Let the People Decide

The Radical Independence Campaign organised a demonstration outside the Supreme Court in London on October 11th.  It was well covered by the media, including The National and Daily Record in Scotland.  We did not go down to London to press the Supreme Court to take a favourable stance on a new Scottish independence referendum.  We thought that when it comes to the exercise of self-determination, the Supreme Court had no role to play and we called for ‘Let the People Decide’.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling has unwittingly reinforced this principle.  It says only Westminster can decide.  This is the political equivalent of telling a woman who wants to separate from her abusive partner that she has to get the permission of the in-laws first.

I would like to quote Scottish author, George Gunn in yesterday’s Bella Caledonia about the uselessness of depending on the UK state and its institutions to help us.  

“A future for Scotland in a Tory run post-Brexit Britain will mean starving and malnourished children from Caithness to Carlops. Democracy will be reduced and eroded like a sea stack by the relentless surge of reactionary ideology. Corruption will become a way of life and race and gender crimes will increase like a virus. Illiteracy, social decay and destitution will afflict more and more people – daily, surprisingly, fatally. These are the real and overwhelming legacies of Tory rule. And increasingly it will be ruling as opposed to governing.”

The people of Scotland have been slower than the Irish and all peoples of the British empire to appreciate the fundamentally anti-democratic nature of the UK state.  Part of this lies in the benefits a Scottish-British elite drew from these connections.  But as the empire has gone into decline, so has the Union designed to back it up.  The UK is not based on the sovereignty of the people but on the sovereignty of the Crown-in Westminster, backed by a whole host of anti-democratic Crown Powers and an unwritten constitution that allows its rulers to make it up as they go along.  That is what we are seeing today with the Supreme Court ruling.  And it was a Tory MP, Sir Geoffrey Nabarro, who best described the British legal system – “the best that money can buy”.

As slow learners we in Scotland have had to assess each of these UK institutions as they have impinged on us.  Back in 1999, when the Scottish Parliament was set up, we were told that the UK is now based on the equality of four nations.

But the British Broadcasting Corporation did not change its name and thinking in 1999 to the 4 Nations Broadcasting Service?  No, it remained very British. We saw this during the IndyRef1 campaign. The BBC gave Nigel Farage of UKIP with no councillors, MSPs or Scottish MPs, far more coverage than the Scottish Greens, with elected representatives.  It posted regular briefings from the Far Right, whilst virtually ignoring RIC, which held conferences of 800, 1300 and then 3000. And I’m sure Nicola Sturgeon would agree that the way the BBC interviewed SNP spokespersons was very different from how they schmaltzed before Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling.  And anyone who thinks the BBC is independent of the state needs only to look at its coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth.  North Korean TV could hardly have been more supine.

Back in 2014, The Guardian revealed the British High Command plans if Scotland had voted ‘Yes’. The area around Faslane and Coulport were to be detached from Scotland to form, in effect, the British West Clyde Territories.  Another way of looking at this, would be to see these as Scotland’s Guantanamo or Guatanamac Bay.  Jackie Baillie would probably have been made governor-general!

Therefore, following George Gunn’s advice, we should not be waiting for the Supreme Court, future Westminster elections or even Westminster’s devolved branch office, Holyrood.  Holyrood cannot organise an independence referendum, because that requires local councils to organise the vote.  These are nearly all headed by deeply unionist chief executives who will certainly not break the law.

Therefore, it falls on us, the people, to devise ways, to withdraw our support from the institutions of the UK state.  So, which British institutions do we need to question?  Not far from Holyrood is the UK government hub, Queen Elizabeth House.  This Hub is not designed to give Scottish citizens any influence on those matters reserved for Westminster.  Quite the opposite.  It’s a UK government propaganda outlet, with the government wanting to curtail the Scottish Parliament’s powers.  It’s BOS – British Occupied Scotland.  We are capable of imagining and humorous ways of getting this across.

Photo: Martin P. McAdam www.martinmcadam.com

Next year we have Charlie’s coronation. Back in 2003, the queen, who had hardly been a supporter of Scottish self-determination, even in its limited devolutionary form, was called upon to open the new Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.  It would have been far more fitting if those who had campaigned for this parliament, like Lesley Riddoch backed by the Proclaimers, had opened it. 

Nevertheless, there was a well-attended and colourful protest on Calton Hill that day.  And the democratic republican, Declaration of Calton Hill was proclaimed.  Next year, on May 6th, Our Republic have booked Calton Hill for another protest event.  Accepting any Charles III means accepting all the state’s Crown Powers and their long reach, as the evicted people of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean well know. 

And it’s no wonder the monarchy is so strongly supported by the Unionist Right. They royal family pay few taxes, can ignore laws covering workers’ pay and conditions, the protection of ethnic minorities and environmental rights, and they can privately lobby not only Westminster, but Holyrood too, to ensure their interests are promoted – a Brexiteers’ paradise! 

