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Showing posts with label Prof. Iain McLean. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prof. Iain McLean. Show all posts

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The ‘experts’ and the referendum questions

In my recent blog on the Scotsman’s report of Prof. John Curtice’s reported two question referendum Ask the bloody question(s) I analysed the contradictions and weaknesses of his second question - but I was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, feeling that he had been misreported by the Scotsman. He hadn’t, as the clip below shows …

  As far as the rest of the world is concerned, I have been wasting my breath on these matters for some years now – there is a persistent and determined failure to come to terms with this by politicians, by the media and by political commentators. I think it makes their wee heids hurt …

As for the rest of what is laughably called the ‘debate’, the misrepresentations, factoids and downright lies continue unabated from the unionist side and from semi-informed academics who should know better. I want to believe that so-called experts are truly that – expert – and that they tell the truth and do not politicise it, but I am regularly forced by their behaviour into an invidious choice as to which of these attributes is true, because on recent form, they can’t both be true. Either they don’t know what they are talking about or they are being economical with the actualité.

Let me try, almost despairingly, to yet again nail the nonsense to the floor -

THE FACTOIDS – that which everyone knows is true, except it ain’t (Norman Mailer)

Factoid one: The SNP and the Scottish government keep changing their definition of independence, and are unclear as to what it means.

Since their election in 2007 as the Government of Scotland, the SNP and the Scottish Government have been clear about what independence means – and so have the majority of the electorate. It means Scotland running all its own affairs as an independent country, while retaining the Queen as constitutional monarch, being part of a currency union (now preferred as sterling) and being part of the EU, of the UN and of suitable defence partnerships and treaties.

It means intelligent and free cooperation with others in an interdependent world, especially the nations of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, our long-term friends and neighbours, but also with the free Scandinavian countries who are also our good neighbours. It means playing our part in international affairs, including international peace-keeping operations and alliances, based on our free, sovereign judgement as an independent country. It means non-nuclear, Trident-free Scotland.

Factoid two: The SNP and the Scottish Government actively want a second question in the referendum ballot as a fallback position in case they lose the independence referendum.

The SNP and the Scottish Government are totally committed to achieving the full independence of Scotland, will have a referendum to determine the Scottish people’s support for that, and would prefer a single YES/NO question to determine the matter. Only by full independence will Scotland have control of defence and foreign policy and truly be a nation.

But, since being elected as the Government of all the people of Scotland, not just the nationalist supporters of independence, the Scottish Government has recognised that a substantial body of Scottish public opinion and the electorate favour substantially more powers being devolved to Scotland by Westminster, but wants to remain part of the UK.

It is the view of the SNP and of the Scottish Government that it is their duty to ascertain what choices the Scottish people would therefore want to be allowed to make in the biggest political decision of their lifetime, indeed, the biggest for over three centuries. That was the Scottish Government’s position in the 2009 consultation, and it is their position in the 2012 consultation now underway. It is also quite evidently the position of a very substantial and influential body of opinion in Scottish society and beyond Scotland.

Devolution of powers may be defined along a spectrum from zero – the pre-1997 position – to total, the so-called devo max option. Devo max, far from being undefined, is clearly defined by common sense – it means everything except defence and foreign policy.

Anything less than devo max, e.g. devo plus, Calman, Cameron’s vague promises and the various vacuous and nebulous suggestions of other unionist politicians demands definition. Only Reform Scotland has attempted this in devo plus, and the ill-fated and doomed Calman-inspired Scotland Act has defined the other.


Following the conclusion of the consultation exercise now underway - and after the local elections in May - the Scottish Government and the SNP will set out progressively - over the referendum lead-in period until Autumn 2014 - their full prospectus for independence. This will represent their negotiating position with the UK Government after a successful referendum outcome, i.e. a YES vote to independence. In the event of a NO vote to independence, all bets are open.

There is no confusion and absolute clarity on the nationalist side.

There is deep confusion, lack of clarity and a lack of any coordinated approach on the unionist side. This is unhealthy for democracy and for a referendum outcome that will be supported by all the people of Scotland - and the UK - whatever it may be.

For the UK’s sake and for Scotland’s sake, Tories, Labour and LibDems - get your unionist act together and start behaving like mature adults. And try to find some experts who can talk objective sense, and  a statesman or stateswoman to lead your campaign …