Today, David Cameron and Alex Salmond meet to decide the terms of the independence referendum. Naturally, they wouldn’t be meeting to “decide” if all the actual decisions hadn’t been worked out already by Michael Moore and Nicola Sturgeon and others, with their civil servants.
The BBC’s “news” report on the meeting that will take place is a fair sample of the “it is expected” style of thing:
It is expected to allow for a vote in autumn 2014 with a single Yes/No question on Scotland leaving the UK.
The deal will also see 16- and 17-year-olds included in the ballot.
The UK government is expected to grant limited powers for the Scottish Parliament to hold a legal referendum, under a mechanism called Section 30.
The Electoral Commission will play a key role advising on the wording of the question and other issues such as campaign finance.
A possible second question on greater powers has been dropped, while the Scottish government looks to have secured its preferred date.
What is the best way to achieve social justice in Scotland?
As I sat in the basement studio of the Augustine United Church – we were in the middle of the workshop on Fair taxation and a strong economy – I heard the March for Independence go by.
One of the things I found myself saying more than once yesterday at A Just Scotland was that each side in the independence debate manages to convince me of the rightness of the other side.
Except, actually, during the debate that ended the day, between Kezia Dugdale and Ewan Hunter, who were meant to be arguing for Better Together and for Yes Scotland respectively, but in the end settled down to the usual Labour / SNP slanging match with more sensible contributions from the audience than from the debaters. What both Dugdale and Hunter convinced me is that I want to go a different direction from either of them.
There are many sensible arguments to be made for and against Scottish independence.
It is depressing that so much time has been spent on a non-argument: Scottish membership in the European Union.
If Scotland were to become independent, the rUK would still be a EU nation, and Scotland would have to apply for EU membership, UN recognition, and would have to ratify the various international charters, treaties, and laws. None of this would be automatic, but none of this would be difficult to accomplish.
From the conclusions of the Presidency, Copenhagen 21-22 June 1993 – the Copenhagen criteria:
The European Council today agreed that the associated countries in Central and Eastern Europe that so desire shall become members of the European Union. Accession will take place as soon as an associated country is able to assume the obligations of membership by satisfying the economic and political conditions required.
The BBC just works. We all pay our licence fee: in return we get TV without breaks for adverts: TV that pushes all the other TV companies in the UK to a higher standard.
If Scotland votes Yes in 2014 we may have cause to worry about Alex Salmond’s close relationship with the Murdochs and the plans News International may have for abolishing the BBC in an independent Scotland.
There is no reason to suppose we would have to lose the BBC. Indeed, as Jennifer Dempsie pointed out in March, the direct revenue from the licence fee to programmes made in Scotland at what I suppose we would then call the SBC, would actually go up.
Ian Smart is personally convinced that as the polls show no sign that the SNP have a hope of winning the referendum in 2014, there will be no referendum. Yesterday he added a post which he was referring to on Twitter as “Shock and Awe” about how the “Better Together” campaign will push their argument.
Well, here I propose to let them inside the briefing room. I expect the same “shocked and outraged” response from my SNP readers as some more naive Democrats expressed about Rove. But, while maybe not quite in the Axelrod and Plouffe class, the people around Eck are more street wise. They’ve already wargamed this and realise that they do not have the counter arguments. That’s why they are desperately trying to avoid having a Referendum at all. The good news is that the Tories are apparently coming round to imposing it upon them.
(For my own thinking about this, see
Yesterday the Sunday Herald ran a story about Alex Salmond which they attempted to dress up as a negative story, but which is actually pretty nice.
In autumn 2014, Scotland will vote on independence. Obviously, the SNP want to win. But realistically, the leaders of the party can read polling data as well as you or I: they know a majority yes for independence is not a likely outcome in 2014.
The SNP have said, ever since 2007, that they would have a referendum on independence only after they had won two elections.
In 2007 and 2011 they won, and so they have a democratic mandate and an obligation to hold a referendum. But they won both elections because of unexpected circumstances.
“Constitutional recognition of the role and principles of local government”
Scotland has about 5.2 million people spread across 78,782 square kilometers – and 1,222 elected councillors.
From the Jimmy Reid Foundation:
It is time we fully recognised the state of democracy in Scotland. Below the national level, Scotland is the least democratic country in the European Union; some have argued that it is the least democratic country in the developed world. We elect fewer people to make our decisions than anyone else and fewer people turn out to vote in those elections than anyone else. We have much bigger local councils that anyone else, representing many more people and vastly more land area than anyone else, even other countries with low density of population. In France one in 125 people is an elected community politicians. In Austria, one in 200. In Germany one in 400. In Finland one in 500. In Scotland it is one in 4,270 (even England manages one in 2,860). In Norway one in 81 people stand for election in their community. In Finland one in 140. In Sweden one in 145. In Scotland one in 2,071. In Norway 5.5 people contest each seat. In Sweden 4.4 people. In Finland 3.7 people. In Scotland 2.1. In every single indicator we were able to identify to show the health of local democracy, Scotland performs worst of any comparator we could find. (The Silent Crisis: Failure and Revival in Local Democracy in Scotland)
“Electoral Commission – independent, non-partisan body to oversee integrity of electoral process, and to ensure conformity with campaign finance legislation”
Today at the People’s Gathering, organised by the Electoral Reform Society, we were discussing how to get more people involved in politics – in voting turnout, but also in what goes on between elections.
This week I have been reading Greg Palast’s thoroughly unnerving book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. The first chapter deals with how the Florida Presidential election was stolen: tens of thousands of voters banned from the electoral rolls, tens of thousands of votes not counted, the net result to give Jeb Bush’s older brother the Presidency even though Al Gore had actually won the election.
Now, of course, the US uses electronic voting machines, so everything’s all right then.
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
“Guaranteed rights based on European Convention”
I love the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a religious person might love Scripture.
Drafted in 1948, sixty-four years old on 10th December this year, it is still a radical and inspirational document.
I find the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms less inspirational and less radical, even though it’s not even 5 years younger.
1. There is no democratic mandate for a referendum for anything but independence.
The SNP said in 2007 that they would hold a referendum on independence for Scotland after they’d won two elections. They won in 2007 and in 2011, so they have a clear democratic mandate to hold a referendum on independence in this term of the Scottish Parliament, and the Scottish government has a right to set the date for the referendum.
There is no democratic mandate for a referendum on devo-plus or devo-max. This wasn’t part of anyone’s manifesto or pre-election statements.
2. There is no clear definition of devo-plus or devo-max.