I’m confused. The Government says that a Scottish independence referendum in 2013 is binding but in 2014 it will be illegitimate. I suspect this is an example of politicians making stuff up as it suits them rather than there being any profound democratic or constitutional principle at stake, and Labour has no business supporting the Government on such tosh.
I start from the position of wanting the Union to remain. I would be sad to lose Scotland and worried about what diminishing cultural diversity would to attitudes in the remainder, a not so great Britain. I believe we derive strength through unity and that we would be weaker without Scotland.
That said, I can see why the Scots might think differently. It might be calculable that Scotland would be financially poorer if independent, but it’s hard to believe they would be less powerful. Foreign policy officials, ambassadors and diplomats are hardly going to bat internationally for Scottish interests – they’re obeying the orders of ministers in Westminster. Technically, Scotland could join the Nuclear Club if it retained the military assets it hosts, though there is plenty of international precedence for an “aid for disarmament” deal, which is more likely.
What Labour can’t quite get over is the fear that, without Scotland, Britain will never return a Labour government. It’s a valid concern but we must get over it. People will vote for Labour governments if the party does its job properly and if we think the people of England are beyond persuading, we have no business standing for election.
What we have to remember is that we are the people’s party and that Great Britain is a nation founded by murderous monarchs absent of regard for the people in the lands they traded like playing cards. As a new innovation, a party of ordinary people standing for the common man and woman, we simply must accept the principle that people should decide how they are governed.
Yes, the SNP would happily have a referendum every year until the year the people chose to be independent and never again hold another. But they are not democrats, they are politicians. Politicians are no more the guardians of democracy than capitalists are the guardians of markets. They are the principle beneficiaries of democracy and therefore the prime suspects whenever it is subverted.
But while have to accept the Scots’ right to determine their own destiny, they must accept that we too are affected by that decision.
We paid for Scotland fair and square, not least by paying off the debts incurred though their abortive attempt at forming an empire. If Scotland did become independent, it may be legitimate to ask for our money back, and I’d be interested to know what that might come to.
But this is peripheral, just as is any discussion of the date on which a referendum may be legitimate or illegitimate. It’s absurd to say that the “markets” are nervous about the future of Scotland. No-one is worried. In or out of Britain, it will be fine. It’s not as though they’re going to propose border controls and trade tariffs. There are no retailers holding back investment in new checkout tills in case the currency changes.
Whatever dates chosen for the referendum, it will be legitimate because the people of Scotland, not Alec Salmond, will tell us what they want. The quickest way to build support for an independence movement in Scotland is to tell the Scottish people that their voice is only legitimate on days designated in Westminster.
The truth is the the Union never could quite get to grips with democracy. Issues like the West Lothian question and local government funding formulae always grated a bit and the further issue of Scottish MPs voting on English-only laws also seemed a pretty obvious fudge.
We just have to accept that being English doesn’t give us the right to dominate our neighbours eternally, and if we do then, maybe not in 2014 but eventually, our constituent nations will break away.
For all the fuss over Scottish independence, I haven’t heard one defence of the union articulated in terms of democracy. If Britain were a federation of independent, sovereign states, who would be harmed? If those states delegated powers to a federal government as suitable, rather than the other way around, would that feed nationalism in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales or would it snuff it out?
Whether in 2013 or 2014 I don’t think the Scots will vote to leave the UK, though this ridiculous obsession to set the date could change that. But if we don’t form a new relationship built on democracy and fraternity rather than imperialist superiority, the union will break up as soon as the advantages for our vassal states are easily quantified.
And for heaven’s sake don’t task a politician with sorting it out. What do they know about democracy?