Saturday, January 07, 2012

SNP get all hot and bothered over Nick Clegg saying independence is an extreme option

First of all, let's look at what Nick Clegg actually said when he came up to Scotland yesterday:

 “I would describe myself as a devolutionist, someone who believes in a strong Scotland, in a strong United Kingdom, but where Scotland increasingly takes on more and more of its own powers and responsibilities.
“All the evidence suggests that is the mainstream of opinion and the extremists are those who either think that we need to yank Scotland out of the United Kingdom tomorrow, or those who say there should be no further change at all,” Mr Clegg said.“Well, I don’t agree with either of those two extremes.
“I and my party are very much situated in the centre ground of Scottish public opinion, which says let’s retain the strengths of being part of the United Kingdom because we are stronger together and weaker apart in a very uncertain world.
“But, within that, give Scotland more and more authority and power to do its own thing.”
It all sounds pretty reasonable to me.

You see, tearing apart the UK is not just something simple that can be achieved in a few seconds, like pulling off a sticking plaster. I'm not saying that it can't be done, but the SNP are strong on rhetoric but light on the detail.  And if you look at the options available for Scotland's future governance, there is no arguing that independence is not one of the extremes. I mean, you can't actually go beyond it, can you?

It's so much easier for the lazy SNP press officer to jump up in horror and complain that the nasty great unionist oppressor is calling them names than it is to actually explain how an independent Scotland would work, and be achieved. I mean how exactly do you divvy up the pensions system, the benefits system and set up new equivalents in Scotland? How do you police Scotland's new border? What about defence? We all remember Inverclyde SNP candidate Anne McLaughlin not having the first clue about how many air bases an independent Scotland would have.

The fact that the SNP have had literally decades to work this stuff out and aren't sharing the results of their deliberations with us does not bode well for the future.

David Torrance recently reminded us in Total Politics magazine how the SNP barely talked about independence in the run up to both 2007 and last year's election to avoid scaring the voters. Since winning their majority in May, of course, they've talked of little else. They've done it by picking fights with Westminster at every opportunity, but haven't included that many facts in with their rhetoric.

Trying to pretend that independence is just an option we can casually ease ourselves in to is absolute mince. They want the voters to think that splitting up the UK is just a walk in the park.

The SNP think that they can win the referendum by a mixture of sparkly optimism,  playing the victim, blaming Westminster for everything. It's in their interests to keep the focus off the detail. And having a go at Nick Clegg is a good way of going about it.

It's also a good way of deflecting attention from the real reason for Nick's visit - to promote the UK Government's Youth Contract. Willie Rennie has been trying ever since it was announced to get the SNP to say they'll support it and they've been, guess what, pretty evasive.

Willie said yesterday:

“The Youth Contract is a great example of how the Coalition Government is working to help Scottish young people at this tough time for the economy.
“Recent figures have shown that youth unemployment is rising faster in Scotland than across the rest of the UK so the Scottish Government should embrace the youth contract as a way to reverse this worrying trend.
“Today’s young people are the next generation of taxpayers that will help get the economy back on firm ground. We need measures that help them to get up and get on and the Youth Contract is a vital part of this process.
“The Youth Contract is the right policy at the right time and I’m pleased Nick Clegg could come to help promote it today.”
Having said all of the above, I actually do think that who says something can be as important as what they say. By having Nick use the "extremist" line, however right it is, it gives that lazy SNP press officer a shot at goal. Nick should maybe have talked up the possibility, touted before Christmas, of enabling legislation to clear up any doubt about the referendum result, something that if it happens will come from a Liberal Democrat Secretary of State. He could have concentrated on all the things the UK Government are doing to benefit Scotland. He should have concentrated more on us not being a unionist party.

There's no doubt that independence is an extreme option, and that line needs to get out, but I think it would have been better if Willie, not Nick, had said it. The SNP wouldn't have had the same possibility for comeback and as it is they have successfully managed to detract a little from Nick's visit.

UK Ministers have every right to talk about Scottish matters and express their concerns about independence. They need to have a wee think about the wisest and most effective way to get those messages out, though.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good try Caron but we can all see the deliberate use of language in a petty and vain attempt to smear the SNP.

It's a bit rich of Clegg to question whether the SNP is sticking to its principles in the same breath as betraying the fact that he is a Devolutionist rather than a Federalist. Or is Devolution and Federalism the same thing in the LibDem speak now?

