Tag Archives: indyref2

The crude reality of independence and the renewal of federalism

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Hopefully come 2021 we will be in a position to hold elections again, which must mean a return of focus to our message in Scotland. What’s our message and why is it both unique and important for the people of Scotland?

In 1992, James Carville was a strategist in the successful Presidential campaign of Bill Clinton. Carville hung a sign in Bill Clinton’s Little Rock campaign headquarters that read:

  1. Change vs. more of the same
  2. The economy, stupid
  3. Don’t forget health care

We know fine well where both the SNP and Conservatives stand in their message going into next year’s election, it’s a straight fight between IndyRef2 and Unionism. The Scottish Liberal Democrats can cut through all that white noise by sticking to Carville’s sign.

In 2014, independence campaigners failed because they couldn’t produce a clear and credible economic narrative. I find little evidence to suggest that narrative has found new ground, in fact quite the opposite. There is a crude reality for IndyRef2 supporters and it’s the price of crude oil.

In 2014 the price of crude oil was over $110 per barrel and was the economic basis for the ‘White Paper for Scotland’. At the beginning of this year that price fell by a half and then stabilised at roughly $60 per barrel; the industry itself survived on a round of deep cost cutting and slashing employment in the North Sea on a large scale.

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Here we go again…

 

We all know about the announcement from Nicola Sturgeon. Some have written here in support of Liberal Democrat leadership figures maintaining a staunch unionist position, to the extent of wishing to block an independence referendum in the first place. Others have written in support of the Liberal Democrats crossing the divide and actively backing Scottish independence this time around.

I have made no secret of the fact that in 2014 I was a reluctant Yes voter. I am also open about the fact that in the next referendum, the only thing that will have changed for me is my increased certainty that independence is the least worst option on the ballot, in the wake of Brexit. However, many others within the party will be similarly convinced of their position behind a No vote.

In the wake of the recent Northern Irish election, I remember reading a Mark Pack article asking what lessons Liberal Democrats could learn from our Northern Irish sister party, which had enjoyed a strong result. The Alliance Party exists as a cross-community endeavour to defend and advance liberalism, tolerance and understanding across sectarian and nationalistic divides. Crucially, it does so without declaring either the British union or a future reunion of Ireland as the correct context to achieve those goals in.

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Cole-Hamilton: Greens have no mandate to call for second Scottish independence referendum

This week, the Scottish Parliament will vote on whether to seek a Section 30 order, the device in the UK Parliament’s power that would give it the right to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence. The SNP Government is expected to win with the support of the Greens. However, Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton has made it clear that the Greens do not have a mandate to call for a referendum given that the three conditions in their manifesto have not been met. He has challenged Greens leader Patrick Harvie – who could easily merit being called “Pushover Patrick” for voting with the SNP on these critical issues, to explain his actions.
Alex  has asked Mr  Harvie why the party has turned its attention away from public service reform, back-tracked on its requirement that opinion polls should indicate support for a new referendum, and scrapped its requirement that a million-strong petition should be the trigger.

Alex said:

The Scottish Greens had three criteria to allow a referendum from their manifesto. None has been met.

The Greens have no mandate for a referendum. They should respect that and decline to vote for a referendum at Holyrood next Wednesday.

Scottish Liberal Democrats had a manifesto commitment against a referendum and we will stick to that.

With education performance slipping, the mental health strategy abandoned and the economy sluggish, Scotland needs its Parliament working on these issues instead of a referendum.

Alex has written to Patrick Harvie saying:

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The emotions of constitutional change

 

Here we go again – Scotland is (if Westminster grants a S30 Order) being treated to yet another bitter, divisive and emotional constitutional referendum where lies and spin will confuse one and all and we will likely end up with a narrow result that satisfies no one. What joy!

I voted No before.  This time we are told that circumstances have changed (thus the SNP and the hyper-nationalist Scottish Green Party are demanding the re-vote that they would have demanded whatever happened) and some of my LibDem friends say that Brexit means they will now vote Yes.

Willie Rennie promises to make an “emotional case for the Union”.  I find it hard to get any more emotional about staying with the Union then separating from it.  Where can a liberal find that emotional call?

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This time we should be firmly pro-Independence

 

At the last conference Alex Cole-Hamilton explained his opposition to Scottish independence by noting that he was a UK citizen, an EU citizen and wanted to remain both.

It is a fine sentiment.

The time, though, is fast arising when he and others may have to decide which is more important. When no amount of campaigning against the decision will prevent the outcome, when the Tory backbenchers melt and when the Labour leadership get behind the Brexiteers, then then people of Scotland are faced with a choice. It is a stark choice, it is a difficult choice and it is a choice, no doubt, that people do not want to make. But it is a choice they will be forced to: “UK or EU”, “both” will not be on the ballot paper.

So which to choose?

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Why I’m supporting Yes this time

In September 2014, you could well be expected to have thought that it was all over. The “no” vote to independence – including mine – was 55%, the SNP broadly accepted the result, and it looked like there was no way the Tories would win an overall majority in 2015, effectively ruling out an EU referendum.

How things have changed.

In 2014, I started the referendum relatively open-minded but leaning towards a “no”, but by the end (and having been firmly put off the idea by Alex Salmond) I was quite firmly in the “no” camp.

But in my head I was clear about one thing. My priority was to remain a European citizen. I would prefer to do that as part of the UK, but if that wasn’t possible then other ways had to be considered.

Posted in Op-eds | 38 Comments

Heartbreak

I’m feeling pretty heartbroken at the moment. Like Charles Kennedy, I’m a highlander, a Scot, a Brit and a European, with the first and the last most important. Now my rights as a European citizen (though I will be one no matter what) and a British citizen are under threat.

As I write, the Labour Party, the so-called opposition, is about to crumble  and let the Government have its way on the Bill that will pave the way for our exit from the European Union. It beggars belief that the Government has been able to get this through without any serious opposition. It’s the greatest issue of our time, and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party might as well have been part of the most right-wing, isolationist, dangerous government we have  had in my lifetime.

I’ve been fairly sure that the country has been headed to hell in a handcart before. There was the 80s, for a start, when Thatcher destroyed the industrial fabric of our country and championed selfishness over community. You thought things could only get  better with a Blair Government but he ended up ruining the country’s standing with the folly of Iraq.

I thought I had felt heartbreak in 2011 when I saw so many of my friends lose in the Holyrood election, when we lost our MEPs and the turmoil that followed, in 2015 when the General Election result was the worst we could have anticipated. None of that, tough that it was, comes close to my sadness and fear for the future.  I feel like we’re throwing away our safety net in so many ways. What will be left of workers’ rights and human rights in ten years’ time?

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Rennie and Farron react to Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement on the second independence referendum

It looks like either a second referendum on Scottish Independence in 5 years is on its way. Either that or an indefinite stalemate between the Tory Government in London (who must give permission for the vote) and Nicola Sturgeon’s nationalist government in Edinburgh.

This was inevitable ever since the Brexit vote. That a large majority of Scots voted to remain in the EU was always going to lead us to this place. Nicola Sturgeon built a very big tent in the hours after the result was declared but she and her ministers spent the rest of the Summer dismantling it piece by piece. They talked about independence incessantly. Now, they’re a nationalist government. They are not going to give up on independence because they lost a vote any more than I’m going to give up on the EU.

You have to govern for all of your people, though and, at the moment, there is no sign that anything like a majority of the  Scottish people want an independence referendum. For many, relationships from the division and polarisation of the last one are only just healing over.

Willie Rennie and Tim Farron have both been reacting to today’s announcement. Willie said:

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