The first part of Stuart‘s lengthy tome had over 200 comments… which suggests there is an appetite for the second part… so here it is:

The first part of this post concluded by proffering another explanation for the sovereignty paradox (meaning in essence the desire to withdraw from the United Kingdom but then cede significant economic and legal powers to the European Union and ECHR) namely that the SNP’s raison d’être is less about independence per se than incompatible political ideologies as between Scotland and the rest of the UK, and as compared to England in particular. Earlier I asked what the difference was between last year’s Labour Scottish triumph at Westminster and this year’s SNP landslide in the Holyrood poll. Of course, apart from the parliament in question the most obvious response is the rightwards lurch in the context of UK politics as a whole.

Thus in a recent blog post (albeit of sufficient newsworthiness to be the subject of a Scotsman news article) SNP policy and strategy guru Stephen Noon suggests “there is a harshness to the UK government’s approach that goes against the grain of Scottish society”, compares Alex Salmond’s “Fair Society” with David Cameron’s “Big Society”, and concludes:

“This is a tale of two countries, of two very different visions of society and of the future. It reflects contrasting priorities. And that, ultimately, is what Home Rule – devolution and independence – is all about.”

Thus it’s not so much about independence, sovereignty and ‘forging our destiny’ than in effect gerrymandering the UK to afford primacy to Scotland’s dominant progressive, left-of-centre political philosophy, undiluted by being part of the UK. Therefore independence is less about nationalism and an end in itself than about conflicting ideologies.

Which would, of course, solve the sovereignty paradox, most obviously as regards the EU and the euro, with their supposed communitarian and progressive ethos (assuming a currency can be thus characterised!). And presumably the EU’s obvious shortcomings are ignored in favour of a rose-tinted perspective on the whole European project, in contrast to Westminster’s semi-detached relationship with the EU. Whereas the reality is arguably that in some respects the latter is even less attractive than the former as regards Scotland’s posited political zeitgeist. (To a lesser extent this kind of false dichotomy might also apply to the Holyrood/Westminster comparison).

For example, in many ways the EU is wedded to a fundamentalist market perspective, with free movement of workers within the area being one obvious facet of this ethos. Of course, this can be detrimental to the wages and conditions of indigenous workers and even drive them out of work, but the dominant Scottish mindset prefers to portray the situation in terms of things like cultural diversity, whereas the latter idealism in England seems to have given way to the less rosy former perspective, with the difference north and south of the border arguably being due merely to the differing scales of immigration rather than fundamentally different levels of tolerance and suchlike.

But solving the sovereignty paradox in terms of fundamental political differences – real or imagined – may seem like stating the obvious, so is there any mileage in viewing independence for Scotland as a principle in itself, an intrinsic good, or is it merely the means to an alternative ideological end?

Thus would those who are pro-independence but distinctly progressive/neo-socialist in political outlook be so keen on Scotland going it alone if that more obviously entailed a distinctly right-leaning political environment? By the same token, would a left-of-centre future in the UK generally make the continuation of the Union a more attractive proposition, particularly if an independent Scotland seemed likely to steer a political course to the right of this?

Of course, it’s self-evident that many supporters of the SNP – and, to an extent, independence – have come to the party after becoming disillusioned with new Labour – and, also to a degree, Unionism – thus a thesis of ideology trumping sovereignty is perhaps trying to over-elaborate on something self-evident and unremarkable.

On the other hand, there are plenty of people to the right-of-centre on the political spectrum who are pro-independence but are presumably resigned to the fact that a more sovereign Scotland would mean a political environment at odds with their own ideological stance, and indeed perhaps even more unpalatable than it is now. Hence their support for independence is presumably based on grounds other than humdrum political preferences.

Of course, solving the sovereignty conundrum in terms of political philosophy is only one aspect of looking at the problem. One related – but distinctly less attractive – way of looking at the same situation is in terms of Anglophobes on the one hand and Europhiles on the other.

And the ideological perspective itself reduces a complex and often contradictory dynamic to a simple scenario of left v right, or Westminster v Holyrood & Brussels in terms of institutions. But the stink over the Supreme Court itself reveals a pro-independence split between the more obvious rights-oriented psyche which supports the court’s intervention on the human rights convention’s right to a fair trial, as opposed to the undercurrent of a more illiberal stance from Mr Salmond and Mr MacAskill.

This is perhaps neatly encapsulated in a Scotsman article by Nationalist historian Michael Fry, who arguably displays little appreciation of the impact of ECHR jurisprudence on Scots law irrespective of the Supreme Court aspect – and instead highlights the dangers of British/English law to Scottish legal independence – but who in any case seems to demonstrates a distinctly anti-rights ethos:

“Till a year or two ago, there were no appeals in criminal proceedings beyond the High Court in Edinburgh. Today there is the possibility of or even the invitation to one for cases somehow involving human rights, and such an appeal will go to the Supreme Court in London. So a back door has been left ajar that could be hard to push to: there may be many cases in which clever and unscrupulous Scots defence lawyers will look for, indeed delight in finding, some aspect of human rights. The vaunted independence of the Scottish judiciary could in this area face the fatal risk of absorption into a British system of justice. And here, as in other areas, British may mean in reality English.”

By the same token, it may also be the case that the first minister and justice secretary are more concerned about the reputation of Scotland’s justice system than justice per se, thus their reaction to the Fraser and Cadder cases are perhaps less about the Supreme Court and the procedural and sovereignty aspects than how its decisions are perceived to reflect badly on the efficacy of an independent Scottish nation. Hence this all may represent a continuation of the misgivings regarding the Lockerbie bomber’s conviction, with al-Megrahi’s release on compassionate grounds reflecting more positively on the SNP’s desired perception of Scotland than the can of worms that an inquiry into the whole affair could represent, as dissenting Nationalist voices demonstrate.

Thus while the progressive Holyrood/Europe v illiberal Westminster analysis of necessity simplifies many competing interests and philosophies, from a personal perspective I would hazard that if born in 1994 rather than 1964 then I might find the idea of the SNP and Scottish independence significantly more attractive than is currently the case. However, experience (and all that!) has resulted in cynicism and disillusionment with idealistic/left wing politics, hence a scepticism regarding the independence project. Thus clearly a ‘fluid’ approach to sovereignty more related to personal philosophy than nationalistic principle and questions regarding precisely where political power should reside: Edinburgh, London, Brussels; who cares, as long as it’s good government.

Of course, I’m sure historians and political theorists can cite numerous examples of nationalist movements arising from or given impetus by ideological considerations. But when Stephen Noon chained himself to the Stone of Destiny back in 1992, perhaps he should have tattooed Labour’s clause IV on his forehead instead, or at least the contemporary equivalent encompassing the SNP’s vision of a “fair society”.