15th March 2019
by Tommy Sheridan
A week from now thousands of ordinary citizens from across Scotland will assemble in the centre of Glasgow to stand up for a new and better Scotland extracted from the chaos, intolerance, hypocrisy and ignorant chauvinism which the British Parliament so clearly now represents. Determined to save their country from sinking further into a cesspool of greater inequality and damning mediocrity thousands will demand their Scottish Government use the hard won democratic mandate for IndyRef2 and allow Scots to launch the lifeboat of independence from the sinking ship of HMS Britannia https://vimeo.com/user96088976/review/322821011/181e14c1ba.
There are many unionists who argue the 2014 Referendum result should extinguish for a generation the hopes and aspirations of the 1.6 million who defied the odds, the lies and the British Establishment scare stories channelled through ‘operation fear’ to vote for independence. They should bear in mind that the recorded level of support for independence 12 months before that September 2014 referendum was only 25% https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-independence-support-at-25-per-cent-poll-1-3138404 which is why Cameron and the Establishment likely agreed to the Section 30 order committing Westminster to honour the result, but on the day itself 45% of Scots, and most working class and younger Scots, voted YES to independence.
With such a remarkable increase in support and so many between 25 and 50 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-34283948 keen to see Scotland assume the normal powers and responsibilities of any sovereign nation it was inevitable that the question of independence would persist and grow in stature and support. There were scores of significant manufactured scare stories and outright lies during the referendum, from unfounded threats to pensions to the loss of shipbuilding jobs on the back of a YES vote, but undoubtedly one of the biggest lies was the threat to Scotland’s membership of the European Union should it go independent.
Scots were explicitly warned by Prime Minister Cameron and several other senior politicians that the ONLY WAY for Scotland to stay in the European Union was to vote No and reject independence. That has turned out to be a huge lie and/or mistake. In 2016 Scotland voted decisively, by 62%, to stay in the European Union. Yet three years later they are to be removed from the EU against their democratically expressed will.
On that basis alone Scotland’s SNP Government has an unquestionable legitimacy for IndyRef2 but it must be borne in mind that the democratic mandate for that vote was specifically sought by the SNP at the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections and the 2017 snap General Election. The SNP won both of those elections and the democratically elected Scottish Parliament also debated and discussed the question in March 2017 before voting by 69 to 59 votes in favour of holding a second independence referendum should Scotland be subject to a material change in circumstances like being withdrawn from the European Union against its will. That democratic mandate is real, live and powerful. It must now be used.
Scotland’s elected First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and her group of 35 Members of the British Parliament have tried for months to convince that Parliament to support a re-run of the Brexit vote given the utter confusion and chaos it has caused. From a Scottish point of view that is an understandable tactical position to advance. It is in line, after all, with the wishes of the Scottish electorate who voted to Remain not Exit the EU. However Brexit2 is not underpinned with the democratic legitimacy of IndyRef2. No Brexit2 supporting party won a majority of seats, or even a significant minority of seats or votes, at the 2017 general election. Over 80% of the electorate voted for Brexit supporting parties. The margin of victory for Brexit in 2016 was indeed small, 52% to 48%, but in the subsequent general election over 80% of the voting electorate endorsed parties explicitly committed to Brexit. That is a strong democratic basis for EU withdrawal.
Now that Brexit is clearly going to happen in one form or another the SNP Government must step up to the plate and ring the bell of hope for a new independent Scotland or, to use a naval analogy, launch the lifeboat of IndyRef2 to allow Scotland to abandon the sinking ship of HMS Britannia.
Nicola Sturgeon reflected the anger of most Scots at Scotland’s treatment recently and the ridiculous and perfidious influence afforded to the right wing reactionaries of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland when she said on Wednesday:
“Scotland’s needs and voice have been ignored by the UK Government throughout the Brexit process, and today a handful of DUP MPs held more sway over Scotland’s future than our own national Parliament – that demonstrates more clearly than ever that the case for Scotland becoming an independent country has never been stronger.”
“We will continue to stand up for Scotland and to reflect our nation’s overwhelming vote to remain in the EU” https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/general-election/brexit-sturgeon-uses-vote-defeat-to-justify-scottish-independence-push-1-4888307.
