Prepare for this week’s legal game changer in Scotland

w/c 10th October 2022

  • Indyref2 – essential facts ahead of the Supreme Court hearing
  • 88th Annual SNP Conference winds down
  • SNP committed to seek Indyref2
  • British Government refuses
  • Supreme Court to decide whether Scottish government can hold referendum without consent from Westminster
  • UK Government lawyers claim it would not be an “abstract opinion poll” but a clear attempt to terminate the Union

Just as the 88th annual SNP Conference winds down Britain’s Supreme Court has quills at the ready to hear a legal case to establish whether the Scottish government can hold an independence referendum without consent from Westminster. Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon is seeking to hold a new independence referendum. Liz Truss – re-affirming Boris Johnson’s position – has declined to allow one.

11th & 12th October have been set as dates for the hearing at The Supreme Court after Nicola Sturgeon instructed Scotland’s top law officer to make a referral on whether a referendum would be legal without permission from the British government. The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases, and for criminal cases from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The case will be heard almost exactly one year before Sturgeon aims to hold the vote. Scotland’s semi-autonomous government has published a bill outlining plans to hold the secession vote on 19th October 2023. Scotland has a population of around 5.5 million. On 18th September 2014 55% of voters rejected independence.

During the Brexit referendum, however, while 51.9% of the total votes cast in the UK were in favour of leaving the European Union, 62% of those who voted in Scotland voted to remain. Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) argues that “Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will” means the question must be put to a second vote. Following the pro-independence parties’ majority win in the Scottish parliament elections last year Nicola Sturgeon maintains the Scottish government has a mandate to hold a new independence vote. The British government has refused consent for a new referendum arguing that the “once in a generation” matter was settled in 2014. Dorothy Bain, the Lord Advocate – Nicola Sturgeon’s top law officer – has asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether the Scottish Parliament could hold a referendum without Westminster’s permission.

She has submitted that it could be argued an “advisory” poll is within devolved powers because it would not, in itself, break up the UK. UK Government lawyers claim that a new vote would not be an “abstract opinion poll” but a clear attempt to terminate the Union. In a legal submission to the Supreme Court, Lord Stewart of Dirleton, the Advocate General for Scotland, says that a plebiscite on Scottish independence would “plainly” relate to the union between England and Scotland, a reserved matter for which Holyrood does not have the power to legislate.
UK Government lawyers argue that it  cannot “credibly be suggested that the outcome of the referendum will be ‘advisory’ in the sense of being treated as a matter of academic interest only….A referendum is not, and is not designed to be, an exercise in mere abstract opinion polling at considerable public expense. Were the outcome to favour independence, it would be used – and no doubt used by the SNP as the central plank – to seek to build momentum towards achieving that end: the termination of the Union and the secession of Scotland. It is in precisely that hope that the Draft Bill is being proposed.”

 

The SNP claims it would be “constitutionally improper” to prevent it from implementing its manifesto commitment to hold a new vote. The Supreme Court hearing is scheduled to take place on 11th & 12th October with a decision made within the next few months….

ANDREW EBORN – RIGHTING WRONGS GET IN TOUCH

Andrew believes that there are many injustices which do not get the media attention they deserve, or indeed desperately need the oxygen of
publicity for their cause.  This is where Andrew hopes to help.  By focusing on the injustice and assisting to promote, Andrew is keen to give an initial helping hand in any way he can make possible. If there are particular issues you would like Andrew Eborn to investigate please provide information here so he may be able to assess if he can provide you with help.

www.ebornlegalreview.com/

Andrew Eborn, Barrister-at-Law, is available for interview and news reaction – email tony@peoplematter.tv.

© Andrew Eborn 2022

Time To Look After Our Veterans Properly

w/c 10th October 2022

Hardly a week goes by without the UK media carrying a story about the unsatisfactory care doled out to Britain’s ex-service men and women by our government(s). Whilst most former military personnel make a relatively smooth transition back into civilian life, a sizeable minority makes up a disproportionate part of the homeless and prison populations. And all too frequently some take their own lives.

In the UK, historically government practice has been to pass on the care of veterans to the tender mercies of the charitable and health and social care sectors. This remains the case even today, and I would suggest is hardly in the spirit of the Military Covenant much trumpeted by hand-wringing politicians.

