THE political climate in Scotland today is riven by numerous areas of concern and the dances by all parties continue. But, without doubt, the biggest issue prevailing in Scotland remains our constitution and the sovereignty of the people of Scotland.

Since the Pictish tradition of rotational kingship adopted by the Scots, to the Declaration of Arbroath, to the Claim of Rights of 1689 and its reaffirmation in 1988, the sovereignty of the people of Scotland has been understood and accepted. That being so, why are we now at an impasse where the Prime Minister of the UK feels that he can usurp the people of Scotland’s sovereign right?

Alex Salmond has been criticised for leading Scotland into this position by his co-signing of the Edinburgh Agreement, thereby agreeing to the requirement of a Section 30 order before Scotland would be “permitted” to consult its population about matters regarding its future relationship with the United Kingdom.

But, in reality, the people who did the harm were the people who signed up to the Scotland Act while negotiating the setting up the Scottish Parliament in 1998. The Scotland Act states that constitutional affairs are a reserved matter. When the Scots voted by referendum in 1997 to re-establish our parliament, the question was: “Do you agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament as proposed by the Government?”

At no point did that question ask us, nor did we agree, to give up our sovereignty.

The SNP was frequently accused of not working in Scotland’s interests by walking out of the Constitutional Convention, which set in motion the Scotland Act of 1998, but the very first demand made by the convention to Gordon Wilson and Alex Salmond was that we should forgo any ambitions of, and remove the demand for, independence. They didn’t acquiesce then, and we must not acquiesce now.

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One of the most prominent signatories, contributors to and chair of the Constitutional Convention Canon, Kenyon Wright, states this regret: “In one crucial area, the convention failed and was inconsistent – and I deeply regret that I did not make an issue of this at the time. We began with a statement of the sovereignty of the people in constitutional matters, but went on to include these in the list of powers reserved to Westminster. We thus implicitly accepted the right of the UK Parliament to have the final say on our constitutional future and how we are governed – implied by the very use of the word ‘devolution’. We failed to seize the opportunity to tackle the fundamental problem of the incoherent and undemocratic nature of the unwritten UK constitution.”

While that mistake has been acknowledged by Wright, what should also be acknowledged is that ceding the power of sovereign decisions from the people of Scotland to Westminster was not in the gift of the signatories of the convention. If they required us, the people, to forgo our sovereignty, that question should have been implicit in the wording of the referendum question. It never was.

We in Scotland, and in particular the SNP, are now, politically, legally and morally in a position to right that mistake and to reassert our sovereign rights over our constitutional future.

The current impasse we have with the UK Government over Scotland’s right to choose highlights perfectly where the Constitutional Convention and devolution failed the people of Scotland, and the resulting splits appearing in the independence movement on how to go forward proves further that a new approach is necessary to reassert those rights.

The “hold steady and gently persuade” line is wearing thin. People are becoming impatient for action and a standing army will eat itself. This is a position that can’t hold for much longer.

The alternative route of challenging the intransigence of the UK Government in agreeing to a Section 30 order through the courts is dangerous in the extreme if not done on our terms and in our timescale. Legal minds will argue endlessly about the rights and wrongs of particular aspects of past laws, treaties or in the Act of Union itself, but what all of that misses is the inalienable right of the Scottish people to choose their own constitutional future, and the opportunity that exists right now for us to reaffirm that right.

When this issue has arisen in the past, not even the Queen of Scotland nor the Supreme Court were willing to deny the sovereignty of the Scottish people, so asking the court to force the UK Government to allow a Section 30 completely misses the point, and the opportunity. Even with opinion polls showing support for independence steadily increasing, the UK Government will continue to use devolution and Scotland Act of 1998 against the people of Scotland by refusing a Section 30 order.

There is a road through this impasse however. It is bold. It is forthright, and it answers only to the people of Scotland.

The SNP Government, the Greens and any other party of independence should make a manifesto pledge that if a majority of SNP and pro-independence MSPs are returned to Holyrood in 2021, they will bring forward a bill “to assume the responsibility for constitutional affairs as directed by the people of Scotland”.

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THIS is not a demand for a Section 30. It is not a request for co-operation. It is the legitimate assumption of the responsibility for the constitutional affairs of our country as directed by the electorate of Scotland.

Winning the election on that manifesto, and bringing forward the bill, means that at no time in the future can any outside legislature block our constitutional will.

The UK Government may well challenge the passing of the bill because of the 1998 Scotland Act. But, having made it a manifesto pledge, then securing its passage through our representative Parliament with the full rigour of the democratic process, there is no jurisdiction in any democracy in the world that could find against the legitimacy of the act that re-asserts our right as a sovereign people. We will have proven beyond doubt that this has been the express will of the people of Scotland, and that our parliament will assume responsibility for our constitutional future.

It will then be up to the ruling government of the day in Scotland, at any given time, to ask the people of Scotland to decide where our constitutional future lies. We can then decide, without the need for, or acceptance by, Westminster or any other institution outwith Scotland.

To that end, we will have ensured that the people of Scotland are, and will remain, sovereign.