Scotland the free

I’m confused. The Government says that a Scottish independence referendum in 2013 is binding but in 2014 it will be illegitimate. I suspect this is an example of politicians making stuff up as it suits them rather than there being any profound democratic or constitutional principle at stake, and Labour has no business supporting the Government on such tosh.

I start from the position of wanting the Union to remain. I would be sad to lose Scotland and worried about what diminishing cultural diversity would to attitudes in the remainder, a not so great Britain. I believe we derive strength through unity and that we would be weaker without Scotland.

That said, I can see why the Scots might think differently. It might be calculable that Scotland would be financially poorer if independent, but it’s hard to believe they would be less powerful. Foreign policy officials, ambassadors and diplomats are hardly going to bat internationally for Scottish interests – they’re obeying the orders of ministers in Westminster. Technically, Scotland could join the Nuclear Club if it retained the military assets it hosts, though there is plenty of international precedence for an “aid for disarmament” deal, which is more likely.

What Labour can’t quite get over is the fear that, without Scotland, Britain will never return a Labour government. It’s a valid concern but we must get over it. People will vote for Labour governments if the party does its job properly and if we think the people of England are beyond persuading, we have no business standing for election.

What we have to remember is that we are the people’s party and that Great Britain is a nation founded by murderous monarchs absent of regard for the people in the lands they traded like playing cards. As a new innovation, a party of ordinary people standing for the common man and woman, we simply must accept the principle that people should decide how they are governed.

Yes, the SNP would happily have a referendum every year until the year the people chose to be independent and never again hold another. But they are not democrats, they are politicians. Politicians are no more the guardians of democracy than capitalists are the guardians of markets. They are the principle beneficiaries of democracy and therefore the prime suspects whenever it is subverted.

But while have to accept the Scots’ right to determine their own destiny, they must accept that we too are affected by that decision.

We paid for Scotland fair and square, not least by paying off the debts incurred though their abortive attempt at forming an empire. If Scotland did become independent, it may be legitimate to ask for our money back, and I’d be interested to know what that might come to.

But this is peripheral, just as is any discussion of the date on which a referendum may be legitimate or illegitimate. It’s absurd to say that the “markets” are nervous about the future of Scotland. No-one is worried. In or out of Britain, it will be fine. It’s not as though they’re going to propose border controls and trade tariffs. There are no retailers holding back investment in new checkout tills in case the currency changes.

Whatever dates chosen for the referendum, it will be legitimate because the people of Scotland, not Alec Salmond, will tell us what they want. The quickest way to build support for an independence movement in Scotland is to tell the Scottish people that their voice is only legitimate on days designated in Westminster.

The truth is the the Union never could quite get to grips with democracy. Issues like the West Lothian question and local government funding formulae always grated a bit and the further issue of Scottish MPs voting on English-only laws also seemed a pretty obvious fudge.

We just have to accept that being English doesn’t give us the right to dominate our neighbours eternally, and if we do then, maybe not in 2014 but eventually, our constituent nations will break away.

For all the fuss over Scottish independence, I haven’t heard one defence of the union articulated in terms of democracy. If Britain were a federation of independent, sovereign states, who would be harmed? If those states delegated powers to a federal government as suitable, rather than the other way around, would that feed nationalism in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales or would it snuff it out?

Whether in 2013 or 2014 I don’t think the Scots will vote to leave the UK, though this ridiculous obsession to set the date could change that. But if we don’t form a new relationship built on democracy and fraternity rather than imperialist superiority, the union will break up as soon as the advantages for our vassal states are easily quantified.

And for heaven’s sake don’t task a politician with sorting it out. What do they know about democracy?

  • Shaw

    There are two things I dont understand about this issue.

    First, how can one side arbitarily dissolve a unified nation. What is so special about Scotland over any other region of the UK or indeed a region within scotland, would Aberdeen be allowed a referendum and then leave scotland to go it alone ?

    Second, what is so special about a referendum, what does it mean to be legally binding ? I thought all referendums were advisory in that parliament could vote not to pass any subsequent legislation if they wished too.

    Grateful if anyone knows the answers.

    • Andy Williams

      Scotland is not a ‘region’ as such.  It has always retained it’s own Parliament and it’s own law-making powers.

    • Anonymous

      Unified nations have to be able to be dissolved on the say so of just one side.  Unless you think it is right for one side to occupy the other. South Sudan had been violently oppressed by north Sudan for decades. After a long civil war in 2011 the people of South Sudan voted for independence and it was given in July 2011. Note the rest of Sudan had no voice in the referrendum. Would you have wanted them to be able to block it?

      So unless you want to occupy Scotland militarily you have to allow a people to leave, just as a wife can leave a marriage without her husband’s consent.

