Tag Archives: Scottish independence referendum

Can moderate public engagement be a good thing?

Scottish referendum ohot by gerardferryimagesWhile I was a governor at a primary school, we had a yearly dilemma. By law, we had to hold an annual meeting with parents. About a dozen usually turned up. Normally the same faces. Interested and engaged, they gave us good feedback and a nice time was had by all. Soft drinks and nibbles supplied.

But a dozen parents for a school with several hundred pupils was considered low. So, annually, we considered ways of increasing parental attendance, only to be frustrated. After several attempts, I jokingly suggested that the only way to increase attendance was to announce that, at the next meeting, we would be showing a preview of an experimental Swedish sex education video which we were considering showing to pupils.

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The post-independence referendum to do list

I am so relieved this morning. I don’t think I have ever been as scared and anxious about any political event in my life as I was about the result of the referendum on independence. I really do think that a win for Yes would not have brought the help for the most vulnerable in society that was promised.

I don’t feel any great sense of victory. I know that many of my friends, who have the same values and want the same things for our society as I do, are feeling distraught this morning. I’ve been on the receiving end of defeat enough times to know its pain. These are good people and I feel for them.

I need desperately to sleep but before I do, and while I wait for Salmond to make his statement at 10 am, I thought I’d jot down a bit of a to do list for a whole variety of people. It’s ambitious.

1. Deliver on the more powers pledge – putting something like Liberal Democrat policy into practice.

The result was not a massive vote of confidence in the UK as it stands. The union has been put on probation. If people are not given signifiant new powers that make a difference, we’ll be back here in 5 years’ time. Do it quickly and inclusively.

2. Develop a strategy for tackling poverty and inequality at UK and Scottish level

In some ways the “more powers” thing was a bit of a red herring. People wanted more powers but they also wanted to make life better for the most vulnerable people in society. We need a bit of vision on delivering better housing and getting people out of poverty. That will really give the 84% of people who turned out yesterday a reason to do so again.

3. No excuses, no delay: we need votes at 16 now

One of the best sight of yesterday was seeing 16 and 17 year olds heading to the polling station for the first time in a UK election. It worked. They shouldn’t have that vote taken away from them now. Is it possible to implement it for the General Election next May? There is no reason it couldn’t be rushed through Parliament, surely. No taxation without representation, after all.

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Senior Liberal Democrats react as Scots vote to stay in UK

The sovereign will of the Scottish people, by a margin of, give or take a bit, 55%-45 %, is to stay in the UK. In voting No, they put their trust in David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg to deliver more powers to the Scottish Parliament.

Here’s how senior Liberal Democrats reacted. First,  Nick Clegg:

I’m absolutely delighted the Scottish people have taken this momentous decision to safeguard our family of nations for future generations.

In a dangerous and uncertain world I have no doubt we are stronger, safer, and more prosperous together than we ever could be apart.

But a vote against independence was clearly not a vote against change and we must now deliver on time and in full the radical package of newly devolved powers to Scotland.

At the same time, this referendum north of the border has led to a demand for constitutional reform across the United Kingdom as people south of the border also want more control and freedom in their own hands rather than power being hoarded in Westminster.

So this referendum marks not only a new chapter for Scotland within the UK but also a new chapter of constitutional renewal across the UK.

Willie Rennie:

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Opinion: More powers are not on the ballot paper

Scottish Parliament 23 May 06 067The three unionist parties – and, yes, that seems to include us – have united to promise more powers if Scotland votes No tomorrow.

But what are they offering, and is it “guaranteed”? I don’t question Ming’s sincerity when he claims that federalism is within touching distance but I seriously question his optimism.

Our own party has its plans for fairly radical change (though calling it federalism is stretching a point, and our policy is now entangled with plans for devolution on demand in the rest of the UK). Two and a half years ago we had the opportunity to have our version of federalism on the ballot paper. While not constitutionally definitive, the likely large majority this option could have won would have given it strong political traction.  But our Inverness conference rejected it in a nasty wave of anti-SNP rhetoric.

photo by: Martin Pettitt
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Labour to cut short their party conference?

Manchester Town Hall ClockThe Labour party is planning to cut short their party conference if Scotland votes Yes, according to leaks to Huffington Post.

