ICYMI: Time to fight for the golden thread of Scottish sovereignty
TODAY, Neale Hanvey will rise in the House of Commons to propose the Scottish Sovereignty Bill.
In doing so, he will join a long and honourable tradition of moving Scotland Bills in the House of Commons. But the Hanvey bill has a vital difference from the federal, home rule or devolution bills of the past. Hanvey’s bill proposes that Westminster recognises Scottish sovereignty by transferring to the Scottish Parliament the legislative power to exercise it – as they used to say in Ireland, the freedom to obtain freedom.
The legislative establishment of a Scottish Parliament is sometimes seen as a relatively new political adventure – stymied in the 1970s and realised twenty years later.
In fact, as far back as the late 19th century, home rule agitation was brought to the floor of the House of Commons and indeed on two out of the seven occasions (1894 and 1895) supportive resolutions were passed.
With a Liberal government set on introducing Irish Home Rule, the parallel Government of Scotland Bill was moved in the House of Commons in 1913 and then backed by 204 votes to 159. Only the outbreak of the First World War stopped its implementation or we could well have secured at least a home-rule Parliament more than a century ago.
Ireland went its own way and the established British parties lost interest in the Scottish question, with the torch kept burning by the radical Independent Labour Party and the newly-formed SNP.
When the SNP finally surged forward in the 1970s, the Labour Party moved to protect their political base and rediscovered their historic commitment to a Scottish assembly in the filing cabinets of Keir Hardie Hall. The rest is much more recent history and events with which National readers will be familiar.
Suffice it to say that when the Scottish Parliament was established by referendum of the Scottish people 25 years ago, it was assumed that one way or another, the future of Scotland would be determined in Scotland and by Scotland.
However, last year’s misadventure of soliciting legal advice from a London court threw everything back into the melting pot.
So why, after 150 years of parliamentary effort on Scotland’s cause, is Neale Hanvey rising today in the House of Commons? He does so to illustrate a point, as opposed to any expectation of success or even widespread support. It is the proper job of every single nationalist MP on a daily basis to find every procedural mechanism to progress Scotland’s cause, within the rule book of the Commons or indeed, outwith it.
Westminster’s ongoing denial of Scotland’s national rights should be demonstrated at every turn and every opportunity, and it should be done on the rock of principle – on the national right of self-determination and should certainly not be fought on the shaky ground of personal self-identification.
Of course, current issues should illustrate the underlying question, but enormous care should be taken that the issues chosen support the principle, and don’t impede it. Even where Scottish opinion is decisively on one side, as in the European debate, it should be used to advance the cause, not to peddle a hobby horse.
For example, it is entirely legitimate and beneficial to point out that Scotland was dragged out of the European Union against our will, and that the damage done has resulted in rendering the UK the sick economy of Europe. Thus last night’s rallies against Brexit are well justified and beneficial.
However, is it sensible to completely conflate a vote for Independence in itself with a vote for renewed membership, given the complexity and time required in negotiations to rejoin?
I merely point out that membership of the EU’s free trade association and the single market commands much greater consensus among our people than suggesting automaticity. The arguments for proceeding with a plebiscite election at Holyrood rather than Westminster are overwhelming as indeed is the case for holding it this year on October 19 – when the people were promised a vote.
The only argument against this which I have seen is that if Holyrood used its current powers to amend the Scotland Act to allow the Parliament to be dissolved by a simple majority then it would be subject to a court challenge or a Westminster override.
To which I say, bring it on.
The Supreme Court striking down an act of a democratic parliament moving to allow a sovereign people a democratic vote is the stuff of which revolutions are made.
Meanwhile the enfeebled government of Rishi Sunak, terrified of the electorate, would be hopelessly exposed trying to thwart a Scottish Government which trusted the people to decide.
Both are prospective battles we should welcome because either would be won. For that reason, the likelihood is neither would require to be fought and we would secure our date with destiny this year.
The golden thread of Scottish popular sovereignty stretching through the ages is the rock on which the national movement has been built and should still stand.
When Neale Hanvey stands in the Commons today, he will speak for that tradition and signpost the way to a better democratic future.