Conveners Open Letter To Parliament on Section 30 Order

16th September 2018


To :  The Members of the Scottish Parliament

CC: The Scottish Government


Dear Members,

By the time this correspondence reaches you, you will have been contacted by members of the electorate with regards to petition PE01700 in the name of myself on behalf of Forward as One.

The reason for my letter to you today is to clarify several points with you with regards to moving Forward.

It has become abundantly clear in recent years that elected representatives are failing drastically to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the Scottish Electorate. In 2014, Westminster parties in combination with the official Better Together campaign made a plethora of promises to Scottish Voters to secure themselves a victory in that referendum.

Since then, not a single promise which was made has been delivered in full, although politicians who backed Better Together have attempted to assert the fact that they have. The intervening period between then and now has resulted in the means employed by the No Campaign coming under scrutiny and the substance of those promises made to the electorate. They have been judged, weighed and measured and have been found wanting.

To be clear, the referendum in 2014 was a contract between parties.

Offers were extended, were considered, and were agreed to by way of the actual vote itself. In addition, I would remind all members of the Scottish Parliament that in Scotland, as you are no doubt aware, verbal terms and statements form part of an enforceable and legally binding contract just as much as any written representation.

If this were a mere transaction between parties, it would have been more than enough for any court to restore each party to their position before such a contract was made.

Out of 17 major promises made by Better Together and Westminster politicians, not a single one has been delivered to the Scottish People in full and like any aggrieved party to a transaction; we seek nothing less than remedial action, which in this case is restoring the Scottish Electorate to their pre-2014 position.

There are of course politicians who would assert the fact that it is contained within the Edinburgh Agreement, that both parties would respect the result of that referendum. While the politicians may be willing to accept that as acceptable reasoning to ignore the substantive issues which have arisen in the last few years, I would remind all elected members that the wording of the Edinburgh Agreement was not to merely respect the vote itself. It stated categorically that the referendum “be conducted so as to command the confidence of parliaments, government and people”.

The press and the politicians have had their say about the events, however the one group which seem to have been neglected and which the Edinburgh Agreement specifically makes mention of are the “people” of Scotland.

When one group lies to the Electorate about promises which they do not intend to deliver in full, or parrot the words of individuals who have no intention of delivering promises they made, no party can claim that it commands the confidence of the people and anyone who would attempt to assert such a position is acting in a manner which is not commensurate with the position of trust that they hold.

While I could recount every single promise made that has not been delivered, I believe that ultimately this would be a waste of effort as the elected members who made the promises do not need to be reminded of actions in their history which were less than stellar.

As for those members who were on the Yes side during the referendum, they do not need to be educated on the ways and means used to dupe the electorate into a position which has caused and will continue to cause them great difficulty in their every day lives.

Instead, I wish to focus on one promise made to the Scottish Electorate, namely that the only way to retain membership in the EU was to remain in the United Kingdom.

Now while this is a substantive issue covering a wide range of issues, one primary issue which is of great concern to myself is the European Convention on Human Rights.

We have a Prime Minister, who since she was Home Secretary has consistently advocated the abolition of the Human Rights Act 1998. This, as you know is the primary legislation which translates the ECHR into UK Law and along with it protects and extends the rights contained within that convention to every citizen of Scotland.

Membership of the ECHR, while voluntary for countries outside of the EU, is not voluntary for High Contracting Parties, of which the United Kingdom is one, within the European Union.

We have a Brexit secretary who has constituently made underhand comments about the Human Rights Act and has signalled a clear distain for Human Rights in general.

Now we have the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which contains within it a pandoras box which will allow the cabinet of the UK Government to amend a range of laws in the UK after the end of Brexit without parliamentary scrutiny and without the oversight of the legislative and judicial protections afforded under the convention.

This is a clear note of intent from a right-wing Conservative Government which is tantamount to them declaring themselves as sole arbiters of our fundamental rights and freedoms without the people and their elected representatives having a voice in the shaping and the protection of those core civil liberties.

We know from experience in just the last few years that the Conservative Government cannot be trusted with the safety or wellbeing of the people of Scotland and now we are being asked to trust that they would act in an honourable manner with regards to our Human Rights. This is unacceptable!

Let us not beat around the bush, the idea that a charter of rights crafted by a Conservative Government will be based on the wellbeing of the citizens of the United Kingdom and not on their own vested interests, and the self-servitive interests of their party, is a laughable concept. They will deliver within that charter, the rights they think we should have, not the inalienable rights to which we are entitled to from the moment we are born. By the time that intent becomes clear it will already be too late and we will find our children and our children’s children denied rights to which we currently enjoy and which our parents and grandparents fought so hard to secure.

On the matter of rights, I would bring to the attention of all members of one, not contained in the ECHR, nor the Human Rights Act but one which was defined decades ago and averred by both the UK Parliament and the Scottish Parliament and re-affirmed in recent months. I speak of course, of the claim of right.

