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Showing posts with label Herald Letters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Herald Letters. Show all posts

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The “democratic principle”– and Unionist attempts to deny it when YES voters exercise it.

I wrote this in response to a Herald letter from a regular correspondent to Letters who echoed with uncanny accuracy the line being pursued by the UK unionist parties on YES Scotland’s (I refer to those who voted YES) temerity in not giving up after the referendum, but forging ahead with the SNP in exercising their legal and democratic rights to participate in the Parliamentary union the September 18th 2014 ballot result had compelled them to remain a part of. A great silence has followed my letter – so far …

Herald Letters March 11th 2015 

"SNP is a regional party ..." Peter A. Russell

Dear Sir,

I hardly know where to start with Peter A. Russell's letter on the SNP role in the 2015 general election. It reflects the deeply confused constitutional - not to say democratically questionable - assumptions that lie at the root of so many unionist arguments.

1. The "democratic principle" is that a government, once elected, is accountable to all the voters, not to the "majority of the voters" who may or may not have voted for the party or parties that form the government. In the 18 general elections since 1945, no single party forming a government has ever had 50% or more of the vote. The present combined Tory/LibDem Coalition had 58.08%. (As an aside, I have delivered leaflets and campaigned, at some level of involvement, in every one of them from the age of 10.)

2. The SNP has not "chosen to be" a de facto regional party in the UK". It stands candidates for the UK Parliament in Scottish constituencies determined legally and constitutionally under UK-wide law. No political party has a duty to stand candidates across the UK. It is committed to an over-arching objective of Scotland's independence, but it currently operates with a UK framework of law, offering itself to an electorate that contains voters in favour of and opposed to independence.  Once elected, SNP MPs represents all shades of political opinion within their constituency, in exactly the same manner as any MP anywhere in UK. It is clear beyond doubt that Scottish voters opposed to independence voted - and will vote - for the SNP.

3. The SNP forms the devolved government of Scotland. It can never be the main party in government of the UK, nor does it seek to be. While Scotland remains a part of UK, its objective is to represent Scotland's interests within the democratic structure and arithmetic of Westminster voting. It cannot pursue independence at Westminster, only further devolution within a UK framework. It has no intention of "dictating to 90% of the UK electorate" but will pursue an agenda for the electorate and the people of Scotland - all of them.

4. Independence can only be secured democratically by a referendum - the UK Parliament will never vote for the independence of any of its four component countries. The Scottish people rejected independence in the last referendum. If the SNP wins a large block of seats on May 7th, and subsequently wins a decisive third term majority in the 2016 Holyrood election, it will undoubtedly be a powerful democratic indicator that a majority of the Scottish people want a second referendum.

5. The UK electorate may vote for a party label, but they in fact vote for individual constituency MPs who, without exception, represent a "regional' constituency" under a first-past-the-post system. Most MPs run under a party label and accept a party whip, but in Westminster they vote as individuals MPs, whipped  or independently. That is UK democracy, however distorted on occasion by the party system.

yours faithfully,

Peter Curran

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Referendum voting rights, residence qualification and citizenship aspects

I am not a lawyer, just a voter trying to stay informed in the lead-up to the most important event in Scotland for three centuries. Don’t treat my understanding as authoritative – check your own facts!


Service and Crown personnel serving in the UK or overseas in the armed forces, or with Her Majesty's Government, who are registered to vote in Scotland are eligible to vote in the referendum. This is consistent with local election residential criteria and previous referendums.

The criterion of residence in Scotland is fundamental, and any attempt to extend or ignore it in a referendum would be challenged by other nations, as the UN Human Rights Committee has made clear.

I lived and worked for nine years in England, and voted in local and national elections in my English constituencies. As a resident in England in 1979, I took a keen interest in the Scottish referendum, but never felt or claimed entitlement to vote in it. I have Scottish-born family living in England and abroad – none of them feel an entitlement or claim a right to vote in 2014.

Richard Mowbray is an Englishman resident in Scotland, one who, I am sure, has made his full contribution to Scottish society, voted in elections and perhaps a previous referendum based on the existing residential criterion. I support and defend his right to do that – and comment on and take a position on Scotland's independence, and vote accordingly in 2014. I also support the same rights for the Romanian Big Issue seller in Glasgow, participating in an admirable social initiative to give him or her a foothold in Scottish economic activity, and the rights of the French financial analyst in Edinburgh, both of whose rights Mr Mowbray appears to challenge.

