Saturday, 8 November 2008

Michael Woods, 1938 - 2008: A Personal Tribute

I first met Michael Woods when he was selected to stand as the Scottish National Party candidate for the Pitteuchar Ward in Glenrothes at the elections to the former Kirkcaldy District Council in 1992. The Pitteuchar Ward was held by the Labour Party and considered to be a safe seat which Michael was not expected to win. However, Michael's exuberance created so much confusion that the Labour Party thought that the SNP had targeted the Ward and therefore 'flooded' the area with their own activists - even the Labour Member of Parliament for Central Fife! His actions allowed Central Fife SNP to concentrate on its target Wards free of Labour Party action. Michael won the seat and such was the trust that people had in him that he was re-elected at every subsequent election until he decided to stand down, for health reasons, in 2007.

Whenever Michael encountered deliberate deception he would be outraged. Election campaigns would often be livened up by him. Discussion with Michael could aid understanding about the subject and made it possible to get a different perspective on the matter. Sadly Michael died the week before the Glenrothes By-Election. He would have been appalled by the negative campaigning, scaremongering and misinformation used by the Labour Party and its apologists.

"Thankyou for your contribution Michael - you'll be missed by many."

Friday, 6 June 2008

The Sovereignty of the Scottish People

'If the Scottish people expressed a desire for independence the stage would be set for a direct clash between what is the English doctrine of sovereignty and the Scottish doctrine of the sovereignty of the people.'

- 'The Operation of Multi-Layer Democracy', Scottish Affairs Committee Second Report of Session 1997-1998, HC 460-I, 2 December 1998, paragraph 27.

Between the Treaty of Union in 1707 and the establishment of the devolved Scottish Parliament in 1999 constitutional law in Scotland developed into its present form where 'the sovereignty of the Scottish people' now rests with the total registered electorate. During this intervening period sovereignty lay with the United Kingdom Parliament at Westminster, and to a certain extent it still does - but not for long. The Treaty of Union did NOT abolish Scots Law as Article XIX makes clear. This temporary loss of sovereignty has to be seen against the background of where the Parliament of Great Britain is located. The siting of that Parliament at Westminster, the location of the Parliament of England, meant that it was within the jurisdiction of English Law and beyond the reach of Scots Law. In his book Gordon Donaldson writes -

'But the theories of English constitutional lawyers prevailed, and the union has proved to have no more sanctity than any other statute. From time to time attempts have been made to appeal to the terms of union, but always without success. The list of violations of the treaty is already a long one and always growing longer.'

- 'Scotland: The Shaping of a Nation', by Gordon Donaldson, pp 58-59, ISBN 0 7153 6904 0.

In an important 1954 legal finding in the Scottish Court of Session Lord Cooper wrote -

'The unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law.'

- McCormick v Lord Advocate 1954 (1953 SC 396).

Against this background the view that 'the sovereignty of the Scottish people' has 'merely been unavailable' is the only possible explanation. British Unionists who still insist that Scottish independence is a matter of 'NEVER' or 'IF' are in denial - Scotland WILL regain its independence and international sovereignty. Only through independence will 'the sovereignty of the Scottish people' become fully available.

Only one country has ever created a form of government based on popular sovereignty (sovereignty of the people) - the United States. The opening words to the Constitution of the United States, 'WE THE PEOPLE', clearly imply popular sovereignty, which was most likely the intention of James Wilson when he penned the phrase.

'Jefferson, concerned that the state legislatures were assuming executive and judicial power, as well as legislative, was prompted to observe..."An elective despotism was not the government we fought for."'

- 'The Federalist Papers', Penguin Classics Edition edited by Isaac Kramnick, p. 25, ISBN 0-14-044495-5.

'...the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the people alone...'

- James Madison, Federalist 46

The following quotations were all found at this URL: -

"[The people] are in truth the only legitimate proprietors of the soil and government."

- Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, 1813. ME 19:197.

"[It is] the people, to whom all authority belongs."

- Thomas Jefferson to Spencer Roane, 1821. ME 15:328

"The ultimate arbiter is the people of the Union."

- Thomas Jefferson to William Johnson, 1853. ME 15:451.

Unfortunately, in the United States, the concept of popular sovereignty has become corrupted and defiled by elitism and political self-interest by both major political parties. In his book John T. Noonan, Jr. writes -

'Nowhere in the entire document are the states identified as sovereigns. The claim that the sovereignty of the states is constitutional rests on an audacious addition to the eleventh amendment, a pretense that it incorporates the idea of state sovereignty...But not one of the fifty states, nor the United States itself, is such a sovereign...It is not directly or indirectly ascribed to the states by the constitution of the United States.'

