Graham A Fordyce
26 November 2022
The decision of the Supreme Court on Thursday 24 November 2022 was no great surprise but those who support Scotland’s right to choose are now left wondering how to respond.
So let’s draw breath and put aside for a moment the legal, political and intellectual game of ping pong which has incessantly played out since 2014; and consider what’s really going on.
From a baby’s cry to a World at War, there is a fundamental law of human nature which runs through the thread of all our lives; and it has guided me countless times throughout mine. It is this:
Every human relationship, bar none, is an exercise in control. A truly successful relationship is one in which control is shared; and crucially shared willingly. A failing relationship is one in which control is imposed by one side against the will of the other.
It took me well into adulthood to learn and understand this. It guides and informs me every day both professionally and personally. It is now so blindingly obvious that I could kick myself for not having realised it sooner.
I learned this law of human nature from my job. For more than 30 years, I have practised as a lawyer in family law, dealing with divorce, the breakdown in financial and emotional relationships and negotiating arrangements for the care of children.
When two people fall in love, they are, in essence, content with the level of control each exercises over the other. When a relationship breaks down, it is because there is a change in the balance of control between them. An obvious example is the domestic abuser – an extreme form of control, but less obvious are the subtle changes over a period of time in which the dynamics change between a couple, often stemming from the resentment of one party having more freedom than the other would wish.
While I hope this law of human nature can easily be understood from the example of family relationship breakdown, I am in no doubt that it also relates to every conceivable situation in which two or more human beings find themselves from cradle to grave.
The Supreme Court is a classic example. Its very name conveys control. Society willingly consents to the appointment of a few human beings, trained in an understanding of the law, and equips them with the power to control our lives, relying on their interpretation of a coherent, often complex, framework of rules. The Law is the very essence of control. It is far from perfect – which is why we have Appeal Courts – but so far, it’s the best way mankind has of regulating how we all live together. Any Judgment, irrespective of the parties involved or the subject matter, is specifically designed to impose control on those over whom the Judgment applies. The Supreme Court, a creation of the United Kingdom, has no choice but to uphold the values and laws of the United Kingdom and assert the dominance of the United Kingdom in preference to any particular part of it.
The Scottish Government recently introduced legislation which seeks to change the rights of trans-sexuals. It seeks to strengthen those rights. Those who are opposed to the legislation argue that the rights of others will be diminished. Both sides are seemingly sincere and well-meaning, but even if they are not, both sides are essentially engaged in a struggle for control of the argument, the outcome of which will, in turn, impose control on how we live our lives and who has access to the space in our lives. I suspect that in due course, this issue will end up in the Supreme Court, which will naturally issue a Judgment affecting the United Kingdom. I’m beyond certain that it will outlaw the Scottish legislation because it conflicts with laws elsewhere in the UK.
While a civilised society will always endeavour to effect control by persuasion and understanding, there are self-evidently many situations in which control is resisted. Far from ‘taking back control’, Brexit has thrown into complete confusion the ability of the United Kingdom to manage its own borders. Brexit is yet another classic example of one section of the globe reacting badly to the control by another section i.e. Europe. The failure thus far of Brexit demonstrates far easier than ever I could that in order for relationships to be successful, control must be shared and willingly so.
Ukraine is another obvious and brutal example. Putin claims that the West seeks to control him and his country, resulting in the invasion of Ukraine, whose response has been fierce resistance by its citizens, because they will not accept Putin’s control over them.
Thus the principle applies universally: a rail strike; the election of a Prime Minister; the Stock Market’s response to a mini-budget; a football game; the troubles in Northern Ireland; apartheid in South Africa; the Me Too movement; Scottish Independence; your child having a tantrum. The list is endless and I defy anyone to provide an example where this natural law does not apply.
In this never-ending desire for control, the truth is invariably a casualty; and certainly secondary. The deployment of lies, manipulation and deceit are tactics valued by those who seek to impose control against the will of others. The trial and treatment of Alex Salmond is a classic example, in which the power struggle was so great that even the levers of State were abused to further the aims of those in control desperate to hold onto control.
So what’s your point, I hear you cry?
If we want to shape and develop a society which strives to be decent, fair and honest, then we must teach ourselves that control (or power as it’s commonly known) has to be fairly shared. Giving too much control to one individual or one faction or one nation is a recipe for the ultimate breakdown of a relationship, irrespective of the participants or the subject matter. Checks and balances are the keys to a tolerant, caring society. We should never allow one section the freedom to dominate any other section. If Scotland achieves independence, a robust written Constitution will therefore be absolutely essential. I’m not striving for Nirvana. I’m striving for tolerance.
How does this inform the debate on Scotland’s future? If Scotland is to regain its independence, it will only be achieved by enough Scots taking control of their own destiny. I do not, of course, mean that we should all start to man the barricades (yet another form of control). I mean that a significant proportion of citizens firstly need to decide to what extent and by whom they wish their lives managed; and under what conditions. They must then, vitally, act upon their instincts. Unionists are content with the status quo because they are content to be managed by a parliament located in another country. Were it not so, we would be independent by now. If we leave control simply in the hands of politicians or political parties, we are destined to remain in a bubble in which we simply and constantly express our grievances without finding a solution.
While preparing this article and as fate would have it, earlier this week I chanced upon an outstanding interview between Bernard Ponsonby and Alex Salmond which you can view here. Mr Salmond precisely spells out what we, as a people, need to do – wrest back control from those who seeks to control us. Sadly, that includes the current administration in Holyrood. It is no accident that Nicola Sturgeon and her husband rule their party with a rod of iron. They epitomise what this article is about. Their thirst for power has so warped their ideals that they long ago abandoned all principle in favour of power. I don’t entirely blame them. They are simply doing what human nature taught them to do; and we are letting them do it.
Of course politicians and parties have an important role. They are supposed to be our representatives. They are supposed to be our servants. They are supposed to be within our control. How often, though, are we left disappointed and disillusioned by those same politicians once they are handed the keys of power; only to find they change the locks and leave us outside in the cold. Literally!
The next time you find yourself in a difficult situation, be it with your partner, your employer, your government or your nation’s status, ask yourself this:
1 Who is in control?
2 Who should be in control?
3 Am I comfortable with the current level of control being exercised over me?
4 Do I have the means and determination to do anything about it?
I think the first three are easy enough to answer. I suspect that far too many of us struggle with the last question. How many of us have the luxury of devoting our time and energy to our country’s future, when most of us are more concerned about our mortgage and heating bills? The bitter irony is that these problems would not exist in a world in which greed and corruption are curtailed by the operation of basic decency and common sense i.e. by sharing control.
Change in anything begins with an idea; then sharing your idea with others in the hope it resonates; then acting upon your idea and ultimately persuading others to give you the right to enact your idea.
Another well written article from Graham and of course he nails the issue..who controls Scotland? We can argue about that but one thing is abundantly clear, it is not the people who should, those who live here, work here and raise our families here. The cost of that is evident in all the missed opportunities, the daily loss of our resources and our inability to gear our country to make the most of the many advantages we have within this land. The lesson, as Graham advocates is to take back that control then use the powers to build a better, fairer Scotland.
I am, as always
Yours for Scotland
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