It is a simple fact that, to get any senior international job, be it at the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank, NATO, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, or any other intergovernmental organisation, you must have the endorsement of your own government. In the case of Nicola Sturgeon, that means the endorsement of the state recognised by those organisations, which is the United Kingdom.
There are precedents for UK governments helping opposition figures whom they find congenial into international posts. But if Nicola crosses the line of enmity with the UK government, her own primary aspirations for future career and income will be finished.
As a young diplomat I had a starry-eyed view of the aims of the United Nations and presumed that the UN Secretariat was staffed by people who shared those ideals. It was a great shock to discover that UN offices were often staffed by cynical time-servers who had been put into the gig by the ruling class of their home state. There are no dissidents in the UN Secretariat. The fact that Chinese apparatchiks or Saudi royal hangers-on proved not really to be particularly dedicated to famine relief for Liberian refugees in Ivory Coast ought not to have been shocking to me, but was. What has come out to date about sexual exploitation of vulnerable women in crisis situations by UN staff I know very well to be the tip of the iceberg.
If you do have the support of your government, the opportunities are far greater than you can imagine. Do you remember Danny Alexander, the extraordinarily untalented Lib Dem politician who before entering parliament was the publicity man for the Cairngorm chairlift? Sturgeon certainly recalls him, and the fact that Alexander is now Vice President of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, living in great luxury in Beijing, and pulling down even more money than the Murrells.
How did that happen? Well, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is in fact an intergovernmental organisation, and the UK government is a founding shareholder. After betraying Lib Dem voters and helping George Osborne impose austerity on the public as a coalition minister, the Tories gave “Sir” Daniel Alexander a knighthood and shoehorned him in to his splendid office at the AIIB, after the Scottish electorate had very sensibly booted him out of parliament.
If a political nobody like Danny Alexander can land such rich pickings, what kind of vistas might open up before Nicola? Her CV drops onto the rich walnut desks in the plush offices of major international organisations, as often as condominium brochures. Her international schmoozing is endless. She presents herself on the international stage not as the champion of an Independent Scotland – a subject she tends to avoid – but as a dynamic exponent of Clinton style politics and a stalwart upholder of the neo-conservative world order.
Sturgeon, and the SNP under her, supports the British government’s pivot towards projecting military power into the Pacific, supports NATO deployment of missiles on the Russian border, supports the Royal Navy in its incursions in the Black Sea, supports the destabilisation of Syria, supports each and every claim about curiously unsuccessful deployments of novichok, even supports a switch from unilateral to multilateral nuclear disarmament as outlined by her Westminster MPs Alyn Smith and Stewart MacDonald. She loudly condemns Alex Salmond for appearing on Russia Today.
In short, Sturgeon makes sure that Westminster knows she is 100% on board with the British government’s foreign policy agenda, with Britnat military adventurism and with neo-imperial force projection by the ludicrous British aircraft carrier force. She is a perfectly safe pair of Britnat foreign policy hands to be assisted into an international job.
What greater service can there be to the British state than ensuring its continuation?
With the opinion polls showing over 55% in favour of Scottish Independence, Nicola Sturgeon, just as she did in the last sustained surge of Independence support, stands holding the bridge for the union by preventing any action at all towards Independence at this, the key moment.
Independence support over 55% even with no campaign? Unionists a majority only in the over 60s? Boris Johnson and his Westminster government massively unpopular?
The Union appears to be in the gravest of danger. But do not worry, Nicola is there to save the Union, diverting the Independence movement into a choice selection of utterly blind alleys, labeled “COVID freeze”, “Gender Reform”, “Economic Recovery” and “S30 Memorandum”. Nicola will go down in history alongside the Duke of Cumberland as one of the greatest servants of British Unionism.
COVID has not prevented the greatest of changes in power, a US Presidential election, nor has it prevented general elections in Germany, Austria and numerous other countries. That it prevents action on Independence is plainly a nonsense. What COVID has allowed Nicola to do is play to her strength – fine presentational skills and an aura of managerial competence. She worked out early that the public are highly motivated by fear and prefer their politicians to err on the side of more, rather than less, restriction. Appearing more in control than Johnson has not been difficult; nor has the continual adoption of just marginally more restrictive measures than England.
If Independence were truly her goal, then the time to bank the “more competent than England” COVID kudos in the Independence cause is now – its shelf life will be limited. But Independence is not her goal. A continuing build-up of Sturgeon kudos to take to market for Sturgeon is her goal. On one question, Nicola has undoubtedly proven the science. Face masks can, properly used, be 100% effective in preventing action on Independence.
