This was first posted on Facebook on 22nd March 2021, with support from my Ko-Fi network.
(James Hamilton is not an immigrant, but I regret to say I couldn’t resist the quote.)
The question for the independent investigator, QC James Hamilton, who was Director of Public Prosecutions for the Republic of Ireland (1999-2011) and in 2010, President of the International Association of Prosecutors, and who has been the independent advisor to the Scottish Government on the Ministerial Code since 2013 (first appointed by Alex Salmond, re-appointed by Nicola Sturgeon in 2015):
“When Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament she had first learned about the complaints against Alex Salmond on Monday 2nd April, when in fact she was told about them on Thursday 29th March, was she knowingly misleading Parliament?”
To knowingly mislead Parliament is a resigning offence in the Ministerial Code, though when you look at the current Cabinet Ministers and Prime Minister at Westminster, you wouldn’t think so.
For the purpose of this blogpost, I’m going to suppose that I might be a Conservative Prime Minister.
By heritage and upbringing, I am a natural Labour voter: I’m a trade union member, my dad was a trade union member, his dad was a trade union member, and so on back to my great-grandfather: further than that family legend can’t tell me.
Further, since the Tories imposed the poll tax on Scotland, if not before, I’ve always been clear that I would not only never vote Tory, in FPTP elections I’d always vote for the even-slightly-leftier candidate with the best chance of beating the Tory.
So hold my hand: this is a big jump.
If you live in Scotland, you’re almost certainly registered to vote – practically everyone was in the referendum in September 2014, and if you haven’t changed addresses since then, you still are.
If you didn’t receive a polling card because you registered too close to the 20th April deadline, or for some other reason, you can still vote: find which is your local polling station from your local election office and just go there. You don’t need ID to vote, but if you don’t have a polling card it would be a wise precaution to take some proof of address/identity with you: a local polling officer may not know the regulations and it would be faster to provide your proof than to argue with them. (You shouldn’t have to argue with them and you probably won’t, even if you don’t have a polling card: please don’t go in with a confrontational attitude.)
If not for the rise of the SNP, Labour would be looking forward to five years in government, the Conservatives would be lagging behind Labour by 30+ MPs, and the LibDems would be looking forward to five years as the party that helps either Labour or the Tories form a majority government.
If not for the rise of the SNP, Labour would be comfortably the largest party in the House of Commons after 7th May instead of desperately trying to save what they can in Scotland, and the LibDems might be expecting to lose only half their seats, instead of a likely two-thirds.
Scotland decided: it’s a No, by a decisive 10% majority and a record-breaking 86% turnout. Scotland decided.
Yesterday morning, sitting waiting for a meeting to begin that had been unexpectedly delayed, we talked about the referendum: I had already voted, my colleague was planning to vote when she went home. She was planning to vote Yes, I had already voted No. She said, thoughtfully, “you make a very good case for No” (but I doubt if I changed her vote).
“It’s really a campaign of idealists against pragmatists,” she said, and I agreed: any proposal for independence, to win majority support in Scotland, will have to appeal to the pragmatic voter.
The highest turnout for a national election in Scotland in the past fifty years seems to have been the February 1974 General Election, where over 78% of registered voters voted.
The turnout for the devolution referendum in March 1979 was 63.72%: 51.62% of those voted Yes to a Scottish Assembly, 48.38% voted No, a majority for Yes of 3.24%. But, according to the terms of that referendum, set down in 1978, the Assembly had to get over 40% of the electorate – there were 3,747,112 registered voters, so they needed at least 267,908 more votes for Yes to be allowed to win. 1,359,540 people were registered to vote and didn’t – the turnout was 63.72%, with only 0.13% rejected ballots.
The UK General Election in May 1979 got a turnout of 76.84% – that is, 532,198 more registered voters turned out to vote three months later than in the Assembly referendum. To win an Assembly under the 40% rule, the campaign would have had to get a higher turnout than average for 70s General Elections, and maintain its 51.62% share of the vote.
Jim Sillars writes in an open letter:
Bear this in mind: Scotland is involved in a great debate conducted democratically. That means freedom of thought has to be matched by freedom of speech, and that right respected by all. Freedom of speech does give licence to abuse. It is a wise person who does not use it for that purpose. Don’t start to respond by saying the other side are at it too. They are not going to get media coverage. You are.
In every campaign there comes a tipping point. Those of us engaged intelligently in this campaign, yes intelligently, can only hope that your stupid contributions through personal abuse do not lend themselves to a tipping point towards a Yes defeat. Stop playing the game that suits only the No side.
In this letter Jim Sillars recalls incidents of “false friends” – undercover policemen who infiltrated the independence movement and encouraged young enthusiasts to commit crimes with a view to making Scottish independence look like a bad cause. He says bluntly:
In 1979, with only a very weak assembly on offer, MI5 and special branch were involved, as was the CIA – with the US Consul in Edinburgh coming from the CIA stable. That was for a weak assembly, do you think that they will not be more engaged now that independence is on the agenda? Has it ever crossed your mind that by conducting a campaign of abuse, which plays into the hands of the No media, you are opening the Yes side to a dirty tricks campaign?
(There is a response to this letter from within the Yes campaign here.)
Last night on Twitter the front cover of the Daily Telegraph was causing a great deal of uninformed stushie.
Clare Lally is a notable campaigner and a full-time carer: she has two daughters, one with severe disabilities, for whom she is the primary carer with her husband Derek. In 2010, she was voted Tesco Living’s “Mum of the Year” in 2010. She was interviewed by the BBC 2011 electoral campaign as part of the launch of Manifesto for Carers: she’s also a Carers Champion.
The Tories have produced a buzzfeed-style page for the indyref.
They take their assertion that Scots are better off by £1200 per year each in the UK than we would be if independent (their figures don’t make sense, but frankly the SNP’s arguments that we’d be better off by x amount per year each don’t make sense either) and they’ve done a series of images of the things that £1200 could buy.
Both sides have tried this argument, and both sides made a hash of it, because it is a frankly silly argument. The wealth of the UK is not a cake to be sliced up and everyone given a bit. Even if Scotland were to become actually independent in March 2016, or enter a devomax arrangement set up between the Tories and the SNP as planned in the White Paper, or remains part of the UK as at present, Scotland will still have a very few very rich people, a proportion of wealthy people, and a lot of people who are horrifyingly poor.
In less than four months, we’ll go to the polls to vote Yes or No to the question:
“Should Scotland be an independent country?”
And today, the campaign period for the referendum officially begins.
But as I pointed out a few weeks ago (and Simon Jenkins pointed out yesterday) the SNP are not offering independence: they want major decisions for Scotland’s governance to be made at Westminster/in London. (It’s all in the White Paper: haven’t you read it?)
When I published Leaning Towards No, I expected reaction from Yes voters who’d been hoping I would come down on their side of the fence.
I wasn’t expecting the reaction to be so supportive of the SNP. From the reactions, [hardly anyone]* who plans to vote Yes intends to challenge the SNP’s plans to install devomax “currency union” in place of our present devolved system, and while some actively support the plan, many simply don’t see changing the SNP’s policy as possible.
*Not quite “no one”, as I initially wrote.
It therefore seems likely that – much to my annoyance and disappointment – I really don’t have any choice but to vote No. I don’t support devomax. I never did. I won’t vote Yes to have devomax replace status-quo devolution, and that’s what the Scottish Government’s White Paper says is going to happen.
Let me go through the various objections I’ve received to this, beginning with the silliest. (None of these are direct quotes from anyone, so if you recognise yourself in them, it’s purely coincidental.)