A majority of seats for the separatist parties at a Holyrood election is not enough to demand a second vote to break up the UK. The United Kingdom is held together at the level of the British Parliament. That's where the mandate for unity is found. So that's where any mandate for separation has to be found.
It's an article of faith among the Scottish nationalists, and the Scottish mainstream media, that if the "independence supporting parties" were to win a majority of seats at the Holyrood Election on Thursday 6 May 2021 then that would represent "a mandate" for a second referendum to try to break up the UK ["mandate" means "the authority to carry it out"].
In effect this would mean a majority of seats being won by the SNP, and the Scottish Greens, and any other separatist group that might get elected on the Regional List.
They are very adamant about this.
As an SNP MP says:
"If people vote for that proposition and elect a pro-referendum majority then it would be illegitimate and undemocratic for any UK government, Tory or otherwise, to deny that expression. If they did, they would be keeping Scotland in the UK against the wishes of the people who live here."
Tommy Sheppard SNP MP, quoted in The Daily Express, "Sturgeon are you listening? SNP MP finally admits referendum was once in a generation vote", online 9-10-20.
There is so much wrong – and dangerously wrong – with his arrogant statement. We include it here only because it sums up the basic position of the Scottish nationalists.
A MAJORITY OF SEATS AT HOLYROOD, IS NOT A SUFFICIENT MANDATE
We maintain that a vote in a devolved election – an election which obtains its authority from the United Kingdom Parliament at Westminster – cannot deliver a mandate to call for a second separation referendum to break up that United Kingdom.
Only a vote in an election for the Union Parliament itself can potentially deliver a mandate for a second referendum to be held to break up that United Kingdom.
Let's examine the 4 fundamentals upon which our position is based.
FUNDAMENTAL 1. OUR UNITED KINGDOM – ONE BIG COUNTRY
Our position is based, firstly, upon the understanding that since the Union of the Crowns in 1603 (and even long before) and certainly since the Parliamentary Union of 1707, the United Kingdom has developed into one nation – certainly a nation which consists of smaller nations, but nevertheless, a nation in itself.
We understand the United Kingdom as one Big Country, not just 4 separate ones.
It has come together through time, through hundreds of years of shared development, to the point where, today, it is much more a Nation of Unions, than a "union of nations"; it is much more a Nation of Families (quite literally) than a "family of nations".
Above all, it is our home – all of it – and we don't want our home to be broken up.
Of course Scottish nationalists don't accept that the United Kingdom is a nation. If they were to do so, it would lead them to accept that what we say is true!
Whatever they may think...this is what we believe, and that is the first fundamental upon which we make our stand!
FUNDAMENTAL 2. IT IS NOT FOR SCOTLAND ALONE TO DECIDE TO BREAK UP – AND EFFECTIVELY DESTROY – THE UNITED KINGDOM
Scottish nationalists such as Tommy Sheppard speak so flippantly (and aggressively) about the presumed "illegitimacy" and "undemocratic" nature of the United Kingdom government because they choose to have no regard whatsoever for the fundamental belief of the United Kingdom as one nation – as one Big Country – with a shared historic development over hundreds of years, and a shared electorate with common interests.
So they think they can get away with misrepresenting the nature of the United Kingdom, and the nature of the devolution which flows from the British Parliament – as if their supporters in Scotland are the only people involved in this relationship, when in fact this is about the future of our entire United Kingdom as one Big Country.
However, once you see the reality of our one Big Country then you realise that everyone is involved – wherever we may live in the UK – and it should not be so easy to destroy it. As we always say, "If you're British, you're involved!"
Hundreds of years of coming together over time cannot be allowed to be destroyed so easily and by such a relatively small element of the British national electorate, in one part of the United Kingdom. In this article we crunch the numbers to find out just how small that proportion could be when measured against the rest of the British electorate.
It has to be spoken for, it has to be protected, and it has to be maintained by all of us, and certainly by our common British Union Parliament!
FUNDAMENTAL 3. THE UNION PARLIAMENT HAS A MANDATE FOR UNITY
Here is a basic political fact. The United Kingdom is maintained at the level of the United Kingdom Parliament.
That seems obvious, but it has to be said because it is not said often enough!
Here's the way it works...
The people of Scotland legitimise the Union of the United Kingdom every time we elect MPs to the Union Parliament at Westminster. We legitimise the Union and we legitimise Westminster's role as the primary Parliament in the UK.
There is no doubt that every time we vote for a candidate to sit at Westminster – and regardless of the party we vote for – we are saying that both the Union, and this Union Parliament, is a democratic and legitimate body.
When that candidate is elected and takes up his or her seat – regardless of the party that they represent – then they confer 100% democratic legitimacy upon the British Parliament to govern for their constituency and ultimately for all of the United Kingdom.
We call this our Mandate for Unity.
The Union is held together at the Union Parliament – not at any of its devolved and subsidiary bodies.
Therefore, it follows that the future of the Union must always be decided at the level of the Union Parliament – the very Parliament that every SNP MP, and every other MP from Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales give democratic legitimacy to, because they sit there.
Furthermore, the Union Parliament also has the responsibility and duty, to withhold consent to a second referendum.
This is because it has a duty and responsibility to defend the integrity – the political cohesion, the togetherness – of the United Kingdom in the first place! As the Union Parliament, it is absolutely called-upon to maintain the Union which has created our one Big Country since the Parliamentary Union of 1707, and even long before.
Not only does it have this primary duty and responsibility to keep the UK together, it also has a duty and responsibility to protect the interests of all its people, from every part of these Islands – not just those from Scotland – who would be adversely affected by a second vote on separation.
FUNDAMENTAL 4. WE UNDERSTAND THE CORRECT NATURE OF DEVOLUTION
Finally, our position is based upon a correct understanding of devolution.
