Does the Queen hate Scotland?

Following the passing of the EU Withdrawal Bill at Westminster, the bill was sent to the Queen for Royal Assent, as is normal.  Except, in this case, there was something a bit different.  Of the four administrations in the UK, Westminster and the three devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, only one, Westminster, was in favour.  The other three administrations debated the bill and all three refused to approve it in its current form.

As this bill made changes to the devolved powers of all three administrations, the Sewel Convention should apply.  It states that changes to the powers of a devolved administration should not be made without the consent of the devolved administration, the intention being that negotiations between Westminster and the devolved administration would follow to reach agreement on the change.  However, recently, Westminster have chosen not to respect the Sewell Convention and clauses in the EU Withdrawal bill make it clear that the opinions of the devolved administrations will always be ignored.  So Westminster passed the bill without taking the refusal of the devolved administrations into account.

Anyway, back to Royal Assent.  The Queen was now presented with a bill passed by Westminster against the wishes of the other three administrations.  So what to do?  Some say that she has no option but to give assent to any bill presented to her, though if that was true, what’s the point of Royal Assent if the Queen has no choice?  Some say that refusal to assent would create a constitutional crisis.  But what have we got at the moment if not a constitutional crisis, when three of the four constituent parts of the United Kingdom disagree with a bill passed by Westminster.  In any case, in Scotland’s case, as Queen of Scots, does she not have a duty of care to her subjects in Scotland.

So, if there is any truth in Royal Assent, the Queen had two choices.  Either she gave Royal Assent to the bill as it stood, ignoring the opinions of three of the four parts of her realm, or she asks Westminster to speak to the devolved administrations to try to reach some kind of agreement.  As we all know now, she chose the first option, choosing to ignore the wishes of three-quarters of the (so-called) United Kingdom.  Does she think they don’t really count?  Is this just a pretend ‘union’?  Is English opinion all that matters in this United Kingdom?  Westminster is, of course, a de-facto English parliament as English MPs hold an overwhelming majority over all others combined, So they can do what they like, as is only too well demonstrated by the passing of the EU Withdrawal Bill.

So now to the Scottish part.  In Scotland, the people are sovereign, and as stated in the Arbroath Declaration and as reaffirmed innumerable times since, the people have the power to elect their King (or Queen), and should that ruler do something which harms the people of Scotland, they have the power to remove that King (or Queen).  Thinking about current events, few economists, except the lunatic Brexiteer fringe, believe Brexit will not do serious damage to Scotland’s economy, so it can be argued that the Queen (of Scots), having signed into law this bill against the expressed wishes of the Scottish people, has crossed the line.

What do you think?

Is Angus Robertson in the loop?

This morning I saw a tweet from Angus Robertson encouraging all those of an independence persuasion to start working towards an SNP victory in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election.  We need to start canvassing, leafletting and campaigning now, he said.  Now is the time to keep our eyes on the independence prize, he said.

My first thoughts were: haven’t we all been keeping our eyes on the independence prize since the big surge in SNP membership immediately following the 2014 referendum?  Didn’t we keep our eyes on the independence prize when we voted in 56 SNP MPs in 2015?  When we voted in 63 SNP MSPs and 6 Green MSPS in 2016?  When we voted in 3 SNP MEPs in 2016?  When we voted in 35 SNP MPs in 2017?  And when we voted in 48 (controversial, eh?) SNP MPs in 2019?  Not to mention the 62% support for remaining in the EU in the 2016 referendum.

Then I thought, what’s the difference between now and all the other occasions in the past when we’ve been asked to keep our eyes on the independence prize?  Is there a difference?  Is this yet another mandate?  Or is Angus just spilling the beans?

But then I thought, didn’t Nicola say that there would be a referendum in 2020 and didn’t she confirm that recently?  Didn’t Keith Brown also say in a BBC interview at the beginning of the week that a 2020 referendum has been promised and we won’t let people down?  And he repeated that just yesterday at a meeting I was at.

So my final thought was: is Angus no longer in the loop about SNP plans for a referendum or does he know something I don’t?  I certainly hope he’s out of the loop because it would be an enormous disappointment for me and over a million other independence supporters (masterly understatement?) if it turned out that he was right, because free in 2020 has a ring about it.

Johnson, the Wannabe Dictator

Here’s what I wrote just a few short weeks after Johnson became the latest, and hopefully, the last UK Prime Minister (pretty please, SNP).

