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