The conference is due to run in Manchester from this Sunday through to next Wednesday, but they are assuming that Parliament would be recalled on Monday if Yes wins. In that event, it seems all ministerial speeches and fringe meetings will be cancelled, “with the exception of the keynote address from Labour leader Ed Miliband next Tuesday” .  That does not leave much, and delegates who are not MPs will be left to create their own entertainment in Manchester.

photo by:
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Opinion: I sat on the fence for a long time

Alex Salmond - License Some rights reserved by Ewan McIntoshIn history independence (or partition) often leads to a rise in racism, disaffection, poverty, hatred and instability.  I was looking for evidence that Scottish independence wouldn’t do that.

I was looking for intelligent leadership with a coherent vision which would unite Scotland to reassure me that the positives of independence (which would include faster and more sensitive feedback loops for Scottish policy) would outweigh the negatives.  In the early stages of the campaign I saw signs of what I was looking for.

My first …

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LibLink: Shirley Williams: How Scotland could lead the way towards a federal UK

Shirley WilliamsThe Guardian posted an article by Shirley Williams yesterday, in which she writes:

The referendum decision will come at the culmination of a long period of disillusionment with politicians. The SNP, like the other mainstream parties, has attracted its own share of public frustration about centralisation and the excessive rule of Edinburgh over other regions of Scotland. Nationally, the disillusionment began with the poll tax, the decline of manufacturing in Scotland, Wales, the Midlands and the north of England during the Thatcher years, the failure of our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and the financial crisis in 2008 which loaded on taxpayers the huge costs of bailing out the banks.

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Scotland’s independence referendum: here’s what our survey says Lib Dem members think

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 735 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Scotland votes this Thursday in its independence referendum. We asked our sample of Lib Dem members for their views and here’s what we found…

62% of Lib Dem members say we’re Better Together

Do you support or oppose Scotland becoming a country independent from the rest of the United Kingdom?

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Is Mike Crockart voting Yes to Independence?

You might think so from these photos of his office in the heart of Edinburgh West

Crockart yes 1

Crockart Yes 2

Not for the first time, his staff have had to take down Yes posters which had been glued on to the office windows.

Yesterday a cavalcade of Yes cars parked outside the office and played loud music next to Mike’s No Thanks street stall. Why do they bother with nonsense like that.

This, sadly, is one of the milder incidents of intimidatory behaviour which are becoming commonplace across Scotland.  I have lost count of the number of committed and passionate No voters who have very politely declined to take a poster because they are worried that their windows would be knocked in if they display it. It shouldn’t be like this. 

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Charles Kennedy launches new Liberal Democrat Poster van tour “Why would we walk away?”

Charles Kennedy poster launch

 

 

In Glasgow this morning, Charles Kennedy launched a new Liberal Democrat poster campaign reminding people of the good things that the UK has created together. Why would you walk away? is its theme. 

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Jim Wallace: Team Scotland within the UK – the best solution

Back in the day when we had a Scottish Government that was more bothered about doing everything it could rather than complaining about what it couldn’t do. When it found it didn’t have the power it needed, it found a way round. That Government, which  implemented transformative social and political change from fair votes for local government to free personal care to leading the way on freedom of information, land reform and the smoking ban, would not have achieved all it did without the leadership of our Jim Wallace. This is a guy who knows how to make things happen. …

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Pro-UK rally in Trafalgar Square at 6pm TONIGHT

If you’re in London and you want Scotland to stay in the UK, head for Trafalgar Square at 6pm. A rally is taking place to show solidarity across the UK. Fraser Nelson wrote about it in the Spectator:

What’s the point of holding a rally in London? It’s true that no one there will have a vote, but this is for those who still love this county and can’t bear to sit back and watch it fall apart. Those who want to do something, no matter how small. The rally should enforce a point : that the UK is an extraordinary union of

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Opinion: Devolution and federalism – the missing ingredient

union flag 1606The missing ingredient in Maria Pretzler’s thought-provoking piece (“We urgently need a new policy on devolution and federalism“) is nationalism.

The first politician in whose interest it was to bring the kingdoms of Scotland and England together was the King of Scots James VI. His solution was to reconcile the two nations by proclaiming himself King of Great Britain in 1604, and then in 1606 creating a Union flag, combining St George’s Cross with the saltire. The Scottish king saw Britishness as a supranational idea, and this is well understood in Scotland.

