Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Independence referendum-read the question!

"Read the question"-it was once a standard last minute parental instruction to children going off to sit school or university exams. Perhaps it still is. It certainly should be.

At the weekend Alex Salmond stated what the question will be in the independence referendum that will take place within the term of the next Scottish Parliament if he is First Minister.

Since its terms had been agreed with the civil service of the Scottish Executive, those who are terrified of the question being asked could hardly get up to their old ploy of suggesting it couldn't be asked. Equally, since the cost of the referendum would be in the region of £7 million, they could hardly use cost as a reason for not holding the referendum that more than 80% of Scots want to take place.

The Sunday Herald, in which Alex Salmond's statement of the question was first reported, acknowledged the total clarity of the question.

Contrast that with the piffle that appeared in the Scotsman on Monday under the ridiculous heading of "Two referendums on independence?" Apparently the question would not be a clear question on independence. Apparently even if the people of Scotland voted to agree with the proposition put in the question, Westminster would be likely to decide that there should be a British referendum to decide whether the nation of Scotland should be allowed to agree with the proposition. Apparently the Labour Party "pounced" on this piffle as "proof of the uncertainty an SNP-led government could bring"-the last bit is probably right even though Douglas Alexander accepted as recently as 16 January 2007 on Newsnight that a referendum organised by the Scottish Parliament would be sufficient.

So I get back to "reading the question".

The announced terms (emboldening emphasis being mine) are:-

"The Scottish Parliament should negotiate a new settlement with the British government, based on the proposals set out in the white paper, so that Scotland becomes a sovereign and independent state. Do you agree or disagree?"

If the people of Scotland vote to agree, they will be giving an instruction to the Scottish Parliament whatever its make up. (Perhaps the very idea that they are ultimately subject to the sovereignty of the community of Scotland is what really disturbs Labour, Liberal and Tory MSPs).

They will be giving that instruction on the basis of the structure of settlement set out in the white paper.

Most important of all are the words "so that". The instruction will be that the end result of the settlement is to be that Scotland is a sovereign and independent state.

Nothing could be clearer. It's just a matter of reading the question.

Lachie McNeill


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Scotland stays true to the spirit of 2 July 2005

On 2 July 2005 a quarter of a million people gathered in Edinburgh to form the huge human Make Poverty History white band.

I doubt if any person who was part of that white band could have failed to be deeply affected.

Yet those who delight in cynicism rather than hope rushed to tell us that the spirit of that day would soon pass away and be of no lasting significance.

I always believed the cynics were quite wrong. Indeed I always hoped that, simply because of what had happened in Edinburgh on that day, Scotland would be left almost with a special sense of responsibility to play her full part in ensuring that the spirit did not pass away and that the momentum of what was a global call for justice would be maintained.

It was a huge encouragement to believing that hope was fully justified when, in February of this year, SCIAF published survey results which indicated that more than three quarters of the people of Scotland positively wanted Scotland to take responsibility for the application of Scotland's contribution to development aid and that 90% believed the Scottish government should buy Fair Trade products whenever possible.

And then last weekend at an Oxfam Scotland fringe meeting I heard the answer to a question that had long been in my mind. It was hugely important that the gathering in Edinburgh on 2 July 2005 had been international and that people had come in their tens of thousands from outwith Scotland . At the same time I had wondered whether it would have been possible to assess how many of that quarter of a million were from within Scotland. The answer is that it had been possible and the figure was 80%-200,000 people. I think Scotland assumed that special responsibility I'm talking about from the very beginning.

Lachie McNeill


Margaret Curran says Trident debate a "distraction" in Scotland

I can hardly express surprise that, in the current election campaign, Margaret Curran will avoid debating issues like Scotland's opportunity to stop the replacement of Trident.

After all, I've predicted in leaflets that that would be the case. The prediction was based on several years "form".

However, in the course of speeches at the SNP conference on the Baillieston SNP Trident resolution, one of our MSPs referred to Margaret Curran in Parliament having described the debate on Trident renewal as being a "distraction" in Scotland.

Even I was taken aback by that.

It struck me, however, that nothing could better sum up the difference between Margaret Curran and me. She thinks Scotland's having the chance to take the responsibility to make a massive contribution for good in the world is a distraction to the people of Scotland. I think it's precisely the kind of responsibility which the community of Scotland has to take if Scotland is to be true to herself.

Lachie McNeill


Independence-a massive contribution to world peace

At last weekend's SNP conference in the Glasgow Science Centre we passed a raft of positive resolutions looking forward with vision to a new self confident Scotland.

I was delighted with them all but there is one of which I was particularly proud.

It related to the proposed replacement of Trident and read:-

"Conference believes that the non-replacement of Trident and the early removal of all nuclear weapons from Scottish waters and soil would be both in the interests of Scotland and a massive contribution to the furtherance of world peace; that the £25,000,000,000 cost of a new generation of nuclear weapons on the Clyde would be a disgraceful waste of money, which could be better spent on other priorities; that the only way in which the community of Scotland can ensure these objects are achieved is by electing an SNP Scottish Government and voting for Independence in the ensuing referendum; and resolves that the SNP should put our plans for a nuclear-free Scotland before the electorate in the 2007 election campaign."

Why was I particularly proud of that resolution? Because:-

It was focused on an independent Scotland's contribution for good in the world;

It highlighted the crucial point that if an independent Scotland got rid of nuclear weapons it would break through the current refusal of any of the so-called "official" nuclear weapons states to be the first to do what they are bound in international law to do-get rid of nuclear weapons altogether;

It was the platform for Bruce Kent to urge the election of an SNP government under Alex Salmond as First Minister precisely because Scotland stopping the replacement of Trident in Scotland would be a massive contribution to achieving complete nuclear disarmament-it was quite literally of world importance;

And because the resolution stood in name of Glasgow Baillieston SNP.

Lachie McNeill


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