Déjà vu as Scottish referendum campaign turns nasty

Alex Salmond unveiled the Scottish government’s referendum plans today, calling it the “most exciting in Scotland’s modern history”; we look ahead to the campaign.

 

First minister Alex Salmond unveiled the Scottish government’s referendum plans today, saying the period in the run-up to the independence vote would be the “most exciting in Scotland’s modern history”; Left Foot Forward’s Mike Morgan-Giles looks ahead to the campaign

The general concept of holding a referendum does seems particularly appealing, given it gives genuine decision-making power to the people on major issues. Yet after the fiercely fought – and some, myself included, would say nasty – referendum campaign on a new electoral system last year, it seems a sense of déjà vu is upon us once again with the Scottish campaign.


The NO2AV campaign was littered with lies, damn lies and statistics.

The posters they used during the campaign had images of babies lying ill in hospitals, using these spurious and emotive pictures to link AV with reduced healthcare spending. They even deliberately misrepresented the amount AV would cost to implement on their posters.

This campaign of misinformation really was a sign of a failure in democratic institutions. People only have the means to make a fair value judgement when they have accurate information, but sadly the lack of oversight in this case allowed for a perverse agenda to win through. The Electoral Commission should have been able to step in last year during the referendum campaign, but unfortunately lacked the powers to do so, as it only deals with political parties.

There are signs, however, that this approach has started again in Scotland.

For example, suggestions Scotland wouldn’t be able to set its own interest rates if it continued using the pound. Yet after Czechoslovakia split, two new currencies were used – the Czech Koruna and Slovak Koruna – with both countries having control over their own rates. However, it is not just the policy in the spotlight, with Jeremy Paxman even comparing Alex Salmond to Robert Mugabe on Newsnight last night.

Today, Salmond launched a formal public consultation on the dynamics of the 2014 referendum, despite earlier attempts by David Cameron to impose the rules of the game on the Scots himself.

The strong mandate of the SNP gives them complete legitimacy to consult the Scottish people and then organise the referendum themselves.

There is also simply no legal reason for an order has to be passed to make a Scottish independence referendum binding – unless of course the UK government itself intended to ignore the result, which would provoke a constitutional crisis. Rather, this is simply yet another attempt to shape the agenda from Westminster and undermine Salmond.

The UK government should more than most understand the right to self-determination, following invasions in recent years of places such as Kosovo, Iraq and Libya. It is difficult to understand how the government can justify intervention in others parts of the world in the guise of human rights and democracy, when it seeks to restrict Scotland’s own right to choose.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states “all peoples have a right to self-determination” and that “by virtue of that right they are free to determine their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development” – this is surely therefore the most important principle; indeed the world’s most recent nation state, South Sudan, was recognised quickly by the UK following its independence.

What we now need is a fair campaign, with the Scottish people deciding the rules, with a respected oversight body monitoring the campaign. After the farce of the electoral system referendum last year, another tainted campaign won’t speak volumes for fairness or democracy.

See also:

Salmond has questions to answer, because the evidence doesn’t support himWilliam Bain MP, January 24th 2012

Questions multiply over financial status of an independent ScotlandAlex Hern, January 20th 2012

Win or lose, Scottish independence referendum heralds a revolution in UK politicsEd Jacobs, January 16th 2012

Cameron got it wrong on Scotland, and he probably knows itEd Jacobs, January 10th 2012

SNP: Cam’s “economic uncertainty” argument is nonsense; we’ll stick to our timetableHumza Yousaf MSP, January 9th 2012

32 Responses to “Déjà vu as Scottish referendum campaign turns nasty”

  1. Adrian McMenamin

    I am sure your correspondent also expects Alex Salmond to obey the law. No one has a “mandate” to break that – though listening to Salmond one has to wonder if he accepts that point.
    On the currency point then the issue is this: Salmond says he wants to keep the pound in a currency union. That is what we already have. It’s not a serious option for an independent Scotland. Such a state could, as Ireland did until 1979, maintain its own currency in parity with Sterling, but such a situation does essentially mean surrendering control over interest rates to someone else’s central bank. (In fact Ireland generally had higher interest rates than the UK in this period as investors see holding a small ill-liquid currency as a higher risk).
    If Scotland wants to set its own interest rates then it must have its own currency. It strikes me your correspondent is guilty of the very misrepresentation he accuses others of by suggesting otherwise (either that or he has not grasped what the SNP’s policy on the currency question is.)