- 'NARROWING THE NATION'S POWER' , by John T. Noonan, Jr., pp 151-152, ISBN 0-520-23574-6.

In 1787 popular sovereignty was an idea that was ahead of its time but now, in the 21st century, it is an idea whose time has come. Popular sovereignty belongs to all people and not just a select few.

'It's coming yet for a' that
That Man to Man, the world o'er
Shall brithers be for a' that.'

- 'For A' That and A' That' by Robert Burns (1759 - 1796)

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Scotland's Political Awakening


"ask not what your country can do for you, rather ask what you can do for your country."

- President John F. Kennedy (from his Inauguration Speech - January 20, 1961)

The Scottish Parliament elections in May 2007 changed the political map of Scotland in a way that showed that the people could no longer be taken for granted - particularly by the Labour Party. Many years ago the Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Central Fife said that "the people of Fife would vote for a turnip if it had a red label". In the years following the unsuccessful referendum in 1979, for a devolved Scottish Assembly, political confidence amongst the electorate in Scotland plummeted. In Central Fife support for the Scottish National Party (SNP) fell from over 30% to just over 11%.

The voting method for the Scottish Parliament elections is a hybrid of the First Past The Post method and a 'top-up' from a Closed Regional List using the d'Hondt Formula to produce a broadly proportional result. There are 73 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSP's) elected by FPTP and 56 from the Regional Lists. Here is an overall breakdown of the results of last year's elections to the Scottish Parliament -


SNP 32.70 /28.77 /36.43
LAB 32.26 /50.68 /35.66
LIBDEM 16.23 /15.07 /12.40
CON 16.65 /5.48 /13.18
OTHER 2.16/ 0.00 /2.33
TOTALS 100.00 /100.00 /100.00
SNP -3.93 /+3.73 /21 /47
LAB +18.42 /+3.40 /37 /46
LIBDEM -1.16 /-3.83 /11 /16
CON -11.17 /-3.47 /4 /17
OTHER -2.16 /0.00 /0 /3
TOTALS -/-/73 /129

The FPTP results show that the Labour Party benefits disproportionately from that method of voting. Average voter turnout was 51.46%, hopefully the Scottish Parliament election results, combined with those for the Councils, will bring about an increase in voter turnout which was regularly 65%-75% about 25 years ago. Before the election campaign the Labour Party was in a state of panic, during the campaign it became absolute panic and since the elections they've been completely clueless.

The election results for Central Fife since the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999 are as follows -

YEAR: 2007 /2003 /1999
SNP 44.20 /30.59 /30.91
LAB 39.88 /41.38 /57.31
LIBDEM 8.49 /6.74 /5.94
CON 7.43 /7.04 /5.84
SSP - /5.43 /-
IND - /8.82 /-
TOTALS 100.00 /100.00 /100.00

An aspect of the elections in Scotland, last year, that was overlooked by the media outwith Scotland was the fact that there were Council elections in Scotland on the same day. They were overshadowed by the fiasco of rejected ballot papers in the Scottish Parliament elections, which was mainly due to political interference by a UK Government Minister (Labour) in the design of the ballot paper. The Labour/Liberal Democrat Scottish Executive was also warned of the confusion that would result from having the Scottish Parliament and Council elections on the same day using three different voting methods - they chose to ignore it. For the first time the Single Transferable Vote (STV) method of Proportional Representation was used for the Council elections in Scotland. The introduction of STV was met with strong resistance from within the Labour Party. The local 'fiefdoms' and 'one-party states' of the Labour Party in Scotland have been ended forever and the 'politics of fear' as well as the 'control freakery' that permeates that Party no longer work. In the media reporting of the Council elections in Fife mention was made of the dominance of Scottish politics by the Labour Party for the last 50 years saying "however, in parts of Fife it is nearer 100 years". The table below shows the comparison to the number of Councillors (by Party) that were elected in 2003 when FPTP was used -

PARTY 2007 /CHANGE / 2003
SNP 363 / +182 /181
LAB 348 / -161 /509
IND 192 / -39 /231
LIBDEM 166 / -9 /175
CON 143 / +20 /123

All of the SNP candidates in Central Fife who stood for election to Fife Council were elected. In Central Fife it used to be suggested that in the Levenmouth part of the constituency it would be easier to weigh the Labour vote than count it. Inevitably, at the count, a Labour activist would shout across the hall - "Someone in Methil voted Tory [Conservative]" - not any longer.