Scotland's wish to stand as an autonomous, independent nation state does not rely on a concept of Scotland based on romantic ideas of blood ties, empire, monarchy and valiant deaths on foreign fields. Scotland is an open, welcoming country, granting the right to full political participation in its democracy to all who chose to live, work and contribute, as Mr Mowbray has done.

Peter Curran,


Alex Sloan and John F. Crawford et al seem a little confused over citizenship.

Citizenship and eligibility to vote in referendums are different, but related concepts. For example, British citizenship on its own does not create eligibility to vote in a UK election - one must be over 18 years of age on polling day and registered to vote. Eligibility to register to vote requires that you are 16 years old or over and a British citizen or an Irish, qualifying Commonwealth or European Union citizen resident in the UK. If you are 16 or 17, you can only register if you will be 18 within the lifetime of the electoral register. You cannot vote until you are 18. 16-17 years olds will be eligible to vote in the referendum, subject to similar constraints and requirements

There are exclusion from the right to vote among British citizens, e.g. members of House of Lords, convicted prisoners serving their sentences, anyone guilty within five years of corrupt or illegal practices in connection with an election.

EU citizens resident in the UK may not vote in UK general elections, but can vote in local elections, devolved elections - e.g. Scottish Parliament, Wales and Northern Ireland devolved assemblies and of course in European Parliamentary elections.

I am not a lawyer, but the above represents my best understanding of an often confusing subject. I try not to allow my commitment to an independent Scotland to blind me to objective facts. Better Together supporters might try for the same commitment - it will keep the debate rational and objective, in line with the great debating traditions of Scotland.

It is worth bearing in mind that much British legislation on citizenship and voting rights is simply the fragmented legacy of a global empire that has progressively fallen apart, because of its component nations seeking - and achieving - their independence, because they didn't feel they were better together.

Happy to be corrected on factual errors in my understanding!

Monday, 3 October 2011

A letter to the Herald – in full

Ruth Marr is a regular contributor to the Letters pages of our Scottish newspapers. As someone who did a fair amount of that at a point in time, I accept the reality that editorial judgment must be exercised as to whether to print or not, and in editing content, for reasons of space and other considerations. I don’t believe that editors censor letters – if they didn’t like it, they wouldn’t publish at all. And I repeat my long-held view that, whatever my difference with the Herald’s news coverage on occasion, I regard its Letter Page as the glory of the newspaper, and in the highest traditions of free journalism, free debate and exchange of views. It is the voice of the Scottish people, in all their political diversity, and is unmatched in this context by any other Scottish or indeed UK newspaper.

Ruth had a letter in today’s Herald, and it made perfect sense as printed, at least to me, but since I know it was an edited version of the original, I think it is useful to reproduce the original here, and I have Ruth’s permission to do so. The topic is a vital one, and an area where the Coalition Government and David Cameron are playing with fire, but seem to be too obtuse to recognise this fact.



During the Scottish Parliamentary election campaign Alex Salmond made clear to the electorate  his plans to hold a referendum on Scottish independence during the latter half of this parliamentary term, and on polling day was given a resounding endorsement by the voters. 

What part of that do opposition politicians not understand? Is it because they are so accustomed to saying one thing before an election and doing another after it that they find it hard to grasp the concept of a politician honouring his promises? Ever since the SNP victory, opposition politicians have been needling Mr Salmond to break his word and hold an early referendum, and now, ominously, the talk is that Westminster might step over the Scottish Government and hold its own referendum, under its own terms. ( 'Westminster weighs up holding Referendum first' The Herald, October 1st). 

David Cameron's threats that he will not allow the First Minister of Scotland to use his term in power to campaign for Scottish independence is an unwarranted and unpardonable interference in the devolved government of Scotland. Mr Cameron's assurance that he would show respect to Scotland has been revealed as an empty promise.  But a promise which will be kept was made to the voters by the Scottish Government on the timing of this referendum, and when it is held it should be the Scottish people and only the Scottish people who have the power to decide Scotland's destiny, whether Westminster likes it or not. 

Ruth Marrsubmitted 1st October 2011, edited version published today, 3rd October 2011