  2. Mike Morgan-Giles

    @mpittparliament In case of interest, article on #Scottish independence referendum campaign for @Leftfootfwd – //t.co/EzAit4wl

  3. Mike Morgan-Giles

    @kieronam In case of interest, article on #Scottish independence referendum campaign for @Leftfootfwd – //t.co/EzAit4wl

  4. Mike Morgan-Giles

    @DavidTaylor85 In case of interest, article on #Scottish independence referendum campaign for @Leftfootfwd – //t.co/EzAit4wl

  5. Mark Graham

    "Deja vu as Scottish referendum campaign turns nasty": //t.co/Hoh6RLMx

  6. Daniel Wood

    @DCWood1986 In case of interest, article on #Scottish independence referendum campaign for @Leftfootfwd – //t.co/EzAit4wl

  7. Mike Morgan-Giles

    @ElectoralCommUK In case of interest, article on #Scottish independence referendum campaign for @Leftfootfwd – //t.co/EzAit4wl

  8. Editor

    RT @leftfootfwd: Déjà vu as Scottish referendum campaign turns nasty //t.co/Tau6Sctf

  9. G.M.S.

    RT @leftfootfwd: Déjà vu as Scottish referendum campaign turns nasty //t.co/fqPv3r2B

  10. Stephen Wigmore

    Alex Salmond is the dirtiest operator in UK politics who never fails to let even the smallest issue go by as an excuse to promote division and distrust between the peoples of the UK and push dog-whistle encouragements to racism and xenophobia.

    He should be fought every inch of the way by every single Briton, whether Scottish, Welsh, English, Irish, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Black or other any other heritage who believes we are better and stronger together rather than divided into little groups eager to grasp and take what we can, rather than seeing what we can give one another and build together.

    We cannot allow a single one of his attempts to whip up negative and divisive nationalistic sentiment to go unchallenged. Neither the SNP nor Mr Salmond are the embodiment of Scotland or the Scots any more than Boris Johnson is the Avatar of London. It is a testiment to he self-regard and delusion of the SNP that they really seem to think that any challenge to themselves is a challenge to ‘Scotland’ itself.

    His contempt for the law of the United Kingdom, the sole basis of his position of importance, is a disgrace. He needs to get his head round the fact that his dreams of tearing apart this country have not come true yet, and that until that moment the British government and the British prime minister are as much the Government of Scotland as his jumped up cabal and have every right to comment and take a central role in any discussion surrounding Scotland’s independence. Especially when they are merely pointing out the Law of this country.

  11. Derick

    Aye. there will be dirty tricks from the British State. There will be (from my Shetland perspective there already have been) attempts at Partition. Remind me, how did that go in Ireland? And in the end Scotland will be independent.

  12. Keir Husband

    You really have to think about your over the top reactions and tone and consider what you are saying. You cannot win an argument over whether independence is a god idea by insisting that:
    an elected Scots majority government does not have the right to hold a plebiscite of its own electorate on whether it should have independence. That principle would have seen you insisting that Latvia and Lithuania had no right to hold similar polls without permission from Moscow – and indeed without the Russia having a vote.

    You cannot try to say to Scots that you respect their choice, and right to do so, whilst calling their elected government ‘a cabal’. Was Dewar’s government, McLeish’s or McConnell’s a cabal?

    You must understand the nature of devolution. The government of the UK holds a different position now. Scotland has a parliament and though some powers are reserved, Holyrood is the seat of the government of Scotland. The UK government and Prime Minister have an overarching role, but suggesting that they hold a position sovereign to Holyrood and that they an elected Scots government should defer to Westminster is to invite scorn and more from independence campaigners. Simply speaking, the more you insist that the Scots government has no right to act in what it sees as the best interest of the Scottish People, the more you play into Salmond’s hands.

