CONSIDER the following statements by two very different politicians, both avowed Unionists but who drew different conclusions from what that meant. The first said: “I’ve made it very clear I’m a Unionist with every fibre in my being, so if there is another request for another [Scottish] referendum, the answer will be a polite no”. Thus spoke Jeremy Hunt last week.

The second politician declared: “Believe me, dear sir: there is not in the British empire a man who more cordially loves a union with Great Britain than I do”. But the conclusion this politician drew was the polar opposite of Hunt: “But, by the God that made me, I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms [of union] as the British Parliament proposes.” Thomas Jefferson, author of the American declaration of independence – for it was he – went on: “In this, I think I speak the sentiments of America.”

For Jeremy Hunt, the British Union is not a Union of equals based on consent. Rather it is a Union imposed by the larger nation on the smaller, regardless of the democratic wishes of the latter. In fact, Hunt’s new constitutional doctrine – that indyref2 is off the agenda regardless of how Scotland votes in the next Holyrood election – represents a dangerous new phase in Scottish-UK relations.

In effect, Hunt is saying that there is no popular or constitutional expression of popular will in Scotland regarding a second independence referendum that he or a Tory Government will accept. This is precisely the arrogance exhibited by the 18th century British Parliament that turned Thomas Jefferson into a supporter of American independence.

To add insult to injury, Hunt went on to argue he would include Ruth Davidson and the minority faction of Tory MPs in his negotiating team with the EU, explicitly ruling out involving the First Minister and the elected Scottish Government. Hunt’s reason: “I don’t believe [Sturgeon’s] role in any Brexit negotiations would help further or strengthen the Union”. So according to Hunt, any Scottish voter who does not support the Union is automatically disenfranchised when it comes to negotiating with Europe.

With Hunt’s new Unionist doctrine, we have crossed a political Rubicon. According to the Foreign Secretary, if you reject the Union, you are now a second-class citizen whose vote does not count in the same way Unionist votes count. Decoded, there are now loyalists and potential traitors. But I have news for Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson. Scots are not second-class citizens in anybody’s constitution. And the only agency we recognise to determine our constitutional rights is not Westminster but the sovereign Scottish people themselves, expressed through their elected Holyrood Parliament.

Which begs a question: How do we apply democratic pressure to force Westminster to concede on another referendum? Some will complain that the SNP Government already has a popular mandate for indyref2 stemming from the 2016 Holyrood election. And certainly the 2016 SNP manifesto stated: “We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum … if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.”

That is clear cut. There is a respectable case that says “use it or lose it”. However, justifying a mandate to hold another independence referendum is not reducible to some quasi-judicial argument. The mandate question is political and about winning hearts and minds. If Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt, or even Jeremy Corbyn, tries to reject a second independence referendum then we must pile on the popular pressure to undermine and destroy such arrogance. One way of doing this is to get councils, organisations, churches and trade unions to pass motions supporting Scotland’s right to choose its own future.

There is a big historical precedent. America did not just have one single Declaration of Independence. In fact, there were more than 90 such declarations issued in the Thirteen Colonies between April and July 1776. They included votes by individual town councils, public petitions and declarations in mass meetings.

We need to keep the pressure up in the same way. We need an ongoing process in which councils, their umbrella organisation Cosla, the General Assembly, the Catholic bishops, the STUC, the universities, and the major professional bodies speak out in favour not necessarily of independence but of Scotland’s right to vote on its constitutional future – and Scotland’s right alone.

For the record, I’m not suggesting some passive process of appeal to Westminster’s better judgment. I’m talking about exerting the national will. But note: Scotland’s great institutions will only respond if Holyrood shows it is indeed sovereign and willing to challenge the ancient regime in London. If we truly believe the Scottish Parliament represents the sovereign will of the Scottish people, we should be prepared to exert that sovereignty regardless of Westminster rules. Or at least be willing to test the current narrow constitutional boundaries.

In a sense, this has already begun. For example, although responsibility for nuclear power is not devolved, Holyrood has effectively defied the wishes of the UK Government to establish new atomic stations in Scotland via the planning process. In the future, Scottish governments need to contest the right of the Treasury to limit Scottish Government borrowing and spending powers. This could come to a head over the operation of the new Scottish National Investment Bank. Hunt and his ilk should pay a price for ignoring elected Scottish representatives. That rule should extend to SNP MPs being less willing to live by House of Commons rules of procedure.

Finally, there is the option of peaceful civil disobedience aimed at getting a London Government to concede indyref2. Civil disobedience played a key role in many independence struggles. Gandhi famously led a mass campaign to defy paying the British colonial salt tax. A similar mass campaign to withhold the BBC license fee or vehicle excise duty might grab Westminster’s attention. The problem here is that even a successful campaign might not provide sufficient political leverage, given Scotland’s minority Exchequer revenue contributions.

That raises the prospect of following the Extinction Rebellion protesters and bringing central London to a halt. Having worked in London and suffered the woes of public transport chaos inflicted on innocent commuters, I don’t raise the prospect of such actions with any relish. Especially as I suspect most young Londoners would happily let the Scots do their own thing. However, if push comes to shove, the Scottish people have a right to defend their sovereignty and independence through civil disobedience against the British state. Civil disobedience has forced changes to Government policy in the UK – witness the blockading of oil refineries back in 2000, which eventually forced Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to abandon the fuel duty regulator. But the key to success as regards Scotland would be to engage tens of thousands of people and do so in a disciplined fashion. The last thing we need is juvenile adventures by a tiny minority.

That said, Jeremy Hunt’s constitutional innovations represent a declaration of war on Scottish sovereignty and established right to self-determination. Out of such arrogance, revolutions are born. Ask Thomas Jefferson, the ex-Unionist.