That is, devolution is British state power exercised by its subsidiary bodies. Holyrood is an arm of the British Parliament, in a vertical, not horizontal, political relationship.
Again, the Scottish nationalists (and many others who should know better) don't accept this fact. Again, if they did, it would lead them to accept the rightness of our position.
Instead, they try to misrepresent Holyrood as some kind of "equal" body operating on the same level as the UK Parliament. The British government's incorrect categorisation of the ruling administration at Holyrood as "a government" (from the Scotland Act 2012) has only added to the general confusion.
HOLYROOD CANNOT DELIVER A MANDATE FOR SEPARATION
You can only believe that a majority of seats won at Holyrood is a mandate to demand another vote to break up the United Kingdom if you believe the mistaken notions that: the United Kingdom itself is not a nation; that the Union Parliament has no democratic legitimacy; nor does it have a duty and responsibility, developed over hundreds of years, to maintain the United Kingdom on behalf of its people; and that Holyrood itself is somehow equal to the British Parliament from which it is derived.
All of these notions are wrong, yet all of them have been pushed relentlessly by the Scottish nationalists and the media for years, in order to pervert and misrepresent the true nature of our British constitutional relationship.
So, here's the bottom line...
If you want to seek a mandate to maintain, or break-up, the Union then it is at the Union Parliament where that mandate must be found.
The democratic mandate for the Union is located at Westminster. That is where the legal authority to change the nature of the Union is located; at the Parliament which has created and maintained the UK for hundreds of years.
Scottish nationalists might try to ignore, or deny the importance of the hundreds of years of British Parliamentary Union created over time, and which continues to uphold the United Kingdom.
They might try to pretend that the authority for the Union has now shifted to Holyrood – a devolved creation of that British Parliament.
They are wrong!
Holyrood has not developed any authority over the future path, or the very existence of the United Kingdom. That authority remains with the Union Parliament of the United Kingdom which represents everybody in the United Kingdom.
SO WHAT WOULD BE "A MANDATE" FOR A SECOND INDYREF?
George Galloway has been reported as saying that a second referendum should not be granted unless the pro-independence parties gain over 50 per cent of the popular vote at a Holyrood election. He said:
"They have never got that, ever, at any election Scottish or Westminster. And I don't believe they will get that this time either. You cannot claim, as they are, that a minority vote gives you the right to proceed to plunge the country again into referendum chaos. I reject that."
Scott Macnab, "No independence referendum unless SNP tops 50% of Scottish votes, says George Galloway", The Scotsman, online 11-10-20.
He makes a good point about winning a majority of the vote on the day at Holyrood (rather than a majority of seats won) – and that is certainly preferable to what the nationalists are proposing at present.
However, such a position is still accepting that a devolved election can deliver the authority to hold a vote to potentially destroy the United Kingdom itself.
We disagree! Even a majority of the popular vote at a devolved election cannot deliver the authority to vote on the break-up of the United Kingdom.
That mandate – that authority – to hold a second referendum which might potentially destroy the United Kingdom, has to be found at the British Parliamentary level. It has to be found through a British General Election.
This is the absolutely correct way of looking at it constitutionally.
Furthermore, it is the moral way too because, as we emphasise, everyone in our Islands is affected by such a matter.
It is also correct in terms of popularity because Westminster's democratic popularity in Scotland, measured in terms of percentage turnout at British General elections, constantly trumps the relatively low turnout at Holyrood elections.
Here's the figures of the last 5 elections>
Westminster General Election Turnout in Scotland
2005 - 60.6%
2010 - 63.8%
2015 - 71.1%
2017 - 66.4%
2019 - 68.1%
AVERAGE = 66.00%
2003 - 49.4%
2007 - 51.8%
2011 - 50.4%
2016 - 55.6%
2021 - 63.5%
AVERAGE = 54.1%
To obtain a sufficient mandate, here is what the Scottish nationalists would have to do...
They would have to disarm the Union Parliament of the democratic authority to govern Scotland.
They would do this by standing on an Abstentionist platform at a British General Election – on a platform which says that they will not take up their seats if elected.
Having done that, they would have to receive not only a majority of seats in Scotland, but a majority of the votes of the entire electorate of Scotland.
If they were able to achieve all these things, then we could accept that there was an active demand for a second separation referendum.
The United Kingdom has developed over the centuries to become a nation in itself. It is held together by the democratic presence of all the MPs, from all parts of the UK at the British Union Parliament – and that's regardless of the extent to which they might squabble there!
It is the presence of these MPs which delivers a "mandate for unity" to keep the UK together.
Furthermore, the Union Parliament has a natural duty and responsibility to maintain the Union of the United Kingdom on behalf of all the people of the UK. It also has a moral duty, because everyone in our Islands is affected by such a matter, not just people in Scotland.
It follows that Holyrood, which is a devolved, subsidiary arm of the Union Parliament, cannot create a mandate for a second Indyref. An SNP/Green win at a Holyrood election is not a sufficient mandate to demand a second referendum to break up the UK.
A mandate to hold a vote to potentially break up the United Kingdom, has to be found at the level of the central British Union Parliament.
For the separatists to acquire the authority to demand a second referendum then:
They must do so at a United Kingdom General Election;
They must stand as openly-avowed Abstentionists.
They must win a majority of the UK Parliamentary seats in Scotland, and;
They must win a majority of the entire electorate of Scotland (not just the popular vote on the day).
If they can do these 4 things, then we could talk about the possibility of holding a second referendum.
For us, we must continue to educate upon the nature of our British political relationship, and we must emphasise the value of our one Big Country.
First published on 14 October 2020. Election figures updated on 12 October 2022.
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