IT is good politics to have an alternative in place should the Supreme Court reject the proposed Referendum Bill. In October 2024, there is likely to be a UK General Election, which the SNP have declared they will contest as a de facto referendum should the Scottish Government’s plan for a vote on independence in a year’s time be prevented from happening.

Should that election produce a majority of votes for pro-independence candidates, what might follow a pro-independence majority remains a matter of speculation, but it certainly does not follow that Westminster would regard this as a first step towards negotiating the dissolution of the Union.

The majority of English MPs will not relish the prospect of the United Kingdom becoming just England, Wales and Northern Ireland and perhaps even losing its seat on the UN Security Council.

We should keep in mind that Westminster has long followed its own definition of democracy. Back in the 1918 UK General Election, the pro-independence parties in Ireland won 79 out of 105 seats and a total of 72.6% of the vote.

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They had stood on a manifesto declaring they would not take up their Westminster seats but form their own Irish Parliament. The elected members met for the first time on January 21, 1919, in Dublin. There followed four years of bitter guerilla conflict before Ireland was granted virtual dominion status in 1924, with full independence only following later.

Looking beyond the experience of our Irish neighbour and the inconvenient truth is that both Westminster and the world at large are likely to view Scottish independence with mixed feelings.

The people of the US will be largely sympathetic, but if Washington perceives its geo-political position weakened by potential changes at Faslane, it will side with Westminster. So will Spain, although the rest of the EU and the Nordic states will be more neutral.

Other external bodies often quoted as likely to support Scotland’s case at Westminster are the United Nations and the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Keep in mind, however, that the ICJ is structured to arbitrate between its member states, which include the UK but not Scotland.

This international court could quite possibly rule this dispute as internal politics and thus ultra vires. At the UN, there are precedents of support for the independence of indigenous peoples and those following decolonisation, but the dissolution of a voluntary Union will involve considerable diplomacy.

It is natural to hope for the best but always wise to have a contingency plan. Unless we have a policy and manifesto to address these tough issues in place before October 2024, we risk this next referendum being just another damp squib.

We need a strategy based on a freely negotiated settlement and minimal confrontation. That is how we entered this Union in 1707 when both parties shared a common interest, and it is how we should end it now these interests are divergent.

Three hundred years ago, the deal was concluded by the Great and the Good on both sides. Today, we can be a little more democratic. There are controversial views and ideas aplenty, and rather than these emerging from behind closed doors at the SNP, let them all be set out, debated, and ranked in popularity as the basis of a 21st-century constitution. That would give agenda and substance to a series of citizens’ assemblies.

Demand from these assemblies for their case to be represented in the Westminster Parliament by their elected MPs could be framed in terms that the world would see as democratic in the context of dissolving a voluntary Union by mutual agreement.

A non-confrontational approach to negotiations between two friendly states has much to offer both parties and with the world watching closely, Scotland should ensure it conducts the process with a determined clarity of purpose, maturity and diplomacy.

HOWEVER, neither a group of perhaps 50 pro-independence MPs nor a devolved Scottish Parliament would be empowered to negotiate the dissolution of the Union.

A qualifying majority of MPs could, however, request an extension to the devolved powers or intimate the intent to call a General Election in Scotland to elect a Government of National Unity.

This would represent all political factions and would be mandated to negotiate the dissolution of the Union if so decided by the new Scottish Parliament.

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A General Election in October 2024 is just two years away, and as matters stand, independence is still all about rhetoric and political bickering. Two years is not a long time to agree upon a strategy, draft a constitution and get the citizens’ assemblies operational, and yes – these need to be up and running before the plebiscite. If we expect Scots to vote convincingly for independence they need to know what it will mean for their future.

By agreeing on a popular and comprehensive constitution now, everyone will know precisely what they are voting for and a new Scottish Government of National Unity will know its terms of reference and accountability from day one of independence.

Putting off these actions until after the 2024 outcome would be sheer prevarication. is a registered Scottish Charity with the aim of advancing participative democracy within the community of Scotland. You can read more than 1000 comments across 15 articles and participate in preparing a Scottish constitution. So why not join in and have your say in how you think an independent Scotland should be governed?

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