PM David Cameron and the Scottish First Minister are preparing for a referendum on Scottish Independence from the United Kingdom:
The prime minister’s line was simple: the continued delay and obfuscation by Salmond about the timing, nature and legality of the referendum was damaging Scotland and its economy. He insisted the vote should be “fair, legal and decisive”.
His government’s legal advice was clear and unambiguous: under the Scotland Act setting up Holyrood in 1999, the Scottish government was explicitly barred from passing any legislation which affected the constitution of the UK. So, despite opposing independence, the UK government would bring forward legislation to make the referendum legal; Cameron implied this was a noble, generous act. “We’re not going to dictate this, this is something we want to resolve, the legal position,” he said.
This whole issue is a fascinating mess of contradicting ideologies and purposes. Alex Salmond, the Scottish patriot who wants independence from Westminster, is trying his damnedest not to have a referendum, since he knows it would lose. What he really wants is a halfway option – “devolution max” – where Westminster would still control foreign policy and defence, because he thinks that Scotland would be more likely to vote for it. David Cameron, on the other hand, following the official policy of keeping the Union together, is pushing hard to have a referendum as soon as possible. And yet he knows that devolution would be greatly in the interests of the Tories, since only one of Scotland’s 59 constituencies is currently a Conservative-held seat, and were they to be eliminated from Westminster it would almost certainly ensure perpetual Tory government in England. It is only aristocratic pride and a loyalty to tradition that sees him act otherwise. Add to this the Leftists in Scotland who would love to see independence from the viewpoint that it would stop English Tories running their affairs, and the Labour Party in England, who would view such an event as an unmitigated disaster, and you have a situation where almost everyone is trying to throw the game. It’s like watching Pakistan play cricket.
The reality, sad to say, is that most Scots are not going to vote for devolution as they are not stupid. They know that, despite being able to keep much of the North Sea oil revenue, union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland keeps a lot of government money winging its way across Hadrian’s Wall. Add to this that while Scotland loves to send socialists to Westminster, it is another thing entirely to have them milling about Edinburgh making a nuisance of themselves at home. I can’t imagine it improving Scotland’s economic fortunes in the medium term.
What really needs to happen is a referendum in England to finally cast off the Scottish burden, without which Tony Blair would never have been re-elected in 2005 and the Labour Party would be almost permanently cast into opposition. And eventually Scotland too would realise it can’t compete without some measure of free market economics, and follow the Irish in implementing a more laissez-faire environment. English independence would vastly improve both countries. Where are the people supporting English independence?!