Monday, November 30, 2009

Scottish Parties Are Blind to the Obvious

Blinkered. That's the only way to describe the idiotic decision by the three main parties to oppose a referendum on Scottish independence, which the SNP promised in their manifesto and are delivering on today, when they issue a white paper. If there's one way to whip up separationist tendencies Tavish Scott, Iain Gray and Annabelle Goldie appear to have found it.

The SNP have a mandate for the referendum. Perhaps I am missing something, and no doubt you will tell me if I am, but the SNP would lose a referendum of it were taken within the next year, so what have the three main parties got to lose by allowing the SNP to press ahead? If the vote is lost it would kill the SNP's electoral fortunes for a decade or more.

The simplest path when it comes to a vote in the Scottish Parliament is for the other parties to abstain. But it looks as if they will continue to act like ostriches and use the referendum as a stick to beat the SNP with. Alex Salmond may have had a bad year, but he is not to be underestimated. As a political tactician he is in a different league to his opponents, and they would do well to remember that.


Robert said...

But then the main parties do not like a referendum. All of them reneged on the referendum they promised in their manifestos for a vote on Lisbon.

The Conservatives are the real dummies. When offered a free run at the next election by UKIP to keep their manifesto promise of a vote on Lisbon they ducked the opportunity. This is the first case I know of politicians putting principals before party advantage.

If we get a hung parliament what are the chances of 'Eurosceptic Dave' hanging on as party leader?

Salmondnet said...

Entirely agree. The Unionist paries never encounter a pitfall without jumping into it. The last think Salmond actually wants is to have a referedum now.

Chris said...

THe SNP doesn't have a mandate for anything. It's a minority government (in a pretendy wee Parliament, but let's leave that aside). You might consider the possibility that the Unionist parties are against a referendum on independence because it's a waste of time and money, and even, perhaps, because they're Unionist parties, standing up for the Union.

Anonymous said...

David Cameron could pull the rug out from under Labour's support in Scotland if he has the courage to devolve full fiscal autonomy to Scotland (Devo max) but with Scotland remaining still within the UK for that is what the vast majority of Scots would vote for. For Labour are offering nothing more to the Scots but their Calman proposals which is a dogs breakfast that will inflict enormous damage to the Scots economy if applied. Scots are naturally conservative - indeed you may recall its not that long ago since Scotland returned a majority of Tory MP's to Westminster. They would return to the fold if the economy of Scotland was improved. Labour fear this more than anything for it is only the benefits dependency that they created that gives them votes in Scotland.

Mark Senior said...

Totally agree , Iain , have the referendum which would end in the Independence vote being heavily defeated . Cannot understand the reasoning of the 3 main parties on this .

Paddy Briggs said...

If the Conservatives win the next British General Election that win is unlikely to be accompanied by any significant increase in Tory held Scottish seats.

In 2011 an election will be held for the Scottish Parliament and the dominance of the SNP (especially) and of Labour can be expected to continue.

So in 2011, and with a year or so of what by then could well be a highly unpopular Conservative Westminster government behind it, the nationalist momentum in Scotland could be unstoppable. An independence referendum held when a charge of the “Tories in London having no mandate to govern Scotland at all” could well be won. Farewell United Kingdom.

Osama the Nazarene said...

I agree with Chris about the positions of the main parties. There is nothing wrong in opposing the referendum. It was only the SNP which was in favour of it and they do not have a mandate. If they had a majority then they might.

However your views seem to be be influenced by real-politik rather than principle. You say "...but the SNP would lose a referendum of it were taken within the next year.... So, if the SNP were in a really strong position to win such a referendum then would the main parties have been correct to oppose the referendum?

Man in a Shed said...

Iain - have to agree with you here.

Of course any referendum on Scottish independence should allow all those who would become Scottish citizen's, and lose British citizenship, to vote.

And that includes about 1-2 million people who live elsewhere in the UK.

It always puzzles me why this point is never made by the main parties.

