Seven Year Rule in Northern Ireland Must Be Applied to IndyRef2 Scottish Bid

Determined not to be outdone in the ‘democracy denial’ stakes we now have Alister Jack MP, the Tory Government appointed Scottish Secretary of State, mimicking the outrageous democracy denying comments of Donald Trump as he struggles to come to terms with the concept of actually counting all the votes cast in an election.

Mr Jack was interviewed by the BBC the other day and stated categorically that no IndyRef2 referendum would ever be allowed by the Tories in Westminster for another “25 to 40 years”.

The party that has lost every general election in Scotland for the last fifty years is denying the party that won the last three general elections in Scotland in a row the inalienable right to ask the sovereign people if they want to remain in the British Union. The British Union was entered into voluntarily by the then unelected political leaders, landowners, and wealthy Nobles in 1707. There was no permanency clause signed. There is no written constitution which prevents withdrawal. The right to voluntarily withdraw is sacrosanct.

Democracy Cannot Be Denied Forever – IndyRef2 Case is Irrefutable

Just like the Flat Earth Society members can appear passionate about their beliefs so the likes of Trump and Alister Jack can wax lyrical about their respective positions. Trump will soon be advised by more sane and stable Republicans that saying something happened doesn’t mean it did, and convincing courts that an election was ‘stolen’ without even a morsel of evidence will not stand up in even a friendly court of law. He lost the election because more people in America voted against him than for him and that’s life. So Alister Jack, speaking on behalf of Boris Johnson and Co, can pontificate that even if the people of Scotland elect a majority of MSPs to serve in the Scottish Parliament at the Holyrood elections six months from now it will make no difference to their position. It is not a democratically defensible stance.

In his rambling interview, he posed the question to the interviewer “what is a generation”? before answering himself ‘it is 25 to 40 years’. The man is either ill-informed, blissfully ignorant, or disgracefully deceitful. I believe he is a combination of all three. The question of timings between referendums on constitutional questions was decided and written in black and white the same year as the Scotland (1988) Act was passed. It is within the Northern Ireland (1988) Act:

2. Subject to paragraph 3, the Secretary of State shall exercise the power under paragraph 1 if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.

3. The Secretary of State shall not make an order under paragraph 1 earlier than seven years after the holding of a previous poll under this Schedule (my emphasis)

Seven Year Rule Within Northern Ireland Act Must Apply to Scotland

There we have it clear as day and agreed by all Westminster parties almost unanimously that a poll on Northern Ireland re-unifying with Ireland will have a seven-year interval. A political generation in terms of referendums is not ’25-40 years’ it is, as defined by the Act, 7 years. Why on earth would a different timescale be applied to Scotland?

In the context of the material changes in circumstances since the last Scottish independence referendum in 2014 the case for a new poll in 2021 is now irrefutable and conclusive. The SNP, the party of Scottish independence, won the UK wide general election in Scotland in 2015, 2017 and 2019. It won the 2016 Scottish general election. The Scottish people were warned in 2014 that a vote for independence would mean exclusion from the European Union and the only way to retain membership of the EU was to vote NO to independence. In 2016 during the UK wide Brexit referendum the people of Scotland voted decisively by 62% to stay in the EU. England voted to leave. So, against Scotland’s clearly expressed democratic will she is being dragged out of the EU and faces much economic uncertainty and possible job losses. Add to the mix twelve successive opinion polls in support of Scottish independence and the message could not be clearer. Scotland wants out of the British Union and it wants out now.

SNP Must Not Be Complacent – They Must Step Up to the Plate

The SNP as a political party has benefited greatly from Boris Johnson’s incompetence in government over the last ten months. Poll after poll shows support for the SNP at unprecedented levels while the Tory support is declining alongside the other pro-Union parties. Tories in Scotland recognise how toxic Johnson is and have ordered him to stay away during the Scottish Parliament elections lest their electoral fortunes tumble even further.

However, the time to step up to the plate is fast approaching for the SNP. They have already stated that a commitment to IndyRef2 will be a central plank of their Holyrood election campaign in six months’ time but it was also a central plank of their manifesto in December 2019 and they won. What is required to display seriousness about actually delivering Indyref2 and the chance for Scotland to determine its own future is a commitment not just in favour of IndyRef2 but to hold it in 2021. If that is not in the manifesto and the SNP meekly accept the inevitable refusal from Westminster to hold a new poll in 2021 then it will be clear to all that the SNP are interested in governing a devolved Scotland not in leading an independent Scotland. The fact they have failed to back, and even sought to undermine, the grassroots led court case to determine Scotland has the right to hold a binding independence referendum without Westminster permission is regretful and sad. Perhaps a warning to us all that the ‘gradualists’ who lead the SNP are comfortable enough in their positions of power and influence within the devolved settlement.

I have supported the SNP in every election since 2015 and campaigned for them. I will give them one more chance next May. If they don’t deliver on the IndyRef2 promise I’m sure I won’t be the only one looking elsewhere for my independence hopes to be pinned to. Let us down at your peril, SNP. Time is running out.

Posted in Articles, Tommy Sheridan's Columns.

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