  13. Ed's Talking Balls

    ‘sadly the lack of oversight in this case allowed for a perverse agenda to win through’

    Sadly for you there isn’t a “progressive majority” in this country: never has been and never will be one. The people overwhelmingly rejected a rubbish system and voted to keep the status quo. Get over it. You took one hell of a beating. Probably best to lick your wounds somewhere quietly.

  14. Stephen Wigmore

    I’m sorry, you’ve just compared the UK to the Soviet Union, a communist totalitarian dictatorship. You’ve also just compared the Union between Britain and Scotland to the illegal conquest and rape of the Baltics by Stalin, possibly the most evil mass murderer in human history. I suggest that if you really think that’s a good analogy you’re coming from a far more radical position than I am.

    You also seem to be confusing me with someone who thinks England should have a referendum as well. I’m not that person. The facts are these however. The British government, that is the government of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, pointed out the law of this country with regard to the Scottish parliament and constitutional matters. What they got in response was a load of abuse from Alex Salmond, and suggestions in Holyrood that anyone who dared disagree with the SNP was ‘anti-Scottish’, an absurd and abusive attempt to stir up jingiostic and xenophobic setiment to shore up the SNP’s position.

    Do I think the SNP leadership is a disgraceful cabal? Yes. Would I be quite happy to call the Scottish Labour leadership a cabal, and corrupt, lazy and incompetent to boot. Yes. However none the less I respect the choice of the Scots and their right to do so. This is a democracy, in a democracy one may criticise a politican while still respecting the electorate and the constitutional position. It’s called free speech and debate. Politicians are not the embodiment of the people. Do you consider criticism of the British government to be a disgraceful attack on the British people and their right to choose?

    I’m sorry but the facts are these. The sovereign government and parliament of Scotland and the rest of Briton are in Westminster. In Holyrood there is a devolved assembly with certain competences to legislate for Scotland. This idea of allowing that devolved assembly to style itself the parliament and government of Scotland was one of Blair’s stupidest mistakes. I don’t doubt that independence campaigners would scorn those facts. But they are true none the less and need ramming home. Treading softly around the nationalists has only allowed them to creep forward until we’re in this ludicrous situation where the future of the UK is seriously threatened by these charlatan. They are a would be emperor with no clothes and need ramming back into their place.

    They have a perfect right to act in what they see as the best interest of the scottish people. But so does the British government. And it cannot be afraid to use it. If we deliberately abandon all scottish issues to the SNP government then half the nationalists work is done for them.

  15. Charles Currie

    Stephen, let me ask, are you from Scotland, do you live here?, if the answer is no to the latter, butt out, it is not a question for English, Irish or the Welsh, indeed, i would go so far as to say, any other nationality that has not resided in scotland for at least the last 15yrs, have no say either but then that would make me look like i’m being xenophobic but i’m anything but, just a proud scot that wants to see the betterment of Scotland, because all i can remember from the last 40yrs, is Westminster reaping the benefits of the union while Scotland had it’s Industrial base raped from it, neutered to the point it’s going to be a long road to rebuild it again!.

    As for Alex salmond being the dirtiest operator in UK politics, pfff!, that title goes to the three in a bed party!, a coalition government that seems to be made up of all the major party’s, right now you couldn’t put a cigarette paper between them?.
    I put two thing’s to you,(1), If for instance, if the UK decided to have a referendum on whether it should stay as a member of the EU, only for the EU to turn around and say, ” Well, we’l have a referendum on whether your referendum means anything and even if it did, our referendum will supersede it!?.
    How does that sit with you?.

    Also, as i understand it, Scotland, is constitutionally answerable to the people of Scotland!, not the PM, The Queen and not Merkozy!.

    Here is why
    By Kenyon Wright

    Dear Prime Minister

    The superficial nature of your proposals on the referendum simply proves that you have little understanding either of Scotland’s constitutional tradition and history, or of the mood of the people of Scotland.

