Sunday, 19 February 2017

Over to you, Section 30.

It is clear that Nicola has so raised expectations that, at the SNP March Conference, she will have to do something rather than just say (lots) about a second Independence Referendum.

Fortunately for her there is something she could actually do and that is to request Westminster once again cede power to Holyrood under to hold a second Independence Referendum.

Much of the press simply ignores that necessity but buried away in their Brexit paper of October even the SNP concede that point (again).

So it will be over to our Westminster Government to respond.

And that's the thing I want to talk about a bit.

De facto this will be largely Ruth Davidson's call. She is clearly, and reassuringly, the Prime Minister's principal consigliere on all matters separatist.

And there are those who are encouraging an Edinburgh response "You'll have had your referendum."

I see the force to that argument. A second defeat won't stop the SNP arguing for Scottish Independence any more than defeat in the Brexit vote would have stopped Nigel Farage arguing for Britain to leave the EU. Given the opportunity, in the aftermath of a second defeat, there would undoubtedly be nationalists arguing almost immediately for "third time lucky". A blanket concession to the second vote might even be cited as justification that there could be no denying a third!

Yet I think a blanket refusal would be a mistake.

One continuing delusion of Scottish Nationalism is that the Scots are denied self determination. Yet we have actually had self determination as recently as September 18th 2014. They just don't like the way we self determined.

Nonetheless, grievance is the raison d'etre of Nationalism and the refusal of a second vote would feed that grievance in spades. You only need to look at a substantial part of the nationalist's activist base to perceive that this might come with the price of peace in our civil society. Only this past week, the leadership of the SNP were not sufficiently confident of internal support as to be able to deny a woman with tartan terrorism links admitted in court the right to stand for office as an elected SNP representative.

And anyway, a refusal might actually give the SNP leadership exactly what they want. A  perception that they want a second vote without the unfortunate consequence of having (and losing) one. For while grievance is usually why bands break up, in this case it might prove the (only) way of keeping the band on the road. Unless something dramatically changes, that objective is certainly not going to be brought about by relying on the SNP record in Government.

But this does not mean that there should simply be a surrender to nationalist demands.

Firstly, and most importantly, on the franchise.

In 2014, voting was based on the local government franchise. That should be a non starter this time. Only British citizens should have the right to vote. And then, more importantly still, it should be all British citizens living in or born in Scotland. In 2014, with the assumption both Scotland and England (sic) would remain in the EU, free movement was not an issue. This time it would be. And no-one should have the right to return to the country of their birth without a passport removed without having a say in that process. That would obviously involve the compilation of a register of ex pats but in this online age that should be reasonably easily done with the requirement to provide your name, national insurance number and birth certificate reference making you entitled to a postal ballot. 750,000 Scots born people currently live in England. More than live in any single place in Scotland. Who knows what they think of the Country breaking up?  I'm sure the SNP  will make their argument to them.

Secondly the question.

There was a failure to grasp the importance of this the last time. By the time of the Brexit vote however the importance of a neutral choice of options was much better appreciated. Regrettably for my preferred outcome of that vote. Scotland's choice this time however should be on a similarly neutral basis. I'd settle for leave or remain but I'm open to suggestions.

Thirdly, the trigger.

In some way Holyrood would need an express mandate to have a vote. That would, most obviously, be in the form of a requirement to dissolve the current Scottish Parliament with the requirement that a majority Parliament then be elected on a manifesto commitment, or combined commitments, to having a vote. Alternatively we could have a referendum about whether to have a referendum. Scotland loves referendums. They are civic and joyous events.

Fourthly, the democratic process.

Apparently, no less than 42% of the Scottish electorate went to the polls in September 2014 believing that there were secret oil fields, the existence of which would only be revealed after a vote. This was in fact a complete invention by the nationalist side. Not a difference of opinion, or interpretation. A complete invention. And it was by no means the only one. Since then we have seen similar exercises in the Brexit Referendum and, perhaps most calamitously, with the Trump campaign.

The internet age makes "fake news" of this nature impossible to prevent from being disseminated. And those who benefit from it don't need to endorse it, they just have to remain silent.

That right to silence should be removed. There should be independent monitoring of the campaign with a legal requirement in the eventuality of a falsehood becoming sufficiently prevalent that the respective official campaigns place prominently on their campaign websites a refutation of it.

Finally, Section 30 should be repealed altogether......

And it should be replaced with a right in the Scotland Act for the Scottish Parliament to have the direct right to hold a referendum on Independence, conditional on that referendum being no sooner than twenty years after any previous poll.

All of these things should be essential requirements of a s.30 negotiation.

And if the Nats say they don't want a vote on that basis? Then. but only then, the words of the late Windsor Davies should come into play. "Oh dear, how sad, never mind."






6 comments:

  1. I like the last 3 paragraphs in particular.

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  2. That right to silence should be removed. There should be independent monitoring of the campaign with a legal requirement in the eventuality of a falsehood becoming sufficiently prevalent that the respective official campaigns place prominently on their campaign websites a refutation of it.

    Perfect... Shame we can't make this retro active and bring Project Fear and The Vow into the dock.

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  3. Exactly, Alistair. And it is very disappointing to see a Labour figure suggesting an interference with basic democracy.
    The exercise of democracy reacts to events in any timescale and there should be absolutely no limitation of it

    ReplyDelete
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  5. Also, the Electoral Commission should investigate any SNP front groups that overspend by £850,000 with a view to negating the referendum outcome (BfS we are looking at you)

    ReplyDelete