I have been invited to address the massive All Under One Banner (AUOB) march and rally planned for next Saturday, October 5th, in Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh. I spoke last year after over 100,000 had marched through the city in a sea of colour, vibrancy and hope for a new dawn independent from the Westminster restrictions and shenanigans.
In those days it was merely the Malevolent May government that we sought escape from with it’s cold and cruel austerity policies that condemned over 14 million adults to poverty, including 9 million working households whose wages were woefully inadequate given the rising fuel, food and housing costs across the UK.
Malevolent Theresa May is now only a nasty footnote in history after she was replaced by the Etonian posh boy born into privilege and the arrogance of entitlement in the shape of Boris Johnson.
He was always a keen proponent of the austerity measures imposed by the Tories over the last decade. Making the poor and vulnerable pay for the greed and mistakes of the rich and powerful has always been his political philosophy. Johnson is not a new Prime Minister in any single policy or philosophy sense. He is of the same reactionary mould that chose to introduce the bedroom tax for poor and disabled households but tax cuts for the millionaires. His bleating about spending more on police and health services amounts to shrill deceit. He supported every single cut to the health service, police budgets, schools expenditure and welfare support. His rhetoric may be different but cold mince re-heated is still mince.
Twelve months on from last year’s incredible AUOB independence march those of us in Scotland who believe there is something bigger, better and brighter outside the British Union must confront the fact that our opponent now is even more rabidly undemocratic and dangerously English nationalist than before. There is tangible frustration that despite democratically securing a mandate to hold IndyRef2 in the Scottish elections of May 2016, a mandate reinforced by a Scottish Parliament decision and victory for SNP at the 2017 snap General Election, we are over three years down the line and still there is no clarity on when that hard won mandate will be used.
My message on Saturday will be delivered in a spirit of unity and positivity. The SNP Government face huge challenges governing Scotland with so many restrictions and obstacles to realising our full potential and tackling the scourge of poverty, inequality and low pay which scars our nation. However as part of the broad based Independence Movement I and many others have earned the right to constructively criticise the tactics deployed to secure Scotland’s freedom.
It is my belief that our mandate should have been triggered to coincide with the October 31st EU withdrawal date. The British Establishment is an extremely powerful force. Scotland seeks to defeat that force and break the centuries old British Union which has exploited our natural wealth and prevented us from being the powerhouse other oil rich nations have become. Instead of hosting some of the worst poverty in Europe we should be competing with Norway as the most developed and high quality society in Europe.
That British State is powerful and resourceful. They have absorbed change and the loss of huge swathes of territory formerly conquered by force and subterfuge. Right now, however, they are divided, diverted and weakened by the Brexit shambles. We should have struck while they were at their weakest. Posed the question to Scots do you want to stay with Johnson and his English nationalist bigotry and chauvinism or do you want to seek a new and fairer future under the progressive and inclusive flag of Scotland the friendly and peaceful nation?
EU sceptics like me would rather pursue our chances in an independent Scotland within the EU, despite its many faults, than remain shackled to isolated Britain as continued membership of the EU can be debated and decided by Scotland for Scotland in the near future.
I think it is a missed opportunity to have missed posing the independence question on the day Britain plans to leave the EU. Some will argue the SNP have been right to devote so much time and energy to saving the UK from Brexit and in particular a No-Deal Brexit. I respect that view but disagree with it. The SNP exists as a political force to deliver Scottish independence. It is the independence party not the stop Brexit party. England and Wales voted for Brexit. There is a democratic underpinning to the push for Brexit. The SNP should have been concentrating much more on saving Scotland from the UK than saving the UK from Brexit.
As a mass political party it has a duty to lead from the front. The tactic of mimicking the 2014 referendum process by seeking permission to hold IndyRef2 via a Section 30 Order from Westminster is not only futile it is also undignified and unnecessary. David Cameron’s government only granted a Section 30 Order in 2013 because opinion poll support for independence was no higher than 25% and therefore independence appeared an impossible dream. With support now on or around 50% consistently there is no way a Westminster party will grant such an Order.
