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Yesterday the Daily Mail broke the story that the British government is to cancel Nicola Sturgeon’s face to face meetings with the Prime Minister. According to the paper’s source – a government minister – this is because these normal and routine meetings between the Prime Minister and the Scottish First Minister give too much credence to the head of the Scottish government, giving the impression that Nicola Sturgeon is an “international leader” rather than the head of a devolved government. Now instead of briefings with the British premier Ms Sturgeon is to deal with David Mundell, the Secretary of State for Scotland, who – it is felt – “is at the same level as her.”
Our position is that this is an outrage, a blatant insult to the dignity of our elected First Minister and a sign of the contempt in which the current British administration holds devolution. We can be under no illusions about the implications of this decision. The suggestion that the office of First Minister is beneath the status of an international leader is a fundamental contradiction of the constitutional arrangement by which we are subjugated to the British state. The term inter-national, coined by the jurist Jeremy Bentham in 1780, simply means “between nations.” Degrading the office of First Minister of Scotland – elected by the sovereign will of the Scottish people – to anything less than an international leader, considering neither Theresa May nor David Mundell have a democratic mandate in Scotland, is nothing less than a denial of the nationhood of Scotland.
This odious flunky, an embarrassment to his nation, is to be imposed on Scotland as an equal to the person we have elected to represent us in our national government.
It is the First Minister of Scotland and not the Secretary of State who is the Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland, the symbol and instrument or royal power in this country. According to the Royal Warrant issued in June 1999, taking into account the devolution of powers from Westminster to Scotland and the creation of the office of First Minister, the holder of the First Ministerial office in Scotland outranks the Secretary of State. As the First Minister is outranked – in terms of governance – only by Mrs Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, members of her family, and her appointed Prime Minister, limiting Ms Sturgeon to communication with the British government through a mere secretarial functionary of the state can be understood only as an attempt to humiliate both the First Minister and Scottish democracy.
In the person of this imperial lackey, David Mundell, we have a man who refused – as an elected member of the Westminster parliament – to stand up for his constituents and his country when the British government used £1.5bn of our money to bribe the openly anti-Catholic sectarian and racist DUP into supporting Mrs May’s all but rejected Conservative Party. This odious flunky, an embarrassment to his nation, is to be imposed on Scotland as an equal to the person we have elected to represent us in our national government.
Such a brazen effort to downgrade our First Minister’s relationship with the British state further implies a more comprehensive assault on devolution itself. In fact the groundwork for this siege has already been laid in the draft of the so-called Great Repeal bill. It is the intention of the British government to transfer or repatriate powers from the European Union’s acquis communautaire into UK law by mediaeval fiat – that is the “Henry VIII clauses” or the 1539 Statute of Proclamations granting the government the unlimited and unquestionable right to legislate by dictatorial decree – thus by-passing Scotland as it claims all these powers for London.
As many of these legislative powers a pertinent to the devolved government of Scotland, our government will find itself further restricted by London rule – paving the way for the effective supersession of Holyrood and thus undermining its relevance and necessity. What we have in this – in the downgrading of the office of First Minister and the restriction of the Edinburgh parliament – is the reversal of Scottish devolution by stealth.
Post-Brexit Britain; politically weak, socially divided, and without any formal trade agreements with twenty-seven European states, cannot afford to lose Scotland and its resources without facing the real possibility of terminal collapse. It is inconceivable that the European Union would tolerate its most powerful financial centre remaining in the City of London after the finalisation of the Article 50 negotiations. No economic union will run the risk of having its financial security jeopardised by having its primary sorting house outside its jurisdiction. London’s last hope, as spelt out by Theresa May in her now infamous Lancaster House address, is to become a tax haven.
Post-Brexit Britain; politically weak, socially divided, and without any formal trade agreements with twenty-seven European states, cannot afford to lose Scotland and its resources without facing the real possibility of terminal collapse.
Much as it was during the financialisation of London under the neoliberal designs of Margaret Thatcher and her éminence grise Keith Joseph in the 1970s and 80s, this new plan for London will require the black gold it thieves from Scotland. It is for this reason, primarily, that the British strategy is to hold Scotland at all cost. Devolution and the growing strength of Scotland’s national aspirations have proven to be no small threat to the ambitions of the English state. After Brexit the British government has no option but to set its sights firmly on Scotland. We are living in the last days of Scotland’s devolved government, and it will end with either the reintroduction of direct rule from London or independence.
In the meantime in Scotland we are now faced with the urgent task of resisting these threats. They are beyond doubt existential. We must begin to flex our muscles, as we are far from powerless. The English exchequer benefits from the sale of English produce in Scotland and from the patronage of stores in our country headquartered south of the border. We frequently holiday in England and spend our money there. All of these things are economic choices we make when we can choose to do other things with our money. We can make the conscious decision to buy things in Scotland that are produced in Scotland, and from shops and retail stores headquartered in Scotland. We can decide not to visit England and spend our money there. When visiting family and friends in England or there on business we can choose to spend less. What is clear is that we must do something.
The Butterfly Rebellion