Democracy dies when it is locked away

A constitutional crisis is approaching. Yes, another one. These days they come along more frequently than Wullie Rennie’s number 17 bus from Cowdenbeath to Kelty. Despite the fact that Scotland has given an overwhelming and undeniable mandate to the SNP for another independence referendum, a mandate which is so compelling that even the dinosaurs of what’s left of the Labour party in Scotland are starting to recognise it, senior members of the British government have said that it’s not going to happen. Today the man who gives oleaginousness a bad name, Michael Gove, has said that the UK government will “absolutely” not permit another independence referendum.

This weekend the Labour Holyrood frontbencher Monica Lennon has said that while she believes the SNP’s independence blueprint is seriously flawed, the future of Scotland must be up to the people of Scotland to decide. She called upon the British government to transfer the power to hold a binding independence referendum to the Scottish parliament. She now joins other senior Labour figures who have made similar calls. She joins Alison Evinson, leader of the Labour group on Aberdeenshire council and president of COSLA who also demanded that Scotland must have the right to decide its own future, warning that democracy in the UK had become fragile. She called upon the Labour party in Scotland to offer “its own prospectus for a progressive, socialist, outward-looking and egalitarian independent country.” Meanwhile the former Labour minister Malcolm Chisholm said that there was an incontrovertible democratic demand for IndyRef2, and called upon those who are either against independence or undecided about it to get behind calls for another ballot.

The democratic, political, and moral argument for another referendum is undeniable. The Conservatives in Scotland ran their election campaign on the sole issue of opposition to another independence referendum. It was all that they talked about, to the exclusion of Brexit and everything else. If your sole source of information about the issues in this election were campaign materials from the Scottish Conservatives, you would think that Brexit wasn’t happening, and that the issue of another independence referendum was the sole question facing Scotland. Jackson Carlaw finished his appearances in Scottish political debates during the election campaign with a bit of drive-by misogyny, exhorting the people of Scotland to “tell her again”.

Well the people of Scotland did tell her again, they just didn’t tell her what Jackson wanted them to tell her. The Conservatives were, by any objective view, trounced. They lost over half their Westminster seats and their vote share dropped significantly. Their campaign certainly motivated voters, it motivated them to turn out and vote for a party which wants another referendum. Yet now the Conservatives want to impose their manifesto commitment to reject a referendum upon a Scottish electorate which has rejected the Conservatives’ only manifesto commitment in Scotland. That is profoundly anti-democratic and authoritarian. It proves what Labour’s Alison Evison said, that democracy in the UK has become fragile. Even worse, it proves that democracy in Scotland has been shattered.

The Conservatives are now on very dangerous ground for a party which claims that it seeks to defend the “union”. There is clearly no union when one nation in that supposed union is denied the right to decide whether it wishes to remain in it. Shortly after his election victory in the rest of the UK, Boris Johnson announced that he seeks to strengthen the union. Clearly what he meant was that he seeks to strengthen it by adding extra locks and bars to the windows and doors, and not that he seeks to transform it into a place that Scotland doesn’t want to leave. The Conservatives are transforming their precious union into a prison, which means that it is no longer a union at all.

A demand by a political party that an exercise in democracy must be a once in a generation event and therefore they refuse to allow the people to hold another is a demand that the people cannot hold that party to account. Scotland is not to be permitted to voice its opinion on whether the UK that it was promised it could be a part of is actually the UK that the Conservatives have delivered to us. No wonder the Tories are terrified of another referendum.

The Tories are making their demand to be beyond democracy irrespective of the will of the people as expressed by the very same rules by which Boris Johnson claims to have a mandate to pursue Brexit. Again, by any objective standard, the mandate given by the electorate of Scotland to the SNP is stronger and more convincing than the mandate given by the electorate of the UK to the Conservatives. The principle of consent is the bedrock of democracy. The government has power to change laws, to impose duties or legal rights upon citizens, because the citizens have given their consent through the ballot box. When a government seeks to impose its will despite the fact that a large majority of the citizens have rejected it at the ballot box, then it is no longer a democratic government. There is no consent, and without consent there is no democratic legitimacy.

Even Margaret Thatcher recognised that the current stance of the Conservative party was profoundly undemocratic and unsustainable. In her memoirs The Downing Street Years, she wrote, “As a nation, [the Scots] have an undoubted right to national self-determination; thus far they have exercised that right by joining and remaining in the Union. Should they determine on independence, no English party or politician would stand in their way, however much we might regret their departure. What the Scots (or indeed the English) cannot do, however, is to insist upon their own terms for remaining in the Union, regardless of the views of the others.”

Yet that is precisely what this current generation of Conservatives is seeking to do. They wish to insist that Scotland must abide by their own terms for remaining in the union, regardless of the views of the people of Scotland. They are using the electoral weight of England in order to stand in the way of Scotland. By taking this step, they themselves have killed the union, and killed the democratic argument for Scotland to remain a part of it. They may succeed in the short term, but in the medium to longer term all that Boris Johnson’s refusal is doing is making the chances of independence even greater. It means that when a vote does come about, as it most certainly will at some point in the future, the Conservatives and their allies will no longer be able to argue that Scotland is a partner in a family of nations. You don’t keep your family together by chaining them and locking them away in a cupboard. Democracy dies when it is locked away.