There should be a independence referendum and if it lose the SNP should disband ( after all otherwise the risks are just asymmetric, and we enter the Quebec fantasy world of endless referendums ).

Unknown said...

When are people going to get it into thier heads that gaining a majority in the Scottish Parliament is just about impossible - it's the way it was designed.

Stepney said...

You're quite right Iain of course but the real question is not wether the Scots want independence it's whether we the English want Scottish independence and the answer is yes, we bloody well do.

We'll only be too happy for them to shuffle off - no more Barnett formula, they can raise their own taxes, build their own infrastructure and run their own affairs. Scotland is a millstone. Set it free.

Just thin of the benefits for us: lower taxes, 70 odd seats that Labour can't use to prop up a non-democratic government, a cancelling of the democratic deficit and the final answer to the Mid-Lothian question.

If they want it - they can have it. With our blessing.

And good luck fellas.

Unknown said...

If the three main parties continue to oppose the referendum it will end up costing them votes at the general election.
Voters don't like being told the can't have something even if they don't want it. Scots also more likely to want independence if obstacles are put in the way of a referendum vote.
Labour could loose the general election big time if the Scots dump them, this makes that more likely.

Tom Mein said...

Am I missing, what seems to be an obvious point, that if there were an independant Scotland then we would not have Westminster stuffed with Scottish Labour MPs?

haddock said...

Robert 8:29 AM

shhhhh !

Conservatives don't want to talk about it.... they want to whinge about UKIP 'taking THEIR votes' and pretend to be eurosceptic to keep a few.

Sinbad the sailor said...

And one of the main parties could make the guarantee a "cast iron" one giving them the option of not honouring it should they change their mind.

Unknown said...

They should have had this UK Union referendum in 2007 as a sort of tricentennial test.

The Union should have been celebrated like the Jubilee will be in 2012.

Of course the trouble with referenda is that even the day after they lose, no side admits their issue is buried- which makes any vote kind of pointless.

If UKIP/ BNP get their referendum on staying in the EU and they lose (which they obviously would once the silent majority speaks, just like the silent majority would preserve the UK) would then UKIP/ BNP give up their ridiculous separatist arguments?

No Chance.

Anonymous said...

It is about time you face it Iain, the politicians in the main parties are chronically, incurably stupid. They handed the BNP a cause on a plate, they handed UKIP a cause on a plate, they are about to hand UKIP and BNP the climate fraud cause on a plate, and they seem intent on bolstering the importance of the SNP, helping it strengthen its core vote and run rings round them by proposing a referendum that a blind man on a galloping horse can see they will not win, but they know it will get a rise out of the dumbos in the LibDemLabCons.

Oh! Matron!

neil craig said...

I don't think losing a referendum would hurt the SNP's vote. People here did not vote SNP for independence but despite it & because Labour are crap. If the SNP stuck to their promise that that would be that for a generation it would lance the one thing that might get people back to labour.

Have you seen this Iain

Somebody in the party is spinning against Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie. Though she is a an estimable lady I do think that under her leadership the Scottish Conservatives have been so gunshy that much of their natural constituency has seen the SNP as more free marktish. The SNP went into the last election promising cuts in Corporation Tax to get us growing like Ireland (they haven't even tried to deliver) while the main Tory policies were more council houses & more money for drug users.

Unknown said...

Accessing to a demand for a referendum on independence does leave one moral problem in that in their manifestos for the 2008 election, all three UK-wide parties stated they were opposed to a referendem and to vote for one would be a breach of their cmmitment
That being said a good arguement could be put for abstaining and then argue for changes in the detail.

The most mportant point would beon which electoral register would e refendum be fought. The 1998 restricted it to those living in Scotland. using the precedence on non UK citizens have a proxy vote in all UK parliamnetary elections, then all those Scots who currently live in other parts of the UK should be allowed to vote on their future and be allowed to register on the same basis as UK citizens domiciled abroad.
It would be most unfair that an immigrant only resident in Scotland for two years would get a vote while those who were born and brought up there are disenfranchised becuase for the time eing they have chosen to live elsewhere in the UK

Simon said...

