It’s time to get real over threat to the union

Ed Jacobs argues that Cameron's intervention into the Scottish independence debate will do far more harm than good for those in favour of the union.

Alex Churchill. No, wait...


Just a matter of weeks after it was reported that the House of Lords is set to support an amendment to the Scotland Bill that would enable Westminster to set the date of an independence referendum, and David Cameron has given the strongest indication yet that he is prepared to seize control of the timetable from the SNP, who have consistently pledged to provide for a vote by the second half of the current Scottish parliament.

Speaking during a New Year interview with Andrew Marr on Sunday, Cameron, whose party in the most recent YouGov poll for the Sunday Times had the support of just 18 per cent of people in Scotland, argued:

I think it’s very unfair on the Scottish people themselves who don’t really know when this question is going to be asked, what the question is going to be, who’s responsible for asking it.

And I think we owe the Scottish people something that is fair, legal and decisive.

So in the coming days we’ll be setting out clearly what the legal situation is, and I think we need to move forward and say, ‘Right, let’s settle this issue in a fair and decisive way’.

Cameron’s remarks come as the latest in a string of ministers at Westminster who have argued that the uncertainty surrounding it’s constitutional future is harming Scotland’s economic recovery, with the former Conservative Scottish Secretary, Lord Forsyth, having led calls for Westminster to impose a referendum at a date of its, rather than Holyrood’s, choosing.

Cameron’s sentiments however remain dangerous for those in favour of the union.

By seeking to override the expressed wishes of the Scottish government which less than a year ago won an outright majority in the Scottish parliament under a system that was meant to prevent it, Westminster risks feeding the anti-London sentiments now prevailing in Scotland, alienated as they are by a deficit reduction plan which is causing such pain.

As first minister Alex Salmond has argued:

The position is very clear – the Scottish government achieved an overwhelming mandate from the people of Scotland to hold the referendum in the second half of this parliamentary term, and that is exactly what we will do.

Meanwhile, Scottish born former Labour chief whip Ann (now Baroness) Taylor has attracted cross party support for an amendment to the Scotland Bill that would provide ex-pat Scots in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with a vote in any referendum.

According to Scotland on Sunday, the move would increase the total size of the electorate in such a vote by 750,000. Former Scottish Labour MP and MSP Lord Foulkes of Cumnock has explained:

Ann [Lady Taylor] wants to open this up for debate. She was born in Motherwell and has a strong connection to Scotland. She still supports Motherwell. She is as interested in Scotland as some people are who are still living here. She wants the Scottish diaspora in the UK to be included.

With support for Scottish independence showing signs of increasing, parties fighting to maintain the Union remain in a dangerous place. Faced against an SNP which now has the organisation and strategy in place for a campaign, pro-unionists need to carve out a message that clearly resonates with Scottish voters about why it should remain part of the UK.

Talk of timetables and process have served only to give the impression that Westminster is interested less in the future of Scotland and more about political posturing vis-à-vis the SNP. It’s time to get real and wake up to the threat Alex Salmond and Co really pose.

As Kevin McKenna has written in the Observer:

Are the parties of the Union in Scotland in the midst of completing a confidence trick on their London masters? Ever since the SNP annexed Scotland at last year’s Holyrood election, the Labour party and the Tories have pledged to fight against Scotland being separated from the United Kingdom with every fibre of their being.

I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here, for perhaps they are simply being coquettish and refusing to reveal too early the armoury with which they will fight to save the UK.

Last week, Alex Salmond chose to voice what everyone else in Scotland knows instinctively: that David Cameron is the best weapon the pro-independence movement possesses.

He could have gone further.

For in any photograph where Cameron is joined by George Osborne and their Downing Street fag, Nick Clegg, the SNP tally men can notch up another, say, 5,000 votes in favour of separation.

Indeed, faced with such a photograph of smug, ill-earned indolence and privilege, most of us would gladly take refuge in a political and cultural union with Uzbekistan.

With the addition of Scots such as Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury and Michael Moore, the Scottish secretary you have, to paraphrase Churchill’s description of Clement Attlee, two sheep in sheep’s clothing.

If anyone were to sit through back-to-back speeches by this grotesquely over-promoted pair then many of us, quite literally, could find ourselves sleepwalking towards independence.

Around two-thirds of Lib-Dem voters have abandoned the party since Clegg sold its soul for a few private chauffeurs. Everything they touch instantly turns to ash, so having them at the forefront of a “Save the UK” campaign will not instil confidence.