The fact is we don’t need permission to conduct the IndyRef2 poll. We must stop seeking permission and instead declare the date. The right to self-determination is enshrined in international law and articulated in numerous United Nations pronouncements. Take your pick from the following:
Article 2 of the United National Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (General Assembly Resolution 1514(XV) of 14December 1960:
“All Peoples have the right to self-determination, by virtue of economic, social and cultural development.”
Programme of Action for the Full Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (General Assembly Resolution 2621(XXV):
“Reaffirming that all peoples have the right to self-determination and independence and that the subjugation of the peoples to alien domination constitutes a serious impediment to the maintenance of international peace and security and the development of peaceful relations among nations.”
“All peoples have the right of self -determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”
United Nations Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Chapter of the United Nations (General Assembly Resolution 2625(XXV) of 25 October 1970):
“By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples enshrined in the Chapter, all peoples have the right freely to determine without external interference, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development, and every state has the duty to respect this right in accordance with provisions of the Charter.”
Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE), Helsinki Final Act, August 1st, 1975:
“By virtue of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, all people always have the right, freedom to determine, when and as they wish, their internal and external political status, without external interferences and to pursue as they wish their political, economic, social and cultural development.”
We need to get off our knees as a nation and inform Westminster when we are holding IndyRef2 not ask them for permission. That should have been done by now. It hasn’t and represents a missed opportunity. What is more pressing now is another snap General Election, the second in two years. Nicola Sturgeon is absolutely right to encourage her 35 MP’s in Parliament to support Jeremy Corbyn as a short-term PM to delay Brexit until the No-Deal option has been put to the people in the form of a new General Election and that election is now a priority for ordinary folk in England and Wales have the right to vote for No-Deal parties if they desire.
The SNP can justify delaying No-Deal Brexit for a short and defined period but they cannot justify postponing it indefinitely. Just as the people of England and Wales should not determine the future of Scotland so we should not determine the future of England and Wales.
In these changed and turbulent circumstances it is my firm belief that bold and radical action is required. The forthcoming General Election must become an independence election. Johnson and his right wing cohorts want the election in England to be a Brexit election. It is up to Corbyn and his comrades to make it an austerity election but in Scotland it must become the independence election.
If the SNP state categorically that a vote for SNP is a vote for independence then a subsequent victory is not a further endorsement for a future referendum it is the mandate to begin a 6 to 12 month period of negotiation with Westminster which secures Scotland’s independence.
No more ifs, buts or maybes. A vote for SNP is both a vote for independence and to begin the separation negotiations over a defined period. The resulting settlement agreement should be put to the people in a ratification vote at the end of the 12 month period so we ensure maximum democratic support and engagement in the independence process but we need to stop messing about and trying to comply with rigged rules and biased conventions which are all constructed and interpreted with a view to defending the British Union.
The Unionists don’t play fairly. They cheat, lie, bully and deceive to maintain their exploitative Union. We must stand up and assert our authority now before it’s too late.
This strategy is not new or unique. It is actually the strategy advocated by the SNP in the 1997 General Election. Their Manifesto at that election under the heading ‘Gaining Independence’ was clear:
“A vote for SNP is a vote for Independence – it is also a vote to encourage change, because only when the SNP is strong do the other parties pay any attention to Scotland.”
“Scotland can regain its independence at any General Election. After the election of a majority of SNP MPs, the SNP will immediately initiate negotiations for independence with the UK government. In parallel with these negotiations, we will initiate talks with the European Union in order to facilitate the right conditions for independent representation.”
“A the conclusion of this period (which is likely to take between six and twelve months) the people of Scotland will be asked to approve the “independence settlement” in a simple one question referendum. On achieving the assent of the people of Scotland, independence will be declared and, after the formal establishment of an independent country within Europe, a fresh General Election will be held to elect a new government (in Scotland).”
The SNP Manifesto of 1997 was clear, bold and radical. The same words must now be placed front and centre of the SNP Manifesto for 2019. That will be my constructive message on Saturday in Edinburgh. Remember the 100,000 who marched last year was the equivalent of one million in UK population terms. Next week let’s get 200,000 onto the streets and demand our independence and freedom. See you in Edinburgh on Saturday.
This article was written by our Political Adviser, Tommy Sheridan and does not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or policy of Solidarity as a whole