Is this part of the Tories "localism" "devolved government plan?

The objection to a referendum doesn't fit with stated policy. In fact it looks downright counter productive.

Is the Tory idea that localism is fine unless it conflicts with Dave's ideas?

The Scots deserve a referendum as do the English - no one has asked us if we still want them.

Unknown said...

"the real question is not wether the Scots want independence it's whether we the English want Scottish independence and the answer is yes, we bloody well do.
We'll only be too happy for them to shuffle off.......Scotland is a millstone. Set it free."

Speak for yourself only. The arrogance and foolishness here is breathtaking. The Scots can't "shuffle off" anyway because its one island.

It would be immensely damaging to the whole island to divide it up, but it would expose far more the fissures of hatred, aggression and division that characterise the English nature historically.

The Scots have been protecting the English from themselves for 300 years, the greatest 300 hundred years in our joint history.

Sadly, independence for either could ultimately lead to border guards, different time zones, different currencies probably and ultimately oil and water wars as those precious resources become scarcer.

What an insult to the legacy of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.

Barnacle Bill said...

I would beg to differ Iain, it's not the Scottish parties are blind to the obvious, it's that they don't like the idea of "the people" actually deciding something.
Politicians of all hues know so much better than us ordinary plebs.

DougtheDug said...

If there's one way to whip up separationist tendencies Tavish Scott, Iain Gray and Annabelle Goldie appear to have found it.

Iain, what makes you think that Annabel Goldie, Tavish Scott and Iain Gray are actually making the decision?

Annabel and Tavish are simply regional leaders in their respective parties and Iain Gray isn't even that, his position is group leader of the Labour MSP's in the Scottish Parliament as the Labour party don't have the regional command structures of the Conservatives and the Lib-Dems.

The Labour opposition to the referendum will controlled by Brown and the Conservatives' by Cameron. Only Tavish, who can't back down now he has bet his career on being an uber-unionist, will be in control of the referendum decision for his regional wing of the party.

Salmondnet said...

Stephen@ 2.08: "the fissures of hatred, agression and division that characterise the English nature historically." Are you a Scot by any chance Stephen, or just a self-hating Englishman?

Whatever defects we may have had, we seem to have done rather better than Scotland before the Union and will no doubt do so after it.

Allan said...


Ah yes, but we'll be lsaughing all the way to the bank with all of the recipts from the oil...

Anonymous said...

I doubt any of the other parties wishes to enhance attention given to the SNP's agenda, and am mystified why you suggest they should Iain?

Next year, Events withstanding, will be about how disliked the opposition, who have presumed too much, are viewed, and how HMG is not so bad.

Anonymous said...

This referendum is pointless - triply pointless.

There are 3 choices. Independence, more autonomy, status quo. Not as I understand it a return to no devolution.

So suppose its 33,33,33 (ok 34) and on a 33% turnout?

'So what'? I here Ed Balls say and for once I would agree with him.

The point really is that this would just allow Salmond and the Nats to continue on their merry way. Stoking a fire much to mtheir own benefit.
It would not put to bed independence for Scotland, it would just muddy the waters.

Its a joke.

Let the Nats get a working majority. Let them negotiate with the Westminster govt and let them then hold a referendum on the results.

This Scot Nat referendum is a good example of why Cameron and the tories were right to say that once the Lisbon agreement had been passed then there would be no point to a referendum.

Anonymous said...

