Tag Archives: scottish Independence Referendum

Sturgeon must accept the will of the people

At 10 PM on Saturday it will be the first anniversary of that exit poll. The one that revealed that far from being the deadlocked Parliament that everyone was predicting, the 2015 UK General Election would see the Conservative Party easily defeat Labour by 316 seats to 239. As we now know the exit poll everybody mocked underestimated the Conservative performance rather than overestimated it as they got 331 seats and were able to form a (small) majority government. Labour went into turmoil, Ed Miliband resigned and to everyone’s astonishment Labour elected an obscure left wing backbencher Jeremy Corbyn as their leader.

This Thursday sees the first big electoral test for the UK parties since last year’s General Election. The main elections are for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and the London Mayoral election. And although Labour are the main opposition party the elections will probably not go well for Labour. In Wales a YouGov poll suggested that their vote has gone down from 42% to 33% in five years. They would still be the largest party in the Assembly but would lose their majority if that poll is right (a big if after last year). In the English council elections it’s reckoned they will lose 150 councillors. This is because in 2012 – when these elections were last contested – the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition was at peak unpopularity and Labour’s performance was the high water mark in the Ed Miliband era. Even if Labour improved from last year they probably won’t reach their 2012 vote share hence the probable losses. Their best hope is London. In 2012 Conservative Mayor of London Boris Johnson won the election more on personal than party appeal. He is standing down having became an MP again last year. Labour candidate Sadiq Khan is favourite to beat Conservative Zac Goldsmith and if he does not Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership could be in deep trouble (as I wrote in previous post “Can Corbyn Become Prime Minister?”). If Khan does win the UK press is so London centric Corbyn could use the win there to bury bad results elsewhere (as Prime Minister David Cameron did with Johnson’s win in 2012).

One thing is certain. Labour won’t be getting good news from Scotland. Last year Labour went from 41 Scottish MPs to 1. They won’t suffer as much this time if only because the Scottish National Party (SNP) had already wiped out most of Labour’s Holyrood seats back in 2011. Opinion polls have the SNP at 49% to Labour’s 23% (compared to 45% SNP to 32% Labour in 2011). While the SNP vote seems to have plateaued at 49% – they got 49% of the vote in last year’s UK election – there is no sign of it falling. So the result is widely seen as a formality.

And as a result this election has been dull. Really dull. A 24 hour Bellathon would be more exciting. So would be watching the 20 most boring 0-0 draws in Premier League history. So would watching paint dry. And grass grow..

At least until last night. At the last Scottish Leaders debate the election came at least partly to life. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had claimed in the press and on TV that if she is reelected on Thursday she expected another Scottish independence referendum in the next five years. For those who don’t know or remember the Scottish independence referendum was held as recently as September 18th 2014 and Independence was rejected by 55% to 45%. Yet with incredible arrogance she wants a second referendum!

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie summed it up perfectly ” As soon as they don’t get the result they want, they want to do it all over again. Did they not get the message? We want to stay in the UK. I would even claim that you are anti-democratic”.

Spot on. And here is the hypocrisy. Next month the UK has a referendum on whether or not we should stay in the European Union (EU) – I’ll get to that subject in another post. The last time we voted on our European membership was in 1975 – 41 years ago. Why on earth is Sturgeon talking about an another independence referendum so soon after the last one while we had to wait over 40 years for a second vote on Europe?

There cannot be a second independence referendum without the approval of the UK government. Prime Minister David Cameron should make it quite clear that a second independence referendum is not on. He should also make it clear that if the SNP try to pull a stunt like Catalonia in Spain did and hold an illegal referendum that Sturgeon will be arrested and the Scottish Parliament will be shut down.

In 2014 the SNP called the independence referendum “once in a generation”. The WWE called the Rock v John Cena match at Wrestlamania 28 “once in a lifetime”. The Rock and Cena fought again at Wrestlamania 29! But the WWE is entertainment and you don’t expect promoters to tell the truth. But we still (perhaps naively) expect politicians to be honest. The SNP said that the referendum would be “once in a generation”. A generation is NOT two years. The people of Scotland rejected independence less than two years ago. Sturgeon must say there will be no referendum in the next five years. She must accept the will of the people of Scotland.

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Scotland votes “No”. What should happen next?