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Shirley Williams wows Dunfermline – in pictures

Shirley Williams has been an absolute star these last few days. She came to Scotland on Thursday and will be here until Tuesday night. She’s already travelled the length of the country. She spoke at the Liberal Democrat rally on Thursday night, went to Orkney for a hugely well attended debate on Friday night and was back in Fife yesterday afternoon.

She spoke to voters on the High Street where both campaigns were out in force. I’m sure the Yes campaigner with the megaphone who yelled out “Bow down to your Imperial Overlords” as we all assembled for a photo.

Shirley group photo Dunfermline

 

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Opinion: The economics of independence have been lost in the smoke of battle

As economic issues have come to the fore in the referendum campaign, I find myself, oddly, sympathising with both sides in the debate, not for what they are saying, but for what they can’t say. You can imagine the story lines:

In an astonishing admission that has left the Yes campaign in tatters, Alex Salmond has accepted that the markets will be adversely affected in the short-term by a vote for independence.

or;

The Better Together campaign was in free fall yesterday when Alistair Darling agreed that an independent Scotland would be economically viable and could be more prosperous in the longer term.

Intuitively, …

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Opinion: How to tell the SNP?

No yes scotland photo by kyoshi masamuneHow do we point out to SNP supporters that they should vote No next Thursday to save their party, without alarming No voters?

The survival of the SNP depends on a No vote.  The party exists to campaign, lobby and bully for independence achieved through a Yes vote in the referendum.  It has no other purpose.  If it wins the referendum, even by a single vote, it will have achieved its purpose and have no further reason to exist.

The SNP is not a liberation movement like the ANC or SWAPO, whose victory founded democracy in states where the previous oppression and authoritarianism meant there were no alternative democratic political parties and the liberation movements have continued while politics develops.

Scotland is a vibrant democracy.  Scottish Parliament elections change Scottish governments.  The Liberal Democrats – and Labour and the Conservatives and the Greens – have purposes related to improving people’s lives and pursue policies related to doing that in changing circumstances.

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Well, that rather blows a hole in the Yes campaign’s NHS claims, doesn’t it?

I don’t often use the word “lies” in politics. I save it for the most egregious examples of political dishonesty. One which has made me incredibly angry recently has been the Yes campaign’s utterly dishonest campaign on the NHS. They argued that a Yes vote was the only way to protect the NHS, saying that privatisation in England meant that there would be less in funding through the Barnett Formula. Preying on the fears of some of the most vulnerable people in our society is completely unacceptable.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies has just, to put it mildly, proved the Yes campaign wrong. This is what they have to say:

Independence would give the Scottish government more freedom to set spending and tax policies. It would also, in principle, have more freedom to borrow. That freedom would be constrained by the size of the debt it would likely inherit and the willingness of markets to lend. On most plausible scenarios it is hard to see how an independent Scotland could “end austerity” in the short run. In work published this summer we showed how, on the basis of the independent OBR’s oil forecasts, an independent Scotland would likely still have a deficit of 2.9% of GDP (borrowing of about £800 per person in today’s terms) by 2018-19 even if it followed current UK government tax and spending plans – plans that are forecast to lead to the UK as a whole actually having a small budget surplus by the same year. In this case an independent Scotland would need to implement bigger spending cuts (or more tax rises) than the UK as a whole or try to borrow more. This means it would likely be harder rather than easier to protect the NHS.

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Opinion: Devo-Instant – a recipe for disaster

Union FlagWe are now into headless chicken mode. With a week to “save the Union”, we are contemplating fundamental constitutional reform at breakneck speed, driven by a timetable drafted on the back of a fag packet by Gordon Brown. Decades of unresolved debate about conflicting options will now be sorted out in months.

We all know about the Dangerous Dogs Act, “emergency” legislation which turned out unworkable. This time we’re not just talking about dangerous dogs. We are talking about the dangers of a botched constitutional settlement and national disintegration.

For politicians who don’t understand, this is not just about abstract ideas like regional government or an English Parliament. It is about organisation. It is about making sure there is one authority for each necessary task, not three or zero. It is about the jobs of those who skivvy for you politicians and do these tasks. It cannot be set up in a fortnight.

photo by: mrs.timpers
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Michael Moore MP writes…Scotland’s Future – my personal view

The EildonsA week today we will take the most important political decision of our lives.

