Does Scotland Get An Independence Do-Over? David Cameron Says No But Nicola Sturgeon Says Yes

A Second Independence Referendum: Whose Call Is It?

Less than a year after voting down the “once in a generation” Scottish Independence Referendum Scottish voters may be asked to do it all again as early as 2016 following the next Scottish parliamentary election. Last September 18th Scottish voters chose “No” to independence from the UK. The vote was roughly 45% in favor and 55% against independence.

Recently the question of a second independence Referendum has surfaced from London to Jakarta to Hong Kong to Edinburgh. On July 26th, former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, now a Scottish MP at Westminster, suggested that in light of recent behavior of the Conservative government and the House of Commons majority a second Scottish independence Referendum was “inevitable”.

To which UK PM David Cameron dropped his chopsticks in Jakarta and immediately ruled out a second Referendum anytime in the next five years. Indeed the PM believes that based upon prior understandings and representations, the UK should be free of any further independence talk or action for at least a generation. Perhaps most importantly Cameron believes that a Referendum on Scottish independence that is not sanctioned and approved by proper UK entities is not a legitimate constitutional action. Presumably Cameron would disregard any such action taken by Scottish voters. And then what?

To which sitting Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon informed an audience in Hong Kong that Mr. Cameron was much mistaken. From the Scottish First Minister’s perspective another Scottish independence referendum will occur if and when the Scottish people decide to have one regardless of any blessings from London. Presumably Ms. Sturgeon has been alluding to the people’s decisions to be made in the upcoming 2016 Scottish Parliamentary elections. According to an opinion published in The Daily Record by SNP MSP Joan MacAlpine, “The SNP should go into next year’s Scottish election with a manifesto clause underlining the moral right of the Scottish Parliament to hold a referendum at a time of its choosing.”

If the SNP are swept back into power with such a manifesto Ms. Sturgeon is prepared to find a mandate to hold a second referendum when the time is right. In her Hong Kong remarks, the First Minister added the clarification that in the event that the Scottish people make such a decision no politician can stand in their way. Presumably that includes David Cameron.

To which Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson chimed in advising her political boss David Cameron that his comments regarding a new indy referendum would set up a “hellish position” for Scottish Tories if the SNP won a majority in the 2016 Scottish parliamentary election with an independence Referendum in their Manifesto. Ms. Davidson has spoken directly to the Prime Minister asking him to tone it down a bit.

To which Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser suggested that the SNP should stop obsessing on independence and respect the outcome of the 2014 “No” vote.

When all of the harrumphing is finished for awhile one thing is clear: there is no clear authority that says Scotland can or cannot seek authority for a second shot at Independence in 2016 or thereafter. There is the Edinburgh Agreement of 2012 which stipulates that the 2014 Referendum must produce a “result that everyone will respect.” There is the SNP white paper on independence which characterized the first Referendum as a once in a generation opportunity. There are international human rights statements acknowledging all people’s rights of political self determination.

Despite these vague allusions on the subject the SNP is busy cobbling together a list of materially changed circumstances that could provide a basis for a second bite at the apple. Nicolas Sturgeon has unequivocally stated that she will not allow the people’s decision to be deterred by David Cameron’s foot stomping prohibitive declarations or by some real or imagined promise made regarding a “once in a lifetime” vote last September.

So, expecting the subject of a new Scottish independence referendum to remain on the front burner, what events might nudge Scotland closer to an independence ‘do over’ and which Scottish voters might be convinced to switch their vote from “No Thank You” to “Yes!”? I’ll take a look at those two questions in the Wednesday Watching Scotland Weekday Update.

Till tomorrow, what say you?



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