Current Affairs Politics

The SNP – Going For A Proportional Measure Of Freedom?

A new poll, reported in the Scotsman newspaper, shows an increase in the support for independence amongst voters, with the majority plumping for “devo-max”:

“The survey suggests 38% of people would vote to take Scotland out of the UK which is up three points from a poll in August.

A total of 57% of respondents were against breaking away from the UK with 5% still unsure.

Among those saying they are certain to vote, 68% back the second option, known as “devo-max”, up one point from August, 28% do not back it and 4% are unsure.

The poll follows survey results last week which showed the SNP is twice as popular as Labour.”

In political and constitutional terms “devo-max” is a slippery concept. It’s generally taken to mean the maximum devolution of political, economic and judicial powers to Edinburgh without full independence. However, exactly where the line on “full independence” would be drawn is open to debate. As more than one writer has speculated there are versions of the devo-max option that would see Scotland in a constitutional arrangement that in a few short years of use would be virtually indistinguishable from independence.

Scottish voters could vote devo-max but get independence without anyone even noticing it.

Likewise, no one is sure what rules will govern the referendum on Scottish sovereignty when it is held. It seems likely to have more than a simple “Yes” or “No” question on full independence. Several questions are possible. All of which would helpfully muddy the waters for the SNP – and not so helpfully for Nationalists of the Greater England variety. Additionally it may be a proportional referendum, with voters asked to number their choices in order of preference. That could certainly lead to some interesting results.

For instance, those voting “Number 1” for Independence would be very likely to also vote “Number 2” for Devo-Max (on the basis that if we don’t get full independence at least we 90% of it).

Many of those voting “Number 1” for Devo-Max would likely also vote “Number 2” for Independence (since I’ve gone this far in voting Devo-Max, I’m obviously dissatisfied with the current UK status-quo so why not give my second preference to Independence?).

With those voting “Number 1” for the UK-status quo the Independence choice is a highly unlikely option to make, so while some might vote “Number 2” for Devo-Max (better 90% of the way than the full 100%) most will probably go no further than their first choice.

In these circumstance a significant vote for Devo-Max looks likely, with Independence a strong second, and the current constitutional arrangement a poor third. A carefully worded and organised form of maximum devolution could then give the Scots the independence that many seek in the space of a few years as the new arrangements evolved and grew. There is certainly precedents for this throughout European history (not least in Ireland).

However, proportional votes are a funny old thing, even in referenda. They can produce the most unexpected results with late swings or sudden surges changing outcomes dramatically. Given the circumstance above, it is not entirely outside the bounds of possibility that enough first and second preference votes for independence could in fact produce just that. Especially if Unionist voters abstain from going beyond their preferred choice.

So which long game is Alex Salmond and the SNP leadership looking at?

2 comments on “The SNP – Going For A Proportional Measure Of Freedom?

  1. Without having any inside knowledge of where the SNP are going with the whole referendum question, or indeed when? Although the best bets are on 2014 at present.
    I feel in a sense that the SNP threw this second question in, so that they could cause maximum confusion amongst the Unionist parties. On that assumption alone, they have succeeded wonderfully!
    The Unionist parties are all over the place with this question. None of them can agree amongst themselves, far less with each other.
    The SNP have caused them further confusion by stating that it is up to them to formulate what this question might be and what it exactly entails.
    On the current poles, it seems clear that the preferred option of the Scottish electorate is for full powers short of complete Independence. A cautious suck it and see approach.
    However, with nobody prepared as yet to come up with a proper definition, it is difficult to see what exactly they would be voting for? It could be something as limited and as flawed as the current Scotland Bill, or It could be full fiscal autonomy.

    In a sense the SNP might just have been a tad too clever with their strategy, because the electorate are very capable of coming up with their own surprises which nobody has yet foreseen yet.. Could it be possible that all this confusion leads to the Scottish electorate voting for something far short of what they aspire to?
    A further matter which I don’t believe has entered the electorates consciousness as yet, is the fact that anything short of full Independence is left with relying on Westminster to deliver!
    I wouldn’t even trust Westminster to deliver my groceries!
    Westminster will delay and prevaricate and muddy the waters indefinitely If it is left in their hands!
    Sure, Independence will eventually come, but It will be a mighty long haul, and only after Westminster has sucked all it can out of Scotland in the interim period, whilst conducting as much sabotage as they can in the process..
    The tide has been running with the SNP since the May election, but a week is a long time in Politics never mind a couple of years. The Unionists will not stay in such dissatisfy forever, and the SNP has to be extremely mindful of costly own goals!
    Unfortunately the SNP has been showing such signs of putting the ball in their own net.
    Two bills in particular have created uproar, and it could cost votes as a result.
    One is the Sectarian football bill, and the other is still yet a consultation but will probably become Law..The Same Sex Marriage issue. Both these matters allow the Unionists to create maximum noise.
    The SNP have already been left isolated and carrying the can for one, and you can be sure that the same will happen with the other!
    Neither of these two issues effect Independence directly, but they can be used to cause dissatisfaction with the SNP Government and cause a backlash against them and to a degree even votes lost on Independence!

    Much is yet to play for, and the wheel is still in spin!

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