Give Scotland the option of what most Scots want — full self-government within the UK

In the Scottish independence referendum in less than a year’s time, on 18 September 2014, Scots will have to choose between two alternatives, neither of which the majority of Scots seem to want: (1) separation from the UK on terms that will become clear only after the referendum, or (2) the status quo, which means limited devolution as defined by the Scotland Act, 2012, and thus only limited control over their own affairs.  It doesn’t have to be like this.  The unionist parties, Labour, the Conservatives and the LibDems (especially the Labour party which alone has a significant presence in England, Scotland and Wales) have an obvious duty to offer Scotland an alternative to independence and secession from the UK which represents an improvement on the status quo and which corresponds to what, according to the polls, most Scottish people want – much more control over their own affairs. It’s a sad betrayal of the campaign to save the United Kingdom from disintegration that none of the unionist parties (with the honourable exception of the LibDems) has had the courage or vision to commit itself to such an offer in time to influence the outcome of the referendum.

The Guardian of 28 November 2013 publishes the following letter from me (I have re-inserted in the text below a couple of minor things unhelpfully edited out by the Guardian in the published version):

Simon Jenkins (Don’t lecture Scots. They want freedom, not wealth, 27 November) is clearly right to advocate an offer to Scotland of a status somewhere between full independence (which would be a tragedy for the whole UK) and the current degree of devolution.  The polls suggest that a clear majority of Scots at present want neither independence nor the status quo, but much greater control of their own affairs within the UK.  The continuing failure of the Labour and Conservative parties to promise Scotland full internal self-government (perhaps modelled on that enjoyed by, e.g., Massachusetts and New South Wales within their federations) as an attractive alternative to independence is both incomprehensible and unforgivable.  There’s still time, but not much.

The failure of the No campaign, headed by the generally admirable Alistair Darling, to come up with an offer of full internal self-government for Scotland if the Scots reject the option of independence is probably attributable to two factors, neither of which is valid:  first, the difficulty or impossibility of reaching agreement between Labour and the Conservatives on how much additional devolution should be offered to Scotland if the Scots reject independence, and secondly, the fear that if Scotland is offered what ought to amount to full internal self-government, this will intensify resentment in England of England’s complete lack of any self-government at all, and demands for the same full internal self-government for England as that to be offered to Scotland.

The first of these objections won’t wash:  there’s nothing to stop Labour from promising full internal self-government for Scotland under the next Labour government, whether the Tories agree with it or not (and it would be difficult for the Tories to devise a convincing or reputable argument against it).  The second objection is actually an argument in favour:  if an offer of full internal self-government for Scotland reinforces the already growing demand for the same status for England, so much the better.  The eventual achievement, over several years, of full internal self-government by Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland would bring forward the happy day when the UK becomes a fully-fledged federation, the logical and inevitable culmination of the devolution process and the sole serious answer to the West Lothian Question.



27 Responses

  1. David Campbell says:

    You are right, Brian; and the SNP white paper, although initially derided, should sharpen your concern. Its muted ambition will grow on the electorate, as it sinks in that additional devolution is not obtainable elsewhere.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this, David. I agree. I can’t claim to have read the SNP’s enormous “white paper” (actually manifesto, I think) but I have little doubt that it will persuade a good many of the hitherto “don’t know” voters to back independence — if only because it will look more interesting and adventurous than the status quo, in the absence of any sign that Scotland will be able to move to complete internal self-government if the independence option is rejected in the referendum.

  2. Brian says:

    An extremely interesting blog post on broadly the same subject appears today at  It makes many powerful points; only its conclusion seems to me open to serious question.  I have accordingly posted the following comment on it, at

    I agree with about 95 percent of this, as you will see from my blog post today at [i.e. here] and my letter in today’s Guardian at  I have reservations about the final 5 percent, namely your call for a Constitutional Convention to decide the constitutional future of England.  I am sure such a Convention will eventually be necessary, but I believe that it will be needed at a later stage.  The first thing we need is a clear policy declaration by the Labour party that if Scotland votes No to independence, the next Labour government will negotiate with the political leaders in Scotland a move to full internal self-government for Scotland.  Ideally this should be coupled with the adoption by Labour of the long-term objective of a federation of the four UK nations, with each of the four nations (including England) having its own parliament and government, full internal self-government for each, and a federal government and parliament responsible only for foreign affairs, defence, and other matters affecting the whole of the UK. Such a preliminary commitment, probably only by the Labour party in the first place, is urgently necessary if the separation of Scotland from the rest of the UK in a few months’ time is to be averted.

