UK Government fearful of exerting its authority in Scotland

While the Cameron government can contemplate intervening in the Syrian civil war, it should start intervening in the affairs of its own country.

Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, has introduced a bill into the Scottish Parliament to allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in his independence referendum, the date of which he announced on Thursday 21st March to be 18th September 2014.  This means half of today’s Scottish 14 year-olds will have a vote on the future of the United Kingdom while 47 million adults in the rest of the country do not.  Entitlement to vote is a matter of UK primary legislation.

There are signs that Salmond is losing his confidence about winning the vote – talking about working with the UK government on the Press Regulation Bill currently going through the UK parliament – letting his hapless deputy Nicola Sturgeon show up SNP defence and intelligence policy to be the hopelessly vague entity it is – backpedalling on joining the Euro – realising Scotland will have to wait in limbo before joining even the UN, EU or NATO, etc., etc.

The UK government is still as feeble as ever in the matter of the Scottish referendum (on 23rd January 2012 we reported in “Scotland and the United Kingdom” how the then Cabinet Secretary, “Gus” O’Donnell was downright defeatist and the Englishman who heads the Scottish Civil Service, Sir Peter Housden, recommended a highly partisan play to his subordinates despite his primary civil service duty to maintain impartiality on all political matters.

By any standards Scottish independence would have a profound effect on the rest of the United Kingdom.  The Electoral Commission has a prime duty to say that if Salmond’s referendum is to be legal it must conform to UK rules on voting, which can only be changed by the UK parliament.  Cannot the UK Electoral Commission – which is replicated in all the great English speaking countries (ABCANZ) – just focus on seeing that Salmond’s referendum conforms to the established rules of elections in the UK, especially the one which says you have to be 18 to vote.  The Electoral Commission boasts that it has an “international strategy” for goodness sake.  They do anything, but anything on which they can’t actually be measured for effectiveness and therefore judged by instead of the one thing they can be judged on which is upholding the Law.

Instead of a robust assertion of the primacy of the UK Parliament, the Electoral Commission hides behind Cameron’s so-called Edinburgh agreement with Salmond – which does not actually commit the UK parliament to anything, let alone constitute the Law of the Land, being an agreement between someone determined to break up our country and someone else who doesn’t care very much[1].

The weedy Electoral Commission’s response is to “be concerned that if the Scottish government’s policy intention was to lower the voting age to 16 it might not be achieved by their proposals”.  Nothing about the constitutional outrage in letting one party in Scotland (a minority of the voters) set the terms of the referendum, just a prissy concern that the procedures may not be perfectly tuned to allow them to do this.  It is not the EC’s job to facilitate the fortunes of one party to an election or referendum.

How useless can you get?  Surely the Electoral Commission is long overdue for abolition and its small range of real duties (as opposed to the long list of phoney objectives on its website) transferred to the UK Speaker of the House of Commons to whom in any case it is responsible.

Throughout this whole Scottish independence debate since 1974, the UK governments – Labour, Liberal and Conservative – have behaved like the lily-livered babies most of them are, failing to spell out the realities of separation[2].  The whole future of our country is at stake – the Queen knows it of course.  Cameron needs to stop agonising about Syria, which is not his responsibility, get a grip and save the Union from decades of Scottish lawyers arguing about alleged unfairness of the divorce settlement, not to speak of the dismantling of the UK nuclear deterrent.

For the record, politicians and lawyers as a class in Scotland are not more loved than they are in England, so don’t be frit Mr Cameron from taking them on.

[1]  If Cameron had any sense of the dignity of his office as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, he would have summoned Salmond, First Minister of only 8% of the UK to London, not pandered to Salmond’s hyper-nationalist pride, which is designed of course to elevate him in the eyes of the Scottish electorate.

[2]  No common currency with the £ sterling or euro; no RBS or HBOS based in Edinburgh; defence based on the Republic of Ireland model of six coastal patrol boats instead of the Royal Navy; no automatic EU membership with opt outs; no connection of the two remaining Scottish infantry battalions into the satellite based intelligence grids; no Scottish planes connected to the UK air-defence network based at Conningsby; no access by Scottish citizens to UK diplomatic and consular help abroad; removal of Scottish Universities from UK Research Councils and so on and so on.  Even Scottish tax systems will have to be set up from scratch and the UK tax offices will leave Glasgow and relocate to Northern Ireland.

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