Tuesday, July 29, 2008

 

Not so Fast My Dear Mr Salmond...

Robert Hazell does well to puncture the premature euphoria of the SNP and gloom of the unionists with his piece today. To those who assume secession is the inevitable eventual corollary to the Glasgow East SNP victory, he points out that four, by no means superable hurdles have first to be cleared:

1.The has to be a legislative authorisation of a referendum and this would require the SNP to win a clear majority in the Scottish parliament as their 49 seats are currently outnumbered by the 79 who support the union.

2. There has to be a majority in the referendum itself. Given that the polls show less than a third of Scots have favoured such a course throughout the past decade, this is by means assured.

3. The terms of secession would have to be negotiated with Westminster. It could be that some of the terms eventually agreed would not be so acceptable to the Scots. For example, they would have to re-apply for membership of the EU and some countries with secessionist movements, especially Spain, might wish to use their veto. Hazell reminds us that the Czech-Slovak 'divorce' in 1992 required 32 treaties and over 2000separate agreements. Moreover, secession would entail the loss of the disproportioonate Treasury funding whereby Scots receive 25% more per head than English recipients.

4. Finally, there would have to be a final referendum on the terms of the deal agreed. This is when Scots would have to consider whether the proosed terms of secession were to their liking and whether the link established in 1625 when James VI of Scotland became James I of Great Britain should be sundered.

I reckon, it'll take quite a few additional Glasgow East type events before the spectre of secession, currently on the far horizon, becomes anything approaching a reality.

Comments:
Some good points there, Bill. I suspect the first one is easy. Given it was a major part of the SNP manifesto, and they won the election, I think it would be wrong for the unionist parties to oppose a referendum, and unlikely that they would given they think they can defeat the secessionists.

One other factor is that the EU is actually very unpopular, hence the universal fear of a referendum on Lisbon. Will the Scots not see rule from Brussels as just another device to rob them of their hard won independence? If so, perhaps Salmond would have to negotiate the minefield of whether the Scots should have a referendum on whether or not to apply for EU membership.
 
Off topic a bit but I liked your "picture", when did the Mail go with that? It's amusing that the Tories say they want important decisions taken locally rather than by the dead hand of Whitehall bureaucrats but, when it happens, they complain about the inevitable consequence viz. different service levels being available in different areas.

One of my hobbies is winding up the MP for the Forest of Dean who is on the simplistic right of his party and very much of the "local power for local people" persuasion by instinct. But he still without blushing bleats on about the Welsh health services that some of his constituents near the border use being different to the Gloucestershirian version of the English one the rest of them must put up with. Postcode lottery vs. nanny-state control - pick your cliché of choice...

PS I like Bob’s vision of Scotland outside the EU; perhaps they would get into bed with the Norwegians and Icelanders. That really would give us some exciting postcode lotteries and liven up poor dull Carlisle (from where my wife originates) by restoring its status of northern frontier town.
 
A small point Skipper, and far be it from me to correct your history but. James VI became James I in 1603. 1625 was the accession of his wonderful son, Britain's worst leader until...er Gordon actually. And even then, nothing actually happened in 1603. What I mean is, the two independent crowns of England and Scotland rested on the same head(if you like), but the countries remained entirely indepependent. 1707 was the magical date for this. I'm sure you know all that, I just thought I would point it out.

On the points you make. I am not sure the Scots really want to be independent. But this was always the danger with devolution. The Tories are obviously finished up there in Scotland, and the Liberals are hopeless everywhere. After devolution, I am sure Labour were delighted to win control of the assembly. But they must have been very stupid if they thought they would retain control of it for ever(Scotland ain't Japan). At some point(probably the first recession?) the people of Scotland were always going to vote for another party. And it was always going to be the SNP. The problem with this democratic transition is that the SNP have a very dangerous and absolutely irreversible agenda. Hence the problems we have now. Entirely predictable.

I don't think independence is really likely any time soon. Although most Czechs and Slovaks didn't really want indepepence either, and it still happened. Ultimately, regardless of what Salmond says, Scotland will only be independent if it suits the rest of the UK as well. But even if it isn't going to happen soon, there are issues that need to be fixed. Labour have conveniently ignored the 79 MPs coming down from Scotland to vote on English affairs(including our useless PM), when our MPs have no such say in similar matter north of the border. Regardless of what is being said now, Dave will be expected to fix that situation after 2010. And the Scots might not like the solution.
 
Michael
Quite right re the dates; I think I was trying to extend the period since Scotland was last independent to emphasise the length of time involved but succeeded in achieving an inaccuracy instead. You are right too re the implications of devolution but the implication that Labour was cack-handed is a bit unfair as any government would have had to recognise, reflect and accommodate the strength of Scottish nationalism and devolution was as a good a means as any, though only temporary as we have seen. I suspect, that like many Conservatives at the moment, you'll not be too worried if the Scots get their comeuppance under a new Tory government.
 
I do wish to see the constitution corrected, and yes it would give me great pleasure to see the Scots put in their place after their unreasonable behaviour post-97.

That said, it won't happen until we have a change of Government in London. I live abroad and only see some UK TV. I have seen three or four interviews with Salmond on the BBC, and have been a bit embarrassed to be honest. Kirsty Wark should have been fired for her part. I understand she is good friends with the oligarchs of Scots Labour. It shows. She is to professional journalism what Broon is to charisma. But Paxman - usually excellent - and Emily Maitlis, were almost as bad. They were rude and lacked impartiality. Salmond made them look ridiculous.

If I were a Scot and saw this on TV, even I would be tempted to vote SNP and throw it in the face of the London Nu Labor/BBC brigade. For all his faults, Salmond is articulate, intelligent and quick witted. Broon is none of these things, and attempts to fill the vacuum with rudeness and paranoia. Nu Labor leaders north of the border have been (even more) hopeless. Corrupt if you like. Nu Labor have set up an arrangement that has allowed the SNP to advance their agenda, and then failed to provide the leadership to oppose the agenda.
 
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