Archive for the 'SNP' Category

16
Jan
12

On the current drive for Scottish Independence


I’m not going to make the case in favour of the union here. Those arguments should be apparent enough, and have been reiterated ad nauseam recently by men much more qualified than I, as well as by more unsavoury, less qualified ones. If Scotland is to be led to an independence referendum by a nationalist leader, then this individual must truly believe in not just the cause, but also his/her own people’s ability to be decisive, and definitive on the matter. The incumbent First Minister appears to, unfortunately, place faith in neither.

Alex Salmond has, of late, demonstrated that he is willing to manipulate, and ultimately dismiss the will of the Scottish people, merely for his own ends.

This is most evident in the SNP’s newest proposal for the form the referendum should take. Aware that if he were to lose a vote on independence, the consequences would be calamitous for both his party and himself, Salmond is essentially advocating a three-option ballot including, along with the necessary yes and no choices, an additional one for the thus far ill-defined ‘devolution max’. Now, this isn’t just indicative of the fact Mr Salmond is completely unconfident in his ability to win, but of something far more repugnant.

A three-way referendum of this nature may allow the SNP to achieve independence without an outright majority, which is in itself reprehensible. Moreover though, the presence of the ‘devo max’ option would minimise the chance of the nationalists facing a fierce, party-destroying no vote. Perhaps it’d even ensure that result would definitely not occur; the concept of devolution has already proven immensely popular in Scotland. This means that Salmond will effectively be able to walk away with his legacy, party and reputation intact, irrespective of the public’s disposition at the time of the referendum. The issue of independence will have been at best clouded, and at worst belittled, by Salmond’s determination to guarantee his escape from any outcome of the polling with his political survival.

Again and again, we hear the same justification for this referendum format from SNP stalwarts: because a sizeable chunk of the public have expressed a wish for devolution to the fullest extent, falling short of independence, it should be present in any plebiscite. As almost anyone could inform you, however, independence is clearly an altogether isolated and, well, independent issue. Devolution is something that takes place domestically within the United Kingdom as a sovereign state, and cannot be debated directly alongside an alternative to leave it. Such a referendum would appear opportunistic, almost a demand of the UK government – a ‘give us this or we’re off’ – without any real kind of detailed internal UK debate on such further devolution. This does not do people north of the border justice; Scots have never been fair-weather friends.

The SNP are marketing the three-choice referendum as ‘better for Scotland’ – but in reality, they’re promoting it because they fundamentally do not trust the country they claim to be the ‘nationalists’ of, with a truly conclusive question. The only politician I know to have properly pointed this out via mainstream media is Labour’s Douglas Alexander on the Daily Politics, when he referred to it as ‘Salmond’s get out of jail clause’ – so kudos to him. His articulations of the primary unionist arguments on The Telegraph site earlier this week are also worth a read; you can find them here.

The way in which Alex Salmond and his SNP are being deliberately divisive is another reason why these people do not give the impression of being worthy to steer Scotland to, and through, its most important vote ever. They are in essence toying with Westminster over the referendum date and constitutional matters, pretending to dismiss its obvious, unavoidable legal role as a poking of its nose into Scotland’s business, drawing it out into an inevitable conflict. The best case scenario here for Salmond is to succeed in creating such a dichotomy between himself and Cameron so that each become, in the mind of the electorate, Scotland and England incarnate respectively, as they argue. In this way, the SNP could utilise national pride, and ride the wave of animosity it would generate towards the UK, amongst the people of Scotland, to a victory. A very unscrupulous, exploitive way to achieve their favoured result – it doesn’t primarily aim to let Scots consider and focus on the pros and cons at the core of the issue.

The date dispute currently being thrown into the spotlight is twofold in its advantages for Salmond and his party. Not only does it draw Westminster into a debate about Holyrood’s mandate to set it, exacerbating tensions, but if the SNP wins the argument, and the referendum is called later rather than sooner, said tensions will be at their maximum when it finally occurs. Salmond’s thinly veiled justification – that a delay until the Autumn of 2014 will allow Scots more time to decide and evaluate the matter in question – is visibly weak.

The way forward should be clear: the SNP either grant the Scottish people the straightforward, two-option referendum that they deserve as soon as it is possible for them to deliver it, or they stand aside from the matter, letting Scotland face this aspect of its future with a different leader, who is affirmed in purpose, with enough integrity and honesty to let Scots decide directly whether they want independence, or not.

MH