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35 thoughts on “Democracy dies when it is locked away

  1. I heard a ScoTory on yesterday’s news, declare “nothing has changed”. This after their party lost votes and more than half its MPs.
    Perhaps he is a Monty Python Tory who will fight on, without arms, legs or even a head—well they seem brainless and heedless right now.

    Jackson Carlot wanted us to buy a clunker from him–sight unseen.
    But would YOU buy a used car from this man?

  2. Superb Paul.
    I think we should all, that’s the 80% of the Scottish electorate who voted SNP with the Indy mandate, hijack willie’s bus runs down south and descend upon no. 10, though that might appeal to LBJ’s alter ego of narcissism. However, big yellow buses and big saltire bedecked buses the length and breadth of the M6, M1 and throughout the seemingly only place that exists in the disunited kingdom, might get some of the usual bad press on the biased broadcasting…
    Think I’ll approach Docherty’s buses and Stagecoach though it’s no longer Brian at the helm with that, and see if we can get discounted rates.

  3. Pingback: Democracy dies when it is locked away | speymouth

  4. “Chained to my heart to your’s” is a beautiful sentiment; however, a Ball and chain are diametrically opposite notions! Perhaps this concept’s too difficult for the Etonian elite? We day-to-day people need to tolerate pretentiousness, like Pretentious Minister: Boris Johnson PM. Anyway, quoting ‘Wee Ginger Gug’: “Chaining them and locking them away in a cupboard. Democracy dies when it is locked away”… thanks to Wee Dug, and we’ll anticipate the next phase of “Superburach!”

  5. It is absurd that a party with 25% the vote feels empowered to demand anything of a nation and a country that has rejected them time and time again, because their boss in London won an election in England.

    Scotland should never again be a hostage to fortune of the English electorate.

  6. ” You don’t keep your family together by chaining them and putting them away in a cupboard”

    You also don’t keep your family together by stealing from them, telling them lies and continually treating them with contempt. It’s called an abusive relationship.

  7. Great article.

    So Monica Lennon says the SNP independence ‘blueprint is seriusly flawed’. Interesting that she has taken an iota of notice of it, and of course, at least there is one to start with! Just as the SNP had a blueprint for a deal for Brexit when it was being ‘debated’ and they were completely ignored, Britnats incluidng Labour were ‘lol you think you can do big daddy politics ha ha ha!!’

    Labour UK have an absolute cheek in slagging off the SNP for actually attempting to create a ‘blueprint’ for such hugely important democratic matters! No ones perfect Monica and a blueprint is just that, it can be tweaked, changed, improved upon!

    I don’t trust Labour as far as I could throw them, can anyone trust them not to have a hidden agenda after all these years that Scotland has been clamouring ( probs since devolution at least) for an honest and realistic discussion on the UK and what it means for and to Scotland and rUK?

    England’s elite can’t stand the thought of losing Scotland, and we know it’s about land that they thieved, oil, massive resources, even gold and other minerals, (Scotgold, Australian company, yep using ‘Scot’ does not make it any better! are mining the hell out of mountains in Tyndrum now and have stopped working other mines in other countries so they can invest in Scotland and also have plans to extract other minerals north of Tyndrum, big time btw!) Trident, nuke waste dumping and of course water, ( England are due to run out of water in next 25 years, much due to oprivatisation and therefore total mismanagement and greed in not investing in water and the infrastructure). The list is fairly extensive in fact.

    They will fight to keep taking Scotland’s riches for themselves and their dodgy pals in other parts of the world. I suppose they don’t do negotiation do they. Interesting, but scary times ahead as well.

    • ArtyHetty, I was looking at the website of one of those energy companies which offer ‘cheaper’ electricity than …… any other company you care to mention …. until the next price rise. It’s all a big con in my opinion. Anyhow, this company, based in London, of course, are very proud of their green credentials and much of their energy comes from hydro schemes owned by another crowd based in Bristol. According to the energy company’s website, ‘it rains a lot in Argyll, so there’s plenty of water’. !!!!!

      It’s the arrogance wot gets me. They’re not buying from us, they’re taking from us and then they talk down to us about our country, its weather, its people, its aspirations. Enough.

      I see Ed Davey is back big time at LibDem HQ. He warned us in 2014 ‘we won’t buy any energy from Scotland if you vote yes’. Fair enough, I say. Good luck and goodbye.

  8. This is “plan B” being put into action. Nicola Sturgeons knows full well the arrogance of Boris Johnson and the Tory mean that the can’t possibly “allow” a 2nd Independence Referendum. I think it just might be the case that Nicola Sturgeon is, in fact, counting on a refusal of a Section 30 order as part of her strategy.