Maybe he is finally admitting that Unionism, Federalism and Devolutionism are simply differing degrees of the same centralist creed. The decisions about who gets to make what decisions are made in London - just as they always were.

Munguin said...

Caron: the SNP cannot give you the minutia of independence up front like that.

Even if they have had decades to think about it. The reality of any split will involve negotiation and then a period of taking stock. So asking for exact details, up front, of how much pension pot we will have and how many bases and so on is frankly ridiculous. I think that you, Nick Clegg, David Cameron and the rest of the Unionists know that perfectly well.

Why do you bother? You have already lost the argument. The Lib Dems in particular have not only lost the argument, they have lost all their MSPs, their deposits, their principles, their support, the plot and soon to be all their councillors as well!

Your shrill demands for exact details are unreasonable and you all know it. There is no magic formula for splitting a country up and becoming independent.

Dubbieside said...

So Caron, how many of us extremists voted for the SNP in May?

Do you think that someone whos written pledges mean nothing to him if there is a ministerial Mondeo in sight should be slagging people off as extremists.

Maybe it is something the Scottish MSPs can discuss when they next share a taxi to get to Holyrood.

You must be glad that your unionist party only has five MSPs, you would not want to have to rely on extremists to vote for you.

P.S. Liked the quote from Willie Rennie "Willie said nothing important as usual"

tris said...

Questions if I may:

Has the Liberal Democrat party become a devolutionist, rather than a federalist, party?

And if so does this have anything to do with Cameron?

Does this explain Mr Moore's refusal to make a more federalist bash of the changes to the Scotland Act.

Clearly, a federalist policy would put Scotland and England on equal terms; has Mr Cameron made it clear that he will never allow this?

Why do you use language like "tearing apart"? The SNP has no desire to tear anything apart. Just to be independent, instead of dependent. Surely that's not an unreasonable aspiration for a country?

Why did you say that the SNP press officer was lazy? Do you know that he or she is?

tris said...

I'm sorry, I should also have asked:

Have you ever heard Alex Salmond or any member of the government refer to England or to the UK as "the great oppressor"?

Dubbieside said...

Caron

The lazy SNP press officer. Oh dear! he actually reported what Clegg said how lazy and inconvenient.

Great oppressor! when was this said, which SNP minister said it?

Is this really how far the Lib Dems have sunk?

No ideas no clue and soon to have no, or at least very few councillors as well.

Fourfolksache said...

Absolute desperation! When are Unionists going to make the case for the Union? The SNP WILL make the detailed case in good time and as promised!!!Liberals, on the other hand have broken promises, their so called Secretary of state for Scotland occupies a role he said should be abolished, they ignore the findings of the Steele commission and set up yet another delaying tactic to review devolution! At least with the Tories you get consistency. Your Mp's ans MSP's should start looking for a career change!!!

Anonymous said...

Unionism is the extremist position. To say that Scotland's interests internationally ALWAYS coincide with those of England is an extreme position.

A less extreme position is to say that Scotland's national interest sometimes coincides with that of England and sometimes does not. Allowing Scotland to pursue its national interest in this way through independence is, by far, both the more moderate and liberal position.

Bellsmyre bobble hat said...

Hi Caron, just discovered your blog and I for one think it's ace. I really strongly believe in freedom and equal rights. My new year resolution is to become a better person and help others, so I'm going to join the Liberal Democrats if they have an office near me.

cynicalHighlander said...

The anti-Independence party calling others people extremist when they are up to their armpits in sleaze themselves. No wonder Clegg and co have to try and divert attention from their own dismal failings in freedom and equal rights for all.

cynicalHighlander said...

Nick has his work cut out.

Saving the Union

He might need to temper his language here.

Ireland faces crucial choice in its UK policy

Dubbieside said...

Looks like the Clegg glove puppet was doing his masters bidding when he was in Scotland giving us his wisdom yesterday

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2083665/You-quit-UK-approval-David-Cameron-warns-Scots-First-Minister-Alex-Salmond-pushes-referendum.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

Part of the article,

"The row was taking shape yesterday as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg branded Scottish Nationalist leader Mr Salmond an ‘extremist’ for trying to ‘yank Scotland out of the UK’ against the wishes of most Scots."

Will he ever get off his knees?

Anonymous said...

Today we are reminded that the Liberal Democrats took 2.5 million pounds of stolen money and refused to hand it back.

