The SNP are often asked to provide detailed plans for what to do after independence — which currency would Scotland use, would there be passport controls, would Scotland be a member of NATO, etc.
To a certain extent that is right and proper – the SNP is the main proponent of independence, so it reasonable to expect that this party will also be able to suggest some answers to these questions.
However, there’s a limit to it.
The day after Scotland votes Yes to independence, the unionist parties will have to stop working to prevent independence and start working to fight Scotland’s corner in the independence talks with the rUK.
Furthermore, the next elections to the Scottish Parliament are due in May 2016, roughly 18 months after the independence referendum. It is entirely possible that the SNP won’t win these elections, and it could therefore quite feasibly be a Labour politician who would be the first prime minister of an independent Scotland, and in this case it would be Labour and not the SNP that would be making many of the crucial decisions about NATO, the currency and the other crucial questions.
In short, I’d like the Unionists to acknowledge that they too need to have a vision about what an independent Scotland should look like, because they might be the ones who’ll have to implement it.
So now David Cameron is promising more powers after a No to Scottish Independence:
And let me say something else about devolution.
That doesn’t have to be the end of the road.
When the referendum on independence is over, I am open to looking at how the devolved settlement can be improved further.
And yes, that means considering what further powers could be devolved.
But that must be a question for after the referendum, when Scotland has made its choice about the fundamental question of independence.
Alex Massie sums up quite nicely how much the Tory position has changed recently.
However, I do think Cameron’s idea that the SNP have to spell out in minute detail what independence will mean while he only needs to put his thinking-hat on after a No vote is manifestly unfair.
If a No vote effectively is a vote for Devo-Max, then Cameron needs to say so clearly now.
Incidentally this would solve the big outstanding issue about the referendum, namely that the SNP would like to include Devo-Max on the ballot paper while Westminster want only two options. The solution is simple: Put the following two options on the ballot paper:
Of course, the Unionist parties would have to spell out Devo-Max in full detail before the referendum, but surely they’ll have time to do that before 2014.
I think there’s a tendency to ask the SNP to come up with solutions for all questions about how to split up England and Scotland.
However, if we think about the time after the Yes vote, I don’t expect all Scottish Unionists to commit collective harakiri.
What I do expect is that the vast majority of Unionist politicians will pick themselves up and start working to secure an independent Scotland the best possible deal.
To be concrete, I would expect all Scottish members of the UK government – Michael Moore, Danny Alexander, David Mundell etc. – to resign the next day. It’s possible that all Scottish MPs would resign, too, but I find it more likely they’d stay in place in order to help keep a tab on the UK government’s activities.
The next step will be the formation of an independence negotiation team. Of course the negotiations could in theory be handled by the SNP, but it would make better sense to make a united negotiation team with representatives from all the mainstream parties in Scotland, and consisting of not just MSPs but also MPs.
As part of the process of assembling the negotiation team, I expect a lively discussion on the way forward for Scotland. For instance, the other parties might challenge the SNP’s plan to leave NATO. This is what makes the current situation so annoying. Labour, the Tories and the LibDems keep criticising the SNP’s concrete post-independence policies, but they don’t have to tell us what they’d do instead; they just tell us they want to preserve the Union (which is fair enough, of course), but they don’t want to answer what it is they want to do if independence happens anyway.
Anyway, once the independence negotiation team has been formed and the negotiation mandate agreed on, things should proceed quickly. Certain questions need to be resolved before independence, but many other questions can probably be ironed out afterwards, so long as the interim position is clear.
If I haven’t blogged very much about the new UK government, it’s mainly because it’s so hard to blog about from a Scottish perspective.
Most of the interesting things they do don’t apply to Scotland, and you can only blog so much about their deficit reduction plan.
I’ve found two good articles about this.
The first one is by Iain Macwhirter:
[F]rom a Scottish perspective it’s hard to pass much of a judgment on the performance of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition so far because, in terms of domestic policy at least, it’s almost completely passed Scotland by. Of the many initiatives that have been launched by the coalition in its first 100 days, very few actually apply here, apart from the deficit reduction programme and that hasn’t been implemented yet.
The second one appeared in the Caledonian Mercury, and it describes well how radical the new government is in England:
England is embracing the free market, a smaller state and weaker local authorities and Scotland is sticking with what it’s got – comprehensive education, a totally state-run health service and powerful councils.
So, if all this is happening in England, where does this leave Scotland? The blunt answer is: in a mess. Scotland is going to get the cuts but without the reforms. It is going to see swathes of public servants thrown out of work but without anything new structurally to take their place.
Although it might not have been the coalition’s intention, I think it’s becoming abundantly clear why Scotland needs full independence, or at the very least full economic autonomy. The alternative is the abolishment of Scottish devolution, and that wouldn’t go down very well north of the border!
On Tuesday (16/1), it’s exactly 300 years since the Act of Union between Scotland and England was ratified (taking effect on 1st May).
This has of course prompted a lot of newspaper columns to be written about the likelihood of Scottish Independence and so on. Another related topic that was discussed in the Sunday Herald today was the West Lothian question. One aspect of this that I’ve never seen discussed but which I nevertheless find important is this:
When the Scottish parliament was created, the number of Scottish members of the British parliament in Westminster was reduced to reflect the fact that many Scottish questions were not to be decided in London any more. However, if the Tory idea of barring Scottish members from voting on questions affecting only England is adopted, this is entirely wrong. If the Scottish members are reduced to voting on very few topics (foreign policy and so on), surely they should be overrepresented on those topics to reflect that it’s a union, not a unitary country.
However, I’m not going to press this topic too much, since I’d prefer Scottish independence anyway. 🙂