Europe Scotland

An Open Challenge to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP Leadership

I have been throughly disappointed and depressed at much of the response to my articles on the EU.  I hate group think and soundbites, on whatever side and yet that is what I have been largely faced with.  I know that there are thoughtful SNP politicians and supporters who have considered these things and come up with a different point of view to mine (let me give a shout out to Autonomy Scotland who has at least attempted to provide some evidence, and has interacted intelligently).   But the vast majority of responses have just come straight out of the National and the SNP bot machine.    I won’t give you a list, but let me give you one example – if I had a pound for every time I heard ‘are you saying Germany isn’t independent?’ (in response to my claim that Indy in the EU is not real independence) I could pay off all my debts!    When you point out that Scotland is more like Greece than Germany there is either silence, abuse or a quick change of subject.

So on the basis that there are intelligent and thoughtful SNP politicians/supporters out there ( (Nicola, Mike, Roseanna, John et al) , I want to issue this straightforward challenge – if you can answer the question below then I will change my mind.   I am open to persuasion.  I don’t want the soundbites or the mantras.  I want answers.


Nicola Sturgeon on the the BBC came out with some very interesting statements.  Firstly she trashed the arguments I have heard from some true believers who argue that nothing has changed since the Indy Ref in 2014 and so to be consistent people like me who voted Yes then, should vote Yes now and we will then get to choose about joining the EU or not.  “I think Tony Blair is stating the obvious, the independence argument is now very different that it was in 2014” .  Indeed it is.  Because the question is now how to keep Scotland in the EU/Single Market, not how can Scotland be an Independent country.    But it was the next bit that got me.   She argued that leaving the UK was necessary in order to ‘take control, taking charge of our own future, our own society and our place in the world”  (Where have we heard that ‘take control’ mantra before? Whats next – Make Scotland Great Again?!)

So my question is simple.  In a week in which Juncker said that there were over 20,000 EU laws which Britain would have to get rid of, can any SNP politician explain how Scotland leaving the UK to join the EU is ‘taking control’ of our own future, our own society and our own place in the world?  Would we have control of our own fishing?  Or our own agriculture?  Or our own borders?  Or our own finances?   Given that we would become a net contributor to the EU (it could cost £3 billion) just what kind of Independence and control are we purchasing?

Nicola was happy to tweet in support of Tony Blair.   If you are willing to listen to Tony Blair and cite him in support then I’m sure you will be prepared to give another Labour stalwart, Tony Benn, a listening.  This is not ‘hard right Tory Brexit’ as you have all been told to repeat as often as you can.   This is the left-wing and democratic case for being out of the EU.  This is what persuaded me…so if you can answer Mr Benn then you may be able to persuade me (and the thousands of others of Yes 2014/No 2018 voters)…and you will need to if you are to have any chance of winning.   We far outnumber a few celebrity progressives who have changed sides the other way, because for them the EU is more important than the UK .


This is from a letter that Benn wrote (thanks to one of my correspondents for reminding me of it).   I’ll let Benn explain…..(and please feel free to substitute Scottish Parliament and Courts for the British – I have done so in the block quotes)…

“I am writing, not to argue a case, but to explain — as best I can — what effect British membership of the Common Market has had upon the constitutional relationship between a member of Parliament and his constituents. The Parliamentary democracy we have developed and established in Britain is based, not upon the sovereignty of Parliament, but upon the sovereignty of the People, who, by exercising their vote lend their sovereign powers to Members of Parliament, to use on their behalf, for the duration of a single Parliament only — Powers that must be returned intact to the electorate to whom they belong, to lend again to the Members of Parliament they elect in each subsequent general election. Five basic democratic rights derive from this relationship, and each of them is fundamentally altered by Britain’s membership of the European Community,

First: Parliamentary Democracy means that every man and woman over eighteen is entitled to vote to elect his or her Member of Parliament to serve in the House of Commons; and the consent of the House of Commons is necessary for Parliament can pass any act laying down new laws or imposing new taxation on the people.

1.Scottish Membership of the Community subjects us all to laws and taxes which your Members of Parliament do not enact, such laws and taxes being enacted by Authorities you do not directly elect, and cannot dismiss through the ballot box.

Second: Parliamentary Democracy means that Members of Parliament who derive their power directly from the British people, can change any law and any tax by majority vote,

2. Scottish  Membership of the Community means that community laws and taxes cannot be changed or repealed by the Scottish Parliament, but only by Community authorities not directly elected by the Scottish People.

