There seem to have been an increasing number of ‘through the looking glass’ moments in UK politics in recent times, and certainly the word ‘unprecedented’ has lost its shine.
However, having not one but two former Tory Prime Ministers quoted back at me by Angus Robertson, Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, wasn’t something I was quite prepared for last Wednesday.
But then again, we were in the Holyrood chamber on the day the UK Supreme Court ruled that Scotland can’t have an independence referendum without permission from Westminster.
To me, this made the arguments for independence clear. No matter how Scotland votes, it is Westminster who decides.
It is now a question of democracy. Scotland’s voice must be heard and our parliament’s pro-independence majority must be respected.
Standing in the Scottish Parliament that afternoon, I wanted to know what the fact that the Scotland Act 1998 prevents Scotland from having a referendum to escape Westminster control says about the security of the devolution settlement and the state of democracy in the UK.
In response, Angus Robertson quoted the UK’s first female Prime Minister, who said: “As a nation” the Scots “have an undoubted right to national self-determination.” Thatcher also said: “Should they determine on independence, no English party or politician” should “stand in their way”.
Not done there, the Cabinet Secretary told the Holyrood chamber that it was yet another Tory Prime Minister, John Major, who said of Scotland: “No nation could be held irrevocably in a union against its will.”
Furthermore, Angus Robertson added that as part of the cross-party Smith Commission, after the 2014 independence referendum, all parties had said: “Nothing in this report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland so choose.”
Angus then rightly highlighted that the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, and the Liberal Democrats all have a choice in this, but that they are working hand in glove to deny the people their say.
I do not believe this is simply a matter of being pro or anti Scottish independence. It is surely a matter of democracy that voters should be able to choose their own futures, and the denial of which should outrage any democrat.
For that reason, I was delighted to see a strong crowd of independence supporters gathered last Wednesday evening in front of St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, part of several gatherings across Scotland and Europe after the Supreme Court ruling. I know how hard it is to make the case for independence in what has been a LibDem stronghold – although each election since 2014 has seen that position steadily eroded – and so making their voices heard was all the more admirable.
We need democracy in this country, but last Wednesday we saw the end of the voluntary union as we thought we knew it. We will not give up on democracy, and the people will have their say.
This is a regular column by SNP MSP Emma Roddick. All Highlands and Islands Regional MSPs have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their personal views.