This time last year, it looked like it was all going wrong for the Scotland Bill that Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore was piloting through Parliament. On top of that, confusion reigned over the forthcoming referendum on independence with the Scottish and Westminster Governments seemingly on a collision course over how this would be delivered.
Then, in January, Michael Moore seized the initiative, making a Commons statement in which he pledged to ensure that a fair, legal and decisive referendum was delivered. At that time, the SNP had not officially confirmed any details about when or how they wanted the referendum to happen.
Katy Gordon gave her own guide to the referendum while Graeme Cowie argued that Liberal Democrats should embrace the possibility of a multi option referendum which included a “devo max” settlement. Paul Edie pondered the West Kensington question.
By May, the results of the UK Government’s consultation on the process for the referendum were in, showing a clear majority in favour of a single question, the Yes Scotland campaign had been launched, and the Nationalists stole me.
In June, the pro-union campaign, Better Together, was launched with Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie saying:
We will take nothing for granted. In the campaign to keep our family together, we will work for every vote. Our opponents will be determined. They are passionate about their cause and will work to win. But I am determined that we will lead a campaign that will match them, and more, with our passion and our effort.
For every supporter here this morning, watching online, following on twitter or however you hear this message I have a task for you.
When you wake up each day I want you to ask what you will do this day to keep Scotland stronger in a united kingdom. You could raise funds, deliver leaflets, answer the phones, tweet or whatever you can do.
By October, an historic agreement had been reached between the Scottish and UK Governments on the referendum process. Signed by David Cameron and Alex Salmond, the detail had been worked out by Michael Moore and Nicola Sturgeon behaving like grown-ups and negotiating through the issues. As a result, the referendum will take place in late 2014, with one single question, overseen by the Electoral Commission rather than the preferred SNP option of a new organisation and, particularly pleasing to Liberal Democrats, the power is there for the vote to be given to 16 and 17 year olds. I felt that Michael hadn’t quite got the credit he deserved for his calm perseverance and the way he persuaded the Conservatives to take a much more pragmatic and enabling line than they would have done. However, a month later, his award for Best Scot at Westminster came amongst accolades in the press, including a comparison to James Bond!
Now that the debate has shifted from process to detail, much of the last couple of months has been spent arguing about the terms of an independent Scotland’s membership of the EU, with Willie Rennie being called “coolly impressive” in the press.
With two years to go until the Referendum, this story is going to run and run. I wonder what next year’s Year in the Life… will say. This assumes, of course, that the world goes on beyond this Friday…
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings