Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Mike Moore is right on a second referendum

I am really delighted to see that Secretary of State for Scotland Mike Moore has stated that there should be a second referendum on the terms of an independence settlement.

I'm not easily scared. Actually, scrap that, I'm terrified of anything a tiny fraction of my size that wriggles on the ground on its belly, and that's just for starters. My point on this, though, is that when Alex Salmond said that there wouldn't be a second referendum in the final tv debate a couple of days before the election, it shook me a bit.

I wrote about this at the time for The Steamie, (ok, the title of that post is not quite as prescient as I'd hoped it might be, but the main thrust of the article is, I think, valid) saying:
If you're going to vote yes, you'd have to trust the people who were doing the negotiating. But wouldn't an SNP who'd won an independence referendum be a bit ecstatic, like the verger doing cartwheels in the nave of Westminster Abbey after the Royal Wedding the other day? 
They'd surely be more inclined to agree to any cost for separating off the complex tax and national insurance databases and setting out own up, for example.  It's not just as simple as "see, you, bye." Who gets UK Government property in Scotland? How do we disentangle the Pensions system? Do we pay the current UK Government to keep paying them out and if so how much?
Surely whatever deal is made, there should be some brake on the SNP negotiators? If all that was required was for Holyrood to ratify the agreement, and there was an inbuilt SNP/Green majority, we could find ourselves in a situation that most of us don't want.
I don't know how things work in your house, but if we decide between us to buy something, I might well go off and do the research. But I would consider it a courteous thing to do to take the results of my research back to the others in the house and get their opinion before I made a final commitment. If I think it's that important to make sure everyone's on side when I'm buying a holiday or a washing machine, I darned well expect the Government to get my say so on a new constitutional settlement. Not to do so would be downright rude and would demonstrate enormous disrespect and arrogance for me and everyone else in Scotland.
It's really important to me that Scottish people get the say on the final deal. I'm hearing a bit too much "Och, it'll be fine" from the SNP and not much in the way of hard fact about the costs entailed and how an independent Scotland might work on a practical basis. They've had decades to refine their plans. Why can't we see them and look over them?

It seems to me that the new majority SNP are slightly ill at ease with the world at the moment. They're in a situation they didn't expect to be in, where the buck stops with them and nobody else. All we've had from them in the past few weeks is aggressive posturing and picking fights with Westminster - and very little, bar Nicola Sturgeon's efforts on care of the elderly yesterday, else.

I've found the language of the last few weeks overly aggressive and macho for my liking. And I really don't like it when I see Fiona Hyslop dismiss Mike Moore's ideas as "blethers", or Alex Salmond's office saying he's "wittering" or "irrelevant nonsense". This is not an appropriate way for members of one government to talk about members of another. It does kind of make you wonder what they'd be like at the UN.....

And when it came to Willie Rennie's and our MSPs' decision to back them on minimum alcohol pricing, many of them online have been shouting the odds, questioning our motivation and the one that made me bristle, on Lib Dem Voice yesterday, "I doubt you’ll get much credit for arriving at the correct answer only after your opinion had ceased to matter". That speaks to me of a bubble based mindset, one that's so concentrated on the parliamentary chamber that it doesn't see the benefit of an ally to help argue the case in the country. And I don't think that argument has yet been won amongst ordinary people. To be fair, Nicola Sturgeon was much more conciliatory. She and Willie Rennie will have different ways of expressing themselves and I think that's a good thing - and it might even lead to some of our good ideas being put into the legislation. Who knows? Worth a try, surely.

I do think there is a bit of unease and fearfulness within the SNP ranks - their members who comment online are often at their most aggressive at times like this. Maybe they've just had more of paradise than they can cope with.

I want to see an end to fractious language generally. The business of government and politics, which is all about people's lives in the end of the day, is a serious business that deserves passion, yes, but purposeful, reasoned debate. Whether it's the price of booze, or the constitutional future of our country, can we not have some dialogue that deals with the difficult issues in a respectful way? They don't come more calm and rational than Michael Moore. 

What I do want to see from our lot, though, is more advancement of how we want Scotland to evolve. If we spend all our time arguing about the Scotland Bill or independence, where's the space for getting our idea of good old fashioned home rule out there? We do need to talk about that and what it means in practice as our ultimate goal. I don't see much consensus on getting much more added to the Scotland Bill at the moment. Mike Moore's in a tough position - he knows fine that neither Labour nor Tories at Westminster want to cede any more powers, yet he faces an SNP majority which insists on them. There has to be space within that debate for us to articulate what we're aiming for in the future. 


Anonymous said...


The corrupt treaty of Union is illegal and we have never been asked if we want to be in it in the first place. The Scottish parliament of 1707 signed us up for the union (they were bribed, much as your quisling Moore is now, bought and sold for English Gold) and given the SNP majority, the only majority in the UK, they have the right to sign us out without even one referendum.

Moore has no mandate in Scotland, his party has been decimated and he is now behaving like a dictator.

Kev said...

If the mediochre (or ochre) Ms Hyslop thinks it's daft, it's either really, really daft, or sensible.

Note the dismissive nature of the nationalists about Mike Moore's comments. I reckon this is tactical, watch for more such comments as time goes by.

I know he's Secretary of State for Scotland, but I'm really now sure what prompted Mike to make the comments. He's right, for the reasons you mention, but he didn't even need to raise the point just now. It's a nationalist agenda item, a few years off, and the first referendum stands little choice of being passed anyway. Unless they propose "Independece Lite", of course, with the outsourced military and foreign service capability.

cynicalHighlander said...

Welcome to the new LibDesperation party who believe in going against the UN in there last ditch desperate attempt to defend the Disunited Kingdom.

An all-American Scottish nationalist on why the UK should split

Doug Daniel said...

"I am really delighted to see that Secretary of State for Scotland Mike Moore has stated that there should be a second referendum on the terms of an independence settlement."

You're delighted that Michael Moore thinks the Scottish people need to be given two chances to give the "right" answer? Because that's all this two referendums nonsense amounts to.

I think the langauge Alex Salmond used to describe Moore's comments probably reflects the irritation felt by those of us in the independence movement that are, quite frankly, getting sick and tired of the multitude of methods the unionists are coming up with to scupper the independence referendum.

Let's get this straight: the referendum will be in the latter half of this term, as promised by the SNP before the election. Before that referendum, the details of independence will have been thrashed out so that people know exactly what they're voting for (and what they're not voting for). If the people vote "Yes", then that's it - Scotland will become an independent nation. No ifs, no buts, no shenanigans to try and keep us in the union by any other name.

When I cast my vote in favour of independence, then I do not expect to be asked again, because I am not some idiot who needs to be asked multiple times just to be sure that I know what I want.

But hey, unionists can carry on with this weasely nonsense if they wish. All it's going to do is make the undecideds ask what exactly unionists are so scared of, and fail to find a decent answer. In the meantime, the SNP will get on with the business of dealing with the day's issues, safe in the knowledge that naval-gazing unionists are keeping the independence debate in the news for them.

Anonymous said...

The logic is mind-boggling.

This means that we should have a plebiscite on every international treaty the UK Government signs on the basis that we can't trust those negotiating to get the best deal possible.

It's called representative democracy - get over yourselves.

Imagine allowing the Scottish Government to negotiate on behalf of Scotland? Is that just too normal for Unionists to comprehend?

And as for the hysteria since the election. You ain't seen nothing yet - just wait until Luke Mitchell's lawyers take today's rejected case to the Supreme Court directly and his conviction is quashed on the basis that his human rights were not observed. Those who have been attacking the Scottish Government's stance are going to look extremely stupid - again.

Angus McLellan said...

The idea of two referendums isn't exactly new. So far as I can tell, it originated with Murkens, Jones & Keating, Scottish Independence: A Practical Guide. There is an interesting, if inevitably partisan, review of the book by Paul Henderson Scott in Scottish Affairs, no. 45. Since then it's been pushed ceaselessly by Hazell and others at the Constitution Unit at UCL. My view is that while it seems reasonable in theory, it is neither workable nor desirable in practice.

The first referendum is entirely conventional, so there's no need to discuss it in detail. Either you want negotiations to begin, in which case you vote yes, with the intention that independence is the result, or you vote no, with the oppposite result. With a hypothetical second referendum, there are problems to be overcome, problems which have not, so far as I can tell, been acknowledged let alone addressed.

Firstly, it is no simple matter to discern "the will of the people" from the result. It seems clear that a simple binary choice will not do. While it is beyond dispute what a yes vote signifies, the caster of a no vote may intend one of two distinct meanings. There is the no which means no, not indepedence, and then there is the no which means no, not independence on these terms. The "will" of the second sort of voter is not that the status quo be maintained, but that negotiations be resumed to address their - unknown and unknowable - concerns. Instead of bringing clarity and closure to the matter, a second referendum may achieve precisely the opposite result.

