Saturday 7 November 2020

It is perfectly democratic to block Sturgeon forever


If Alister Jack is correct that there won’t be a second independence referendum for 25-40 years, then that would mean the SNP would have a minimum of 19 years to wait.

Alex Salmond would be 84.

Nicola Sturgeon would be 69.

Given that it would take a few years to organise a referendum and given that if it were won it would take a few years to actually achieve independence then we can add a minimum of five years to that number.

It begins to look like Mr Salmond will play the role of Moses, never destined to reach the Promised Land. It’s hard to believe that Sturgeon will still be leader when she is 69, so it would have to be a new generation that led the fight.

But if the British Government can say No to a second independence referendum for 19 years, they can equally well say No for forty years and if they can say No for forty years they can say No for ever. This I think is really what they are saying. You had your chance. We gave you the right to set the question. We gave you the chance to set the date. You asked the people of Scotland, they said No. The margin wasn’t that close. 10% is a landslide in a General Election. It wins the whole Electoral College in a presidential election. It’s over.

Sturgeon of course complained that Mr Jack’s statement was undemocratic. She said

As we’re seeing across the Atlantic just now, politicians who rage against democracy don’t prevail.

But it is a poor example. Donald Trump is opposed to secession in the United States, but so too is Joe Biden. The United States only is a united country because it fought a war against secession. The Confederacy used exactly the same argument as Nicola Sturgeon. The North voted for Abraham Lincoln, but the South didn’t. This gives us the democratic right to vote for independence. Sturgeon’s argument is exactly the same. Scotland didn’t vote for Brexit and Tories, but England did. That gives us the right to vote for independence. If Sturgeon were right, there would be no United States Presidential Election.

There is no question that British elections are free and fair. No one questions counting the votes. If there is any electoral fraud it is small scale. We have in the past few years had a number of referendums and elections that have been bitterly fought. But while people have questioned the legitimacy of campaigns, no one has seriously suggested that the counting was wrong. People from all parties and none oversee the counts. We accept them and trust them. This is why nothing like what has happened in the USA over the past few days has happened here.

When Sturgeon complains about a lack of democracy, she doesn’t mean that the vote in either General Elections or Scottish Parliament elections is unfair. What she means is that she thinks that it is undemocratic to not allow Scotland to have a vote on secession when it pleases.

But let’s look at this issue. If Scotland were independent would Nicola Sturgeon allow a part of Scotland to vote to become independent? The answer of course is No.

When Ireland decided to leave the UK, this was considered by Irish secessionists to be legitimate. But somehow it was also considered illegitimate for Northern Ireland to leave Ireland. Not only was it illegitimate for Northern Ireland to leave, it would also have been illegitimate for Munster, or Leinster or Connaught to leave.

The unfairness of this is obvious. If Scotland can vote to leave the United Kingdom then logically any part of Scotland could vote to stay in the United Kingdom, just as Northern Ireland did. But if that were to be allowed then only those parts of Scotland that voted for independence could be expected to become independent. The rest would remain in the UK and would not be dragged out against their will. This of course would make Scottish independence impossible, because unless the SNP could expect to win every region, independence would equal partition.

It is not remotely undemocratic to refuse a second referendum on independence, not least because the word “democratic” is used to describe countries which make referendums on independence illegal. Not one member of the European Union would allow a part to have a referendum on independence. Is Nicola Sturgeon going to call every European Union member state undemocratic. If she does so, does she think she will prevail.

In Britain there has up to now been a political convention that has suggested that the four parts of the United Kingdom had the right to leave if they so pleased. This convention still applies to Northern Ireland because the people of Northern Ireland voted to ratify the Belfast Agreement. But I fear this political convention no longer applies to Wales, Scotland or England.

The SNP’s task is this. They have to win a vote for an independence referendum in Westminster. It doesn’t matter one little bit if they win half the seats at Holyrood or all of them. The reason it doesn’t matter is that Holyrood is merely a devolved parliament that cannot decide constitutional matters. If the SNP can persuade the Parliament at Westminster to give it a majority on a bill proposing a second referendum on independence it can have one. This will be perfectly democratic. If it can’t persuade Westminster, this will also be perfectly democratic. It is a pity, but the SNP are rather outnumbered at Westminster, which means that likelihood is that they will lose and continue to lose indefinitely. Not being able to win a vote in Parliament is perfectly democratic.

Likewise it is unfortunate, but because constitutional matters are reserved it doesn’t matter how many MSPs the SNP has in the Scottish Parliament, they still won’t be able to decide about independence or a second referendum, because it is not a matter, they are legally able to decide. That too is democratic.

It has been conventional in Scotland to think that if Scotland alone says it wants an independence referendum that is enough and that this is what it is to be democratic. But no one in the United States thinks that it is enough if Texas says it wants to leave the USA because it voted for Trump but got Biden. No one in France thinks that Corsica alone can decide to leave. No one in Germany thinks that Heligoland can vote to rejoin Britain which it left in 1890. Only Sturgeon thinks she has the right to unilaterally decide that she should have a vote on independence.  When you are alone and obsessively fixated on something it is worth being careful lest you are accused of monomania.

Whenever Scottish nationalists argue that it is unfair that Scotland should not be given a referendum on independence because we are supposed to be a union of equals, I always reply that we are not a union at all. The Union of 1707 created a single child called Great Britain. There is no union now in the same way a child of a marriage (a union) is not itself a union. The United Kingdom is one nation. We are as united as France, or Germany or the USA.

Alister Jack is suggesting that just as votes on secession will are forbidden in the USA so they are forbidden in the UK. The problem for Sturgeon is that unless she tries to do something illegal, the UK position will prevail, because it is not merely legal it is democratic and there is not a thing the SNP can do to challenge this. They can huff and they can puff, but in the end, they will have to hold an illegal referendum, a revolt or a war of independence because they have no other means to their goal.

We can stop you for twenty-five years. We can stop you for forty years. We can stop you forever. There isn’t a thing you can do about it. Rejoice in your polls with fake questions from organisations that are paid to say you are winning but realise that none of these things matter. You and your children and your children’s children will all be dead before there is Scottish independence.