Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A Few Points of Clarification

Usually, I like my blogs to follow a certain pattern.

I start with a anecdote or at least a reminiscence. I then ask, rhetorically, what the possible relevance of this anecdote/reminiscence might be? I answer my own question and then move on to develop an argument based on that answer. And then I reach a (by now) obvious conclusion.

Now, I would like to claim this to be a unique form of discourse but I suspect that all three of my followers have already long since that it is worked out from lessons (of a different sort than those intended) learned through a youth spent listening to sermons preached in the established Church; the only difference being that the starting point there was/is not a personal reflection but rather a Biblical Text.

In the USA, where religious affiliation is not a heritage to be disowned but rather an essential precondition to elected office, they merge these influences brilliantly. The President most brilliantly of all.

Tonight however I do not have time for such devices.

My blog, yesterday appears to have stirred up a (very minor) internet storm.

Brevity has never been a fault of mine so I hesitate to admit that I may have unduly restricted my previous remarks for lack of space.Nonetheless, it appears that I may have left scope for misinterpretation of my earlier hypothesis regarding  there actually being an Independence Referendum.

I am in no doubt, both morally and legally, that the Scottish Parliament can call and indeed conduct, in terms of financial appropriation,  an advisory referendum on any subject it likes. The moral right is simply a matter of politics but the legal right does, in the end, turn on whether one accepts that Whalley v Watson represents the decided law of Scotland and thus supersedes McCormick v The Lord Advocate. I don't, even if, somewhat bizarrely the SNP do, at least in terms of their last public utterance on the subject.

I've already commented on that anomaly however so that is not my objective tonight.

Suffice to say, not every lawyer shares my opinion on the legality of a referendum. Any legislation "enabling" an Independence Referendum is thus likely to be subject to legal challenge and that challenge will take, at least, months, more likely years, to grind itself through the judicial system.

If then one was a First Minister with a solid Parliamentary Majority determined to hold such a Referendum in 2015 or 2016, would not the sensible course be to introduce the enabling legislation now? Of course it would. Any legal challenge would then be well out of the way before the actual intended event. And, assuming the legal challenge was seen off, there would then be legislation permitting the referendum sitting on the Statute Book, simply awaiting a Statutory Instrument being made by Ministers fixing the actual date.

Why, indeed, would any calculating individual, determined  on Independence, choose to proceed otherwise? Unless of course their calculation was aimed not at having a Referendum but rather in not having one. Aimed at not asking the question because one already knew (and didn't like) the answer.Aimed at finding an excuse to avoid a humiliation.

So, let me ask a simple question. If the SNP are determined to have a Referendum, at any point in this Parliament, why haven't they introduced enabling legislation?

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