The claim of right is central to the constitutional framework and underpins devolution. It is not open to interpretation, nor sublimation. It is a real and fundamental constitutional right that stipulates without reservation, the “sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs”.

I would draw your attention the wording which states “Scottish People” which cannot and should not be allowed to be interpreted to mean those in elected positions defining what it does and does not mean.

All members of the Scottish Electorate are the “Scottish People” whether that be by birth or by those who have chosen to reside in Scotland over all other nations, to live here, to work, to build homes and families and to contribute to our society.

Before you is a petition certified by the Petitions Committee as valid. This petition stipulates:

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.

The language in this petition is very specific, the term “asks” chosen because its fundamental meaning is “say to (someone) that one wants them to do or give something” and the term “urge” to mean to “try earnestly or persistently to persuade (someone) to do something”.

The reason that petition was chosen as the method to communicate with Parliament is because it is in writing and there are few other methods which may be used for the electorate to adequately convey their wishes to parliament. Over 5000 respondents supported the initial petition on the Scottish Parliament website which would have been much higher were it not for the way in which the petitions site operates. We had a large amount of negative feedback from respondents on issues surrounding signing of the petition.

This dissatisfaction in the way that petitions have their signatures garnered was reflected in the fact that 4137 of the signatures were not indeed obtained through the site. A point which I would hope parliament will reflect on.

In the next number of days and weeks you will be contacted by members of the electorate from across your constituencies and regions demanding that the petition either be acted upon or put to a vote on the floor of the Parliamentary Chamber. This will take one of several forms. They will contact you directly via email or via written correspondence via other methods such as mail. In addition, we have planned for a standard letter to be signed on our website for those who may be unable to contact you themselves via correspondence. The signatures for this will be delivered to the Scottish Parliament on the 15th of October 2018.

I will be contacting Ken Macintosh as Presiding Officer for the Parliament to meet me on that date or to have a member of his staff meet me at a pre-determined location at the Parliament to turn over those letters of support to him for the Parliament to distribute to the members of Parliament.

As elected members, I understand that it is normal practice for you to respond to that correspondence in due course.

Please, let me be clear before you respond to letters of support. It is the fundamental and sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine their own constitutional future as defined by the claim of right. It is not, however, the right of elected politicians to freely interpret that right, nor to usurp or deny it.

This right was re-affirmed at Westminster only a few months ago and we will continue to advise yes supporters to correspond with their elected officials until they acquiesce to the formal demand for a section 30 order.

You should understand that these letters are not mere requests for information, nor are they simply asking to be placated. They are clear and unequivocal demands to their elected representatives to uphold the fundamental rights contained within the claim of right, to recognise them as sovereign and to act on the demand that they be allowed to vote on their own constitutional future, resetting the clock to a point before the contract between peoples and parliaments were pushed into default as a consequence of campaigning in bad faith and to set them on a course where their fundamental rights and freedoms will be respected, advanced and protected.

These letters will call on you, as their elected representatives, to assert their right before parliament and vote to engage a formal request for a section 30 order to the UK Government.  This is the point when the populous of Scotland stopped asking for politicians to interpret their wishes from a partisan position and will clearly define their wish to dictate their own fundamental rights and their constitutional future and they expect all members of the Scottish Parliament to act without delay. The days of sublimation in order to appease would-be detractors are over because the risk of delay risks the future of us all.

The excuse of “I was elected on the basis of being anti-independent” is not an acceptable one to deny the right of the electorate entire, to engage their fundamental right protected by law and convention, to vote on constitutional matters.

While such excuses may appeal to your partisan base, you cannot wrap them in the protection of democracy because your position is asserted from a partisan position. An act taken to deny the right for all people in Scotland to be heard is a wilful punitive act to disenfranchise those who did not vote for you directly. Your position, your responsibility and your solemn duty is to enfranchise all of those people who reside within your constituencies and your regions, not to deny a fundamental right of all people to appeal to your own following. Such actions are not democracy, they are the usurpation of core rights which define us as a society.

To be clear, this demand for a formal section 30 order does not undermine the current position, nor interfere with the current course of Parliament, the Scottish Government, nor the incumbent party at Holyrood.

The First Minister made her position abundantly clear. That a referendum would be called on the constitutional future of Scotland when the terms of Brexit were known. The people supporting this demand are not asking the Scottish Parliament, nor the Scottish Government to act in a manner which disregards, nor interferes with that pledge. This engagement of their rights is clear in the language that it uses, that they are seeking the process for a section 30 order to commence without delay.