    There are two major reasons why most Scots will, I believe, firmly reject your ideas.

    The first is constitutional. In the ‘Donald Dewar Room’ in the Scottish Parliament there is an important document from 1989. It bears the signatures of the great majority of Scotland’s MPs and of our local authorities, of representatives of civil society, the trades unions, the churches and much of the business community. Signed at the first meeting of the Scottish Constitutional Convention in March 1989, it is the fundamental principle on which the Scottish Parliament is founded. It is called ‘A Claim of Right for Scotland’ and states simply: ‘We hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to determine the form of government best suited to their needs’.

    It is clear and unambiguous, and reflects a principle deep in our history, that the people, not the Crown in parliament, are sovereign. The nature, questions and timing of any referendum are matters for the Scottish people and their parliament.

    The day before the new Scottish Parliament met for the first time, I handed that document over to Donald Dewar and David Steel. I said then that one day that Claim of Right would come into its own if any Westminster government attempted to impose any constitutional development on Scotland. That day has come.

    Second, there are important democratic reasons to reject your proposals. Despite the fact that the electoral system in Scotland, which I had a hand in devising, was intended to be proportional and therefore to ensure that no party got an overall majority; to our surprise the SNP achieved that. This means quite simply that the present Scottish Government is more democratically representative of Scotland than yours is of the UK.

    As early as 2009, I proposed to the then SNP minority government that any referendum should include a third or middle option, which I defined as ‘Secure Autonomy’ rather than ‘Devo Max’, on the grounds that ‘power devolved is power retained’. There are many views, but the point is that there is a growing debate in Scotland over all these issues, and the details of the referendum, whenever it comes, will certainly reflect that debate. It is not for you to
    pre-empt that process.

    The Constitutional Commission of which I am president, which is politically non-aligned, has published a draft constitution for Scotland, and is initiating a nation-wide discussion not just of the referendum, but on the very different kind of democracy, already partly embodied in the present Scottish Parliament, we aspire to be. We hope to ensure that the options in the referendum are clearly understood as involving something more than simply a shift of political power. The people will, I believe, understand the full implications for Scotland’s democracy of each of the options, be they two or three.

    Yours sincerely

    Kenyon Wright

    Kenyon Wright is president of the Constitutional Commission
    This letter is reproduced courtesy of the Constitutional Commission

    That is why there should be no more arguments, no more nashing and wailing of the teeth and no more dirty tricks!?

    If you want to talk about legality’s, then you can look no further than in the Scottish Constitution.

    If and when Scotland get’s Independence and i sincerely hope it vote’s that way, some how i don’t see this being detrimental to the UK partnership, only difference being that one partner has the wisdom and fore site to look after it’s own affairs and better itself, for the good of it’s people!, now wouldn’t that be real democracy at work!.

  16. Lindsey Donges

    Déjà vu as Scottish referendum campaign turns nasty: The posters they used during the campaign had images of bab… //t.co/20uH1GVJ

  17. Guest

    The UK leadership is acting like a totalitarian dictatorship (the Soviet Union) … why else question the right of the people to choose? You can think whatever you wish of the SNP leadership, the issue is not about that it is about the right of the sovereign people of Scotland to decide.

  18. Billi

    The real and only question here is : Do the British exist as a people and a nation ?

    If they do then they should remain united in order to avail of the strength unity brings.

    To help you answer this question ask any of the following : The Greeks, Romans, Franks, Danes.
    Check out their history with the : Church of Rome, the Bretons themselves, the Saxon sagas, the Irish.
    Go visit their old forts and cities : Inverness, Exeter, Coventry, Leicester, Carlisle, Dumbarton, Quimper and Rennes.

    I know you Marxists hate the nation state and you claim to hate nationalism, so your attacks on Britain is no more then to be expected. But why support a National Socialist Party north of the boarder. The last time you people did that ( Germany) thinking you’d gain short term, you were wrong.