After having witnessed the significant changes in elected political representation achieved by the use of STV I have no hesitation in recommending its use in multi-member constituencies. Using STV the 'political virility' symbol of the size of a majority and the 'wasted vote' argument cease to exist. The Alternative Vote (AV) method is also a majoritarian method like FPTP, however, it has the advantage that, unlike FPTP, the winner has to obtain 50% of the vote. In a genuine democracy an electoral system (method of voting, constituency boundaries etc.) exists for the benefit of the people. The electoral system and the people DO NOT exist for the benefit of political parties.

Friday, 16 May 2008

"Why Become Independent to Give Up Sovereignty?"

This post is the last three paragraphs of one of the same title which appeared recently on the blog 'HOTEL BRUSSELS',, and my response to it -

"...Take Scotland, for example. It benefits significantly from European subsidies. Is this a coincidence? It has certainly convinced the Scottish National Party that Scotland can become a viable country if the United Kingdom is dissolved, on condition, however, that Scotland remains a member of the EU. Hence the SNP, which is currently in power in Edinburgh, aims for an independent Scotland firmly entrenched within the European Union.

In reality both SNP aims, dissolving Britain while at the same time strengthening the EU, are contradictory. Why become independent from London in order to give up one's sovereignty to Brussels? One may wonder whether the SNP really wants an independent Scotland at all since it seems ready to exchange one Leviathan for another even bigger and more dangerous one.

Perhaps if the Scots leave the United Kingdom to become a province of Europe, England can secede from the EU and, together with Flanders and the regions of Northern Italy, join Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway - the family of truly sovereign nations which are assembled in EFTA, the European Free Trade Association, and do not want to be part of the EU, the European superstate in the making.

This piece was originally published in The Washington Times on May 1, 2008."

and this is the comment I submitted to it -

"This item appeared in the FORUM section of 'The Washington Times' under the heading 'Politics Italian-style' and also in 'Brussels Journal' with the heading 'Why Become Independent to Give Up Sovereignty?'. The author is Paul Belien, editor of 'Brussels Journal'. I address my comments to the assertions made in paragraphs 9, 10 and 11. In paragraph 9 he writes -

'It has certainly convinced the Scottish National Party that Scotland can become a viable country if the United Kingdom is dissolved, on condition, however, that Scotland remains a member of the EU.'

That is total nonsense. The Scottish National Party was formed in 1934 predating the treaties which led to the European Union. When the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England, which created Great Britain, was agreed there were riots throughout Scotland. When Scotland regains its independence it is Great Britain which will be dissolved not the United Kingdom - it has never been a country.

'whilst the SNP formally campaigned for a No vote at the 1975 referendum on continued membership of the European Community the tone of its campaign was directed against being forced to join the Community as part of the United Kingdom...rather than opposed to EC membership on any grounds (Lynch 1996:35).'

- 'SNP: The History of the Scottish National Party' by Peter Lynch, pp 185-186, ISBN 1 86057 0038 or 0046.

In paragraph 10 he writes -

'Why become independent of London in order to give up one's sovereignty to Brussels?'

This clearly shows that an assumption has been made regarding sovereignty in Scotland without knowing the actual facts - under Scottish constitutional law sovereignty rests with the people -

'Besides, in the years when Scotland was kingless, another concept emerged besides that of the impersonal crown: ultimate power or sovereignty was seen to lie with what was called 'the community of the realm'.'

SOURCE: 'Scotland: The Shaping of a Nation' by Gordon Donaldson, p64, ISBN 0 7153 6904 0,

'The principle of the unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law.'

SOURCE: McCormick v Lord Advocate 1954 (1953 SC 396),

'If the Scottish people expressed a desire for independence the stage would be set for a direct clash between what is the English doctrine of sovereignty and the Scottish doctrine of the sovereignty of the people.'

SOURCE: 'The Operation of Multi-Layer Democracy', Scottish Affairs Committee Second Report of Session 1997-1998, HC 460-I, 2 December 1998, para 27.

In 1707 Scotland was taken into a Union with England by a minority despite the views of the majority of the people of Scotland (at the time most people were not entitled to vote as democracy as we now know it did not exist) whereas continued membership of the EU would be subject to the consent of the people in a referendum.

In paragraph 11 he writes -

'Perhaps if the Scots leave the United Kingdom to become a province of Europe...join Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway - the family of truly sovereign nations which are assembled in EFTA'

Firstly, Scots have absolutely no intention of becoming 'a province of Europe', secondly he insults all other sovereign nations, whether in the EU or elsewhere in the world, by suggesting that 'truly sovereign nations' are in EFTA. Tiny Liechtenstein has a population much less than that of Edinburgh and is the only country outwith the Arab world which does not allow women to vote.

