Scottish sovereignty is a creative act

Who is sovereign in Scotland? According to Scottish tradition and to the Scottish Claim of Right that would be the Scottish people. The Westminster doctrine that sovereignty in the UK rests with the Crown in Parliament was famously ruled in 1953 by the Lord President of the Court of Session to have no standing in Scots law. Lord Cooper of Culross gave his legal opinion stating, “the principle of unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle and has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law”.

Be that as it may, successive Westminster governments have a very different view. They uphold the doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of the Westminster parliament, and their absolute right to overrule the rights of the Scottish people. The only person in the whole of Scotland who is sovereign is Fluffy Mundell, and he does what the Tory Prime Minister tells him. You might think Mundell is two faced, but ask yourself, if that was true why’s he wearing that one? We think we live in a democracy, but it’s the strangest democracy in the world, where the party which gets just one seat gets to call all the shots and complain that the majority party wants a one-party state. British democracy is four Tory wolves, three Labour jackals and a Scottish sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

We might fondly imagine in Scotland that the Scottish people are sovereign, but that’s not how it works in practice. That’s how come we can get Theresa May appearing on the Andrew Marr show telling us that Scotland shouldn’t have a second independence referendum. When you’re told that you require permission from a Prime Minister that no one elected and whose party has only one MP in your country, it’s a safe bet that the establishment wants you to believe that the principle of popular sovereignty doesn’t apply to you. Scotland, you’ll do what you’re told and you’ll be happy that you live in a free country. British democracy means that in this most perfect partnership of nations, the small nations get to do what the big one tells them.

Later this week Patrick Grady, the SNP MP for Glasgow North, has arranged a debate in Westminster on the Scottish Claim of Right. The Claim of Right states that the Scottish people have the right to determine the form of government most suited to their needs. Westminster Tories and their Labour pals are going to tell us that the form of government best suited to Scotland’s needs is the form that Labour and the Tories tell us is best for us.

When you have a debate on the popular sovereignty of the people of Scotland held in the parliament that fetishises its own absolute sovereignty, the result is predictable. Westminster’s going to tell us that the only sovereignty in the UK is the sovereignty of the Westminster parliament. They’re going to tell us that if we want another independence referendum that we need their permission. And they’re going to tell us that we shouldn’t have one. Why do you want a Scottish independence day, Westminster asks, because when you live under Tory rule there’s fireworks every day.

The thing about popular sovereignty is that if you have to ask for it, then you can’t have it. The people are sovereign only when they start to act as though they are. A sovereign people don’t need permission in order to campaign for independence. We don’t need permission from a political party. We don’t need the blessing of the Scottish parliament. And we most certainly don’t need the permission of a Westminster parliament that denies that we have it. By organising ourselves, by starting our campaign, by acting as though we were already independent, then we achieve sovereignty. Sovereignty comes from deeds, not words. Scottish sovereignty is produced by the people of Scotland taking their future into their own hands and campaigning for a destiny that we determine for ourselves. We don’t need anyone’s permission.

This week we learned from Nick Clegg that during the coalition government the Tories cynically screwed over the poor and the low paid in order to curry favour with the rich and the better off. They had no concern or care for the human consequences or the victims of their policies. And that was when the Lib Dems were supposedly holding them in check. Now we have a majority Tory government there’s no check or restraint on their self-serving pursuit of power and their ability to punish the weakest in society. With a Tory majority government, the popular sovereignty of the Scottish people isn’t just something that would be a good idea, it becomes a moral imperative.

In a Scotland where the people, all the people, are collectively sovereign, it becomes a betrayal to punish the poor to benefit the rich. A country where the people are sovereign is a land which is governed in the interests of all, not the interests of a few. It’s a country which forsakes itself if it allows inequality to grow, if it permits the children of less advantaged families to fall behind. Yet all these things happen in the UK as a matter of Conservative policy because in the UK the only imperative is the need to get reelected under an unfair and skewed voting system that the Tories are about to skew even more blatantly in their own favour. If we vote to remain a part of the UK, we’re voting to consign ourselves to the gutter, we’re voting to reduce ourselves to the detritus that can be swept aside. Because we won’t be sovereign.

So let’s act as we mean to go on. By joining a Yes group or a CommonWeal group, by becoming an active member of a party that supports independence, you’re declaring your own personal Scottish sovereignty and you’re engaging in the active creation of a better country, a country that belongs to us all. Scottish sovereignty means putting all of us first. Scottish sovereignty is a creative act. The only way it’s going to come into being is if we believe in it, we act on it, and we create it. Scottish independence and Scottish sovereignty don’t require the permission of Westminster. They require ours.

Audio version of this blog, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984

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0 thoughts on “Scottish sovereignty is a creative act

  1. Just finshed volume three and still laughing. About to start on volume four both of which the author kindly signed for We’d be happy to facilitate a book stall me at the rally in George Sq in July. As YES Blantyre, we’d like to extend an invitation to The Wee Ginger Dug & Mr Paul Kavanagh to speak at our very first YES event in the town. Its on Oct 4th in Priestfield Hall at 7.30. He’s be sharing the platform with a YES Labour speaker and a representative for the Green Party. We’d be happy to facilitate a book stall/signing as part of the event.

