Three more thoughts on the Scottish independence shenanigans
On Tuesday I wrote up three thoughts on the scrap over Scottish independence. Here are three more.
First: PMQs this week saw Cameron and Miliband attempt their opening gambits on independence. As the long campaign effectively kicks off, they both stumbled a little. Miliband pointed to the need to ‘have the discussion about the serious issues involved’. The Labour leader’s opening argument in the most serious constitutional debate in the UK since universal sufferage? He started off by talking about “Shared institutions… like the NHS…”. Health is already devolved to the Scottish Parliament. NHS Scotland is a separate body. Oops.
Cameron agreed in theory with the need to make the case for the union, but did nothing to do so. And this should come as no surprise. Because while the NHS is already devolved, at least Miliband can give examples of government powers in which he believes. For Cameron, the position is trickier. In order to make a case that Scotland should be governed from Westminster, the Prime Minister would need to make a case for government. As a hard neo-liberal this doesn’t come naturally. Policing is already off the table – already devolved. What is there left that he believes in? Monetary Policy? Foreign policy? What he is being asked to do is make a case for the state in a Scottish referendum right as he makes a case against the state across the UK – right as his cuts and privatisation slip into fifth gear… What positive vision can he propose? If you believe in no government, why does it matter who isn’t governing?
Second: “Devolution to Scotland and Wales did not go far enough – the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales should get more powers.”
That’s the Liberal Democrat policy on the matter (pdf). Why then is Liberal Democrat Scottish Secretary Michael Moore working to exclude that very option from the ballot of a referendum on Scotland’s constitutional future? Specifically, they say that they will consult with the Scottish parliament on what this should mean. Well, Holyrood is majority SNP these days. Greens and sensible Labour types like Malcolm Chisholm, and possibly a couple of the Lib Dem MSPs if they’re honest, also support either independence or significantly more devolution.
Imagine if the Lib Dem Scottish Secretary enacted the Lib Dem policy. Imagine he did consult with Holyrood on how many more powers short of full independence the Parliament should have. You can bet your bottom dollar the answer would be the same as the question posed in Salmond’s second referendum option. The question Michael Moore is now blocking. Is this Moore playing games, or Cameron and Osborne pulling the strings? Or, to ask the more traditional question, is Moore Scotland’s man in the cabinet, or the cabinet’s man in Scotland? The Lib Dem’s man in cabinet, or the cabinet’s man in the Lib Dems? With both questions, it’s looking more and more (excuse the play on words) like the latter.
Third, everyone is quite right. We do need to stop talking process and start imagining what independence might mean. If it is a yes vote, this will be the first new country for a long time born not in blood and poverty but in peace, hope, and relative prosperity. That’s an exciting possibility. Here on Bright Green, we are hoping to have some discussions on this soon. We hope you’ll join us.