    I envisage that the modalities for achieving this would probably begin with a Royal Commission or Speaker’s Conference, followed by an all-UK Constitutional Convention to endorse the federal objective and produce a route map for achieving it.  Parliament would then pass the necessary enabling legislation, probably followed by a UK-wide referendum.  Only then should there be Constitutional Conventions in each of the four nations, including England, to draw up the four national constitutions within the overall federal framework approved by parliament and the referendum.  The draft constitutions produced by the four national Conventions would then be approved by each of the four national parliaments and then submitted to a separate referendum in each of the four nations.  It would then be for the Westminster federal parliament to draw up the UK federal constitution in the light of all the preceding laws and Conventions and submit the resulting document (establishing a federal house of commons and Senate with limited powers, a federal supreme court, etc.) to a final all-UK referendum.  All this would inevitably take many years — indeed, it would take several years to establish a national all-party consensus in favour of the whole scenario before the first steps could be taken.

    In the light of all this, I submit that to call for an English  Constitutional Convention at this stage would be seriously premature.  It would be impossible to draw up a constitution for England in a vacuum.  An English constitution can be drawn up and agreed only after its context within a federal UK has been worked out and agreed. 

    Alas, I’m afraid our political leaders — other than those of the SNP and perhaps of UKIP — are too timid and short-sighted to undertake such far-reaching and radical a programme for the UK’s constitutional future.  As a result of their cowardly inaction, there is a growing risk that the Scots will vote Yes for independence next September, an eventuality for which, as you rightly say, our UK and English political parties are apparently wholly unprepared, as indeed they are unprepared for the questions that will arise if Scotland votes against independence.

    I am putting a copy of this comment on my own blog.


  3. Stephen Gash says:

    Never mind the Scots, give the English what they want, either full independence or at least an English parliament to focus on England. That would ensure England got the best deal and not lose £700 million of EU cash earmarked for England, but diverted to the Celtic Fringe ‘for the sake of the Union,’ as happened earlier this year, not to mention Portsmouth’s shipbuilding.
    The ONLY country to have gained from the so-called Union is Scotland and the country that has lost the most is England. The British even demand that we lose our English identity and our nation. Even in the face of overt hostility to regions, the British of all parties are still determined to impose regions upon us and thus expunge England from the map.
    It’s no wonder that 70% of the people in English say they are English before British or, like me, English not British.

    Brian writes: I’m afraid that I can’t discover any meaning to any of this. Such rancid antipathy to our fellow-citizens and friends in Scotland, who have contributed so much to our country over the years despite the constant dominance of it by England, is profoundly unattractive, ungenerous and irrational. The idea that being British is somehow incompatible with being English is ludicrously out of date: we live in an age of multiple loyalties, representing a huge advance on xenophobic nationalism which has visited such misery and destruction on our continent. There is almost no support anywhere in the UK for “imposing regions” on England, and nothing in my blog post above suggests otherwise.

  4. Independent England says:

    Simon Jenkins says that Scottish independence would be a tragedy for the UK. would it be a tragedy for England. I don’t think so. Even if Scotland does vote NO the damage has been done. Further devolution for Scotland without self government for England would be totally unacceptable to the English. The simplest solution would be English independence!

    Brian writes: If you will take the trouble to read my blog post above (see especially the last part of the last paragraph), you will see that I agree that an offer of full internal self-government for Scotland would indeed stimulate a demand for the same status for England — and that this would be an excellent development, for the reasons I have described. As for the nonsensical reference to “English independence”, please see my response to the comment by Mr David Allen.

  5. Fred says:

    The argument has moved on.
    It is no longer what the Scots want, it is what the English will put up with.
    The years of Scottish cross border hate has had its effect.
    The independence question bought to the English masses just how much this antagonistic relationship has cost to our wealth, culture & very survival.
    Brown/Blair and the Raj inflicted too much damage at the alter of Scottish ego and self interest.
    WE WANT THEM OUT. OUT completely, gone busted and walled off
    Is that plain enough?

    Brian writes: I’m afraid this kind of tribal invective is a poor substitute for reasoned argument.

  6. David Allen says:

    I think to clarify your title: Give Scotland the keys to the Bank of England and all the benefits of the union but still rely on English assets that Scotland doesn’t want to pay for.
    Question Time last night purported to have a 50/50 for and against independence audience. When the spectre of having another Tory (English) government was mooted though there was universal revulsion. The panel members would not hardly say England or English.
    Not one English voice was on the panel to ask why the English people should underwrite  Scottish ‘independence’ should it come to that.
    Dimbleby also pointed out that Salmond would be in Wales on QT. I wonder why not in Engla
    Roll on English independence.

    Brian writes: England is much more powerful, much richer and much bigger (in population terms) than Scotland, and has always dominated the rest of the UK in consequence. Many English people regard the Westminster parliament and government as belonging to England, not to all four nations of the UK — which is why the three smaller and poorer nations urgently need the protection against English dominance of their own affairs which a federal system would provide. The idea that Scotland has somehow been exploiting England will strike any Scottish readers as so weird as to suggest paranoia.
    The kind of resentment of Scotland reflected in your comment is unseemly, to put it as politely as I can. “English independence” is intrinsically a meaningless phrase: on whom do you suppose England to be currently dependent? What you really mean is that you want the disintegration of the United Kingdom, reducing England to comparative insignificance, powerless to protect its own interests in the international forums where the decisions are made that determine all our futures. The wish to break up our country and to erect barriers between the English and our friends and relations in Scotland, Wales and northern Ireland is a sad betrayal.

