The ninth article in the ten part series by Professor Alf Baird. Many readers have voiced their appreciation of this series and expressed how much more knowledge they have gained on many of different aspects to the Independence battle. This week’s article will add yet more vital information. 9. Self-Determination ‘National aspirations must be respected; peopleContinue reading "DETERMINANTS OF INDEPENDENCE SELF DETERMINATION"


The ninth article in the ten part series by Professor Alf Baird. Many readers have voiced their appreciation of this series and expressed how much more knowledge they have gained on many of different aspects to the Independence battle. This week’s article will add yet more vital information.

9. Self-Determination

National aspirations must be respected; people may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent. ‘Self determination’ is not a mere phrase; it is an imperative principal of action’.

(President Woodrow Wilson, 1918)

Self-determination is a cardinal principle in modern international law and recognized as an international legal right in the UN Charter. The principle of self-determination does not state how the decision is to be made and there are several ways in which self-determination has been and can be achieved. National self-determination is defined as the ‘creation of national governmental institutions by a group of people who view themselves as a distinct nation (for example, because they have a common language)’. 

Self-determination is the opposite of and therefore wholly opposed to the oppressions brought about on a people through colonialism and imperialism,oppressions which Scotland arguably remains subject to, despite the Treaty of Union and Scottish sovereignty. Self-determination has come to mean the free choice of one’s own acts without external compulsion or influence. Currently Scotland does not have free choice and is being prevented from holding another independence referendum despite several successive electoral mandates given to the SNP to hold one. Scotland’s people being removed from the EU against their will is another example of ‘external compulsion’ and rule by force.

Such mistreatment and disrespect of a people cannot continue. Article 1 of the UN Charter calls on member states: ‘To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples’. Here it is important to consider the matter of respect for the principle and also to be clear about what is meant by ‘a people’

Self-determination is more problematic and challenging in instances where a population has become ethnically diverse, which is often the result of coordinated occupation and/or demographic change within a territory, the latter an established feature of colonial rule, and where a unified voice becomes less likely across ethnic lines. Scotland’s prevailing and historic demographics reflect such an outcome, where today perhaps as much as a third of Scotland’s population do not consider their primary identity as ‘Scottish’; this helps explain the continuing divide and constitutional impasse where peoples of different ethnic and hence national identities may act as a blockage on self-determination.

Specific criteria for the definition of a ‘people having the right of self-determination’was proposed during the 2010 Kosovo case. This set out key aspects of ‘a people’ which includes them having: a common culture, ethnicity, language, identity, history and shared suffering. Based on these specific criteria there seems little doubt the Scots are ‘a people’ who have the right to self-determination.

It is important to be clear beforehand in defining common criteria relating specifically to defining a distinct ‘people’ seeking self-determination, and not to confuse this with peoples holding to other quite different or more especially opposing or conflicting national identities, culture, language, heritage etc. The use in Scotland of a local government franchise for national referendums and elections based simply on residence tends to ignore this important aspect, resulting in a self-determination process being subject to considerable external interference.

In the context of self-determination, according to the UN, peace is clearly one of the most important considerations and objectives. A people that remains oppressed and under colonial and imperial rule, exploitation and occupation, may never be fully at peace with or accept their oppression, and rightly so. The UN describes colonialism as ‘a scourge’ on a people, an instrument of oppression and indeed a form of punishment which involves ethnic discrimination, racism and prejudice and inevitably results in conflict. Hence it is little wonder that a people who remain subject to colonialism will never be at peace.

Critical in any national self-determination process is the need to avoid external influence affecting the outcome of a democratic test. This includes in particular preventing the influence brought by peoples and countries other than the specific ‘people’ seeking self-determination. In Scotland’s case, politicians from rest-UK nations and successive UK Governments and their ‘agencies’ actively oppose Scottish independence, which amounts to external interference. British political parties and other British interests based outside Scotland also formed the ‘BetterTogether’ anti-independence ‘No’ Campaign in 2014 to oppose independence and this is likewise external interference and influence.

There is in addition widespread British State and British MSM activity opposing Scottish self-determination and independence. Various British institutions based inside and outside Scotland likewise openly oppose Scottish independence. All this and more (e.g. covert British state activity) amounts to a high degree of external interference and influence in the self-determination process of the Scottish people.

