Has the British Prime Minster David Cameron hit the self-destruct button on the so-called United Kingdom?
The legalistic diktats from the British government in relation to the referendum on Scottish independence seem to have fallen apart at their first airing and the Tories (and their gormless Lib-Dem allies) look to have gone into reverse gear double-quick. From the Irish Times:
“THE SCOTTISH National Party said yesterday the attempt by British prime minister David Cameron to set a quick deadline for a Scottish independence referendum would bolster support for a breakup of the union.
The SNP had promised to hold a referendum later in the life of the Scottish parliament, possibly 2014, but the British government believes a speedy vote, offering a choice between independence and the status quo, would be lost.
However, Mr Cameron’s campaign to push for a binding 2013 referendum risks increasing support for the campaign led by the SNP, which has majority control in Holyrood, particularly if Scottish voters interpret his move as interference from London.
Even Scottish Labour, which supports the continuation of the union, though with the devolution of more powers to Edinburgh, and also wants a speedy referendum, believes Mr Cameron’s intervention could backfire.
Up to now the SNP has favoured a 2014 referendum, and has rejected charges that it is seeking to exploit nationalist fervour on the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, the biggest ever victory over the English.
Equally, it has favoured putting a three-part question to voters on whether Scotland should be independent, or stay in the UK, or whether it should opt for the so-called “devo max”, where control over full tax powers and other issues would be ceded to Edinburgh.”
Both the Left and Right in Britain’s media establishment oppose the Scottish move towards independence, as do of course the British political classes, and a nasty campaign of vilification and misinformation against Alex Salmond and the SNP is already well in place. However every move of the British Nationalist caucus (or perhaps we should say, the caucus of Greater England Nationalists) seems to make matters only worse for their cause. Hence the attempts of the London-based government to gerrymander the democratic processes in Scotland to a more favourable position.
In this situation what’s to prevent Alex Salmond from calling an early Holyrood election, strengthening the electoral vote of the SNP on a wave of anti-Westminster sentiment, and returning to the Scottish parliament with a mandate to implement a version of the “Ireland scenario”.
For those of you who are unaware of what that means, in 1918 the Irish republican party of Sinn Féin gained an electoral landslide across the island of Ireland in the general election of December that year, with 80% of the total vote. In January of 1919 the party gathered together at the Mansion House in Dublin as Dáil Éireann, the “Assembly of Ireland” or the new parliament for the people of the island of Ireland. On January 21st the Dáil voted for and issued the Irish Declaration of Independence, recognising and mandating the Irish Republic proclaimed in the Easter Rising of 1916, three years previously.
Through the mechanism of a general election and unanimously-backed motion in the new Irish parliament or Dáil, Ireland was formally established as an independent sovereign nation state (though ultimately, of course, a minority of the Irish people were forcibly torn from the nation by the terrorism and violence of the British separatist minority on the island and their British sponsors).
So, the political precedent in the history of the “United Kingdom” for a move to independence through an electoral mandate is clearly there (even if the British refuse to accept it). In the event of a future SNP election landslide in Scotland one wonders if a motion could be brought forward in the Scottish parliament by a new SNP administration declaring independence for the country on a simple majority vote of Scottish MSPs? And if so who could gainsay it?
Well, of course, many British nationalists could, as would their government and press. But how far would that rejection go? Could we really imagine British troops on the streets of Edinburgh? The mass arrest of SNP politicians and MSPs? Alex Salmond in the Tower of London? Unlikely to say the least.
It’s a high-stakes game but one where it may be necessary in the future for the Scottish Government to call the British Government’s bluff.
- Here’s What You Need To Know About Scotland’s Hopes For Independence From The UK (businessinsider.com)
- Cameron is gambling with Scottish independence | John Curtice (guardian.co.uk)
- SNP: Cam’s “economic uncertainty” argument is nonsense; we’ll stick to our timetable (leftfootforward.org)
- British government mulls Scottish independence vote (vancouversun.com)
- Scottish referendum: PM’s tough stance startles Lib Dems and Labour (guardian.co.uk)
- David Cameron tells Scottish nationalists to put up or shut up on independence (economist.com)
- Cameron doesnt understand the Scotland debate (newstatesman.com)
- Spirit of Bannockburn thrives north of the border (independent.co.uk)
- Why Cameron’s Scotland plan has rattled the SNP (newstatesman.com)
- More Parallels Between Québec, Scotland And Beyond (ansionnachfionn.com)
- The SNP, Scotland And The Ireland Scenario (ansionnachfionn.com)