So the Rutherglen and Hamilton West campaign is nearly over. During the past few weeks, we’ve handed out thousands of leaflets, met lots of people, had tons of conversations, made a fair few friends (and enemies) and we had an entertaining hustings with Women Won’t Wheest, which like all good hustings, had blow up chickens and a candidate blowing up at the end. It’s been a blast. And it’s been a good testing of the waters for some of our policies. ‘Why should we vote for you?’ has been the most common question. People out there are ready to engage – but they need a reason to do so. We could give a number of answers to that, but we think that the best answer to it is our policy on abstention from Westminster. We think that is the standout reason that you should vote ISP. And that you should not vote for any party that doesn’t abstain from Westminster. Bear with us and we’ll explain why we think this is the policy that marks out the political sheep from the goats.
Let’s explain very briefly what abstention means for the MP. It means that they do not take the oath to the monarch and does not attend Parliament sittings or committees. They cannot vote in debates. They can still pursue cases on behalf of their constituents and represent them individually to Westminster on individual issues. They can have an office staff who will manage their cases and the staff can draw a salary. But the MP gets no salary – unless they take the oath and attend Parliament.
Do you remember in August 2014, that procession of Labour politicians going up Buchanan St, accompanied by the best troller of the referendum campaign, playing the Imperial March from Star Wars and shouting for people to bow down to their imperial masters? How we laughed. Fast forward a few months after the shock of the No vote and we were sending down 56 nationalists in their place. That’ll sort them out, we thought.
But it didn’t. And right now, the independence movement is reeling from that failure. Our party and others were formed as a result of it. And if we want to avoid repeating that failure, we need to understand what led to it. And to do that we need to understand our past. For we are in chains but we cannot see them.
When Henry VII was arranging the marriage of Margaret Tudor his daughter to James IV of Scotland some of his advisors were concerned that it would bring the Stuarts into the English line of succession. Henry brushed them off by saying, ‘ Our realme wald receive na damage thair thorow, for in that caise Ingland wald not accress unto Scotland, bot Scotland wald acress unto Ingland..evin as quhan Normandy came in the power of Inglis men our forbearis ‘.
Henry was right. It is the Machiavellian principle that you should never ally yourself with someone bigger than you; the bigger party will always take over the whole show. In truth, there is no deal to be had with someone bigger than yourself; they will always dominate by sheer force of numbers.
The moment James VI took the throne of England, was the moment Scotland stepped into that trap. It was a well gilded trap, with riches beyond imagining for the few at the top given positions at the English court, but a trap nonetheless. From that point onward, the direction of the flow of power went to England, culminating in the Treaty of Union in 1707. Look at the Royal Arms where Scotland is represented by a unicorn. Everyone sees the chain attached to the unicorn but look at the collar. It’s a crown. Originally it was meant to represent the power of the Scottish king. But in truth, that is the collar round our neck. Scotland was captured by a crown and it is the crown, backed up by Westminster that ties us to the Union.
So let’s ask the question. Why can’t we pull that collar off? We the people certainly want to do so. But let’s turn the question on its head. What kind of person is attracted to a job at Westminster? The answer is simple. The same kind of person that has always been attracted; those who are in love with money and status, but not with their country. The kind of person that puts themselves first, not their people. From the time of James VI right up until the present day, those are the people who have led us. And as long as they lead us Scotland will never be free.
We’re outnumbered at Westminster. In truth it is not a democracy, but the tyranny of the majority. And as long as we stay there we are participating in our own gaslighting, in our own oppression. The first step to our freedom is to refuse to do that. We need to step aside. We need to see things plainly and also – and this is hugely important – allow others to see things plainly. On an international stage, it looks as though Scotland is perfectly happy with Westminster – because our representatives take their seats. If they don’t, then it becomes obvious that we are not.
But there have been times when the Scottish vote at Westminster could change things, you might argue. In 2019, the SNP held the balance of power. They could have done a deal to get Scotland a referendum in return for voting with the more moderate Tories to stay in the customs union. To that we would reply; so what actually happened then? They didn’t vote to do that. And the reason they didn’t is the same reason that holds us in thrall. People who went to Westminster for the money and career are not going to vote themselves out of a job.
In order to get the representatives we want, we have to ask ourselves what is the job we actually want them to do? It’s simple. We want them to settle up, not settle down. So we need people who are not in it for the money. And the simplest way to find that out, is to insist that they abstain. That way, they don’t get paid a salary. And that way, you won’t get the grifters. You’ll get someone who is genuine.
This is why we have introduced this policy. And we have done it as much for ourselves as you. Because we are tired of the grifters. We worked with these people for years, promoted them, deluded ourselves that when they got to Westminster that they would do the necessary and get us out of this union. We’re not going to be fooled again and we’re not going to let them into our party. We want grafters, not grifters. We want true believers and those in love with their country, not in love with themselves. And this is the test. Do you want money or freedom? Choose.
Westminster has its own test in the taking of the oath to the crown. It’s the same test. If you don’t take the oath, you don’t get the salary. Take the oath and you become another link in the gravy chain that ties us to the Union. So we’re doing it in reverse.
Why run for Westminster at all then, you might ask. Here’s the answer. We need to break that chain, not just for ourselves, but for everyone. Not only do we need to step aside, but we need to permanently block the high road to the Union that since the time of James VI, all our representatives have disappeared down and not returned. We are in a vicious circle, a Groundhog Day that is repeating itself and will continue to do so, until we are brave enough to put an end to it.
We know that abstentionism is not sufficient of itself to break free. There are many other steps to be taken. We need to reclaim our own constitution. We need a new model of democracy, not the Norman feudalism that was imposed on us. And most of all we need to reclaim the Scottish crown, which makes the people sovereign, not the monarch, nor the parliament. All of this is in our policies. This is why we support Salvo, that understands how important this aspect of nation building is, if we are not to become Westminster mark 2.
But abstentionism is necessary. The first step to getting out of prison is to realise you are in one. The first step to getting off our chains, is to realise that they are there. Then and only then can we break free.
The question that therefore you need to ask your representative is not; do you support abstentionism? The question you need to ask them is; how can you prove to me, without abstaining, that you are sincere? And if you cannot, then why should I vote for you?