Third: Parliamentary Democracy means that British Courts and Judges must Uphold all laws passed by Parliament; and if Parliament changes any law the courts must enforce the new law because it has been passed by Parliament Which has been directly elected by the people.

3. Scottish Membership of the Community requires the Scottish Courts to uphold and enforce community laws that have not been passed by Parliament, and that Parliament cannot change or amend, even when such laws conflict with laws passed by Parliament, since Community law over-rides Scottish Law.

Fourth: Parliamentary Democracy means that all British governments, ministers and the civil servants under their control can only act within the laws of Britain and are accountable to Parliament for everything they do, and hence, through Parliament to the electors as a whole.

4. Scottish Membership of the Community imposes duties and constraints upon Scottish governments not deriving from the Scottish Parliament; and thus, in discharging those duties Ministers are not accountable to Parliament or to the Scottish people who elect them.

Fifth: Parliamentary Democracy because it entrenches the rights of the people to elect and dismiss Members of Parliament, also secures the continuing accountability of Members of Parliament to the electorate, obliging Members of .Parliament to listen to the expression of the British people’s views at all times, between, as well as during, general elections, and thus offers a continuing possibility of peaceful change through Parliament to meet the people’s needs.

5. Scottish Membership of the Community by permanently transferring sovereign legislative and financial powers to Community authorities, who are not directly elected by the Scottish people, also permanently insulates those authorities from direct control by the Scottish electors who cannot dismiss them and whose views, therefore, need carry no weight with them and whose grievances they cannot be compelled to remedy. In short, the power of the electors of Scotland, through their direct representatives in Parliament to make laws, levy taxes, change laws which the courts must uphold, and control the conduct of public affairs has• been substantially ceded to the European Community whose Council of Ministers and Commission are neither collectively elected, nor collectively dismissed by the Scottish people nor even by the peoples and all the Community countries put together.”

These five rights have protected us in Britain from the worst abuse of power by government; safeguarded us against the excesses of bureaucracy; defended our . basic liberties; offered us the prospect of peaceful change; reduced the risk of civil strife; and bound us together by creating a national framework of consent for all the laws under which we were governed. We have promised a ballot box decision because all these rights are important, and none should be abandoned without the explicit consent of the people.”

“I am against] the Treaty of Rome which entrenches laissez faire as its philosophy and chooses bureaucracy as its administrative method.”

“A historical perspective is the key to democratic politics, which if denied can bury the real issues and confine news coverage to high-level gossip about the rich and the powerful, reducing us to the role of spectators of our fate, rather than active participants,” he explained. “The obliteration of the past strengthens the short-term calculations that pass for political thought, and for me the real heroes are those few who try to explain the world in order to help us to understand what we can best do to improve our lot.”

The House will forgive me for quoting five democratic questions that I have developed during my life. If one meets a powerful person–Rupert Murdoch, perhaps, or Joe Stalin or Hitler–one can ask five questions: what power do you have; where did you get it; in whose interests do you exercise it; to whom are you accountable; and, how can we get rid of you? Anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions does not live in a democratic system.


Please watch this:


And then answer this – do you really want Scotland to be part of and governed by  ‘the most bureaucratic, terrifying system in the world’…..In what ways is taking Scotland out of the UK into the EU ‘taking back control’?   How is this Liberal?  How is this Left-wing? How is this progressive?  And how is this Independence?

Forget Tony Blair…..answer Tony Benn and I will repent….otherwise I and many others will refuse to follow this undemocratic, illiberal and anti-Independence road.  Over to you…..Nicola, Mike, Roseanna, John…..



  1. I do not flatter myself that I could put Mr. Benn’s points anywhere near so cogently but that is why I voted leave. Nothing to do with immigration – Scotland needs more people; nothing to do with economics, although I believe leaving will be beneficial in the medium to long term; nothing to do with my personal welfare – I would have voted the same way ten years ago if given the chance even though it could have meant I would have to stop working in the EU.

    As to your challenge David, don’t hold your breath.

  2. I hadn’t read this speech of Tony Benn, but find it deeply impressive. It does drive the proverbial’ coach and horses’ through any claim to have independence but still remain in the EU as at present. Scotland outside the UK but remaining fully integrated in the EU would have less control over its affairs than it does today. I am not sure the ‘yes’ campaign at a future referendum would make too much progress with being honest about this! It also shows the absurdity of calling another independence referendum prior to the completion of the brexit process. Thank you David for the clarity and strength of your argument.

