8 June 2011

Why Moore is wrong on two Scottish referendums

Lib Dem Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has said that for Scotland to secede from the union a second referendum on the details of any independence deal would be needed in addition to a 'consultative' referendum on the principle.

This is apparently because of some constitutional niceties about the powers of Holyrood compared with Westminster. The excellent Lallands Peat Worrier explains more.

This move has been welcomed by the Queen of Scottish bloggers (among others) - Caron Lindsay - who has previously expressed her concerns about a single independence vote.

Now far be it for me to disagree with such esteemed company (and Michael Moore), but this is nonsense. What was surely clear about the Scottish General Election result that delivered an historic SNP majority was that the principle of a referendum on independence is implicit when people cast their votes for the SNP. It was in the SNP's manifesto (as it was the time before) - and last time a referendum was blocked by the mere fact that the 'unionist' parties had the parliamentary numbers to vote down the SNP proposals.

There is no such veto now and the timing and question are entirely down the the SNP. And it won't be a matter of high constitutional principle that will concern Alex Salmond - it will be low politics.

And low politics is what the Lib Dems have been spectactularly bad at - particularly in Scotland where they managed to get themselves painted into the unionist corner by the SNP. The Liberal Democrats have never been a unionist party and have always supporter the right of self determination and home rule. And as such they should welcome SNP proposals, while reserving their right to disagree on the substance.

By saying that a second referendum is needed (no doubt to be followed in quick succession by Labour and Tories) Michael Moore again allows the party to be seen to be on the wrong side of the debate and trying to illiberally block the expression of the will of the Scottish people.

The way back for the party in Scotland can only be by steering a distinct liberal path that recognises the liberal elements in the nationalists (and the easy willingness of both parties voters to interchange their votes at Holyrood/Westminster levels). Aligning the party with the forces of constitutional conservatism was the wrong decision in 2007 and is even more so now.

No comments:

Post a Comment