The Remedy for All that’s Wrong

Author: Sara Salyers

All That’s Wrong?

At the heart of the political, economic and social disaster unfolding around us is a broken political system. Anglo-Norman feudalism in modern clothing has given us a despotic and unaccountable government, political corruption, cronyism,  incompetence, privilege with impunity for a wealthy, powerful elite, government violation of the rule of law and government betrayal of the public trust.

Under this despotic system we, the people, have no guarantee whatever of our public rights, interests or needs, even those that are enshrined in law. And we have no mechanism for redress. That is why we can fairly describe this supposed democracy as despotism. We may vote for a different party every five years but this is no more than a different flavour of the same poison.

There is no genuine public input on policies that massively impact the lives of millions, (covid, austerity, privatisation of the NHS and once publicly owned utilities and many more). Instead, government policies are based on information provided by tiny, self-selecting special interests. This ‘information’ is received by an even tinier number of elected politicians and political appointees. Behind closed doors critically important deals and decisions are based on advocacy or information from minority interests, in the interests of a minority. And all too often, to the detriment of the many. The biggest resource of all, the talents, skills, experience, knowledge and imagination which reside in the population at large, is ignored. Public input that might create real and creative solutions and provide the best possible policies in the public interest, is either never developed, never heard and never considered.

No truthful and objective public media exists to throw light on these shadowy deals and decisions. Instead we have little more than government or corporate What need is there for an informed public when there is no desire among politicians for accountability, public participation or any other form of public ‘interference? And the kind of journalism that exposes political wrongdoing is punished as a crime.

We have the highest taxes and most unfair tax system in Europe, a system to serve the already wealthy while killing the poorest and most disadvantaged. Special tax exemptions are made by the government for ‘friends in high places’.  (Special arrangements for those who moved the job market to foreign countries where labour is cheap by virtue of the inhuman working terms and conditions!)

Rampant profiteering, especially in commodities that people require to live: food, energy, housing, is fuelling a level of poverty not seen since the first half of the 20th century.

There is no longer an absolute right to justice when accused or access to justice when wronged.

The resources of the land, resources owned in perpetuity by the people of Scotland, not the monarch or the state, are exploited to benefit the few and to enrich the UK treasury. There is no ‘fair share’ with the owners of the public assets that should fund our Scottish, public security.

This list is by no means exhaustive.

How Do We Change All this for Scotland?

  • Vote for a different and better party?

That’s been working well for us, hasn’t it?

  • Independence?

How do we know with absolute certainty that independence will change all this? What exactly will guarantee to the people of Scotland that none of these things will plague an independent nation?

Must we simply trust the politicians who will decide the shape of the new Scotland?

There are as many visions of the new Scotland as there are. Scots dreaming of independence. Whose idea of the new nation will prevail?

Will the public be involved in designing any new constitution? How? Will the elected representatives who consider themselves the depositories of our sovereignty decide? Will they present their ideas or ours to vote on?

What constitution will prevail? Will we borrow our fundamental principles from nations whose constitutions are far newer than our own? Will anyone even bother with the autochthonous, (original, indigenous), constitution forged over almost a thousand years?

How, in a colonised Scotland, will we ever break out of the mental chains that trammel us into a foreign, English constitutional mindset or ever restore our own, buried but uniquely Scottish approach to social and political life?

  • Restoration/decolonisation?

This means reclaiming the self-determination to which we are constitutionally entitled under Scots law, the Treaty of Union and the Acts of Union. Westminster has already recognised that the people of Scotland have the right to whatever kind of political system we might imagine, design and choose. In 2018 it passed the (non-binding) SNP motion referencing the 1989 Claim of Right (which reasserted the 1689 Claim of Right Act):

That this House endorses the principles of the Claim of Right for Scotland, agreed by the Scottish Constitutional Convention in 1989 and by the Scottish Parliament in 2012, and therefore acknowledges the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs.