It is a demand for the legislative process to commence to lay the ground work and primary legislation for the referendum franchise to ensure that we are wellhen the exact terms are known, derived from the process being conducted under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

The one fundamental truth that we have learned in the partisan zombie apocalypse which is more commonly known as Brexit is that the internal civil war, combined with the continuing inconsistency, disorganisation and general complacency of the Westminster Government, is that they cannot be relied upon to act in a predictable manner. For all we know the negotiations could collapse tomorrow, or worse, the Government could capitulate on all fronts and sign a deal with the European Union which would substantively hurt the people of this country.

While a vote may happen in Parliament in London, most of the conservatives combined with the DUP and other influences could see a bad deal rammed through It could just as easily see an act of utter disrespect and economic and legislative vandalism, with the Tories walking away from the table completely and the UK crashing out of the EU with no deal.

The one certainty we currently have with Westminster, is that they are incapable of delivering certainty. We also know that many of the decisions are being driven by a radical fringe within the Conservative party combined with a weak leader who capitulates to those fringes of the party. It is not unreasonable that the Scottish Electorate, demand of their devolved administration, fiscal and political responsibility through the implementation of preparatory steps to ensure the wellbeing of everyone within Scotland’s borders.

Those engaging their fundamental right to engage and demand of their elected representatives, that they begin to mould the franchise for the second Scottish referendum are seeking only to ensure that the legislative and logistical framework is in place to deploy the assets for the referendum in the event that Westminster continues its downward spiral into what can only be described as political demolition.

A request for a section 30 order brings with it two fundamental truths. Firstly, if granted, the Scottish Parliament may commence legislating for the franchise immediately, laying the groundwork for the vote so the trigger can be pulled before we hit the bottom of this downward spiral into Brexit insanity.

Secondly, it will define whether Westminster is willing to grant the section 30 order, and should that answer be no, it will once and for all show the Scottish people that Westminster does not respect the fundamental principles of what constitutes democracy.

This demand will not only lend weight to the principles of positive democracy derived from a Scottish Parliament willing to lead, not follow, but in combination with the utter contempt and disrespect Westminster have directed towards the people of Scotland since the Brexit vote, it would show them to be petty, vindictive and demonstrate to the electorate, once and for all, that they cannot be trusted to respect the will of the people of Scotland.

Furthermore, it will show that they cannot be trusted to adequately ensure, promote and protect even the most basic of fundamental rights and freedoms, of which the right to vote is at the core.

In any case, it will establish once and for all what course the Scottish Parliament needs to take with respect to enabling the Scottish electorate to engage their democratic right to vote as well as defining what steps the Parliament and the Government need to take to live up to the pledge that the First Minister made to hold such a vote.

The terms of Brexit will be known shortly, at which time we will have a vote, but from a position of democracy and of sensible planning, it makes sense that Scotland should prepare itself, not on the premise of “hope for the best” but with the current incumbent Government at Westminster, we should be seeking to protect our citizens from the worst case scenario. This is not just good planning, it is indicative of good governance. Proof positive that the Scottish Parliament is ready to take its place as the highest legislator representing the people of Scotland

Regardless, it is right and proper for the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government to act to secure the section 30 order now in preparation for a second referendum at the behest of the Scottish People, since they have asserted their sovereignty under the claim of right.

It is not only a powerful message that the Scottish Government, in pursuit of the democratic rights of the people, have sought to act on their sovereign rights by engaging preparatory steps to ensure their general wellbeing, but it also sets a clear counterpoint that while we may have differences of opinion on partisan political matters, when it comes to our parliament we have a counterpoint, a quorum of voices that are harmonically polyphonic and interdependent, yet independent in rhythm and contour whose cumulative declaration as one nation, that we will not be bullied or beaten into submission. Nor will we be ridden roughshod over by a Conservative Government more interested in appeasing its own rebels and who are guided by vested interests over the welfare of the people whom they have a solemn duty to represent and to protect.

The formal request of a section 30 order does not interfere with the course we are on politically, nor does it negate any action of the Scottish Parliament, its members or the Scottish Government. What it does do is to command the confidence of parliaments, government and people, that their democratic rights to freely engage in deciding their own constitutional future, something so precious, that to deny it would be a blight upon the very foundations that define us as a nation, will be protected above all other considerations, partisan or otherwise.

It is with genuine sincerity that this correspondence finds you well and that you will seek to define your time in office as one where you can look back and say to yourself that for this moment, you acted in a manner which enabled every person in Scotland to define their own future, that you protected their inalienable rights and freedoms and that you took the first step in ensuring that if in the determination of their own stupidity, Westminster had resolved to throw themselves over a cliff edge, you ensured that every man, woman and child in Scotland’s borders was afforded the protection of their Government and of their elected representatives and that for at least one point in recent history, democracy was truly derived from the Governed.

I truly believe that it is a legacy which you as a parliamentarian should be proud to say you were a part of.



Martin Keatings

Convener – Forward as One