  19. Mike Morgan-Giles

    Deja vu in #Scotland independence #referendum campaign – article for @leftfootfwd – //t.co/EzAit4wl

  20. John Ruddy

    I’m afraid you DO look very xenophobic.

    I have no idea where Stephen resides, but his views are similar to those I have heard expressed by people who were born and bred here in Scotland. Alex Salmond does NOT speak for the people of Scotland. He should stop claiming that he does, and stop claiming he has an “overwhelming” mandate. 45% of the vote is not overwhelming.

    Alex Salmond may or may not be a dirty tricks operator, but plenty of his supporters are – just ask Professor Qvrotrup! On another forum I saw someone claiming that anyoen who didnt support independence should leave Scotland – how is that “standing up for the Scottish people”?

    I understand the SNP are now going to present a bill re-assering the Claim of Right. That would be the Claim of Right that the SNP refused to sign in the first place, would it?

  21. John Ruddy

    I’m afraid you DO look very xenophobic.

    I have no idea where Stephen resides, but his views are similar to those I have heard expressed by people who were born and bred here in Scotland. Alex Salmond does NOT speak for the people of Scotland. He should stop claiming that he does, and stop claiming he has an “overwhelming” mandate. 45% of the vote is not overwhelming.

    Alex Salmond may or may not be a dirty tricks operator, but plenty of his supporters are – just ask Professor Qvrotrup! On another forum I saw someone claiming that anyoen who didnt support independence should leave Scotland – how is that “standing up for the Scottish people”?

    I understand the SNP are now going to present a bill re-assering the Claim of Right. That would be the Claim of Right that the SNP refused to sign in the first place, would it?

  22. John Ruddy

    If the vote is to leave the UK, I take it you will expect those who are against independence to respect that decision?

    If the vote is to remain in the UK, will you respect THAT decision? because, to be honest, I cant see too many nationalists who will, with attitudes such as yours.

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  24. Keir Husband

    Billi, Billi, Billi, Billi, Billi.

    The British exist as four nations in one (and many, many different peoples all mixed up) and that is the point. Can it remain together effectively in that state or would one of those nations prosper (not simply economically but culturally and politically also) governing itself?

    As for comparing Salmond’s SNP to Hitler’s Nazi party, I will leave you to consider whether you think that is a sensible approach to convincing Scots of your point of view.

    It is a shame that there seems to be a ‘how ungrateful are those darned Scots’ instinct in many responses. There are many positive arguments to be made in favour of the Union. “How much debt will the new country have” is not one. It would take its share of the debt – as it shares the debt at present. Independence wouldn’t create a debt for the Scottish people where none exists now.

  25. Keir Husband

    Billi, Billi, Billi, Billi, Billi.

    The British exist as four nations in one (and many, many different peoples all mixed up) and that is the point. Can it remain together effectively in that state or would one of those nations prosper (not simply economically but culturally and politically also) governing itself?

    As for comparing Salmond’s SNP to Hitler’s Nazi party, I will leave you to consider whether you think that is a sensible approach to convincing Scots of your point of view.

    It is a shame that there seems to be a ‘how ungrateful are those darned Scots’ instinct in many responses. There are many positive arguments to be made in favour of the Union. “How much debt will the new country have” is not one. It would take its share of the debt – as it shares the debt at present. Independence wouldn’t create a debt for the Scottish people where none exists now.

  26. Charles Currie

    That’s the sum weight of your argument!, some of the the SNP supporters are of the view, if your not with us your against so therefore they are xenophobic?.

    There’s a couple of thousand year’s of culture in most country’s, what do we do with that in these day’s of Globalization?, sweep it under the carpet so to speak!.

    I have no argument towards foreign nationalists who have put roots here, voting on this issue but those that have been here for 5 minutes don’t even no the language never mind the culture!.

    I have no more a say on what happens in England than i do of what happens in china, poland, india, or the planet mars, i know little of their country as i do of their culture, let’s not argue the merits of that, facts are facts!.

    Speaking of facts, did you purposely leave out certain facts of the SNP’s reluctance to sign the claim of right’s because you are ill informed or were you purposefully trying to mislead!?.

