by Hazel Lewry
It has been said many times that “Scotland has no control over (insert subject), ”it’s reserved”. This is nothing but a mantra of lies based upon what Westminster forced upon us under Blair.
Many Scots seem unaware we simply live under a Treaty of Union. Most of us don’t even know the first attempt at discarding this abomination of a treaty came in the Westminster Parliament about 1713. It likely would have passed if not for a recess.
We have one monarch under different laws, one parliament, two countries, but now again two parliaments.
Any international treaty is open to amendment or revocation by the expressed will of either nation.
Scotland has just undergone a little more than three centuries of denial of expression. The majority of that period has been about stopping the Scottish voice entering the Hall of Nations.
The simple fact of the matter is that nothing’s ‘reserved’ unless we, the Scots, so choose.
With the knowledge that we are in a Treaty of Union and that our parliament was simply suspended in 1707, as was the English parliament, in order to form one united entity we should understand our situation a little better. In the simplest of terms, in England the Queen’s authority is absolute, in Scotland she reigns at our sufferance and is subject to our will, under our laws.
When our parliament in Scotland was reconvened in 1999, that simple act meant that nothing is or can be reserved unless we choose it. The decisions are ours. It was so asserted on the opening day when Winnie Ewing opened the proceedings with the statement that “the Scottish Parliament adjourned on the 25th day of March in the year 1707 is hereby reconvened” declaring purposefully that the parliament of 1707 was back in session.
Irrespective of English assertions this expression of Scottish will means a parliament subject only to the sovereign wishes of its people, a parliament with all the powers of 1707 should we choose. This was possible because on March 25th, 1707, our parliament was adjourned, it was not disbanded, it was not abolished. The Scots parliament is not a new parliament; it is one of the oldest in Europe. Only the building is new.
That simple statement by Winnie Ewing opened a door to a future of self determination for Scotland, a future of hope, of invention, of potential at our own hands. There was no rebuttal by Whitehall.
Sadly the first two sessions of the reconvened parliament under a Lib/Lab pact were at best stale-before-they-started, proving to be almost utterly devoid of promise and sparkle. The last four years have demonstrated things are changing. This is what we voted for, it is beginning to be realized.
The reconvened Scots parliament was a conundrum for the UK. The United Kingdom now has a parliament in Westminster with limited authority over Scotland for as long as we choose it, and only in the areas that we choose to accept.
England’s parliament suspended by the 1707 treaty has never been reconvened; therefore they remain entirely subject to the whims and vagaries of the UK parliament. This certainly does not benefit the English having Scots, Welsh and N. Irish deciding their local affairs. They need to fix this, but that cannot be our problem.
It appears the UK cannot allow an English parliament to re-convene for exactly the same reasons they tried to stop the Scots. The English must see the UK parliament as “their parliament”. The propaganda has apparently been exceedingly effective in England.
With the Scots parliament reconvened parliament again had all rights accorded a sovereign entity, excepting those rights voluntarily placed with another. Preventing assertion of those rights is the primary goal of the Unionist parties at Holyrood. Absent the blocking tactics of the three Unionist parties there is literally nothing in Scotland which can be “reserved” to another nation.
If the sovereign Scots people wish to return any or all power to their own parliament, so be it. If they express that as their will there should be no question as to the outcome in a free democracy.
Westminster and Whitehall may wish it wasn’t like that, they may wish us to have an illusion that short of independence there are things we in Scotland can and cannot do as a nation. Propaganda may be directed in that fashion. Propaganda is all it is.
Westminster and Whitehall naturally wish us to believe these powers are reserved for all eternity, theirs to bestow or withhold as they see appropriate. That without a referendum and a decisive vote for full independence, this is how it must always be – London is in charge. They falsely claim.
We in Scotland are at liberty to choose to continue, modify, or annul the Treaty of Union of 1707. It does not require an ‘all inclusive separatist vote’, just a review of powers, line item by line item, by the Scots voter, and a decision made by the Scots themselves.
Irrespective of semantics any such vote will always be geared towards failure by Westminster, as in 1979 by requiring Scots to reach some mystical pre-determined percentage and out-vote the dead. The vote following that one, to re-establish the parliament wasn’t exactly a landslide, and the propaganda was strong.
Westminster is well aware we are in a Treaty of Union. They know it is open to modification, amendment or termination by the settled will of the people who undertook to enter that treaty, of either side. Scotland and England remain two separate countries under that formal treaty.
Westminster can’t go against recognized international law, though they might want to; as such it would be required to bend to wishes expressed in a referendum. This is why Unionists have consistently fought to deny the Scots a voice.
It has to be acknowledged Westminster and Whitehall might well try to obfuscate any referendum result. They will certainly try to delay its implementation.
What Scotland needs right now, at the next national polling date, is a choice on those issues that should or should not remain the responsibility of the Union government. We Scots must take it upon ourselves to bring the 1707 treaty into the 21st century.
Obviously there was no “air sea rescue” no “telecommunications”, no “broadcasting”, or “electricity or energy” clauses in the original treaty. These didn’t exist in 1707. Oil, gas, whisky and road tax revenues alone did not equal 2/3 of the Scottish budget in 1707. Now they do, it’s time for a review.
It is beyond time that Scots should vote on where these responsibilities should ultimately be administered. London simply assuming these rights is exceedingly inappropriate. We need to go through the list of Westminster ‘reserved’ powers and decide which ones Scotland agrees upon, and which she does not.
