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Thursday, 28 July 2016

A HERALD letter (unpublished) on Nicola’s Three EU mandates

I submitted this letter to the Herald yesterday, but it wasn’t published today for the good reason that another shorter letter from Steve Inch, Bishopbriggs, covered the same ground, but more economically.

However, mine may still be of interest because of the wider points it makes and its defence of Nicola Sturgeon’s claims on her mandate to resist Brexit.


(Letters 25th and 27th June on Scotland's EU vote and SNP mandate)

Both Stuart Ross and Ann Kegg quote Nicola  Sturgeon as claiming that 62% of Scots want to remain in EU.

What the First Minister has consistently said is that 62% of Scots voted to remain in EU and that, in a properly constituted and conducted referendum, she is bound to accept that as the will of the Scottish electorate, exactly as David Cameron and now Theresa May accept the 52% Brexit vote of the whole of UK as the will of the UK electorate, one that PM May has now confirmed that she is mandated to implement by invoking Article 50 and negotiating the terms of Britain's exit from the EU.

Playing games with turnout percentages and what constitutes 'the Scottish people' or 'the people of UK' is selective partisan sophistry - we have a functioning democracy that enfranchises part of the total population, and makes decisions in referendums, or in local and general elections based on those who do vote, not on speculation on the motives and affiliations of those who choose not to vote, or are unable to vote, or are ineligible to vote.

The First Minister and her government have, in fact, three mandates -

A May 2016 mandate from the electorate to resist Brexit and call a second independence referendum if that seems the only way to honour the mandate, based on its explicit manifesto commitment

A June 2016 mandate (62%) from the EU Referendum Scottish voting electorate to resist Brexit
A mandate from the Scottish Parliament to resist Brexit (with Tory abstentions)

These three mandates interrelate in complex ways, and Nicola  Sturgeon is highly conscious that she is the First Minister of all of Scotland and owes a duty to all Scots - including those who didn't vote for her - to interpret the mandates sensitively. She has approached this by consistently emphasising that calling a second independence referendum is not her first position, and by setting out broad guidelines on what might protect Scotland's EU interests under a UK Brexit deal and satisfy her mandates.

It is markedly unhelpful at this crucial time to play political number games with electoral turnout (which was high) and the imagined affiliations of those who didn't participate in the democratic process.

yours faithfully,

Peter Curran