Across the Borders, in the privacy of the voting booth we will each face the question: should Scotland be an independent country?

It’s the moment of truth as we weigh up what’s best for our families, our communities and our country.

I am proud to be a Borderer; I am proud to be Scottish; and I am proud to be British. For me the answer is straightforward – I want to continue to be a part of this family of nations which we call the United Kingdom, so I will be voting ‘No’.

Looking around me I see families whose stories tell the tale of these great British Isles –  parents and children from all corners of the country; life stories of careers down south, up north and all parts in between; shared experiences with others across the UK in our armed forces, on the sports field or in the culture of Coronation Street and the Olympics.

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LibLink: Kirsty Williams: A chance to promote a new union

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams has been writing for Click on Wales saying that she hopes that Scotland remains within the UK and how the Referendum gives an opportunity to make the union between our nations work better.

First she talks of the benefits of remaining in the Union:

The referendum offers us a chance to promote a new Union, rather than stubbornly defend the old.  The Welsh Liberal Democrats offer people a more positive future:  not one of isolation, but one in which all corners of the United Kingdom are indeed stronger and better together.

I firmly believe that Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom. Being part of a strong family of nations like ours is in the best interest of not just Scotland but the rest of the UK too. We all benefit from a stronger economy, greater national security and a powerful international voice that would be hard to match as separate states. However, Scotland must have more powers to determine its future.  To simply do nothing in the event of a ‘No’ vote cannot be an option.

And she talks bout what needs to happen in the future for both Scotland and Wales and highlights what the Liberal Democrats have achieved in Government.

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Kirsty Williams says Carwyn Jones’ devolution comments will confuse Welsh voters

Carwyn Jones and Alistair DarlingYesterday, I saw Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones speak at  a Better Together event in Edinburgh. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting that much. Most of what I’ve heard about him comes from the Welsh Liberal Democrats who aren’t, shall we say, completely enamoured at his record in office.

Having said that, he did have some useful things to say. He was very clear that he as Wales’ leader wanted Scotland to stay in the UK:

We want you to stay to work with you to build socially just

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Opinion: I’ve changed my mind on Scottish independence

I’ve changed my mind over Scottish independence and so on which way I would vote in the referendum on 18 September.

Although a Liberal and Liberal Democrat, I welcomed the SNP’s election progress from the 1967 Hamilton by-election to their first administration in the Scottish Government.  As a school and college student, trying to be different, I would talk to girls about Scottish independence.  As a chat up technique it was a total failure!  Only a few years ago, I wrote in an email about wanting to be on the northern side of the border when Scotland became independent.

I displayed a sham certainty that melted several years ago before the prospect of a referendum after the SNP’s election victories.

In fact all along I was arguing for federalism with a passion that persists.

Why when, Liberal Democrats are jostling to explain why they are voting Yes, have I abandoned my flirtation and do I passionately want a No vote?

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Opinion: Turn the clock back to 1602?

Union FlagWhat would happen to people living outside Scotland if Alex Salmond succeeds in turning the clock back to 1602?

The origin of our current state as a successful multi-ethnic, multi-cultural entity owes much to the Union.

Following James VI succeeding to the English (and Welsh and Irish) crown people born in Scotland were no longer aliens before an English court and people born in England, Wales and Ireland were no longer aliens before a Scottish court. James recognised the multi-ethnic nature of his state by joining the Scottish Saltire with the Cross of St George to form the Union Jack.

photo by: mrs.timpers
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Opinion: Scotland voting Yes, surely not!

st Andrews flag saltire scotland Some rights reserved by Fulla TWas Scotland only to be offered a referendum to which the answer would be No? From the press today one would think this was the case. Did the Westminster bubble think Scotland would not dare to cut the apron strings?

Political commentators from south seem not to have recognised that the Yes campaign is not a vote for Eck Salmond and the SNP, nor even for nationalism. It is a positive decision for Scotland and its future. Scotland has substantial natural resources and independence will be our coming-of-age, although some of the commentariat suggest apocalypse will be the only outcome. It’s bound to be a bumpy ride but change also provides new opportunities to embrace. Economists and bankers warn of the currency and economic risks but one can have little faith in powers of prediction so comprehensively undermined by the crash of 2008.

