Wednesday, 30 January 2013

A Tale Of Two Referendums

Yesterday evening saw the House of Commons accept a House of Lords amendment on the Electoral Registration & Administration Bill which effectively kills the proposed boundary changes. What is interesting is the comment by Pete Wishart, Scottish National Party MP for Perth & North Perthshire:

The only other party working for the Tories is Labour in the “No” campaign, working to keep Scotland governed by Conservatives at Westminster

Now, from what I am aware of Labour, their aim is not to keep Scotland governed by the Conservatives, but to have a Labour-led Scottish Government at Holyrood and a Labour-led British Government at Westminster.

But, this is the SNP logic - a vote for the Union is a vote for the wicked Tories.

I note what Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's Depute First Minister, wrote in Scotland on Sunday:

For me, an independent Scotland has ­never been the goal in itself, but rather the means to deliver the vital objectives of a fair society and dynamic economy.

The range of identities in modern Scotland – Scottish, British, Pakistani, Irish, Polish and many more – will be encompassed in an independent country, but they are not dependent on it. In the 
centuries since the 1707 Union, Scottish identity has endured, evolved and strengthened. In a similar manner, British identity will continue in an independent Scotland.

In other words, the case for independence does not rest on identity or nationality, but rather on values of social justice, enterprise and democracy. My concerns are not just about the nation of Scotland – they are principally about the welfare of the people of Scotland.

The shocking poverty statistics cited above cannot be divorced from the fact that the UK is the fourth most unequal country in the developed world – a situation that will only worsen as a result of the cuts imposed on working families and vulnerable citizens by the Westminster government.


[Work & Pensions Secretary] Iain Duncan Smith’s unfair cuts to the welfare system will hit a million working age households in Scotland, weakening consumer demand as well as harming families. But 80 per cent of Scottish MPs opposed them – and to add insult to ­injury Iain Duncan Smith refuses even to appear before Holyrood’s welfare reform committee to explain them.

along with:

The damaging uncertainty about our place in the European Union created by [Prime Minister] David Cameron’s speech last week is another example – a process driven entirely by Tory electoral fears about Ukip south of the Border. In Dublin on Friday, I set out a distinctively Scottish case for Europe’s importance to Scotland and our importance to Europe.

This concern about Westminster governments’ lack of a democratic mandate in Scotland is not just a problem now, and has never been confined to the SNP. For more than half of my life, Scotland has had a Tory government from Westminster that we didn’t vote for. And it was Jim Wallace – ironically enough now the Lib Dem Advocate General in a Tory-led government – who said in the House of Commons on this very day 25 years ago: “The Conservative Party in Scotland has no mandate, and it is no use pretending that it has.” I agree with the former Jim!


No vote is literally a vote for nothing – other than the continuation of a Westminster austerity agenda we didn’t vote for, uncertainty about our place in Europe, and complete certainty that Scotland would have a new generation of Trident nuclear weapons dumped on the Clyde for another 50 years

Stirring stuff - but more-or-less focussing on temporary things. The steps the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Government is taking to deal with the deficit Labour left them. Trident etc.

Whether Scotland becomes independent or not, are these going to be the top issues on people's minds in the 22nd century?

It seems that Sturgeon is offering a long-term solution (independence) to what she perceives as a short-term problem (an "agenda we didn't vote for" - hmm, Labour running England relying on the votes of Scottish MPs eh?)

But isn't this going to be the danger of the European Union referendum? Instead of asking the two questions:

  • What is the best thing for the United Kingdom's long-term future?
  • What is the best thing for the people of the United Kingdom?
  • isn't there a danger it'll all be about short-term issues, just as local and European elections become your chance to "send a message to the Government" or "give the Government a bloody nose", especially as a 2017 referendum would be in the middle part of mid-term?

    My worry is that it'll degenerate down to bendy bananas, to people on one side thinking that terms like "EUSSR" and "Fourth Reich" are substitutes for argument. To conspiracy theories (no, I cannot prove that the then-Prime Minister Edward Heath never ever held a meeting with then-backbench Labour MP John Prescott and faceless Eurocrats on how to "abolish England"). To the "who paid you?" argument (maybe, just maybe, politicians who put the case for continuing EU membership are being neither bribed nor blackmailed by Brussels, but are patriots who believe EU membership is in our best interest).

    To the portrayal of those opposed to EU membership as swivel-eyed closet racists. Or portrayed as wanting us to be the 52nd state of the USA.

    I fear that on both sides, the short-term issues (such as "give Dave/Ed/whoever a bloody nose") will take priority over the long-term question of what sort of Europe do we want? And what role do we want the United Kingdom to play (if any) in that Europe?

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