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A whole new (hard)ball game?

Posted on January 25, 2012 by

So that was the launch of the independence referendum consultation. Not much we didn’t know, and the usual tired, pointless carping from the FUD benches, but there was one very significant new development. The question being proposed by the Scottish government is this:

“Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”

It could barely be simpler or more direct. But the fascinating aspect is the impact the form of the question could have on the legal status of the referendum. The previously-suggested question was rather longer and encased in tortuous legalese:

“Do you agree that the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the government of the UK so that Scotland becomes an independent state?”

The seemingly-technical change is potentially of vital importance. The core dispute over whether the Scottish Government has the legal right to conduct a consultative referendum is the “purpose and effect” of its doing so. The old formulation of the question clearly implied that the Scottish Government would use the referendum as a trigger to actively attempt to remove Scotland from the UK (by opening negotiations with the UK Parliament), and as such the referendum could very easily be held to be exceeding Holyrood’s devolved powers by directly leading it to take action on the constitution, a matter reserved to Westminster.

The new question, however, merely innocently enquires as to the Scottish people’s opinion on the subject, without promising that the expression of that opinion will cause it to take any particular action. As such, it’s difficult to see how it could fall foul of any reasonable interpretation of the law.

Does this mean that Alex Salmond is preparing the ground to face down the UK Government and hold the referendum on his terms – without the Section 30 order that would clear away most possible legal challenges – should the imminent negotiations with David Cameron not turn out to his liking? We’ll be watching with great interest.

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9 to “A whole new (hard)ball game?”

  1. Shodan
    Ignored
    says:

    Rev Stu, did you see the TV coverage of the international press conference with Alex and the SNP recently? It was dreadful. The media bias against the nationalists was as obvious as ever. They prefaced event with lots of negative talk, cut away from the introductory video that was shown to the press and filled the time with babble and negative spin. After this they then cut back when it started for a mere handful of questions, including the most pointless and inane one from the turnip head at BBC Scotland. It seems they don't want the Scots realising the interest and support this is getting abroad. They want them to feel isolated and only hear the opinions of England and Westminster approved sources.

    After they cut away from this mere taste of the event they started talking to poiliticians, always unionists only grouped together and spoken to in turn to bash the nats, rubbishing everything talked about while the host nods along. Never SNP on it. The only time they let any pro nationalists talk was the green fellow and a weary Margo (clearly tired after a long day, but passionate and dimissing some of the nonsense cropping up) who both did well, but they were fewer (no SNP in sight) and let on only once while the nat bashers were allowed on for longer, on first and more times. Where is the supposed balance we are led to expect?

    It seems they did all they could to only give as little as possible courtesy to the nationalist side to avoid outright ridicule or protests for the behaviour, but didn't bother to avoid abvious leanings.
     
    The academics they had on were worthless. Babbling about nonsense and muddying waters that were crystal clear on issues that were childishly simple or only issues at all in the first place to the unionist media and politicans playing for time (same old about the date of the event, etc., like a stuck record). It ended on the one from Edinburgh dropping in her poison in a parting shot about how "confusing" the whole thing was (meaning the question on the paper or how it could be phrased). It was much of the same poison you've covered already from other sources. I have no idea how anyone could be confused by the basic question that was desired and was being discussed by them. That a senoir academic supposedly specialising in politics could genuinely be confused by such basic things stretches the limits. In reality it was likely a  good way to make sure that the same idea the Westminster politicians and unionist media are trying to push (that it is all so confusing it should be forgotten, go back to bed like good children) is left stuck in the minds of the viewers and listeners.
     
    It is going to be a long and bloody uphill battle for the nationalist cause. All the media and hate will be poured on the movement, barring what seems to be a minority of media supporters and more honest journalists who will be balanced. Sometimes they are more clever about it than other times. The sad thing is that these tactics will work with many. Even if it only undermines confidence and causes them to waver, stop spreading the word or choose the "safe middle" option that is on the cards instead of the full break.
     
    I know a few people who have been joining the SNP (and nationalist supporting parties) mostly to send a message to the rest and battle the negative spin about it being a lost cause no one wants. I've never been for joining parties as I felt that you should vote for the best candidate in each area and be otherwise out of the football team mentality of politics. In light of the current political climate and the increasingly spineless behaviour of any mainstream political party candidate as they obey orders from above I am beginning to think of doing it too for the same reasons. If only to secure this one damned vote that is being holed. That method and the internet and blogs like your site about the only places where people can have a free and fair voice for the other side (politics in person I'm not often shy about but there are limits in public that you can't cross without doing more harm than good as many people will react very badly to anyone against their chosen party). Amazing to see movement has got this far with such odds against it. David and Goliath.

  2. RevStu
    Ignored
    says:

    I didn’t see the coverage as such – I watched the entire event live on the web, free of commentary. I couldn’t say I had much interest in seeing all the BBC’s usual faces lining up to display less insight than I, an idiot, can cast on matters myself. I did watch the evening’s debate on BBC1, though, where Lesley Riddoch made an excellent case for herself as an independent Scotland’s first head of state, and Jim Wallace made an excellent case for being put in one of those funny jackets with the arms round the back.

  3. seven
    Ignored
    says:

    Hi, the link you gave is dead Jim, does anybody have another link.

  4. seven
    Ignored
    says:

    I didn’t see the coverage as such – I watched the entire event live on the web, free of commentary. I couldn’t say I had much interest in seeing all the BBC’s usual faces lining up to display less insight than I, an idiot, can cast on matters myself. I did watch the evening’s debate on BBC1, though, where Lesley Riddoch made an excellent case for herself as an independent Scotland’s first head of state, and Jim Wallace made an excellent case for being put in one of those funny jackets with the arms round the back.

     
    Coldn't have put it better myself
     

  5. seven
    Ignored
    says:

    tapaidh leat Angus

  6. Kate Dalrymple
    Ignored
    says:

    The link Jim posted was a mobile link. You should be able to get it on You Tube from here:



    BTW first post and loving the blog!!….

  7. Shodan
    Ignored
    says:

    Thanks all of you for the help. I've followed the links, snagged a copy and got to watch it all for myself. Very pleased and I'll be passing it on where I can. I just wish I had assumed the worst of the BBC coverage like the rest of you and prepared accordingly. I still make mistakes of trusting certain media outlets or expecting better only to be let down again.



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