Posted in Op-eds | 24 Comments

Yes, Scotland should have more independence. Wales too. But don’t forget the English

I’m a federalist which, I guess, places me somewhere between the unionists and the separatists. Which means that, as I ‘fessed up last February, I’m much more ambivalent about the case for Scottish independence than most Lib Dems:

I believe in power being as close to the people as possible. Is ‘devo-max’ or full independence the best way to achieve that? That’s the key question Scots need to be able to answer by September. Ironically, it’s the one not on the ballot paper.

So I’m not as fazed as many down south are by the apparent tightening of the polls suggesting …

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Clegg’s pitch to Scotland to say No to independence: “Change is on its way.”

nick clegg euThe weekend news of the first poll pointing to a possible Yes vote in the Scottish independence referendum has dominated the headlines – and it may prompt those parties campaigning for Scotland to remain within the UK to commit irrevocably to further devolved powers to the Scottish Assembly. That was the strong message today from Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, speaking at a press conference this morning:

For the first time in my political lifetime, there is clear, unwavering unity on this question. Finally, everyone who believes in the United Kingdom believes in more power – more control for Scotland, in Scotland.

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Opinion: A new constitution won’t deliver the social change people think they’ll get with a yes vote

As a Scottish Liberal and a lawyer, I have been inclined at times to get too involved in the minutiae of constitutional issues.  I can explain how to count several forms of PR and I have firm and detailed views on written constitutions.  Enduring two years of referendum campaigning in Scotland, however, has woken me up to the dangers of over-emphasising constitutional issues.

When you read much of what comes from the Yes campaign, you are lefd to believe that every social problem – real and perceived – that has ever occurred in Scotland will be solved by changing the constitutional settlement.  Scotland will become a land of milk and honey where all social problems melt away (or, at the very least, are showered with unending supplies of healing money) and a raft of social services will be presented as being “free”.

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LibLink: Charles Kennedy: Scotland’s energy considerations benefit from the UK

Photo of loch Sloy hydro electric scheme by paul walterCharles Kennedy is one of a handful of politicians on the pro-UK side never to have put a foot wrong in the independence debate. Labour’s Kezia Dugdale, always passionate on feminism and social justice is another. Better Together could do a lot worse than leaving all the talking to them for the next 12 days.

On his own website, Charles has written a typically thoughtful article about Scotland’s energy needs, what we gain from being part of the UK and how independence would affect us.

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Opinion: Why I’m voting “Yes Scotland” on September 18

September 14th "Welcome to Scotland"I have recently returned to Scotland after 27 years working for the European Commission in Brussels. After 18 September, I plan to campaign hard for the Scottish Lib Dems, irrespective of the outcome of the independence vote.

At the moment, though, I am in something of a limbo, finding myself on the “wrong” side of the referendum debate vis-a-vis my own party. As I am half-English and half-Scots, with family in Devon, I might be expected to vote “No”, but after a lot of soul-searching, I realise that it has to be a “Yes”. There are three key reasons for this.

photo by: amandabhslater
Posted in Op-eds | 36 Comments

LibLink: Sir Malcolm Bruce MP – The positive case for the Union

Sir Malcom Bruce, Lib Dem deputy leader, has been writing for Endeavour Public Affairs on the choice facing Scots in next week’s referendum.

Here’s an excerpt:

To make a positive case for Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom is to recognise multiple identities and respect that what it means to feel British – or Scottish for that matter – is up to the individual as long as it is inclusive.

It would be all too easy to pick apart the arguments presented by the Yes campaign with endless short-term policy guarantees, limitless and non-costed spending promises. However, there is also a very strong argument in making a positive case for saying a polite but robust No, Thanks to independence.

Sharing resources and strengths while supporting each other through weakness means we can achieve much more than if either party was alone.

As much as there is to set Scotland apart from the rest of the United Kingdom, there is as much that brings us together in terms of culture, (modern) language, shared history, and the free movement of people over the generations. Together we have consistently punched above our weight in terms of international diplomacy, social development, the arts, invention, and enterprise. Scotland and Scots have played a major role in this.

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