Fall-out from the Scotland Referendum (1)

“A damned close run thing”

So said the Duke of Wellington, after his victory over Napoleon on June 18th 1815.

Now Alex Salmond is no Napoleon, nor Alastair Darling a Wellington, but in Britain’s diminished circumstances, the battle to defeat the Scottish separatists was an important to win as Waterloo was to defeat Napoleon.

Cameron totally to blame for the near disaster

But this close run thing was entirely the fault of British Prime Minister David Cameron and the gadfly, publicity-seeking nature of his mind which has been the defining hallmark of his leadership of the Conservative party and the Coalition government.

The Scottish nationalist/independence threat has grown steadily since 1974 when the SNP gained 5 Scottish seats (out of 71) in the British House of Commons.  These were all lost in 1979, but the SNP gained new life from the Scottish Parliament established on 1st July 1999, following a referendum on 11th September 1997, when a mere 44% of the Scottish electorate approved its setting up, with 40% approving its having tax-raising powers (which no Scottish government has used in 15 years).

Following Blair’s example: A majority of One vote of those voting was enough to push through major constitutional change.

The vote to set up the Scottish parliament rushed through the British parliament by another publicity-seeking gadfly, Tony Blair, has set an example which his lineal descendent in office, David Cameron, has faithfully followed.

When Alex Salmond came to London in October 2011 which a one seat majority, and a minority of overall votes in the Scottish Parliament, to agree terms with David Cameron for a Referendum on separation, the latter obligingly rolled over when Salmond proposed that one vote from those actually voting would constitute a mandate for separating Scotland from the United Kingdom.

Most countries, e.g. the USA and Australia, insist on a two-thirds majority of the electorate to approve far-reaching constitutional change.  In the case of Scotland the constitutional change of separation would have entailed a claim by the SNP to dismantle Britain’s nuclear deterrent bases – all triggered by possibly one 16 year-old’s vote.

Rigging the Question

Even the very question to be asked was approved carelessly by Cameron to bias the result in Salmond’s favour.

Instead of the two strictly accurate alternatives for Scotland: (a) staying in the United Kingdom or (b) leaving the United Kingdom, the question was “Are you in favour of Scotland becoming an independent country, yes or no?”  What young person wouldn’t be instinctively in favour of “independence” – though happily many saw through Salmond’s empty rhetoric.

Rigging the Electoral Rolls in favour of Separation

To make doubly sure that the Unionist cause would be handicapped from the start, Cameron recklessly approved the following categories eligible to vote on the most far-reaching change in the life of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, and Wales in 300 years:

  • Only British citizens actually resident in Scotland at the time (excluding even those Scots residing elsewhere in the UK);
  • Commonwealth citizens legally resident in Scotland, i.e. including people from any of the 38 republics in the Commonwealth (a pool of nearly 2,000 million who are not even subjects of the Queen);
  • All EU citizens who happened to be in Scotland – another pool of nearly 500 million foreigners theoretically eligible to register;
  • Sixteen and seventeen year-olds (who voted about 70 : 30 in favour of what one of them artlessly called “more powers”).

Five Changes needed to Electoral Law

To avoid this nonsense in the future:

  • Only British citizens on the electoral roll would qualify to vote in elections and referendums;
  • The present lower age limit (18+) should apply in all referendums (and other elections);
  • Matters relating to the defence of the United Kingdom should be permanently excluded, unless a referendum covers all the people of the United Kingdom (so the Trident bases at Faslane and Coalport would be untouched by any future Scottish-only referendum);
  • In a constitutional referendum a two-thirds majority of those who actually voted should be required to approve any change in the status quo.

An abiding memory of the Scottish referendum, supported by countless other examples is of five “Yes” men in Glasgow aggressively pointing fingers and hands into the face of one young woman who dared to wear a “No” coat badge.

  • So Sections 5, 8, 17-29 (racial hatred) of the Public Order Act 1986 on “threatening or abusive words or behaviour” need to be extended to cover “having the likely or intended effect of stopping any person from lawfully expressing their opinion or casting a vote without fear”.

The police should be explicitly tasked with arresting offenders at the time.

Promoting the Union in Scotland and other parts of the UK

The SNP will not give up its struggle to break up the United Kingdom.  Already Salmond is promoting the idea that Scotland could just declare independence without another referendum[1] despite having publicly agreed when the referendum was arranged that he would, with Cameron, respect the outcome, whichever way it went.

Everything must now be done to promote the Union in UK schools, in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, emphasising that all parts of the UK belong to every British citizen.  Away with the timorous apologetic way English politicians approach the Scots: after all there are plenty of Scots politicians in England and the English media.

The UK government could take a leaf out of the EU’s practice of making it compulsory to display its symbol on every project paid for in part or total by its funds. The UK government should do the same by insisting a badge of the Union Flag is displayed on every project the British taxpayer contributes to.

The most important thing to be done though is for the Conservative party and UKIP to take heart from the Referendum result.  Despite its single Scottish seat in the Westminster parliament compared with Labour’s 40, the Conservatives got almost as many votes as the Nats in the last General Election.  Yet as the party of the Union, of enterprise and SMEs (small and medium-sized businesses), and with financial help from big business from all over the UK, it could do what the Canadian Tories have done in Québec.  There the separatist Parti Québécois suffered their worst electoral result in over a generation earlier this year after the high water-mark for separation (49.5%) in the referendum of 1995.  All those young Scots waving Union flags deserve everyone’s support in their fight to detoxify Scottish life of narrow anti-English nationalism.


[1]  Report in Daily Telegraph 22nd September 2014.

Top| Home

Leave a Reply

Top| Home