THE SNP government categorises a referendum as the “right” of the people, the only way to choose our own future, and paints London’s refusal as “undemocratic and unsustainable”, as in their recent manifesto.

This line has been spun for years now – if we don’t get a referendum, we’re sunk! So even a lawyer like Scott Crichton Styles of Aberdeen University has to stand on his head to come up with a convoluted rationale for prising a referendum out of the court when the inevitable legal battle happens (Legal expert explains why the refusal of a Section 30 order wouldn’t end indy, May 23). His answer: “Plainly asserting that the democratic legitimacy of Holyrood trumps that of the Westminster Parliament over Scots affairs”.

Well, Westminster actually trumps Holyrood, for two reasons. The first is that Westminster created Holyrood, by an act which provides that its legislative power “does not affect the power of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to make laws for Scotland”. The second is that the people of Scotland voted in 2014 to remain in the UK. So there is no legal or democratic basis for asserting otherwise. The notion that Holyrood is the parliament of Scotland is SNP codswallop (expressed by its inaugural Presiding Officer, the great Winnie Ewing, famously announcing “the Scottish Parliament, which adjourned on March 25 1707, is hereby reconvened” – sounds wonderful, but a lie nevertheless).

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Scott continues: “Holyrood is merely asking for the authority to allow the Scots people a democratic decision on the continuation of the Union”. But the Scots people can have a democratic decision on the continuation of the Union at any General Election, whether at Holyrood or at Westminster. It just needs a party to put that issue clearly in its manifesto.

The upshot of an electoral Yes vote would be no different from a legal Holyrood referendum without London’s blessing, because the vote is merely the democratic sanction.

The operative step of actually making Scotland independent, if it was to be done over the head of London, would be in the hands of its MPs, whether following a referendum or an election. They would, by majority, simply secede from Westminster and constitute themselves the sovereign parliament of an independent Scotland. In point of fact, if such a vote was held and went Yes, London would relent anyway, and matters would be arranged by agreement.

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He concludes: “If the Supreme Court were to rule against the lawfulness of the indyref2 bill it would be sending Scotland the message that the Union is a prison based on legal coercion, a prison which no democratic key can unlock”.

So he swallows the SNP line entirely. A referendum, or we’re trapped. There is no other “democratic key”, and it’s London and/or the court which holds it. That is an abhorrent, servile position for any supporter of Scottish independence to take.

Nor is it even true. Until it came to power, the SNP had always taken the position that the electoral route is the way to go, and that route has been endorsed whenever the UK Government has spoken on the question. London has repeatedly said that the UK is a union of consent, and the constitution of the UK does not prohibit Scotland’s exit. So if a Holyrood referendum is legally prevented, for whatever reason, that only makes the whole referendum issue a complete red herring. Whether Holyrood can hold a referendum is merely a devolution issue, not an independence issue. The alternative route, an election, always remains open, awaiting a party with the gumption to take it.

The real question is whether the SNP government actually wants us to have a vote on independence, without waiting for events miraculously to bring it along. Even if it cannot just drop its mad fixation on a referendum, it should now demand consent from London, under the threat of an electoral vote. The next election, at Westminster, is 2024 or earlier. Without delay, we should be campaigning and preparing nationally for independence, but it is only the SNP government which can turn that key. Until it does, the people of Scotland are more its prisoners than London’s.

Alan Crocket