Those who believed Nicola Sturgeon was going, as she promised, to deliver an Independence referendum in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 now believe that she will deliver one in 2023. There are those who refuse to remember that her great capitulation over Johnson’s refusal to grant an S30 was on 8 March 2019, before we had even heard the word COVID.
Sturgeon will not hold a referendum in 2023. This is what she will do:
In 2023, or just beforehand, she will write to Boris Johnson or a Tory successor and request Section 30 permission to hold a referendum. The Tory PM will refuse. Sturgeon will then instruct the Lord Advocate to go to court in order to win the Scottish Government’s right to hold a referendum. The Scottish Government will lose in court. The Supreme Court in London will uphold the supremacy of the UK Parliament, as a whole series of Supreme Court judgments have made clear – including the judgment that the Sewel Convention cannot be binding on the UK parliament as it is supreme, and that the Scottish Parliament has no power to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scottish law.
The Scottish Courts will in all probability rule the same before even getting to the UK Supreme Court – as foreshadowed by their judgment against the heroic Martin Keatings in which they dismissed the standing of the Scottish people and with it the legal force of the Claim of Right.
I am very sorry to tell you that the courts will be right. Under UK domestic law the UK parliament is sovereign and Scotland does indeed have no right, according to the colonial regime, to hold an independence referendum. Sturgeon knows this too. The authority Sturgeon really listens to on the subject, Professor Aileen McHarg of Durham University, has stated the case at length.
So consider this. Nicola Sturgeon is not a fool. She does not really believe that a Tory PM is going to grant a S30 Order for an Independence Referendum where unionist defeat is probable. (David Cameron only had agreed because at the time Yes was 32% in the polls). Nicola Sturgeon also knows that the UK Supreme court is not going to rule in the Scottish parliament’s favour.
There simply is no route to Independence that leads through London. Yet Nicola states the path through London is the only path and no Plan B may even be considered. London is accepted as the arbiter of what is legal. Sturgeon insists on taking only routes which she knows will fail, and condemns all alternatives as illegal.
So Nicola Sturgeon has delayed action on Independence for years, continues to do so, and looking ahead to the possibility of eventually being forced to move, she insists on a route that is impossible. Why?
There is only one answer. Nicola has no intention of achieving Independence. She wants international kudos as a good manager of Scotland who supported US hegemony, and then a decent international job to move into, leaving Scotland behind. The amount she cares about what happens to Scotland after that is limited.
I trust Dominic Cummings less far than I can throw him, but I believed Cummings when he stated Boris Johnson did say of COVID “Let the bodies pile high”. I also believe his revelation that Sturgeon has informed Johnson, through her staff, that she does not want an Independence referendum before the next Westminster election in 2024.
This is entirely consistent with close observation of Sturgeon’s behaviour. The SNP have made no budgetary provision for a referendum and are remarkably pre-occupied with arguing about boundary changes for future UK, Westminster parliamentary elections.
This also ties in with my own Tory sources, who tell me that through chief of staff channels, Sturgeon has suggested to Johnson he might agree a three question referendum after the next Holyrood election, with a form of “Devo Max” as a middle option that would be sure to win. There are many SNP MPs and MSPs who now see “Devo Max” as a safer option than Independence, in terms of the potential risk to their own careers from an Independence bid. The comfy parliamentary pensions brigade are now very, very attracted to Devo Max.
The truth is that there is another route to Independence, which Nicola does everything to deny even being discussed.
The domestic law of the larger state cannot constrain the right to self determination of the nation or people wishing to leave. Otherwise Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia would still be in the Soviet Union. As I have frequently explained, this precise position was taken by the United Kingdom in the Kosovo case and endorsed by the International Court of Justice. Indeed, if the state seceded from could simply forbid it, a great deal of decolonisation would never had happened.
Scotland does not need the permission of England. Neither the Westminster Parliament nor the UK Supreme Court can remove the Scottish people’s inalienable right of self-determination under the UN Charter. There is no requirement in international law for a referendum in order to become independent – the majority of states in the world achieved independence without a referendum. If the UK state refuses one, Scotland must declare Independence through a National Assembly of its combined Holyrood and UK parliamentarians, and hold a confirmatory plebiscite as an independent state. Brexit has made the task of gaining international recognition very much simpler.
There is a single test of Scottish Independence – recognition by the United Nations. The domestic law of the UK is completely irrelevant.
That would require a leader of the nation for whom Independence is an overriding priority. Which will never be Nicola Sturgeon.
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