Is any UK Prime Minister empowered to prohibit another Referendum? Does International Law explicitly state that the sovereign people of Scotland have the right of self-determination?
There is altogether very little understanding of the circumstances under which devolution came about. A telling example is a recent article by Derek Bateman on Newsnet.scot about England's built-in majority in Westminster which could ostensibly, quote "that if England wants privatised hospitals,… nuclear weapons… and even abolition of the Scottish Parliament and the Barnett Formula, they only have to vote for it. It’s theirs."
Fortunately for Scotland, abolition of the Scottish parliament is most unlikely to happen as devolution for Scotland was not a party political decision by the then Government, but imposed by international pressure to rectify the UK's democratic deficit.
The Tories had stubbornly dragged their feet over the UK’s accession to the Charter of Local Self-Government, but then, in March 1997, the Council of Europe pointedly spelled out the sanctions that would be applied, in a series of escalating steps, to any European state that did not “fully and swiftly comply with the basic democratic principles that are at the heart of the European Ideal.”
In plain language, get Scotland, Wales, etc. sorted out or be expelled from the Council of Europe in the most humiliatingly public manner – a step that would have had devastating international consequences, especially just a few weeks before the UK presidency of the European Union.
Total capitulation followed. With the entire international diplomatic corps breathing down its neck, the new UK Labour government signed the Charter on 3 June 1997 (the last one in Europe to do so) and brought in bills for devolution to Scotland and Wales – to written approval by Strasbourg, but described by Blair as “a damnable nuisance.” The fulfilment of this foreign policy obligation was therefore a diplomatic and not a political decision.
The full story can be found in 'Devolution and the Labour Myth' (link)which highlights the role played by the Scotland-UN Committee, the precursor of the Scottish Democratic Alliance.
But also others who should be aware how the devolved powers to Scotland in the form of its Parliament came about, are ignorant of the chain of events which led to the current situation.
In a recent article by Elliot Bulmer in The National under "the VOW" echoed this with:
"The UK Government’s proposed solution, which is to “recognise” the permanence of the Scottish Parliament in UK legislation, is about as reliable a guarantee as any other political promise. As with all our other democratic rights, devolution would remain at the mercy of a UK Government with a parliamentary majority."
When the subject of the Scotland Bill was debated in Westminster, the Rev. Stuart Campbell in Wings over Scotland, on June 15 last, wrote:
"Amendment 58, proposed by the SNP and backed by Labour, was actually a modest concession. It provided a way by which Westminster COULD abolish the Scottish Parliament, with its permission and subject to a referendum of the Scottish people.
The amendment contained no tricks or traps. Nothing was tacked onto it to which the UK government could object. It did only what it claimed to do:
But the government voted it down regardless, pointlessly trashing the promise that David Cameron had signed his name to before the referendum.
Readers can, as ever, form their own conclusions."
You readers - and the political establishment in Scotland - would be able to see clearly that devolved powers came about under international pressure and not as the result of party politics, once the records of the Foreign Office and Cabinet Office have become available. Meantime, a substantial outline of the story can be read in the attachment to this article titled "Devolution and the Labour Myth", you can access it by clicking here.