Professor John Robertson’s analysis highlighted widespread British state BBC and media bias opposing Scottish self-determination during the 2014 independence campaign (Robertson 2014). The BBC journalist Alan Little’s comments from inside the media merely served to confirm institutionalized external British and Anglophone bias against Scottish self-determination. Further analysis of the ‘amazing litany of bias’ and the ‘Propaganda Blitz’ on the part of the British MSM during the Scottish independence campaign was provided by Edwards and Cromwell (2018).

Today’s ongoing and accelerating persecution of leading independence campaigners by the governing UK ‘administrative Power’ and its subordinate agencies (e.g.Holyrood and the Scottish ‘Government’) may also be deemed to be interference in the self-determination process. This is further reflected in new laws coming in such as the Hate Crime Bill and other government actions and initiatives which are considered to be specifically directed at proponents of independence and hence are opposed to and designed to delay or block self-determination and independence.

The use of an irregular and non-reciprocal residence-based voting franchise for Scottish national elections and referendums in Scotland further serves to invites significant external interference. This is exacerbated by uncontrolled demographic change, an already large ‘settler’ population being constantly replenished also viaconcerted state actions such as the movement of large numbers of UK Government employees from England to Scotland. 

Here the cultural phenomenon of ‘British Exceptionalism’ influences beliefs with Professor Danny Dorling stating, particularly in relation to significant English populations now resident in Scotland and Wales, that tend to: ‘have a very high opinion about ourselves because of how we teach our history. We tell ourselves a story of empire which is very different from the story that is told elsewhere’. That selective history and limited understanding of colonialism, including especially within the UK ‘Internal Colonialism Model’ and its resulting ‘Cultural and Ethnic Division of Labour’, clearly does not form part of any British educational or political narrative. Yet therein lies the roots of the desire for independence and hence decolonisation of any people.

The Scottish Referendum Survey established that a majority of ‘Scots’ had in fact voted for independence in 2014, and concluded that: ‘Scotland only remained in the Union because of the views of those who were born in other parts of Britain and further afield’. It was therefore evident that the majority of voters who backed the ‘No’ campaign did so primarily because they felt ‘British’. Clearly a key aspect in the matter of Scottish independence therefore relates to ethnic identity, which is primarily culturally and linguistically determined; the outcome of the referendum vote and the composition of voters well reflected the divide occurring in most cases of self-determination conflict, which is linguistic and cultural, the latter a consequence of colonialism and imperialism.

There is a recognition in all States that a ‘national’ voter should be a ‘national’ of the country in which a national vote is to take place. It therefore needs to be defined well in advance of any referendum what is meant by a ‘Scottish national’, not least because independence creates a need to know this, i.e. who the ‘nationals’ of the country are. 

Is a Scottish ‘national’ simply anyone from other countries and hence people of other national identities and cultures who happen to have an address in Scotland, as the local government resident-based franchise assumes? Globally, national voting rights are not reciprocal, are primarily dependent on parental descent and only apply to persons from other countries after they apply for and are awarded citizenship of the country they live in. However, Scotland cannot offer national citizenship to anyone until after independence, yet currently offers all residents of Scotland the privilege and opportunity to block its very existence, i.e. to reject it, and many take the opportunity to do so.

The residence-based national voting ‘qualification’ also means that the franchise was denied to Scots living abroad, and these are people who do hold to a Scottish identity. Most other countries afford due consideration to their nationals living abroad whereas Scotland has ignored its own people in this regard, which is a rather unique standpoint, and which also serves to elevate the constitutional status and power of non-Scottish residents.

A referendum therefore appears a flawed process in the context of Scottish self-determination given the irregular residence-based franchise and widespread scope for external interference. Moreover, Westminster cannot necessarily be relied on to legislate for a ‘Yes’ result in a referendum, plus any subsequent UK legislation seeking to define what an independent Scottish state might look like could leave many Scots sorely disappointed. And, in any event: ‘As a matter of law, a referendum is not a required part of the process of becoming independent’ (McCorkindale and McHarg 2020).

The referendum question used (‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’) is also itself highly ‘questionable’, not least given that the Scots are already a sovereign (i.e. de facto independent) people merely seeking to withdraw from a Treaty-based alliance and its ‘UK’ administrative arrangement. Scotland should therefore have a question similar to the Brexit referendum question reflecting the reality of a signatory party and sovereign (Scottish) people revoking and withdrawing from its own treaty, for example: ‘Should Scotland remain a member of the United Kingdom Union or leave the United Kingdom Union?’

