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Sunday, 19 August 2012

To be or not to be – but what is the second question?

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, saw it clearly – or at least Will Shakespeare saw it clearly for him. “To be or not to be – that is the question.” Hamlet asked himself whether he wanted to live or die – to exist or not to exist.

I considered exploring this in more depth in relation to the referendum, only to quickly be faced with the blindingly obvious realisation that Shakespeare has an unparalleled understanding of human nature and the human condition and I don’t.

There was no second question for Hamlet. In some way I feel that fact is significant to Scotland’s choice in 2014, but without Will’s help I do not have the capacity to develop the concept.  This will regrettably be no barrier to those equally lacking in capacity but also seriously deficient in judgement who will latch on to the quote and take it further.

I can only shudder at what the Daily Mail, The Times, or Johann Lamont or Ian Davidson, or his partner in The Coalition against the Independence of Their Native Land (BetterTogether) Ruth Davidson might do with it. Perhaps that master of pompous – and vacuous -  neo-Churchillian cadences, William Hague might wrap his rhetorical gifts around the idea.

Iain Macwhirter had his own question today in the Sunday HeraldHas Salmond said yes to no second question?

While lacking the eternal nature of To be or not to be? this question has a catchy, journalesy feel to it, and is undoubtedly relevant. Well, has he, in private or otherwise? Here’s what that well-known figure, a spokesperson for the First Minister said today -

“We have always said that we have absolutely no objection to a Section 30 Order in regard to the referendum, and the UK Government has to understand that the terms and timing of the referendum must be decided in Scotland, by the Scottish Parliament – not dictated by Westminster – and that includes a possible ‘more powers’ option.  It is only right that these matters are carefully and properly considered, which is exactly what the Scottish Government are doing in our consultation.”

The ‘We’ is not the Royal ‘We’, it means the Scottish Government. If I may be so bold as to translate the statement, it means something like this -

‘We don’t need the UK’s legal approval to hold our referendum or frame our question – or questions – but if a Section 30 order helps to avoid the nuisance of legal challenges, that’s OK with us.

But we won’t be told by the UK government how many questions we will have, nor will we accept that as a quid pro quo for a Section 30 order, but since we are not hell-bent on having a second question  (despite outrageous statements about the nature of our relationship with Civic Scotland, Future of Scotland and the SCVO, and the fact that everything we do and say seems to suggest just that) we still have the opportunity of the consultation outcome, and its interpretation, to justify a decision to go for a single YES/NO question, opinion polls permitting, of course.

Such a decision would, of course, be completely unrelated to the granting of a Section 30 order.

I wonder what the Prince of Denmark – somewhere in literary eternity - will say after the referendum about all of this – and whose skull he will be contemplating as he considers the result?

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