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



At 5:50 AM, Anonymous Catalin said...

Keep up the good work.


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