  7. Barry Hamblin says:

    Brian, it has been 14 since devolution, and  the people of England are still denied a say in the destiny of there own country, is it no wonder that comments like Fred’s are to be found. Over the last 10 years the CEP have put the reasoned argument, culturally, economically and Nationally to MPs, committee meetings, etc… and yet they still don’t listen, whilst a bag load of goodies are thrown Scotland’s way, you know the issues so I won’t repeat them, but two recent issues, Portsmouth being one and £500M EU funds diverted from Yorkshire to Scotland being the other, are contentious, yet as far as I know there has been no collective outcry from the 550 MPs that sit for English constituencies. It would appear that given the recent SNP white paper Salmond wants to pick and choose he’s form of independence, yet when it come to dishing out the spoils and responsibilities, do you honestly think there will an English form of representation to stand up for England? short answer NO. England will have to rely on the good old British Govt to defend England, which given current attitudes by MPs towards England will not be much.  I honestly hope that Scotland votes for independence and fully at that, then with a bit of luck MPs south of the Scottish border will concentrate their minds on England, and as Fred has said the argument has moved on at least as far as I am concerned, at first I wanted an English Parliament within the Union but after 14 years of being told that the Union is good for us (?), England can have regionalization and not an EP, if you stand up for England you are considered a ‘Little Englander’, etc…the only way forward now for me is English independence

    Brian writes: Your comments ignore my responses to several earlier comments, and indeed they ignore my original post. It’s worth remembering the origins of Scottish devolution. The Scots, dissatisfied with British over-centralisation and constant micro-management of their own affairs by an English-dominated Westminster government and parliament, had the wit to do something about it. Instead of merely whingeing, they organised a multi-party constitutional convention which drew up a detailed blue-print for a more decentralised system of government that would give Scotland a limited degree of increased control over its own affairs. Support for this entirely constructive proposal, in no way driven by animus against the English, and the difficulty of devising any rational objection to it, drove the then government at Westminster to put it to a referendum, which initially failed because of the requirement imposed for a majority greater than 51 per cent, but which eventually approved the devolution concept, which was accordingly passed into law.

    The success of devolution stimulated Scottish (and Welsh) appetites for further devolution of powers, which has been grudgingly agreed piecemeal and to a limited extent. Now a sizeable minority (so far) of Scots, exasperated by the years of reactionary Tory government at Westminster with almost no party support in Scotland, has mounted a campaign for complete independence; but a clear majority in Scotland want to remain in the Union with the logical culmination of the devolution process, namely full internal self-government. This is an entirely reasonable demand to which there can be no self-respecting or logical objection, and it is in no way a threat to English interests — indeed, if it prompts the English to demand the same status for themselves, it will be doing us English an enormous favour.

    It has taken all these years for a small minority of the complacent English, who have been perfectly happy to dominate their Scottish, Welsh and (some) Irish kinsfolk for centuries, to wake up to the fact that the Scots have achieved by their own efforts something of immense value that the English have failed either to recognise or to arrange for themselves (although with their enormous majorities in the Westminster parliament and government they could have had it for the asking at any time). And what is their reaction when they at last open their eyes? Why, to revile the Scots and demand their expulsion from the United Kingdom, along with the Welsh and Northern Irish, because that is what the weaselly demand for “English independence” really means (it has no other possible meaning). Such a position demeans England and my English compatriots, with its indolence, xenophobia, totally unwarranted self-pity, and its utter lack of vision or generosity of spirit.

    Those who demand “English independence” should have the honesty to admit that what they really want is the disintegration of the United Kingdom, and that’s what they should call it (independence? from whom?). And those who call for an English parliament without placing their call in the context of the future of the UK as a whole — indeed usually without even mentioning that an English parliament would be totally meaningless without an English government also — are looking at the world with one eye shut and the other less than half open. It’s pure, or impure, lazy self-indulgence on stilts.

  8. Brian says:

    This blog post about the Scottish independence referendum (, above, has attracted a number of comments, to all of which I have responded – please see my responses at

    I’m saddened by the sour antipathy to Scotland and resentment of Scottish people reflected in some, but not all, of the comments, the most, er, passionate coming from English nationalists, perhaps predictably. Considering the way England has always dominated the United Kingdom by virtue of its greater size and wealth than that of the other three UK nations, this English resentment, almost jealousy, of Scotland is difficult to explain. Some would claim that it reflects a squalid reaction to the loss of empire, to which the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish have adapted more generously, although I don’t find this very convincing. I do regard the campaign for Scottish independence from the rest of the United Kingdom as a threat to the identity of the country of which I’m a citizen (the United Kingdom, of which Scotland is a valued and indispensable part), but I can understand the attractions of the campaign from the point of view of Scots who have been for so long dominated by us English. The idea that the English are being dominated or exploited by the Scots strikes me so weird as to suggest a need for treatment.

