THE government of the UK has never said that Scotland cannot leave the Union if the Scottish people wish it. Indeed all of its exceedingly rare statements on the issue are to the effect that the Union is consensual and that Scotland can go if it withdraws its consent. For practical purposes, it put that position in black and white when in 2012 its then Prime Minister, in signing the Edinburgh Agreement, committed the UK Government to respect the result of the subsequent referendum.

That is perfectly in line with the true state of affairs, which is that UK law and constitution have no provision whatsoever to prohibit Scottish secession. (Interestingly, UK legislation actually provides for Northern Ireland to leave if a majority of its population vote for it.) So there is no constitutional barrier such as is held to exist in Spain, say, or the USA. Nor did the UK Supreme Court find there to be any such barrier in its 2022 judgment on the lack of a Holyrood power to legislate for a referendum without UK consent.

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So the simple fact is that, although Scotland cannot make its own referendum, the Scottish people can express their wish in an official, formal, democratic and legal process, and Scotland can act on that wish if it is in favour of independence.

The only such process available to Scotland is a General Election, and it is open to any party to turn any General Election into a plebiscite on independence by issuing the appropriate manifesto, declaring (in essence): “If a majority of Scottish voters choose this party, Scotland will leave the Union and be an independent country”. Failure to recognise that this route is open is to admit that Scotland is a prisoner of London, and failure to take the route is to accept that imprisonment.

Such failure seems to be the current stance of the SNP. It is the only entity able to make the election a plebiscite on a realistic basis, but it is not going to do so. Its formal position, proposed by Humza Yousaf and Stephen Flynn and adopted virtually unanimously at its National Conference last November, is loud on independence, but it is not to seek a head-count majority and not to do any more than “demand” that London enter negotiations. We all know that London will respond to that with a blunt refusal. Yousaf has repeatedly said that a referendum is necessary, to which London withholds consent and will continue to withhold it. So the SNP’s map is head-first into a brick wall.

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Polling shows this is likely to devastate SNP representation at Westminster, whereas a true plebiscite manifesto would enlist almost all of the 50% support for indy and swamp the Scottish seats, enabling the Scottish MPs to take the required step if most voters opt for independence. (Not that any unilateral secession would actually be necessary, because in that scenario London would accept that the game was up, and the independence of Scotland would then, but only then, come about through negotiation.)

By taking that course, which again is the only route to independence available, the SNP would be reverting to the position it had always held previously, and fulfilling the very aim of its existence. A side effect would be to increase respect for the party and dim somewhat the spotlight on its numerous self-made failures and fiascos of recent years. With an obduracy approaching psychological impairment, it has offered no rational explanation for not taking it.

So long as Scotland is not to be given its plebiscite, the great ongoing effort of campaigning for independence throughout the Indy movement, evident from page after page of this newspaper, remains a noble but futile task.

Alan Crocket