About 40 to 50 people attended the ‘Time for Scotland’ event held on 23rd of November at 5.15pm on the steps of St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall.
The event locally had been organised by the independence campaigning group Yes Orkney as part of a series of simultaneous rallies across Scotland and in Europe. The Time for Scotland rallies were in response to the judgment issued that day by the UK Supreme Court which declared that the Scottish Parliament did not have the power to hold an advisory referendum on whether or not Scotland should remain in the UK. The permission of the UK Government would be needed to hold such a referendum despite repeated mandates at elections given to the SNP and Scottish Greens.
The judgment by the UK Supreme Court means that no matter what the electorate of Scotland vote at both UK and Scottish General Elections, it will only be with the consent of the UK that a referendum could take place. The House of Commons consists of 650 MPs: England 533, Scotland 59, Wales 40 and Northern Ireland 18. Boundary changes are to take place in 2023 which will see the balance tip even further with more MPs for England due to its increased population and fewer for Scotland and Wales.
The situation with Northern Ireland is different. It will retain 18 MPs but with some changes to boundaries.
Northern Ireland also differs when it comes to holding a referendum on Irish reunification.
The British Government, through the Northern Ireland Act 1998, enshrined the principle of self-determination in legislation and also repealed the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which initially partitioned the island of Ireland. A referendum on a united Ireland is to be called by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when it appears likely that a majority of the people would vote in favour of a united Ireland. If the referendum is defeated, at least 7 years must pass before a new referendum can be held. The Good Friday Agreement via Citizens Information
The Orkney ‘Time for Scotland’ event heard from two main speakers, Robert Leslie SNP and Helen Woodsford Dean Scottish Greens. Both speakers referred to the democratic deficit of a Scotland which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union in an advisory referendum but which was taken out anyway by the UK. They also covered the crisis thousands in the islands are facing with heating and household bills despite Orkney being an exporter of clean renewable energy.
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