    I’m putting a copy of this message on my blog as a new comment. I hope that future comments will concentrate on the specific points and arguments in my blog post and not on pouring more bile on the Scots: such comments belong elsewhere, if anywhere.

    This message has been sent to authors of most recent comments and to a few others who may be interested.

    29 Nov 2013

  9. Stephen Gash says:

    The rancid antipathy has been directed towards the English for 306 years 6 months 4 weeks and one day. This became even more fetid corrosive with devolution. If asking for democratic equality for the English within this so-called union amounts to rancid antipathy, then the quicker the union expires the better.

    Brian writes: You seem to have missed the point I have been trying to make: namely, that constitutional equality between Scotland and England, both enjoying full internal self-government within a federal union, is precisely what I have long been advocating and have explicitly advocated again in this blog post. The idea that this equates to rancid antipathy towards the Scots is so absurd as to defy argument.

  10. Barry Hamblin says:

    Brian, I was actually responding to your reply to Fred and not your blog.  Your blog just underlines what you said at the Future of England meeting held at Westminster on the 20th. Nov.  The British Govt gave devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and without a thought to England, over the years our small minority of not complacent English have lobbied Parliament and attended various rallies, demonstrations meetings with MPs etc…We have put our point across in a positive manner, only for our opinions to be ignored, we have pointed out to ignore England’s voice will lead to a vacuum that will be filled by the so called far right, the EDL for example, we have said by ignoring the English question that the UK will lead to breaking point. As you were present at the Future of England meeting, you will have heard the question from the English Democrats, ‘What is good about the Union for England?’ And the reply was were better together, bonds of over 300 years, absolutely nothing about the advantages from an English point of view but from a British point of view. At the recent Festival of England held by the IPPR in London, the question of who will represent England in negotiations should Scotland vote for independence? The panel were silent, no answer at all, England and the repercussions of devolution have been and are continually ignored, that is why from a position of where you stand now a confederal union, which I did fully support to where the only way England can truly have her voice is independence and that independence is not from the Scots or the Welsh or from Northern Ireland but from the British, if the Union breaks up it will be down to the British, you cannot have a family of 4 nations where 3 of those nations are indulged and one ignored.

    Brian writes: The suggestion that the English are somehow discriminated against by ‘the British’ is pretty provocative: it’s manifestly the (often insensitive) domination of the whole UK, namely the British, by the English that has led to the demand by the English-dominated Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish for much greater control over their own affairs. To answer the question about the benefits that all four nations, including especially England, derive from the Union would require an answer as long as a Tolstoy novel; most of it is self-evident. As to the question who would represent England at the negotiations for Scottish secession in the event of next year’s referendum resulting in a vote for Scottish independence, the answer is also simple and obvious: the rest of the UK (or rUK) will be represented by members of a parliament and government democratically elected throughout the UK, with a very substantial majority of them being English. Who else do you suggest should do it? Would you exclude the Welsh and Northern Irish whose interests would also be affected by Scotland’s secession? (These are rhetorical questions that do not invite replies.)

  11. Stephen Gash says:

    Brian, You were the one who suggested my comment expressed ‘rancid antipathy’ to the Scots. To twist it around to make it look like I claimed that it was your comment that expressed ‘rancid antipathy to Scots’, is unworthy. To then call my comment ‘ludicrous’ based on your spin, is actually ludicrous.
    When, according to the 2011 census, between 60-80% of people in England claim to be English not British, it is actually your assertion “The idea that being British is somehow incompatible with being English is ludicrously out of date”, that is itself evidentially out of date. That the ‘English not British’ sentiment strengthens the further north you go is very telling. The Unionist and Regionalist factions constantly and erroneously claim that north of England folk have more in common with Scots than English compatriots in the south. Again, evidentially this is not the case. The BBC map accompanying its website article “How British is Britain” incontrovertibly exposes that the British are a small minority except in London
    Of course the Unionist and Regionalist faction wish to hive off London from England to make it a city state. They are still hellbent on breaking up England. Only this week the Welsh First Minister has pushed for city regions in England This despite there being no appetite for City mayors as recent referenda showed.
    I don’t actually want to be in a Union with Welsh and Scots who relentlessly and remorselessly endeavour to break up my country. This week’s edition of BBC Question Time had about as much to say on England’s supposed ‘north-south divide’ as on Scotland’s separation from the UK.