The LibDem answer seems to be "we took it in Good Faith even though the legality of the donation, even if it was his money to give, seems questionable"

Given that, I would think the LibDems should be showing a little humility

just a bit

no?

Caron said...

Anonymous, we made mistakes over tuition fees, certainly, but the bottom line is that poorer students will be paying something like £74 a month less under new system than under the one Labour introduced. If you think for a moment that the Tories would have bothered about poorer students if they were governing alone, then you are wrong.

I think when Nick talks about devolutionism, he's talking about giving power away. SNP and Labour and to a certain extent the Tories want to centralise everything in Edinburgh. We want to have decisions made at lowest possible level.

Smear the SNP - by talking about their rather drastic raison d'etre? Hardly.

Munguin, I'm not so sure people will want to take a huge leap into the dark just for the pleasure of being wholly governed from Edinburgh. It's a drastic solution. The union isn't perfect as it is, but independence is the sledgehammer to crack the nut option. What's wrong with giving Scotland full power over its home affairs and being part of a federal UK for the things it's sensible to run at that level?

Yes, we took a battering last May, but we're still there with a dynamic, energetic and likeable leader who has clearly made life uncomfortable for Alex Salmond on several occasions and will continue to do so.

Dubbieside, do you really think that the SNP's electoral success in May was down to people voting for independence? It was more down to Salmond being likeable, their ministers being reasonably competent while Labour were a mess and we had our own problems. It was not a "get us out of the UK" vote.

Caron said...

Tris

Has the Liberal Democrat party become a devolutionist, rather than a federalist, party?

No. But devolutionist signifies giving power away from Edinburgh as well as from London.

And if so does this have anything to do with Cameron?

Don't be ridiculous. He doesn't make our policies, our members do.

Does this explain Mr Moore's refusal to make a more federalist bash of the changes to the Scotland Act.

The Scotland Act was based on the consensus reached by the Calman Commission. Mike has always said that it's a step in the devolution process not an end.

Clearly, a federalist policy would put Scotland and England on equal terms; has Mr Cameron made it clear that he will never allow this?

What's that got to do with anything? We know the Tories didn't really want to implement Calman. The Lib Dems insisted on the Scotland Bill as part of the Coalition Agreement.

Why do you use language like "tearing apart"? The SNP has no desire to tear anything apart. Just to be independent, instead of dependent. Surely that's not an unreasonable aspiration for a country?

Well,some, maybe most, people are happy being part of the UK and don't think that independence is the best option for Scotland. We'll see when the referendum happens and clearly. Whatever the people decide must then happen and everyone will just have to accept it, whatever their own feelings.

If Scotland votes against independence, will you accept the result? I certainly will if it votes in favour.

Why did you say that the SNP press officer was lazy? Do you know that he or she is?

Much easier to have a go at Nick Clegg than it is to make a compelling argument for independence.

Caron said...

Anonymous, how can not wanting Scotland to be independent be extreme? I don't get that at all.

Tris, re great oppressor, the SNP have a massive chip on their shoulder about Westminster. Every bad thing that ever happens is blamed on Westminster. I was surprised that the recent high winds weren't blamed on David Cameron burping by the SNP:-).

The general narrative is that "we would have succeeded if it hadn't been for these pesky UK ministers" and that's just not healthy. We saw this from the way Salmond openly attacked the Supreme Court, showing more concern about picking a fight with the UK than actually on where our justice system had been found lacking on human rights grounds. To me, that was absolutely mortifiying, to think that we didn't comply with ECHR.

CH and all the rest of you who brought up Michael Brown, every investigation held in to the Federal Party's acceptance of that donation has shown that no wrongdoing was done on our part.

Bellsmyre Bobble Hat, that's very nice to here. E-mail me if you want more info and I'll put you in touch with people.

Dubbieside said...

Dubbieside, do you really think that the SNP's electoral success in May was down to people voting for independence? It was more down to Salmond being likeable, their ministers being reasonably competent while Labour were a mess and we had our own problems. It was not a "get us out of the UK" vote.

Caron

Let me tell you what May was it was a triumph for the SNP against a totally useless opposition. It was a vote for a positive party who did not abandon their principles for a ministerial Mondeo.

You know for sure that May was not a get out of the UK vote do you? That will be against everything your leader at the time, since chucked out for being useless, said. How often in the run up to the independence campaign did Tavish say a vote for the SNP is a vote for independence. Go and look at the STV leaders debate if your oh so selective memory has failed once again.

