Senatus Populusque Caledoniae

(Apologies if my scant Latin has mangled that translation. If someone corrects it, I’ll see about writing it out 100 times on the walls of the Palace.)

It seems that all news is canceled this week. All of it. There’s nothing happening. Our state broadcaster (which is totally unlike other state broadcasters in that when it promotes its state’s national interests, this is a good thing and not the most hideous evil to ever despoil the airwaves) has told us that the only thing of note happening anywhere is that someone is marrying someone with Magic Blood.

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This is to be a ceremony that we’ll all proudly take part in, by which they mean that we are to pay for it, despite not even being invited to the party. We’re not even getting a day off work because that would apparently cost too much.

Those in power are definitely not going to use this event to sneak out the devastating news that benefits are to be frozen again this year – that’s effectively a 3% cut after adjusting for inflation. I’m certain that they’ll be bending all effects towards sorting the gaping holes in the UK VAT system which allows more than £1 billion to be evaded every year.

They absolutely wouldn’t be cutting HMRC’s budget by £400 million per year RIGHT before the UK is going to leave the largest Customs Union in the world, would they?. They certainly would be breaking ground on all the new checkpoints and infrastructure that are going to be needed. The department should be awash with capital spending in preparation, shouldn’t it?

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They certainly wouldn’t big up their having done some furiously detailed groundwork on the impact of Brexit when they hadn’t actually done any such thing and were just hoping that no-one would ask to read them…till they did.

The UK has some seriously skewed priorities and it goes from the bottom right to the top of the structure of governance. Scotland needs to have a good, hard discussion about what role it plays in all of this.

The Scottish Parliament already has a far fairer voting system than the one used for UK elections (despite the comparative complexity of the former) but should we take the step of becoming an independent country then we’ll have to have a think about some other levels of government too.

I’ve already said a fair amount about the state of Scotland’s local government so today I’d like to look at what we’d want to do ABOVE the level of the present Scottish Parliament.

For instance, we may well decide to create an Upper House to scrutinise legislation but what we absolutely shouldn’t do is copy the UK method of stuffing it full of Lords and paying them to sleep off their hard day of…doing what ever they do for £300 a day.

Image result for house of lords sleeping foulkes

Far better would be a Citizen’s Assembly. Think of it as Jury Duty writ large. We’ve already decided that the best way to determine if someone has transgressed our laws is by a jury of randomly selected citizens so we could easily set up a method by which randomly selected citizens can determine if the laws themselves are just, fair and easily understood.

And for above that? How do we represent the nation of Scotland to the world?

If you had asked me in 2014, I would have said that I didn’t really mind too much and was pretty content with the Scotland’s Future plan of keeping the monarchy in the same way that Canada and Australia have.

But I’ve shifted somewhat since then. I’m not sure I’d really welcome the appointment of a Governor General as Scotland’s nominal Head of State nor am I completely clear on what duties they would actually have in practice. The First Minister already does most of the Head-of-State meet-and-greet stuff when folk come to Scotland and it seems a little strange for that to stop.

Nor do I want a restored and separate Scottish monarchy. Again, I’ve no time for someone to tell me what to do by dint of their divine appointment or Magic Blood even if Scotland does maintain a tradition of the Scottish Monarch being subordinate to the people of Scotland. Nor should a country professing to be a democracy pride itself on  its locking citizens out from ever obtaining any governmental office even in theory.

So, if we choose to have an official Head of State separate to the First Minister then it’ll have to be an elected President and that seems straightforward enough to arrange.

Though we still need to have that discussion about what we want them to DO. As said, the First Minister already does most of the Head of State meet-and-greet stuff when folk come to Scotland so we’re faced with the choice of either actually empowering our Head of State and giving them executive controls like the power to veto laws, sign their own legislative orders or other such powers (i.e. similar to the President of the USA) or we continue to have a head of state with a ceremonial role but little actual power.

And as I think on it…whilst I think it would be an upheaval too far to actually empower a Head of State, I don’t think I feel so enthused about swapping an unelected but powerless leader with an elected but still powerless leader. It just doesn’t feel as if it’s a decision rooted in the practical. On the other hand, I’m somewhat nudged by the argument that a Head of State separate from the government may be able to say and do some things without constraint by that government (though it’s noted that our current monarch maintains a “strict” rule against saying anything at all unless they think they can get away with it).

But maybe I’m wrong.