Labour’s support in Scotland is mostly confined to the poorest former industrial areas where benefit dependency is off the scale and people vote Labour out of tribal loyalty and because Labour feed their benefit dependency habit. For example Glasgow which has only 12% of Scotland’s population receives 22% (yes 22%!) of government spending in Scotland. You won’t find much of a vote for Labour in the oil rich North of Scotland for example. Its no exaggeration to say that Labour don’t want the constituencies they represent to become economically successful for that would destroy their core vote. The people of Scotland are fed up of being portrayed as charlatans and wasters because of the actions of Labour politicians and the people they represent and want to stand on their own two feet unaided but still within the UK. That is where the SNP come in for they have the vision to make the changes required but need complete fiscal autonomy in order to do it otherwise Labour will still call the shots economically in Scotland because they have gerrymandered the system of voting for Holyrood to benefit Labour. The majority of Scots are naturally conservative but turned away temporarily from the Tories to the SNP because the Tories don’t yet appear to have the vision to give the Scots the tools to sort their own problems out. All of this could change for the better if David Cameron has the vision to make the offer of full fiscal autonomy and changes to the voting system for the Scots Parliament in his manifesto for the next general election.

Dingdongalistic said...

"The SNP have a mandate for the referendum."

The SNP are a minority government, something which I feel amounts to somewhat less than a full mandate.

"Perhaps I am missing something, and no doubt you will tell me if I am, but the SNP would lose a referendum of it were taken within the next year, so what have the three main parties got to lose by allowing the SNP to press ahead?"

It's a risky strategy. Your logic is more or less sound, according to current polls, but actually fighting a referendum campaign could see it swing the other way, particularly if the SNP were successful in stoking up fears about a Conservative government in power in Westminster.

"As a political tactician he is in a different league to his opponents, and they would do well to remember that."

...this might explain why the opposition parties are reluctant to allow him the referendum to begin with.

Dingdongalistic said...

"The Conservatives are the real dummies. When offered a free run at the next election by UKIP to keep their manifesto promise of a vote on Lisbon they ducked the opportunity. This is the first case I know of politicians putting principals before party advantage."

Holding a referendum on Lisbon would be pointless. Pointless. POINTLESS.

What would it achieve? At best, it would be seen as a pointless gesture that the EU would have good reason not to even acknowledge. At worst, it would be seen as the UK attempting to retrospectively override the decisions of the other 26 member states.

Let it go. There are more important fights to consider now.

Anonymous said...

What is More obvious than the other parties not wanting the SNP to set the agenda in election year?

Stuart Winton said...

"If there's one way to whip up separationist tendencies Tavish Scott, Iain Gray and Annabelle Goldie appear to have found it."

Iain, an Ipsos Mori poll published in the Sunday Times on the eve of the White Paper showed support for independence down to a record low of 20%, thus it looks like Goldie, Gray and Scott have played a blinder!

Anonymous said...

Call me cynical if you like. What they realy want is independance plus subsidy.
What they realy want is to close the submarine base while still getting protection from the English Army.

What they realy want is once the oil runs out to have energy security from English nuclear power stations without having any on their own soil.
A close call in the refwerendum would let them keep the money and a sense of grievance.

G'Funk said...


Couldn't disagree more. The referendum on Scottish Independence is nothing more than a vanity project started by a First Minister who has pointedly failed to deliver on ANY other manifesto pledge (class sizes of 18? 1000 more police officers? more teachers? anyone?)

They currently form a weak minority government (in my opinion, received a lot of votes in protest at Labour, since the majority of Scots would never dream of voting Tory) and are pushing ahead with this despite no appetite amongst Scottish voters for independence.

The biggest argument against is that this would cost approximately £12m and the other parties, rightly, point out that this money would be much better spent on other priorities at the moment. Were economic circumstances better than they were, the main Unionist parties would be more than happy for Fat Eck to go ahead with his pointless referendum and watch his dream of a Separate Scotland smashed.

As Iain Gray pointed out in a speech at Edinburgh University recently, the SNP Government are more interested in constitutional theory and point-scoring against Westminster in a bid to appease Scottish chattering classes than they are at running a "People's Parliament" for the benefit of the population.

Over the past 2 years, I think I have heard Salmond talk more about Homecoming (big waste of time and money), Scottish Independence and point-scoring against Westminster than I have about any real, serious issue affecting Scotland such as public order (they want to abolish prison sentences under 6 months), health and education.

Scotland would be better led by Annabel Goldie than it would Eck. I am quietly confident that come the next Holyrood elections, the shallowness of the SNP will be shown the door.