  12. robin fairlie says:

    Can a mere Scot (who is also British, and very, very proud of it) get a word in without being shouted down by some of your recent correspondents? As the opinion polls on the subject make clear, a large majority of Scots (even if you include only those actually living in Scotland right now) do NOT want to break up the UK, leave alone to insult and vilify their English friends and neighbours. No doubt there exists a tiny number of Scots who would subscribe to hatred of the English – just as it clearly appears from parts of this blog post that there is a tiny number of Englishmen (I didn’t notice any women I’m glad to say) who subscribe to hatred of the Scots (and, I suppose, the Welsh and the Irish, and perhaps also the French and the Germans, and the Americans and….) Such people, on both sides of the Border, are unworthy of attention.

    That Scotland should have wanted, and obtained, a substantial measure of internal self-government is surely not surprising? After all, Tories in Scotland have for some decades now been almost as rare as hens’ teeth, so why should Scottish education, Scottish health and so on be directed from Westminster, where periodically Tory governments are returned to power? And if sufficient numbers of English persons want their own Parliament, then they should set about to obtain it. I can see no reason why following the Scottish example in this respect should entail breaking up the UK and obliging all of us – English, Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish – to occupy a much-diminished place in the world in which our very real values (whether British or English) would account for little.

    There are lots of reasons why Britain is Great: the biggest one is that we are a community of tolerant, like-minded people, who have, times without number, set an example to the rest of the world. We have done this together, and no subdivision of our great country could have achieved half as much on its own. Next year Scotland will assert its continuing belief in this vision; I hope – and trust – that all of our compatriots can find it in them to do the same.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this, Robin. Needless to say, I warmly endorse every word that you have written, and it’s very good indeed to see it written by a Scot.

  13. Independent England says:

    robin fairlie I don’t hate the Scots but I doubt many if any English people ‘hate’ the Scots. I don’t hate the French the Americans the Russians or any other peoples for that matter. I do however want independence for my country. 
    It seems that it is OK for the Scottish Welsh or any one else to want independence but when we English say we want independence we are called racists xenephobes etc. We also have to put up with comments such as the one from Brian ‘independence? from whom?’
    As for an English Parliament not breaking up the UK try telling that to anti English Parliament politicians because I and many other members of the Campaign for an English Parliament are fed up with doing so and being ignored. They say that England is to big to have Her own parliament. We’ll if that’s the case then England is too big for the UK and should leave!

    Brian writes: Thank you. My question about your demand for English independence (‘independence? from whom?’) seems to have stung you, but I note that you haven’t answered it. I repeat: ‘English independence’ is a mealy-mouthed euphemism for the disintegration of your and my country, to which you and I and other contributors to this discussion owe so much, whether you recognise it or not. To spread the idea that the only way to secure an English parliament is to break up the United Kingdom is an obnoxious obfuscation. It is partly because of this mean-spirited, narrow petty-nationalism that the inspiring idea of an English parliament — and government — within a reinforced federal United Kingdom in which its four nations enjoy a fraternal, mutually supportive and democratic relationship with each other and with the UK itself has become contaminated, making its eventual acceptance hugely more difficult.

  14. Stephen Gash says:

    Robin. SNP MPs are as rare as hen’s teeth. Nevertheless, Scots-led Labour gave Scots their 1997 referendum with no electoral mandate from the Scottish electorate. This same Labour party studiously avoided giving the English, as a nation, a referendum on home rule. This is because devolution was only ever meant to disenfranchise the English, not to empower Celts.

    Brian writes: It would be difficult to convince me that you or anyone else seriously believes any of this.

  15. Brian says:

    The discussion here is becoming tediously repetitive.  The serious propositions in my original post have been effectively hi-jacked by a small number of contributors exhibiting little or no interest in the merits or lack of merit in my arguments, using the forum as an opportunity to express either indifference or hostility to Scotland and indeed in some cases to the United Kingdom itself.  There are plenty of places for that elsewhere in the blogosphere.  Further comments here will be accepted for inclusion on this blog only if they contribute something new, preferably positive, and relevant to my post.

    PS: Since I posted this warning, four more comments have been posted which, applying the criteria above, I have reluctantly decided to delete. All have been posted by contributors who have already expressed their views in this thread.

    PPS: I continue to delete further attempts by the same former contributors to perpetuate their arid debate at the expense of the subject of this post and comments thread.


  16. john miles says:

    Naturally I hope Scotland will decide to stay with us. 
    But if i were a Scot I would probably vote for independence, if only to ensure that never again would I be lumbered with an English Conservative government.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this, John. I’m sure that’s also the very understandable view of many Scots in Scotland. But surely the solution to the problem of unending Tory governments at Westminster for which hardly any Scots have voted is to vote No in the referendum and then to work tirelessly for full federalism, including full internal self-government for Scotland, which would mean a federal government at Westminster, whether Tory, Labour or hybrid, with no say in purely Scottish affairs and powers limited principally to foreign affairs and defence, plus such matters as clearly have to be dealt with on an all-UK basis (many of them already shared with the EU anyway). The political complexion of the government at Westminster would thus have very little effect on the everyday affairs of Scotland (or England, Wales or NI). This would take a few years to accomplish but it would entail far less risk and less loss than Scottish secession and the disintegration of the United Kingdom.