So help me out here. What would you want from a Head of State of an independent Scotland? How would someone gain that position? And what kind of person would you expect to see in the role?

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15 thoughts on “Senatus Populusque Caledoniae

  1. Elected head of state with no real power. We’d get to have a fun election where voting based on personality is legit.

    For entirely pragmatic reasons though I think any campaign for indyref 2 should stay away from the issue. Some otherwise politically sensible people have an odd soft spot for the monarchy and I’d hate to put them off.

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    • It is self-defeating, not “pragmatic” for CommonWeal, or for anyone who claims to support an independent Scotland, to give as a reference allegedly “supportive” quotes from those with a soft spot for the monarchy, like Kevin McKenna (who wrote “It’s time a royal bairn came to live in Scotland” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/21/it-is-time-a-royal-bairn-came-to-live-in-scotland )

      The fastest route to an independent Scotland is to demand now on the basis of the 45% of Scots who voted YES in indy-ref 1, the immediate establishment of a 2-state solution for Scotland, partition, with one independent Scottish state with rights to 45% of Scotland and another Scotland-in-the-UK state with rights to 55% of Scotland.

      This demand would be pressed by banning the royal family from the entire territory of Scotland at least until such time as a 2-state solution had been negotiated and agreed.

      Indy-ref 2 would then be about whether or not to unify all of Scotland by extending the rule of the independent state to all of the territory of Scotland or whether to continue with the 2-state solution.

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      • Just to clarify I don’t support the monarchy at all, never have. I just think it’s worth tackling these things one at a time. In a democracy one group can’t just impost their will on other people no matter how strong their convictions are – which is why I also respect the outcome of the last independence referendum. Never mind though, we’re clearly coming at these issues from a totally different place.

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        • Delaying tackling the monarchy is more supportive of the monarchy than immediately tackling the monarchy as I propose.

          The United Kingdom is not a democracy. The UK’s police, prosecutors and judiciary impose their will on accused persons at the time, each and every day, cruelly and unjustly and believe me, I know all about that from personal experience. http://peter-dow.blogspot.co.uk/

          You respect the outcome of 100% of Scotland remaining in the UK on the basis of only 55% of the vote? To do so is to entirely DISRESPECT the votes of the 45% who voted for Scotland to be an independent country, who got nothing, not even 1% of Scotland.

          In brief, the undemocratic outcome was “winner takes all” – 100% of Scotland to the slimmest of majority votes, as it turned out, 100% of Scotland to UK according to the wishes of the 55% of Scots who voted NO.

          Yet this outcome was an imposition of a group of people with strong royalist convictions- governing ministers who rule the UK.

          The only 2 possible outcomes of the last independence referendum were both dictated in one UK document – the so-called “Edinburgh Agreement” (that the people of Edinburgh never signed nor agreed to) which was signed by the Queen’s Prime Minister David Cameron and the Queen’s First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond, both appointed by Queen Elizabeth after nomination by parliaments at Westminster and Holyrood whose elections were rigged by the UK’s control of broadcasting and state suppression of alternative means of political communication.

          I am coming at the issue of the monarchy from the position – ‘Freedom fighter’ threatened Queen – front page news http://peter-dow.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/freedom-fighter-threatened-queen-press.html – which is indeed a “totally different place” altogether to pandering to monarchists and the way they impose political outcomes in Scotland.

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        • Delaying tackling the monarchy is more supportive of the monarchy than immediately tackling the monarchy as I propose.

          The United Kingdom is not a democracy. The UK’s police, prosecutors and judiciary impose their will on accused persons at the time, each and every day, cruelly and unjustly and believe me, I know all about that from personal experience. http://peter-dow.blogspot.co.uk/

          Like

        • You respect the outcome of 100% of Scotland remaining in the UK on the basis of only 55% of the vote? To do so is to entirely DISRESPECT the votes of the 45% who voted for Scotland to be an independent country, who got nothing, not even 1% of Scotland.

          In brief, the undemocratic outcome was “winner takes all” – 100% of Scotland to the slimmest of majority votes, as it turned out, 100% of Scotland to UK according to the wishes of the 55% of Scots who voted NO.

          Yet this outcome was an imposition of a group of people with strong royalist convictions- governing ministers who rule the UK.

          The only 2 possible outcomes of the last independence referendum were both dictated in one UK document – the so-called “Edinburgh Agreement” (that the people of Edinburgh never signed nor agreed to) which was signed by the Queen’s Prime Minister David Cameron and the Queen’s First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond, both appointed by Queen Elizabeth after nomination by parliaments at Westminster and Holyrood whose elections were rigged by the UK’s control of broadcasting and state suppression of alternative means of political communication.