RIC and others aim to make May 6th not just a fun day, but part of the Scottish people’s ongoing withdrawal of support from the institutions of the UK state.  However, there is also a role for our elected representatives. Gwynedd council, in the heartland of Welsh-speaking Wales, has voted by 46 to 4, to call for the ending of the Prince of Wales. In Scotland independence supporters may be behind Ireland in challenging the UK state, but we do like to think we are the pacemakers for the Welsh.  So, how can we do better than Gwynedd council? 

It is to the credit if the SNP that they refuse to take part in the UK’s House of Lords.  But there is another even more anti-democratic and secretive part of the Westminster set-up, and that is the Privy Council.  Past and present Scottish First Ministers are members.  However, they are banned from telling the Scottish people what goes on there.  It was the Privy Council which Boris Johnson used to prorogue Westminster, supposedly the UK’s sovereign body.  It has the powers to topple governments.  If Nicola Sturgeon was to withdraw her participation, that would be a powerful indicator that Scotland was serious in wanting to create a new democratic order. 

In a democracy, sovereignty lies with people, that is the essence of republicanism, not whether or not there is an unelected head of state. 

There was nothing democratic about the election of Donald Trump in 2016.  He came second in the vote.  And US corporations are given massive political and legal rights, as if they are people. There is nothing democratic about Putin’s Russian Federation that is run for the benefit of an oligarchy of kleptocrats. There is nothing democratic about XI Jinping and his one-party dictatorship in China. These are all republics, but none are based on the democratic principle of the sovereignty of the people.

The UK state victory in 2014 turned out to be pyrrhic and the Unionists know that.  The issue of Scottish independence became mainstreamed, as all subsequent election results have shown.  When it came to Brexit, the rules were very different.  The overall ’No’ result was only achieved by excluding 16-18 year olds and most EU residents, all of whom had been given the vote in IndyRef2. An ethnically-based franchise for British subjects, which bolstered the Hard and Far Right’s ‘Project Hate’ was their answer to the Scotland’s civic national franchise looking to maximise the number of citizens.  In 2019 the Scottish Parliament voted to extend the franchise to even more people.  Meanwhile Westminster is looking to ways to further restrict the franchise.  Hopefully the bill recognising transgender self-determination will soon go through Holyrood.  Meanwhile every form of social reaction – transphobia, homophobia, misogyny and national chauvinism are growing at Westminster every day.  We had an amazing rainbow alliance in 2014 and we need to remain Scots, united in our diversity,

And lastly, RIC’s ‘Let the People Decide’ ballot box has Scottish, Welsh and Irish flags on its sides.  The former British colonies of Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica., Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda and St Kitts-Nevis are also voting to become republics.  Many of their descendants migrated to the UK, where they have recently become victims of such scandals as Windrush and Grenfell Towers.  Just as the banksters are being compensated today for their 2008 Crash, which has created millions of victims, so the slaveowners were compensated from 1833 to 2016 for their slaves’ emancipation.   Therefore, we are not alone in wanting to challenge the British political and social order.  We can unite on the basis of our ‘Internationalism from Below’ so ‘Let the Peoples of these islands Decide’.


Allan Armstrong, by agreement of RIC National Forum

Comments (13)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. George S Gordon says:

    The UK Supreme Court has been very keen to use the judgement of the Supreme Court of Canada to bolster its decision in the case of Scotland, despite the fact that Scotland is a nation and Quebec was not.

    The judgement on Wednesday includes the following –
    “A state whose government represents the whole of the people or peoples resident within its territory, on a basis of equality and without discrimination, and respects the principles of self-determination in its internal arrangements, is entitled to maintain its territorial integrity under international law and to have that territorial integrity recognized by other states. Quebec does not meet the threshold of a colonial people or an oppressed people, nor can it be suggested that Quebecers have been denied meaningful access to government to pursue their political, economic, cultural and social development.”

    Presumably they have equated “the principles of self-determination” with being able to vote in UK General Elections, rather than the right to secede. This ignores the fact that, even if Scotland had voted Labour in the last election, we would still have been landed with the current Tory government which continued its practice of denying equality in its various forms.

    Scotland has the right, but not the ability, to vote out the Tory Government on the grounds of lack of equality. Devolution does not provide equality or “meaningful access to government” to pursue our political development.

  2. Malcolm Kerr says:

    Sir *Gerald*, maybe? May 6th in my diary now.

  3. Joe Killman says:

    Great piece, showing very clearly the bias, propaganda and lack of democracy in this dead union. Open your eyes people, before it’s too late. No supreme court, or any other English institutions are going to help us, they only denigrate us.

  4. Lawrence says:

    As an Irishman living in Scotland, I resent the expression ‘the UK’s four nations’. So-called ‘Northern Ireland’ is not and never has been a ‘nation’. It amounts to six of Irelands counties stolen in 1922 under threat of ‘all-out war’ against Ireland by the British Government of the day under Lloyd George. As a contract such an arrangment would be null & void.
    In an effort to make themselves look teritorial legit. Unionists often refer to themselves as Ulstermen/women despite three of Ulster’s counties being in the Irish Republic, with one of them ‘Donegal’ being Irelands most northerly. The British-leaning residnts were quite happy to avoid claiming the whole of Ulster for fear Catholics would outnumber them at future poles; a lesson well-learnt after their near wipe-out in the all Ireland General Election of 1919.