But this problem is not the end of things. I would expect negotiations on independence to be carried out in a responsible manner with the aim to reaching an amicable and equitable outcome. Regardless of whether it is the likely result, it is undoubtedly possible that the negotiating position of the UK government might be influenced by the knowledge that a further referendum will follow negotiations. The implications of such a scenario are uncertain, but my concern is that it would tend to make an amicable an equitable agreement agreement less likely. This does not seem to be a desirable outcome.

I could go on, but these two problems seem serious enough to be getting started with.

Douglas McLellan said...

The more road blocks we put in front of the Scottish people the more they are going to want to scramble over them.

At this rate all Alex Salmond need do is sit back at watch the unionist parties hand him a successful independence referendum.

Asking people about independence isn't about the package. Its about the idea. If there are nuances to that with things like currency & monarchy then that is for the pro-independence supporters to state. If the answer is yes then there is a mandate from the Scottish people for that package.

With the pronouncement yesterday about this and the Crown Estates I really do think that it would be easier to throw in the towel now and give Scotland its independence.

Not once have I heard Michael Moore say what is good about Scotland being part of the union and why Scotland should stay in the union. Its all be negative.

Doug Daniel said...

Douglas, you are without a doubt my favourite Lib Dem blogger, and that's not just because of your excellent forename. Why can't other supporters of the three unionist parties "get it" the way you so clearly do?

Douglas McLellan said...

Doug - I really dont know why the response to the SNP and independence is like this. It genuinely confuses me.

I look at the preamble of the Lib Dem Constitution that clearly states:

"We believe that sovereignty rests with the people and that authority in a democracy derives from the people. We therefore acknowledge their right to determine the form of government best suited to their needs..."

Why we were against the referendum being held from 2007-2016 (author Mr T Scott) I have no idea.

The two stage referendum would be an interesting idea if Scottish Independence was a new idea that hadn't been thought about for 80-odd years. Or had not been about a country with its own clear history for over a millennia. Then it might make sense about who gets to keep what. But the referendum isn't, really shouldn't be, about that. Its about what we have in our own constitution - sovereignty rests with the people and if they like the idea of independence they will only need to be asked once. Who gets the kettle, sofa and TV will be settled pretty much by negotiation, reference to international laws, inherent fairness and, on one or two items, the Courts.

But I still think that Minimum Alcohol Pricing is wrong, illiberal and will not have *any* positive effect at all. Doesnt even raise the price of Buckie!

cynicalHighlander said...

Even the Caly Merc has an interesting take Moore's stance.

Self-determination, except for viewers in Scotland

Indy said...

And once we have had the seoond referendunm maybe another one will be held to find out if we are really sure about it. Then maybe a fourth referendum, after a cooling off period, to find out if we are really really sure about it. Then a fifth referendum to be absolutely certain we have made our minds up. And so on.

There has never been a two-question referendum on independence in the history of the world Caron.

Doesn't that tell you something?

ratzo said...

Accepting there will be more than one referendum in respect of the conditions described entails the greater likelihood that there will in fact be more than two. On these grounds there could be any number, depending on the contingencies involved.

joseph swinson said...

"Why we were against the referendum being held from 2007-2016 (author Mr T Scott) I have no idea. "

Tavish Scott calculated at the time that the SNP winning a plurality in 2007 would be a short lived anomaly before going back to the normality of permanent Lab-lib coalitionism.

in other words, calcuated self-interest

Dan Falchikov said...

Sorry Caron don't agree. Douglas McLellen is right, it just seems like another barrier put up by Westminster to deny the Scots a voice.

Here's my effort: http://livingonwords.blogspot.com/2011/06/why-moore-is-wrong-on-two-scottish.html

David Evershed said...

The second referendum should be for the English, Welsh and Northern Irish to see if they want independence from Scotland.

The Union is not a one way arrangement for Scotland to break unilaterally. It is bilateral and needs both parties to agree.

After all, a referendum for England to split from Scotland would probably be carried by a large majority but should not be implemented without Scotland also having a majority to split from England.

Wicker said...

The Treaty of Union was perfectly legal, in terms of the law as it existed then. The Declaration of Arbroath was similarly the action of a few prominent people, with an eye to their own betterment.
We cannot review historical documents in terms of present-day standards.
As for an Independence Referendum, it is up to the SNP government to tell us what the costs might be, in terms of how UK assets should be split; how the various UK structures for tax and benefits should be split, and that split paid for (don't expect England to pay for it!), and so on.


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