That will also be the reason that your party always voted to stop the right of the people of Scotland a vote on independence. A vote was a distraction in April, it was needed as soon as possible in May! Why? did something happen in May to make the Lid Bums change their mind.

P.S. If you think betraying your principles and being dishonest with the electorate was a problem and not deliberate deception then the Lib Dems are in even worse self inflicted trouble than we thought they were.

P.S. May was down to Salmond being electable the others, you can not be serious.

Caron said...

Dubbieside, first of all, Tavish resigned. There was no question of him being chucked.

The point he was making was that if you were in favour of independence, you could vote SNP, not that everyone who did vote SNP was in favour of independence.

Our first go at UK Government in 80 years has coincided with the worst economic situation in 80 years. And we're in coalition so that means that you can't deliver all of your policies because you didn't win the election. There were a fair few promises the SNP made in 2007 that they couldn't deliver on, so they should understand our situation.

Munguin said...

Caron: casting a glance over you blog and its comments one is reminded of the Scotsman where despite its very best pro-Union efforts almost all the comments are antipathetic to the story and its writer. Putting them in what must seem like a never ending minority of one! Where are the legions of Scottish Lib Dems and the supporters of that oh so popular Willie Rennie, that should be leaping in to congratulate you on an excellent piece, well written and how oh so right. Instead, all you seem to get is 100% people who think you are totally wrong. Why is it so impossible to persuade you despite all the evidence to join us on the side of the moral, de facto and de jure majority?

Dubbieside said...

Ok Caron

Would that be the promises that were voted down by the three unionist partys?

Or maybe it was the promises that would have been paid for from the £500ml toy tram set that the unionist forced through parliament.

Do not even try to connect written pledges of no tuition fees with any manifesto pledges the SNP did not achieve. That was probably the biggest deception in an election ever, and the Lib Dums will pay the price for that for a great many years. How many deposits did you loss in May? How many councillors will it cost you this May?

Trying to rewrite history again Caron. The point that Tavish made time and again was "a vote for the SNP in May is a vote for independence" That is what he actually said, any other attempt at an explanation is just spin.

"but we're still there with a dynamic, energetic and likeable leader who has clearly made life uncomfortable for Alex Salmond on several occasions and will continue to do so"

That is so pathetic it goes beyond comedy. All five are still there, but Rennie would not be dynamic if he were plugged into the mains. Anaemic maybe but dynamic never.

Cameron not making the Libs decisions for them, that is even funnier than Rennie being dynamic.

Your first and last ever go at government.

P.S. You never got back to me with the list of jobs that the £3million that Moore brought back from Brazil arranged.

Gedguy said...

Caron,

"Willie Rennie has been trying ever since it was announced to get the SNP to say they'll support it and they've been, guess what, pretty evasive."

How many times did Alex Salmond, in the chamber, say YES to this? It what way is this 'evasive'?

"How do you police Scotland's new border?"

Oh dear. I was hoping for something better from a LibDem.

"What about defence?"

That's better. However, he has already answered that question, as you very well know.

"Anne McLaughlin not having the first clue about how many air bases an independent Scotland would have."

Very true, but the UK government hadn't told us which bases were going to shut. Until we know what the true figures of Scotland's wealth is we cannot make 'pie in the sky' announcements. That's political suicide and you know that.

"SNP barely talked about independence"

It's in the name.

"Trying to pretend that independence is just an option we can casually ease ourselves in to is absolute mince."

So true, but who in the SNP has said this?

"He could have concentrated on all the things the UK Government are doing to benefit Scotland."

Like taking our oil and gas revenues and giving us pocket money in return?

"UK Ministers have every right to talk about Scottish matters and express their concerns about independence"

Indeed they have and I would defend your right to be wrong, but what they don't have the right to do is to tell us what we should be doing. This is a matter solely for the Scottish people to decide or, do you not think that we have the right to determine our own destiny?

Apart from that it was a good article. I'll keep listening to what you have to say.

Anonymous said...

Caron

How is it not the moral thing to do to give the money, that you know to be stolen, back?

It was stolen.

You know this.

Give it back

What justification do y have for holding on to other people's money?

Gedguy said...

Anonymous,

There is another side to this; why haven't the police approached the LibDems to retrieve the money that was stolen?

tris said...

Oh btw, even the Daily Telegraph thinks that the new work scheme is reminiscent of Thatcher's YTS.

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