1. Scottish Nationalists will say: "If you believe in the UK so much, why be afraid to ask the people of Scotland the same question again?"
It is precisely because we believe in the UK so much that we do not want to see its very existence being constantly called into question! Simply to call for another referendum is to encourage the break-up of Britain.
It's like asking again and again whether something deserves to die! It's intended deliberately to destabilise, and create anxiety and uncertainty about its future. For the UK to function and prosper, its very life should not be always up for debate!
2. "But Scotland has a right to self-determination, 'under international law'!"
Scottish Nationalists will sometimes claim that "Scotland" has a "right" to self-determination under international law by pointing to the "Charter of the United Nations", Chapter 1 (Purposes and Principles), Article 1(2) which states that the purpose of the UN includes:
"To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;"
They may also make reference to the UN's "International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights". Part 1, Article 1 states:
"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."
However, Scotland – that is, its electorate – already has self-determination. We have pointed out before that we, the people, who are the font of Scotland's democratic sovereignty, self-determine at every Election and Referendum; and on 18 September 2014 we self-determined to stay part of the UK.
When Scottish nationalists 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!
3. "So, are you saying Scotland has a right to separate then?"
The right to separate is balanced by the right of all the other British citizens who don't want to separate and who want to keep us together, whether they are a minority or a majority, and whether they reside in Scotland or the rest of the UK.
The international resolutions above are not intended to be interpreted in such a way as to ignore the viewpoints of such people or to justify the breaking of a Nation-State's constitutional law.
In their constitutional illiteracy, the Scottish nationalists ignore the flip side of these resolutions, and they ignore the people who disagree with them. By the same token, these resolutions stand as much for unionist people who want to keep the UK together, as they do for people who want to break it up!
4."Why should Westminster decide whether to hold a Referendum rather than Holyrood?"
Westminster is the home of the collective British Government and Parliament. The executive at Holyrood is not a "government" – despite being misnamed by the Scotland Act 2012 – because it does not have the powers of a separate or federal state.
Rather, Holyrood is a devolved and subsidiary body of the British State; in a vertical, not horizontal, relationship. The relationship is hierarchical, not level. It is Westminster which retains the power to make these legal decisions, because – as the collective Parliament for all the people of the UK – it has the responsibility and duty to protect the interests of all British citizens, and maintain the integrity of the overall Nation-State.
5. "Does the British Parliament have a Mandate to Refuse a Second Referendum?"
Yes, for at least 6 reasons, as we have elaborated upon before:
a) Measured by turnout, Westminster has a greater popular and democratic mandate and legitimacy in Scotland than Holyrood. For example, average turnout at the 5 General Elections in Scotland since 2005 is 66%, while the average at the 5 Holyrood elections since 2003 is 54.1% (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elections_in_Scotland).
b) It is Westminster which has the absolute responsibility and duty to hold the United Kingdom together. That must be its priority. We need, and expect, it to do this! We look to the British Parliament as the national Institution which has the responsibility and duty, on behalf of us all, to keep the UK together.
c) As mentioned above, as a subsidiary arm of the overall British political body, in a vertical, not horizontal relationship, Holyrood is not constitutionally able to demand referendums.
d) As mentioned above, the electorate in Scotland voted in the referendum in 2014 to acknowledge Westminster as the Parliament with the right to make these decisions.
e) The SNP may try to claim a mandate to break-up Britain (based on its presence at Holyrood, or its majority of MPs from Scotland), but the British Parliament has a democratic mandate to hold it together.
For example, as per the graphic below, at the General Election in 2019 more people in Scotland voted for parties which want to hold the UK together than voted for parties who wanted to hold it break it up (regardless of how the seats fell via the first-past-the-post system). At the 2017 General Election, almost 600 of the 650 MPs were elected on an explicit manifesto commitment to oppose a second separation referendum.
f) Moreover, by standing in the British General Election, and by taking up their seats, the SNP is giving the British Parliament – and the Government it forms – the constitutional mandate and authority to forbid a second referendum. Their MPs acknowledge that power by simply taking part in its proceedings. This would be the case even if all the MPs from Scotland were SNP.
Article originally published on 17 October 2019, and updated on 11 October 2022.
We spoke about this matter on our show, Good Evening Britain!, on Wednesday 12 October 2022, below.
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