RELUCTANTLY accepting the Supreme Court’s judgment on Holyrood’s inability to hold an independence referendum without London’s agreement, this letter is about their response to the SNP’s written submission on Scotland’s fundamental right to independence, to which the justices made remarks which were entirely incidental to the referendum questions before it, and which were in fact wrong, and should therefore be put aside by the movement.

The justices wrote that “the principle of self-determination is simply not in play here”, but what they were referring to was not the principle, but the specific right under the UN charter etc., which has been found to be restricted to colonies and the like. Even if it is the case that Scotland has no UN right, that does not remove the principle, which is of very long standing in Scotland’s constitutional history, and which has never been repelled by any UK government, and indeed often reaffirmed.

Referring to the Supreme Court of Canada’s judgment that Quebec had no right to secede unilaterally, they went on: “In our view, these observations apply with equal force to the position of Scotland and the people of Scotland within the United Kingdom.” That unexplained pairing of Quebec and Scotland is unjust, for several reasons.

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Unlike Scotland, which has no place as such in Westminster but merely has its individual MPs (like, say, the West Riding of Yorkshire), Canadian provinces are recognised as distinct entities with their own legal rights and authority vis-a-vis the Federal Government. Quebec is the second largest and second-most populous province of Canada, stretching from the northern shore to the US border, and completely splitting Canada between its maritime provinces to the east and its other provinces to the west. Its secession might therefore be said to have a greater effect on Canada than Scotland’s on the UK. Its two secession referenda were lost, in 1980 by about 60/40 and in 1995 by about 50.5/49.5.

Canada does have a constitution, i.e. a body of supervening law on the make-up and governance of Canada and the rights of Canadians. Following their Supreme Court’s judgment, the Federal Government of Canada responded rationally, explicitly and thoughtfully by setting out in the Clarity Act of 2000 the principles and procedure to be adopted in responding to any future secession referendum by Quebec or any other province. The act states explicitly that “the government of any province of Canada is entitled to consult its population by referendum on any issue and is entitled to formulate the wording of its referendum question”.

In complete contrast, the so-called constitution of the UK is a rag-bag of laws, procedures and precedents with no special status above ordinary law, and which can be changed by Westminster at will. David Cameron needed no special power to enter into the Edinburgh Agreement of 2012, nor did Tony Blair to expedite the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 (described as “a core constitutional text of the UK, and of Ireland ... of more everyday importance than hallowed instruments such as, say, Magna Carta of 1215 or the 1689 Bill of Rights”). The 1998 Northern Ireland Act, an ordinary act of Westminster, explicitly provides for the putting into effect of any wish of a majority in Northern Ireland to leave the UK.

By its inept and off-hand treatment of the Scottish position, the Supreme Court has merely sunk the UK deeper in the mire of its constitutional mess. The independence movement should not fall for it, and the indy parties must not weaken their resolve. No backsliding, and on with the Scottish Government’s declared plan of the next election as the de facto indy referendum.

Alan Crocket


THERE appears to be a disturbing degree of confusion at the moment which is doing us no good.

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To be clear, the Scottish Government did not ask the Supreme Court to grant us permission to hold a referendum. It asked the Supreme Court if we could hold a referendum without the UK Government ‘s permission These are very different questions, with very different effects on our position.

The next step we take could be very interesting indeed.

In the meantime, on St Andrew’s Day I searched the five main TV programmes – BBC1, BBC2, STV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 (and BBC Scotland) – for something appropriate and there was nothing at all.


Dave McEwan

Hill Sandbank, Argyll