Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Monday, 9 January 2012

If Scotland votes for independence it's game over, binding or not

The top story today is how David Cameron is trying to coerce the Scottish parliament into holding the putative independence referendum early. There is also talk of him trying to influence the question on the ballot paper, and whether a "devo max" option is allowed.

The thinking seems to be that because only the UK government can sanction a "binding" referendum that Cameron has leverage here to try and impose his will on the way the plebiscite is held. Without the binding aspect, he seems to think that the Scottish government would not want to proceed.

But that approach seems to be politically naive to me. Let's hypothesise that Salmond tells Cameron where to go and sticks to his plan to have the referendum in 2 or 3 years time in the second half of the parliament (which seems quite likely). Let's also hypothesise that the SNP government chooses the wording without allowing the UK government to influence this. And finally let's imagine that the referendum is won, either for devo max or full independence.

In either of these cases, if the Scottish public has voted by a majority to either have more powers for the parliament or to cede from the UK entirely, does anyone seriously imagine that the UK government can stand in the way of that? Sure, there would be lots of detail to work through and the changes would clearly affect the UK as a whole but the idea that Westminster could just ignore the result and carry on as usual blithely claiming it was "not binding" is politically unrealistic. The democratic will of the Scottish people would need to be respected.

If Scotland votes in a referendum for further or full independence, regardless of whether David Cameron likes how and when the vote occurs, it will happen.

I suspect Alex Salmond knows this full well and is simply playing this situation for all the Tory bashing he can get out of it to nudge a few more votes his way. Nicola Sturgeon has been doing a sterling job today getting the phrase "Tory led government" in almost every sentence she has uttered in copious media appearances. You can almost hear them ticking off another 100 votes for independence every time she says it!

The real question is what does Cameron think he is doing? I can't possibly see what good he can do with this approach for his party's unionist cause.


Alex Marsh said...

One possibility is that DC is poking it with a stick to annoy the Scots even more and thereby increase the chances of a yes vote. Given their abject performance in Scotland it is in the Tories party political interest to see Scotland independent. It would increase their majority in Westminster.

Conservatives putting party political concerns above everything else?

Hard to believe I realise, given DC's recent stellar performance in protecting British interests in Europe while not at all pandering to his rabid backbenchers, but not entirely implausible.

Jim said...

I don't know if DC is that clever, but I hope he's having the desired effect of driving the Scots to vote for independence, whether by accident or design.

Scots vote Yes, Westminster loses 50 Labour MPs and England has to renegotiate its relationship with Europe. Win/win I'd say.

sanbikinoraion said...

Surely the obvious answer is that if Cameron can force an early indepedence referendum there is far more chance of the "no" vote that he appears to want? Scots split something like 25-75 against independence at the moment -- Salmond knows that he needs the time to move public opinion.