Right choice in Scotland — but what next?


Now that the dust is settling, maybe it’s time for reflection.

First of all, the choice of the Scottish people is a tribute to their sound common sense — despite the blandishments — and later the pressure and threats — from the Yes campaign.  The fact that the result defied predictions and was much more decisive than opinion polls indicated suggests that some voters preferred not to say what they really thought.  “I won’t argue with you in the street, but I’ll vote against you at the polling station.”

But congratulations to those business leaders, and those voters, who defied the intimidation and saved the United Kingdom.

I have no doubt at all that a Yes vote would have been an economic disaster for Scotland, and a major economic set-back for England (OK, for those pedants out there, yes, I mean “Rest of UK”, or “rUK” — but let’s accept England as shorthand).  And of course the immediate question we eurosceptics will face is “So why don’t you reach the same conclusion about Brexit?”  I’ve answered this in some detail on this blog. But in summary: Scotland andEngland have enough in common in terms of history, culture, language and economic interests that a legitimate shared democracy can exist, and can work.  And Scotland benefits hugely in economic terms from the relationship.  But in my view, Britain and our 27 EU partners do not share enough in terms of culture and language to make meaningful democracy work, and rather than benefiting, Britain suffers dire economic consequences as a result of EU membership, not least in terms of over-regulation, and energy policy.

A word about Alex Salmond.  I have criticised him roundly, but I hope fairly, in this blog, on the grounds of policy. I have some sympathy with Allison Pearson’s use of Lewis Carroll’s phrase “slithy tove” to describe him.  But outside politics, he’s not a bad guy.  Regular readers will forgive me for repeating my Alex anecdote, but I first met him many years ago on a boat trip in Singapore harbour organised by the local Scottish diaspora.  When I later asked for his help with a Burns Night speech I’d agreed to give, he very kindly sent me a script he’d used himself.  Much appreciated.

And in politics, while I think he was profoundly wrong, you have to admire a man who devotes his whole life to a passionate cause, a man who believes in his country, and who comes so near to achieving his dream.  Like the Cavaliers, Alex Salmond was wrong but romantic.  And the dignified and timely manner of his resignation deserves our respect.  No doubt we’ll see him in the House of Lords very soon.

While we’re extending bouquets to political opponents, let’s not forget Gordon Brown.  I’ve often said that the only good thing he ever did was to keep Britain out of the €uro, with his cunningly-crafted “Five Tests”.  But blow-me-down he’s now saved our country a second time.  I have no doubt that his passionate and heartfelt intervention played a major role in the outcome.

Both Salmond and Brown have called for reconciliation after a divisive campaign, and that call also deserves our respect.

So where next?  The leaders of the Old Parties (but not the House of Commons) made some extravagant promises in the last days of the campaign.  Maybe they were sincere at the time, but now those promises are un-ravelling in the face of reality, and in the face of the back-benchers who will vote on any proposal.  Everyone seems suddenly to recognise the danger of England being short-changed, and the need for constitutional change in rUK as well as Scotland.

Cameron insists that the change must be balanced, and that the timing must be the same for the whole country including Scotland.  In principle he’s right, and he may be sincere.  But he’s also looking at politics and party management.  He fears his own backbenches won’t stay on-side without reforms for England (and his promise to retain the Barnett Formula is a real problem for him).  And of course he’s keen on any solution that would cut the Labour numbers in the House of Commons by excluding Scottish Labour MPs from English votes.

But Cameron’s timetable is clearly unachievable, as many commentators point out.  To be quick enough to satisfy the Scots, progress needs to be too fast to guarantee a properly thought-out solution for the UK.

Miliband, on the other hand, lacks any whiff of principle and is driven purely by immediate political tactics.  He wants to deliver in Scotland very quickly, and claim credit in Scotland ahead of the 2015 General Election.  But he also wants to delay as long as possible any threat in Westminster to his Scottish Labour lobby-fodder.  As Kathleen Mavourneen put it so eloquently, “It may be for years, and it may be forever”.

Contrast, then, the UKIP position.  Given the powers promised to Scotland, we call on Scottish Labour MPs voluntarily to desist from voting on English issues in Westminster.  But we also call for a great Constitutional Conference to develop a plan that can command broad consent across the United Kingdom.  The process can’t be open-ended in terms of time, but it must provide at least enough time to get to a viable and durable result.  This is the clear and principled position which Nigel Farage has set out.  Cameron’s suggestion of a small committee chaired by William Hague will not do.

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10 Responses to Right choice in Scotland — but what next?

  1. Ian Terry says:

    Roger. Very good post but please: Alex Salmond in the Lords!!! The man is a thug and a bully and the best street fighter in the business albeit helped by really poor opposition. The SNP did not and do not have an active back bench team. This is the man that has raped over 60% of Scotland over his 100% turbine dream. It has destroyed areas and made peoples life hell and he does not give a sh one t for anybody or anything other than breaking up the Uk getting independence and destroying Westminster. Putting him in the Lords would be akin to granting Mr Hitler the Noble Peace Prize. Reconciliation? Today on facebook the birth of a new Scottish party. Scottish Independence Party. It might just be a flash in the pan but there are a lot of very sore losers up here. Salmond never called them to task before on their antics before and so they think they have a licence to create mayhem at any cost.

