Author Archives: Simon Horner

Scotland must have a “Which Union?” referendum

You can understand why many people in Scotland don’t like the idea of yet another referendum. In the last 26 months, we have had little respite from political campaigning with no fewer than five trips to the polling stations. But I would argue that the outcome of the EU vote means that another plebiscite must be organised in Scotland to settle the crucial issue of which union it prefers. And this needs to be staged sooner rather than later.

In September 2014, Scottish voters said they wanted to stay in the British union by 55 to 45 on a very high turnout. Yesterday, they said they also wanted to remain in the European Union by a substantially larger margin (62-38) but on a significantly lower turnout. It is now tragically clear that we can’t have both.

A key question has to be answered before a decision is taken to hold a “which union?” referendum. Will the EU 27 accept the principle of Scotland as a Member State in its own right with a special accelerated procedure to allow continuity of membership? This would entail Scotland leaving the UK on the day of Brexit, with Scottish EU accession taking place simultaneously.

Posted in News | 18 Comments

And the biggest threat to the Union is….Ruth Davidson

If short-term party political advantage is the aim of the game, then you can understand why the Scottish Tories have chosen to play the unionist card in the Scottish election. Ruth Davidson knows that Tory economic and social policies do not win elections (or even the runner-up spot) in Scotland. She must despair at her colleagues supposedly running the show in London who are tearing themselves apart on Europe and rapidly abandoning any claim to economic competence or social conscience.

Instead, she has put the independence question at the front and centre of her party’s Scottish programme. This is a headline currently on the “Herald” website:

Ruth Davidson: SNP wants to keep wounds of independence debate open.

I did a double take when I first spotted the story because at first glance I didn’t take in the “SNP” part. Of course, if you read it without the “SNP” it still makes perfect sense. Every time Ruth Davidson harps on about the union – and she does it an awful lot! – she is poking at the scab.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 8 Comments

Tory flip-flop on infrastructure planning


In 2008, the Labour government established the Infrastructure Planning Commission to oversee nationally significant projects in England and Wales.

In 2010, the Tory manifesto pledged the abolition of this unelected body to be replaced by an “efficient and democratically accountable system that provides a fast-track system for major infrastructure projects”.

This was one of the Tory planks of the coalition agreement and the Infrastructure Planning Commission was duly abolished in 2012.

A National Infrastructure Commission was promised by Labour in their 2015 manifesto. The Conservatives did not include it in their so-called ‘long-term economic plan’.

Today, we have George Osborne delivering on Labour’s promise – and doing a U-turn just three years after abolishing a very similar unelected body.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 7 Comments

Opinion: “Britain isn’t a democracy – we can’t possibly say that!” Yes we can!

When I was at secondary school in the early 1970s, my history teacher was a man with a passion for his subject who always encouraged critical discussion. So while he taught us enthusiastically about British “democracy”, he was indulgent towards me when I challenged his assertion following the February 1974 election: the one where the Tories came top with 11.9 million votes (297 seats), Labour “won” with 11.6 million votes (301 seats) and the Liberals’ six million votes delivered 14 members of the House of Commons.

The reality is that the outcome of every election before and since 1974 has been unfair to a greater or lesser extent. Labour got more than nine times as many seats as the Liberal-SDP Alliance in 1983 with just 2% more of the vote. Tony Blair had a comfortable overall majority with 35.2% in 2005 while David Cameron fell well short five years later with 36.1%.

The 2015 election is more striking than most. The SNP got 95% of Scotland’s seats on just under half the vote. Each SNP MP represents roughly 25,000 voters while almost 3.9 million ballots were cast to get Douglas Carswell into Parliament. 51 of the 55 seats in South-West England are Conservative and Labour is the only other party with representation in that region.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 36 Comments

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.


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, …

Posted in News | Tagged and | 23 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 36 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Nonconformistradical
    @Thelma Davies I don't have a problem with your views on parental responsibility. But what do you think should be done about children whose parents are irr...
  • Alex Macfie
    @Tristan Ward: Each country has its own political party system, which has evolved because of multiple factors of which the electoral system is only one. In some...
  • Thelma Davies
    @Nonconform. I'm stating that it's my responsibility & my husband's that my children were toilet trained & had basic reading and writing skills prior to...
  • Mary ReidMary Reid
    @Simon Atkinson - I am so pleased you like our musings on Max's impact within and beyond the party. And please accept my sympathies to the whole family for the ...
  • Chris Moore
    @ExLD Leeds: that's a ludicrous reason not to vote LD. Theakes is in a vanishingly tiny minority regarding the desirability of PR, as you must well know. LDs...