'...an inclusive independent Scotland can surely not be attained on the back of a campaign which invokes anti-English sentiment.' (Andrew Sanders, 25 January).
This is so demonstrably false, that the very stating of it takes my breath away. Shocking ignorance. Nothing about the SNP or the Independence Convention (cross party) campaign is anti-English – it's just positively Scottish. If anything, the boot is on the other foot.
I live in England, and I can assure you that the gristly meat of the British unionist campaign, as evidenced daily in the English press, is stewing and simmering in a cauldron of anti-Scottish sentiment, so offensive and abhorrent that I sometimes wonder if we do indeed live in a civilised society. The irony, of course, is the idea that whilst reviling and demeaning us all so much, these commentators and politicians seem actually to want to keep us in the union. Why? Answers on a postcard, please.
I could keep SR up to its neck in URL links to the English press, to articles and comments about Scotland that even the most ardent of Scottish unionists would find unutterably offensive. These diatribes are of course never printed in Scottish editions of British newspapers. If they were, Scotland's independence would be assured, tomorrow.
Jeremy Paxman's 'interview', and I use that word in jest, with Alex Salmond on BBC 2 Newsnight (24 January) was an illuminating example of the wild-eyed fear that is gripping the British establishment. It was the funniest thing I've watched on TV for a long time, and at the same time the most unsettling, as my admiration for the English took yet another visceral hit.
Whoever is advising the mainstream media and Westminster politicians is doing a really bad job, shoot-yourself-in-the-foot territory, or probably the head in the case of Paxman. If I were of a more conspiratorial, sneaky mind-set (who me?) I would have to countenance the notion that beneath all the unionist posturing, England really does want rid of Scotland. And who would gain from that, other than Scotland? Answers on a postcard, please, again.
I could give you a clue, if you need one. Alternatively, maybe they're all just plain stupid and ill-advised, these graceless, unionist talking-heads, both north and south of the border. Occam's razor says that's the more likely scenario.
As an SNP member, I should be pleased with Kenneth Roy's suggestion (26 January) that Labour's Johann Lamont appears to have given up the ghost, following her 'mind-numbing response' to Alex Salmond's referendum consultation announcement. But surely it is only but one signal, amongst many, that the Labour Party isn't up for the fight.
Yes, we have seen how senior Westminster-based Labour figures have taken a hands-off approach to the 'No' campaign, but much more important, much more, is the very obvious lack of interest their activists have displayed in getting involved in the referendum campaign.
The two previous referendum campaigns would have been very quiet, dull affairs had it not been for SNP people canvassing, leafleting and putting up posters. This lack of Labour involvement is, I suppose, understandable given the constitutional question is central to the SNP but not for Labour Party activists.
I just can't see traditional Labour people standing outside polling booths on referendum day or going round in cars pulling in voters to the booths. They may be telling pollsters they will vote no, they may even actually vote no, but it will be with little real political enthusiasm. Indeed, when push comes to shove in 2014, I believe a good percentage of Labour's workers will actually vote yes. They will be caught up in the excitement and enthusiasm for change, just like everyone else.
If the vote is decided by the campaign on the ground then the people of Scotland will undoubtedly deliver a decisive 'yes' vote.
As a moral philosopher of some note, Robin Downie still manages some howlers in his attempts to garb our first minister as a latter-day Wallace (14 January).Leave aside for the moment the notion of law-makers as lawbreakers. Disregard too the absurdity of a separatist administration peddling a line about 'advisory' referenda while a Tory PM offers the prospect of a legally unchallengeable referendum on independence.
It might have assisted the reader had Professor Downie expanded just a little more on some of the issues at play in MacCormick's case. While much referenced, Lord Cooper's oft-quoted dicta, genuflecting as it did towards a notion of popular sovereignty, was set out in a judgement refusing MacCormick's appeal. The court, for other reasons, upheld the submission that the Scottish courts had no authority to prevent the Queen being wrongly styled Queen Elizabeth II.
In non-democratic societies, the issues surrounding popular sovereignty versus a corrupt or oppressive executive or legislature are more readily resolved. We see the almost completely welcome results of such progress being played out now across North Africa. We can only cheer at the thought that Mugabe and Assad might fall next to people power. In developed democracies the issue becomes more complicated. Not least when one posits an untested and unmeasured popular will against the legitimate actings of a constitutionally legitimate and accountable parliament.
While our own nationalists repeatedly draw parallels with freedom struggles, elsewhere saner brains still ought to prevail. Let's be clear, there is no surge of popular sentiment in Scotland one way or another on the independence referendum despite the bluster of our first minister. We might jibe at a Tory PM sticking his oar into Scottish waters but he was given permission to do so by an Edinburgh administration which, solely for its own perceived partisan interests, had made clear its readiness to play fast and loose with important matters including gerrymandering the likely electorate, stage managing the questions posed and vesting oversight of the poll in a new electoral body accountable to the same administration. This isn't the politics of Mandela but it reeks of Mubarak.
Unlike devolution, it is far too early to say whether an independence referendum organised only by Holyrood is 'the settled will' of the Scottish people and not just a desired choice of some who mistake shouting for thinking. We already have a parliament vested with constitutional oversight of the governance of the UK, it is called the UK parliament. Apart from the SNP and Greens, no MSP was elected on an electoral platform declaring her intention to unravel those arrangements.
The SNP kept very quiet about independence in the last parliamentary elections and one suspects that Mr Salmond readily would have maintained an uncharacteristically Carthusian silence until mid-2014, had he been permitted. There is no one claiming that there would be any obstacles raised were a majority of the MPs from Scots constituencies (whom we elect, mandate and might remove) to decide they wished to withdraw and rework the terms of the union.
Were such an eventuality to arise or were Scots to make clear their demand for independence in the forthcoming referendum, we might then dust down MacCormick once again.
Robin Downie makes a fair point, but the technical issue appears to be that the legality of a referendum organised by the Scottish Parliament would be unchallengeable in any event provided Westminster lent it the 'right' to do so under Section 30 of the act which set up the Scottish Parliament. This is a 'reserved power', apparently, but as national referenda in the UK have always been consultative, its impact would almost certainly be entirely political as it is very unlikely to be legally binding (and Lord Hope would certainly be unwise to try to interfere in that).
The point that Alex Salmond has consistently made is that if the
principle of lending the indisputable legal authority under Section 30 to hold a referendum is not at issue, then Westminster cannot attach strings. Either Westminster is prepared to recognise the mandate of the overwhelming majority given to the SNP in the Scottish parliamentary election last year, under a much more proportional system than pertains at Westminster, or it is not. The SNP said in its manifesto that it would hold a referendum during its five-year term of office if elected.
Any possibility of a legal challenge can only be created by the coalition at Westminster seeking to dictate the terms of the referendum, that is, its content, supervision, organisation, timing and participation. If any aspects of arrangements made by Holyrood appeared to lack integrity then these could be identified and the result challenged by those opposing home rule beyond the proposals in the current Scotland Bill.
The sovereignty and right to self-determination of the Scottish people is recognised under international law anyway, while our 'Supreme Court' is a Westminster concoction only.