    Friends and I joined the campaign for Scottish independance in 2014, and for my part I’ve been more than happy to direct people towards Irish history to get a flavour of what we may be up against here. It’s not a perfect model and Scotland will develop its own bespoke approach, but there are lessons to be learnt.

    1. Alastair McIntosh says:

      “Four nations” is a propaganda gambit to dilute Scotland’s standing.

    2. Dissenter says:

      The lessons to be learned hopefully include avoiding a murderous civil war and constructing a reactionary quasi-theocratic state that imposed the doctrines of one faith on all of its citizens.

  5. Leslie Cunningham says:

    A most excellent article. I particularly like the comments on transgender self- determination, and the final paragraph.

  6. Alvin Vertigo says:

    “Back in 1989, when the Scottish Parliament was set up,“…. Say what now?

  7. James Dow says:

    What if England decided to end the union with Scotland would their own high court decide they didn’t have the right to do so.
    And would they be compelled to hold a referendum to qualify their decision?
    And if Scotland opposed it what rights could Scotland offer from their position of equal partnership and have them acted upon and by whom?
    It’s interesting to consider a role reversal and the process from an English perspective. I would be interested if some legal bot out there cared to comment on the above.
    1707 The speaker of the House of Commons “ We have catched Scotland and we will bind her tight “
    They weren’t kidding were they. When you play with the English elite keep in mind they require no remedial practice in the art of Machiavellian bastardly schemes.

    1. JP58 says:

      Looking at electoral history the votes of electorate of Scotland have been irrelevant to Westminster election since 1979. The electorate of England have decided every one of last 11 Westminster elections which is not surprising as they form 90% of electorate. This effectively means that, flooding last weeks SC ruling, the electorate of Scotland (&Wales) require permission of electorate in England before they can vote on their own independence. This would be bad enough but the electorate of England has imposed Tory governments on Scotland on 8/11 occasions since 1979 and have also imposed Brexit on Scotland against wishes of electorate of Scotland. These facts must be hammered home by all independence campaigners as it will open all but diehard unionists to listen to case. The other side to this is to explain the benefits of independence especially the financial benefits and I am sure 50% support for independence will rise to 60% at which point independence becomes unstoppable.

  8. SleepingDog says:

    While I broadly agree with much of this, we should be aware of what forms Unionist reaction will take. There is compelling evidence from the politics and posturing around the Men’s football World Cup in Qatar that the six European colonialists plus capital-crimes Switzerland behind OneLove will try to use LGBT rights as a stick to beat foreigners with in the gammon manner that British imperialists use the eventual/sort-of ‘abolition’ of slavery to try to claim moral high ground; while ignoring that homosexual acts were criminalised throughout their Empire. This may be used to portray breakaway republics as backward and loathsome, even if their laws are not enforced, and it is actually the British Privy Council who is rejecting their pleas to make, for example, single-sex marriage lawful, since it provides their constitutional court. I am not in favour of every new LGBT+ reform the bleeding edge proposes, but true political equality and end to unjust persecution should be beneficial for society as a whole.

    I think if you realise who sponsors the European colonialists (plus home of death-milk Nestlé) national teams, you will understand why they attempted a stunt to replace the United Nations-agreed Save the Planet armbands with their own OneLove one; Volkswagen (of emissions fraud infamy) and Vauxhall Motors for two. Expect a stream of sportswashing revelations. These are the official FIFA armbands: https://www.fifa.com/social-impact/campaigns/football-unites-the-world/media-releases/fifa-partner-with-united-nations-agencies-to-run-social-campaigns-during
    Obviously also Qatar’s royalist regime and FIFA’s corporate sponsors are using the tournament for Sportswashing purposes, although their efforts are as credible as Coca-Cola sponsoring the Climate COP27 in Egypt. But remember that in FIFA and UN’s decolonising and self-determination stances, the OneLove colonialists have powerful enemies. And an anti-colonial Scotland could find friends amongst these families of nations.

    British imperial foreign policy is indeed on the highway to hell, and history shows the Establishment will make the foullest alliances to maintain its power. However, anticipating its reactions and decoding its manoeuvres should help uncover decisive weaknesses and hypocrisies in the time we have left.

  9. Alec Lomax says:

    Nice photo of the UK consulate in Edinburgh.

  10. Ewen A Morrison says:

    Dear, Allan, I’ve just read your ‘Let the People Decide’, and I’m impressed and in full agreement with what you’ve written there… In fact, you now have a new follower; and I love these three words: ‘Internationalism from Below’ – three words instead of chapters and books. I’m really looking forward to reading more of your writing,


Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.