The Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats now all support a European referendum. The SNP oppose it.
– BBC Radio 4 News, 7.30 a.m. 9 June 2015
The hypocrisy of the SNP never ceases to amaze me.
Let’s get two things clear. As I’ve said before and at the risk of losing a few friends, I don’t want the UK to leave the European Union, just as I don’t want Scotland to leave the United Kingdom. I’m also not a great fan of referenda, certainly not in the ad hoc way our politicians tend to use them, untrammelled by any general regulating statute or constitutional principle.
But we are where we are.
An anti-EU party, UKIP, got 3.4 million votes in the recent general election, almost 13% of all votes cast. More importantly, there is also significant anti-EU sentiment in the Conservative party, who won the election and said in their manifesto (p.72) that if elected they would
give you a say over whether we should stay in or leave the EU, with an in-out referendum by the end of 2017.
Politicians are often accused of fudging election commitments, but you can’t get clearer than that.
So here’s the situation.
A significant part of the population want to leave a union we are currently part of. A government has been elected that promised a test by referendum of whether the country should do that. They are now seeking to deliver their commitment.
What does that remind you of?
The question’s rhetorical of course. You know the answer, but for any passing hermit it’s the Scottish independence referendum.
What’s interesting is the reaction of the respective parties to the two virtually identical cases.
In the first, one government (the UK) that was hostile to the very idea of Scottish independence recognised the democratic legitimacy of another (the SNP at Holyrood) and said, ‘Yes, of course. Let’s agree the ground rules and you go ahead.’
In the second, one government (the SNP at Holyrood) that is hostile to the very idea of leaving the EU fails to recognise the democratic legitimacy of another (the UK) and is saying, ‘No, we don’t want it.’
Not only do they do that hypocritical thing, they compound their inconsistency by blowing two more raspberries from the sidelines:
- demanding that each of the ‘four nations’ of the UK should produce a majority for leaving the EU for that to happen
- announcing that if the referendum they don’t want goes ahead (as it surely will), they will campaign for a ‘Yes’ to stay in but separately from any other Yes campaign.
I’m just waiting for some yellow T-shirted SNP canvassers to come to my door and solicit a Yes vote in 2017. Unlike my response to the youth who tried to persuade me to vote Yes in 2014 I might find it difficult to remain cool, calm, collected and polite.
Or maybe I’ll try and detain them in debate as long as possible to stop them bothering other decent citizens. I could see a good half hour’s discussion in my demand that any future Scottish separation referendum should produce a majority for independence in all 32 council areas for it to happen.
And I might ask them why they’re unable to work together with others who want the same aim.