Monday, 28 May 2012

Will there now be a referendum in 2014?

The launch of the "Yes to independence" campaign on Friday 25th May was generally seen as lacklustre and a bit of a misfire. The emotional endorsement of American based celebrities and the singing of lachrymose "patriotic" lyrics failed to impress, even less persuade, anyone. Certainly not the press or the undecided. The publication of an opinion poll showing that 57% opposed "independence" and even that 28% of those who voted SNP in 2011 would not vote for "independence" revealed the scale of the mountain the Nationalists have to climb. They countered by setting out a strategy to get a million signatures on a web-petition in support of their position.

Yesterday, 27th May, at lunch time, the BBC Scotland's Economics Editor Douglas Fraser published this critique of the "yes" campaign's known positions on a number of vitally important matters in an "independent" Scotland. It was not at all reassuring for Nationalists: a number of their claims on the economy and on green issues were seen to be flaky or at least under challenge.

Last night the BBC ran one of its occasional series of "Big Debate" programmes on Scotland's Future. The result was revealing. Patrick Harvie and Nicola Sturgeon for the "yes" team disagreed on some fundamentals, with Harvie not enamoured with the SNP's certainty that "it'll be alright on the night", he didn't want to join the Euro (the SNP does) nor was he enamoured of their right-wing micro policies, e.g. low-competitive business rates.

The BBC iplayer only runs for 7 days.  I include below YouTube versions Part1 and Part2 of the debate

Part 1

Part 2

Anas Anwar and Ruth Davidson made good clear points but their job was made a lot easier by the contributions from the audience. On the economy Nicola got slaughtered. The continued use of the pound and/or the Euro was dismissed with contempt from many voters. She became more and more defensive and ended up looking peevish and rattled. Ruth Davidson made a very good point when she revealed that the SNP had never even asked the EU for legal opinion on the status of Scotland asking to join the European Union and/or the Euro.

Even on Defence and jobs, Nato membership and Trident, the Nationalist position was not accepted uncritically by the audience. The loss of shipbuilding jobs and the credibility of the Nationalists' military planning were exposed to ridicule. Trident is unpopular, no doubt, but the fact that it could be moved to the north of England was seen as not a real solution to the problem.  

On the Monarchy and the retention of the Queen as the head of state, the SNP's hypocrisy was revealed in all its glory. From full "independence" with a republican stance, elected head of state to "let's keep the Queen, it'll retain us a few Tory votes, maybe", it was emblematic of all the other u-turns on the economy, the Arc of Prosperity, joining the Euro, keeping the pound, pretend progressive while adopting neo-liberal policies and all the other contradictions and contortions that mark the Nationalist journey. 

All-in-all, the programme, and the events of the last weekend, must be profoundly depressing for the "yes" camp. It seems to me that, after the failed ballyhoo of their launch, with the revelation of the basic and manifold weaknesses in their case, they are in a much worse position now than they were last Thursday.

The other thing that occurred to me during the debate was the dread thought that there is 2.5 years more of this stuff before the referendum is actually conducted.

The final batsqueak of a suspicion was: given the disarray of the "yes" campaign and the evident weakness of their case thus early in their endeavour, maybe we won't get the referendum at all. The SNP has run away from the possibility of a referendum before, when Wendy Alexander challenged Alex Salmond to "bring it on" and he failed to do so. 

Maybe the bold Eck will find a reason not to have a referendum in 2014, a referendum which, on current evidence, he will surely lose. And that's the last thing he would want or ever allow to happen.


  1. The last person to 'run away' from a referendum was Gordon Brown - tactically a big mistake!
    Last night showed the usual BBC balance with all of the questions coming from the NO camp. They will always find it easier to frighten people by asking for guarantees when they can't offer anything themselves - other than more of the same.
    The Yes camp has a very difficult job especially to get the business community to declare support. It will always be in their interests to remain neutral.The bottom line is frightened or not 70% of the population do not want the status quo and the Unionist parties do.
    Whatever they claim about devolution it was forced on them.They are only interested in maintaining the last remnant of Empire and their Nuclear passport to the top table. What I find amazing is that Labour supporters faced with increasing austerity cannot see the financial folly of this never mind the moral folly

    1. The last person to run away from a referendum was Alex Salmond.

      Gordon Brown ducked out of calling a general election.

      I thought the BBC had got the balance wrong with two Nats on the panel. But it worked out all right.

      The audience destroyed Nicola's economic position without much help from Sarwar or Davidson.

      I thought the implicatons of the show were massive for the Nats.

      They lost all of the arguments.

    2. When did Salmond "run away from a referendum". You're just making this up as you go along.

    3. On 4th May Wendy Alexander challenged Alex Salmond to "bring it on". Sure you can't remember Peter? I do.

      see here

      At FMQs on the 8th May she repeated the offer.