Those words from Nicola Sturgeon are a clear and significant clarion call to the existing independence movement and all those hundreds of thousands who voted NO in 2014 but have now seen the error of their ways. Examine them carefully, ‘the case for Scotland becoming an independent country has never been stronger’. You don’t get much clearer than that from an experienced and accomplished politician. She recognises, as does the massed ranks of the grassroots Indy Family that the time for IndyRef2 is now.
To those who hesitate because either Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will not grant permission for a Section 30 order which means the referendum is binding on Westminster or the opinion polls don’t indicate a significant majority for independence I say open your eyes wider and look at the bigger picture. Firstly we are proposing the break-up of a 300 year old union of nations which was once the most powerful, and brutal, on the planet. Britain used to run and/or control 2/3rds of the world. Her Empire was huge and secured through a mixture of economic bullying, political cunning and bloody repression. No country ever escaped the yoke of colonial British rule by ‘seeking permission’. They had to fight long and hard to secure their independence. Thankfully we in Scotland don’t have to engage in an armed struggle to secure freedom. The only weapon we need to wield is a small lead pencil. However seeking permission is not how we succeed. Informing Westminster of our intention and building an unstoppable wave of support is how we will win our freedom.
The ‘wait until the polls are right’ brigade have to accept that polls are rarely wholly neither independent nor reliable. They can be manipulated and loaded by those who run them and pay for them. Yet even on that front an incredible 85% of the 93 reported opinion polls since 2014 have indicated increased support for independence and the latest ones premised on a post-Brexit scenario suggest a clear majority of Scots now favour independence over remaining in a Britain outside the EU https://www.thenational.scot/news/17322880.support-for-scottish-independence-is-increasing-ahead-of-brexit-showdown/.
Now is not the time to discuss in detail the pros and cons of the EU as an institution. I believe it to be a fundamentally undemocratic and anti-socialist body which serves and promotes the interests of big business at every opportunity. I voted to leave it in protest at its austerity imposing role on countries like Greece and Portugal and in recognition of its role in encouraging and demanding privatisation of services and liberalisation of markets across the 28 member countries to increase the sway of the private profiteers. I am also outraged at its silence in the face of heinous and fascistic actions by the Spanish Government against the elected politicians of Catalonia and ordinary Catalan citizens whose only crime was to vote for self-determination. So I am no apologist for the EU.
However I fundamentally believe membership or otherwise of the EU should be decided by the Scottish people, not the English or Welsh people. In a future independent Scotland we can apply to re-join the EU and I will campaign against. But I will respect the outcome of that referendum. The primary fight for socialists in Scotland and those who embrace the basic human and inalienable right to self-determination is the pursuit of independence. Other important issues like which currency to use, our relationship to the Crown, membership of NATO and the EU can all be determined democratically by the Scottish people AFTER we secure our independence.
For the record I’m for a separate Scottish currency, a democratic republic, withdrawal from NATO and a Norway type trading relationship with the EU rather than full membership. I’m also of course for the oil and gas industry to be nationalised, a massive public renewable energy company, returning our land to the public and implementation of radically improved living wage and pension levels amongst many other socialist measures. Whether such policies win support or not only time will tell.
Geoffrey Cox MP, the British Attorney General, stated his legal advice on national sovereignty to Parliament on March 12th and it was categorical:
“Let us be clear about these kinds of absolute interpretations of black-letter text. A sovereign state has the right to withdraw if a treaty is no longer compatible with its fundamental interests or, to put it a different way, if fundamental circumstances have changed” https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2019-03-12b.184.3.
There you have it in black and white for all to see. Britain is not a country. Britain is a union of nations, a voluntary union of nations. Scotland is one of those voluntary members. We have the legal right to withdraw from the 1707 Treaty of Union if it is ‘no longer compatible with our fundamental interests’.
Sticking with Britain is no longer compatible with our interests and the case for independence ‘has never been stronger’ according to our elected First Minister. Let’s fill George Square in Glasgow (Freedom Square for the Indy Family as Glasgow voted YES for independence in 2014) on Sunday March 24th and send an unmistakeable message to Malevolent May and her unionist chums at Westminster that we are demanding our right to vote again on our future and we are ready for the hope filled lifeboat of independence and to leave behind the despair riven ship of HMS Britannia.
Get along to Glasgow next Sunday at 1pm. If not now, then when? If not us, then who? Use the mandate and let us set Scotland free to sail in calmer, more progressive, more prosperous and more tolerant and peaceful seas. #NoFearOnlyHope https://en-gb.facebook.com/hopeoverfear2014/