English Tory Interference 171


If it were true that Scottish voters need London’s legal permission to vote on their own future, that would in itself be a strong argument for independence.

As it is, Cameron’s despicable effort to try to use legal pretexts to interfere in the timing and question of Scotland’s independence referendum, is almost certain to backfire. Cameron both with unionist lickspittle Marr yesterday and with Adam Boulton today, kept saying the government will “clarify the legal position” on a referendum.

Cameron’s constitutional knowledge seems worryingly shakey. The government cannot clarify legal positions; that is the role of judges. The government can make legal claims, it can even publish its own legal advice (something it hates doing); but the law is decided by judges. English judges interfering in Scotland’s referendum would of course be no more popular than English Tories.

We will see later today, but I cannot see any possible legal argument that Cameron can use to back his desire to bring the referendum forward to 2012 or 2013 instread of 2014. Why one date can be legally more justified than another is beyond me. Politically, the SNP campaigned very clearly on the basis of a referendum “in the second half” of this Scottish parliament. Salmond is trying to do what he said he would do when he won the election – a rare and praiseworthy thing for a politician.

I also cannot see the legal argument why there should not be a three choice question. Personally I would prefer a two choice question, and my two choices would be more devolution or independence, on the grounds electoral support for “status quo” parties was insignificant. Cameron of course wants two choices, status quo or independence. But plainly Cameron is acting purely politically, to try to boost the chances in both question and timing of status quo winning. Again his claims to be acting on “legal” grounds appear simple tripe.

Has he consulted Scotland’s Lord Advocate? Is this like the infamous decision of Lord Goldsmith to change his mind and argue that the war in Iraq was legal? Goldsmith flew to Washington to consult George Bush’s law officers, but did not ask the view of Scotland’s law officers.

I strongly suspect Cameron’s “legal” pretext is concocted by English lawyers – lineal descendants in office of those who tried Wallace for treason to a man who was never his King.

Most shameful of all is the position of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, and their continued slide into unreconstructed unionism. I have explained before how the Liberal party’s very political identity was forged in opposition to unionism, how Gladstone fought a massive battle for Irish Home Rule, how Rosebery helped invent modern Scottish nationalism and Lloyd George fought huge battles for at least partial Irish freedom. Being the antithesis of the “Conservative and Unionist Party” is a vital part of the raison d’etre of liberalism as an independent political force in this country, and why for years organised liberalism survived largely in the Celtic fringes.

The political institutions descended from the old Liberal Party have now been taken over by political careerists with no ideological connection to, or interest in, the beliefs of their predecessors. Their only interest is personal power and income.

When I announced I was leaving the Lib Dems for the SNP, a very senior Lib Dem and friend of long standing tried to persuade me otherwise. I explained the party’s enthusiastic unionism as something completely antithetical to its traditions, something which this individual did indeed understand. He said the party remained strongly federalist. I asked whether that meant it would campaign stongly for the “Devolution max” option in a referendum. He replied that certainly, it would.

Yet we now see the Lib Dems are party to a coalition attempt to use legal pretexts to keep the devolution max option off the ballot paper, let alone campaign for it. The Lib Dems have become, as a party, lying, deceitful, untrustworthy bastards completely alienated from their ideological heritage. The good people remaining captive within the institution should leave now.


171 thoughts on “English Tory Interference

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  • Darlo Totts

    As someone who seems to have done very nicely out of representing Britain in the past (I’m sure your pension will be very comfy) I do admire your new adherence to your beliefs.

    Do you think the English, or the rest of the Union should be allowed a vote on whether Scotland should be allowed to stay in the Union?

  • Scouse Billy

    Mary: “You WILL run around if we tell you to. You WILL engage in competitive sport.”
    .
    Kraft durch Freude – history repeats itself before out very eyes!

  • Jives

    Mary,
    .
    Spot on.Gove terrifies me and i can’t quite put my finger on it.Beneath the seemingly banal meerkat fizog i fear lies a real hair-shirt penance freak with Calvinist zeal and a puritannical purview.There’s nothing worse than watching the brainwashed trying to brainwash others,particularly when he’s almost risen without trace to a postiion of power by probably making the right masonic connections or something similiar.He needs to be watched that one.
    “YOU! Stand still laddie!! How can you have yir pooding if ye don’t eat yer meat!!?” etc etc…
    He causes me deep unease.

