2007 - 2021

Definitely Maybe

Gideon was in Scotland yesterday complaining of economic uncertainty. No hint of irony, apparently. Media outlets were no doubt geared-up for a double-whammy of ‘authoritative Westminster Chancellor says so’, combined with the dark utterances of CBI director general John Cridland who used a speech in Glasgow to argue that the private sector on both sides of the Border “would lose out from the fragmentation of our UK single market”. It’s a familiar message we’ve heard before. But this time events interrupted the press faithfully trotting out the patter.

Three stories rolled into one to completely disrupt the Unionist narrative and lay bare just how fragile the No campaigns plans are. First Clyde Blowers chairman and chief executive Jim McColl popped up to claim that independence instead of devo-max was the only economic plan worth backing. The billionaire even made it onto the front page of the Scotsman. As the 2nd Question teeters on the edge of oblivion (only sustained in the fervid imaginations of media conspiracists) this is significant. As one commentator out it last night: “Not sure I am very interested in views of a tax exile billionaire who lives in Monaco.” But the point is that the 2nd Question is desperately looking for supporters and finding only blind alleys. The unionist’s will have been desperately hoping that Salmond was going to gamble – and he clearly has no need whatsoever. It’s Cameron who has gambled and lost.

A YouGov poll from January 2012 expressed the basic math. While 61% of those questioned for the YouGov survey opposed independence, 39% were in favour. More than half (58%) want to give Holyrood power over all its finances against 42% who don’t. When asked if – regardless of how they would vote – there should be a straight yes-no on the ballot papers to the independence question, 43% agreed. But 46% said there should be a second question – the “devo-max” option – about giving Holyrood more powers. Take away that devo max option you are left with a substantial part of the electorate who want more powers, who are dissatisfied with the status qou. This section are highly likely to be further motivated by the estimated 82% of cuts coming down the line. This is the definitely maybe brigade, and they’ll be key to winning Yes. Utterly disillusioned by Westminster politics and completely unconvinced by an ineffectual Miliband alternative this is a non-nationalist Yes vote.

Secondly we hear that Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, has unveiled details of a new bond-buying plan aimed at easing the eurozone’s debt crisis. He said the scheme would provide a “fully effective backstop” and that the euro was “irreversible”. The second great hope of the No campaign is that the independence movement is backed into a corner having to rely on the pound and is perceived to be sheltering in the sound and secure economic arms of the mighty British exchequer – a safe haven from the basketcase of Europe. That, suddenly looks quote different. The daily reports of a doubling of people attending food banks in Britain and the unraveling truth about what we know coyly call ‘ social justice’ (39% of children in Glasgow live in poverty) belies the myths of economic safety in the British State (see also Kate Higgins here). Alongside this you just have to glance at the success story of (to take one example) the Scottish renewables sector (UK government figures showed Scotland generated 4,590 gigawatt hours (GWh) of renewable energy in the first three months of 2012) to see an emergent force for green jobs that’s impossible to deny.

Third – this gets back to the hilarious accounts of the discussions between David Mundell (pulease!) and Nicola Sturgeon and – we’re told – Westminster are ‘giving a concession’ to allow young people to vote in the referendum. Aside from the fact that the coalition don’t really have any bargaining powers to offer, this is a breakthrough moment.

Only weeks ago we were being told – in apparent seriousness by commentators like Severin Carrell and others across the mainstream media that the referendum was lost, or even, wouldn’t happen at all. As the Labour-Tory campaigning alliance proves an embarrassment for many Labour supporters and the desperate clinging to the Olympic-glee fades, the No campaign is being left rudderless and increasingly clueless.

Faced with terminal decline, endless scaremongering and a failed elite governance of the sort that Gideon Osborne represents, the binary choice between Yes and No – between more of the same and more powers – will offer a significant shift for Yes.

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  1. diaryofafailedhuman says:

    I always thought that a second question would dilute the aims of the SNP and others who want full independence. Most people would choose the compromise of devo max of offered it, so why offer it? I think we can agree that Westminster is doing a great job in persuading the status quo is unnacceptable. So here’s to a resounding yes vote in 2014!

    1. Dave Coull says:

      You ask “Why offer it?” – but, because your question contains an implicit false assumption, I respond with another question: who has offered it? You shouldn’t believe everything you read in the “mass media”. Alex Salmond stated that he, and his government, and his party, were in favour of a single question, independence-yes-or-no, and that he and his colleagues would be campaigning for independence. The sleekit so-and-so confused the Unionists and the “mass media” by telling the truth knowing perfectly well they wouldn’t believe him.

      1. I never suggested devo-max was offered. My point (a personal one) was this: if it was going to dilute the true aim of the SNP government (viz. full independence) why would you want to offer devo-max? I did not believe the “mass-media” as you call it. I believed Salmond when he said he wanted a single question, regardless of what the media said.

  2. andywightman says:

    Despite my disinterest in debates about independence conducted by big businessmen who simply see Scotland through their own (usually) neo-liberal prism, I agree that McColl’s intervention succeeds in neutering the unimaginative and stale propositions of Osborne and others. These are duplicitous politicians who, on the one hand concede that Scotland could survive fine as an independent country (Cameron) but on the other still talk of economic doom and gloom.

