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16 April 2006

Rising at Easter, a new dawn and a chance to reflect

Not so much a comment on the gospel of St Mark Chapter 16 and Jesus Christ but another JC who lost his life for a cause he believed in. The other Easter Rising is probably a bit less widely celebrated in the UK but it has made Britain the country that it is and one of the most prominent figures in it was James Connolly of Edinburgh.

Today is 90 years since the Easter Rising of 1916 that ultimately led to the creation of the Irish free state and in doing so, created independence for Eire and changed the shape of Britain, forming the nation we now have.

Having visited the The General Post Office in Dublin and also The Bastille and Concord in the US (celebrating 230 years since the "shot heard around the world" on 19/4/2006) it is interesting to see the varied places associated with the birthplaces of nations.

What have we in Scotland? The foot in the hill at Dunadd? Iona? Bannockburn? Arbroath? The ballot boxes of 11th September 1997 which caused us to say "There shall be a Scottish Parliament"?

Sometimes the symbols of today are not as romantic or as inspiring as the symbols of the past, particularly when you're not even an independent country. Which countries celebrate "devolution day", oh. none of them. right.

Back to Ireland. It is clear that Eámon de Valera, James Connolly and others would have had an easier time of it if the British state has simple allowed a free vote on Irish independence. This is not the way of a democracy however.

Democracy - from Greek (demokratia), the common people + (kratein) to rule seems to be a great stick to beat nations with in the name of progress but a double edged sword when it comes to matters closer at home. It seems people+rule is convenient enough when it's another country on the other side of the world but not when it's your own country and it's single issue politics such as independence. Since when did democracy mean "only within the confines of a western party political system", this seems to be a rather narrow self-serving definition.

So where is democracy, 90 years after the Easter Rising and what have we learned? Not much it seems. Just as the Irish and Americans were denied a free voice to exercise their right to vote for independence in a single issue ballot, so the same situation exists today with Scotland.

It isn't about whether you advocate independence or not or whether you want devolution, independence, a federal UK or something else. It's about having the right to decide in a single issue vote whether democracy (= the people rule) should prevail and allow the people to speak where politicians fear to tread. Is this not the finest hour of the freedom of speech we're so quick to defend when it comes to Moslem cartoons? Would a referendum not be a more productive use of this right than using it to offend others?

Moving on to the situation today. As a signatory to the Independence Convention, I was in a meeting with The Earl of Mar and Kellie recently where the Parliament (Participation of Members of the House of Commons) Bill was discussed. This Private Members Bill introduced by Lord Baker, seeks to resolve the West Lothian question, but has covered wider ranging issues along the way including the mechanism for recognising Scottish independence. This question was put to both the Lord Chancellor and Attorney General by the Earl of Mar and Kellie yet I am not yet aware of an answer. Although a Liberal Democrat, asking the question caused Lord Elder to accuse him of coming "dangerously close to coming out as a nationalist".

It isn't about being a nationalist, it's about freedom of choice and self determination through the ballot box on a single issue.

If it's good enough for the Falklands and Gibraltar, surely it's good enough for Scotland or does the UK government not want to support free speech and true democracy in this country? Have we still not learned the lessons of Ireland and America when it comes to domestic politics?

Do we need to wait for the 2nd coming or will politicians learn to put their faith in what the people, rather than their party think is the best way to govern?


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