CPS Board Member Lord Forsyth of Drumlean writes for Conservative Home on David Cameron’s courage over the proposed Scottish Independence Referendum.
“The SNP got 45% of the votes in last May’s elections to the Scottish Parliament and won a clear majority of the seats. Our Liberal Democrat Coalition partners – who have consistently argued for more devolution to defeat the nationalists – lost every seat they had on the mainland and their share of the vote fell to a derisory 5.2% on the regional list. For Labour the scale of their defeat was unthinkable and unexpected. George Robertson had once assured everyone that devolution would kill Nationalism stone dead and Donald Dewar boasted that he had devised a complex electoral system that would ensure no party could ever get an overall majority. As a result there are few checks on the executive, no second chamber and a committee system under the thumb of the separatists who even insisted on taking the Holyrood position of presiding officer for their party. Alex Salmond’s stunning result was not a vote for independence but a vote against Labour when neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals seemed to offer a credible alternative. When Annabel Goldie said she could do business with Alex Salmond many Conservatives took that as permission to vote tactically for the SNP and they did so in their tens of thousands. Salmond knows this and the last thing he wants is for David Cameron to enable him to fulfill his manifesto promise which was clear and precise: We will give Scots the opportunity to decide our nation’s future in an independence referendum.
His strategy is to play for time and create as much resentment as possible on both sides of the border. We were both at St Andrews University together where he ran the SNP and I was in charge of the Tories. There were no fees in those days but now thanks to Salmond the English students have to pay £36,000 whilst the Scots, the French, the Germans, the Greeks and everyone else in the EU pay nothing. If you complain to him about the gross unfairness he will say that once Scotland is independent he will give the rest of the UK the same deal. The fact that the money to fund these free fees and free care for the elderly and free prescription charges comes from Westminster – which is about a fifth more generous than for England – creates real anger which is grist to his mill. Support for Scottish independence is actually higher according to some opinion polls in England than in Scotland as a result. Constitutional matters are reserved to Westminster under the Scotland Act which set up the Scottish Parliament. Holyrood cannot conduct a legally binding and therefore decisive referendum without being given the power to do so by Westminster. It really is extraordinary to see the Nationalists squirming and crying foul because David Cameron has had the courage to end the uncertainty and enable Alex Salmond to deliver what he promised. There is nothing in the wording of the SNP’s promise about third questions for alternative constitutional settlements or about leaving any vote to the 700th anniversary of a medieval battle. His deputy has even been complaining that we don’t have binding referenda in this country. Did she not realise that the recent AV referendum was exactly that and that her party’s pledge is to give Scots the opportunity to decide in an independence referendum?”
To view the full article at Conservative Home, click here.
Date Added: Tuesday 10th January 2012