… For preventing the government of Scotland from being a burden on their citizens or on the United Kingdom, and for making them beneficial to the public.
It is a sadness to those who walk through the streets of this great nation of Scotland or travel in the countryside, when they see continued agitation for separation of the nation from the United Kingdom of which it is part. These ‘nationalists’ and the politicians who represent them instead of pursuing the benefits of honest government, are forced to employ all their time in agitating for a cause to impoverish their own nation such that their children and their children’s children would subsist at the expense of the population as a whole or for want of work would have to leave their dear native country to find employment elsewhere.
I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of ‘nationalists’ is in the present deplorable state of the nation a very great additional grievance; and therefore action should be taken to mute their continual clamour.
In pursuit of that noble endeavour, the following modest proposal is set before the citizens of Scotland.
Point the First There shall be no further referendum on the proposed independence (or separation) of any part of the United Kingdom for a set period, that period to be enacted by legislation of the United Kingdom parliament.
Commentary This eminently sensible proposition is in accord with the Edinburgh Agreement between the prime minister of the United Kingdom and the first minister of Scotland which stated that the 2014 referendum should ‘deliver a fair test and a decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland and a result that everyone will respect’ (this author’s emphasis). It also accords with the first minister’s repeated statement during that febrile period that the referendum was a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity. It is only right that the pledge of such a great man be honoured. While there is no statutory definition of a ‘generation’; it would be reasonable given the lifespan of modern humankind (and indeed of successful elected politicians) to set the period at a minimum of ten years.
Point the Second Should there be such a referendum after that set period, a majority of the electorate of each of the four countries of the United Kingdom shall agree to the proposed change.
Commentary There is an old proverb that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The SNP goose has proposed in the United Kingdom parliament that the proposed referendum on European Union membership should remove the kingdom from the European Union only if there are majorities in each of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. It is reasonable that the United Kingdom gander should respond in like fashion.
Note: wherever ‘electorate’ is referred to in this modest proposal it is to be taken at its word, that is all the citizens entitled and registered to vote, whether they do or not. Where fundamental change to national status is proposed it is only right that a majority of all citizens wish it.
Point the Third A majority of the electorate of each of the thirty two local authority areas of Scotland shall also agree to any such change in a future referendum.
Commentary The reader may be referred to the ‘goose and gander’ argument immediately preceding.
Point the Fourth In particular, a substantial majority of the electorate of the part of the United Kingdom to which the proposal relates shall be in favour of change for it to enacted.
Commentary In the interview with the former first minister cited in Point the First above he talks of seeking a ‘substantial majority’ for independence in 2014. One cannot but agree with him that a ‘substantial’ majority is essential where such fundamental change is proposed. It is instructive that in Scandinavia, whose models of government and society the Scottish National Party hold so dear, the referendum that led to Norway’s separation from Sweden achieved a 99.95% vote in favour of separation on a turnout of 85.4%. Simple arithmetic shows that 85.36% of the total electorate wished to separate. However, in these lax days such a rigourous requirement would sadly be seen as unjust and a 2/3 (66%) majority should be deemed ‘substantial’ for this purpose.
Point the Fifth The expenditure of public funds on any test by voting of public opinion on such constitutional change (a so-called ‘informal referendum’) shall be banned by law.
Commentary This is a reasonable proposal to ensure that any government within the United Kingdom does not attempt to thwart the will of the United Kingdom parliament by holding an informal, non-binding referendum, as happened recently in Catalonia.
Point the Sixth Should the proposal by the current United Kingdom government to prevent future governments by law from spending more than they receive in tax revenue when the economy is growing be enacted, then that restriction shall apply also to any devolved government in the United Kingdom.
Commentary This restriction is essential to ensure equity across all parts of the United Kingdom. Should it not be made mandatory, the rest of the kingdom would in effect have to restrict it own spending further in order to accommodate the excess spending of the defaulting part.
Point the Seventh It shall be expressly forbidden for any government or elected public body in the United Kingdom to spend public money on a function for which they are not responsible. Should they attempt to do so, the expenditure shall cease and appropriate penalties be rendered.
Commentary No reasonable citizen could object to such a restriction. It would be intolerable if, for example, the United Kingdom government had a minister and department for Scottish local government, when that function is devolved to the Scottish parliament. By the same token, it is inappropriate for the Scottish government to have a minister for external affairs, which is not a devolved function, and that function should be discontinued.
The author of this modest proposal contemplated an eighth point that would reflect the spirit of its progenitor, that
the children of self-avowed Scottish nationalists including members of the Scottish National Party should be removed from the pernicious and all-pervasive propaganda that surrounds them, to the initial care of their named person and then subsequent transport to England where they might receive a proper education and permanent resettlement.
Sadly, he felt constrained to reject this point as being out of spirit with our enfeebled times but should there be a groundswell of opinion in favour, he would be happy to reintroduce it.