  2. eddie coke says:

    I absolutely agree that, in the face of belligerence and violence (perceived or real), most normal people will tell the pollsters (publicly) that they are “don’t knows” or “yeses” – when they are actually minded to vote “No”. The Yes folks shot themselves in the foot somewhat, and it led to aberations in the polls.

    As for the Barnett Formula, well nobody needs to tell a mathematician that a formula (or equation) contains variable terms. It seems that the disparity leading to higher per capita spend in Scotland than EWNI was an overestimated Scottish population. (I’m calling it EWNI instead of rUK. Incidentally wouldn’t we all have escaped the EU with a Yes vote, since there would no longer have been a UK counterparty to the treaties.)

    The real Scottish population number can be used quite happily, say at each General Election or each Census, in order to adjust on a 5 or 10 yearly basis the amount that Scotland gets. It’s still the Barnett Formula, but calls a variable a variable rather than a constant (and an unrealistically high one at that).

  3. George Morley says:

    One wonders what the situation would be had the vote been Yes and the Scots ex-pats eventually had their pensions uprated which was a question left unanswered by anyone in articles and comments made.
    All that anyone asks is fairness which Cameron so often spouts and the principles of democracy where all eligible citizens can participate equally and be treated honestly. The ex-pat frozen pension policy is one such which should be addressed and has been mentioned on here many times.

    • Jane Davies says:

      George, the frozen pension scandal will be an election issue and the party that actually ends this injustice will get thousands of votes. How can anyone believe what Cameron say’s? In his begging speech to the Scots last week he had the nerve to remind them of British values…..”Fairness, freedom and justice.” Let’s hope the frozen 4% get just that….justice!

  4. Maureen Gannon says:

    Why oh why do politico’s make such a mess in their wanton desire to hold on to the thing they revere POWER with no thought to the people they are there to SERVE?
    England has been violated since St Tony got into power to change it demographicaly as he did and then to devolve Britain was classic divide and rule , they then tried to regionalise England while the devolved were allowed to carry on as individual countries under the umbrella of Britain and the Barnet formula.
    The English in the main let this go by, but then Cameroon son of bLiar took control, and phase two of the balkanisation of England began ,the Campaign for an English Parliament started at the begining of devolution has been denied madia coverage , in the last few years with very few opinions asked for . .
    I do not believe we need over 1,500 members of our legislature costing astro sums to run , a new form of governance would be more appropriate , get rid of the HOC and Lord’s create a lower and upper house elected for national issues,
    And parity for the four nations.
    The members of the nations governments there for the welfare of the people and not the PARTY Whips,, all this talk of city councils is I believe for their master in Brussels and their desire to neuter and regionalise England after all we were the defiant ones that halted the European dream under Germany control , [and not a bullet fire, I wonder why I had to live through a war?] to grow to see that dream becoming a nightmare. I urge every English man and woman to fight for your country not with guns but with your vote and demand our elected work for us and not the PARTY

  5. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Looked to me to be a re-run of the earlier Glasgow v Edinburgh spats. Only this time far more wasteful and damaging – add to that those of the Bullingdon club.

    Foreigners voting on behalf of Scots in rUK and those of a rather risky age. That was the SNP at its most desperate and again damaging. I suppose we have to put up with the mischievous part of Wales next?

    Brown infoms us from Dalgety Bay last week that jobs are needed and so on..to assure the future you know? How many more times do we need to hear that?

    I suppose those receiving subsidies for Scottish wind mills are much relieved.

  6. Pingback: Sadly, Salmond’s statesmanship is short-lived | Roger Helmer MEP

  7. Anne says:

    THE MAP OF ENGLAND 15.8.2001.

    Bonny Scotland is at the top of the heap
    On the map of the British Isles,
    It’s mountains and lochs can clearly be seen,
    As we tarry after walking the miles.
    Wales to the West, its “head” and its “hand”
    Points towards Ireland’s green shores,
    The peak of Snowdon towers high above.
    The Welsh Mountains to climb, are yours.

    But where on the map is “England”?
    That Nation of which once we were proud?
    Did we fight to keep her united?
    Or were other voices far too loud?
    Only the English can save dear Old England,
    And keep her name on the map,
    Or do we let her be divided?
    And where “England” was, leave a gap?

    Slowly, so slowly Minister’s ceded
    Her sovereignty, at first o’er the seas,
    Burdened with Regulations and Directives,
    Brought our Kingdom down to its knees.
    But the English are a peculiar Nation,
    Far less understood than most,
    The English may have their backs to the wall,
    But they will NEVER sound the Last Post.

    • Maureen Gannon says:

      Nice one Anne , surely it is time for the Queen of Scotland to be reminded that it is for the people to decide whether the Tories are to be locked out of Westminster not her and her belligerent ministers. indeed one has even said they are coming down to Westminster to destroy the English economy. they certainly appears to be appealing to the Mel Gibson AKA William Wallace mentality.
      Did we ever get repaid for bailing them out when they went bankrupt? must be a tidy sum in interest they owe us.

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