  2. That’s pretty much Scotland’s popular sovereignty in a nutshell right there.

    We don’t need ANYONE’S permission, least of all Theresa May or the Westminster parliaments’ and we never have. If the people of Scotland wish to reassume their independence and statehood, then we can. We can have as many consultative referendums as we feel like, when we feel like having one and the Holyrood government of the day will do as they are instructed by the population.

    In fact the only folk who would deny Scotland’s population their traditional rights are… you guessed it… the Conservative and ‘Unionist’ party.

    If the legislators of the day have any smarts at all, they will periodically ask the population how things are going (as in a survey) and keep their population engaged with the political process.

    So what KIND of country do you want to live in? One where you have a say and where governments engage with the populace? Or one where you don’t and they couldn’t give a toss?

  3. I always thought the referendum question should be about sovereignty.

    “Should Scotland be a sovereign nation state?”

    It moves the debate onto the meaning of the concept of sovereignty, which is basically about power. About decisions for Scotland being made in Scotland.

    The problem with the word ‘independent’, is that it can ALSO mean ‘separate’.
    And the unionist side plays on this.

    But most people want Scotland to be seen as an outwards-looking internationalist country.

    • Good question, but, good luck trying to get it around the heads of an awful lot of folk who really don’t pay attention to what goes on round about them and have no idea what sovereignty means. You’d have to add something like, ” which makes decisions for itself”, ” control/power over the affairs of the Scottish people” or the like.

      I am surprised at some reasonably intelligent folk who eventually supported independence at the last ref and are still worried and asking the same questions now of the proposition because they still listen to the BBC, etc. I was told recently that “there’s no information” . Ye gods, groundhog day. The meaning of sovereignty of the people and the idea that Scottish people can do anything for themselves is not, even yet, embedded in their minds. That cringe runs deep.

      Have to keep it simple.

      • Couldn’t agree more. On many canvassing sessions around our constituency, and we voted Yes in the Independence Referendum, it is evident that more needs to be done to convince the undecided that the only way forward is for us to become an independent country.
        Yes, you’re correct about the B.B.C, and almost all of the M.S.M, who are implacably opposed to our aims, and that fact is never going to change. And, despite their falling sales, the print media is still a powerful force promoting Westminster’s narrative.
        I’m hoping that when the shambles that is Brexit becomes more apparent to the Scottish electorate, we can make inroads into the psyche of the people we need to convince. At least that’s my hope.

    • I’d change the sovereignty question, Onwards.

      Do you believe sovereignty should be with
      1. The Scottish people, or
      2. The Crown in the Houses of Parliament?

      But yes, this issue is central.

  4. Thanks for confirming what I already thought wee ginger dug English dominated westminster can’t even run a piss up in a brewery so why should they be governing scotland when Scotland said beat it in the last 2 elections and voted not to give them extra power over us in the eu refurendum by 63% if it don’t suit them they don’t want to know hence why that thacther wannabe may is making brexit negotiations an England only thing

  5. Soon be time to visit the good folk of the area once more. Big difference compared with pre-Indyref1. Now people are relaxed and happy to contemplate an independent Scotland. At last it’s a normal subject for discussion. This time we win!

    Another great piece, Paul. Thank you.

  6. ‘With a Tory majority government, the popular sovereignty of the Scottish people isn’t just something that would be a good idea, it becomes a moral imperative.’ EXACTLY CORRECT. No voters are championing poor-and-disabled-people murdering PAEDOPHILES, and might want to take a wee thought to themselves aboot that before they vote at the next indyref.

  7. Pingback: Scottish sovereignty is a creative act | pictishbeastie

  8. I totally accept that we can only claim sovereignty when we start to act like it and take it. However, right now only 46% or there abouts of people want it. Scottish people have had 300 plus years of mostly believing in the union to now believing that it can;t flourish on it’s own. Too many in Scotland believe it’s too wee too poor and too stupid as they have been told over the years and many of the rest feel they have too much to lose or are doing alright thanks. Some are just British and thats that for them. The simple reality is we are not sovreign because too many don’t believe it.

    Independence is very close but still very very far away, we need to keep educating, debating. Better Together has not gone away, we see it everyday around us, we need to get the focus back. YES needs to rebrand and while it has never really went away the brand has and needs to come back as best it can. As shown on Wings to good comic effect, but serious effect, we are being rebranded as British in very small but subtle ways and we need to get back fighting, sovreignty is close but also a million miles away. Great article though, thanks.

  9. Maybe some of the clever people on and who visit this site could clarify the following for me.

    If we have a Declaration in 1320, a Claim of Right Act in the 1700s and a similar Act in the 20th century, which all state that the Scottish people are sovereign; where would we stand if the Westmisnster parliament said this is not the case – although it has also been confirmed in a Scottish Court – is this also not a material breach of the Act of Union as well as the 2014 Referendum ‘vows/promises’? Based on the foregoing can we not withdraw from the Act of the Union of the Parliaments?

