By Mark McNaught
The cross-party ‘vow’ made at the last minute to thwart the possibility of a ‘yes’ vote may have been effective in securing a ‘no’ in the referendum. However, it could conceivably go down in history in securing de-facto independence for Scotland, if Scots hold Westminster’s and Holyrood’s feet to the fire.
It is important to focus on the specific promise to make the Scottish parliament ‘permanent’, and what that means constitutionally.
The promises of extra powers will never be agreed upon and enacted by the major parties in the proposed time frame which has already been breached, and time is of the essence before the 2015 general election. If the Scottish government does not act now to oblige Westminster to fulfil this one promise, Scots will get nothing, and could lose everything.
On the other hand, if this promise is fulfilled, however grudgingly on the part of Westminster, Scotland will hold its constitutional future in its own hands.
At present, only the Westminster Parliament is permanent; Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland have devolved parliaments. Power devolved is power retained, so the powers the Scottish parliament currently enjoys are ‘on loan’ from Westminster. The Scottish Parliament and any of its powers can be abolished at any time by statute.
While many discount the possibility of Westminster abolishing the Holyrood Parliament, holding that is impracticable and unworkable, there is precedent. The Stormont Parliament in Northern Ireland was abolished in 1973 during the troubles, and there is no reason to think that a Prime Minister Nigel Farage would not abolish the Holyrood Parliament if he found Scots too nettlesome.
That is why the promise to make the Scottish parliament permanent is so crucial, even though it is obvious the unionist parties have not thought through the constitutional implications. If the Holyrood parliament were to be made permanent, it would no longer be devolved, and could not be abolished.
This entirely changes the nature of the parliament, and would not need to seek Westminster’s permission to define its own powers and status within the UK through a written constitution, and could never have powers revoked.
A permanent parliament would also be a sovereign parliament, because they would no longer live under the threat of abolition. Traditionally, full sovereignty has been held solely by the Crown and Parliament, but has been dying a slow death for centuries. In this day and age, it is anachronistic to maintain that a hereditary Monarch should be the sole sovereign at the expense of the people who live there. It’s as if the enlightenment never happened in the UK state.
I have therefore written this simple draught legislation that the Scottish government may use as it pleases.
The Scottish Parliament Permanence and Sovereignty Act of 2014
Whereas: The leaders of the three main Westminster parties David William Donald Cameron of the Conservative and Unionist Party, Nicholas William Peter Clegg of the Liberal Democratic Party, and Edward Samuel Miliband of the Labour Party did sign a joint solemn promise printed in the Daily Record on September 16, 2014 to legally entrench the permanent status to the Scottish Parliament in the event of a ‘no’ vote in the referendum for Scottish Independence held on September 18, 2014.
Whereas: The process of legally entrenching the Scottish Parliament was to begin on September 19, 2014, though no legislative action in the Westminster parliament has yet taken place to this effect.
Whereas: The solemn promise to legally entrench a Scottish Parliament will be rendered moot after the United Kingdom general election in May 2015. Therefore, in order to fulfil this promise, the Scottish Parliament must act before circumstances make it impossible.
Hereby Enacted: The Scottish Parliament based in Edinburgh Scotland shall be permanent. Only the Scottish people acting through the democratic process may change the status of the parliament and its powers.
While passing such a law may not fall under the competences stipulated in the Scotland Act of 1998, and could be subject to some form of judicial review, it would merely be giving effect to a promise made by all three major Westminster parties, so there should be no objection. If there is, the Scottish government can legally deal with it accordingly.
While there was a ‘no’ vote, it was a conditional ‘no’ vote. A vast majority of Scots want devo plus or devo max or whatever, but it has yet to be defined in any meaningful way.
The adoption of The Scottish Parliament Permanence and Sovereignty Act will be a simple way for the Scottish Parliament to enact its legal right to become permanent and sovereign, and may the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune fly. After this referendum campaign, with the unrelenting propaganda of Westminster and the mainstream media, what are Scots afraid of?
That’s what I thought. Move before the window of full autonomy and sovereignty slams shut forever.
What have you got to lose?