”Yet if he should give up what he has begun, seeking to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own right and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”
Declaration of Arbroath
”Parliament means, in the mouth of a lawyer (though the word has often a different sense in conversation) The King, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons: these three bodies acting together may be aptly described as the “King in Parliament”, and constitute Parliament. The principle of Parliamentary sovereignty mean neither more nor less than this, namely that Parliament thus defined has, under the English constitution, the right to make or unmake any law whatever: and, further, that no person or body is recognised by the law of England as having a right to override or set aside the legislation of Parliament.”
—A.V. Dicey Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (1885)
This referendum is not about the SNP. This referendum is not about the Tories. This referendum is not about Labour, Lib-dems, Greens, Ukip or any other colour of rosette you can imagine. This referendum is not about “the economics of Independence”, it’s not about being in or out of the EU, it’s not about the pound. It’s not even about welfare, the NHS or Poverty. This referendum is about sovereignty. Specifically, it is about the Sovereignty of the Scottish People versus the Sovereignty of Westminster.
In 1707, a treaty was signed between the Scots and English Parliaments declaring a union between the two nations and making Westminster the parliament of this union. Westminster was then, and still is, a sovereign parliament. Thus a tension was created in the union between the sovereign people of Scotland and the parliament of Westminster. The Articles of Union were burned in Dumfries, Glasgow and Lanark. Uprisings took place which Westminster crushed ruthlessly by the hand of Lord General Wade. Slowly, over time, and with the growing distraction of Empire, we Scots forgot our Sovereign power. Through the revolutions in America, France, Ireland and latterly the increasingly fractious corners of the Empire, we remained comfortable not exercising our power. The growing democratic franchise kept us content as the UK followed along with the global trend, and we found expression for our sovereignty in the Socialist Movement of the late 19th and 20th centuries. Yet the continuing use of the First Past the Post electoral system, coupled with the anachronistic House of Lords (both pre- and post reform) undermines the Westminster democracy.
Then, of course, there has been the increasing political divergence between Scotland and England. This would not be as much of a problem if Scots voters weren’t outnumbered by approximately 10:1. Since the highwater mark of British Socialism, the Labour party have become increasingly concerned with garnering the votes of the heavily populated South East of England, pushing their policies incrementally to the right, therefore eroding the Socialist consensus outside and inside the Labour Party. There have been attempts to save Socialism in Scotland, but the FPTP system breeds a culture of apathy in voters who continually see their voices outvoted by the diehard Labour vote that believes so strongly in the past of the party that they seem unable to see it’s present condition. Within the ranks of the party itself a culture of arrogance and entitlement, as dwindling voter engagement has created an easy road into a lucrative job for those prepared to toe the line and parrot party policy. Because of this, the sovereign power of the Scottish People has become stifled within the Union, and made the referendum a necessary step for us to take.
This referendum isn’t about politicians of any stripe telling us what they are going to make happen, it’s about us taking up our sovereign power to decide what is going to happen for ourselves. Westminster as a sovereign parliament has no conception of power other than it’s own, so it is speaking with ever increasing noise and fury into a vacuum. It can’t even begin to speak to our aspirations. The Treaty of Union purported to pass Scottish sovereignty to Westminster, but in the context of the Declaration of Arbroath, as quoted above, this only happens for as long as we consent to it. Power in Scotland belongs to us, it rests with us and we are waking up to find it lying in our hands. This has always been at the route of Scottish nationalism, which is not a mindlessly patriotic nationalism, but one with an implicit egalitarianism borne of our shared sovereignty. Being Scottish does not mean we are better than anyone else, but it does mean that no-one, not even Westminster, is better than us. We are Scotland. We are Sovereign.