Sunday, July 08, 2012

Some referendum advice for Salmond and Cameron

Apologies in advance for discussing this issue again. I appreciate it's boring but it's one with which we have to engage with here given the response of the political elites in Edinburgh and London. What Cameron and Salmond appear to have in common is that they have both misinterpreted the SNP's victory at the last Holyrood election - and Westminster in particular have responded by treating the issue of Scottish independence as an urgent matter which has to be addressed, hence the 'put up or shut up' insistence on a referendum.

The SNP responded as one might predict of a party who has a credo which it knows perfectly well is not shared by the majority of the Scottish people. The result has been a slow-motion car-crash where the advocates of national autonomy can't even spell out what this would actually consist of.

I have been concerned from the outset about the quality of advice that the Prime Minister has been receiving because despite this, the matter is apparently still being treated as if it were of pressing importance:
"David Cameron faces a "crunch point" in the next few months, senior Coalition sources have indicated, when he may have to take the most difficult constitutional decision of his premiership – that Westminster and not Holyrood will stage a referendum on Scottish independence."
It would be a disaster if Cameron was persuaded to initiate a referendum because contrary to the received wisdom, the issue of Scotland's constitutional future is not one that needs to be dealt with at this present time. Not only should Cameron not consider this option, he and Salmond should open talks where they discuss the sensible option of dropping this whole referendum idea. I don't think it would be as difficult to persuade Salmond of the virtues of this as one might suppose. All the polling evidence points to a 'no' vote, even when what is being offered is not independence in the sense that the term has been understood historically.

The reality of the situation is that the cause of Scottish independence is another under-reported causality of the Euro-crisis. The screech of the hand-brake turn that Salmond has performed on the whole 'independence in Europe' thing hasn't been heard as clearly as it should have been but the effects are being felt nonetheless. Nationalists, if they have any sense, would dearly love the breathing space to work out where they want to be in this uncertain world. Will the Euro-zone press ahead with fiscal integration as a response to the debt crisis and if so, do Nationalists want to be part of this country called Europe? Or do they want to remain part of the Sterling zone, which is a de facto admission that the UK will continue in some form?

These are questions to which the SNP has no coherent answers to. In fairness, one wonders to what extent it is possible to have them, given the uncertainty of the situation. Since this is the context, not only is it not urgent to ask questions about the place of Scotland in the UK, it is not even remotely necessary.

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