“She’s a control freak,” said my friend at the local sports club, while we were chatting at a change of ends. His actual phrase was, “Hun er magtfuldkommen” – essentially, a person who desires total control and who wants all political power.
He went on to say that those around her are “given the blame for her mistakes and made to resign, while she remains in place.” Before you jump to conclusions, the person he was describing is none other than Mette Frederiksen, the Danish PM.
Aye, “it’s been a hell of a week” for Mette, as the late, great Rikki Fulton might say. You see, on Thursday 30 June, a 1,649-page report was released to politicians at Christiansborg. It concerned the now infamous ‘Mink Scandal’. The report confirmed that some of the PM’s actions during the Covid crisis were illegal.
The 30 June commission report was all about establishing who was to blame when “the government in November 2020 decided to put down all mink in Denmark”. They did this “without any basis in law for doing so”.
Mette described her actions as a mistake. But without “any basis in law”, it is considered more than a mere mistake. The criticism in the commission’s report describes her office as having acted “very reprehensibly in the process”. It also found that Frederiksen issued “grossly misleading” statements about the legality of the mink cull – although stopped short of saying she did so “deliberately”. These words will be familiar to observant Scots.
But in this small independent country, the phrase ‘rule of law’ is not just a throwaway line used at a press conference, the rule of law actually means something.
An outwardly affable leader, Mette is clearly not everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, her reign at Christiansborg, and the future of the left of centre coalition, may come to a premature end during the ongoing investigations into her illegal actions during lockdown. Of course, acting illegally is one thing, but possibly more damaging is the impression, as my friend suggested, that she is morphing into a power-obsessed autocrat. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this criticism of the PM.
It’s perhaps due to ‘Jante’s Law’ or something genetic, but Danes really don’t care much for dictatorial leaders. This dislike goes a lot further back than their occupation by the Nazis during WWII.
History books will tell you that Danish absolute monarchy was formally abolished on 5 June 1849. On that day, Frederik VII signed the first Danish constitution, establishing the nation as a constitutional monarchy. Revisions to the constitution have been made over the years, but it stands much as it did on 5 June 1849, and 5 June is still celebrated as constitution day.
Okay, history vignette over. In short, Danes prefer politicians who use the words ‘we’, ‘us’, and ‘our’, rather than, ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘my’. But then again, don’t we all? No one likes a narcissistic ego-maniac running their country.
If Mette Frederiksen is appropriating a presidential style of leadership, it’s not going down well. In fact, the put-down epithet ‘Mette Mink’ may remain with her for the rest of her political career.
But what now? Well, that’s where the interesting concept of ‘Rigsret’, a sort of ‘Court of the Realm’, may come into play. If parliament at Christiansborg decides that there is basis for an independent legal review, Mette may end up facing a commission of (up to) 15 high court judges and an equal number of political appointees. That is the ‘Rigsret’. It determines whether or not a politician has broken the ‘ministerial responsibility law’.
Yes, there actually is such a thing (‘Ministeransvarlighedsloven’) and it demands that, among other things, a minister tells the truth, and obeys the code of conduct their position demands.
There have been six ‘Rigsret’ since 1849. The most recent were in the 1990s, and again in 2021, when former minister Inger Stoejberg went to prison for 60 days.
The press conference held on Friday morning by Mette Frederiksen was apologetic in tone. Apologies, however, don’t really cut it when 1,200 farmers have lost their livelihoods and the world’s 2nd largest mink industry (according to the FT) has been destroyed. On top of that, ‘Mette’s mistake’ meant that the Danish state had to pay out about Dkr19 billion (about €3 billion) in compensation.
It’s now up to parliament to decide where it goes from here. Opposition parties are obviously calling for an independent legal review to determine if the PM should face a ‘Rigsret’. Frederiksen doesn’t believe it’s necessary, but she would say that. But the fact that a growing number of civil servants are being thrown under the bus, while the PM attempts to remain consequence-free, is highlighted by the nation’s independent media. Reporting of domestic issues in Denmark is something Scotland can only dream of. It’s the type of fair-minded coverage that should be the norm and not the exception.
If nothing else, this episode shows the value of a written constitution with an inbuilt facility for impeachment.
I’ve been following events in Denmark in parallel with developments in Scotland. Some fascinating constitutional archeology is currently underway thanks to salvo.scot and the SSRG.
One of the prominent spokes-persons for Scotland’s written constitution, and our historic Claim of Right, is Sara Salyers. And on Sunday 3rd of July, salvo.scot is launching in Larbert. Its goal is to reclaim the Scottish constitution, our law – still extant – and buried within the Treaty of Union.
The other day I asked Sara about our current position, constitutionally.
“The problem is, that our own establishment has got into the habit of accepting what a rogue state says is lawful, without challenge,” she replied. “The Supreme Court has no competence to challenge Westminster’s claim to absolute sovereignty, because it has already accepted the position that constitutional law is made by Westminster, and it can only interpret that law (See Gina Millar case). What it can do, is rule on the legal authority of Holyrood to defy the U.K. government. Which, under the Scotland Act, is zero.”
That’s not exactly an optimistic view of the ‘Big Announcement’ about indyref2, nor of Nicola’s deference to the Supreme Court, which is a recent creation of the British state. Sara went on to say:
“All Nicola Sturgeon is doing is establishing and underscoring a ‘legal’ position which is not legal in Scotland.”
Whit? Haud oan a minute! ‘A position that is not legal in Scotland’? Now, transfer the First Minister’s actions across the North Sea, to say, Denmark. Nicola would be in trouble, big time. Going against the nation’s constitution is an act of illegality. Nicola could well be facing a Rigsret, and possible prison sentence.
To quote Sara, again:
“She (Ms Sturgeon) is cementing the bars of the prison she talked about. ‘We accept your ‘laws’ and we will be sure to follow them in our path to getting out of your clutches’. She seems to think the Claim of Right is compatible with Westminster ‘law’. It’s not. Assert it, and you assert the limitation of Westminster power in Scotland, and the unlawful reach of English law. She’s partly confused, partly ignorant, and partly too identified with the establishment to see its posturing for what it is.”
So, the euphoria of the Yes movement needs to be tempered by the facts on the ground. The FM has, once again, surrendered to the British state, much as she did on 31 January 2020. However, the widespread joy that freedom is within our reach is not entirely unfounded, seen in the context of our Claim of Right and pre-Union constitution, still extant. When our independence is restored by exiting the Union treaty, it may well be in spite of Ms Sturgeon rather than because of her.
Back here in Denmark, as details of the PM’s mink ‘Tour de Farce’ are released, the wider nation is celebrating playing host to the first three stages of the Tour de France. Even a rain-soaked Day 1 could not diminish the sense of national pride.
Showcasing the Grand Départ of Le Tour to the world, in your country’s capital city, is as good as it gets.
When the clouds lifted, the helicopter shots revealed Copenhagen as a tidy, charming, well-ordered historic city.
The international feature with the capital’s female mayor, highlighting cycling infrastructure investment, was an example to major cities the world over.
And as you may have seen, Stage 2 took riders across the impressive Great Belt Bridge. That structure alone is testament to what small independent nations can achieve when they control all of their national revenues and resources.
Scotland’s time is now. The moment has come to right a historic wrong. With salvo.scot raising their standard on the constitutional battlefield, it’s perhaps time to join them. To quote the Jacobite motto, ‘Prosperity to Scotland, and no Union.