So Scotland voted “No” after all. And as I thought would happen all along by a bigger margin than the polls were suggesting – by 55% to 45%(I should at this point congratulate Peter Kellner and his polling company You Gov who after the polls closed but before the result, predicted a 54 to 46 margin which was almost spot on). Alex Salmond has resigned. David Cameron, Ed Miliband Nick Clegg and the UK Queen are sleeping a lot easier. But what happens next?
One thing is clear. Whatever happens now the Westminster establishment MUST deliver the extra powers for Scotland that former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised during the campaign. In 1979 during another Scottish referendum, another former UK PM – Sir Alec Douglas-Home – promised if the Scots rejected Labour’s devolution proposals and the Tories won that year’s General Election the Scots would get better devolution – which although both events happened – never materialised. If the UK establishment don’t keep their word this time the union could be in deep trouble and we could end up like Quebec doing this all over again in 15 years time – which no one outside the SNP wants.
However they shouldn’t be in this position as they should never have made these promises in the first place. They were made in a blind sate of panic over one poll on September 6th which put “Yes” 2% up (the only poll that did so). And personally I don’t think the Scottish Parliament needs more powers. Except one.
Although I voted “No” I had friends who voted “Yes” (don’t worry we haven’t fallen out). They hate Alex Salmond and have never voted SNP in their lives. So why did they vote “Yes”? Two words. The Tories. They told me “We don’t want a Tory Government in Scotland again and we’re voting for independence to ensure that does not happen”. So I started thinking “How can we stay in the Union and avoid Tory Governments”? And then it hit me. Give the Scottish Parliament the power of veto. Every bit of legislation passed by a UK Government has to be passed by the Scottish Parliament too. The Tories can’t hurt us unless OUR Parliament allows us to. Obviously this can’t just apply to Scotland so the Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies would have this power too as would a new English Parliament which in my opinion is now needed to get rid of the unfair anomaly that is the West Lothian Question*. This English Parliament would replace the House of Lords – the UK’s unelected second chamber – which everybody agrees is an anachronism but we’ve been trying to reform it since 1968 with very little agreement so why not just get rid of it and replace it with four second chambers? All four National Parliaments would have the power the Scottish Parliament currently has plus the power of veto over all UK legislation except the budget defence and foreign affairs. If say the English and Northern Irish parliaments passed a bill but the Scottish and Welsh did not the law would just apply to England and Northern Ireland
This would have another advantage. A lot of people complain about the “elected dictatorship” – an oxymoron which actually means that a Government with a House Of Commons majority is able to do what it wants. But if you gave the four national parliaments the power of veto that removes the elected dictatorship because a Government has to get its legislation through every one if it wants its policies to become law al over the UK. it brings into the system the American system of “checks and balances” to stop a mighty executive from doing what it wants. You would in effect end up with “The United States of Britain”. It has to be a fairer system than what we have now.
I should also mention that the turn out at the referendum was an astonishing 85% – last seen in UK elections in the 1950s – proof that the referendum was on the whole good for Scotland as it got people talking about politics again. The challenge for the parties here is to sustain this interest. Secondly I would like to pay tribute to Alex Salmond. I might not agree with his views but we would not have had this referendum without him. He turned the SNP from a rabble into a party of Government. Those people who voted “Yes” should remember he gave them the chance to be able to do so. His successor as First Minister and SNP leader – probably Nicola Sturgeon – has a hard act to follow.
*The West Lothian question is named after the constituency of the Labour MP Tam Dalyell who first raised it. He said it was unfair that he as the MP for West Lothian could vote on English affairs but the MP for West Bromwich could not vote on Scottish affairs. The Labour Party to its shame has ignored this anomaly. It has to be got rid of otherwise it will be English not Scottish nationalism which will be a threat to the unity of the UK.

