear terrorist, the Queen (who can appoint a new minister/army chief if the existing one refuses to launch the nukes) was not asked by the BBC if she would launch (unlike Jeremy Corbyn). Considerable powers of appointment (including, I believe, ambassadors) are held by the monarch. Considering that British diplomacy is currently held in such worldwide contempt (although British diplomats seem to be one of the few groups of people unaware of this), this is another case where some form of accountability would be nice. And of course, the Queen still rules the rump British Empire, lording it over the tax havens among the UK’s chart-topping of the UN’s list of non-self-governing territories. Still claiming those rocks, especially those near transoceanic data cables. And the ownership of Canada. Maybe Queen Elizabeth II’s death tally does not quite reach that of King Leopold II of Belgium, yet millions died throughout her Empire and elsewhere on her watch and at her command (she was privy to the invasion of Egypt which makes her at least an accessory to the UN’s greatest crime of waging aggressive war, worse, on a premeditated conspiracy of faked pretext according to the state’s own royalist blog).

    Interestingly, it was royals (Tudors) who began the systematic destruction of the living British environment, deforestation and species extinction, which undermines any claim to be protectors or conservators of land and life.

    Yes, a strong call for a Scottish republic is one means of creating greater certainty, and a shared sense of destiny. Monarchists, until they die out, should be encouraged to publicly defend their ridiculous beliefs.

  19. MMT is right says:

    A European Republic ran by Brussels who will tell you how much money you can spend, what VAT and other taxes is supposed to be and attack the Scottish bonds market if you get any left wing ideas. Then crash the Scottish stock market that nutters are trying to bring to Scotland.

    A Brussels that Is looking to make privatisation of anything that is not nailed down a given.

    Is it any wonder voters are leaving the SNP in bigger numbers every day? Repulsed by the SNP bubble of bankers. Bankers who wrote the growth commission because the SNP have already decided to join the Euro whilst most countries that are in it are trying to figure out how to get out.

    What makes it worse is you actually believe you can stop them. The SNP will run right over the top of you and not even blink when they hand over all the power to Brussels.

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