Haggis, Neeps and Liberalism #14: As a liberal republican sees it

Last week, Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, launched the Referendum (Scotland) Bill consultation. The SNP has few aspirations, beyond independence for its own sake. I can’t help but think of them as someone courting a reluctant bride. They keep asking, and keep cajoling, hoping that eventually the electorate will say yes, and let them take them up the aisle.

On Friday, Nicola Sturgeon, who faced parliament about her own troubles earlier in the week, said “this isn’t about what the SNP wants, it’s about what the people of Scotland want”. Well, she’s wrong. This consultation actually is about what the SNP wants, fuelled by their continued suggestions that we in Scotland are oppressed, at least in comparison to our southerly neighbours.

Much of the electorate voted SNP in 2007, not because they wanted an independent Scotland, but because they didn’t want Labour. We are still undeafened by the calls for separation. Nonetheless, we are to be asked whether we approve of two options.

The first question, on increased devolution, may or may not need a referendum, but they’ve included it as an alternative to the full independence option. Presumably, this is because further devolution is preferable to the SNP than a blanket rejection of the independence option. But there’s something I find a bit strange, and just don’t understand.

What I don’t understand about the full independence proposal is the retention of HM The Queen as head of state. I would have thought that there would be enough republicanism in the SNP to propose an elected head of state, so why not go the whole way? Do they mean independence or not? The current proposal falls strangely short of establishing a “normal sovereign state”, but maybe they just want the comfort of a piece of the used umbilical cord.

I describe myself as a republican. I believe that Great Britain should remain united, but I really can’t justify a non-elected head of state. However, there are more important things facing us just now – the economy, social justice, health and education, for example. The head of state thing falls low on my priorities for attention, as does a doomed referendum on full independence.

Liberal values such as liberty, equality and community appeal to me far more than asserting differences of nationhood. We live in each others shadows. In other words, we depend on each other – in our communities, towns and cities, in our countries, in Europe, and beyond. Monarchy or not, the SNP’s desires for separatism are based on sentimentality and misplaced nationalism, a poor priority for any political party.

* Kevin McPhillips is a Lib Dem member in Linlithgow, West Lothian.

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5 Comments

  • “Much of the electorate voted SNP in 2007, not because they wanted an independent Scotland, but because they didn’t want Labour.”

    That’ll be why Labour came a close second then? I suspect, like me, much of the electorate would like our own say in this important constitutional issue. We don’t want decisions left to politicians who talk rubbish about jobs and the economy, which the Scottish parliament has little or no responsibility for. We want to come out and vote in a referendum, we want our say. The only way to do that is to hold a referendum. As it is, the party with an independence mandate won the Scottish Parliament elections, therefore the conclusion must be that voters have an opinion that is pro-referendum.

  • What I don’t understand about the full independence proposal is the retention of HM The Queen as head of state. I would have thought that there would be enough republicanism in the SNP to propose an elected head of state, so why not go the whole way?

    We shared a head of state for over a century before the Act of Union, so constitutionally and legally the two questions are as about as separate as they could be. My guess is that most nats are indeed republicans, but to conflate the two issues would achieve nothing but to muddy the waters.

  • I simply do not see what we – or rather the Scottish party – are playing at on this. I am fairly certain that an independence referendum would fail and most people seem to agree. It would also set the SNP back a generation. Given this, I simply cannot understand why the SLDs do not simply agree to hold the referendum and then campaign for a “no” or at least an “option 3, more devolution” vote.

    It is not only indefensible for a party with both Liberal and Democrats in the name to oppose giving people the right to vote on self-determination, it is really bad politics.

  • Malcolm Todd 3rd Mar '10 - 9:02am

    It’s completely spurious to claim that because the SNP ‘won’ the election in 2007, Scottish voters have demonstrated support for an independence referendum. The SNP got just over 30% of the vote in that election, and a similar proportion of the seats in parliament. That doesn’t look, feel, taste or smell like a mandate to me; and there’s no opinion poll evidence of strong support for independence that should be tested in a referendum. If you want independence, vote SNP – that’s the party’s whole raison d’etre; if you don’t want independence, and there’s no prospect of it being forced through, why would you want a referendum? There’s no need to constantly demonstrate support for not introducing radical constitutional change.

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