MY abiding memory of the 2014 referendum is the aggressive dismissal of “expert opinion”. Academics and others who wanted to debate the arguments for independence seriously were denigrated by the Yes campaign – “a movement of angry culture warriors …. capable of talking only to one’s group …. hostile to any criticism”. It takes Neil Mackay (“It’s not the Supreme Court holding back indy, it’s the SNP”, The Herald, November 24) to remind us that little has changed in eight years.

Such hostility, such aggression, must not be tolerated in the current debate. The electorate must be encouraged to seek out expert opinion and to use it to form the basis of an informed discussion out of which just might emerge a consensus on Scotland’s future, perhaps even a confederalist structure.

It is essential that we remember the lessons of the EU referendum when the absence of such debate opened the way for a relentless campaign of misinformation, the consequences being the disaster for which we are now paying the price.

As Greta Thunberg suggests in The Climate Book: "The most effective way to get out of this mess is to educate ourselves”. Given the internet there is no excuse for us failing to educate ourselves to the fullest possible extent not just on climate change but on the constitutional issue.

The possible alternative is for us to stumble, misinformed, into a disastrous independence.
John Milne, Uddingston

Court showed we are a colony

THE Supreme Court’s judgement on Holyrood’s power to hold a referendum on Scotland’s independence was made on the basis of the Scotland Act 1998, a change made to the British constitution only 25 years ago.

The Supreme Court itself is a very recent addition to legal resources in Britain: it came into existence as a result of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 and began business in 2009. The Supreme Court is allowed to comment on whether Westminster legislation is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights but it has no power to force a change in UK law – that power remains very firmly with the politicians.

The point is, surely, that those politicians – at Westminster – obviously feel free to meddle with the unwritten British constitution whenever they feel like it. This has included endowing that same Supreme Court with final jurisdiction over our separate Scottish legal system, including the Scottish Court of Session itself.

We should remember too that Westminster politicians have recently demonstrated, with their illegal prorogation of Parliament, that they are prepared to ignore this constitution when it suits them, to break international treaties without shame and to deliver bare-faced lies to the constitutional monarch. It seems very clear therefore to observers, domestic and foreign, that the “Great British Constitution (unwritten)” is an extremely malleable, indeed wobbly, basis on which to suppress and entrap, permanently, one of its last imperial colonies, Scotland.

And that is where the Supreme Court made its vast ironic error, by confirming through its judgement that Scotland is in fact a colony of the British State. It was certainly the first; it bears vivid tell-tale marks of 300 years of military garrisons and occupation, exploitation and abuse of native population, suppression of culture, asset-stripping and disenfranchisement: now, in 2022, one of the oldest nations in Europe, Scotland, is “not allowed" to vote for independence.

The British Empire has never surrendered any colony peacefully, gracefully, honourably or benevolently; just ask the USA. The more recent histories of how other colonies like India, Kenya and Ireland won independence despite ruthless tactics are remarkably similar as a series of steps. It may be cold comfort for some of us who are getting too old to be patient, but Scotland is on the very same path.

The next step is surely to find out what the rest of the world thinks about Scotland’s rights of self-determination – not as an equal partner in a voluntary union, but as a colony, suppressed and entrapped by a very dodgy, internationally discredited, so-called “constitution” and a London administration despised and distrusted, with good reason, throughout the world.
Frances McKie, Evanton

Scots were forced into Union

STAN Grodynski (Letters, November 24) is absolutely right to state that the Union of 1707 was not "voluntary" for Scotland. The Parliament of Scotland (The Three Estates) comprising some 200 members, was far from democratic. Almost all of the MPs, such as hereditary peers and town council members, chose themselves. The only way in which the majority of Scots could make their views known was by protesting on the streets or by submitting petitions to the Parliament. Tellingly during the three months of debate over the terms of the proposed Union, 96 petitions were submitted from all over Scotland. Not one supported the idea of Union with England.

In 1706 Scotland had been forced into a corner. The imperative for England was to secure agreement from Scotland to the 1701 English Act of Settlement which identified Sophia of Hanover as the nearest Protestant heir to the crown. Being at war with France, England did not want a potentially hostile, even neutral, Scotland on its doorstep with the prospect perhaps of the exiled Stuarts being restored to the throne. English determination was very much in evidence with the movement of troops to the Scottish border and the Royal Navy sailing off Scottish waters. There was also the threat of the 1705 English Aliens’ Act being implemented which would inflict serious damage to the Scottish economy if the Scots did not agree to an Act of Union.

The agreed terms were heavily weighted in England’s favour. Despite having at that time 20% of the UK’s population, Scotland was allocated only 45 MPs (just one more than the county of Cornwall) compared to the 513 English MPs and 16 peers compared to 190 English members of the House of Lords. And yes, many Scottish MPs were "bought and sold for English gold" and the promise of high office. The Earl of Glasgow was given the equivalent of £2 million to distribute amongst potential supporters of the Union. The influential Duke of Hamilton was given an English Dukedom; appointed to both the Order of the Garter and the Order of the Thistle and was made UK Ambassador to Paris. The final vote was taken in the Scottish Parliament on January 16, 1707 when the Treaty was passed by 110 votes to 67.

It is quite clear that the 1707 Act of Union was not voluntarily entered into by Scotland. Nor was it a treaty between equals. Many Scots saw it as a total surrender of their independence into the hands of their proud and powerful neighbour. There was no Article in the Treaty allowing for an ending of the Union. That power was reserved to the Westminster Parliament. Scotland was effectively locked in.
Eric Melvin, Edinburgh

What happened to Unionist principles?

ON March 30, 1989 the following declaration was signed: "We hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs."

Those signing included Gordon Brown, John Smith, Donald Dewar, Alastair Darling, George Robertson, Tam Dalyell, Brian Wilson, Menzies Campbell, David Steel, Charles Kennedy, Jim Wallace and Malcolm Bruce.

Do the current Scottish Labour Party and Scottish Liberal Democrats reject the principle that all Labour MPs and Liberal MPs and MEPs signed up to as a fundamental principle?

Also signing this declaration were representatives of almost every local authority in Scotland, the STUC, Scottish churches, the Committee of University Principals, the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) and the National Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland.

This went beyond support or opposition to any particular constitutional settlement. It was a statement of principle – that Scotland was a nation with the right of self-determination.

Have they decided their principles were wrong?
Isobel Lindsay, Biggar

What price an anti-indy deal?

I AGREE with Robert Fraser's suggestion (Letters, November 25) of an SNP one-line manifesto, "We campaign for independence".

But that's not what's going to happen, is it? Already the SNP is rebranding itself as the "democracy transcends a'thing" party. And judging by its indy-lite leaflets in the 2019 General Election and 2021 Holyrood election it will no doubt sucker the 40% so-called "indy-curious" voters into voting in enough numbers to once again split the pro-UK parties, get their usual 40-45% vote share and a majority of seats and solemnly claim it has a "mandate" for independence.

What should be different this time is people who are sick and tired of this secessionist snake oil will be inspired by a joint appeal by the Labour, Conservative and LibDem leaders for them turn out in droves and vote for any old pro-UK party, get the pro-UK vote way over 50% and get the SNP seats back to 35 as it was in 2017.

But that won't happen will it? Douglas Ross will say the Tories are the real UK deal and attack Labour, Anas Sarwar will slag off the Tories and the SNP and will attack them both. Then next stop Holyrood 2026.
Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven


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