Sunday, July 26, 2015

Indyref v2.0?

Alex Salmond, in keeping with the new Nationalist micro-wave definition of what constitutes a 'generation', said today that a second referendum was 'inevitable', it was just a question of the timing, something he claimed was a matter for Nicola Sturgeon.

Sturgeon appeared to contradict him by saying it was in the hands of the 'Scottish people', which made me think I should have qualified the last part of this: I don't think the SNP would tolerate someone like Corbyn but obviously Salmond isn't like Jeremy Corbyn.

Anyway, regardless of whether Nicola wishes Alex would shut up, neither of these statements bear any relation to the legal reality.  There is no mechanism by which the 'people' can express a preference for another plebiscite and constitutional matters are reserved to Westminster and are not, therefore, a matter for the First Minister.  I'm assuming that people don't remind the Nationalists of this for fear of being seen as 'bullying' and 'undemocratic' but as an aside, I'm struck by how few have noted just how effective (so far, anyway) the Madrid government's preference for actually using its constitutional powers has been in dealing with its own nationalist problems.

Salmond's criteria for the 'material change' that could justify a referendum were as follows:

1) If Westminster reneges on the 'Vow'.

2) Continued 'austerity'.

3) The EU referendum, should Scotland vote to stay in but England to leave in 2016 or '17.

All of the above are also nonsense, and not just legally.  Some of us are getting particularly fed up with No. 1.  It's already clear that this stupid 'Vow' was not decisive in getting out the No vote; people who claim it promised 'devo-max', 'home rule' or 'near-federalism' are confusing what a Labour backbencher said with what Her Majesty's government said; and even if these were not true, the 'Vow' has no binding legal power because plebiscites are advisory.

I hope it doesn't need pointing out that No. 2 is drivel?  Remarkably, you do sometimes find the Government  has a different economic policy from the Opposition parties and the idea that this is grounds for constitutional change is just daft.   Rather, it's the third possibility that interests me.  It's not that this would be legal grounds for a referendum either because Scotland's membership of the EU is because we are part of the UK.  I would, however, agree that a vote for 'Brexit' would create huge problems but what interests me is, this wouldn't be just for the UK government.  I still don't think Britain will vote to exit the EU but if we did, and this generated another referendum, there are two huge problems for the SNP:

1) Particularly if, as has been reported, it's next year - this is too soon for the Nationalists.  One of the reasons I'm speculating that Sturgeon might be wishing Salmond shuts up a bit is that while she too wants another referendum, she doesn't want one quickly because she knows that there is no reason to think they would win it.  In reality, the 'material change' they are looking for is opinion polls that consistently show a 60-40 lead for independence, which as some of the more thoughtful nationalists have pointed out, we just don't have.  Having another one too early risks a future for the SNP that is Parti Quebecois-shaped.  More time would also give the Nationalists space to come up with a coherent economic policy, which everyone, apart from the most evangelical among them, accepts they did not have in the indyref.

2) While it would have been taken as justification for a referendum, I'm not sure that it would be the selling point for independence that some Nationalists think.  I wouldn't expect to see 'Independence in Europe' on SNP flyers any time soon because I would imagine that many Scots, after watching events in Greece, might conclude that you can either be independent or be part of Europe but not necessarily both.  It would also bring unwelcome focus on the unresolved currency issue.  Would an independent Scotland be compelled to join the EMS - and what are we supposed to do for a currency before that, even if we were?  The Nationalists might just revert to the tunes they played in September last year but I'm sure as many people would necessarily be listening.  "Here's some legal advice we've got", isn't going to fly - at least I would hope not - and now surely people have been disabused of the idea that the EU is the sort of institution that bends over backwards to accommodate small countries?

As regards the EU referendum and its impact on our political parties, I suspect things are going to turn out to be rather boring than some are predicting.  Corbyn isn't going to win the leadership and the Labour party are going to campaign to stay in with more or less exactly the same broad position as the Conservatives, the Liberals and the SNP.  With minor differences, they'll argue for the status quo - that we remain part of the EU but not members of the EMS - and they'll win on both sides of the border.  At least I hope that's what happens and I would suggest that the more cautious among the Nationalists are hoping for exactly the same.


Roy Lonergan said...

How about a refref to reveal demand (or otherwise) for indyref2?

You could have one every year as part of the Edinburgh festival.

Shuggy said...

That's a terrible idea but my point was 'the people' is Nicola's code for 'not yet, please'.

Roy Lonergan said...

Terrible? Come on, think about the sponsorship opportunities!

Shuggy said...

Ha ha!

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