Scots require to simply “up-date” the Treaty for our present century. As Alex Salmond has indicated, leave the independence/FFA issue off the table for the start of this new session, set it aside for later in the parliament’s term as it will take time to organise anyway. That’s the SNP plan, and it gives every appearance of being a good one.
By the time we set the date and let the arguments begin, independence, FFA or the status quo, the status quo need not be what the status quo is today. A broad swathe of Scots should be more aware of what’s going on politically inside our nation. If we choose to eliminate every item that Westminster has “reserved”, we might well be able to save the price of a referendum.
It is time for us to truly demonstrate democracy in Scotland, in action.
An intelligent approach could be quickly implemented with the full force of that democracy, and leaving any naysayer as a defined opponent of the people’s rights. It can be all over by about this time next year, and it will effectively consign Calman and the present Scotland Bill to the dustbin of history.
Take a lesson from the Cameron and Clegg duet in Downing Street, and put an additional ballot paper before the Scots at the 2012 council elections. If this is good for Westminster, it’s good for Holyrood. The timeframes are the same, so none can complain “there’s not enough time”.
We can guarantee that the Unionist parties will oppose this suggestion if presented, yet it should only accelerate Scotland’s path towards prosperity through democratic process, if that’s what the Scots decide. One must ask why might they oppose it?
That additional ballot paper could look like the sample example below, with easy “Yes/No” answers.
|2012 Holyrood Responsibilities Referendum|
|Marking YES to an item below means you wish to see full responsibility for that item assumed by Holyrood within 3 years. Marking NO means you desire to see control retained by London. Marking YES means full responsibility including all revenues and rights to be administered by and for the people of Scotland by the Scottish Parliament.||YES||NO|
|2.||Drug use and drug treatment||[…]||[…]|
|3.||All reserved transport issues||[…]||[…]|
|4.||The Crown Estates in Scotland||[…]||[…]|
|5.||Lieutenancies and all emergency powers||[…]||[…]|
|6.||That Scotland’s borders remain unchanged from 1707||[…]||[…]|
|7.||Betting, gaming, and lotteries||[…]||[…]|
|8.||Health and safety issues||[…]||[…]|
|12.||Airsea rescue services||[…]||[…]|
|13.||All reserved energy issues and resources||[…]||[…]|
|14.||Electricity and power generation||[…]||[…]|
|15.||Radio and TV broadcasting||[…]||[…]|
|16.||Public lending rights||[…]||[…]|
|18.||Approval for the placement of WMDs within Scotland||[…]||[…]|
|19.||Elections and election law||[…]||[…]|
|20.||Immigration and nationality law||[…]
At the end of the day, by the close of the council election counting, on each and every subject there should be a decision as to the settled will of the Scottish People.
A simple majority decision by the Scots, with no taboo subjects that can induce fear-mongering, any remaining reserved powers can be tackled at the next council elections if there’s a need. Future constitutional issues can also be put at later council or Holyrood elections.
A fully democratic decision by the people of Scotland would result in a way that even the London backed mainstream Scottish media will have difficulty in defending or denigrating, and one which should also categorically re-state it is the people in Scotland who are sovereign, not parliament or the monarch.
This should also effectively forestall any future arbitrary power grab by Westminster, as that would be a de-facto constitutional issue and Scotland will already have set the precedent of requiring a vote of the Scots nation to agree to it.
There could be no forcing into the EU, no automatic endorsement of “Lisbon Treaties”, everything of constitutional significance would require the settled will of the people.
We could also simply affirm in such a referendum that Scotland’s land and sea boundaries are where they were set by historical treaty and remain as at the inception of the Union Treaty of 1707, any changes made in the interim were without the consultation and assent of the Scottish people and therefore have no validity.
Since the shackles of oppression were firmly broken in 1314 the ball has been solidly in Scotland’s court, the treaty of 1707 did not change that. The only difference is that until the last 20 years or so, excluding isolated short periods and individual action, there has been little apparent desire by the average Scot to pick up the bat and hit the ball of individual civil or national rights. We have for the most part meekly submitted to what the recent royal wedding and its response to demonstrations has again shown to be a virtual UK police state.
Four years of an SNP government has shown us that the will is returning to our land. Shall our next administration have the courage to put the limited questions above to the Scots, accept and defend the answers?
For myself I think it’s unlikely we’ll see such a referendum “permitted” voluntarily by London, and even should the suggestion above come to pass any line item “yes” vote above is likely to be fought tooth and nail. Ultimately our government might simply have to go its own way on the issues passed by the Scots.
That we have the ability to do this while continuing to govern ourselves better than any other can is without question. To suggest otherwise given Westminster’s record is ludicrous and opens the questioner to derision. Essentially, this is like being told “You can’t walk and chew gum at the same time!”
Without a constitutional leg to stand on in international law, one wonders how Westminster would react. One thing is certain, for the average citizen of the UK anything except acquiescence by Whitehall equals the imminent end of the Union project and condemnation at the hands of the global community.
Tanks in the streets worked well in 1919, the threat in the ‘60s had an impact, in the second decade of the 21st century London would not survive in the global community.
At day’s end London can’t afford an angry Scotland voting in a full independence referendum. London can’t afford to lose the Scottish oil revenues. London now finds itself in the cleft stick of Scottish will, and she placed herself though years of propaganda, subversion, lies and deceit.