Friday 5 May 2023

Is this a stone which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?


There is a rather odd idea that the cause of Scottish nationalism would have been helped if First Minister Humza Yousaf had commanded Police Scotland to surround the place where the Stone of Scone is kept and prevented it being taken to London for the coronation of Charles III.

Given the situation he arrived with Humza Yousaf has actually exceeded my expectations in his performance as First Minister. He has no doubt been involved in the SNP appointing an auditor and it must be still possible that this auditor will save the SNP from losing one million pounds. He has delayed Lorna Slater’s Deposit Return Scheme and it may be hoped that it will be delayed still further.

Despite a few odd statements such as that he doesn’t believe the SNP to be a criminal organisation and that he is surprised when colleagues are arrested, there is no danger that Mr Yousaf himself will be arrested. This is quite an achievement in itself even if it is primarily due to Mr Yousaf knowing nothing about anything including the inner workings of the SNP. So well done Humza. Keep up the good work.

The worst possible thing that Mr Yousaf could have done would have been to follow the advice of Alex Salmond and his consiglieri Wings over Scotland. It would merely have shown still more the authoritarian nature of the Scottish Government in ordering the police to waste resources on preventing something that was not a crime.

When the Stone of Scone was returned to Scotland, if indeed it actually is the original Stone of Scone, it was done so on the basis that it would be returned to London when there was a coronation. Everyone involved at the time knew this including presumably Alex Salmond. Humza Yousaf was probably at school and may not yet have learned about the Stone of Scone, but he still shows more judgement than Alex Salmond.

So, it is perfectly legal for the Stone of Scone to be taken from Edinburgh Castle. It isn’t being stolen. The principle that museums and art galleries lend important artifacts to each other on the basis that they will be returned is well established. The police do not get involved if a painting from the National Gallery is sent to the Louvre for an exhibition. It would be a waste of police time if a Prime Minister sought to tell the Met to stop the National Gallery lending the painting. It would be seen as authoritarian. The Prime Minister ought not to tell the police what to do even if he can. It would also be pointless and futile.

What would have been the result if Humza Yousaf had followed Alex Salmond’s advice? Would it have led to an armed stand off with members of the SAS trying to rescue the Stone of Scone from Scotland’s finest? Would it have led to the British Government caving into Alex Salmond’s demand for a second referendum on Scottish independence? The answer is obviously no.

It is mere tradition that the Stone of Scone sits under the throne when the monarch is crowned. The Stone of Scone was stolen by Scottish nationalists in the 1950s, but no one was prosecuted because the escapade was treated by everyone as a joke. If the Stone of Scone (or a stone that looks similar) had not been returned by the nationalist pranksters/thieves, it would have made no difference whatsoever to subsequent coronations. We would just have a new tradition that coronations don’t take place with the Stone of Scone under the throne.

Would this have affected the United Kingdom? No. The sovereignty of the United Kingdom extending over all of its territory has nothing whatsoever to do with the Stone of Scone. It is merely a rock that is approximately 145 million years old which makes it part of Gondwana as much as Scotland. If the Gondwanians wished to secede from Laurasia we are unaware of it because unfortunately writing by human beings and indeed human beings at all arrived rather later.

Scotland does not have sovereignty no matter how much Scottish nationalists wish that it does. It does not have sovereignty because it is not an independent sovereign nation state. The existence of a rock that was once claimed to be from the Holy Land but in fact is not and its location under a chair signifies nothing whatsoever. You don’t become independent because you own a rock. You become so either by means of a legal referendum or if you prefer a rebellion.

Mr Salmond now that he is out of office and also perhaps because of his experience with the law is more rebellious. This is why he wants to Humza Yousaf to surround Edinburgh Castle with the police.

But what would have been the result of this circling of the Scottish wagons. Nothing at all. The King and the British Government would have merely said, OK sorry you don’t want us to borrow the rock, we’ll do with out it. By the way we note that you haven’t kept your side of the bargain.

Humza Yousaf more sensibly will turn up at the coronation and might even enjoy himself there. He almost certainly does not want a second independence referendum this year or indeed any time soon, for the simple reason that his party is in disarray, and it would be awkward if during a campaign this summer its former leader was arrested like another former leader.

Humza Yousaf does not equally sensibly want to stage any sort of rebellion. He could do so by commanding the police to surround the Stone of Scone. He could equally do so by asking the Scottish Parliament to declare independence unilaterally.

But he has wisely rejected the unilateralism which some of the more extremist Scottish nationalists favour, because the British Government could respond equally unilaterally by instantly failing to supply Scotland with any money from the Treasury and by refusing to negotiate. The result might or might not lead to Scottish independence. My guess is that whoever ordered the rebellion would discover the consequences in approximately one or two days and would immediately afterwards be rather less rebellious.

So well done Humza Yousaf for not following Alex Salmond into the weirder regions of Scottish nationalism. Well done for keeping an agreement and realising that whatever the Stone of Scone is, it is merely a symbol and can equally easily be replaced by another symbol or another stone. It has nothing whatsoever to do with sovereignty for the simple reason that Scotland does not have sovereignty.

Dear Scottish nationalists if you had sovereignty, you would have independence, but this is what you want. You can’t want what you already have. It matters not one little bit if a stone is stolen from Westminster and perhaps swapped for another one and eventually gets returned to Scotland only for a little while to return to Westminster.

Humza Yousaf to his credit realises that it’s not about stones.