Tuesday, October 25, 2011

That strange SNP logic where Independence will win even if it comes second

Over the years I've become accustomed to the fact that the SNP have trouble counting. Any analysis of any of their spending commitments at any election has shown a gaping hole somewhere. I think the funniest thing was them accounting for £250 million of savings for the Forth Bridge, which hasn't even been built yet in their most recent manifesto.

These are big numbers, though. I kind of gave them credit for being able to work out which was the most popular between three options using numbers between 1 and 100. 

How wrong I was.

Thanks to some investigation by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, it transpires that we are in danger of getting independence anyway, even if most people choose what will effectively be the home rule option. It's not like in 1997, where the second question, on tax raising powers is a subset of the first - you can't have tax raising powers without a parliament. This time round, independence, devo max and the status quo are all separate options. Willie asked what would happen if both options had over 50%. Well, it transpires, that if the independence vote went 51-49 and the devo max went 99-1, both in favour, that independence would win.

In what universe does that mean that the biggest mandate for independence? A vote for Devo Max is effectively a vote to remain in the UK, which is contradictory to independence. If both questions are won, surely the option with the biggest vote is the one which should prevail? 

Regular readers will know that I have always been extremely relaxed about the idea of a referendum on independence and I was annoyed by the position we took in 2007. I'm also not wildly bothered about process stories, much preferring to discuss the detail and the ideas. However, I have to make an exception in this case - Willie was right to highlight this as an example of the SNP's "astonishing disregard for democracy". 

He called their position "election jiggery pokery". One thing about Willie is he's bringing good words of our childhoods back into use. It'll be crikey and crivens next, no doubt.

What we need out of this referendum is certainty one way or the other. What we don't need is the settled will of the Scottish people being disregarded in favour of the only outcome that's palatable to hardened SNP activists.

The way the SNP is planning to do this could lead to a disputed outcome which in turn could make things very, very tense. Now, I want to see home rule, or devo max, or whatever you want to call it as an option - but I also want to be sure that the SNP will back the clearly expressed will of the people. If more people back devo max than independence, then that is what should be implemented. No ifs, buts or maybes.

For the last few years, the SNP have talked of independence only in whispers. In the run up to this year's election, they barely talked about it at all. And when Mike Moore and Willie Rennie try to get details about their plans out of them, they tell us to wait and all will be revealed in good time. Then they go to Inverness for four days and literally talk about nothing else. They're clearly in a euphoric, blissful bubble after their first get together since what was admittedly a very clever campaign and historic victory. They will soon lose the confidence of the Scottish people, though, if they carry on like this. A huge majority in favour of devo max gives a mandate for that and no further.

Willie's had some good coverage in the press today -  as well as the Scotsman, there's the Record, the Telegraph and the P and J, which aren't online yet. 


Anonymous said...

So Caron, can we assume them that the LibDems (both North and South of the border) are going to pick up the DevoMax baton and campaign for a just and democratic DevoMax option in the referendum?

Also, "astonishing disregard for democracy" - given that DevoMax is currently considered the most popular and likely outcome in a referendum, surely the SNP should be commended for offering the electorate a democratic choice? Something the UK parties want to deny by running the referendum themselves... without the DevoMax option.

The SNP have offered DevoMax to the Unionist parties for themselves, to campaign for and to be involved in defining the question. They might be hedging their bets, but denying democracy surely cant be the charge?

Unknown said...

Well, I'll be campaigning for Devo Max and expect a lot of Lib Dems to be too.

And it's only a democratic choice if they listen to the people.

If they disregard a very clear mandate for devo max, that would be incredibly serious.

And as for the UK parties wanting to run the referendum from Westminster - well, I really don't agree with that. It would be completely counter-productive. This has to come from within Scotland - but we need to have confidence in the SNP implementing the will of the Scottish people.

Anonymous said...

In your example, of the 99 who voted for devo max, 51 almost certainly also voted for independence. In that case the numbers break down like this:

1% wants the status quo, things are fine thanks very much.

51% want independence, but will also settle for devo max.

48% want devo max but NOT independence.

Which option should win?

Anonymous said...

By the way, I really, really hope the Lib dems campaign for devo max, I would very much like them to grasp the challenge and start defining a good liberal democratic vision for Scotland's future, that is short of independence, but that still brings power closer to the people fo Scotland.

By playing affronted over details then we risk leaving the third option unchampioned, and that makes independence more likely not less.

Malcolm said...

Wouldn't the obvious solution be for voters to rank the options? Therefore pro independence people would put Independence 1, Devo max 2 and status quo 3, for example.

Stuart Smith said...

Sorry Caron but this Lib Dem will not be campaigning for a multi-option question in any referendum.

The multi-option will lead to just the confusion your article refers to.

The only choice for any referendum on any subject to be held anywhere in the UK is a single question one.

In Scotland that has to be: "Do you wish Scotland to remain an integral part of the UK? Yes/No".

Angus McLellan said...

It's not enough that you or other Lib Dem activists support Devomax. Your leadership - or if not yours, someone else's - needs to define it, and to explain how it will be delivered, and finally to vote for it when the referendum bill comes before the parliament.

"Listening to the people" is a catchy line, but the reality is that Westminster is the only place that can implement Devomax. Unless we hear convincing assurances from Dave, Ed and Nick that they would implement whatever Devomax is agreed to mean, there's absolutely no point in putting it on a ballot paper.

Bob said...

Caron you said..

"And when Mike Moore and Willie Rennie try to get details about their plans out of them, they tell us to wait and all will be revealed in good time"

What part of 'the 2nd half of the parliamentary session' don't you guys understand ?
If the referendum debate and vote was brought forward then you would probably moan about that as well. Asking why it was brought forward when we claimed it was to be in the latter part of the parliamentary session lol


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