    You see, it’s not about having a referendum, it’s all about winning one, what better way is there of increasing support for Independence by having a Tory government that is not supported by 75% of the electorate in Scotland tell you that “Naw ye canne huv a referendum”.

    This is playing right into Nicola Sturgeon’s hands, they’ll be a referendum alright, hopefully in the 2nd half of 2020 as will be demanded next week by the SNP. Yes, it will be ignored then SOMETHING has to happen, Who can say what that something might be but it’s not saying “Oh Ok then, if you say so”.

    This is the beginning of the end for the United Kingdom, with Brexit and a refusal of democarcy in scotland it couldn’t be better. Now is the time.

    • Yes indeed, they will have quietly gamed every permutation, which is why interviewers constantly enquire “what then?”…
      And do not forget the changed status of the UK from February 2020.. No longer under the protective EU umbrella, our european cousins will no longer be obliged to remain silent, even Trump will be under celtic pressure at home…
      The Tories are in for a rude awakening…

  9. This is EARLY.”……..it’s usually half way through a Scottish referendum that the Brit Nits throw in a BIG deflection like federalism.
    It was at the end of the 2014referendum, in a panicky funk, Broon with Cameron’s agreement blustered about Home Rule and federalism: Darling used Devo Max.

    Well, they “won” the referendum, so Home Rule, a Federalism and Devo Max should there; right there in front of us; but ODDLY they are nowhere to be seen.

    The BBC should have noticed, but they are so busy gas lighting the SNP it must have passed them by.

  10. ”You had your referendum in 2014 ” ,
    ”There is no mandate for a second referendum ” ,
    ”no one wants another divisive referendum ” ,
    ”WILL YOU SHUT THE F*CK UP ABOUT A REFERENDUM ! ”- honesty at last !

  11. The catastrophic event this week seems to have finally women many soft NO labour voters. Perhaps they can no longer avoid the aroma of Brexit coffee now polluting our air. The great solidarity they felt with fellow working class folk in England and Wales now appears worthless as their comrades south of the border are determined to go their own way and have their full English Brexit. This painful feeling of abandonment that Scottish labour supporters are now experiencing will no doubt lead to the next wee spike in support for independence. It may not last long but as we know it never quite goes all the way back and so YES continues to grow slowly but steadily. Just a matter of time. IMO once a clear consistent majority for independence emerges the SG will take on WM full on. Whatever it takes. Ye see this is what it’s all about. The people. The people ate sovereign.

  12. Well said and neatly done.

    It was always going to come down to a choice and decision which had to be made by the Conservative Westminster parliamentary party and preferably right from the top – the Prime Minister.

    A Prime Minister had to be seen to destroy the political union on these islands. To expose it for what it was.

    From Boris Johnson’s victory speech: “We must recognise the incredible reality that we now speak as a One Nation Conservative party literally for everyone from Woking to Workington; from Kensington, I’m proud to say, to Clwyd South; from Surrey Heath to Sedgefield; from Wimbledon to Wolverhampton.”

    Noooo, wait. Don’t tell me. It’s on the tip of my wossiname. The ‘One Nation’ of Boris Johnson doesn’t appear to include a significant other.

    And so it was that ‘One Nation’ took on a whole new and different meaning in the UK context. Not for Boris mind you, but for a lot of folks listening to his speech? The meaning couldn’t have been clearer and for some … more of a surprise.

  13. Every time that Gove, Johnston, Javid, et al, open their mouths and say that ”they won’t permit another Scottish referendum” they are automatically converting the soft no’s over to us, I’m sure. Many (non-political) people, too, must now be asking themselves why Westminster is so desperate, determined, to hold onto a Scotland that’s reliant on English money and is chock-full of subsidy junkies.

    Earlier tonight Iain Blackford was being interviewed by ? (forget who now .. so many, so many to keep up with) and he brought up Catalonia and asked Iain Blackford if he was prepared to go to jail!! What are these people on? What do they think they’re playing at? Trying to outdo the bl**dy former USSR?

    It’s time for Scottish Labour politicians to make a stand. Your COUNTRY or your Westminster controlled Labour PARTY? Dump them and join us (as people like me dumped Labour to join the SNP). The alternative is clear now (you’re finished), especially knowing that the Tories will be in power for the next 5 to 10 years. Some people are saying for the next 20 years. With the way things are going they could be around from here to kingdom blooming come.

  14. Just as unopposed Thatcherism eventually led to Scottish devolution, it may be that unopposed Johnsonism will lead to Scottish independence. Hopefully it won’t take so long this time. 🙂

  15. You know it’s a cold day in Hell when the independence supporters are quoting Thatcher. Seriously, think on that for a minute (or even just a couple of seconds). When Thatcher seems reasonable it gives you a glimpse into how far to the right the English have swung. There’s nothing left in the union for Scotland. Time to get out.

  16. I’ve yet to hear a sensible, coherent reason from the Tory party why Scotland can’t have a second Indyref (jist because isn’t an answer).

    After all, haven’t the Tories had a referendum and two General Elections to get to the end of phase one of their Brexshit soap opera?

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