'We do not aspire to a centralised European super state, but neither will we be satisfied with a European Union that only exists as a market and that stands divided and impotent when human rights and international law are being violated. Neither will we accept a European Union that looks down on small countries and constitutional regions while allowing the larger member states or the economic and military superpowers to dictate the law.'

- Nelly Maes, European Free Alliance [of which the SNP is a member].

Monday, 4 February 2008

Scotland in Europe

Scotland's trading links with other European countries were many and varied as the following extracts show -

'From Haddington on 11 October [1297] the two [William Wallace and Andrew Murray] wrote to the mayors and communes of Lubeck and Hamburg. The letter had a double intention. It informed the readers that Scotland, an independent kingdom again, had been won back by battle from the English. It was at the same time in the nature of the reopening of those Scottish trading connections with Germany which had been a feature of the reign of Alexander III.'

Source: 'WILLIAM WALLACE' by Andrew Fisher, pp. 118-119, ISBN 0 85976 557 1.

'There was a good deal of trade with England, largely by sea with east coast ports. The proximity of English markets became so attractive as to nullify the effects both of political hostility and of legislation designed to keep Scottish raw materials at home and encourage native manufactures; Scottish wool was always welcome in England, and English cloth welcome in Scotland. This was plain in the sixteenth century...To France went wool, cloth and salt fish, in return for wines from Gascony and various delicacies and luxury articles. The Low Countries were early established as the chief outlet for Scottish exports. By 1296 the Flemings had a depot in their Red Hall in Berwick, and from the next century a port in the Netherlands - Middelburg, Bruges or Veere - was the Scottish 'staple', through which the principal exports passed and where a 'conservator of Scottish privileges in Flanders', appointed by the Scottish crown, guarded the goods and interests of Scottish merchants. To the Low Countries the Scots sent wool, skins and hides, and later coal, salt, cloth, stockings and herring, in return for spices and clothing. German merchants had their Scottish headquarters in the White Hall at Berwick in the thirteenth century, and when Wallace liberated Scotland in 1297 he wrote to Lubeck and Hamburg telling them that they could resume their trade. That there was already commerce with Norway is indicated by a clause in the treaty of 1266 [Treaty of Perth]; in later times corn (in time of plenty), cloth, skins, coal, salt and fish went to Scandinavia and the Baltic in return for corn (in time of dearth), iron and prodigious quantities of timber. By the end of the Middle Ages wine was coming from Spain as well as France.'

Source: 'Scotland: The Shaping of a Nation' by Gordon Donaldson, pp. 203-204, ISBN 0 7153 6904 0.

Scotland also has other historical connections with mainland Europe which include the military service of Scots either as mercenaries or in an official capacity. In the 16th and 17th centuries Scots fought for Sweden, Poland, Germany, Russia and the Netherlands. There was a Scots Brigade in the Netherlands during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701 - 1714). Scots fought in the armies of Gustav Adolphus of Sweden during the Thirty Years War (1618 -1648). Military service to the kings of France was established in 1295 by the French Alliance which lasted until 1560 and became known to Scots as the 'Auld Alliance'. In the 17th century Peter the Great hired General Patrick Gordon, from Aberdeen, to lead the Russian army. During the Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939) Scots were part of the 15th International Brigade. They fought in defence of the Republican government against the Fascist forces of General Franco. Two notable Scots who became well known for their military service overseas are Samuel Greig and John Paul Jones (Father of the United States navy). Born in 1735 Samuel Greig achieved fame in the navy of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. He bacame famous for his role in the Battle of Chesme Bay in 1770 against the Turkish fleet. In 1782 she appointed him a full Admiral. His last battle was against the Swedish fleet in the Baltic Sea in July 1788. Catherine the Great bestowed on Greig the Russian Order of St. Andrew but later that year he died on board his ship 'The Rostislav' and was given a state funeral by her, his mausoleum is in Tallin, Estonia. In 1998 a contingent of 60 sailors from the Russian navy presented a memorial tablet to the hometown of Admiral Samuel Greig, Inverkeithing in Fife. John Paul Jones (born as John Paul he added the Jones later), born near Kirkudbright in Galloway in 1747, was also invited to join the Russian navy following the reputation he gained during the American Revolution ("I have not yet begun to fight"). He was made a Rear-Admiral in the Russian navy and defeated the Turkish fleet in the Black Sea in 1788.

