Monthly Archives: January 2013

Players, referees and the yellow card.

“Should Scotland be an independent country?” At last we know the question that will adorn the ballot paper for the biggest question the nation has ever considered. This week, the Electoral Commission presented its conclusions to the Scottish Government and the issues of the question and campaign funding of the independence referendum were settled. The Scottish Government accepted all of the recommendations of the Electoral Commission without hesitation and I think everyone on the “Yes” side are happy with the arrangements for the referendum.

In accepting the recommendations of the Electoral Commission it does make the almost incessant whingeing of the “No” campaign look a bit stupid. For the last few months they’ve done nothing but lecture us on how we “must” accept all of the Electoral Commissions recommendations when we never said that we wouldn’t. They’ve organised petitions and have told us we can’t be the “player and the referee”, etc, etc.

Well, in this metaphorical football game the “No” side has received the yellow card and the boot is now securely on the other foot. Part of the Electoral Commission’s recommendations was that the UK and Scottish Government get round the table to discuss the way forward for the referendum. They also said that the public should have a clear impression of what the “Yes” and “No” sides are offering. Well, from the “Yes” side, there will be a prospectus delivered in the autumn that will offer the most comprehensive glimpse of what an independent nation will look like that has ever been delivered to a nation considering its own sovereignty. The challenge is for the “No” side to tell the Scottish people what they will secure for their future if they remain within the UK. So far all they’ve been prepared to do is to try and frighten the Scottish people away from independence with fanciful and invented scare stories. That will no longer do. The referee has blown his whistle and the “No” side better get on to the training ground.

But where do they start? How about with ten more years of UK austerity? Maybe further depriving our poorest and most vulnerable of more of their financial support? Maybe they could endear themselves with a multi-billion refit of weapons of mass destruction.

No wonder they don’t want to spell out a future with a UK that is almost relaxed about its continual decline.  But the big game is coming and the crowd are expectant. So come on “No”, what do we get when the whistle’s blown?


Goodnight Westminster

So that’s Westminster’s role in Scotland’s referendum at an end, and I’m sure that anyone who watched the 6 hour marathon debate on the Section 30 order will breathe a huge sigh of relief at that.

Westminster isn’t just opposed to independence, it loathes the very suggestion of it. Some of the comments from our unionist friends in the debate weren’t just political knock about, they verged on the contemptuous and bizarre.

The chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee actually went as far as to say that the referendum was timed to celebrate Scots slaughtering “large numbers of English people.” This is the same man that called the SNP “neo-fascist” and reduced this once proud committee to little more than an appendage of the No campaign.

The Deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party in his extraordinary contribution said that the Scottish Parliament “is not a democratic place in the conventional sense” but “is a dictatorship”. Now, I don’t know if this is the official view of the Labour party in Scotland but it seems that they have lost all respect for the democratic wishes of the Scottish people.

Most of these comments seem to be because we will not “confirm” to them that the Scottish Parliament will “accept unconditionally” the view of the Electoral Commission on the referendum. Indeed, they went as far as to suggest that the referendum should not be a matter for directly elected Members of Parliament, accountable to the public, but be exclusively a matter for an unelected body appointed to advise the Westminster Parliament.

No Parliament in the world would agree to such a ridiculous proposition and that includes the Westminster Parliament itself. Last year the UK Government rejected the advice of the Electoral Commission on local authority elections, the Minister responsible is even alleged to have told the Electoral Commission where they might wish to dispose of their question! The Electoral Commission themselves say that their role is to advise Government and it is for elected members to decide. That is what happens in a democracy.

We also don’t know what the Electoral Commission is going to say. Yes, we might agree with them, but to demand that we do so in advance would be a desertion of democratic responsibility.

But did this issue with the Electoral Commission deserve all the hyperbole and nonsense we heard from unionists in the debate? Westminster says it wants a role and wants to be listened to in the debate about the referendum. Well, it’s going to have to do better than this.  On current evidence all I can say is thank goodness it’s a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

To give but one example of the quality of Westminster’s contribution I will end with a quote from the (respected) Tory MP, Rory Stewart. He said “Independence will not cause the war between England and Scotland to start again. Those days of savagery, murder, pillage and rape – what we saw in Cumbria for 400 years – will not return”.

Indeed, and goodnight Westminster.


This is an article Pete wrote for the Scots Independent Newspaper