Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Scotland: 17 days to “go”

Two “leader’s debates” down and 17 days to go – yes, a fortnight on Thursday, those in Scotland vote on the future of the UK.

Living a bit south of the border, I don’t like not having a say – but that is what our dysfunctional Prime Minister decided on when he concluded the Edinburgh agreement with Salmond.

The consequence is a real risk of the break up of the United Kingdom, if not this time then next time. If it is to happen I think a “next time” YES is probably best.

I don’t say this to “put off the awful day”, but to allow us all to learn the lessons of this campaign and to avoid a fractious divorce (this time) in favour of a more “conscious uncoupling” (next time).

There is a coalition for change in Scotland that consists of two (overlapping) points of view.

First there are those who view themselves as Scottish so much more than they identify as British, that rule from Westminster is an affront that can only be solved by independence – no matter what.

Secondly there are those who view the United Kingdom’s government by Westminster as broken and incapable of being reformed into anything that will address their concerns.

If I lived in Scotland, I would be in that second group. (Well even in England, I guess I am in that second group – but unable to do anything.)

The question then is how this coalition can best achieve its aims.

The current proposal as in Scotland’s Future is a set of aspirations that will have to be negotiated post “YES”. Much has been made of a “YES” vote being the “Sovereign Voice” of the people. Unfortunately the Sovereign Voice of one People cannot over-ride the Sovereign Voice of another People. It is quite likely that the people of rUK, if consulted, would not agree to the aspirations set out in Scotland’s Future – in fact they may be quite belligerent.

It is naive to believe that Scots can vote for Scotland’s Future and get Scotland’s Future – so the vote is to a degree a vote of faith. The die-hard Scots (group one above) might say, “so what, let’s go for it and accept a possibly bad-tempered dis-union”. The second group (those disillusioned with Westminster) may not be so sanguine about independence in such circumstances.

There is a vague “promise” that in the event of “NO” there will be further devolution, either devo-plus or devo-max. This sounds inevitable (no matter what anyone says!) and even though it is undefined would probably be a better basis for a later leap to independence. Any extra devolution has to involve a further degree of uncoupling – thereby reducing the amount of change associated with full independence. It also allows both parties to firm up any proposal for independence and for the nationalists to present a second manifesto for independence that is far less uncertain.

Second time of asking, “YES” could mean an uncoupling that will be a lot less fractious.


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2 thoughts on “Scotland: 17 days to “go”

  1. There are a couple of interesting issues that have not been raised yet, and would interest me in the event of a Yes vote. Seeing as there is currently no real legal status of being Scottish (or English for that matter), how will it be decided who is Scottish and who is not? Will all the people who regard themselves as Scottish rush northwards and get themselves a passport? Will they then expect to return to live in England and gain all the advantages of being British while still wishing to have all the benefits that holding a Scottish passport and being Scottish involves? Has this even bee thought through? If people in Scotland wish to remain British, will the opposite apply?

    I suspect that the real wish of many in Scotland is that there will be a No vote, and as a result further devolution, which will probably involve more benefits being available to people living in Scotland (and all the finance flowing northward to achieve this) while still retaining all the benefits of being in the UK. They would be silly not to want this really.

    The politicians in Scotland would probably also like to see this happen, so they can retain the one-upmanship over England of being able to spend British funds on purely Scottish benefits, and vote against anything that may be of benefit to England, for which further devolution would bring more opportunities to do so. Look out for Scottish MPs (along with their Welsh compatriots) happily voting for £15,000 university fees in England.

  2. Well, Scotland’s Future asserts:

    We plan that British citizens habitually resident in Scotland on independence will be considered Scottish citizens. This will include British citizens who hold dual citizenship with another country. Scottish born British citizens currently living outside of Scotland will also be considered Scottish citizens.

    Following independence, other people will be able to apply for Scottish citizenship. For example, citizenship by descent will be available to those who have a parent or grandparent who qualifies for Scottish citizenship. Those who have a demonstrable connection to Scotland and have spent at least ten years living here at some stage, whether as a child or an adult, will also have the opportunity to apply for citizenship. Migrants on qualifying visas will also have the option of applying for naturalisation as a Scottish citizen.
    Scotland’s Future p271/2

    What is interesting is that while citizenship is open to “Scottish born British citizens currently living outside of Scotland” – they don’t have a vote!

    They go on to say that dual citizenship is allowed, so they would not be encroaching on the rights of British Citizens – it does not look as if there will be forced re-citizening.

    Whether the rUK government will be happy to have “British Citizens” who can by crossing the border “have it both ways” is not entirely clear. However the Irish Republic tolerates dual citizens who live north of the border and can travel South and claim benefits of Irish citizenship.

    From my current geographical perspective, I want a No vote – because a Yes result on the current terms is going to lead to endless wrangling and argument. Setting up this referendum has been a mess. We really needed a two stage referendum:

    1. A vote in principle – which is a mandate to negotiate
    2. A vote for independence on the negotiated terms.

    I think Cameron thought that by going for the process that is charging towards us, the old fear uncertainty and doubt (FUD) would see off the nationalists. That is a very high risk strategy for the Conservative and Unionist party.

    If I was in Scotland, I would want independence (to get away from the broken Westminster system), but I would be worried about a YES in the current scenario.

    A narrow NO followed by re-election of a majority nationalist Scottish Parliament might be taken as some form of mandate to negotiate over the period of a parliament prospective terms to be put to a later referendum in say 5 years time.

    A narrow victory either way would be a difficult result.

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