Starmer for a trained lawyer, and to be fair one of some justifiable note, was particularly woeful at Prime Minister’s Questions as he veered from Partygate to the NHS but without laying a glove on Johnson on any issue. Ian Blackford had the better sound bite but still failed to hit home. In Scotland, the First Minister’s statement on a referendum was long on why but short on how.
Labour will be awaiting the result of the Wakefield by-election on Thursday, which is hard to see how they can lose. But what of the SNP? They’re producing papers on independence but its action not words that people want. Information that could have, and should have, been produced years back won’t pay the fuel bill or fill the tank on the forecourt.
We’ve now reached the perverse situation where essential workers struggling to meet their fuel bills at home are actually paying not just to get to their work, but to carry their work out. The Treasury mileage allowance of 45p has been that way for quite some time and is the basis not just for tax relief but public and private sector rates. With fuel now near £2 a litre, miles clocked up by many care workers and health visitors while on the job are being funded by them.
It's why time is of the essence. Yet, still the SNP vacillate. Mandates for a referendum have come and gone. Talk there has been a plenty but action there has been none. If there was ever a time for a Scottish Constitutional Convention to be called, it’s now.
We have a government in Westminster that was rejected by Scotland in 2019, as they have been in every election since 1955. We also have a Prime Minister who lost the confidence of over 40% of his own parliamentary group. Most seriously of all, there is a crisis in our land as people struggle to heat their homes and feed their kids while the economy goes down the pan through Brexit insanity. It's a government devoid of legitimacy, let alone decency or ability and where action to protect Scotland’s required.
Rather than further papers or ever more bluster from Mr Blackford and colleagues that Scotland won’t stand for it, there needs to be action. In any event, if there’s to be a referendum next year, then the ground work needs to be laid and not just on the legal advice and legislative procedures.
Gathering support of the Scottish people is essential. It’s why a Constitutional Convention should be called bringing together MPs, MSPs and council leaders. It has been done before and doing it again isn’t superfluous, but the basis for action.
Firstly, it can insist it is the democratic right of the Scottish people to decide their future. Secondly, it can give support on available options to achieve this and enter into discussions with the UK Government. Finally, it can be adjourned pending discussions between UK and Scottish governments regarding a referendum.
If Johnson and his cohorts reject Scotland’s democratic right to a referendum, then the convention can become the basis for legitimacy for further actions.
Kenny MacAskill is the Alba MP for East Lothian