    Unfortunately those leading the campaign against Scottish independence seem to lack the imagination and courage to offer full internal self-government for Scotland as a much preferable alternative, as a next step on the road to completion of the devolution process, namely a federal UK.

    A major potential flaw in that equation, admittedly, is that a future Tory government at Westminster might commit the monstrous and irrevocable blunder of taking the UK out of the EU, manifestly against the wishes of a large majority in Scotland. But if the Scots vote for independence next September they will be putting a big question-mark over their ability subsequently to join the EU as a new member state on acceptable terms, especially with countries such as Spain and Belgium instinctively hostile to anything that might encourage secessionist movements in their own countries. So continued membership by Scotland of the EU, either separately or as part of the UK, is at risk whichever way the referendum goes. The balance of advantage thus continues to favour a No vote in September and a renewed effort to move towards a federated UK. That’s my view, anyway!

  17. robin fairlie says:

    I take your point John. But sometimes one must suffer for the greater good. Incidentally, the mere fact of being a Scot would not give you, or me, a vote on independence if you, like me, live in England. Thus, I am disenfranchised on the single most important subject facing my country in the last two hundred years, in favour of sundry Frenchmen, Englishmen (YES!), Americans etc who may be temporarily living north of the border. And Alex Salmond and David Cameron have conspired to call this charade democracy!……. 

    Brian writes: Thank you, Robin. Please see my response to Tim Weakley at Perhaps it’s my mindset as a former bureaucrat that sees overwhelming difficulties in the way of doing what clearly ought to be done, and undoubtedly would be done in an ideal world. But no practical solutions spring to mind — to mine, anyway — in this far from ideal world.

  18. Timothy Weakley says:

    To Robin Fairlie: I sympathise with your annoyance about not being able to vote in the independence referendum, but how would you arrange matters administratively so that expatriate Scots can vote?  Presumably they would have to produce evidence of birth in Scotland, or of birth outwith Scotland to identifiably Scottish-born parents (one parent or both?).  As things stand at present, those people will vote who will have to stand the consequences in Scotland of a majority yes vote (if it happens), and the expats who want to vote – either way – will just have to go and establish Scottish residence in the nine months remaining, and get on their local electoral registers.
    I must add that I shall be voting no, but not because I am an Englishman long resident in Scotland.  I have every confidence in the ability of Scots to handle independence, but I have a deep affection, both proud and sentimental, for the Union that in the past three centuries has moved and shaken the world and contributed distinguished and talented people far beyond its numbers.  I am happy to claim fellow-citizenship of the Union (if one cn use the term in connection with people now dead?) with David Hume, James Hutton, Walter Scott, Lord Kelvin, James Clerk Maxwell, R.L.Stevenson, David Livingstone, W.E. Gladstone… the list is endless; and I believe that the Union can still contribute to the world, by force of example rather than by physical power, if it can only recover from the political lack of vision and the misdirected policies it has endured during my own eighty years.  I still have faint hopes of seeing a properly-federated UK, with an English parliament for purely English affairs on a par with the Scottish, Welsh, and Ulster legislatures.

    Brian writes: Thank you, Tim. On your first paragraph, I sympathise very much with Robin and the thousands of other full-blooded paid-up Scots living outside Scotland (not only in the rest of the UK) who will be denied the vote in the independence referendum. But I agree with you that the practical difficulties over enfranchising all Scots world-wide who are not on the electoral rolls in Scotland are probably insuperable.

    On your second paragraph, I can only applaud and share your sentiments and say a heartfelt ‘hear, hear’. Whatever happens next September, I shall be congenitally unable to regard my Scottish friends (or other Scots, dead or alive) as foreigners, or Scotland as a foreign country. For me, Scotland is as much a part of my own country as London or Sussex.

  19. Timothy Weakley says:

    Two things I should have added.
    One: although I haven’t seen the SNP’s 600-page manifesto, I gather that it is progressive and left-of-centre in tone, with some concern for social justice.  I hope its authors are sincere and that they could deliver on their promises given the chance; and that Westminster will take note of the policies advocated.  But..
    Two: like John Miles, I foresee an interminable series of Tory governments at Westminster if Scotland secedes, whether or not England gets its own parliament.   I can’t see Labour rsing to the challenge.  Depressing in the extreme.

