Alba offers no alternative

It seems that those hoping for some dramatic developments on the constitutional front arising from the upcoming Alba Party conference are going to be sorely disappointed. Of course, they would not be developments in the sense of something meaningful actually happening. Alba has no clout. The party has no leverage of any kind. No power. Very little influence. But there might have been something to liven up the news. Something that might refresh the flagging Yes movement. Something activists could get their campaigning teeth into. But no. If the draft agenda revealed in The National is any evidence, the only ones who might get excited are the Salmond/Alba faithful who hail anything the party does as an act of stunning political genius that is going to fundamentally alter the entire constitutional debate. Then nothing happens.

According to The National, the following is the gist of a resolution on independence.

If the British Government refuses to engage, or even accept a referendum process, then we propose a cross party campaign of parliamentary action, peaceful popular mobilisation, legal moves in the domestic and international courts and diplomatic initiatives to enforce the sovereign will of the Scottish people.

Nope! The earth didn’t move for me either. I suppose congratulations are in order given how deftly the drafters of this resolution have managed to avoid actually mentioning Section 30. All but the Salmond/Alba faithful will recognise that what the resolution is referring to is the Section 30 process. The same process that Nicola Sturgeon is wedded to. The process which invites interference from the British state in Scotland’s exercise of our right of self-determination.The process which gifts the British state such influence over the form and conduct of a new referendum as to allow them to sabotage it. The process which compromises the sovereignty of Scotland’s people; trading that sovereignty for patently fraudulent promises of honest cooperation from the British political elite.

Alba Party attempts to sell itself as an ‘alternative’ to the SNP. This would be a ridiculous claim anyway given that only the Scottish Government can initiate the restoration of Scotland’s independence; that this action is needed urgently; and that Alba Party cannot possibly become the party of government in less than five years – by which time the British Nationalists will have crushed Scotland’s democracy, and more realistically is likely to take 15 to 30 years to be where the SNP is now. The ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ attaching to that possibility are legion.

Assuming Alba could become the party of government in time to save Scotland, however, what difference would that make? If their approach to the constitutional is as identical to that of the SNP as is implied by the above resolution, how could that possibly take Scotland’s cause any further forward? Alba Party is clearly operating with exactly the same mindset as the SNP leadership. A mindset which gives primacy to the British parliament and regards independence as being in the gift of the British state. Or, at the very least, as something which can only be achieved with the consent and cooperation of the British establishment.

The harsh truth that Salmond/Alba devotees will surely reject with all the very considerable vacuity and vitriol they can muster is that Alba Party is no more ready to sign up to the Manifesto for Independence than the SNP. What the resolution tells us is that if Alba were in government now what they would be doing on the constitutional issue would be indistinguishable from what is being done now by the SNP/Scottish Government. What we see encapsulated in that resolution is the same pathetic timorousness as characterises the Sturgeon doctrine. The same unwavering respect for a system that is inherently contemptuous of Scotland. The same embracing of the structures of power, privilege and status that constitute the British state. The same commitment to a process which cannot possibly deliver a free and fair exercise of our right of self-determination and therefore cannot possibly lead to a true restoration of Scotland’s independence. The same recipe for failure – even if there is an attempt to make the dish.

Here’s another extract from that resolution.

Alba demands that the Scottish Parliament instruct the Government to commence independence negotiations with Westminster.

There’s a couple of immediately obvious problems with this ‘”demand” – apart from the fact that Alba Party has neither clout nor leverage and so will be ignored by the SNP/Scottish Government. In the first place, the SNP/Scottish Government has no mandate to enter into such negotiations. It may be true that “independence is an overwhelming and immediate priority for the people of Scotland”. But this was not reflected in the SNP’s election manifesto. We (the Yes movement) had an opportunity to ‘persuade’ the SNP to adopt the Manifesto for Independence, but most of the Yes movement couldn’t be bothered with such an onerous task. And/or they were too preoccupied with side-projects – such as Alba Party – to focus on the essentials of the independence campaign.

Quite apart from this lack of a mandate, and arguably more importantly, Scotland is not yet an independent nation. Our independence has not yet been restored. What Alba is demanding is that the Scottish Government should enter into negotiations with the British government while the Scottish Government remains merely an adjunct to the British executive. If these negotiations concern a referendum then we have to ask why the the British government should have any role whatever in Scotland’s exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination. They have no right to any role whatever. So why does Alba Party want to give them a role? The same question I’ve been asking of Sturgeon’s approach to the constitutional issue for several years.

If the proposed negotiations relate to an independence settlement then how can the Scottish Government, as a devolved administration, enter into such negotiations on an equal footing with the government from which it is devolved? A new constitutional settlement that is democratically legitimate and therefore acceptable to the people of Scotland cannot possibly be negotiated with a state which wields the power that the Union afford the British state. The power to dictate the terms of that settlement. Just as the British state dictated the terms of the devolution settlement.

What is needed is bold, assertive, imaginative action. Action that steps outside the entrapping mesh of legal and constitutional measures designed to ensure the preservation of the Union. There is no route to independence with that legislative and constitutional framework. The authority of the British state must be repudiated before Scotland’s Government can act as the government of a sovereign nation. The confrontation that this necessarily implies cannot be avoided. It has to be faced.

Power is not given. Real power is only ever taken. If the powers of an independent nation are to be restored to Scotland that are currently withheld by England-as-Britain under the terms of an archaic, anomalous and grotesquely asymmetric political union, there is a clear process to be followed -Repudiate the Section 30 process

  • Assert the primacy of the Scottish Parliament
  • Recall MPs to join a National Convention
  • Propose dissolution of Union subject to referendum
  • Call referendum made and managed in Scotland

When Alba Party starts talking the language of a party prepared to do what is required to restore Scotland’s independence I’ll maybe start taking them a bit more seriously.