    I’l fill in the blanks for you with this-
    The Claim of Right was published in 1988 and proclaimed: “We acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs.”
    It became the declaration of intent for the cross-party The Scottish Constitutional Convention , which was set up to press for devolution.
    The Scottish Constitutional Convention, on which members of Labour and the Liberal Democrats sat with other civic and political representatives, argued that Scotland’s democratic rights had been eroded since the Treaty of the Act of Union in 1707.
    Its main demand was for the right of the Scottish people to elect a new parliament or assembly.
    The Claim of Right was signed at the General Assembly Hall, on the Mound in Edinburgh on the 30th March 1989 by 58 of Scotland’s 72 MPs, 7 of Scotland’s 8 MEPs, 59 out of 65 of the Scottish regional, district and island councils and numerous political parties, churches and other civic organisations like trade unions.
    Initially the Scottish National Party (SNP) had participated in the Scottish Constitutional Convention, but the then party leader Gordon Wilson, along with Jim Sillars, decided to withdraw the SNP from participation owing to the convention’s unwillingness to discuss Scottish independence as a constitutional option.
    SNP members did not sign the Claim of Right.
    The Conservative government of the day was hostile to the convention.

    Yes, that same claim of rights!

    There is a difference from being willing participant’s to abstaining because of fundamental principle’s?

    In this day and age of PC Brigadist’s, anyone with nationalist feeling’s are xenophobic!?, Pfft!

  27. Derick

    Yes we will expect that, as would any democrat.
    And of course we will respect the result if people vote for Scotland to remain in union with England. Quite bizarre of you to suggest otherwise. But some chinless wonder from Chipping Norton attempting partition is totally unacceptable (and REALLY stupid). Still I suppose the oppressed ‘non-Scottish’ people of Rockall will be glad of the Noble Lord’s support. Oh, hang on….

    if you recall, it is the SNP who are promoting the referendum and have been for several years. It is the unionist parties who have been utterly opposed to letting the people decide, and who went into an election on that premise – which they lost and lost badly. And then promptly began demanding a referendum ‘immediately’ without further discussion.

  28. Anonymous

    So you think that the Westmister governemtn, perhaps under the cloak of their Vichy Scots supporters, should step in and tell the Scots what to do? Oh boy, have you got a lot to learn.

    All we want is the ability to elect and deselect a government, something we don’t have the power to do under the present arrangment. We have one Tory MP and yet we have Cameron as a PM! Would you have supported the Black & Tans in Ireland? The atrocities committed by the British army in India? That’s just two examples of countries that got fed up of Westminster rule. There are many more! Do you seriously think the Brits have a right to interfere in a Scottish referendum?

    You are REALLY out of touch!

  29. Anonymous

    Adrian, do you really think that Scotland would keep the pound Sterling forever? It is far more concenient to keep it for the moment while alternatives are sought. Most countries that split up tend to keep the bigger partners currencies for a while. There will be a Scottish pound. The Scottish pound, will be tied to Sterlng for a while until the country gets on its feet.

  30. Anonymous

    Scotland has a strong leader, probably the best politician in the UK. This annoys a lot of BritNats, be they in Scotland or England. To deny that the Westminster dirty tricks brigade will not be out in force over the referendum is to be naive. We have no doubt who we’ll be opposing. The naysayers will be beaten by the fact that they cannot evince ONE good reason to stay in the UK. You can be sure that the dirty tricks brigade will be planting stories in the press (Salmond and his wife eat babies), Shetland wants independence from Scotland (happening already in Daily Mail land) and the best one of all, the one all the unionists love to quote, We’re too wee/poor/stupid to be independent!

    The one that gets me though and it’ll be the one that finishes off the naysayers, is London Labour on board with the Tories! That really will be the end of Labour in Scotland. We won’t have to fight the tartan tories, they’ll do it for us!

  31. Anonymous

    You’re an idiot! National Socialists? You don’t have a clue!

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    […] Déjà vu as Scottish referendum campaign turns nasty – Mike […]

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