No Turning Back…

At 11.07 am today I voted in the Scottish independence referendum. I voted No. There is no turning back. But I’ve learned a lesson. Don’t reveal how you are going to vote too early. Because had the referendum been yesterday I would have voted Yes in a fit of pique.
The reason is I am sick to death of some people in England. I read the Daily Telegraph. A lot of writers to their letters page said that the rest of the UK should have voted on Scottish in dependence. Why? This is a matter for the people of Scotland alone. If say the majority of Scots had voted “Yes” but the rest of the UK had voted “No” the SNP – who are paranoid moaners at the best of times – would have been moaning even more than usual. And the point is I can’t think of an independence referendum where it was NOTdecided by the people of the part that wanted to break away. From Kosovo to Quebec it has been the people of the part that wanted to break away that decided not the greater whole. Why should the UK be any different?.
Secondly a lot of Telegraph readers (and the paper itself in today’s editorial) have been complaining about the fact that if a simple majority of Scots vote “Yes” independence will happen. Some want to make it say two-thirds of the vote should be for “Yes” for independence to happen. They don’t realise that causes more trouble than its worth.
Two examples prove this. In 1979 there was a referendum on wither there should be a Scottish Parliament. The UK Government at the time had no majority so it was forced to accept a clause by a rebel MP George Cunningham that 40% of the total electorate had to vote “Yes” for the parliament to happen. That meant dead people who had died since the electoral register had been compiled would count as “No” voters. As SNP MP Douglas Henderson pointed out if that rule had applied to post war UK General elections the country would never have had a government (Seasons In The Sun, Dominic Sandbrook, page 525). As it turned out, 51.6% of those who turned out voted “Yes” but that was only 32.6% of the electorate so the parliament never happened causing resentment to this day (the Scottish Parliament finally happened in 1997). In another context the former editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly Tim de Lisle was spot on. After a blocking minority of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) members had voted against admitting women members in 1998 (the vote was 55.7 “Yes” and 46.3% “No” but the motion needed a two-thirds majority*) he wrote in an editorial (October 1998) that “the only majority that works is a simple one. Otherwise you are likely to get the few dictating to the many”. A majority “Yes” vote that was stymied by an artificial barrier would be a disaster. It would fuel resentment and the Scots would not accept it. A repeat of 1979 can’t happen.
To my mind these people have no trust in the people of Scotland to do the right thing. I was so angry yesterday I snapped and said “F*** them I’m voting “Yes”. But I never wanted independence and realised I was being childish. The people down South should trust the Scottish people. I suspect the polls – that are predicting a “No” win by 51-49 – will be proved wrong and “No” will win by a bigger margin than that. Today is the day for the silent majority.
But the result of the referendum will not be the end but the beginning. On Saturday I will write about what should happen next – depending of course on how we have voted today.
* Later in 1998 there was another ballot on the issue. This time the two-thirds threshold was reached and women became eligible for MCC membership.

If Scotland votes “Yes” blame the bedroom tax

There is an episode of “The Simpsons” (9F01 “Two Cars In Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish”) where Mr Burns runs for governor. His spin doctors tell him “there is a burning issue that we need to neutralise”. He thinks he has – but he hasn’t and it comes back to haunt him, sinking his campaign for governor. My fear is that this could happen in the Scottish independence referendum.
Since I last posted on this issue two events have happened. First the campaign has got nasty – pro union Labour MP Jim Murphy has been pelted with eggs and branded a “Traitor” and a “Quisling” while former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray has said “it is not possible to be a decent person and vote no” – which is a disgraceful smear which in my opinion should cost this guy whatever job he is doing now – while secondly the polls have tightened with one poll for YouGov giving the “No” side just 6% ahead – down from 22% – meaning a 3.5 % swing would lead to the unthinkable – the break up of Britain. So how did we get to this position when the “Yes” side’s arguments are full of holes?
There is one big reason for this. Welfare reform – and especially – the “bedroom tax”*- which is hated in Scotland. Alex Salmond has called it “the most ludicrous tax of all time”. Alex is being too kind. It is the most evil measure passed by a UK government for at least 25 years. To cut people’s benefits for having a house too big for them is a joke. The Government wants them to move into one bedroom houses – which don’t exist. There is an estate agents in the main street of my home town. Since this tax became law in April last year I’ve spotted three one bedroom houses for rent. No more need be said. It is so hated that the Scottish Government is paying the people who have suffered from this tax the benefit that has been taken away from them. However they can only do this until March next year. It is so hated that even Sir Tom Hunter – a rich entrepreneur who if he was English would probably be donating money to the Tory party – has called it “an abomination hitting the poorest hardest”.
So why is this tax a threat to the union? First of all Alex Salmond is being very clever. He is able to claim that if Scotland was independent the bedroom tax would never have happened as we would never have voted Tory in the first place. To show how hated the Tories are in Scotland former Scottish Tory leader (since deceased) David McLetchie said after the 2010 UK election that “we are destined never to get anywhere as long as people believe the Tories’ main policy is the slaughter of the first born”.We now know their main policy is to pass a tax that mainly affects disabled people and had them fearing eviction.The current Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has even said Scots can vote no because her own party will lose the 2015 election. While opinion pollster John Curtice thinks Prime Minister David Cameron should ” accept he should rely on others to fight the battle for him” Yes the UK PM is so unpopular that he is a liability to the campaign to save his own country.
Secondly opinion polls have shown that the “Yes” side is more popular in poor areas where they are terrified that a re-elected Tory Government in 2015 would mean more cuts to their income. I know people who are scared of a “No” vote for fear of what the Tories might do to them and are not prepared to take a chance that Labour win next year’s election. Yes UK people are actually scared of their own country staying together. The Tories should be ashamed of themselves.
So what should Cameron have done? He should have sacked Iain Duncan Smith – the man “credited” with thinking up the bedroom tax. Every time this man opens his mouth he costs the “No” campaign votes. He should have given the Scottish Parliament the power to block both the bedroom tax and the 2012 Welfare Reform Act – which they would have done. This would have neutralised an issue that has made the Tories even more unpopular in Scotland than they already were.
I still think “No” will win. However the bedroom tax even in the best case scenario will cut down the margin of victory. If the “No” victory is less than 60-40 we could end up like Quebec was after the 1980 referendum – with the issue unresolved and the nationalists wanting another referendum (in Quebec a second referendum happened in 1995. The “No” side won by just 50.5 to 49.5). The worse case scenario is that the nationalists could win. If that happens David Cameron should feel like Mr Burns did. He could have neutralised the bedroom tax. He didn’t. I hope this mistake does not result in Britain breaking up. But if it does he has no one to blame but himself.
*The Tories want it to be called the “spare room subsidy”. I want to be a billionaire .Neither will happen.

