Scotland’s status as a nation
“As a nation, the Scots have an undoubted right to national self-determination; thus far they have exercised that right by joining and remaining in the Union. Should they determine on independence no English party or politician would stand in their way, however much we might regret their departure.” (Margaret Thatcher)
In 1954, A Royal Commission described the UK as a “multi-national” or “multi-nation” state and acknowledged that it had been one ever since its foundation in 1707.
The recognition of the multinational character of the British State and Scotland’s status as a nation within it further acknowledged that “Scotland was a nation that had voluntarily entered into union with England as a partner and not as a dependency”.
Scotland’s right to self-determination:
“That this House endorses the principles of the Claim of Right for Scotland, agreed by the Scottish Constitutional Convention in 1989 and by the Scottish Parliament in 2012, and therefore acknowledges the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs.” (Westminster Parliament, Wednesday 4 July 2018)
Self-determination has also been codified in the fundamental and universal documents of international systems, such as the Charter of the United Nations in 1945 and the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 and becoming an independent country would be an act of self-determination by the people of Scotland.
The precedence of the doctrine of the mandate
Before 2011, the Unionist attitude to independence referendums was that politicians should not support referendums on policies that they did not back. But their opposition changed after the 2011 General Election when they agreed to the holding of an independence referendum because of the concurrence of Westminster politicians who believed that in winning an overall majority of seats, the SNP had won the right to see that particular promise implemented. What was significant was that the agreement to hold the independence referendum established precedence through the preference for the belief in the doctrine of the mandate, rather than by the upholding of a constitutional rule. Although not tested the support of the doctrine of the mandate extended to a straightforward declaration of independence if that was the preference of the electorate.
The organisation of the referendum
The Scotland Act does not explicitly reserve the organisation of referendums to the Westminster Parliament, though it does reserve to Westminster “the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England”. It can therefore be argued that a referendum on ending that Union is also a matter reserved to Westminster. The potential difficulty was resolved through a political deal, the Edinburgh Agreement of October 2012. The opening lines of the Edinburgh Agreement, stated: “The United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Government have agreed to work together to ensure that a referendum on Scottish independence can take place.”
A Scottish independence referendum was allowed by the British Government even though it could have blocked it by legal and constitutional means. The reason for this is enshrined in Scotland’s right to self-determination that has long been acknowledged, as has its status as a nation within the UK State. a simple “50% plus one” majority would have been enough to launch independence negotiations. In Scotlands case, the main obstacle on the road to secession was the composition of the electorate which comprised many thousands of voters not truly Scottish an anomaly that produced a majority that remained unconvinced of the merits of independence. This hurdle would be overcome in any future referendum with the stipulation that residence in Scotland is not an automatic qualification. A Scot is an individual born and wholly resident in Scotland at the date of an election.