Sunday, 19 March 2017

Spelling it out.

I wrote a mega blog on Friday and thank you for all the kind comments on Twitter and elsewhere.

But I've said enough for one weekend except to point out in what, in setting off,  I hope will be a very short blog, something that most people are missing.

There were two crucial things that happened on Thursday past.

Mrs May ruled out a second Referendum for "Now" but, at least as importantly, David Mundell said that the Westminster Government wouldn't even discuss the matter until after Brexit was complete.

Which means, for the hard of thinking, Mundell ruled out a second referendum before the 2021 Holyrood election.

From the SNP requesting a s.30 in January 2012 it took until December 2013 for the referendum legislation to be on the Statute Book. The first part of that process, agreeing the terms of a s.30,  has a timing largely controlled by the Westminster Government who can insist on "these terms or no terms" but the second, even if the Nats ultimately surrender entirely on the first, engages the process by which any contentious ordinary legislation takes about nine months to get through Holyrood. So, for a referendum in Autumn 2020, the last possible date pre May 2021, you'd need to introduce legislation no later than Autumn 2019. And you couldn't introduce legislation until you had the s.30. Which is not even going to be discussed until after March 2019. Anybody think the ball couldn't be run into the corner for six or seven months?

Kevin Pringle, one of the very brightest Nats, got this on this morning's Sunday Politics Scotland. The key thing for them now is a vote before May 2021, when they would otherwise need a fresh Holyrood mandate.

Now, the Nats might get that mandate in May 2021 but they'd need an express manifesto commitment. Which they were scared to seek in 2016 and indeed sought even only very much down the ticket, in 2011, when their manifesto said more about the Commonwealth Games than constitutional upheaval. Albeit that priority was changed once the votes were counted.

There are two problems for the SNP with this. The first is that it is quite difficult to get a Holyrood majority. They don't have one now, albeit they can rely on the current Greens on this issue. But the second is that they would have then to state expressly in their 2021 platform that they would  have a vote during the 2021 plus Parliament. Even if the polling on that platform was condemning them to defeat either at the election to follow or the Referendum itself.

Yet what can the SNP do about this? Nothing.

My Friday blog dealt with this but, to spell it out again. Sturgeon in September 2019? "These are outrageous conditions," Mundell: "Well no doubt the electorate will provide their verdict on that in just 18 months time".

Now, maybe this will all, in time, play out badly for my team. Maybe the Nats will win on an express manifesto commitment in 2021 and there will be another vote in 2023. Which maybe we will lose. Maybe. But only if the Nats can maintain the illusion in between that the different electoral priorities of West Aberdeenshire and North Lanarkshire can be obscured by a flag.

Anyway, I promised you a short blog. That's it.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. If SNP/Greens lose enough support so that unionist parties hold a majority together, do these parties form an administration?
    If SNP remain clearly largest party, but support from Greens still only a minority, would any unionist party be willing to offer support?
    What then?

    It looks to me, given that this current play to the nat zoomers will lose them support especially if they do it for the next 4 yrs, that the next time SNP have only 'largest party but minority' status they will not have the Tories to help them get a budget/programme of govt through.
    What then ?

    1. Stasis. A parliament that passes no legislation.

      Plus ça change...

  3. Mulling over the timeline as set out:

    Could a referendum be set by the SNP for the spring of 2021, on the same day as the 2021 SPE?

  4. The thing I find interesting with bloggers like ianssmart and planetpedro, websites like Labour Hame, is that their only topic of conversation these days is the SNP, the SNP government and indeyref2, all of which the said bloggers are dead against. This has been going on for some time. It's weird. There must be an explanation.
    Im not one for psyco babble but when you are defined by things you oppose, when you can only see negatives in an argument it suggests you are not secure with your own beliefs. Maybe they prefer not to propose a positive idea in case they are riduculed. Maybe they don't have any positive ideas left.
    It is as if the remnants of Scottish Labour thinking is obsolete but not dead. Like old cart horses, collapsed and exhausted in the gutter, still shackled to the cart, as new clean and silent trolley buses whizz by.

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  6. @Richard Mackinnon
    It might just be because the future of Scotland is an existential issue that is more important than anything else. The SNP certainly seems to thin so - perhaps that is why they seem to have lots of vague, but very few specific post-independent policies. They certainly seem to suffer from a conspiracy of optimism: every single problem in Scotland can be cured by the simple fact of independence.

  7. Isn't there a possibility that the legitimacy of any future ref has been completely shot regardless?

  8. Also, what are the chances that this whole debate ends up being settled in court since it seems unlikely now that either side will regard any result as legitimate?


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