Sorry alex: Why I’m voting “No” on September 18th

Tonight sees the biggest debate in the brief history of televised political debates in the UK when Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond and former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling go head to head on Scottish Television (STV). Why is it so important? The future of the UK is at stake.
For on September 18th Scottish voters go to the polls to decide if Scotland should be independent in a referendum we didn’t want with a choice we don’t want to make. How did it come to this?
To find the answer you have to go back to the Scottish Parliament elections of 2011. Most voters wanted Alex Salmond re-elected with more seats but not a majority. But he and the Scottish National Party (SNP) won a majority for two reasons. One was Nick Clegg going into coalition with the hated (in Scotland) Tories sending his vote in Scotland into meltdown. The second was a bizarre affair known as the “Meatball Marinara Incident” where then Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray was chased by a group of anti-cuts campaigners into a Glasgow branch of Subway – all in front of TV cameras! Gray was humiliated in the press being called “chicken” the Labour vote also went into meltdown and the SNP won a landslide with 69 out of 129 seats – amazingly under a PR system designed to stop one party winning a majority. The SNP majority meant a referendum on independence was inevitable – and yet it was hardly ever mentioned in the campaign. It was more a case of as Herbert Morrison (Peter Mandelson’s grandfather) said of the 1950 UK General election “The British electorate has a habit of knowing what it wants and a habit of overdoing the getting of what it wants” (quoted in the British General Election of February 1974 page 268). Substitute the word “Scottish” for “British” and you have what happened in 2011.
So we got a referendum we didn’t want. Even more bizarre, most Scots according to the polls want more powers for Scotland but within the UK – the so called “Devo max” option – which is not on the ballot paper – because Alex Salmond and UK Prime Minister David Cameron couldn’t agree – so we will be voting on two options – independence or the status quo – that we don’t want. What a shambles!
So why will I be voting “No”/ First I don’t like Alex Salmond. As Iain Macwhirter writes (in “Road to Referendum” page 271) “Salmond genuinely feels that every Scot of whatever background living in Scotland should support the SNP. He can’t see why people won’t”. I suppose Vladimir Putin feels the same about the Russian people!
Second Britain is a small island – as Mr Putin said recently – so why weaken it even more by splitting it into two parts?. As the current centenary of the start of World War One shows us Britain combined has achieved great things. Things it could not do divided. United we stand divided we fall!
Thirdly there are too many questions Salmond has not answered. Here are just a few.
What would the currency be – the pound the euro or something else?
Would an independent Scotland be allowed to stay in the EU?
If the answer to the above is “No” and we had to reapply how long would it take – or would we be accepted? Remember at least two other EU nations – Spain and Belgium – have nationalist factions and won’t want to see an EU country break up – or want a new state to become a member.
How would an independent Scotland defend itself?
Would a UK Government insist on passport controls at the border to stop immigrants getting into England through Scotland?
How much would it cost to set up Scottish embassies abroad?
What happens when the oil runs out – or if the price of oil falls?
Would we still get the BBC programmes we like post independence? Would we get Sky or BT – both British companies – if we’re not British?
And that list is the tip of the iceberg. And it leads to my main reason for voting “No”. Independence is a “leap in the dark”. We don’t know if it is good for Scotland until it happens. But – and it is a big but – it we vote for independence we cannot reverse this decision. We are stuck with it forever. It is not like say voting for Ed Miliband to be Prime Minister in 2015. If we think he is rubbish we can turf him out in 2020. If we vote for independence we can not do that. And that in my opinion makes independence far too big a risk.
Finally I should say that the SNP’s internet supporters – the “Cybernats” as they are known – do not like people speaking out against them and heap abuse on anyone who dares to speak out – as the author JK Rowling recently found out. I’ve got a message for any “Cybernat” reading this. Say what you want. You won’t bully me!