While it has accepted the principle, its contradiction of the English principle of parliamentary sovereign notwithstanding, Westminster still refuses to allow the sovereign rights of the Scots to be applied in practice. And there is no mechanism by which our Scottish politicians can force the issue, even if they wanted to, nor any by which the people can exercise their authority over the government.

But where there is a standing consitutional principle it is surely possible to create the mechanism, a task no more complicated than creating a devolved parliament.

How about?

  • A clear and enforceable constitutional compact between the sovereign people of the nation and the government to whom their power is loaned?

Imagine what Scotland might be like right now if we had a constitutional compact guaranteeing the common good, equitable taxation, no behind closed doors deals to favour the wealthy, no special legal privileges for the already privileged, no abuse of the law by corrupt politicians, fairness under the law and an equal right to justice for all, the right to protest, no profiteering, protected privacy, freedom of information and more.

We do. It is summarised in the Claim of Right Act 1689, woven through Scots law. And ignored.

Above all imagine that the people had a direct and enforceable method of redress against any government that violated the rule of law or the terms of the constitutional compact. A means of sacking a lawless, oppressive and corrupt government such as the one in power in Westminster today.

We did and we can do so again.

Restoring the force of the Scottish constitutional compact and the provision for enforcement is the ultimate goal of Salvo, the Liberation Movement and its eventual representative body, the Scottish National Congress.

  • A multicameral system where the legislative body (parliament) exercises the power to govern in co-operation with:
  • a representative public body tasked with protecting and managing the public interest, (common good assets and interests) and
  • a representative, public body acting as an ‘overseer’, tasked with protecting and enforcing the constitutional rights and freedoms of the people

Sound a bit radical? By 1689 alongside the parliament in Scotland,  (albeit in the teeth of a protracted royal invasion of the Scottish constitution), there existed multiple conventions and committees. Most important of these were the Convention of the Estates (Assembly of the Communities) and the Burgh Assembly (composed of representatives of the shires and Burghs).

Local burghs and shires elected representatives to the Burgh Assembly. This Assembly reported back on parliamentary proposals and then formulated and forwarded their responses to the parliament. The Assembly also drafted legislation for parliament on issues pertaining to the common good. (A bit like a system of citizens’ assemblies but a system with direct input to the legislature.)

The Convention of the Estates also drafted legislation. It prevented unfair taxation, oversaw many international agreements and took over in the absence of a legitimate parliament. In modern terms we can imagine this body as one that upholds the sovereign rights and interests of the people who lend the power of government to their elected representatives.

If we are indeed a sovereign people, with the “right to decide the form of government best suited to our needs”, then this system, updated and tailored for a modern, progressive and politically independent Scotland is, at the very least, one of the options on which we are entitled to decide. And such a system of government has unique benefits.

It represents a restoration of our colonised, Scottish identity, a truly Scottish reform of a corrupt and broken system long past its ‘sell by’ date and it is a potentially inspirational model for a world struggling with the same, disastrous effects of unaccountable, top down power and privileged corruption as those we see in Scotland.

We can have anything we want. That is the meaning of determining ‘the form of government’ best suited to our needs. Any form of government we want, not just the kind of government our politicians are willing to offer us. Why would we want anything less than an authentically Scottish system and an authentic Scottish constitution?

Only Sovereignty Makes it Possible

Sovereignty means nothing less than absolute authority within a nation.

In any state, sovereignty is assigned to the person, body, or institution that has the ultimate authority over other people in order to establish a law or change any existing law (Wikipedia)

In England, this sovereignty resides with the parliament which is sovereign over the people. In Scotland, it resides with the people who are sovereign over all other authorities.

Whilst this is accepted and acknowledged by an “elite” handful of Scots, it is not widely understood by the vast majority of voters in Scotland… Otherwise Scotland would have recalled its Parliament a long time ago and we would be a self-governing democracy today.

