28 November 2005

Raising the Standard?

Alex Salmond has produced the blueprint for independence today. It's heartening that the SNP are promoting their flagship policy again, and it's nice to see that they're going into the nitty gritty of it: independence can seem like quite an esoteric argument, but if you can show someone how it will benefit them in real terms, then quite often, you can convert someone to it.

To be honest, though, this document wasn't what I expected. There was no inspirational 'stop the world, we want to get on' style language, a few basic platitudes about Scotland's place in the world (it's rare, very rare, for foreign policy to be a determining factor in how people vote), and a lot of legalese. And it didn't seem to work: sticking with UK public bodies until an independent Scotland has had time to set its own up? Come on, if you hold an independence referendum early enough in a Scottish Parliamentary Session, you can transfer every last bit of UK sovereignty in time for the next election. Not only that, but it's a bit referendum-heavy. A referendum on independence. A referendum on the constitution. A referendum on the Euro. And at some point in the future, a referendum on the monarchy (why are they sticking with the monarchy? how will that work?). Let me give Alex Salmond a tip (by the way, if you're reading this, hello Alex): if you get negotiating early enough, and don't wait until you're in governement (basically do it like the Constitutional Convention), you can build the Constitution referendum into the Independence question (A question like, say, 'Do you believe that Scotland should declare independence and adopt the proposed Constitution?'). You can also have a second question then and there about the monarchy (like in the '97 referendum over tax-varying powers). That leaves the Euro question, which we can leave until 1) it's clear that we meet the Maastricht criteria and 2) the economic and political conditions are right; so we're probably looking at an earliest date of 2013, assuming an SNP led government in 2007 and a 'Yes' vote on independence by 2009. There'd be an election to the Scottish Parliament as detailed in the new Constitution in 2011, rather than an independent Scottish Parliament that has the same electoral system as the current one does (or whatever we get following Arbuthnott).

What was interesting though is the SNP take on Coalition. A big 'No' to a Coalition with the Tories (another mistake, I think we could do business with the Tories), but no overt comment on a 'grand coalition' with Labour. I suppose that if they're willing and it's the only mathematically viable option out there, then it might work. Then again, it might not. Either way, remember this: you need a two-thirds majority in the Scottish Parliament to dissolve it and call for new elections without losing the First Minister. So unless a minority governemnt loses a no-confidence vote, and they fail to find a replacement in 28 days, a party can control that part of the Scotland Act if they have 43 MSPs or more. I just thought I'd mention that. I might mention it again between now and 2007.

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