Monday, 22 September 2014

Scotland's Referendum: 'Put to Bed'

How we got to here?  
OVER wild Scottish venison and fine French red Burgundy on one day in February 2012, David Cameron set out his strategy for defeating a Scottish independence referendum.  In May 2011, the Scottish Nationalists had won a massive victory on a promise of a secessionist vote, and its party leader, Alex Salmond, was keen to carry this through.   

Mr Cameron was in a dilemma: if he chose to dismiss the demand he would be accused of ignoring the popular will of the Scottish people, alternatively he could take a chance and let the referendum happen.   

In the end he backed the latter choice, and huddled in the Peat Inn near the University town of St. Andrews in Scotland Cameron told his advisers that Mr. Salmond would have his referendum.  Crucially though, he would refuse to allow the other Salmond demand for the softer option of more autonomy (later labelled devo-max) to appear on the ballot paper.  He was going to call Mr. Salmond's bluff, and there was going to be the single question:  Should Scotland stay inside the United Kingdom, or leave it forever?  

According to what one person at that Michelin-starred diner said afterwards, the Prime Minister claimed 'it would put the issue to bed.'   

It was a gamble, but it was a gamble that has now had unforeseen consequences.   

Because on the eve of the referendum last week  it looked like Scotland could vote for independence the three Westminster main-stream part leaders made promises they will now be expected to keep.  Thus the goalposts were moved at the last moment!   

Meaning:  If the Scots voted for independence, it would end a 300-year-old union and possible, David Cameron would lose his job, but if they voted against, he would none-the-less have to give them more autonomy, with the peril of what the International New York Times calls 'potentially cascading implications, for the rest of Britain.'   

This unforeseen consequence, which could have serious implications for the Labour Party as well as the Tories, makes Alex  Salmond now look like a Scottish giant among Westminster's political pygmies. 

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