    On Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 7:35 AM, THE BLOG OF DAVID ROBERTSON wrote:

    > theweeflea posted: ” I have been throughly disappointed and depressed at > much of the response to my articles on the EU. I hate group think and > soundbites, on whatever side and yet that is what I have been largely faced > with. I know that there are thoughtful S” >

    1. Well laid out and I will be very interested to read the comments received as to whether they play the ball or the man!

  3. It is beyond parody that Blair is calling for a rising up- of who against whom – when a peaceful, democratic rising up is not possible in the the EU.

  4. Can I just say tell you something David…

    I hadn’t come across your blog before you did that “amazing” 3 piece article series about the current state of affairs in the Scottish Government. And 2-3 paragraphs in I was hooked, simply because you speak so much sense. I was almost a YES voter in 2014, almost – the currency/financial issues killed it for me – because at the last minute I heard Alex Salmond ‘guffaw’ with laughter on a live show and then say “aacht, we’ll sort that oot later!”.

    But still, in the last election, I voted for SNP because Nicola Sturgeon was the most professional politician I’d ever seen. She owned the stage and talked of all of the SNP’s successes and how she was going to make Scotland great again. Now though, actually within weeks of my vote, I felt like I’d been conned. Nothing, absolutely nothing, she said pre-election was true and she clearly had no intention of fulfilling any of those promises.

    Of course, now it’s so much worse. The centralisation of everything, the lack of responsibility as a government, the (I’ve got to say) completely Fascist system they’re integrating into our society and their complete inability to answer anything, at all, truthfully, if they even attempt to answer it at all. Baby boxes, the named person scheme, unlimited photo opportunities in our children’s nurseries and primary schools wreaks of “conditioning”. I’ve got two young kids and I want them to be able to make their own minds up in future, not for them to receive a “welcome to the world” pack from Nicola and a named person who they can turn to before they speak to their loving parents.

    I’m not even sure if it’s socialism, fascism, or communism they’re trying to adopt now, because I’m not a political genius and I can’t make head nor tail of the SNP right now. I just know that what they’re doing now is wrong. I can’t even understand why they say they’re “centre-left”, or whatever they call themselves, because they actually come across as the most right wing party in the UK. Well, if you look through their neverending lies they do seem to.

    Anyway, sorry to burden you with this. I’ve spent months reading daily articles about what’s going on, with an ever-increasing degree of worry, and this is actually the first time I’ve posted anything about it online. So I just wanted to say that I appreciate your hard work and if I was little bit closer (I’m in Dunfermline) I’d certainly pop into your church with the kids on a Sunday.

    Oh, can I just leave you with a quote that keeps sticking in my head….

    “Let us have a dagger between our teeth, a bomb in our hands, and an infinite scorn in our hearts”

    That statement could literally have come from Salmond, Sturgeon, the IRA (sorry, had to say it!) or as it happened, Mussolini.

    Well, I don’t want to live my life like that and I don’t want my children to suffer it either.

    Thanks again for all of your fantastic articles – you’ve been a very positive breath of fresh air in the last couple of weeks!

    Keep up the good work,

    ~ Paul

  5. I have no intention of being any way controversial but I consider that Tony Benn is not a good example to use to illustrate your points David, because your own arguments are more pertinent. Tony Benn´s father was an MP and his son is one too. He may have had a good debating style but what did he actually achieve for the people? I have read that another of his children is taking back the title which he so publicly disowned. We don´t need lectures. That reminds me of when I was taken to a MayDay rally in Glasgow at Queen´s Park when I was small with my family. There was an entertaining choir of children who all the public loved. Following that there was the main speaker Tony Benn, After a rousing reception and a few rounds of applause the speech began to lose our attention because he never instilled the idea that things were going to get better.and as he began t lose our attention. A group at the top of the hill starting chanting ” Bring back the choir” They were quickly hushed down by the crowd but me and my brother always laughed about it. i supported Tony Benn all my adult life because of course he comes over as a principled politician which in many ways he was, However he was that, a politician and that has to be put into its context. There are millions of grandparents who worked hard all their lives who should be asked what they think..Some of these politicians have a media career after they “retire” from poltics..Brexit showed people in the UK have an opinion and England finally woke up after many years of slumber. My faith in God helps me to remain positive and hearing of your good work in Dundee does too.

  6. Alan,

    Based on “David’s ” comment above, do you not think you are “playing the man, not the ball.”? It’s not about whether you support Benn, or not, but whether you agree with what he defines as democracy, which is something you have avoided. And yes, he could ramble a bit, but has been succinct in this post from David (Robertson).

    Throughout all this God is Sovereign.

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