    Brian writes: Thank you for this. On your second point, please see my response to John Miles (above). I should however add that the statistics don’t support an assumption that Labour could never again win a majority at Westminster without Scottish votes and MPs. The disappearance of the Scottish constituencies would certainly make Labour’s task much more difficult, but it would force Labour to work harder for English votes instead of relying on Scotland (and Wales) for future majorities. Don’t forget, also, that the Tories would be carrying the heavy electoral disability of being the party that lost Scotland. (I obstinately persist in believing that those English people who actually want Scotland to leave the Union are a small, insignificant and misguided minority.) 

  20. john miles says:

    We can all bang about what we’d like Scotland to do, or what we think they ought to do.
    But it’s their decision – I’m sure they know their own minds, and good luck to them. 

    Brian writes: Thanks, John. I broadly agree, although with two reservations. First, what the Scots decide at their referendum in nine months’ time will profoundly affect the rest of the UK as well as themselves, so the rest of us are clearly entitled to express our hopes for the survival of the Union in which we live (if that’s what we’re hoping for — I certainly am). Secondly, because of the failure of both the Holyrood and Westminster governments to conduct any serious, detailed, practical contingency negotiations in advance of the referendum on what, in broad terms, Scottish independence would involve, Scottish voters will inescapably be voting next September largely in the dark. Unfortunately both governments prefer it to be this way, for opposite reasons. But I certainly join you in wishing our Scottish friends and kinsfolk well, whatever they decide.

  21. Stephen Gash says:

    John Miles.
    Curiously, your attitude is not reciprocated by the Scots, especially the “good luck” part.. 

    Brian writes: I don’t think such a sweeping generalisation means anything. It’s certainly reciprocated by all the Scots I know. There would be lots of goodwill towards England on the part of numerous Scots if only we English would let them run their own internal affairs within the UK. Unfortunately our leaders lack the imagination and guts to make the offer.

  22. robin fairlie says:

    Both Brian and Timothy Weakley have expressed sympathy with my objection, as a Scot resident in England, to being disenfranchised. Both go on to say that because it would be extremely difficult to devise any other franchise than that proposed, therefore the existing Scottish electoral roll (entirely suitable for local elections) will just have to do for what is a national decision. What a collection of non sequiturs. Most people, faced with the realisation that a given course of action cannot be carried out in a fair, defensible, and logical manner, would then begin to ask themselves whether said course of action was itself desirable, defensible and logical. In my contention asking only residents in Scotland whether they wish Scotland to have a fully independent government is undesirable, indefensible and illogical. If you can’t find a proper way of asking the question, then there is surely something wrong with the question.
    Of course I realise that this is mere crying in the wilderness: this foolish deal has been cobbled together without anything that could pass for thought, between Salmond and Cameron, (one of them obsessed and the other not very interested) and cannot now be prevented. And we – in Scotland and the rest of the UK – will have to live with the consequences. 
    This desire to discriminate between Scots, English, Welsh and Irish, not on the basis of anything that might pass for nationality but instead opting for residence, has about as much relevance in a 21st century world as trying to distinguish people as Vikings, or Saxons or Britons – or as Iceni, Trinobantes or Caledonians. We are all a great mixture of all of these – and a great many more. Thankfully the EU, whatever its faults, represents a recognition of this; the UK, for 200 years, has done the same. Hopefully next year residents in Scotland will reach the same conclusion, and be content to live with their neighbours rather than apart from them.
    Certainly I agree that a federal solution, which does nothing to interfere with what individuals regard as their nationality, would be ideal. Why can no serious politician (is there such a thing?) recognise this?
    Brian writes: Thank you again, Robin. I can’t fault your logic. But what do you suggest should be done when Scottish voters in Scotland elect to government a party whose principal policy aim is to seek support in a referendum for Scotland to become independent? The SNP clearly has a mandate for a referendum. For the UK government to seek to prevent it being held on the grounds deployed in your comment would inevitably prompt a full-scale crisis that might easily culminate in the Scottish government staging a technically illegal referendum in an atmosphere of such resentment of Westminster’s obstructionism that the result might well be an overwhelming Yes to independence, in which case the SNP would have little option but to declare UDI. And a fine old mess we’d all be in then.

    For all its intellectual muddle-headedness, the course actually adopted seems to me the only practical one available — and probably the one offering the best hope of a No majority. Despite its injustice in its implications for you and other members of the enormous Scottish diaspora, would you not agree? And if you don’t, what preferable course would you propose? I know you have opposed devolution from the start and never wanted matters to get to this point, but as the politicians say, we are where we are.

    Yours sincerely, Dr Pangloss.  

  23. Stephen Gash says:

    Brian. The SNP clearly does NOT have a mandate for a referendum. As you are keen to repeat yourself (it is your Blog afterall so why not) I will also repeat myself. 
    SIX SNP MPs gives it NO mandate for a referendum. UKIP has several MEPs in England, but nobody says that this gives it a mandate to hold a referendum on England leaving the EU.
    The other parties should have called Salmond’s bluff in 2010 and forced him to hold a referendum then. After all Blair made sure the Scottish parliament referendum happened within three months of him coming to power in 1997.
    I don’t have a problem with Scots having an independence referendum or any other kind of referendum, provided the same courtesy is extended to us, the English.