          I am coming at the issue of the monarchy from the position – ‘Freedom fighter’ threatened Queen – front page news http://peter-dow.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/freedom-fighter-threatened-queen-press.html – which is indeed a “totally different place” altogether to pandering to monarchists and the way they impose political outcomes in Scotland.

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  2. Howabout we take it in turns using either sortition of all adult citizens or a lottery (so only those who wish to take part). Take away the ceremonial functions from the first minister. Everyone gets the chance to go for a nice day out, say to look round a factory, launch a ship, visit a college or open a bridge. Or gets the chance to host a meal for a visiting head of state or attend a film premiere or cup final. You get a make over and a new outfit (if you want).

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    • Or just pay an actor/ress with sufficient gravitas to play the part when required. After all in essence a Head of State is really just a personification of the Nation, a sort of supercharged version of a carnival queen if you like.

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  3. The head of state should be an elected president (supported and constrained by as many elected vice-presidents as is useful in defending democracy against the threat of an elected dictatorship) with a constitutional duty and a lawful authority to command the military to defend the rights of the people of Scotland against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

    The suitable candidates now for election as president or vice-presidents of an independent Scotland must have demonstrated already an ability to focus on the defence of the constitutional rights of the Scots from the threats to those rights from the United Kingdom whose police, prosecutors and judges have dared systemically to violate the rights of the Scots, even making some of us political prisoners (or former prisoners) in our own homeland.

    Therefore on the basis of my record of political activism as a Scottish republican, I propose that I am suitably qualified to stand for election as president or as a vice-president of an independent Scotland.

    Peter Dow, Science and Politics http://scot.tk

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  4. The one meaningful duty which many otherwise ceremonial heads of state assume is that of resolving deadlock situations after inconclusive elections. Someone – so the theory seems to go – has to have the responsibility of deciding whom to call on to form a government, or alternatively to call new elections. Since in this situation there is no clearly legitimately elected government, the duty must fall to a pre-determined person or body – who may of course seek advice, but has to make the decision in the end. E Windsor has carried out this job with relatively little controversy in the UK for the last 60-odd years, but there have been situations in other countries that led to highly questionable outcomes. I remember that in Australia in 1975 the Governor-General actually dismissed the incumbent prime minister and installed a new one – the two houses of parliament had been controlled by different parties and there was deadlock over the budget, if I remember – and triggered a constitutional crisis. Now I’m no expert in this field, but it does seem to me that there does have to be a fall-back mechanism for situations where there are either gaps in the democratic mandate – such as at inconclusive elections – or other exceptional situations (eg terrorist attack on Parliament). Rare as such eventualities may be, if and when they do occur it is – surely? – vital that there is no vacuum in which chaos reigns and opportunist forces could take advantage. Now in practice the detail of the procedures should and would be handled by some Civil Service office, according to predetermined protocols (which hopefully would preclude the sort of action that the Australian G-G took), but someone has to carry the can. Is this perhaps a good argument for an elected president?

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    • This probably should be the job for a judge or someone similar, the Speaker/Preceding Officer maybe? Deadlocks could be avoided by having a clearly written constitution setting out procedure and covering all the bases.

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  5. New Zealand has a similar electoral system to Scotland and it does not have a second chamber. Seems to work fine. I would therefore question the need for a second chamber.
    As far as an El Presidente is concerned, I agree there needs to be a “meet and greet” person. Needs a lot of thought to get around the obvious issues that you have covered above. An elected official has the obvious disadvantage that you get some “I’m a celebrity get me out of here” contestant as the people’s choice. Clearly this is unacceptable. Perhaps candidate shortlists drawn up by parliament votes. Then the people have their say based on the shortlist. I can see disadvantages and advantages here too.
    Keep thinking and the solution will appear.

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    • I have just been reading “The History of Scotland from its First Origin” by Hector Boece of Dundee in 1575.
      It is fascinating reading but what stands out is the amount of greed, murder, theft, backstabbing and general nastiness of those in power and those seeking power. It is essential that we have mechanisms to restrict the abuse of power and to impeach anyone who is abusing that power.

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  6. To support my candidacy for election as President of an independent Scottish Republic, I present this profile video.

    “Scottish republican socialist Peter Dow, author and protester”

    Like

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