      Eck declined. He ran away.

      Are you sure you can't remember Peter? You look old enough in your photo. Selective memory syndrome, the Nationalist defence mechanism.?

    4. Indeed Alex Salmond effectively ran away in 2010 as well, because he tried to blame the non-appearance of the planned referendum on the basis of the SNP's lack of a Holyrood majority, but of course that was clearly now mere posturing, because when the chance became available a few months later he bottled it.

  2. Nah, I suspect either we'll get a Scottish Government sponsered referendum or a UK Government sponsered one. Both sides of the argument have too far to back down, and I think want to settle this at the ballot box.

    1. Certainly a strong possibility that the UK Government would want to step into any void left by a Nat withdrawal.....

    2. If Westminster gives the power to Scotland to arrange the referendum then I could well see Salmond looking for a way out if the polls stay as they are, particularly if there's no 'third way' option, which for obvious reasons Westminster won't want to allow on the ballot paper.

      By the same token, in the less likely event that it's arranged by Westminster, if the polls stay as they are then it will happen, because Westminter won't want to avoid a big bloody nose for Salmond.

      However, if it's arranged by Westminster and looks like a Yes then it would be difficult for them to wheedle out of it.

      But it seems more likely that Westminster will devolve the power, in which case it's down to Salmond, and I suspect he'd find an excuse if things weren't going his way. Better some slight embarrasment from a climbdown than total humiliation in a referendum.

  3. There was a small feature piece in the Scottish Daily Mail today or yesterday regarding the YouGov poll results re the referendum.

    It quoted extensively from a Professor (not Curtis - but regularly on telly) regarding what could be concluded from the poll.

    He stated that for Independence to have any chance of succeeding it must turn the present situation on its head. ie there must be 2/3 Scots supporting independence to 1/3 against.

    He further stated that that was how the polls were running in 79 up to one week away from the Devolution referendum.

    Fear and cynicism aided by incumbent Labour ministers resulted in the sharp swing at the death further aided, of course, by the message that not voting at all was the same as a No vote.

    The rest, as they say, is history.

    Given that there would be even more to lose or gain, depending on your viewpoint, the professor concluded that the fear messages which will inevitably be used will scare the electorate away from voting Yes and that, as it stands, Independence has no chance.

    What I'm most interested in is how you think Salmond could wriggle out of a referendum. I think he's too far in, but wouldn't for a minute discount a potential climbdown.

    What excuse do you think would save his political career?

    I'm going for a feigned dirty tricks campaign. Or maybe a wrangling over Section 30 so that it gets kicked into constitutional court touch for X amount of years.

    Any ideas? I think there would be some comedy value in this for my blog, so any suggestions would be most welcome.

    NB: I've tried finding a link for the piece in the Scottish Daily Mail, but unfortunately I haven't been able to find one. It was either today's Scottish Daily Mail or yesterdays that the piece appeared in. (I read it at a friend's)

    1. His excuse in 2007 and 2010 was that he didn't have a majority in the Parliament. In 2010 he blamed the Labour Party for trying to outmanoeuvre him....hahaha got you there!

      So I presume he would have no problem chickening out in 2014 on the excuse that he didn't have a majority in the country....

      Kicking it into the legal long grass over section 30 is also a good posible excuse, but that wouldn't necessarily stop the UK Government going ahead on their own basis and question.

    2. Good question, Longshanker, and indeed it's probably difficult to distinguish between the comedic and serious in this regard.

      I suppose trying to think of plausible excuses at this stage perhaps confirms that it's too far down the road for a u-turn now, but of course there's still a lot of things that can be disputed or go wrong.

      Maybe if there's no third option on the ballot then it could be argued that the will of the Scottish people is being thwarted? After all, that argument's already been deployed to try getting such an option on the paper in the first place.

      Or the EU/euro situation, maybe?

      But of course the politicians are experts at thinking up excuses, so probably best for us lesser mortals to think about it too much ;0)

      By the way, I don't think the content of the Scottish edition of the Daily Mail goes on their website - you have to buy the paper.

  4. Here's how you get your million signatures...

  5. Yeah

    Not having a majority is passable.

    Too many Twitter followers rumbling you is definitely another (cheers - nice link)

    On the 1 million signatures issue. I actually think that it's a quite cleverly disingenuous piece of propaganda puff.

    The Scottish Covenant collected 2 million signatures, circa 1948, in favour of Home Rule.

    They did so without 'Internet Wizardry' or 'Twitter Follower' supporters.

    In the Mail piece previously referred to, the Professor pointed out that 1 million signatures wouldn't represent anything more than the number of committed Yes voters anyway.