Monday, 9 May 2011


Some suggestions are doing the rounds that 2 referenda are required in order to achieve independence for Scotland. The first would seek the permission of the Scottish people to negotiate the terms of independence. The second would then allow the people to decide if they liked the results of those negotiations. Sounds reasonable enough in principle...except it does rather assume a level playing field.

As David Cameron has said, he will fight an independence referendum with every fibre of his being. Now, fast forwarding a bit, let's imagine the first referendum has been won and the negotiations are about to take place. If I were David Cameron I would have a very good incentive to drive the hardest deal I possibly could in order to influence the result of that second referendum. Give Scotland a terrible deal and the people will surely reject it. Sounds like the sort of thing one would do if one was desperate to keep Scotland in the union. And what would happen after that rejection? We would be in tricky territory - the Scots want independence, but not on the agreed terms. Does that mean more negotiations and a further referendum, repeated until a palatable solution is found? Or is the whole thing shelved, despite the Scots having voted for independence? Sounds like a recipe for chaos.

The knock against the single referendum is of course that approval would give the Scottish government carte blanche to get any old negotiated settlement from Westminster. But quite why the Scottish government would be content to get a bad deal I'm not sure. More plausibly the fear might be that a spurned and spiteful Westminster would only offer grossly unfavourable terms. But that would hardly be conducive to good relations between neighbours. And it would surely be in everyone's interests for the neighbours to get along - even after independence we will still have many interests in common. And it wouldn't play terribly well in the international arena for rump UK to be seen to be thwarting the legitimate democratic aspirations of Scotland.

Interesting times ahead anyway. I just hope Lord Forsyth keeps out of it - how he can possibly think he has a right to influence our nation's future one way or the other is beyond me. Twenty years on and he's still none the wiser.

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