  3. Doug Daniel says:

    “Only weeks ago we were being told – in apparent seriousness by commentators like Severin Carrell and others across the mainstream media that the referendum was lost, or even, wouldn’t happen at all.”

    It just shows you how poor the mainstream media is that so many of its journalists have been peddling these myths. With the exception of Iain MacWhirter (and perhaps one or two others), our journalists have all fallen for the “Salmond really wants devo max on the ballot paper” line absolutely hook, line and sinker. I don’t know if it’s because of deep-rooted unionist beliefs or if they’re just a bit dim, but either way, journalists are being shown up as not very good at their jobs.

    It would appear the rotten state of journalism goes much deeper than the “succulent lamb” sports writers, because as with the Rangers/Sevco debacle, the media has been completely outplayed by amateur bloggers who have been shouting for months that devo max was never anything more than a red herring to fool the unionist parties into a trap, a trap which they’re stumbling into with all the grace of a three-legged elephant.

    Just as well we’ve got the likes of Bella, Wings and National Collective to lead the way.

  4. bellacaledonia says:

    To be fair though Doug I think there has been an openness to this option. What has happened is that an openness has been misconstrued and misrepresented as the duplicitous Machiavellian workings of an evil genius, because as we all know, the only way independence could be won is by some clever trick.

    1. pmcrek says:

      This ^^ basically.

      The SNP want independence and they want a referendum on independence, but they havent got where they are today by ignoring the electorate or limiting our choices. They are leaving the door open on Devo Max as a gesture to very people they are trying to convince to vote for them and for independence.

      The unionist problems stem not from the SNP but from their own petty posturing and limited centrist outlook that is completely incompatible with the views of the majority of the electorate in Scotland.

      In the Lib Dems case in particular, their duplicitous stance on what was once one of the parties core beliefs is the final nail in their Scottish coffin and it is a nail purely of their own devising.

    2. Iain Anderson says:

      couldn`t believe johann Lamont,s commnets at question time linking salmond,s scotland being responible for rise of people using foodbanks…think this will come back to bite the labour party in a big way if they try and equate westiminster flawed reforms with the scottish government

  5. Salmond (or the SNP strategists) seem to be playing this brilliantly. I was supportive of a second question appearing, simply because I’d be perfectly happy with FFA/Devo-max, and/or a more gradual approach. While a “no” to a straight yes/no question would be a disaster for Scotland. But the strategists are way ahead on that one, aren’t they?

    Now all 3 Westminster parties have walked blindly into the bear trap of all being squashed together on the “no further powers” ground, favoured by the least number of people, the SNP already seem to be starting to put pressure on them for more powers now. Or for full fiscal autonomy or devo-max to appear as the “status quo” option, firming up their plans for what will happen after a “no” vote. Devo-max can be done anytime, with no need for a referendum, just as the Scotland Bill was passed.

    If they agree, we devo-max/FFA is delivered by default. If they refuse, that blows any “jam tomorrow” promises out the water. It also keeps the door open on more powers right up to the referendum. But I expect the Westminster parties will not be able to agree on a firm plan before 2014 now. Hence the Westminster coalition will be confined to that very small piece of ground of “no more powers”. I can’t see how they can win on that.

    1. Cath – I think you will find that FFA / Devomax is not within Westminster’s powers as Westminster has no legal or constitutional right to alter, change or amend the 1707 Treaty in any way. This is basically what you have to do with FFA because you are changing the relationship from a parliamentary union to a confederation of nation states.

      The only parliaments with the authority to negotiate changes to the 1707 Treaty are the sovereign English and Scottish Parliaments (Lord Cooper, McCormack – 1953). The problems here are:
      Scotland would be independent prior to any negotiation on a confederal union.
      The English Parliament would have to allow their electorate a referendum to agree to the new union settlement.
      The chances of either electorates agreeing to the new union is slight because, in effect, there is no advantage to England in a confederal union and little real advantage to Scotland which could not be achieved through agreement between the nations.

      happens when you repatriate tax etc back to Holyrood

  6. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    I’ve said many times that the topic of a second question was inplanted to disclose to the Scottish people that Westminster will never give real fiscal powers to the Scottish Parliament. Kenyon Wright recently stated that if Westminster were so inflexible it would drive people to Independence, aka Jim McColl.

    We have a choice. We either run our own affairs or continue to be governed by neo-Liberal parties persuing neo-illiterate economic policies.

  7. Juggzy Malone says:

    I wonder why you used the You Gov poll figures from January, when there are much more recent You Gov Polling figures? You can find them here: http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/ch5ijgodvt/Fabian%20Society%20Results%20-%20120720_Voting%20intention%20and%20Independence.pdf

    Support for Independence: 30%; against Independence 54%, don’t know 16%. Obviously, a low turn-out will favour the side supporting Independence, but even then, the most recent numbers are a long way from those you quote.

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