See also:

Scotland needs to get its transport infrastructure in orderKen Macintosh MSP, October 27th 2011

Former Army chief: SNP needs to be “honest and transparent” on defence policyEd Jacobs, October 19th 2011

Referendum on Scottish independence? Time to ‘bring it on’Ed Jacobs, June 5th 2011

What do the SNP mean by “independence”?Ed Jacobs, May 16th 2011

The five steps to Scottish independenceProfessor Robert Hazell, May 7th 2011

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  • Anonymous

    What about the Weston-Super-Mare question? Just like the West Lothian question. Will the inhabitants there get to vote?

    However, the big advantage is that it would make Labour unelectable in the rest of the UK, and probably in Scotland.

    We could also offload a Barnet formula share of the debt to Scotland, or even a large percentage. Salmond is arguing that Scotland is so productive and pays a greater share of the taxes etc. Time to call his bluff and offload a high percentage of the debt to an independent Scotland.

    With 50% of the Scots economy employed by the State, they would quickly sink.

    The rump also controls Sterling, and would keep the seniorage. Salmond then has to decide on joining a sinking Euro. Or the rump could even veto Scottish accession.

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  • David Murphy

    I don’t know why the Brits are getting so worried. The Scots will definitely not vote for independence. I would put my house on it.

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  • John Ruddy

    You mean Labour would be unelectable in England, like they were in 1997, 2001 and 2005 (when they gained a majority of seats in England)?

  • John Ruddy

    You mean Labour would be unelectable in England, like they were in 1997, 2001 and 2005 (when they gained a majority of seats in England)?

  • Selohesra

    Presumably many of those Scots employed by the state would lose their non-jobs as they are shuffling paper for English as well as Scottish things – I cant see English parliament continuing to ’employ’ them

  • Selohesra

    Presumably many of those Scots employed by the state would lose their non-jobs as they are shuffling paper for English as well as Scottish things – I cant see English parliament continuing to ’employ’ them

  • Newsbot9

    Ah yes, you REALLY want your One Party State.

    And of course you want to try and cause an economic war, which would end up with the EU on Scotland’s side, since they’re not drooling idiots.

  • Newsbot9

    Ah yes, you REALLY want your One Party State.

    And of course you want to try and cause an economic war, which would end up with the EU on Scotland’s side, since they’re not drooling idiots.

  • Newsbot9

    That’s what the Gerrymandering is for, John.

  • Newsbot9

    That’s what the Gerrymandering is for, John.

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  • Anonymous

    A site with left in its name should be more conscious against racism than to repeat the description “expat Scots” in describing a proposal whose criterion is birthplace. Birthplace racism is a particularly spiteful school bully practice, random in its targetting and even drawing lines between siblings, that anyone who know that such thing as migration exists knows has been factually wrong throughout the history of civilisation. Birthplace is one event at one arbitrary moment in a person’s past beyond their memory, and it may have nothing at all to do with the whole rest of their lives.

    Any person who holds that birthplace has any absolutely connection whatever with ethnicity and country belonging commits genocide, of the majorities of every dispersed people. As our diaspora is 20 million and the home population is 5 million, it follows that at least 80% of all Scots were not born in Scotland. Oddly including George Foulkes. That is why Taylor’s proposal must fall as illegal for being racist and discrimnatory. It will not enfranchise some expat Scots. It will exclude and insult Scots who were born in exile after parents or earlier forbears moved away, who may be longing to return and in search of the economic means to, an oppressed position I was formerly in as a young adult in the early 90s slump, while it will give votes to Scots who moved away by choice and to folks born in exile in Scotland who do not identify as Scots and left because it was it was not their home. That this would give me a vote in a Welsh referendum would be an absurd injustice to the Welsh: why the hell should a Scot without a shred of life tie to Wales nor wish for it and to whom it is as foreign as Mars, have a say over its future?

    National belongings have no physical basis, which would be racist pseudoscience, they are just a question of where you identify as belonging to as your home. Meaning your real and fair home, not any temporary expedient economic home you don’t really want. There is an established principle at UN level that votes on a land’s sovereignty are by the resident population and it is probably impossible to devise any system everyone will accept of enfranchising the diasporas. At least any vote by the diaspora should be counted separately so that it is only of advisory interest. But in case diaspora voting can be considered here is how I would define the franchise. Anyone who can evidence any form of present or personal or family past connection with Scotland and who has not put on record an explicit identifying of themself as primarily something else than Scottish.

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