Currently the UK Government continues to enforce its blockade on another referendum on Scottish independence, assuming it has the power to do so, which rather ignores Scottish sovereignty and the fact the UK union is a Treaty-based alliance with the Scots a sovereign signatory party nation to that Treaty. In this sense the UK Government and Parliament seems to be acting as Scotland’s ‘parent state’, which it is not, and treating the matter as if Scotland were seeking to secede from a parent state, which it is not. 

The UK is not a federal structure, like Canada/Quebec, and where the Supreme Court of Canada decided that a referendum was necessary for Quebec to secede. The UK is a Treaty-based alliance between a sovereign people – Scotland – and England. The UK is not a federation and the UK is neither Scotland’s nor England’s ‘parent state’; the UK is a union of nations. Scotland is not Quebec, and the UK is not Canada, they each have quite different constitutional arrangements. Nevertheless, clearly the UK is imposing itself upon Scotland and thwarting self-determination as if it were Scotland’s ‘parent state’, which it is not, and as if the UK were a federation in which Scotland were a subordinate and non-sovereign part, which is not the case either.

Decolonisation, according to the UN, has always been the firm ground on which the right to self-determination of a people was applied. Despite sovereignty and the reality of a Treaty alliance, Scotland seems little different in this regard given the waythe country has been and continues to be regarded and treated politically, as a held territory or colony. In this reality, Scotland seems controlled by the UK and a majority of Westminster’s MP’s, over 80 per cent of whom represent England, the latter viewing itself as the superior entity (or ‘parent state’) within the UK Treaty-based alliance. Here the UK or rather England appears to regard Scotland as a non-sovereign subordinate entity seeking to secede, which ignores the fact of the Treaty alliance and/or Scottish sovereignty. 

In this context it may be highlighted that the Supreme Court of Canada did also state that: ‘under international law, colonies and oppressed states generally receive international backing for their sovereignty’. The evidence presented in this series of research papers derived and developed from the book ‘DounHauden’ (the Scots term for oppressed) suggests the Scots are treated as a subjugated and colonised people and are hence oppressed, as is amply reflected in their ongoing constitutional containment and subjugation.

The long-established, simpler and arguably superior approach to secure independence would therefore seem to be, as was always the case, for the majority of Scotland’s democratically elected national representatives to assert Scottish sovereignty and to withdraw Scotland from the UK union. There would seem little point in a country continually voting for a majority of nationalist representatives if they aye refuse to assert independence, as is currently and repeatedly seems to be the case with the SNP. 

A further option to secure Scotland’s independence – failing a successful withdrawal from the UK Treaty based alliance by national representatives – would be to lobby for Scotland to be Listed with the UN as a colony seeking decolonisation. A democratically elected ‘nationalist’ Scottish Government should be able to do this, and to endeavour, via the relevant UN Committee for Decolonisation (C-24), to invite international support in this regard. 

The UN may then be called upon to assist in a properly organised referendum process, if required. Such a process should respect the rights of the Scottish people to self-determination, and within that to avoid further external interference. This might include some needed refinement and improvement of the present irregular voter franchise, possibly more in line with the recent UN sanctioned franchise employed in New Caledonia which included a range of ‘secondary criteria’ such as period of residence in the territory.

As previous papers in this series highlighted, Scotland is now in a position where the dominant national party elite (comprising it seems ‘profiteers and schemers’) seems to be suffering from a degree of ‘petrification’ when facing the final hurdles of national liberation, and instead have sought their own ‘accommodation with colonialism’. According to postcolonial theory this is a predictable outcome for adominant bourgeoisie nationalist leadership, reflecting the stage and stasis of the self-determination and decolonisation process, and notwithstanding that ‘a colonial regime owes its legitimacy to force’.

The present delaying and prevarication strategy has also led to a range of SNP policies and (in)actions which serve to anger and mystify the independence movement; as postcolonial literature tells us, this will only increase the prospect of seriously worsening the situation unless the door to independence is prised open with a greater degree of urgency, as reflecting the will of the people and the increasing and deserved contempt they have for the political leadership.


Alf once again highlights the need for urgency and the use of a much more aggressive strategy than sitting around waiting for a Section 30 order, which even if it was granted would only lead to a flawed referendum based on a totally unfair franchise, a worse one than that used in 2014 given the acceleration in the inflow to Scotland from other parts of the UK. WE IGNORE THIS ADVICE AT OUR PERIL. WE NEED A BETTER STRATEGY. WE NEED NEW AND MUCH MORE DETERMINED LEADERSHIP.

I am, as always

Yours for Scotland


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