  • Jon

    The question of whether the English should have a say, and what their view is at the moment, is an interesting one. I suspect that the English don’t generally feel they have very much invested in the decision one way or the other, and so will side with the status quo just in case devolution makes the sky fall in (much how people cast their ballots on voting reform).
    .
    As an English person, if I were asked, I’d vote for devolution – I’d like to see Scotland do well outside of the sphere of US influence. I imagine some Scots who support devolution feel the same way, quite aside from the question of being ‘ruled by Westminster’. Since the question might affect the siting of UK-US nuclear bases – the Scots are less keen on them than London – I’d guess there will be some dirty tricks and political sabotage to maintain the status quo.

  • Dunc

    “Do you think the English, or the rest of the Union should be allowed a vote on whether Scotland should be allowed to stay in the Union?”
    .
    Do you think the French, or the rest of the European Union, should be allowed a vote on whether the UK should stay in the EU?

  • Jives

    Jon,
    .
    “As an English person, if I were asked, I’d vote for devolution – I’d like to see Scotland do well outside of the sphere of US influence.”
    .
    That’s a key point Jon.I’m a Scot(well i was born here and had this label affixed to me without choice) and am apolitical insofar as i loathe most politicians and parties,but speaking to many Scots the distancing from the insanities of the US(and her Westminster bitch) is a primary concern.

  • Jon

    @Dale – your points about nationalism, and the indoctrinating effect of schooling, are well made. On the latter point, I fully recommend a book called Disciplined Minds by Jeff Schmidt – it is a very interesting exploration how this happens in the US degree/post-grad environment.
    .
    However I wonder if you intended for your point to counter the whole point of Scottish nationalism. I think the answer here is that if decisions are made in London that adversely affect those in Scotland, or with no care for those people, then that group have the right to self determination. I agree that one cannot reasonably break up a country into ever-smaller units, each with their own views and agendas – and so the nation state is perhaps the best/smallest granularity that can be achieved.
    .
    One alternative – as has been discussed here before – is full democracy down to the referendum level, on everything (“initiative and referendum”). But such a democratic maturation isn’t going to happen in the short term, and nor are people going to renounce their nationality overnight. One has to start somewhere.

  • OldMark

    ‘Personally I hope Scotland votes for independence and so sets England free. I will live with it as best I can if Scotland staya, but if it does it must be on the UK’s terms, not Scotland’s.’

    Spot-on James. Of course Scotland could decide to break away unilaterally, a la Kosovo, but if such a ‘clean break’ is desired, Salmond will have to suck up to the US (or, in a couple of decades time, China) and offer Holy Loch as a quid pro quo for their sponsorship & support for such a move (Camp Bondsteel being the quid pro quo in the Kosovan case).

    A ‘velvet divorce’ along the lines of the Czech/Slovak breakup in 1993 doesn’t seem possible, given that the UK has four, not two, constituent parts.’Devo Max’ is a good fallback position for the Scot Nats if full independence happens to be rejected, but while that is being negotiated, I’d expect Westminster to ditch the Barnett formula and play hardball over the divvying up of UK assets & liabilities.

  • Mary

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-16478121
    10 January 2012 Last updated at 17:31
    .
    Scottish referendum ‘must be authorised by UK government’
    Michael Moore said he wanted a vote which was “fair, decisive and clear”

    .
    Independence referendum statement
    Westminster ‘cannot pull strings’
    PM denies ‘dictating’ Scots vote
    .
    The Scottish secretary has said it would be unconstitutional for a referendum on Scottish independence to be held without the authority of the UK government.
    .
    Michael Moore said the government would devolve the power to hold a poll to the Scottish Parliament only if it was “legal, fair and decisive”.
    .
    And he said he favoured a simple Yes or No question on independence.
    .
    Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond is finalising his referendum plans.
    .
    The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader said his Cabinet would be putting the “finishing touches” to the consultation paper which will be published later this month and be open to public consultation.

