Scotland – it’s time – why wait?

With the latest opinion polls showing the SNP at a sensational record 51% for Holyrood, and a pretty impressive by-election win in Lanarkshire, it’s getting tempting for Alex to go for an early independence referendum.

The context is key – the Scottish government and SNP are acting like history is working their way. We have:

The Independent describing the SNP’s Scandinavian strategy as “Bye Bye England

….. whilst Alex is just back from China,  and the party unveils it’s £60 billion infrastructure plan.

With the opposition floundering and leaderless and Cameron full to his eyes with Europe shouldn’t the SNP call the referendum now?

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  • strange brew

    Not with polls showing support sticking stubbornly at a third they shouldn’t. A Devo-Max referendum on the other hand…

  • sliabhluachra

    Maybe he fears:
    Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,
    May by thy mighty aid,
    Victory bring.
    May he sedition hush,
    and like a torrent rush,
    Rebellious Scots to crush,
    God save the King.

    The SNP is a strange brew. Think PSF, FF, plus the Masonic Lodges. They have a large Tory vote, the Tories being all but dead in Scotland. The SNP cannot be equated with the IIP or any other relatively straight forward historical party in Ireland.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    The reason why he will wait is because, perversely, many SNP voters for the Scottish Parliament would not support independence in a referendum.

    It is a bit like NI the current voting split in elections would not be reflected in a referendum on the border.

    You really can’t trust voters to be consistent on all issues.

  • Dewi

    There’s a dynamic about the SNP which could catch fire. The Unionist cause is fractured and not cohesive. It must be tempting to do it soon before they get their act together.

  • Greenflag

    I@ Dewi ,

    ‘It must be tempting to do it soon before they get their act together.’

    If Salmond has any political sense and it looks like he has bucketsful he’ll hold off for another year or two by which time Mr Cameron’s ‘Big Society ‘ will have all the appeal of Maggie Thatcher’s ‘Services ‘ utopia or the allure Blair’s ‘Cool Britannia’.

    Cameron’s latest policy blunder will need time to be seen for what it surely is i.e an attempt to shore up the policies of both earlier administrations as they attempted to make London once again the world’s financial capital as against the claims of New York or the Frankfurt pretender or any of the newly emerging Chinese Shanghai’s etc .

    He’ll not move before the current EU monetary crisis is settled -by which time the outlook and consequences for Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ will be more clearly seen for what they are .

  • Consider the many good reasons for delay.

    First up are the local elections in Scotland, due next May 3rd — the first time since ’95 these haven’t coincided with a national poll. Last time the SNP managed just 28% of the Scottish electorate at local level — and second place. That will obviously improve substantially. Were, say, a substantial majority of local council to go SNP, that would be a major perk for any subsequent referendum. In any event, Salmond has another major advance to trumpet.

    Second, the SNP is sitting on a unique plurality in the Scottish Parliament for the next three years. Wee Eck is cock-o’-the-midden. Why confuse the issue? Especially when the other parties, especially in Scotland, are making a total hames of it.

    Third, what is the referendum to be about? One question, or two? My impression is that, even inside the SNP, there is no agreement. Were Salmond to plump, he’d be stirring up some inside his own camp — either way. If he got it wrong, there goes his pre-eminence.

    Fourth (and, for the moment, last), 24th June 1314 — Bannockburn. So pencil in 19th or 26th June 2014.
    Greenflag @ 1:17 pm covers much of the rest of the waterfront. Note, too, the final paragraph of today’s Scotsman leader:

    One effect of the drama of the past few days has been to bring a new clarity to the routes an independent Scotland might take on monetary policy. That each route has huge implications is becoming plain, and it’s clear that major decisions have to be faced on what currency – and what countries – an independent Scotland would ally itself to. There is a strong argument that First Minister Alex Salmond would be foolish to lay down a definitive course for Scotland at this point. Why, for example, nail the Saltire to the euro when that currency may conceivably not exist in anything like its current form in a few years’ time? There are also obvious problems about a newly independent country sticking with the currency of the country from which it has just separated. Salmond must, however, be clearer on the way Scots would be able to express a preference about their future. Would there be a referendum on any decision to stick with sterling, in the way the SNP has promised for adopting the euro? And what about a standalone Scottish currency, an option finding favour among some nationalists this weekend? Would this be another option available to Scottish voters? The pathways to choice need to be more clearly defined.

  • Mick Fealty

    Agree with the Scotsman. The SNP loses nothing by letting the current dynamic grind matters in Scotland exceedingly small.

    An early referendum risks (if not begs) a still febrile electorate to run for safety of what they know, ie the Union.