And yet some in the veterans’ community believe that this arrangement is too much at arm’s length and pays only lip service to the issues. Nobody doubts the energy, enthusiasm and good intentions of these charities’ workers, but it all seems a bit ad hoc, with much duplication of effort. There is  no guarantee that the government’s generous funding is always wisely spent, and also some suspicion that the myriad of chief executive posts these charities support offer an all too convenient revolving cavalcade of sinecures for retired senior officers.

There is surely a better way to ensure our veterans are better looked after. Britain could establish, for example, a Department for Veterans’ Affairs, rather as the USA, Australia and Canada have done. A department of government staffed by civil servants and headed by a cabinet secretary or government minister would have greater political muscle and act as a focal point for all ex-services matters, instead of the sometimes baffling array of charitable bodies which confront those exiting the armed forces.

The responsibilities of any such department should include the four main topics most important to veterans: health, housing, education and training, and employment.  Who knows, if the UK were to go down this road we might at some point in the future have our own veterans’ hospital, for example, prioritised for, but not necessarily exclusively catering to, the particular needs of those who have served. Those who return from active service damaged in body and mind would surely benefit.

All that is required is the political will to drive the change. Which political party will pick up the challenge? Those who we, the electorate, put it harm’s way deserve the best aftercare we can give them – and that’s clearly not the case at the moment.

 

Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available for pre-order now

 The Military And The Media

w/c 10th October 2022 

 As far back as I can remember the military-media relationship in the UK has been nightmarish, in my opinion. I say this as someone who has been both a PR/media comms operative within the army and an amateurish, pseudo-journalist who likes writing and commenting on military matters.

The nub of the problem, I believe, is that media and military have, in general terms, diametrically opposed and long-held positions here: the media operates on the “everyone should know” principle while the British military and Ministery of Defence work on the “need to know principle”. And the twain shall never meet, not up until now anyway, although arguably they are inching closer, albeit at glacial pace.

The military’s ideal paradigm for media communications is probably the example of the Falklands campaign in 1982. There the media had to rely on the military both to get to the conflict because of its remoteness and for the transmission of their reports back home to the UK. The military accordingly had huge control over journalists and power of censorship over what was allowed to get out of the theatre of operations.

This ideal model of media comms (for the military) was blown out of the water by technological advances. The wider availability of satellite phones, once the sole preserve of military and security forces, untied journalists from the constraints of military overwatch. This loss of control was exacerbated by the explosion of social media in the early 21st Century. Now every junior soldier, sailor and airman/woman could, and did and now does, have access via their mobile phone to a plethora of communications channels which are totally open and uncontrollable.

The genie is well and truly out of the bottle and efforts to put it back will fail. Instead, and no matter how counter-intuitive it might seem to be, the military needs to embrace and adapt to the new communications context in which it has to operate. Personally, I have no fears that properly trained and prepared military personnel of all ranks will not to be able to hold their own in talking to the media where appropriate. We just have to trust them.

Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available for pre-order now

Putin’s Surprise Birthday Presents

w/c 10th October 2022

Vladimir Putin got two presents for his 70th birthday that we know of; from Belarus and its president Alexander Lukashenko he received an agricultural tractor, which was a thoughtful gift and I am sure well received. Less well received, I suspect, will have been his present from Voldymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainians – an attack on the Kerch bridge linking Crimea with the Russian mainland.

The attack on the Kerch bridge is a very significant development in the current war, and for two reasons. First of all, it demonstrates yet again how vulnerable the Russians are to (presumably) unorthodox attacks deep in their territory. Everybody has been aware for some time that the bridge was a prime target, including the Russians, and yet they seem to have been unable to deter any sort of attack on it. What other bits of their infrastructure might prove equally vulnerable?

Second, it’s increasingly clear to me that the strategic prize for both sides in this war is Crimea, offering as it does a base for control of both the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The attack on the bridge may be a precursor for a Ukrainian offensive south to recapture Melitopol and cut the rail line there which is the obvious alternative route for Russian rail-borne resupply.

This would also cut the land bridge from Russia to Crimea and threaten the encirclement of Russian troops in the Kherson Oblast, which might force them to withdraw. This in turn would bring the whole of Crimea within range for Ukrainian precision missile and artillery systems (HIMARS, Excalibur etc) and probably make the continuing Russian occupation of Crimea untenable.

The big question now is whether Ukraine can maintain its momentum as winter approaches. It has to keep winning to ensure continuing support from both the Ukrainian people, many of whom face extreme hardship, and from the west, whose weapon supplies are crucial to Ukrainian victory.

 

Tank CommanderLt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available for pre-order now