Saturday, 22 October 2016


Apparently the Nats want another Referendum. Which they are entitled in their own mind to have because of a rather vague statement in their 2016 Scottish Parliament Manifesto. An election at which they actually lost their absolute majority in the Scottish Parliament. I know.

The one good thing is that their White Paper last week conceded that, in order to have a Referendum, they would need constitutional authority from the UK Parliament, Scotland having voted to remain in the UK as recently as two years ago.

It would, nonetheless, we are told. be an "outrage" for this to be denied.

But clearly a denial, giving cause for yet more gripe and grievance, is precisely what they are hoping for. And I kind of get that. The "success" of the Easter Rising was a result of a British reaction in its aftermath. If the rebels had simply been sentenced to imprisonment for the duration of hostilities then one suspects subsequent history might have been very different.

Lessons thus have to be learned.

So what options are available to our "other" Government beyond straight denial?

Well, firstly there is the questions of mandate.

Had the SNP been up for another Referendum they could simply have stated in their 2016 Manifesto: "If re-elected we will hold another Independence Referendum".

Even I wouldn't deny that in such circumstance the UK Government would have to have conceded to this demand.

But of course they didn't.

So, perhaps, the opening position of the UK Government should be that if any Party (or combination of Parties) secures a Holyrood majority on such a platform then "of course" a Referendum could be held.

The procedure for this is quite simple. Nicola resigns on a point of principle, and assuming no-one else can secure a plurality of votes to become First Minister within 28 days, then a fresh Scottish Parliament Election would follow (s.46 of the 1998 Act). Alternatively a two thirds majority of the Scottish Parliament could simply vote for a dissolution to see if that is what the country wanted (s.3). Ruth would undoubtedly vote for such an election. So would the volunteer if she was told to.

So, Section 30 powers might be granted from Westminster, perhaps even in perpetuity, to any Holyrood First Minister elected on such a clear platform to hold an Independence Referendum. Within, obviously, a fixed period for the introduction of Referendum legislation after such a hypothetical election victory. Over to Nicola to see if she could secure it.

But there is another option. In 2014, Scotland voted by Local Authority area.

Now, had the flag eaters done 6% better in 2014, that would have given them victory. But it would still have left large parts of Scotland dragged out of the UK against their will. The Borders voted 67% No. Dumfries and Galloway 66%. East Lothian 62%. South Ayrshire 58%. Edinburgh 61%. Only when you get to South Lanarkshire 55% and Fife 55% would a 6% gain have given the Nats a narrow victory.

So, perhaps the price of a Section 30 should be that we vote again on this basis but with only those Local Authority districts voting to form an independent Scotland becoming part of it?

The Nats would surely have no problem with this? "Free" Scotland would surely immediately become a social democratic nirvana, with austerity abolished and the population hugely enhanced by the talents of the refugees welcome to flock there from all over the world? The Brains could sleep easy in their beds while the long term unemployed could stay in bed all day without worrying about their giros arriving as expected. At least until the money ran out. In time, the rest of the country would inevitably see the sense of this arrangement. Surely? The only problem meanwhile might be other Scots demanding entry to "Free" Scotland. But, following the example of the German Democratic Republic, walls could inevitably be built until other local referendums were held and the entire volk re-united in a spirit of amity.

Now, and this is he sad bit. In-between, the UK would really need to be contiguous. So the poor souls in the North East (Aberdeenshire 60% No: Aberdeen City 59%) might just have to suck it up. For on that 6% swing there is a Nationalist firewall around the Forth. Hard luck folks. If the worst came to the worst, maybe you'd perhaps have to consider joining Orkney and Shetland and fu.....going away to join Norway.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Empress has no clothes.

You may have noticed that I've not been doing much blogging lately. Partly it is simply that I've been very busy at my work but it's also that I've just been very depressed about the state of the world with no desire to depress myself further by putting why down on paper.

But the events of the past few days prompt me to say something about the state of Scotland's polity.

Much has been written about post truth politics but in Scotland it seems to me that we are drifting into post reality political reporting. It obviously suits political journalists to talk up the prospect of a second independence referendum, it's story, but that should not be at the expense of pointing out the absurdity of the proposition on offer.

That proposition is simply this. If the UK Government proceeds with a hard brexit then a second referendum will/may be called so that Scotland can remain in the EU. But no it can't. For simple reasons of timing.

Mrs May has indicated the intention to trigger Article 50 next Spring. Now, that might not happen then, I readily concede that*, but since the cause for this second referendum is apparently to be that triggering then, even if it is delayed, my observations as to what follows still stand but only at a later date. So let's take the Prime Minister and indeed the First Minister at their stated intent.

Article 50 is triggered and Nicola decides immediately and without waiting for the detail to go for a second poll. For the sake of the argument to follow, both of these things happen in March 2017, meaning the UK is to leave the EU in March 2019.

Well, first of all Nicola would have to get legal authority for a second vote in the form of a s.30 order passed at both Holyrood and Westminster. We know what this involves because we've been through the process as recently as 2012. The Scottish Government conceded the need for a s.30 on 25th January 2012. The UK Government had indicated a willingness to consider such a request earlier that same month. At the time there was a genuine desire on both sides to reach a deal but, nonetheless, it took until 15th October for the deed to be done. Crucially, it was done largely on the terms the nationalists wanted, chiefly I suspect because our side thought there was little real prospect of us losing and just wanted to get on with it. This time that deal will not nearly as readily be done as I suspect there will be real issues over the question and the franchise and the timing. To posit but a few, if Yes/No was inappropriate as the Brexit choice then would it still be acceptable in a future independence referendum? If the choice now involved a hard border (an inevitable consequence of a Scotland in/ UK (hard) out of the EU) then shouldn't Scots living in England get a vote, given that this would inevitably impact on their right to remain and work in the residual UK? Should EU citizens in Scotland still get a vote as they did in 2014?

I say this just to indicate that, even if the UK Government is willing, the s.30 process will not be a dawdle. But let's concede that it will take no longer than 2012, So that there is a section 30 by January 2018. Then we need an Act of the Scottish Parliament. The 2013 Act was introduced on 21st March 2013 and became law on 18th December 2013. Now, the delay in introduction might be shortened this time but the Parliamentary time is dictated by the Parliament's established procedures so it is difficult to see legislation before the the end of 2017. But in some ways that doesn't matter because this being Scotland, the vote would need to await the better weather (sic) anyway. So not before May 2018.

And then in the event the flag-eaters won? Well, Scotland would not become independent immediately but remain in the UK until the "details" had been sorted out The September 2014 vote anticipated "Independence day" being in March 2016, a timescale many even on the Yes side thought to be hopelessly optimistic, but let's just apply that same nineteen month period to a May 2018 vote. Independence in January 2020. Until when we'd still be part of the UK. And have left the EU nine months before.

So there is simply no timescale that allows Scotland to vote to remain in the EU. We could certainly vote in anticipation of (attempting) to join once independence was a reality but that is as good as it could possibly get.

Now, neither Nicola nor the people round about her are stupid. They know all of the above as readily as I do. They have nonetheless attempted a gigantic confidence trick both on their own rank and file and, more importantly, on the electorate.

My question is this however. Why have the press fallen for this? Why haven't they pointed out that the Empress Nicola has no clothes? Over to you, ladies and gentlemen.

Important postscript! I've just realised I've actually given the Nats an entire year! The earliest there could even be legislation is December 2018 and a referendum the Spring of  2019! By which time we'd already have left.

*For what it's worth I think the Courts will rule that the Government requires a parliamentary vote before triggering article 50.