Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A non-binding consultative referendum on independence or increased devolution for Scotland would still have democratic legitimacy

David Cameron and the UK government can certainly refuse to make the results of any referendum including increased devolution legally binding under UK law, but they can’t prevent the Scottish government holding a consultative, non-binding, referendum. It would be impossible to deny the democratic legitimacy of the result.

 The only questionable part of the SNP’s plan is allowing 16 and 17 year olds to participate. This would give the Unionist parties an open goal to say the results of the referendum weren’t valid, since 16 and 17 year olds can’t vote in UK General elections.

Labour and the Lib Dems have joined with the Conservatives in insisting any referendum must be a straight choice between the status quo or independence, yet both parties supported devolution in the 1997 referendum. How can they argue that Scottish voters be entitled to choose to devolve some domestic powers, but not others, especially when polls show 67% want more powers devolved to the Scottish government including full powers to decide how taxes raised in Scotland are spent? (1) – (2)

Devolving more powers could reduce the amount of taxpayers’ money that Westminster parties could hand to billionaire and corporate patrons. If Scottish governments gained the powers to issue bonds, borrow money, or spend a higher share of taxes raised in Scotland, PFI gravy trains here might end.

If Scots are refused the increased devolution option, more will vote for independence. This would lose the UK revenues from oil and gas off Aberdeen and Shetland. UK governments fiddle the figures to pretend an independent Scotland would be bankrupt, by assuming oil revenues would be split proportionally to population. In fact under international law they would be split by proximity, giving Scotland far more than it’s 10% of the UK population.

An independent Scotland would be a small neutral country on the North-Western edge of Europe, so would not need a nuclear deterrent any more than Norway or Sweden, and would avoid the costs in money and lives of involvement in US-led wars. These costs would then be paid solely by the rest of the UK. So Scotland would be better off and the UK (unless it gets a much better government with better policies) much worse off.

We might even avoid future financial crises. Both Norway and Sweden avoided any crisis or recession and both of their economies are still growing, as they never de-regulated their financial sector to the degree that the Conservatives (from Thatcher’s 1986 ‘Big Bang’ on) or Labour governments in the UK have.

Is Cameron trying to provoke Scots into independence in the hope the Coalition will have a permanent majority if 50 Scottish Labour MPs are gone?

If so this is unlikely to work.

Labour’s last three majorities exceeded the number of Labour MPs elected in Scotland (3) – (8). Three quarters of Lib Dem voters surveyed at the time of the last election and again recently no longer support the party (9). Cameron should realise that independence will hurt his party far more than increased devolution would.

 (1) = The Politics Wire / British Future 10 Jan 2012 ‘Support for devolution across Britain is growing as ‘national’ identity outweighs feelings of ‘Britishness’ ’, http://www.ipsos-mori.com/newsevents/blogs/thepoliticswire/985/Support-for-devolution-across-Britain-is-growing-as-national-identity-outweighs-feelings-of-Britishness.aspx , ‘During this period, support for independence in Scotland has grown. This is illustrated in recent Ipsos MORI polls and is reinforced by our latest survey for British Future, which shows around a third of Scots now backing a breakaway from the UK….At the moment, however, a majority of Scots prefer to remain part of the UK, albeit favouring substantial new powers for the Scottish Parliament. Ipsos MORI polling in Scotland shows that over two-thirds would vote in favour of giving Holyrood further legislative and tax-raising powers.’

(2) = STV News 21 Dec 2011 ‘Most Scots back complete revenue raising powers for Holyrood’,http://news.stv.tv/politics/291223-most-scots-back-complete-revenue-raising-powers-for-holyrood/

(3) = BBC News Last updated Sep 2005 ‘Blair win historic third term – majority of 66’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/vote_2005/constituencies/default.stm

(4) = BBC News 23 May 2005 ‘Election 2005 – results: Scotland’,http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/vote2005/html/region_7.stm (shows 41 Labour MPs elected in Scotland)

(5) = BBC News ‘Vote2001: Results & Constituencies’http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/vote2001/results_constituencies/default.stm ; Labour majority 167

(6) = BBC News ‘Vote 2001 : Results & Constituencies UK Breakdown – Scotland’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/vote2001/results_constituencies/uk_breakdown/scotland_full_1.stm , – shows 56 Labour MPs elected in Scotland in 2001 General Election

(7) = BBC News ‘Vote 2001: Election battles 1945-1997’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/vote2001/in_depth/election_battles/1997_over.stm , ‘In 1997 Labour…Tony Blair's New Labour had gained a staggering 179-seat overall majority.’

(8) = Denver, David (1997) ‘THE 1997 GENERAL ELECTION IN SCOTLAND:AN ANALYSIS OF THE RESULTS’ in Scottish Affairs, no.20, summer 1997 (table 1 on page 2 shows 56 Labour MPs were elected in Scotland in 1997), http://www.scottishaffairs.org/backiss/pdfs/sa20/SA20_Denver.pdf

(9) = Independent 06 Jan 2012 ‘Lib Dems lose three out of four of their voters ’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/lib-dems-lose-three-out-of-four-of-their-voters-6285640.html

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