HOW many of our politicians understand what “sovereignty of the people of Scotland” means in practice? From their reported comments, not all have an understanding of the democratic rights of the people of Scotland preparing for the run-up to the independence referendum.
Prior to the recall of Scotland’s parliament, all politicians of all major parties agreed that under Scotland’s ancient Claim of Right (1689) – part of Scotland’s written constitution, uncompromised by the Union Treaty of 1707 – “sovereignty resides with the people”.
I am not sure whether all of our politicians knew what they were signing up to. Here was something quite new, the sovereignty of the people as opposed to Westminster’s idea of parliamentary sovereignty. Scotland was on the way to having a government of the people, by the people, for the people.
In practice, this means that, while the monarch reigns, parliament legislates for and on behalf of the stated will and wishes of the superior constitutional authority in Scotland, the registered electorate, “the people”.
I therefore suspect there is a direct correlation between recent polls showing a decrease in support for a Yes vote in the referendum and the failure of the SNP government to understand the new politics, by, for example, trying to legislate on controversial issues that were not in its pre-election manifesto.
Such issues are far from done and dusted if the sovereign authority of the people has not been sought. In order to recover this situation, the Scottish Government should consider promising that such policies would be dealt with on the far-side of a successful Yes vote by putting them to the people of an independent Scotland in a multi-option referendum, covering policy matters such as membership of the European Union and Nato, sterling monetary union, Trident, same-sex marriage and the monarchy.
John JG McGill
READING Christine Jardine’s article (Perspective Extra, 1 February), I was momentarily transported back to the 1990s and a time of unpopular Conservative governments, where constitutional change was something a grateful populace had done to it by the right sort of experts and where independence supporters need not apply.
Unlike the Constitutional Convention, the Scottish Government’s National Conversation offered a space to discuss not just “more powers”, but also the far thornier issue of “which powers”. Had it been embraced by Ms Jardine’s favoured Liberal Democrats and others, it could have allowed voters a choice between a clearly defined form of further devolution as well as independence.
It is to the SNP’s credit that it was willing to work alongside others in a process that could have resulted in an outcome which fell well short of its own ambitions. That this was strangled at birth by the leaders of Scotland’s Unionist parties remains a matter of great regret to many who choose not to sit in a trench alongside them on this issue.
Their stance owed far more to denying the SNP something it was perceived to be willing to settle for rather than to any discernible principle. It is yet more evidence of an opposition which is utterly obsessed by the smallness of personality and tactics while remaining blind to strategy.
However, what is done is done and Scotland will now have its vote on independence or nothing. I have little doubt that the lack of clarity regarding what a No vote will mean will sway large numbers of those who would voted for a middle option towards a Yes vote instead.