3

A Petition by pro-independence association, Forward as One has now been formally lodged with the Scottish Parliamentary Petitions Committee.

The petition (PE1700), which has garnered over 1025 signatures on the Scottish Parliament site plus another 4137 signatures offline has been specifically worded to remain within current steps being taken by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament.

Commenting for Forward as One, Convener Martin Keatings said:

“Like 60+ per cent of the Scottish population, I voted to remain in the European Union, not just because of the enormous issues it would cause for Scotland but also because I knew that the Conservatives at Westminster would use the opportunity to impose a harder right-wing agenda. This was a prediction based on the empirical evidence of the time which has now come to fruition.

Not only have the Conservative Party failed to deliver on the promises of the 2014 referendum but over the past 2 years, in consort with their allies in the DUP, they have created a constitutional nightmare, which is clearly the political equivalent of a trojan horse.

We’ve seen a consistent failure to engage with the devolved administrations despite promises by the Prime Minister to engage fully. We have seen almost all the amendments put forward by representatives of devolved parties voted down. We’ve seen a Brexit bill that went through with no report stage and no third reading and the last time that happened was the passing of the Defence of the Realm Act in 1914 which took us into World War 1.

We have provisions in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act which are specifically targeted to allow ministers, without parliamentary scrutiny to amend up to 1000 laws. We have a Prime Minister who has consistently stated since she was Home Secretary that she wishes to pull us out of the European Convention on Human Rights, pull us out of the European Court of Justice and scrap the Human Rights Act. We’re facing a situation where the Tories, without oversight will declare themselves as sole arbiters of our fundamental rights and freedoms.

We have a Conservative Party in total chaos, a Labour Party who couldn’t mount an effective opposition if aliens were to abduct the entire Tory Party, mass resignations, a Tory party controlled by the crazies with vested interests and to top it all off a Brexit negotiator who wants a no-deal scenario. Then we have Conservative and Labour MP’s who represent pro-EU constituencies who should be seeking to mitigate Brexit on behalf of those constituents but are instead supplementing their own pro-Brexit opinions for that of their constituents.

Then we have the retention of powers which should come back to Scotland because they form part of devolved competencies giving the Tories at Westminster the ability to undermine the Scottish Parliament and devolution. We saw with Thatcher how much damage they can do in a single day, let alone 7 years and now we have certain other conservative countries who know that the UK is in an extremely vulnerable position rubbing their hands with glee at the possibility of carving up our public services and privatising them.

If Scotland is to protect itself from what the Tories will be able to do after Brexit we must act quickly, the only choice we have is independence. We must vote for that independence before we leave the European Union because there is a clear position that if we have that vote, the European Council would allow Scotland to renegotiate to stay in the EU under Article 48 of the Lisbon Treaty, a position which is perfectly reasonable and would prevent us from having to unwind and re-apply, thereby protecting Scottish citizens in Europe and European citizens here in Scotland. However, we must do that before the completion of Brexit if we are to ensure that we have a route of enforcement which supersedes the British Courts, in case such enforcement would be necessary.

The petition we have lodged ticks all the boxes. It stays true to the SNP’s promise of a say on our constitutional future because it asks for the Section 30 order to hold a second referendum before the end of the Article 50 period which would be “when the terms of Brexit are known”. It also means that if the Scottish Government asks for it and Westminster refuses, we would know the exact position of Westminster allowing us to make the decision of whether we should hold a consultative poll which would be within the Scottish Parliaments remit without Westminster consent. It would also show Westminster to be the undemocratic institution that it is.

If they were by some miracle to grant the Section 30 order, it would allow the Scottish Government to fully legislate for the franchise and hold the poll before the end of the Article 50 period. Scottish Assets, forming part of any deal between the EU and the UK would mean that the deal would no longer be available and that would ultimately open the door to an extension of the article 50 period for the UK government to re-negotiate while Scotland takes the opportunity to renegotiate under Article 48 to remain. This would also put Scotland in a very strong bargaining position with the UK considering that it is likely they would access the EU markets through their closest neighbour who is still in the EU.

But to do all of this, Scotland must hold its vote before the end of the Article 50 negotiating period and it must make an application to the EU for Article 48 negotiations or indeed for expedited application negotiations in the worst case scenario. The European Council has already signalled that it would be willing to do this, but only on the condition that Scotland had voted for and was able to negotiate as a high contracting party, this can only happen after a yes vote.

