It is Proper to Stand up Strongly for the Constitutional, Moral, and Democratic Right to Keep the UK Together, and to Oppose that which would Endanger it; says Alistair McConnachie, pictured above on our Thin Red Line in Aberdeen on 17-8-19 when we counted 2,563 of the SNP-marchers and not the 12K they lied about.
Central to Scottish Nationalist belief is the notion that the only people who should get to decide the future of the Union, and consequently the United Kingdom itself, are "the people of Scotland".
They use this belief to argue that if the SNP (with or without the other separatist parties such as the Greens) were to win a majority of seats at Holyrood then this would be a mandate for a second referendum on the Union. They argue that if such a referendum were denied then it would be "immoral", "undemocratic" and even "obscene" to deny it. (1)
Why do they come to this "moral" and "democratic" mis-conclusion?
The separatist position is based on several false notions. These are:
a) That the United Kingdom is not a nation in itself;
b) Therefore, no other parts of the UK should be involved in the decision to break up;
c) Therefore, the British Union Parliament has no constitutional responsibility and duty, or democratic authority, developed over hundreds of years, to maintain the UK on behalf of its people;
d) And that Holyrood, as a devolved arm of the British Union Parliament body, is somehow an equal and opposite Parliament to the Union Parliament from which it has its life.
As authentic Unionists we assert that:
1. The United Kingdom is a nation;
2. All parts of the UK are involved in maintaining the integrity of the nation;
3. All these parts are represented in the British Union Parliament which has the constitutional responsibility and duty, and the democratic authority, developed over hundreds of years, to maintain the UK on behalf of its people;
4. Holyrood, as a devolved arm of the British Union Parliament body, is not an equal and opposite Parliament to the Union Parliament, and therefore does not have the constitutional, moral or democratic authority to destroy the UK.
The SNP's so-called "moral and democratic case for a second referendum" utterly avoids understanding and admitting this complexity of the United Kingdom, and our intimate constitutional and democratic relationship.
Its approach is focused only on Scotland.
It does not comprehend, and utterly would reject, the fact that since the Union of the Parliaments in 1707, a new nation – a nation in addition to the nations which already existed – a new nation called the United Kingdom – came into being and has been built, year-on-year, ever since.
From the Scottish nationalist position, it is as if nothing has changed in Scotland or the British Isles since 1707. Indeed, some of them are still stuck in the Scotland of the early 1300s, and we are not joking when we say that!
For them, it is as if Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland (previously all of Ireland from 1801) have not, through time, been intrinsically changed by the Union, and created something extra in Union.
It is as if they have all continued to develop separately, with no connection to each other, and that nothing new has been created.
In order to sustain this pretence, they have to avoid noticing all the common social and cultural bonds which have been created in our United Kingdom, and all the political ones such as: a common Head of State, Parliament, Political System of Representative Democracy, Internal Market, International Boundary, Citizenship, Language, Currency, Passport, Anthem, Flag, Armed Forces, Presence on International Institutions, and Embassies representing the British nation Worldwide. (2)
From their perspective, we should all just go our own way without regard to each other because at the end of the day there is nothing which connects us anyway.
From our perspective, as authentic Unionists, this is not a proper reflection of reality.
We understand that for hundreds of years (we can argue thousands) we have been coming together, socially, culturally, regally, territorially, economically, and politically and as a consequence, we have created – in addition to Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales – a wider, bigger, even greater nation called the United Kingdom – or "Britain" for short!
Morally, from our point of view, everybody is involved in keeping the United Kingdom together. (3)
Everyone has a stake in the matter, regardless of which part of the UK you are from!
All the people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are involved because we are also one nation, and that nation has a right to survive and a right to defend its own integrity.
The United Kingdom is held together by the agreement of people in Scotland, but it is also held together by the agreement of everyone else in the other parts of the UK – because we all have a stake in the matter!
It is simply not true that because one area might want to have a referendum on breaking up Britain – that everyone else will just have to shut up, keep their heads down, and agree.
To pretend it doesn't affect everyone else, and to deny them a say, is immoral.
This is the unspoken fact which the Scottish nationalists do not want to acknowledge because they know that if they were to accept that Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales – while retaining a sense of individuality – have also developed over time into one nation known as the United Kingdom, then they would have to accept that Scotland is not the only actor in this drama.
They would have to accept that breaking up the UK should not be an easy task.
So what is the correct constitutional and democratic approach to the matter?
Firstly, we must understand the pre-eminence of the British Union Parliament.
It is the British Union Parliament which Represents us All
Politically, all the actors in this drama are best represented in the British Union Parliament.
Speaking of that Parliament, Edmund Burke had this to say:
"Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole." (4)
The British Union Parliament is "a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole".
It has a right to speak for the nation as a whole because the United Kingdom has a collective right to defend its own integrity. It has a right to stand up for its own survival.
The idea that Holyrood, a devolved arm of the body of the British Union Parliament, has the authority to break up the United Kingdom on its own, is not only unconstitutional but – given all the other players in this drama – immoral and undemocratic.
It is time the SNP understood this.
It is time our MPs confidently asserted that breaking up the United Kingdom should be hard to do because it must be in accord with the realisation that it is the very life of a nation which is being debated and potentially destroyed; and it must be in accord with the proper constitutional structure of that nation which enables all parts of the nation to have a say in the matter!
What that Would Involve
If the SNP want a second referendum, then they must win a General Election at the level of the British Union Parliament. That is the constitutional level for this matter.
That would require not only winning it with a majority of seats in Scotland, but with a majority of the entire Scottish electorate, and especially it would require them winning on an abstentionist platform. (5)
After all, winning it on a platform of taking up their seats in the Union Parliament where they are expected to represent and vote on behalf of everyone in the UK, is not consistent with wanting to break up that United Kingdom.
If they were able to do this, then, and only then, can we start to talk about the "moral" and "democratic" and constitutional possibility of a second referendum, which might be fair to everyone involved in our United Kingdom.
1. For example, Kathleen Nutt, "'Obscene' indyref veto will see Tories 'swept away'", The National, 4-1-21, p.4.