I wish someone would explain to me what an "illegal referendum" is, because on the face of it this appears to be a monumentally silly straw man. Nobody, absolutely nobody, goes around saying "let's call an illegal referendum!"— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) December 29, 2019
Further to my previous post, I've noticed that at least a couple of SNP MPs have come out in support of Pete Wishart's contentious article. Now of course in one sense it's entirely understandable that they would wish to defend a colleague who has been receiving brickbats, and in fairness Mr Wishart's article isn't all bad by any means - it contains some points that almost any independence supporter would agree with. But what troubles me deeply is any implied endorsement of Mr Wishart's characterisation of an independence referendum held without a Section 30 order as being "illegal". That flatly contradicts what Nicola Sturgeon said repeatedly during the election campaign - she stressed that the question of whether a referendum was already within the Scottish Parliament's current powers had never been tested in court. Presumably she was making that point for a very good reason, so it's puzzling and regrettable that SNP MPs would seek to undermine that careful messaging so soon after the election has come to a successful conclusion.
When Donald Dewar delivered devolution, he very wisely opted for a model that automatically assumes that anything not explicitly reserved to Westminster is a devolved power. At the very least, there's a high degree of ambiguity over whether the power to hold a consultative independence referendum has been reserved, and in my naivety I'd be inclined to expect MPs who believe in Scottish autonomy and self-determination to take a maximalist interpretation of the parliament's powers, at least until a court rules otherwise. Why on earth would we give moral support to the Westminster establishment by needlessly taking it as read that a hypothetical court ruling will go against us? It makes no sense whatsoever, unless of course there is an underlying agenda here, such as a desire to use Westminster's obstructionism as a convenient excuse to kick an independence referendum into the long grass for a few more years.
Incidentally, even if the Supreme Court eventually decides that the Scottish Parliament would be exceeding its powers in holding an indyref without a Section 30, it would still be thoroughly inappropriate to use the word "illegal". As David Halliday has pointed out, the UK and Spain are very different, and in this country the law reacts to an unofficial vote by ignoring it and treating it as of no effect. It doesn't send in riot police or lock people up. This isn't Nazi Germany or Stalin's Russia, and putting a ballot paper into a ballot box is no more an "illegal" act than holding a village fête is.
There's no easy route, and one easy route that certainly isn't open to us is using the Westminster Veto as an excuse for not holding a referendum at all, and just drifting for the next five years. If we do nothing, we get nothing.https://t.co/VzfQvf5jeU— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) December 28, 2019