I SEE that Ruth Davidson has again changed her mind on the type of mandate the Scottish Parliament needs (in her eyes) to trigger a legal independence referendum. My conclusion is that the Scots Tories are constitutional chumps.

Why was indyref 1 held in September 2014? The answer is that a majority of the MSPs of the Scottish Parliament elected in 2011 were returned on a manifesto of holding an independence referendum. While the Treaty of Union of 1707 explicitly preserves such vital pre-Union Scottish institutions as the Presbyterian Church (and hence education) and Scots Law, the Union was clearly meant to create a new country, the United Kingdom, in “all time coming”.

Nonetheless, Scottish national identity lived on in the Union and from at least the time of Harold Wilson (and possibly earlier) it became settled UK constitutional convention that Scotland could leave the Union if the people of Scotland so decided.

From the 1970s until the advent of the Scottish Parliament, this decision to leave was to be expressed through a majority of Scottish MPs (Westminster). This was the only alternative open. The Iron Lady herself explicitly validated this thesis. After the advent of the Scottish Parliament, a decision to leave was to be reflected in a positive vote in a referendum demanded by a manifesto-mandated majority in the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish political analysts in my view (and I am thinking of nationalists as well as Unionists) fail to appreciate the seminal importance of the 2014 referendum. Here was the actual outworking of the crucial Scottish constitutional convention of the ultimate sovereignty of the Scottish people. At least half a century of Scottish and UK constitutional politics resulted in a cliffhanger vote which could well have ended a 300-year-old Union. Nationalists should recognise that very few multi-national states (I can think of only Canada) would facilitate a possible national secession in the manner of indyref1. No, not Spain, France or other “enlightened” EU countries. I was addressing a conference in the USA one week before the September referendum and everyone was astonished that the Scottish referendum was happening at all. Americans were thinking of 1861!

The language used by both sides in the 2014 referendum is also vital in retrospect. Both nationalists and Unionists repeatedly referred to Scotland as “our country”, this clearly implies that the UK is a type of “country of countries”. Scots and Scots alone would decide whether Scotland became independent.

The fundamental reality is that Scotland is not an independent sovereign country but is sovereign within the Union. That is the basis of our political system and our civic peace.

In the wake of the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections and then swiftly following Brexit vote, both Davidson and Mundell quite rightly opined that Westminster should not oppose a demand for a Section 30 order if the Scottish Parliament voted for it.

However, in March 2017 Theresa May came out with the confusing and incompetent response of “not yet”. “Not yet”

is not constitutional theory but constitutional vandalism. It makes no sense.

The Scots Tories then launched their 2017 campaign of “No to indyref2” which was attractive to voters as Sturgeon’s attempt to trigger indyref 2 in early 2017 was cack-handed in the midst of Brexit. Note that the SNP 2016 mandate for indyref 2 was permissive, not mandatory and the validity of the Greens’ mandate was questionable. In

the light of the huge losses in SNP votes and seats, Nicola Sturgeon acted to “reset” indyref2, without ever explaining the why and wherefore of the reset. Constitutional confusion reigned and reigns.

Subsequently, Davidson argued that no indyref2 could take place until the mid-twenties. Now she argues that there needs to be an explicit SNP majority in the Scottish Parliament in order for Westminster to concede a Section 30 order. This makes absolutely no sense. The point is that a mandated majority of the Scottish Parliament must demand an independence referendum. The Scottish Parliament must speak for Scotland on this

matter, not a discrete party. What if Labour were to back independence and the SNP formed a minority government? Would a hypothetical 90 MSPs (SNP plus Labour) voting for indyref2 not suffice? Of course they would.

The hapless Mundell is now arguing that Scotland is not a “partner” in Union but is only a “part” of the Union. What a departure from 2014! Scotland cannot be “sovereign“ in the Union if it is not a “partner” in the Union. It is not, however, an “equal partner” as in that case it would have the same number of MPs as England ..... (contrary to the Treaty of Union). Could we stop talking about “equal partners, pleeeeease?

Even for someone like me who is on the right rather than the left, the Scottish Conservatives are a clueless, negative, reactive group. What journals or websites reflect Scottish Conservative thinking? Only independence will revive a genuine Scottish political right.

William Ross