  • Vronsky

    “well i was born here and had this label affixed to me without choice”
    .
    The SNP is the only political party with a civic definition of nationality: if you are here, you are Scottish – unless you wish to set that aside, and this you are also free to do. This has amusing consequences for the selection of a national football team, and the anti-nationalists of the “Labour” party once took the SNP to task over the matter, expressing alarm that people who were not ‘Scottish’ might be able to pull on the blue jersey. Truly satire has become impossible.
    .
    @jon
    “and so the nation state is perhaps the best/smallest granularity that can be achieved.”
    .
    I doubt it, but then I’m really an anarchist. Look at this: http://www.andywightman.com/wordpress/?p=336
    .
    @oldmark
    “I’d expect Westminster to ditch the Barnett formula and play hardball over the divvying up of UK assets & liabilities”
    .
    Me too – after all, we have the assets, they have the liabilities.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    James Matthews wrote “Devolution Max is not within Salmond’s gift and is not on offer, nor could it be be without a referndum in the rest of the UK. This is simply an attempt by the SNP to obfuscate the outcome.

    Scotlish independence, and the continuing debate thereon, affects the whole of the United Kingdom. As Prime Minister of the UK the very least Cameron has a duty to ensure from Scotland is an unambiguous decision. He is absolutely right to insist on a straight yes or no question.
    ……

    That’s nonsense. There is no reason why there could not be increased devolution within the UK – the option that polls show 67% of Scots favour. It would only be devolution of domestic powersw (e.g control of more of how the taxes raised from scotland are spent; control of how infrastructure projects are funded -i.e not by the current PFI rip offs forced on us; control of our entire energy policy,etc)

    The reason Cameron opposes it is that he knows the majority of the UK’s oil and gas reserves are in Scottish waters, so control of more of it’s finances means the UK government gets less to hand to it’s billionaire friends who’re running the publicly funded PFI scams and profiting from the wars and the pointless aircraft carriers built to rust.

    “Personally I hope Scotland votes for independence and so sets England free. I will live with it as best I can if Scotland staya, but if it does it must be on the UK’s terms, not Scotland’s.”

    This is like a husband telling his wife who is unhappy with the way the relationship is going and feels she’s unfairly treated that she can stay with everything arranged only to suit him or else she can go. Pretty clear what result you want and will get.

    You want to deny the majority of people in Scotland the option that polls show 67% of them want – devolution of more power on domestic issues (finances, tax raising powers, power to issue bonds and take out loans for infrastructure projects rather than exhorbitant PFIs currently forced on us). Instead you want to deny them that and tell them to go independent instead.

    Fine – we have only 10% of the population of the UK but the majority of it’s oil and gas fields. You will be much worse off financially as a result – and you can also bear the cost in taxes of the trident upgrade and wars like Iraq and Afghanistan (and likely Iran or Falklands War II soon).

    As for “setting you free” – from what? Every Labour government elected in the last 30 years had a majority higher than the number of Labour MPs elected in Scotland. So the idea that Scotland forces Labour governments on England is a myth. England forces Conservative and ‘New Labour’ governments on Scotland and makes us pay for PFIs for billionaires and big firms, wars and arms and nuclear deterrents that Scotland neither wants nor needs. Our soldiers die in wars ordered by governments in Westminster. We’ll be the ones set free – not from the English people, who are mostly fine, but from Westminster governments and the City of London and British Aerospace and all the other parasites living off English, scottish and Welsh people.

    “As to the proposal that sixteen year olds should vote, that is not part of the normal Scottish or UK electoral systems and is a tacit admission by Salmond that immaturity and separatism go together. It is worthy of only contempt.”

    I agree with you that only people who can vote in elections should be able to vote in referendums.