As I write, Boris Johnson has been PM for just 33 days, but during that time he has made his intentions quite clear.  Firstly, he appointed what is easily the most right wing UK cabinet in modern times, further to the right than Genghis Khan as the old saying goes.  Secondly, he has set 31st October as the date when the UK leaves the EU, no matter what.  Next, he has dropped a few hints that, unless the EU simply fold in any discussions and say ‘Yes, Boris’ to his every request, he is prepared to leave without a deal with the EU.  With a couple of exceptions, and they’ll probably get very little attention, each member of his Cabinet is a known Brexiteer, and in Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, there is someone who is known to be a supporter of a No Deal Brexit.

A lot has happened since then, little of it good, and most of it showing that I was probably more generous than I should have been in describing Johnson as a wannabe dictator.  I won’t go through everything that has happened; it would take too long and most of you won’t want reminding, but the main events were the change of date to the 31st of January and the surprise(?) general election, a surprise only because Johnson could only get it through Parliament if he got the support of other parties.  As it happened, he was supported by the third and fourth placed parties, both expecting to make big gains.  Though that worked out quite well for the SNP, who made 13 gains to 48 seats (controversial, eh), the LibDems probably wish they hadn’t been quite so optimistic as they’re now smaller than they were in the last parliament, even before the defections (the Jo Swinson effect?).  Whether both parties should have taken a more long term view, rather than seeking short term party advantage, is another question altogether and is a discussion for another time.

Since becoming PM, Johnson has shown a complete inability to compromise to achieve his ends and has the same messianic belief in Brexit as his predecessor Theresa May.  In both cases, was their belief in Brexit anything to do with what they thought is good for the country or is it more to do with what they thought is going to be good for them.  Who knows?  Unlike May, Johnson has managed to unite the Tories behind his withdrawal deal, perhaps down to the difference in personality.  While May could hardly be described as likable and failed to get colleagues to back her deal, Johnson is (sometimes likeable), and those he can’t persuade by telling them a joke or two, he can persuade because they know that behind the affable facade is someone who will do whatever it takes to get his own way.  This is a man who lies, a man who cheats, a man who conspires to get journalists beat up, a man who intends to prevent the judiciary having any say on his actions: and these are his better points.

Ironically, Johnson’s deal is virtually identical to May’s, except in one tiny little area, the involvement of Westminster.  Whereas May included some oversight of the negotiations by Parliament, Johnson has no need to as he has apparently got the unbounded support of the Tories in Parliament and probably beyond.  But the impact of Johnson’s attempt to acquire absolute power will be felt by all of the parliaments of the UK. 

There has been much talk in Scotland about the impact of the Withdrawal Bill on Holyrood though not so much in the largely foreign owned press and the unfriendly broadcast media or by the English based political parties masquerading as Scottish. The impact could be quite severe as it gives Johnson carte-blanche to ignore Holyrood in the negotiations with the EU and to overrule any decision taken by the Scottish Parliament, but that’s largely what happens now, so no one will be surprised.  That the other devolved administrations are affected in a similar way is not surprising as by virtue of their numbers and their interests, English MPs dominate Westminster debates.  As an aside, there’s a rule that non-English MPs can’t vote in Westminster on what are ruled by the speaker as matters that only affect England, though no such rule prohibits English MPs from voting on Scottish only matters.  Wonder why that is?

Anyway, back to the point.  As the Withdrawal Bill removes all oversight on the Brexit negotiations from the Westminster Parliament and provides the executive, i.e. Johnson and his cronies, with power to ignore or overrule the devolved administrations, which leaves all decision making in the hands of the executive.  Is this how modern democracies work or it just the UK?  Is the UK still a democracy?  There’s a word for countries which are run by a small group of individuals with no influence from anyone else and it’s not democracy.

Now although what’s described here only applies to the EU negotiations, it’s not a long stretch of the imagination to see the same rules being in place for other trade negotiations, including particularly those with the US.  Imagine Johnson, Gove and Raab being the only ones to decide on the import of chlorinated chicken.  It’s beyond belief.

But there’s more.  Using the same precedent, is it not a short step to see the same rules applying to other political decision making, foreign affairs (by the way, I don’t mean Johnson sleeping with a woman from another country), control of the NHS, military deployment, police regulations, human rights, food hygiene, the environment. etc., etc., etc., all under the total control of a small group of politicians with no input from anyone else.  Is that not a dictatorship, because it sure seems like it to me.

So come on Scotland, and Wales and Northern Ireland, surely you don’t want to live in a country run by a narcissistic dictator like Johnson.  If you don’t, get off your collective arses and do something about it.  NOW!