    Elucidation will be gratefully received.

  10. While the post includes an extract from the 1954 legal finding by Lord Cooper there is another –

    ‘…I have difficulty in seeing why it should have been supposed that the new Parliament of Great Britain must inherit all the peculiar characteristics of the English Parliament but none of the Scottish Parliament, as if all that happened in 1707 was that Scottish representatives were admitted to the Parliament of England. THAT IS NOT WHAT WAS DONE…’

    Something which seems to have been missed in Posts/Comments which I have read is the point that the English legal doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of Parliament at Westminster was agreed in 1688/89 BEFORE the Treaty of Union in 1707. Article III of that Treaty clearly specifies that the name of the new Parliament was to be the Parliament of Great Britain. There was NOTHING in that Treaty which indicated that that Parliament was to be sovereign. That Parliament has only ever been ASSUMED to be sovereign because it meets within the jurisdiction of English law.

    ‘If the Scottish people expressed a desire for independence the stage would be set for a direct clash between what is the English doctrine of sovereignty and the Scottish doctrine of the sovereignty of the people.’

    SOURCE: ‘The Operation of Multi-Layer Democracy’, Scottish Affairs Committee Second Report of Session 1997-1998, HC 460-I, 2 December 1998, from paragraph 27.

  11. The precedent has already been accepted in law not once, but twice. The most prominent case is referenced above in the body text. (Google MacCormick v Lord Advocate)

    As for the Act of Union? Many folk could put up a decent argument, I’m sure, that a horse and cart has been driven through the word and spirit many times over throughout its existence, but in strict terms of its enactment? I’d say its pretty much the case that the treaty was signed by the members of the Scottish parliament of the day and that in 2014 the sovereign will of the majority was followed to the letter.

    The good news however, is that this also is a precedent. It has been accepted by both parliaments that only the people of Scotland determine the future of the people of Scotland by ballot. This of course is in full agreement with Chptr 1 (Purposes and Principles), Article 1, point 2 of the UN charter, which states:

    ‘To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;’

    The same, of course, applies equally to the people of England should they ever wish to dissolve the treaty.

    In short, and IMO, independence is there to be had as and when we ask our representatives to go make it happen. This of course would be by the ballot through the accepted means. It’s pretty much the reason Camo was sweating hedgehogs throughout the close of the 2014 campaign and why the meeja and opposition to the SG are piling on the pressure currently. They know they’d be compelled to follow through on the result just as the SG were in 2014.

  12. ‘Cothromach suarach agus neoghlan tha cothromach, iadhadh tron cheò agus salach adhair’

    ….’it’s the strangest democracy in the world, where the party which gets just one seat gets to call all the shots and complain that the majority party wants a one-party state…’


  13. ¨you’ll do what you’re told and you’ll be happy that you live in a free country¨
    That´s the English Way. A couplet swims into memory, goodness knows where from :

    ¨And because of that Magna Carta,
    Signed in those far days of old,
    An Englishman´s free, to do as he likes …
    … just so long as he does as he´s told¨

  14. A wee bit feedback.
    Was at a meeting tonight re a proposal by Lanarkshire health board to temporarily relocate the orthopaedic department to Wishaw General and Hairmyres.
    Turns out that the decision has already been made on this by the health board and only the Scottish Parliament can stop it going ahead.
    Monklands has already lost 3 departments and it really looks like another is being lined up to disappear. Lots of ” management speak “in the information being bandied about by the health board.
    If you are in the catchment area for Monklands General please get involved in the campaign.
    Protest this Sunday 2:00 pm -main entrance Monklands Hospital.

    John Wilson and Frances both gave very informative speeches as did all the other participants.

    Try and make it along if you can.

  15. A fab article, thanks. I see that NZ and Barbados are ditching the queen, though not sure how official it is in NZ.

    Will be at the YES cafe on the 16th, looking forward to that.

    There must be so much disdain for Scotland due to the fact we will not just go away and get back the box. If only england had a few more guts to stand up to the rabidly immoral, corrupt unionists, taking from the poor to give to the rich. These people, the ones weilding power and sacrificing the poor, sick, disadvantaged, for personal gain, should be locked up.

    They will carry on with their smearing, ridiculing and attempting to divide and rule, but we are not in the mood to accept their lies and manipulation any longer.

  16. Dear friends, I can honestly say this particular article is the best political one that I’ve ever read! I’m an SNP member – and I naturally support what our government is striving for, within the shackles of what they’re able to do, attached to the so-called ‘UK’! I suppose that I’m not alone in saying this, but my membership’s continuation is not a guaranteed policy. My prime requirement is to see our Scotland moving back to Independence again! (nothing less!)

    Independence must be won back by our own means, as this article illustrates so well! An ethos which is clearly, and frankly expressed, and neatly states our case. Hereby lies our greatest strength – in a strong honourable polotic. This form of communication does not require any additional ‘spin’ – it simply requires to be publicsed as much as possible!

    I can only add: Saor Alba gu brath!

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