Many political commentators are suggesting that a referendum deal between the Scottish and UK Governments is likely to be done in the coming weeks. The speculation is that the Scottish Government will get its proposed 2014 timetable, and possibly votes at 16, in exchange for a straight Yes/No question. This has been given further credence due to high-profile businessman and fiscal autonomy advocate, Jim McColl suggesting that he’s now in favour of independence because “no such option is gaining enough support to be realised in time to make the difference we all want to see for this and future generations”.
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Joyce McMillan | The Scotsman
The independence debate has, thus far, been disappointing. It will take a special politician to engage people, writes Joyce McMillan
ON WEDNESDAY, in the Scottish Government reshuffle, Nicola Sturgeon was appointed Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for government strategy and the constitution, becoming – in effect – the leader of the campaign for a Yes vote in the independence referendum. It is a momentous appointment; here is my open letter to the minister, on the task she faces.
Dear Nicola -
First, let me add my voice to all the many congratulations you will have received on your new appointment. Since 2007, you have been an outstanding cabinet secretary for health and wellbeing, defending the principles of public health care, and the spirit of the NHS, at a time when they have been under unprecedented political attack; you have put yourself in a strong position to lead a campaign for Scottish independence, which will be based on the substance of what an independent Scotland might achieve, rather than on empty nationalistic slogans. It will also be exhilarating and refreshing to see a woman at the centre of an independence debate which – unlike the devolution debate of the 1990s – has until now been dominated to an astonishing extent by ranks of middle-aged male politicians and commentators.
For it has to be said, once the congratulations are over, that the debate in which you now take up this role has so far been a profoundly disappointing one. The majority SNP government which took office 15 months ago, after its stunning election victory, might have taken a bold view of its constitutional options, and moved immediately to test the view of the Scottish people on independence in a purely consultative referendum, held – say – in spring of this year. Despite the possibility of a legal challenge under the Scotland Act, a well-advised UK government would have let the referendum go ahead, rather than seek to frustrate the newly-elected Scottish Government in fulfilling its key manifesto commitment. And by this time – the autumn of 2012 – we would either have been entering into a negotiation on independence, or – having voted “no” – would be debating the many alternative options for enhanced devolution, under the aegis of an SNP government with almost four more years to serve before it faces re-election.
Read the full letter at The Scotsman website
WITHOUT warship-building work, it is doubtful whether there would be anything left of the much shrunken shipbuilding industry on the Clyde.
World trade levels are depressed and new merchant shipping contracts are few and far between. These are facts of life of which UK government ministers are well aware.
The Ministry of Defence yesterday published the specifications for the next generation of frigates, 13 of which it intends to order for the Royal Navy. The contracts for them, however, will not be awarded until about 2015, which of course is just a year after the Scottish Government’s intended referendum on independence.
The MoD, making use of exclusion clauses in normal European Union tendering rules, has never awarded a warship-building contract to a foreign yard. If Scotland votes for independence, then Scotland will be a foreign country. So goodbye to frigate orders and goodbye to shipbuilding on the Clyde and the 16,000 jobs said to be associated with it.
Read the full article at The Scotsman website
Auslan Cramb | The Telegraph
A House of Commons report provides further confirmation that the Scottish Parliament has no legal right to hold a binding independence referendum and calls on Holyrood and Westminster to reach agreement.
First Minister Alex Salmond: The report states that if the proper terms for the vote are not in place, Scotland risks “indefinite legal and political wrangling and uncertainty over its future”.
In an unprecedented move, the Scottish Affairs Committee also claims it is “remarkable” that Frank Mulholland, the Lord Advocate and the Scottish Government’s chief legal adviser, has made “no contribution” to the debate.
The report, published today, states: “It is well understood that law officers do not, save exceptionally, make their advice public, but, on a matter such as this, there is a very strong public interest in understanding the legal basis of the Scottish Government’s approach to a process which will determine the future of the country.”
Its report states that if the proper terms for the vote are not in place, Scotland risks “indefinite legal and political wrangling and uncertainty over its future”. It adds: “Any referendum must have an unchallengeable legal and moral basis, to avoid delays and challenges to the legitimacy of the process and its result.
Read the full article at The Telegraph website
EDDIE BARNES | Scotland on Sunday
A NEW report on poverty in Scotland has blamed the UK Government for worsening the social divide but warned that even under independence Westminster would still “constrain” the way the country is run.
The first report by the newly-formed centre-left Scotland Institute warns that thousands more people both in and out of work in Scotland are facing poverty thanks to the
“deliberately chosen policies” of the Coalition government on low pay and welfare cuts.
Examining the constitutional options, the paper says a more powerful form of
devolution might give a Scottish Government a greater ability to tweak policies as it sees fit. But it warns that a Scotland which continues to use the pound, and lives within the UK’s framework, would always be “constrained” in what it can do.
The report, written by academic Roger Cook, says that if people want a more left-wing approach to reducing poverty in Scotland, then the best method is to change government at Westminster.
It concludes: “The ideal is a UK-level government that is prepared to turn its back on the neo-liberal economic and social policies that have done so much damage and then a Scottish Government that can adapt that wider framework to meet the particular challenges faced in Scotland.”
Read the full article at Scotland on Sunday
Read the report on the Scotland Institute’s website