In a front-page MAJOR exclusive, The National declares Mike Russell’s ‘new’ plan for indyref2:
Today we reveal what will happen next if Boris Johnson refuses a referendum. Mike Russell lays out 11-point plan: SNP will hold legal indyref and dare Westminster to challenge it in court.
Oooh, 11 points. This plan must be really powerful!
Let’s go through the points…
1. The Scottish Parliament has already passed two bills that lay the groundwork for a referendum on independence. The first was the Referendums (Scotland) Bill which became law on January 29, 2020. The Scottish Elections (Franchise & Representation) Bill was then passed in February and gained Royal Assent on April 1.
2. These two bills set out the general rules for any referendum and the franchise that would apply to all referendums held in Scotland.
3. This approach, which is different from that taken in 2013/4 require details of any particular referendum – question, timescale and some specific regulations – to be passed by the Parliament and accordingly only a further short bill is required to complete the legislative preparations for a second independence referendum
These three points are actually one point: The Scottish Government passed a bill that allows it to carry out referendums, on non-reserved issues. It cannot carry out a legal referendum on matters it has no authority over. Check this handy list, from the Scottish Parliament.
|Not reserved (devolved)||Reserved|
Sport and Arts
Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing
Social Work Heritage some Transport Tourism
UK Foreign Policy
Financial & Economic Matters
Immigration & Nationality
4. Work on that bill and on other independence-related tasks was suspended on March 16, 2020 as a result of the need to deploy as many civil servants as possible to work on Scotland’s response to the pandemic.
This isn’t an action point. It’s a delay. Also, why are civil servants being tasked to work on a matter that’s reserved to the UK Government?
5. The SNP Scottish Government announced in the Programme for Government in September 2020 that a draft bill for an independence referendum, to give people in Scotland the right to choose their own future, would be published before the Holyrood election in May 2021 and would be enacted if an SNP Scottish Government is re-elected with a majority to do so (either as a result of gaining an overall majority or if it had such a majority as a result of support from another pro-independence party).
Newsflash: The SNP already has a majority of seats with the Greens. This means that, according to this logic, at any time in the past four years, the SNP could have held a referendum. So why didn’t they? Because, it’s outside of the Scottish Government’s gift.
6. The draft bill will be published as planned and the SNP Scottish Government will include the promise to enact the bill in its manifesto.
That would be a manifesto pledge for a referendum that the Scottish Government isn’t legally allowed to hold.
7. The SNP Scottish Government continues to maintain that a referendum must be beyond legal challenge to ensure legitimacy and acceptance at home and abroad. This is the surest way by far of becoming an independent country.
Because an, um, illegal referendum, like the one we’re proposing in the rest of this list, is bad, ok?
It should be held after the pandemic, at a time to be decided by the democratically elected Scottish Parliament.
More repetition. Get to the point.
The SNP believes that should be in the early part of the new term.
Note the word ‘believes’.
8. If the SNP takes office the Scottish Government will again request a Section 30 order from the UK Government
Ah, EIGHT points in and we’re getting to the meat.
believing and publicly contending that in such circumstances there could be no moral or democratic justification for denying that request.
Of course, this is false. Boris Johnson (or whoever leads the Conservative Party) is the elected representative of the UK and has both the democratic and moral right to refuse. It is important to note that he can grant or refuse a Section 30 order for any reason he likes, but, for now, he will refuse for three main reasons:
- He is the democratically elected leader of the largest UK party
- He was elected on a manifesto pledge to maintain the UK
- He has an 80-seat majority that is immune to any SNP pressure
- Once in a generation
- No sane Prime Minister would let 4% of Separatists break up the UK
If the UK Government were to adopt such a position its position would be unsustainable both at home and abroad.
False. Internal UK matters are of little consequence to other countries.
9. However, in the election, the SNP’s proposition, for which we will be seeking the express authority of the Scottish people, will be clear and unambiguous – if there is a parliamentary majority so to do, we will introduce and pass a bill so that the necessary arrangements for the referendum can be made and implemented thereafter once the pandemic is over.
This repeats earlier sentences. Now I’m beginning to, just maybe, think that all these points are a cover to make this proposal appear to be more important than it is.
10. In these circumstances, in which there has been an unambiguously expressed democratic decision by the people of Scotland and their Parliament to have a legal referendum the choice of the UK Government will be clear; to either (1) agree that the Scottish Parliament already has the power to legislate for a referendum or (2) in line with precedent, agree the Section 30 order to put that question beyond any doubt or (3) take legal action to dispute the legal basis of the referendum and seek to block the will of the Scottish people in the courts. Such a legal challenge would be vigorously opposed by an SNP Scottish Government.
This is passive aggressive nonsense. The SNP are saying: we’ll do something legal (that’s actually illegal) and then force you into proving it’s illegal. This is like someone saying that burglary is not a crime, breaking into your house and then telling the judge it’s legal because they said so.
The UK government doesn’t need to make any choices, or go to court. The law is already clear. Holding a referendum on a reserved matter is illegal. As for the points:
[The UK Government will have a choice to] Agree that the Scottish Parliament already has the power to legislate for a referendum
Note the conflation here of ScotGov’s legal ability to hold a referendum on non-Constitutional matters, with holding one that is illegal.
(2)[The UK Government will have a choice to] in line with precedent, agree the Section 30 order to put that question beyond any doubt or
The question was put beyond doubt in 2014. As for ‘precedent’. Cameron was foolish to grant a Section 30, and only did so thinking he’d win. His mistake was to not ‘put the boot in’ once it was over. A boot that Boris has already used once, and will most likely use again.
(3) [The UK Government will have a choice to] take legal action to dispute the legal basis of the referendum and seek to block the will of the Scottish people in the courts. Such a legal challenge would be vigorously opposed by an SNP Scottish Government.
It doesn’t work this way. The Scottish Government simply cannot hold a legal referendum. At a very minimum, local authorities will refuse to allow their polling stations to be used. If anything, the Scottish Government is the one that would have to go to court. But, Sturgeon has repeatedly ruled that out.
11. The issue of whether there should be such a referendum is different from the issue of whether Scotland should be independent. A national campaign of information and education on independence.
Aye, right. Considering the disinformation and lack of education on *Separation*, we all know that’s highly unlikely. 80 years from their inception there’s still no proper currency plan, and after Brexit, Scotland would be faced with a hard border, isolation in Europe and trade friction with our biggest trading partner.
So after all that, we’re left with one point: We intend to hold an illegal referendum.
And there’s no point in that.
Mark Devlin is the publisher of The Majority
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