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Scotland is already a Self-Determining Nation

Alistair McConnachie and AFFG in Edinburgh 5-10-19


We regularly see and hear SNP MPs and MSPs and others promoting the line that "Independence is about our right to self-determination". The Deputy Leader of the SNP, Keith Brown said these very words in The National (12-10-19, p.4).

It is one of the common themes which the SNP repeats over and over in an attempt to make them "sink in" and become part of the consciousness and world-view of those who support the SNP, and of those they are seeking to persuade.

We understand "self-determination" to mean "the power of a population to decide its own government and political relations or of an individual to live his own life" (Chambers 20th Century).

On that definition, Scotland is already a self-determining nation.

The people of Scotland are already a sovereign and self-determining people.

How do we exercise this "self-determination"?

We, the electorate, self-determine at the ballot box.

As we are always being told by the Scottish nationalists, it is we the people, not the government or parliament, which is the font of a nation's democratic sovereignty.

It is we, the people, who exercise Scotland's self-determination...when we vote.

Every time the electorate in Scotland votes at a General Election or a Holyrood election, or in a referendum, then we are each participating in a collective act, which is enabling Scotland (as represented by the portion of the electorate which bothers to vote) to self-determine the "government and political relations" of Scotland.

In the 2014 referendum we self-determined to stay in the UK.

In 2016, we also self-determined to leave the EU (we'll explain that in a moment).

In 2017 and 2019 we self-determined at the ballot box and sent 59 MPs to Westminster to help form the Parliament which governs Scotland as well as the entire UK.

In 2021 we self-determined to elect candidates to Holyrood to form the Parliament which administers Scotland within the UK.

So, we (the portion of the electorate which bothers to vote) already self-determine our future.

When nationalists claim we have a "right to self-determination", remind them that Scotland is already self-determining. The people of Scotland self-determine at the ballot box and we have already self-determined to remain part of the United Kingdom!


The Ballot Paper on the 23 June 2016 referred to the UK not Scotland per se

Now, the SNP seize upon the 2016 Brexit referendum vote in Scotland as "proof" that "we are being ripped out of the EU against our will" because the electorate in Scotland apparently self-determined to remain, and the majority did not get what it voted for.

How do we explain that anomaly?

While it is true that the majority in Scotland voted to stay in the EU, everyone who voted did so knowing that the question was not whether Scotland should leave or remain, but whether the United Kingdom should leave or remain.

The electorate in Scotland was voting – not as a Scottish collective – but as a British collective.

Everyone knew that it would be the overall British vote which would count, not the separate counts in the separate areas.

Within that context, the Leave vote and the Remain votes in Scotland counted towards the overall British totals, and each vote in Scotland was worth exactly the same as the vote of anyone else in the UK.

Indeed, within that British-wide context, it was the overall Leave votes from Scotland and Northern Ireland which could be said to have tipped the overall balance towards Leave!

Here are the figures in that regard – and note that despite the entire political and media class being heavily for Remain, over a million people in Scotland voted Leave.


Leave - 17,410,742

Remain - 16,141,241

Majority = 1,269,501

Scotland for Leave - 1,018,322

Northern Ireland for Leave - 349,442

Total = 1,367,764

Furthermore, we had already decided in the 2014 referendum that we would accept the UK-wide mandate on such matters – whether elections or referendums – by staying part of the UK. That is what being part of the UK means. We accept such UK-wide decisions.


Prior to devolution, Scotland was in exactly the same position as England, Wales, or Northern Ireland. Scotland was a self-determining nation, which was part of a bigger self-determining entity called the United Kingdom.

After devolution, Scotland continues to self-determine nationally through the mechanism of electing representatives to Westminster, and now also through electing representatives to Holyrood.

Unlike England; Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland have this extra "self-determining ability" through the mechanism of devolution – which was set up theoretically to compensate for the fact that the number of MPs in these areas is significantly fewer than the number of MPs from England (533, 59, 40 and 18 respectively).

So in addition to self-determining at the UK level at Westminster elections, Scotland also has a second way of self-determining via devolution. We have nothing to complain about!


And here's a very interesting and important point that you'll never hear being mentioned (except by us)!

The electorate in Scotland self-determines at the British level, far more than it self-determines at the Scottish level. This has long been clear.

The turnout statistics clearly show that Westminster consistently trumps Holyrood for democratic legitimacy.

Turnout at British General Elections is higher on average than turnout at Holyrood elections.

For example, compare the average turnout over the last 5 Holyrood elections (it was established in 1999), with the average turnout over the last 5 Westminster General Elections.

Westminster enjoys greater democratic legitimacy in Scotland measured by turnout

Westminster Turnout

2005 - 60.6%

2010 - 63.8%

2015 - 71.1%

2017 - 66.4%

2019 - 68.1%


Holyrood Turnout

2003 - 49.4%

2007 - 51.8%

2011 - 50.4%

2016 - 55.6%

2021 - 63.5%

AVERAGE = 54.1%


As we can see, the democratic legitimacy of Westminster in Scotland, as measured by percentage turnout, is much higher than for Holyrood.

Scottish Nationalists don't like to be reminded that Westminster enjoys greater democratic legitimacy among the electorate in Scotland than Holyrood.


We know that when the separatists speak about Scotland "having the right to self-determination", they don't care about the fact that the people of Scotland already have self-determining ability at both Scottish and British levels; or that the 2016 referendum was a British not Scottish vote; or that the statistics clearly show that the Scottish electorate self-determines more with Westminster more than we do with Holyrood.

When they use the phrase "self determination" what they really mean is separation for Scotland in order that the SNP can get its way all the time.

They want to break the British connection entirely and so they choose to ignore our points above.

Nevertheless, they cannot refute them!

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