Wednesday, 14 March 2012

After The Referendum

There is one question which has not been asked in among the lightless heat of the plebiscite exchanges either in the media or in the MacBlogosphere.  That question is what will happen after the referendum?

Of course it all depends on what the result is.  Should Scotland vote “Yes”, then apparently we will glide seamlessly towards Independence, taking our place in the world as an independent country, while we would be looking to joint the EU.  Apparently.

What prompted this post was an article in the Fail on Sunday which claimed that Cameron would block entry to the EU for an Independent Scotland. Yes, I know the Mail on Sunday, a publication, which if you look at the Tabloid Watch blog in my blog post has a record for accuracy and reasoned argument.  Ahem….  It was enough to get me thinking that whatever happens, the United Kingdom will not be the same again.

So according to the SNP supporters in the Macblogosphere, once we vote “yes”, we will glide serenely towards Independence.  So much so we will not notice what all the fuss was about, except I think that things will be rather more fractious.  I also think that the SNP supporters in the Macblogosphere have seriously underestimated “Flashman” Cameron & “Darth Gideon” Osborne.  I suspect that if the Mail on Sunday story is true, that entry to the EU will be the least of the SNP’s problems while negotiating Scotland’s exit from the Union. Assuming, of course, that the SNP don’t take the hint and make joining the EU subject to a referendum.

The main sticking points will be over oil, and the share of the deficit, while the SNP’s policy of adopting Sterling (as opposed to setting up a Scottish Pound tacked to Sterling) and keeping the Bank of England as the bank of last resort (as opposed to setting a timetable for the setting up of a Scottish Central Bank – not called the Bank of Scotland) will not go down well with the unionist negotiating team.  All of these area’s are difficulties, and I am sure that Cameron & Osborne will try and gain some sort of revenge for a yes vote through the independence negotiations.

Maybe the biggest change post Independence will be the fate of the SNP itself.  Since Salmond returned to the leadership of the SNP in 2004, they have invented a cool tartan version of New Labour – which has been much more successful electorially than “Scottish” Labour.  Partly this calculation is down to aping the success of Blair, but partly this is driven by the same motive for Blair, Brown et all creating New Labour – pragmatism.  Salmond’s pragmatism comes from selling the SNP to a left of centre audience, while retaining a lot of natural supporters of Independence who believe in Neo-liberal policies like low Corporation Tax rates.  The question is, will there be a split, or will the good ship SNP stay together holding a centre/left position. 

So if there is a yes vote, things will be difficult.  So will things be easier with a no vote?  Well, no. 

There are already rumblings about the demise of the Barnet Formula coming from the back benches.  The consensus from Westminster (and by the way, that includes Labour members too) is that the current Scotland Act (based on Calman) should be the final word (for the time being) on any further powers coming north.  There have even been mutterings about repatriating powers to Westminster by certain “Scottish” Labour politicians.  The consensus here in Scotland is that Calman does not go remotely far enough with the majority of voters favouring “Devo Max” (essentially Fiscal Autonomy with powers stopping just short of full independence) at the very least.  This fact does not appear to have entered the consciousness of our pro-unionist elected representatives.  If it has, it is dismissed patronisingly as some sort of safety net for the SNP to fall back on

While the questions about what will happen to the SNP will begin after a referendum loss, what would be a more pertinent question would be where now for “Scottish” Labour.  They have set their face against the settled will of the Scottish people so much, in depriving us of Fiscal Autonomy, that to see off Independence from centre stage would expose the policy vacuum that lies at the heart of “Scottish” Labour.  A “no” vote in effect would be a pyrrhic victory for “Scottish” Labour, coming so soon before a crushing Cameron victory at the next UK General Election.

While the next two and a half years will be dominated by the plebiscite, it will be what happens after that event that may see a shaking up of the kaleidoscope, at a time when the country as a whole is still taking George’s not so marvellous Medicine.


Angus McLellan said...

Cameron vetoing EU membership isn't going to happen. To do that would be an invite to the Tory backbenches to revolt. Not only would he have lost Scotland, he'd have given the Scots what many of those backbenchers would like: a way out of the EU. Political suicide surely.

Scotland isn't so important that Cameron would throw away his political career over us.

Allan said...


The point of part of the post is that there are other things that Cameron & Osborne can do to make things difficult during the Independence negociations. In any case, it should be up to the Scottish People if Scotland wants to join the EU.

Stuart Winton said...

Well whichever way things go I suspect you both have a point in that it's all going to get very messy for all concerned.