veto from the Latin I forbid – a constitutional right to reject a legislative amendment.
Cameron’s fiasco at the EU summit was a disastrous negotiating and diplomatic failure in my view, but it has positive aspects as far as Scottish independence is concerned. (I may analyse this from a negotiator’s perspective later.) Whether they offset the undoubted threats caused by the UK being marginalised in Europe remains to be seen, but let me proceed to what I know may be regarded as a dangerously rash statement, one which I will probably regret.
I think the Scottish Government may have to re-think its timescale for the independence referendum, and by that, I mean bring it forward. 2014 at the earliest is now beginning to look like too late.
To use the telling phrase of an SNP branch colleague, the present situation has the feeling of a phoney war, a term coined to describe the period from September 1939 to May 1940 – from the UK’s declaration of war against Germany to the Battle of France and Dunkirk.
I recognise all the commitments made to timing in the second half of the term, repeated many times by the First Minister and others, but circumstance alter cases. The global situation and now the European situation have experienced a quantum shift since April/May of 2011. The new, deeply unstable situation created by David Cameron will potentially seriously damage the UK economy, and soon.
His government has no mandate from the people of Scotland, and unless Scotland, as a pro-European country, wants to be shackled to an anti-European dinosaur and retreat into the insularity of an offshore island of Europe, the Scottish people must have the chance to speak as soon as possible.
If the Coalition falls, Scotland would have the same voice that it had in May 2010 at a general election. What song it would sing is another question …
If it sang the same song, it would still be powerless against the Westminster numbers. There is little doubt that had Labour been in Government, the outcome of the EU summit would not have been much different. A general election now would probably produce another hung Parliament and another Coalition, even if there was a polarisation of the vote in England to Labour and the Tories.
It might result in something much worse if the extreme parties of the right caught a popular mood of anti-Europeanism coupled with a distrust of the three failed major parties – Tories, Labour and LibDems.
No one calls a referendum they don’t expect to win, but no one can ever be certain of the outcome of a referendum, especially in rapidly changing times.
Polls are snapshots of popular opinion at a point in time, but they are like a snapshot of a sunny day in Edinburgh – a moment later the sky opens and the wind cuts to the bone. And if you are lucky, the clouds part, the winds abate and the sun shines again. If you are not, and you are are not clad for heavy weather, a bolt hole must be found, and anyone that promises shelter will do.
A great Englishman once said "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune."
A great Scotsman, Robert the Bruce, was faced by a stark choice on of the 23rd and 24th of June 1314 - to be prepared to give battle against superior forces or retreat. Emboldened by his victory over an English knight, Henry de Bohun, in single combat, and by the unexpected route of a force of 300 hundred English knights under Clifford, he still was faced with the decision to either give battle or retreat. He chose to give battle, and to risk all for Scotland’s freedom.
Alex Salmond is not a 14th century knight, and he is not playing 14th century politics. But he will not be oblivious to the parallels. Bruce had not intended to give battle, but he reacted to rapidly changing circumstances, especially to the knowledge of the impact of his two unexpected successes on the already low morale of the superior force.
The First Minister has already killed his Henry de Bohun and his force have routed their Clifford. How will he assess the dynamics of a rapidly changing situation on his return from China?
I was puzzled and disappointed that no Scottish Government minister chose to appear of The Politics Show Scotland today to discuss the Eurozone/UK crisis. I dismiss out of hand the explanation that prior commitments or diaries had anything to do with this decision.
I also dismiss the inevitable unionist opposition conclusions – that the SNP has no coherent policy on Europe or that the party is a one-man band, waiting for Godot.
I think we can be reasonably certain that Scottish Government ministers have been in close contact with Alex Salmond, and that there is a bigger – perhaps a much bigger – game afoot.
Are we preparing to emerge from the Tor Wood?