  • Mary

    The gravy train rolls on for geriatrics, war criminals, other nonentities and hangers on.
    .
    Lady Thatcher, the former prime minister, has claimed more than £500,000 in expenses in the last five years, despite her ill health.
    .
    The 86-year-old still carries out some public engagements more than 20 years after she left office.
    .
    As a former prime minister, she is eligible for a public duties cost allowance to cover office and secretarial expenses.
    .
    Cabinet Office figures reveal Lady Thatcher claimed £535,000 since 2006.
    .
    Sir John Major, who succeeded her in Downing Street, has received £490,000. He created the fund when he was in power in 1991.
    .
    Tony Blair, who beat Sir John in the 1997 election, has been given just under £273,000 from the public purse since 2007.
    .
    In 2008-9, he received more from the allowance than he earned from his official salary when he was prime minister the year before.
    .
    The figures were published in response to a written question from Conservative MP Philip Hollobone.
    /…
    .

    http://news.sky.com/home/politics/article/16098067

  • Mary

    Don’t kmow how Hollobione finds the time. He is a councillor on Kettering Borough Council (for which he picks up £4,800 pa approx in allowances) and is also a special constable in British Transport police. So public spirited these Tory boys.

  • Jon

    @Vronsky – on the potential granularity of democracy, I was referring to (a) what divisions have historical precedent, and (b) what is within the realms of possibility given the consensus of the political elite. I&R is pretty well off the table, never mind anything more radical 😉
    .
    @Duncan, hello! You raise a good point regarding the Labour bias in Scotland. Cameron of course could be nothing but represent the traditionalist status quo, but he must be being persuaded very earnestly given the political advantages he would reap in the remainder of the UK, if total devolution were to go ahead. As you point out, oil fields in Scottish waters will have something to do with it.

  • Brus MacGallah

    Whatever Canspeccy is, he(?) is not Scots. Only Americans and a certain type of Englishman would ever call a Scot Scotch or Scotchman. Do you call black people “coloured”? I suspect you are from Trolland.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    hi Jon! – i like your idea of referenda on everything too, but like you i doubt it will happen any time soon, so independence or greater devolution seems like the best Scotland will get in the meantime. It’d also mean that it’d be harder for Conservative politicians to try to blame everything on the Scots (though they’d probably continue to blame the Welsh, the unemployed, the EU and immigrants – anything that distracts from the fact they and some of their friends in big business, banking and the stock markets are the ones robbing English, Scottish and Welsh people blind)

  • Vronsky

    “I&R is pretty well off the table”
    .
    What’s I&R? I need to know if I should worry about it being off the table.

  • Guest

    “Conservative politicians to try to blame everything on the Scots (though they’d probably continue to blame the Welsh, the unemployed, the EU and immigrants”
    .
    You missed out the disabled!.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    guest – very true – according to Cameron City of London stock market traders must be protected and we have to build aircraft carriers to rust to keep BAE executives in pocket, but we can’t afford to pay benefits to the disabled

  • Jon

    Vronsky – I&R is “initiative and referendum”, the idea that any idea can be proposed by the populace if it is supported by enough signatures, and if enough support is garnered, it is put to the whole country in a referendum. The Swiss operate this model, and have done I think for 150 years – one of the few democracies in the world.
    .
    I&R was first mentioned by evgueni on these boards, who I’ve not seen post here in ages (where are you? come back!). It’s a very interesting idea, despite my minor misgivings here: http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2011/07/why-die-with-money/

  • Guest

    “guest – very true – according to Cameron City of London stock market traders must be protected and we have to build aircraft carriers to rust to keep BAE executives in pocket, but we can’t afford to pay benefits to the disabled”
    .
    You missed out all the drones they plan to fly above the UK to keep an eye/spy on the population, coming soon!. Well, they don`t come cheap.

  • Jon

    Clark, well done on your guest post at Tallbloke’s, great effort. Sadly my physics is far too basic (read non-existent!) to bat off the various theories put forward.

  • Vronsky

    Thanks Clark & Jon for the I&R. Yes, I saw the referral of the dothemath link – irresistible arithmetic. I’d like to carve the Monotone Convergence Theorem into a log and beat the climate change deniers over the head with it.
    .
    Last night the SNP web site went down. Too many people trying to join. Thanks, Dave.

  • Jon

    @Alex – I wasn’t intending to imply that. Just that Scotland adds voters and financial support to the Labour party amongst others, but negligibly to the Conservatives.
    .
    In any case, the point is moot – I’m for devolution anyway 🙂

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