  • Dewi

    You are all probably right…..but not certain – whereas we know for sure that:
    1) The SNP is at the peak of it’s historic popularity.
    2) Lib Dems a busted flush, Tories in high level ideological differences in Holyrood. Labour in early stages of renewal.
    3) There is no “NO” organisation or agreed Unionist philosophy toward the referendum.

    Winning conditions? Maybe, maybe not.
    Will they get better? I don’t know.

    Interesting choice…

  • Barnshee

    Er what about a referendum in GB

    Along the lines “Should we throw Scotland out of the Union” ?

  • andnowwhat

    Along with all that top end tourist revenue and taxes Scotland brings in Barnshee?

  • Barnshee @ 2:08 pm:

    Ironically, the one person who could force a referendum at this time is David Cameron.

    Now, let’s have a short period of meditation on why he doesn’t, and why he unlikely to …

  • JR

    I think Ni would be top of the union chuck out list barnshee.

  • dwatch

    Er what about a referendum in GB

    Along the lines “Should we throw Scotland out of the Union” ?

    What if Scotland were to become independent , and then join the Eurozone?

  • Barnshee

    “Along with all that top end tourist revenue and taxes Scotland brings in Barnshee”

    Er Scotland (like N Ireland) is a net burden on the tax payer

  • Dewi

    “Er Scotland (like N Ireland) is a net burden on the tax payer”
    The biggest political lie in the last 40 years of UK politics.

  • Red Lion

    At risk of asking a question for which there is a blindingly obvious answer, can somebody clarify 2 points for me??

    Can Salmond put 3 choices on a referendum paper, ie vote for a)maintain current union b)devo max c)full independence???
    and if so how would this work – option with highest votes becomes reality??

    If so then this seems unfair and undemocratic-a union vote is split between option a and b, allowing greater chance for full independence option c, to be the winner?/

    eg if option ‘a’ gets 32%, b) gets 33% and c gets 35%, it hardly seems like a mandate , or a foundation for stability for 35% full independence vote to take preference over a union-in-some-form 65%??? Or does there have to be a winning margin??

    Surely a 2 question referendum carries more of a democratic mandate and potential for stability thereafter??

    Secondly – how ‘full’ is any full independence option?? Am i right in saying that Scotland would continue to have the Queen as head of state??

    Much obliged

  • Dewi

    From the bottom the SNP would keep the Crown if Lizzie agrees.
    On the referendum there would be two separate ballot papers with two votes each. Yes-No to independence and Yes-No to Devo max. If Independence gets over 50% then it wins. If it fails but Devo Max gets over 50% then that wins. If both fail it’s the status quo.

  • Dewi

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keep_Scotland_in_Britain
    Keep Scotland in Britain. Strange name – is anyone intending to move Scotland?

  • Reader

    Dewi: On the referendum there would be two separate ballot papers with two votes each. Yes-No to independence and Yes-No to Devo max. If Independence gets over 50% then it wins. If it fails but Devo Max gets over 50% then that wins. If both fail it’s the status quo.
    Those are strange rules – there is a presumption in favour of independence even if Devo Max is more popular? (as appears almost certain).
    So, what tactical advice would you give for a supporter of Devo Max contemplating his vote in the first ballot?

  • Dewi

    Tactical advice – No to independence, Yes to Devo Max

  • Reader

    Dewi: Tactical advice – No to independence, Yes to Devo Max
    Cheers – I was counting on you to be frank, and you were.
    The outcome of the voting rules as you have outlined them is that the vote for independence as compared with the status quo will be depressed; that voters will be well advised to act tactically; and that if independence actually happens it will almost certainly not be the real first preference of a plurality, let alone a majority.
    Isn’t there a better way?

  • Dewi

    Isn’t there a better way?
    Salmond’s strategic intricacies are a little beyond me to be honest. The Unionist parties now appear to be united in favour of a single question – Salmond was perhaps hoping to plant some division there?

  • Clearly Dewi‘s original premiss is correct: the generality of Scottish opinion is ready to move on.

    Devo Max is the next stage, and would, under present circumstances, likely succeed. Cameron (see Scottish press passim) is proving to be one of its finest proponents. Further arguments, among the SNP, for Devo Max are that it leaves something for later — there’s still hope for full independence in (say) another generation, the damned English are to blame if things aren’t going aright, and there are continuing functions for the SNP’s well-rewarded nomenklatura.

    Who “owns” the referendum question has been debated repetitiously. From a partial stand-point, but covering many of the bases, there was Jamie Maxwell at The Staggers — I’d suggest Michelin two-stars, “worth the trip”. [But what do I know? I’m one of those benighted Guardian readers — alongside, yesterday, The Times, Indy, bits of the Torygraph, NY Times, Washington Post … so, any hope in future of the attempted insult at length?]

