The SNP have played an ace card when using their allocated Opposition Day debate. Standing order number 36 was agreed and resolved without contention late last night in the House of Commons. This was a motion proposed for debate by Ian Blackford the SNP MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber and leader of the SNP group at Westminster.
What was the motion?
“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.”
In a nutshell, the SNP were looking for unambiguous admission from Westminster that Scotland has the absolute right to determine its own political future based on the will of the Scottish people.
Why is this important?
There has been a lot of talk since September 2014 (including from Unionist politicians) that Westminster holds a constitutional overlordship when it comes to Scotland. Meaning for example, Scotland can only have a meaningful and legal independence referendum if its agreed through a Section 30 order with the UK government as happened in 2014. It means that all of the ‘once in a generation and once in a lifetime’ bleating from unionists means absolutely nothing and that Scotland has the right to determine its future unilaterally based on the will of the people.
What’s the history?
1320 – The Scottish right to self determination based on the people being sovereign is an ancient political principle in Scotland and was first officially document in the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.
1689 – Aspects of The ‘Claim of Right’ act of 1689 were written into Scottish constitutional law effectively ensuring no royal prerogative would sit above the Scottish Parliament. Especially interesting as Scotland is part of a UK that where all legislation gains royal assent, the exact opposite of our constitutional traditions. It’s worth noting though that the claim of right is not so much a legal standpoint as an accepted constitutional position in Scotland.
1989 – On the journey towards devolution and a Scottish Parliament the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly crafted a new version which was signed by the vast majority of Scottish politicians from all parties as well as churches, trade unions and other civic bodies, which read:
“We, gathered as the Scottish Constitutional Convention, do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs, and do hereby declare and pledge that in all our actions and deliberations their interests shall be paramount.
We further declare and pledge that our actions and deliberations shall be directed to the following ends:
To agree a scheme for an Assembly or Parliament for Scotland;
To mobilise Scottish opinion and ensure the approval of the Scottish people for that scheme; and
To assert the right of the Scottish people to secure implementation of that scheme.”
2012 – The Claim of Right was debated in the Scottish Parliament to allow MSPs to re-endorse the claims of the sovereignty of the Scottish people. At the time the then Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called on all parties to “recommit” to its principles.
2018 – Westminster debates Scotland’s Claim of Right and the motion is resolved unopposed. The full debate can be found at Hansard and is an interesting and highly entertaining read if you have a little (ok, a lot of) time.
Let us commend the efforts of the SNP MPs at Westminster for maintaining a high momentum following the walkout and subsequent disruption tactics coincidentally during some football match. This clears the way for the next independence referendum. Its a political masterstroke and removes all debate around who calls the shots when it comes to Scotland’s political future – it’s the Scottish people.