This petition ticks all the boxes, it simply demands the fulfilment of a promise made to the electorate while not stepping on the political steps which must be taken, nor on the current progression of constitutional matters and exchanges which have direct baring on the question of Independence.

As for stepping on Brexit, well the entire point is to try and save Scotland from it. We have one chance to get this right, or we will find ourselves in Right Wing Tory Brexit Britain which I think is probably the 5 scariest words in the English language when you put them together. As for those who would decry a second independence referendum I would remind them that the original wording of the Edinburgh Agreement in 2012 stipulated that the referendum be conducted so as to command the confidence of parliaments, government and people.

The politicians like to forget the fact that it stipulates “People” which is all of us. The UK Government made 17 promises, none of which has been delivered in full. The referendum was a contract between the UK and the Scottish Electorate like buying a car.

What we were promised was a blue car with ABS brakes, what we got was a second hand, clapped-out red car with drum brakes. Like any contract, if the terms under which you agree to it are a lie, the contract is void and you are allowed by law to be returned to a position whereby you are made whole. In our case, that’s somewhere around 2013. No result based on lies of the opposition can ever be considered to be commanding the confidence of the people and the fundamental truth of any democracy is that the electorate, where their trust is abused, have the fundamental right to change their mind.”

The Edinburgh Agreement was signed by the Prime Minister and First Minister on 15 October 2012. The details of the agreement between the Governments was set out in a draft Section 30 Order and a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) which formed part of the agreement.

In the MoA, the UK and Scottish Governments agreed that the principles underpinning the framework for referendums held in the UK should apply to the Scottish independence referendum. The referendum rules set out in the UK Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA), therefore, would be the basis for the legislation providing for the regulation of the referendum on Scottish independence.

An Order made under Section 30(2) of the Scotland Act 1998 allows modifications to be made to Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998, which lists those matters that are reserved to the UK Parliament, by either adding or removing reservations. The draft Scotland Act 1998 (Modification of Schedule 5) Order 2013 (the Section 30 Order) was laid for approval before the UK and Scottish Parliaments on 22 October 2012. The Scottish Parliament approved the draft Order on 5 December 2012; the House of Commons approved it on 15 January 2013 and the House of Lords gave its approval on 16 January 2013.

In simple terms, a section 30 order allows the Scottish Parliament to legislate on matters normally reserved to Westminster which includes constitutional questions like Independence from the UK. However, the Scottish Parliament does hold the right to hold a consultative poll (although it would require a must more legally complex method of enforcement).

The wording of the petition laid before the Scottish Parliamentary Petitions Committee is very specific in its language and states:

To ask the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to seek a section 30 order from the UK Government to enable it to bring forward legislation in the Scottish Parliament to hold a second referendum on Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom.

To put it simply, the petition is asking the Scottish Parliament (All MSP’s) to compel (urge) the Scottish Government (SNP) to use the mandate it has for a second referendum.

At its meeting on 21 March 2017, the Scottish Parliament debated the motion S5M-04710, in the name of the First Minister.

The debate continued into the meeting on 22 March. The debate on the motion was resumed on 28 March 2017.

At decision time the Parliament agreed to an amendment to the original motion, moved by Patrick Harvie.

“That the Parliament acknowledges the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs and therefore mandates the Scottish Government to take forward discussions with the UK Government on the details of an order under section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998 to ensure that the Scottish Parliament can legislate for a referendum to be held that will give the people of Scotland a choice over the future direction and governance of their country at a time, and with a question and franchise, determined by the Scottish Parliament, which would most appropriately be between the autumn of 2018, when there is clarity over the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, and around the point at which the UK leaves the EU in spring 2019; believes that this gives people in Scotland a choice at a time when there is both the most information and most opportunity to act; further believes that 16 and 17 year olds and EU citizens, who were excluded from the EU referendum, should be entitled to vote, and considers that this referendum is necessary given the Prime Minister’s decision to negotiate a hard exit from the EU, including leaving the single market, which conflicts with assurances given by the UK Government and prominent Leave campaigners, and which takes no account of the overwhelming Remain vote in Scotland.”

This motion was adopted 69 votes to 59 votes and the petition by Forward as One seeks the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government to go ahead with the motion.

This is in line with #UseTheMandate. In addition, because the petition is lodged with the Parliamentary Petitions Committee it means that it is a public forum which will, for the first time, allow the general electorate of Scotland to directly engage with the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government, allowing the public, businesses, civic organisations and activists the opportunity to lay before the committee, letters of support, reports and comments about moving to a second referendum.