There are certain moments in history where everything suddenly changes.
When then-General Julius Casear marched his legion over the Rubicon without permission from the Senate (an act punishable by death), meaning the only outcome would be his arrest & execution, or his installation as Emperor. When Martin Luther nailed his protest to the church door in Wittenburg in 1517; when the “Sons of Liberty” dumped tea chests into Boston Harbour in 1773 (a shocking waste of good tea, it must be noted)..
History is full of such watershed moments.
Today is another such day.
It marks the first time since the re-convening of the Scottish Parliament on May 1st 1999 that the Scottish Parliament will be overruled by a Westminster Government.
The vote (when it eventually goes ahead, likely at some time tomorrow) goes against the express will of the Scottish Parliament, which voted by a margin of 93-30 that it “does not consent to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill”.
This goes directly against the point of devolution – it makes a mockery of the claims made in the so-called “Vow” in 2014 by the Westminster party leaders that Scotland’s devolved parliament would be respected. They are not just disrespecting the parliament, they are going to completely overrule it, and with it the expressed democratic will of the people of Scotland. They will remove our ability to govern effectively for almost a decade on massive areas of devolved competence such as the environment, farming, trade and more.
At her party conference last weekend, the First Minister stated this was “utterly unacceptable”, and we completely agree. We cannot accept this usurping of power by a government in London that Scotland did not elect. We cannot accept it. We WILL NOT accept it.
Over the course of the summer, the SNP have promised there will be a series of National Assemblies, to debate options around the Sustainable Growth for Scotland report. We had already made plain our intent to contribute to those debates, as all independence-supporting groups, and indeed, everyone in Scotland should.
However, another conversation also needs to be had – on the very nature of democracy itself.
Our parliament was elected by the people of Scotland. Not all of the MSPs agree on independence – and certainly it is not just one party – but representative of all of Scotland. And when that parliament makes plain, by a 93-30 majority, that is categorically does NOT consent to an abrogation of its powers, for Westminster to overrule the Parliament, is simply undemocratic. It is government by diktat. This is tyranny.
To stand back and allow this fiat to be imposed upon us would be to betray the most basic principles of our democracy.
In the past, we have suggested should this unfortunate (and entirely avoidable) series of events come to pass that our MPs should walk out of the House of Commons – that our First Minister might convene a Constitutional Congress to examine possible remedies to this intolerable situation. We shall, for the moment, not press that call. It is in truth unlikely to come to pass in any case. The “real-politic” will be rightful protests from our elected officials, and, in the due fullness of time when the dust has settled on the shabby deal of Brexit in October, no-doubt an announcement from the First Minister on where we all go from here. We shall put our faith in Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government to, as they always have, stand up for Scotland.
But today is one of those watershed moments. As Caesar remarked, “Alea iacta est”. The die is cast.