    Brian writes: As a demonstration that two plus two equals eight (or possibly three), this takes some beating. (And on one tiny but revealing point, there could hardly be “a referendum on England leaving the EU”, since England is not a member state of the EU.)

    That concludes this particular exchange. This thread is primarily about Scotland, not England. Further comments on the Scottish angle will of course be welcome.

  24. Timothy Weakley says:

    Robin F., my sympathies! But – to echo Brian – will you please make clear how you want the electoral register for the forthcoming referendum to be made up? This means making up your mind as to what classes of people should be on it – all current residents of Scotland, only those residents born in Scotland, the above plus those of provable Scottish descent, or what?  What documentation would you require?  Practicalities, please? 

  25. robin fairlie says:

    Tim, the only way I can answer your question is by evading it. Brian is right in saying that I was opposed to the whole devolution business from the start, because it was clear to me (though not to the ever-so-clever persons who thought they could rig the electoral system in Scotland to exclude the SNP) that it would lead to a stupid mess of just this kind. If Scottish and Welsh devolution had ever been offered as a first tentative step towards a fully federal system, instead of just another way of kicking an inconvenient can a few yards further down the road, then all might have been well. So, it is quite true that I am in the unhelpful position of saying: If you want to get there, I wouldn’t start from here. And my complaints about disenfranchisement are merely a way of pointing out the knots in which the politicians at Westminster have tied themselves and everyone else.
    Clearly there is now no way out other than to go ahead with a flawed and quite improper referendum, and to pray first that the inhabitants of Scotland for the time being will vote resoundingly No, and second – much less likely – that someone at Westminster with wit and courage and a capacity to look at the longer term will avoid the temptation to revert apathetically to the status quo, and instead start asking how Parliament can meet the perfectly proper aspirations of Scots (and others, not excluding the English) within the UK. Starting with Tam’s West Lothian question, the political equivalent of Fermat’s last theorem, might be a good place to start.

    Brian writes: Thank you, Robin. Spot on! (Except that we have to agree to disagree about the wisdom or unwisdom of devolution in the first place. I fear that if it had been agreed originally as a step along the road to eventual federalism, that would have killed it off before birth. My hope (as you know) has always been that we would drift along, gradually expanding the scope of devolution, without any clear idea about where it was leading, until one day it would dawn on some unusually gifted politician that there could be only one logical answer to Tam’s West Lothian question… and the rest would somehow fall into place. The English are supposed to have a gift for muddling through, and for convincing themselves that it’s a great virtue.

    I suppose something like that could still happen, unless of course the spanner being thrown by the Two Fishes (Salmond and Sturgeon) enters the works and wrecks the whole thing. Actually the supine inertia and indolence of the UK parties’ leaderships in failing utterly to offer Scotland an inspiring alternative to independence, as you rightly say, will be almost as culpable as instigators of the dissolution of our country, if it happens, as anything done by the Two Fishes. [Tears out remaining hair.]

  26. robin fairlie says:

    It would be nice if your pipe-dream worked out Brian. However you may have noticed that we have a General Election in 2015. Regardless of which way the inhabitants, for the time being, of Scotland vote next year, there is a strong possibility that the GE may in fact trigger Tam’s time bomb by producing a Labour government holding a majority only by the grace of Scottish Labour MPs. Then the balloon will really go up, and the alleged English genius for muddling through will be tested – probably to destruction. It should provide some masochistic fun to watch every politician who has ignored this approaching Armageddon squirm.

    Brian writes: Thank you again, Robin. I don’t see this as a crisis for Labour if the Scots, or at any rate those who have voted at the independence referendum in September 2014, have voted against independence. If the referendum has produced a vote in favour of independence, and in the scenario you envisage, I agree that this would give the Labour party a rude shock. But it might well take two or three years to complete the negotiation of the terms on which Scotland would become independent, and during the latter part of that time Labour would be in office and primarily responsible for negotiating the final terms with the government at Holyrood (and perhaps others). During that time Labour would be forced to undertake a radical review of its policies for the future of rUK (the rest of the UK) after Scotland had seceded and Scottish MPs at Westminster had lost their seats. This might in fact teach the Labour party a salutary lesson. To win power again without Scotland, Labour would need to devise a policy for the future of England (and Wales and NI) that would attract more support than anything on offer from the Tories, the LibDems or UKIP. Whether the establishment of an English parliament and government would be viable in those circumstances is something that would have to be debated and resolved at the time, bearing in mind that rUK would be a very different animal from the present UK. Another key issue at that time would be rUK’s future in the EU….