The energy is rising, the momentum is growing. Less than a week after Scotland’s greatest-ever demonstration of support for independence, when more than 100,000 people marched in pouring rain through Edinburgh, from Holyrood to the Meadows, the following Declaration for Independence was published yesterday over the signatures of many Scottish cultural figures.
“I lay upon you as a sacred duty that you agitate until … once again Scotland takes her place as an independent nationality in the family of nations,” Don Roberto said at a gathering in King’s Park Stirling, in June 1930.
He would certainly be well pleased with the new declaration, which was initiated by the novelist James Robertson and journalist Ruth Wishart, and he would concur with every word of it. He would be heartened, perhaps even amazed, at the growing appetite for independence across all sectors of Scottish society. He might even be tickled to find his great-great nephew among the declaration’s signatories.
A Declaration for Independence, 2019
It is the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine
the form of government best suited to their needs
(A Claim of Right for Scotland, 1989)
Guiding principles for a new and better Scotland
- It is the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs, now and in the future. In all political deliberations, decisions and actions their interests should be paramount.
- Scotland should be an open and democratic society in which no individual is excluded, oppressed or discriminated against on account of their race, colour, faith, origin or place of birth, physical or mental capacity, sex, sexuality, gender or language.
- Scotland should have a written constitution which clearly lays out the rights of its citizens, the country’s system of government and the relationships that exist between government, its instruments and powers and the rights of individual citizens.
- Scotland should take its place as an independent country on the world stage, free to join international organisations and alliances for purposes of trade and commerce, and for the protection and care of the planet’s natural environment, without which the human race cannot survive.
- Scotland should uphold internationally acknowledged values of non-aggression and self-defence, and should refuse to maintain, stock or use, for itself or on behalf of any other power or government, chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction.
- There should be clear separation of the powers of the Scottish parliament and government (the executive). The judiciary should be completely independent of government.
- Independence will provide an opportunity to review and, where necessary, change the systems of both national and local government, in order to make them more accountable to the people and more beneficial to their needs.
- Ownership of land, property and natural resources should be subject to open and democratic scrutiny. The ability of communities, both rural and urban, to own the land in and on which they exist should be enhanced and extended. There should be total transparency in the way property in Scotland is bought, sold or possessed.
- Freedom of speech and action, and the freedom to work, create, buy, sell and do business should adhere to principles of environmental and communal sustainability and responsibility. Profit and economic growth should not be pursued at the expense of the wellbeing of the people or their habitat or that of other people or nations.
- We affirm the values of care, kindness, neighbourliness and generosity of spirit in all our dealings. Such values are the foundation stones of a fair, free and open society where all citizens have the opportunities to lead the best, most fulfilling lives they can.
- It is our belief that the best option now open to the Scottish people is for Scotland to become an independent country.
- The alternative is to accept that Scotland’s fate would remain in the hands of others and that the Scottish people would relinquish their right to decide their own destiny.
Iain Anderson, broadcaster
Peter Arnott, playwright
Neal Ascherson, journalist and writerA
ly Bain, musician
Margaret Bennett, folklorist and singer
Robert Black QC, Professor Emeritus of Scots Law
Christine Borland, visual artist
Stuart Braithwaite, musician
Calum Colvin, visual artist
Roddy Buchanan, visual artist
Stuart Cosgrove, writer and broadcaster
Brian Cox, actor
Robert Crawford, writer
Sir Tom Devine, Professor Emeritus of Scottish History
Lari Don, writer
Jenni Fagan, writer
Rt. Rev. Richard Holloway, writer and broadcaster
Robert Hodgens, musician
Kathleen Jamie, poet and writer
Jamie Jauncey, writer
A.L. Kennedy, writer
Liz Lochhead, poet, playwright, former Makar
Val McDermid, writer
Jamie MacDougall, singer and broadcaster
Lorraine Mackintosh, actor and singer
Dr. Dolina Maclennan, writer and broadcaster
Aonghas MacNeacail, poet and broadcaster
Dr. Ann Matheson, literary historian
Karen Matheson, singer
Alexander Moffat, artist
Jemma Neville, author
Andrew O’Hagan, writer
Aidan O’Rourke, musician and composer
Don Paterson, poet
Karine Polwart, musician and writer
Eddi Reader, singer
Prof. Alan Riach, poet and academicJ
ames Robertson, writer
Donald Shaw, musician, composer and producer
Ross Sinclair, visual artist
Donald Smith, storyteller
Elaine C. Smith, actor
Alan Spence, writer
Will Storrar, minister and academic
Gerda Stevenson, writer and actor
Sheena Wellington, singer
Prof. Gary West, musician and broadcaster
Ruth Wishart, journalist and broadcaster
In the 2014 independence referendum, 55% of the Scottish people rejected the proposition that Scotland should be an independent country.
Since then, especially since the 2016 referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, the negative consequences of the 2014 result have become stark. (62% of Scots voted to Remain in the EU.)
Brexit demonstrated that while Scotland remains in the UK, its people’s right to determine their own political future can always be overruled by another country with a population ten times greater.
It is abundantly clear that the UK Government considers the desire of a majority of the Scottish people to remain citizens of the EU as irrelevant.
In these circumstances, it is completely reasonable that the Scottish people should revisit the question of independence.
And, given the predicted social and economic damage of Brexit in any form, the Scottish people should be able to vote again as a matter of urgency.
To deny that right is to deny the fundamental democratic principle of the Claim of Right for Scotland (1989) subsequently endorsed by the Scottish Parliament (in 2012) and by the House of Commons (in 2018).
The Scottish people’s right to determine their future should not be frustrated or denied by the UK Government or any other body.
Excellent Jamie, you are in good company and the message is both comprehensive and succint.
I hope the book on Don Roberto is progressing at speed. A contemporary take on him would be a boon to the Independence community. Sorry we missed you on Saturday.
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” The judiciary should be completely independent of government.”
How may we achieve that? An electoral route has been tried in the USA and brings, ahem, mixed results.
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It’s an existing principle which has been amply demonstrated by both the Court of Session in Edinburgh and the Supreme Court in London over recent weeks.
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Look, I am not trying to be difficult, I am trying to test out your idea. And mine too.
In what way is either the Court of Session or the Supreme Court free from the sort of intervention that we see, over time, in the US Supreme Court? What protects us from a movement in the Courts opinions from the left to the right or vice versa?
I am not at all convinced – persuade me otherwise – that the UK’s legal institutions are immunised from political interference. I’d concede, not in the short term perhaps, but in the medium and longer term?
Thanks for engaging. This is, frankly, a very important issue that gets little or no debate.
As one of the drafters of the Declaration, I am really pleased to see you picking up on this point, which has not been given much attention. I don’t know the answer to your question (‘How do we achieve that [judicial independence]?’) but it absolutely needs to be discussed. Jamie is right that the principle exists but the principle, in my view, is not sufficiently protected because we don’t have a written constitution. Having said that, the checks and balances of the U.S. constitution work up to a point, but it too is a flawed system. Perfection is no doubt impossible, but we need something better than what we have at present. A good start would be to look at the constitutions of other countries and also to refer to our own long legal history. I am very uncomfortable, for example, about the Lord Advocate being a member of the Scottish Government. Of course the country’s senior prosecutor must engage with and give advice to government, but it seems to me quite wrong that that role should be politicised as it has been for centuries, both when Scotland was previously independent and since the Union. These are important questions and we need to have an open and honest public discussion about how to resolve them.