Saturday, 5 December 2009

Give Salmond his referendum. But insist on the right timing and the right question.

I’m afraid that I’m a day or two late on this, but it’s worth reading Alan Cochrane’s coruscating assessment of the SNP’s white paper on a separatist referendum. Alex Salmond hopes to introduce a confusing poll offering several options, one of which would be his favoured option of full independence. Neither of the three unionist parties is prepared to entertain any type of referendum in the foreseeable future, although Cochrane believes that the Lib Dems are most likely to be pliable.

I am entirely in agreement with the article’s thrust. It is a disingenuous document, with important omissions and its timing is spectacularly selfish. However, I don’t believe that unionists should dismiss a referendum out of hand. A poll, held as the economy begins to recover, could kill separatism stone dead for a generation. The key is ensuring that the question is clear, unambiguous and demands a definitive answer. 'Do you wish Scotland to remain within the United Kingdom?'. Yes or No.


Jeff said...

What a strange post.

What are these "important omissions" from the "disingenuous document", why is the timing "selfish".

On the other side of the coin, you say you want "the right timing" but don't say what it is save for "as the economy begins to recover" which, if you think about it, will probably be some time very close to Nov 30th when the SNP wants to hold a poll!

This seems to be a scattershot collection of accusations with very little analysis and backup.

The opposing parties can't say they don't want a referendum with a 'rigged question' when the question isn't even set yet.

Neither can they say it's at the wrong time when the SNP is flexible about the date.

As for your question, you do realise it's a Googlewhack (only 1 return on the search engine) meaning that no other person has suggested that particular question.

I wonder why...

Chekov said...


It is a very brief response to an article which I was commending. In order to pick up the allusions to 'omissions' and disingenuousness I'd recommend that you follow the link.

The right timing can be established going forward, and an important aspect of determining a suitable time will clearly be the economic situation. A referendum represents a distraction from hard graft on the economy at the moment.

The question hasn't been set, but the preferred form is beginning to emerge. A multi-option poll is likely to obscure the issue.

The question which I posed has the merit of absolute clarity and although the exact wording might be a 'Googlewhack' its sentiment almost certainly is not. Indeed I've read a very similar formulation on occasion on O'Neill's blog.

DougtheDug said...

Alan Cochrane is rarely coruscating and certainly isn't in the referenced article. Alan hates the SNP and his dislike clouds his judgment. The only columnist who hates them more is his wife Jenny Hjul who writes for the Times. Alan has got one or two things right. The Lib-Dems are susceptible to pressure and the rest of the parliament hates the idea of an independence referendum, though in terms of journalistic analysis that is similar to stating that bears crap in the woods.

Since you don't actually explain why the White Paper is disingenuous, what important information it omits and how this is a selfish time to release it, it would be useful if you could expand on these points with the understanding on the timing issue that a referendum was in the SNP's 2007 manifesto and there is only about 18 months of the current Parliament left to run.

However I think you will get what you want with a two option referendum.

The second option in the current White Paper is the Calman Commision and since its recommendations were agreed by the Labour, Conservative and Lib-Dem parties then even in the event of a Lib-Dem brokered hung parliament in Westminster I can't see the need for a referendum to implement the proposals as they are simply minor extensions of what is already in place and it hardly sets the heather on fire as an option to stop independence.

The third option of devo-max is an option that it is up to the unionist parties to provide. However when they got together in the tri-partite Calman Commission to produce the enhanced powers for a devolved Scotland anti-SNP, "independence killer", either to be implemented before any referendum or as the second option in a three option ballot paper all they could come up with was a dog's breakfast of airgun powers, speed limits and the bureaucratic nightmare of the, "assigned taxes", 10p in the pound variable rate income tax which in its operation just an extension of the current unused 3p in the pound variable rate.

To expect them to come up with a "devo-max" solution is wishful thinking when with time to think in Calman all that it proved was that the three unionist parties are paralyzed by fear when considering the granting of any significant powers to Scotland.

When there is a referendum it will be two option which is the SNP's preferred format anyway.

A much better wording for the question would be, “Do you want Scotland to be an independent country?” Yes or No.

Dewi Harries said...

Should there be another, separate, referendum on Calman then Chekov?

jlh said...

The first lines of the his article are going in my Microsoft Outlook Signature at work...

"It has been my misfortune, over decades as a seeker after truth and justice, to attend a great many pointless events."

Yes I read the article and I understand about whom he was talking; however, my middle school staff meetings and some of my 6th grade classes seem very similar to the SNP...

Chekov said...

Doug - we seem to be back to the ‘so and so doesn’t like us, so they’re view is not credible’ nonsense which seems to form a major plank of Cyber-Nat debate. It was a great favourite when Tom Gallagher’s book came out. If Cochrane loathes the SNP, it is probably grounded in very real objections to its policies and approach. He details some in this article. Which I have in turn alluded to. Try starting with the RBS / HBOS angle!

Although I realise that, in nationalists’ view, nothing has intervened between 2007 and the present day which diminishes the vital importance of advancing independence, and accompanying ethno-nat kitsch, most people seem to believe that the economic situation is rather more pressing. Consult the recent You Gov poll.

And no, Dewi, I don’t think it’s necessary to have a referendum on Calman.

DougtheDug said...

Since your answer to any questions about what's misleading and missing from the White paper and why its timing is selfish is to read Alan Cochrane's article so I went back and reread it.

Here's the facts he presents:

Alex Salmond has asked the other parties what options they would like to put on an independence referendum ballot paper apart from independence. Which sounds very reasonable to me but Alan thinks this is a big failing.

The timing of the referendum is not defined. But since this is a White Paper not a bill it's not surprising though Alan would like a date even before the Bill is written and presented to Parliament.

The SNP does not want to be in NATO like Sweden, Ireland and Switzerland. Not a bad thing now that NATO has turned into a supporter of the US mad ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan but Alan thinks opposition to nuclear weapons is bad.

Alan's got lots of opinions and he's even got the RBS/HBOS, "what if" scenario in there. What if an independent Scotland had to bail the banks out? It's just as reasonable to say what if the banks had been run by a competent government and financial regulator in an independent Scotland before the crash. Alan's "what if" is how would an independent Scotland have dealt with the banking disaster caused by UK regulatory agencies. It's a non-question.

No other country has crashed and burned as a result of the financial crisis and even Iceland is recovering and repaying the bank debts.

All the rest of the article is just his opinion filtered through his red tinted glasses.