JOANNA Cherry’s article of June 17 (“Europe knows Scotland wants no part in human rights rollback”) displays her usual forensic analysis and courteous exposition of her arguments. She calls for respectful debate on the issue of strategies for the best road to independence, and indeed our success in selecting that road will depend on weighing alternative routes – not closing down alternatives which do not accord with the preference of the SNP’s policy nomenklatura.

The main drift of her article was the UK Government’s disregard for human rights legislation and the renewed threat to disengage from the European Convention of Human Rights. Joanna Cherry is reassuring that our friends in Europe recognise that public sentiment in Scotland values the convention and the sanctity of human rights. In March 2022 the Scottish Human Rights Commission submitted an 85-page critique pointing out how the draft “UK Bill of Rights” proposed by the UK Government is woefully inadequate and annuls many of the safeguards of the present Human Rights Act.

However, she goes on to link the issue of human rights to the issue of the right of the Scottish people to a referendum on the issue of independence. She rightly points out that the path to independence is made smoother if it is achieved by means that are recognised under international law and convention as legal. There is a distinction between de facto and de jure international recognition and clearly it is desirable if the achievement of Scottish independence meets both these benchmarks.

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But we shall not win our independence by winning legal arguments in or out of court. While I do not oppose the proposed indyref2 – whether it is achieved via a successful application for a Section 30 order or as a result of an act of the Scottish Parliament – referenda alone do not unlock the door to independence; they are an indication of popular will. Battles for independence are won with the successful mass mobilisation of popular will. Even if we win indyref 2 with a handsome margin, that alone will not lead of itself to independence. And what if the Yes vote is 51.89% and

the turnout is low? The UK Government may have regarded that margin of victory as a mandate to take us out of Europe, but you can bet your bottom dollar it will not in Westminster’s view justify a grant of sovereign independence.

Since Boris Johnson will not grant a Section 30 order and any referendum conducted under legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament is challengeable at law, that route to independence is full of potholes. Furthermore, a referendum held under Holyrood legislation, which the FM herself has termed “consultative” , will be boycotted by No voters – encouraged by the Unionist parties and media. Even if a full turnout and a strong Yes vote argues persuasively for independence, the UK Government is not going to be persuaded on the basis of a referendum conducted under Holyrood rules. Joanna Cherry argues that the key that locks the door to independence has to be the result of the next UK General Election, which must be held by January 24 2025.

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Since my membership of the SNP dates back to the 1960s, I remember that our policy was that a mandate for independence would be winning the majority of Scottish constituency seats in the UK Parliament. Since Westminster’s mandate for everything it does is the doctrine of the sovereignty of parliament, it cannot gainsay the right of Scottish MPs to declare independence provided that they are clearly elected on a manifesto that states that if the SNP wins the majority of Scottish seats, they will withdraw from Westminster and set up a constituent assembly which will approve a constitution for Scotland and arrange the first general Scottish election to a sovereign Scottish parliament.

Such an act would probably result in some states granting the constituent assembly de facto recognition – particularly so if Joanna Cherry is right in gauging the sentiment of representatives at the recent Council of Europe meeting; and de jure recognition would follow once a democratically elected Scottish parliament was in place.

Planning for this should be under way now so that when the next UK General Election campaign starts (whenever that is) the road to independence is clearly signposted in the SNP’s manifesto so that the electorate understand what they are voting for.

Alexandra MacRae