‘No politician has the right to stand in the way’ of another independence referendum – Nicola Sturgeon, Hong Kong 31 July 2015
That bloody second referendum won’t go away. We were told that one of the damned things could lead to a ‘neverendum’ and it looks like the sages who warned us were right.
It’s not something I want for many reasons. One of the most fundamental is that an independence referendum is a one-sided game. ‘We want independence. We’ll hold a referendum. We lose. Never mind we’ll hold another one. And another. Until we get the answer we want. Then there’s no turning back.’ And that’s what would happen in a post-independence Scotland in which a significant minority say they want to return to the UK and have that tested with a referendum. I can imagine no circumstances in which the putative majority who want to remain separate would agree to that. Nor can I imagine a spurned ‘rUK’ saying ‘Feel free to change your mind and come back.’
The second fundamental reason I find the prospect of another referendum unacceptable is that it would represent the most monumental betrayal of trust by the leaders of the SNP. The Edinburgh Agreement that led to the referendum was crystal-clear on this. It said:
The [UK and Scottish] governments are agreed that the referendum should … deliver a fair test and a decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland and a result that everyone will respect.
You can’t get less ambiguous than that. Appended to the agreement are the signatures of both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon. In the run-up to the vote I lost count of the number of times Salmond, then first minister, said that the referendum was a ‘once in a lifetime’ or ‘once in a generation’ opportunity: so many and so publicly that I’m not even going to cite sources.
Here’s the full quote from Nicola Sturgeon today on another referendum during her current swan across the Far East (taken from the BBC):
Two questions I get asked often these days – will there be another independence referendum and, if so, when? My answer is simple. It will be if and when the Scottish people decide and not a moment before.
No politician can impose a referendum on Scotland, no matter how much some of us would like Scotland to be independent.
And it’s worth pointing out that the reverse is also true. If the Scottish people do vote in future to have another referendum, no politician has the right to stand in their way.
Crudely speaking, and many of us no longer need to be reminded of this, the pre-referendum promise ratified in the Edinburgh Agreement and spoken of so much by SNP politicians was so much guff (if you don’t know, look it up). When I reluctantly commemorated the first hundred posts on the No Thanks! blog I wrote
The argument made in favour of a second referendum is that the will of the people cannot be denied. That ‘will’ of course is a movable target. It was what the electorate were going to say on 14 September. It’s now what the 100,000+ members of the SNP want and some of the 50% of the voters who voted for the SNP in the general election may want. All it shows to me is that the SNP don’t have a leadership. They have a followship.
My invented and somewhat clumsy word ‘followship’ keeps bobbing around in my mind. Riding the crest of a wave of popularity and saying what people want to hear is not leadership. All you’re doing is scurrying along trying to keep up with what you think your followers want. Not for the first time I contrast the bearing, tone and dishonesty of Sturgeon and Salmond with two very different political characters – Jimmy Reid (quoted here) and Nelson Mandela, with whom Salmond is so fond of comparing himself. Both Reid and Mandela led by example. When they needed to say unpopular things they said them loudly and clearly and they spoke the truth. I do not see the same characteristic in our current and most recent first ministers.
If you trawl back through this blog you’ll find I’ve said similar things a number of times. I sometimes feel I’m stuck in a Scottish version of Ground Hog Day. One of the jibes by nationalists at those of us who voted ‘No’ in the referendum is that we won’t move on. It is of course complete nonsense. It’s the losers of that vote who won’t move on.
So the majority, those who want Scotland to remain part of the UK, are in for a long haul. We can’t rely on the SNP leadership to do the right thing. Perhaps, as Salmond was so keen to trumpet during the referendum campaign, we have to rely on that ‘sovereign will’ of the people a majority of whom even now (see the latest Survation poll) do not want separation. Perhaps we have to rely on a UK government keeping to their side of the Edinburgh Agreement and saying, quite rightly, you’ve had a fair and decisive test and we respect that result. End of.
At best we may be in for a ‘Quebec solution’ – another referendum lost by the separatists then a common sense realisation that their game is up. I’m not giving up and I suspect most of the readers of this blog won’t.