Sovereignty is supreme and unrestricted legitimate authority independent of any outside influence. … In Scotland the people are the supreme constitutional authority over Monarch and Parliament. The single and ultimate source of all parliamentary and governmental power is the people, represented by a qualified and registered electorate.

The Scottish elected representatives – irrespective of their own views – are therefore bound by the supremacy of the expressed will of the majority of voters in Scotland. That sovereign will takes precedence over any other concept, form or notion of outside authority or influence, including the subordinate authorities Government, Parliament, Judiciary or Head of State.[1]

The British establishment has produced very many and varied arguments to justify the imposition of an English constitution and an English political system on the Scots over the centuries. Scots law, however, (which includes the constitution), is reserved in Scotland under the Treaty of Union while the Claim of Right, which expresses the authority of the people over monarch, government and courts, is guaranteed as a condition of the Union. But the Scottish constitution, as distinct from the English/UK constitution, is neither taught to nor studied by students of law. The people of Scotland, (including their elected representatives), remain largely unaware of its existence, let alone its scope and meaning. 

As a result, the power and freedom available to us as a people and inherent in the legal protections which underpin the very existence of the Union, are simply ignored. Indeed, there is often a marked resistance among politicians to recognise that the act of being elected does not transfer to them the sovereignty of those who elected them!  This political resistance creates an unnecessary road block across an otherwise straightforward and internationally lawful route to Scottish self-determination. 

Sovereignty of the People of Scotland

Let’s examine the implications of a, (supposedly), transferable sovereignty.

If, when we elect a politician, we transfer our sovereignty, (absolute authority) to that politician, then sovereignty is reduced to the parliamentary level. (Scottish and English politicians embody the sovereignty of their nations alike.) When the vote of the Scottish politicians is defeated by the vote of the English politicians the battle is over, fought and lost.

But if, (as is actually the case), the Scottish politicians arrive in parliament as ambassadors or delegates, the vote of a foreign power cannot overrule the authority of the people they represent. If the people of Scotland retain sovereignty at all times with an authority that stands above that of all their elected representatives, then the Westminster parliament is subordinate in Scotland and has no authority to act against the will and the interests of the people. It really is that simple. (Editor comment. This is vitally important)

That the UK government has buried, ignored and distorted the truth makes it no less the truth. That there exists in Scotland today no vehicle by which to enforce the authority of the people over “the subordinate authorities Government, Parliament, Judiciary or Head of State”,  does not alter the right of the people to create that vehicle.

This is where Salvo and the Liberation Movement come in, the first to publicise our true constitutional position and the second to restore the rightful authority of the people:

America required revolution to establish its right to self-determination. Scotland merely requires its elected representatives to recall its adjourned Parliament. Although Scotland’s political parties are politically divided, there is no sound reason why these same parties should not be united by a common purpose. Unified under Scottish constitutional law by (a) common purpose … Scotland’s representatives could achieve a common cause at any time they so choose.

If such fail, then the people have the right to call upon others to recall the said Parliament. This may require the creation of Scotland’s first National Congress. The purpose of such a Congress would be to restore constitutional law and order to Scotland … to put the will of the people into effect, if necessary without further reference to Westminster[2].

The message of both Salvo and the Liberation Movement is clear. If our politicians cannot or will not rescue our people from the disaster now unfolding, then the people can and will rescue themselves. And we can do so in the certainty of international recognition of both Scots law and international principle.

Canon Kenyon Wright once famously said:

What if that other voice we all know so well responds by saying, ‘We say no, and we are the state’? Well, we say yes – and we are the people.

We can now add, ‘And by the way, we are taking back our power’.

Sara Salyers

Sara Salyers

Former television journalist and award-winning researcher working for clients including C4, BBC and party political broadcasts for the SNP. College teacher in Fife and the USA. Published an academic paper on the effects of the colonial approach to teaching English. Responsible for research, communication and publicity for Salvo