In 1975 the Scottish National Party (SNP) campaigned for a 'No' vote in a referendum on continued membership of the European Economic Community (EEC). This was based on the premise that Scotland should not be forced to join the EEC as part of a member state that was originally created through the Treaty of Union of 1707 rather than opposition to the EEC on any grounds. At its annual conference in 1983 the SNP adopted a pro-EEC stance, then at the 1988 annual conference the policy of 'Independence in Europe' was adopted.

Scotland became part of the European Economic Community (now the European Union) in 1973 by virtue of the accession of the United Kingdom (to use the abbreviation of the formal name - United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) to the Treaty of Rome (1957). The first direct elections to the European Parliament were held in 1979 in which Scotland returned 8 Members of the European Parliament (MEP's), one of whom was Winnie Ewing (SNP). Such was her impact that she earned the nickname "Madame Ecosse", Winnie retired as an MEP in 2003. Until 2004 those elections were conducted in the UK using the First Past The Post (FPTP - Simple Majority) method of voting. In 2004 the number of MEP's returned was reduced to 7 and in June 2009 it will further be reduced to 6 (at present Scotland has 2 SNP MEP's). Following the Treaty of Lisbon the European Parliament will have up to 750 elected members with each member state having a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 96 MEP's. These numbers are apportioned to member states on degressive proportionality, which means that that while the size of the population is taken into account smaller states will elect more MEP's than would be strictly justified by their population alone, however, it is up to the individual member state to determine how seats are allocated but they may not be divided up in a way which would no longer be proportional. Throughout the European Union the Parliaments constituencies are formed on a member state basis, however, there are 6 member states in which this is not the case and their national territory is sub-divided into European constituencies, they are - Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom. In 2009 Denmark, with a population of 5.42 million, Slovakia, with a population of 5.28 million, and Finland, with a population of 5.25 million, will each get 13 MEP's, Ireland, with a population of 4.21 million, will get 12 MEP's, however tiny Luxembourg, with a population of 460,000 will get 6 MEP's. What these figures show is that Scotland, with a population of about 5.1 million and which will only have 6 MEP's in 2009, is effectively penalized for being part of a larger member state.

Decision making in the European Union (EU) is a complex matter as various institutions of the EU are involved, such as the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union (Council of Ministers) and the European Commission. Although the Parliament has the right to initiate legislation it can only do so by asking the Commission to submit a proposal. Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) is used in the Council of Ministers and is a mechanism which prevents the fewer but much larger member states from being able to impose their wishes on the smaller member states. Currently about 75% of the votes of Council members are required for a proposal to be passed. From 2014 Qualified Majority Voting will be based on the principle of the double majority, that is 55% of member states representing at least 65% of of the EU population, a blocking minority must consist of at least four member states to make it impossible for a small number of the more populous member states to prevent a decision from being adopted. Irrespective of this there is, however, a problem where Scotland's interests are concerned, particularly in the deep-sea fishing industry. Representation in the Council of Ministers is restricted to the official delegations from the member states, which as far as Scotland is currently concerned is the United Kingdom. Tiny land-locked Luxembourg is a member state, has a population less than Edinburgh, has no fishing fleet but has the power to influence decisions that could have a significant impact on the fishing industry in Scotland.

The following is an extract from the preface by Nelly Maes, President of the European Free Alliance (EFA), to the book 'European Free Alliance: Voice of the peoples of Europe - The first 25 years (1981 - 2006)' -

'"The EFA seeks to confine to the history books all injustice with regard to languages and communities minorities and stateless nations."

A European Union that merely recognises the rights of states cannot lead to true democracy and lasting peace. The denial of the rights of peoples and regions, of their language and culture and of their right to self-determination remains a source of frustration and dispute in many European states and abroad.

On the other hand, the narrow-mindedness and self-interest of the member states are preventing Europe from becoming a true champion of human rights, development and peace on a global scale.

Free peoples who can experience their own identity as a nation, a region or language community and who work together to create the democratic institutions that shape the European Union politically: that is the dream of the European Free Alliance.

We want to realise this dream through peaceful and democratic political action rather than resorting to violence. We do not aspire to a centralised European super state, but neither will we be satisfied with a European Union that only exists as a market and that stands divided and impotent when human rights and international law are being violated, or when poverty, war and environmental disasters threaten the lives of millions. Neither will we accept a European Union that looks down on small countries and constitutional regions while allowing the larger member states or the economic and military superpowers to dictate the law.'

There are now thirty political parties (including the SNP since 1989) throughout Europe which are currently members of the European Free Alliance. At a meeting in Edinburgh in January 2008 a joint EFA declaration was made demanding the recognition of internal enlargement. Internal enlargement is the process by which non-state nations within the EU will be granted full membership status once they have achieved independence.