      The UK Parliament can pass a law saying that if a referrendum passes X will come into force, but not if it fails. That would be a legally binding referrendum. So far pretty much all referrendums have been technially advisary they have a huge moral force so very hard to ignore. but if the people of Aberdeen voted for indepedence in a referrendum from Scotland then it would be  basis for negotiation to address their reasons for leaving and if that could be addressed, it would be hard to stop them if there was widespread public backing. Again would you want to put troops on the street?

      There is a case that if Scotland did vote for indeendence the people of some boarder towns on both sides, Berwick upon Tweed is an example, should be given a vote as to which coutry they wish to be part of.

  • Andy Williams

    It’s not the date of the Referendum that is really bothering Cameron.   It’s the fact that the Scots are probably going to have a two-phase question along the lines of:-

    Do you think Scotland should remain as is or seek greater self- determinaton – Yes/No.

    If you answered yes to the above, do you support
     increased devolution with control over fiscal matters etc etc  blah blah
    or full independence.

    Cameron wants it early and a straight yes or no purely on Independence.  He knows he can win that.   A year later,  and Salmond will definately win greater devolution and possibly full independence if the global situation continues to look rough.

    • Anonymous

      The thing with ‘DevoMax’ is that it isn’t the Salmon’s to offer. All those extra powers currently reside in Westminster. Salmon could win the DevoMax’ question, go to Westminster and say “I want this power, this power and that power” and Westminster can say “No, go away”. End of. Independence is a fixed concept, with a negotiation to achieve the loose ends. An offer to negotiate extra powers agreed to by London is ok. But DevoMax would need agreement from the English first, since in even a federal UK the English would be underwriting the debts of a Scottish government. That can’t happen without their agreement.

      • Andy Williams

        Independence has the same constraints.  Any rederendum regarding either is purely advisory and hthe result has to be agreed by Westminster.

        • Anonymous

          Independence is clear cut, either you are a sovereign country or you aren’t. A yes vote would lead to independence, even if Westminster doesn’t want it. You think they would send troops in if Scotland UDI’d?

          DevoMax could be any bloody thing that London cares to offer unless the SNP plan to publish exactly what it want and the UK govt can say no. How does Scotland unilaterally run maximum devolution?

  • annoyed

    Stretching the truth a BIG bit there.
    We are already in an unholy alliance with the Tories
    against the Scottish Government

  • Getjimhere

    “We paid for Scotland fair and square” 

     - if that  is your way of trying to  gain Scottish votes and getting Scots to agree with your ideas   then the SNP will probably give you a medal
    - after independence

  • Anonymous

    The Union between England and Scotland is often portrayed as English imperialism, as if Scotland were a vassel state. The Union was an imperialist project, but it was a joint one where the English AND the Scots jointly set out to build a British Empire. Scotland joined the Union to be bailed out from its failed imperial adventure and to gain access to England’s empire. Scots were over represented in those who went out and forged the Empire. It was the Empire that held the Union together. Scottish industry supplied that empire.

    It is the ending of that empire that removed the point of the Union. Scotland is ethnically, culturally and geographically a country of its own. The history of Europe in the last 200 years is one of nationalism, with multi-national countries breaking up.  Czechoslovakia broke up in 1993 in the Velvet divorce. Scottish independence is inevitable in the long run. If the only reason Alex can come up with against seperation is that its nice to live somewhere diverse then that break up should come sooner rather than later.

    • Anonymous

      Scotland has a right to decide it’s own fate, but a nice little rumour  going the rounds is if Scotland  will decide to give rights to it’s oil and offshore gas. Yes yes none left, well that’s wrong lots of it left just not worth  getting it yet.

      • Anonymous

        Scotland does have the right to decide its own fate, but then so does England!

  • John Reid

    actually it’ takes 50 seats to reduce a majority by 100

  • Anonymous

    This is all labour home has to offer even with Miliband speech come on get back to being up todate.  Look at Balls speech to Fabians about New labour lets go get it going on here

  • Anonymous

    “And for heaven’s sake don’t task a politician with sorting it out. What do they know about democracy?” Clearly not a lot since David Cameron is unwilling to let us English have  a referendum on an English Parliament let alone English independence!

  • uglyfatbloke

    Late to the party, but never mind….The English government went out of it’s way to scupper the Darien project, even colluding with Spain, despite the fact that they were at war with one another. It also made it very clear that annexation was on the cards if the Scottish parliament did not do as it was told. The ‘Equivalent’ came to about £500,000, which even then was not all that huge a sum in terms of government spending. Fair and square? Hardly, Incidentally using the term ‘losing’ in relation to Scotland rather indicates the sort of unconscious, institutionalised English nationalism which really should be left to the Tories.