Scotland follows the path to independence again through the electoral system

Alex Salmond returns to the charge. The former Scottish prime minister is trying to set the pace for a new independence strategy after a decade of leading the homeland into a secessionist referendum, under terms negotiated with the British government. Unionism won a referendum in 2014, and since then London has consistently blocked the path of a second attempt to break up the UK in so-called “indiRef2”. The current leader of ALBA, a party with a limited parliamentary projection, proposes forming a “unity coalition” in favor of independence in the face of general elections to Westminster Parliament due in 2024.

The preamble to Salmond’s ballot proposal is based on a sought-after “legal opinion” from a prominent British lawyer, refuting arguments in a November 2022 UK Supreme Court ruling that deprives the Scottish Parliament of the power to legislate on a sovereign referendum. Lawyer and academic Robert McCorquodale, part of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, concludes that the UK’s highest court “erred” in denying the right of self-determination to the Scottish people and stresses that “separation is not prohibited under international law”.

The expert on separatist conflicts declares that a “unilateral declaration of independence” is valid for the purposes of international law, if it is adopted by a “clear majority” and does not appear in the Scottish Parliament, while “subject to the domestic legislation of the United Kingdom”.

“It is a very important opinion because it defeats the High Court’s argument that Scotland does not have a unilateral right to provide a path to self-determination and indicates a way to attract international support,” Salmond explains to this mediator. He has just presented the legal report in a Chamber of Parliament at Westminster, on a hot, muggy June afternoon, and hot flashes are getting on his nerves. “It is a principle of universal, non-selective application, a right enshrined by the Assembly of the United Nations,” he acknowledges.

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SNP critical moment

Salmond is seeking leadership at a critical juncture for his old party, the Scottish National Party, which he led for two decades and split from in 2018 amid a fiasco with allegations of harassment and sexual abuse not considered substantiated by an Edinburgh court for two years afterwards. . His successor Nicola Sturgeon is still under police investigation after his arrest four months after announcing her resignation from the leadership and head of self-government, in the context of allegations about managing the SNP’s finances, affecting her husband Peter Morell and other party leaders. .

Salmond sums up: “There has to be a political initiative and our plan is for a United Scottish Independence Alliance that would field one candidate per constituency in the UK general election”. Both Alba are MPs for Westminster, against 45 of the 59 Scottish seats held by the SNP, but some members back the proposal, which appears to be lopsided. Referring to the SNP’s difficulties, Joanna Cherry, the Edinburgh MP, wrote in The National: “We have nothing to lose…and that would give us a strong chance of defeating the unionist parties”.

“Westminster and the High Council have blocked the path of a referendum, which is our first choice. Scotland will not advance until we use elections to demand independence. That’s the obvious way,” agrees fellow Hebrides majority formation representative Angus MacNeil, before recalling that “Independence is more popular than the SNP.” The average of recent polls puts the support level for the SNP at 39%, three points lower than in February. , and support for independence at 48%.


The UK’s Supreme Court has denied the Scottish Parliament the power to legislate on a sovereign referendum in 2022

legal opinion

“Separation is not prohibited under international law,” says attorney McCorquodale.

In parallel, the party led by Hamza Yusuf has since March attracted 70% of voters who would vote “yes” in a referendum on sovereignty, compared to 84% of independents who supported the SNP in the 2021 regional election.

Yusuf tried to regain the initiative – as well as restore calm and domestic unity – at the Scottish National Party’s independence conference on Saturday in Dundee. It was the first direct intervention by Scotland’s “Muslim prime minister and representative of an ethnic minority,” he said, and he rallied ranks by promising an “election manifesto” whose opening line would call for an independent state.

The national president is finally betting on the electoral track as a platform to ratify the popular mandate to negotiate with the central government on the terms of division. Once the pro-independence majority at the polls has been consolidated, Yusuf’s executive publishes a “detailed document”, with drafts of legal positions regarding the division of assets, the transfer of powers, or, among other aspects, the rule of a “mutual respect” relationship between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. .

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