Challenges ahead of a #ScotRef (or #IndyRef2) will cut both ways…


Today’s Polling Matters podcast has a useful conversation between host Keiran Pedley and Ailsa Henderson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Edinburgh. It’s a real anti-hype piece in which she does a good job of honing in on some of the crunch areas of #ScotRef (the updated SNP version of #IndyRef2).

In her piece for the Herald today she covers some of the same ground (though in nothing like the same detail). One key is the shifting ground under both sides because of the very different context between this referendum and the one in September 2014:

…the argument about an independent Scotland offering a different vision of society, one in which the gap between rich and poor was smaller, was not only a predictor of support for Yes but was gaining traction as referendum day approached.

By referring to the type of Scotland we want to be – one that is “open, welcoming, diverse and fair” – Nicola Sturgeon was picking up where Yes Scotland left off in 2014, and using an argument that had been pulling voters towards her campaign.

Changes in context are relevant. The No arguments from 2014 about the risk of economic uncertainty – that we’re better off pooling our power in larger entities – will ring slightly hollow given the uncertainty over Brexit.


the No arguments about low public appetite for a referendum are not to be dismissed. Initial interest in holding a snap independence poll immediately following the June referendum dissipated and there is now limited appetite for another referendum – with opinion divided on timing even among those who want one.

There is also the undeniable fact that support for independence hovers between 43 and 50 per cent. As late as June 2014 support for Yes was in the low- to mid-30s. It therefore increased 10-15 percentage points by referendum day.

It is unlikely we will see similar movement and likely that we are facing a situation more akin to 1995 in Quebec (where, two months out, Yes and No were pretty level).

That seems reasonable, particularly if you balance last year’s disappointing show in the Scottish Parliamentary elections for pro-Independence parties as compared to Labour’s Westminster wipe out the year before.  In the podcast however, she points to one key difference between Quebec and Scotland.

In Quebec after several near misses support for independence went through the floor in part the Professor argues because Quebec’s Governments have made full use of sub-sovereign power. That’s certainly not been the case in Scotland. But do listen to the whole thing.

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  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    There are other options. See:

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    So consider:

    Lord Cooper (1953) – There is no such entity as the ‘unlimited sovereignty’ claimed by Westminster in Scots Law and constitutional practice, it is a purely English legal and constitutional construct.

    Lord Cooper (1953) – The independence of Scots Law is protected by the Treaty of Union for all time.

    Lord Cooper (1953) – For ‘all time’ means exactly that

    Lord Cooper (1953) – Westminster has no powers to alter, ammend or adjust the conditions of the Treaty of Union; only the sovereign parliaments of Scotland and England have such powers – the legal point was conceded on behalf of Westminster by the Lord Advocate.

    Lord Cooper (1953) – Scottish sovereignty is limited by the considered will of the Scottish people.

    UK Supreme Court (2010) – The UK Supreme Court has no right to alter any Act, Bill or Statue of the Scottish Parliament which reflects the considered will of the Scottish people.

    The SNP Government were elected to Holyrood in part to reflect the considered will of the Scottish people for a referendum to either withdraw from the Treaty of Union and return to independent nationhood or to seek a radically new Union settlement (Devo-max).

    If Holyrood passes the Scottish Referendum Bill (2019) then Westminster can not challenge the ‘legality’, under section 5 or 30 of the 1998 Scotland Act, as the UK Supreme Court have already stated they have no rights to set aside any Bill, Act or Statute of the Scottish Parliament which reflects the considered will of the Scottish people.

    Westminster has no ‘rights’ to enforce its will on Scotland as that assumes it has ‘unlimited sovereignty’ a concept not recognised in Scots Law or constitutional practice as sovereignty in Scotland is limited by the will of the people. (Lord Cooper/ UK Supreme Court)

    © Mad Jock McMad 2012-08-30

  • Brian Walker

    The contrast between the high public rhetoric about a Scotland brave open and fair or whatever contrasts Cuomo-style with SNP delivery and their timorousness about using the extra taxation powers they already have.

  • Scots Anorak

    The Westminster and Scottish Parliament elections use completely different systems, and followers of Scots independence will recall that there was considerable, and occasionally heated, debate about how to maximise the pro-Indy vote at the time. As it happened, the SNP came close to replicating its previous performance despite the system having been specifically designed to prevent it, and with the Greens on board the pro-Indy majority was maintained. Next week the Scottish Parliament will vote in favour of a referendum to save us from the gangster capitalists and xenophobes of Brexit. That vote will be entirely legitimate and will reflect manifesto pledges voted on by the people. You shouldn’t compare apples with pears.

  • Salmondnet

    Most of the “gangster capitalists” seem to have been on the Remain side of the Brexit argument. You really should be pleased that they lost, but no matter. You will get your referendum and you will almost certainly lose. Better yet, you will win, and we “xenophobes” will be spared your sanctimony (except of course for Scottish xenophobes, not really hard to find, who, if the SNP has its way, will find themselves living with a scale of migration never seen before in Scottish history. We will then see just how tolerant and accepting you really are).

  • Croiteir

    Is that McCormick V Lord Advocate 1953? certainly sounds like it. The problem with pleading that case is that this is limited, he said that “clear that there is neither precedent nor authority of any kind for the view that the domestic courts of either Scotland or England have jurisdiction to determine whether a government act of the type here in controversy is or is not conform to the provisions of the Treaty …” so nobody has the authority to decide if Westminster is exceeding its powers in this respect at that time. So forget about McCormick .

    However to quote Ronan McCrea, a Senior Lecturer in Law at University College London,

    “Limits on Westminster’s ability to legislate in relation to the Union foundered therefore, on the basis that there was an absence of institutions empowered to pronounce definitively on these matters.
    Devolution and the use of simple majority local referendums to definitively decide questions of independence have changed that element of the equation. The creation of a Scottish Parliament gives institutional voice to a Scottish demos. Perhaps even more significantly, the recognition of the supreme authority of the Scottish electorate in matters of independence provides a means through which unilateral changes to the terms of the Union can be met by a claim to secession on the part of Scotland

    Constitutional practice over the last twenty years in the UK appears to show that constituent parts of the United Kingdom may claim independence after many decades, if not centuries, of voluntary union without surmounting any greater obstacle than a one vote majority in a once-off referendum. Therefore, while the vote in favour of Brexit may show the weakness of confederal bodies of nation-states such as the EU, by raising the prospect of Scottish departure once more, it also highlights how the UK has drifted into becoming something like such a loose association of sovereign nations itself.”

  • Trasna

    So it’s just a union of the crown then. So can Lizzy refuse royal on only Scottish bill or law?

    Are the Scots aware of this.

  • Trasna

    Who or what are/is the sovereign power of England?

  • aquifer

    The capitalists who make things and employ people were for remain.

  • Scots Anorak

    That’s been a common Unionist trope. In practice, the fact that the Scottish Parliament may not alter taxation bands or, for example, use the money raised to cut VAT or corporation tax means that it is unlikely ever to be much of a goer.

  • Scots Anorak

    Indeed, and the thought of leaving the EU in order to deregulate the labour market further or cut maternity pay didn’t float their boat. Meanwhile, Mr. Farage sold Brexit on a false prospectus and made a killing on the stock market as a result before decamping to America.