  • Dewi

    Ah, but Malcolm, Scotland won’t get an Olympics team under Devo Max……which I actually think is pretty important.

  • grandimarkey

    Barnshee:
    “Er what about a referendum in GB
    Along the lines “Should we throw Scotland out of the Union” ?”

    And

    “Er Scotland (like N Ireland) is a net burden on the tax payer”

    These are precisely the kind of Unionist arguments that are pushing Scotland towards independence.

  • Has the SNP definitively said they will chuck Trident out of Faslane on independence, or are they proposing the RN be lodgers of the Scottish Navy?

  • Dewi

    Mark – SNP policy is to scrap – but as with all these things who knows who would form a government in an independent Scotland?

  • Barnshee

    “Er what about a referendum in GB
    Along the lines “Should we throw Scotland out of the Union” ?”

    And

    “Er Scotland (like N Ireland) is a net burden on the tax payer”

    “These are precisely the kind of Unionist arguments that are pushing Scotland towards independence.”

    Read them again these are NOT unionist arguments they nare heart felt wishes of Engish taxpayers to be rid of the burdens

  • Red Lion

    Thanks Dewi, all not exactly straightforward

    And somewhat unfair towards unionists i feel – two ‘no’s and they win, unionisst arent having the chance to proactively say yes to something. The way a referendum qustion is framed certainly counts for a lot, and i think the simple framing of these questions will lose unionism votes.

    A referendum holds more of a mandate, and potential for acceptance of its results amongst its population, and potential for stabil;ity, if its kept simple.

    SNP should make their mind up – do they want Devo Max or full independence??? And then have only 2 options on the ballot paper for people to tick which they prefer. The 3 options blurs whats at stake and reduces credibility.

    Whats also interesting is that full independence doesnt seem to actually mean a Scottish republic, it retains the Queen as head of state and remains a constitutional monarchy??

  • Dewi

    Queenie’s just for show to get the tourists in I suppose.
    I don’t disagree on the question to be honest.

  • Red Lion

    Scotland and Britain seems to be a very complex nuanced situation – i was surprised at the level of Royal Wedding Celebrations that took place in Scotland when i was over there at that time, i think SNP recognise that to completely do away with the current status quo of constitutional monarchy with and start over perhaps with presidential system?) would be a large practical step to take in one go and possibly be unpalatable or foreign or too scaremongering for the voters, causing some to vote unnecessarily ‘conservatively’ in a referendum. Their moving in the other direction towards devo max shows their canny reading of the popular mood and how far the people may be prepared to go.

    Also, i think its time for Britain to Federate. Theres hardly a constitutional set up like it in the world, developed over hundreds of years of piecemeal history. Devolution exposed inadequacies in the system of government eg west lothian question, student fes etc. Westminster should be steppingup to the plate , perhaps a Royal Commission, to investigate how to harmonise the union across all thye constituent countries, and thus strenghten it. England deserves its own parliament, perhaps maybe even its regions do, and perhaps Federation is the way to go, to ‘harmonise devolution’, under the figurehead of constitutional monarchy.

    Dewi, i note u said that Scotland has always paid its way in the union and it has been a political lie or propaganda to say otherwise. Ive always been of the impression that the South of England has been subsidising the rest of us, including North England regions and Scotland for many years. Im aware of the Barnett formula. Whats your reasoning for Scotland being a net contributor??

  • Dewi

    http://scotlandunspun.blogspot.com/2011/06/gers-report-shows-scotland-subsidises.html
    Red Lion – the great Unionist political narrative re. Scotland’s economy always caveats..”excluding oil”

  • JPJ2

    There are potential difficulties with a 2 question referendum but it cannot be ruled out-particularly as there was a 2 question referendum about creating a Scottish Parliament.

    The 2 questions could run along these lines:

    1) Do you want the Scottish Parliament to have more powers?

    If this obtains 50% + 1 vote then Question 2 is applied

    2) Do you want these powers to be those of Devo-Max or of Independence?

    This would produce a result that reflects the wishes of the population. Obviously a great deal of work would have to be done on what, in particular “Devo-Max” means, but the style of the questions is very similar to the previous referendum.

  • Barnshee

    “the great Unionist political narrative re. Scotland’s economy always caveats..”excluding oil”

    Produce the figures

    Tax raised in Scotland
    Public money remitted to Scotland
    Scottish oil revenue

  • Dewi

    Produce the figures:

    http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2010/06/23103654

    Will that do for you?