Tuesday, 10 January 2012

SNP set referendum date

I must give credit to Michael Moore where it is due - this afternoon he put in a performance as good as any I've seen from a Lib Dem in recent months. He certainly recovered a bit of credibility for the government following yesterday's attempt to manipulate the date of the referendum and the conditions on which it could be called.

Thankfully, Moore distanced himself from the government's previous position that a referendum must be held within 18 months. Fortunately the "sunset clause" was removed and there was no mention of any date or arbitrary timescale. Which is very welcome and suggestive of Lib Dem influence in government helping to reverse a difficult situation of the Prime Minister's making, even if it is disappointing that no progress has been made on allowing all Scots aged over 16 to vote in the referendum.

Moore announced a UK Government consultation on the referendum, designed to give the Scottish parliament the legal powers it needs, which is open to "people living in Scotland and elsewhere". I'm very pleased - I'll get my Polish relatives to offer their views. But this is surely something of a pointless exercise given that every party in Scotland is calling for a referendum?

However, not to be outdone the SNP regained the initiative in typical style, announcing a date for the independence referendum. Not in parliament of course, but to the press. And not a date exactly - it's more like a season. But they have indicated an intention to hold it in Autumn 2014. As you can imagine this is causing a lot of excitement on twitter, but oddly not in the House of Commons, where no-one seems aware of the announcement! Especially not Moore, who has no appreciation that, yet again and in spite of a positive performance, he's been outmanoeuvred by Salmond!

I'm pleased - OK, relieved - that a "date" of sorts has been set. By-products of this will be some constitutional wrangling, "unionist" parties no longer saying contradictory things such as the need for both quality debate and an immediate referendum, the gradual emergence of a "No" campaign in the coming months and Willie Rennie wondering what to ask at FMQs. More importantly, it gives campaigners on both sides a target to work towards, and allows for a reasonable time in which to have the kind of debate Scotland needs if voters are to be empowered to make an informed decision.

As someone else once famously said, "bring it on"! Now, maybe we can get back to talking about something else?


Caron said...

What do you mean, Willie Rennie knowing what to ask at FMQs? He's asked about all sorts of things, Cornton Vale, colleges, young people, jobs, not just, like Iain Gray and Annaruth, independence every week.

And Willie always took an original line with it too. Not just the same old.

Andrew said...

Ok, that's me told!

Agreed, Willie has asked about all kinds of things. And he's been a lot better than Iain Gray in FMQs.

What I was inferring was that Willie has asked the question about the timing of the referendum more times than I care to remember. But fair point - you're right of course, I was being more than a bit unfair.

Anonymous said...

Certainly someone seems to have talked a modicum of sense into the Tories, and pointed out to them that they had set themselves on a lose/lose course.

Of course Cameron had also announced his intentions to the press. At least Alex did it after a Cabinet meeting. The Flashman in Dave did it before!

There's a lot of interest in legalities, and I'm finding Lallands Peat Worrier's post on the subject interesting, as well as the opinions of the legal types that hang around there. Conflicting opinions I may say!

I too will be glad when the constant bickering about the damned referendum can stop and the sorting out of campaigns can get under way in back room offices for a while. If we spend 3 years talking about it, both sides will have lost interest by the end and no one will bother voting.

It will be good too, to have opposition parties concentrating on more important matters, like hopefully providing constructive criticism of the government's policies, although with Annabel gone that seems to be a thing of the past.

I'm flattered that you include my review of your blog on side panel, but can I just point out a wee typo... the wee furry beast on the blog is Munguin, not Manguin. ;)

Andrew said...

Thanks Tris, there's been a lot of legal talk - I can't profess to either understand it or be particularly interested in it. I do know that no referendum in itself is legally binding under current arrangements, but other than that I know very little.

The bickering is unhelpful, especially as every party has declared that they want the referendum to go ahead (if only they'd been so keen in the last parliament). It will happen, but perhaps a lot of damage will be done if voters are allowed to become apathetic.

Thanks for the review, sorry about the typo, I make a lot of them but usually spell checkers pick them up...!