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Does Alex Salmond need a translator?

Posted on March 09, 2012 by

We're a bit confused, readers. We live in the online age, where almost everything that happens is recorded for posterity – whether by a full TV crew or someone with a mobile phone. There can be almost no concerted misrepresentation of events, because no matter how hard spin doctors or biased media sources might try to push a dishonest line, someone somewhere will have what really happened on video.

So we're somewhat bemused as to how there can be such a polarised difference of opinion on whether the SNP wants one or two questions on the ballot paper for its proposed referendum on Scottish independence in 2014. The facts, as presented by the SNP in front of a watching nation and preserved forever on tape and digital memory by a hundred news channels of every and no political colour, seem extremely clear.

"On a historic day in Edinburgh, as the Scottish Government published its detailed proposals for a referendum to determine the country’s future, the First Minister announced his intention to put a simple question to voters in the autumn of 2014: Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country? Mr Salmond’s single question on independence was supported by constitutional experts last night. The UK government also welcomed the clarity of the question he proposes." (Eddie Barnes, The Scotsman)

"Alex Salmond has revealed plans for a single-question independence referendum in 2014, offering voters a straight 'yes' or 'no' choice."
(Andrew Nicoll, The Sun)

"Selkirk’s Tory MSP John Lamont has welcomed Alex Salmond’s preference for a single question in Scotland’s independence referendum"
(Selkirk Weekend Advertiser)

"Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond has unveiled the question he wants to ask Scots in a referendum on independence. He said it should be: "Do you agree Scotland should be an independent country?" In a statement to the Scottish Parliament to launch his party's public consultation on the referendum, he told MSP's Scots will be given a "straightforward" and "clear" choice." (James Matthews, Sky News)

"The document will also see Salmond confirm his preference for a single yes-no question on independence in a 2014 referendum."
(Tom Gordon, The Herald)

"As Mr Salmond launched the Scottish Government’s consultation paper on the independence referendum, the document’s centrepiece was the question Scots will be asked in 2014: “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?” The document, launched on Burns Night, even contains a mock-up of how a single-question ballot paper would appear, with two boxes, marked Yes or No." (Paul Kilbride, the Daily Express)

"Salmond reiterated his Scottish National Party's formal preference for a single question." (Keith Albert, Public Finance)

"Mr. Salmond wants only one question on the ballot paper: Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?"
(Neal Ascherson, the New York Times)

"It is interesting, when you look at the public utterances of people like the Deputy First Minister and the Finance Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney, that they have said, clearly, that they prefer a single question themselves. Indeed, the Scottish Government’s own consultation makes that their preference." (Michael Moore, Secretary of State for Scotland)

"The Government has made it clear, as it always has done, that its preference is for a single question on independence."
(John Swinney, Finance Secretary)

"Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson said she was glad that Mr Salmond had set out his preference for a single question on independence."
(Sanya Khetani, Business Insider)

"Our preference is to have a single question."
(Alex Salmond, quoted in Holyrood magazine)

So that all seems pretty straightforward and unambiguous. The First Minister and the SNP have made it clear that their preference is for a single-question referendum with a straight Yes/No answer, and while they're willing to listen to other opinions and consider any alternative, a single question is what they prefer and that's what they're proposing. Right? But wait – what's this?

"Salmond still wants to include a clause about "devolution max" — which would grant the Scottish government incerased powers but not complete independence — in the referendum." (Sanya Khetani contradicting herself in the very same article for Business Insider)

"The truth is that the First Minister is desperate for such an extra question, believing that this would be his consolation prize when he loses the main vote on independence." (Alan Cochrane, the Telegraph)

"Alex Salmond has proposed giving Scots a clear vote on independence – but is also determined to offer the alternative option of fiscal autonomy."
(Andrew Bolger and Kiran Stacey, Financial Times)

"None of the opposition parties have been willing to sign up to the 'Devo Max' compromise touted by Mr Salmond" (Ian Swanson, The Scotsman)

"This is the week when the pro-Union campaign began to take shape. First came the launch of the cross-party devo plus campaign to counter the SNP's devo max." (Herald View, The Herald)

"Despite the Nats' 'preference' for a straight Yes/No on independence they are desperate to put a second question – on greater powers for Holyrood – on the ballot paper." (Record View, the Daily Record)

"There is something rather sad about [Salmond’s] enthusiasm for second question. In fact he seems more enthusiastic about the second question than he does about his policy of independence."
(Willie Rennie, leader of Scottish Liberal Democrats)

"But in return for new powers for Holyrood, David Cameron wants a single-question poll instead of Salmond’s multi-option preference."
(Torcuil Crichton, the Daily Record)

"Scots Labour leader Johann Lamont accused Salmond of making “political calculations” by refusing to opt for a single question."
(Magnus Gardham, the Daily Record)

"If it were a straight choice, as David Cameron wants, then Scotland would probably stick with things as they are, though a strong SNP campaign might just produce a majority for independence. But if the First Minister won the battle to hold a three-option referendum, then 'devo-max' would win. So why is Mr Salmond so keen on a three-way choice?"
(Peter Kellner of YouGov, in the Scotsman)

Wait, what? How do you manage to take a series of utterly clear, unambiguous assertions stating the SNP's desire for a single question, and then just blithely insist that they want a multi-choice vote? Are the entire Scottish Parliament opposition and Scottish media poorly-trained Calcutta call-centre operatives who don't understand any English which isn't on their flowcharts? How is it possible to misinterpret and misrepresent something so completely?

The really bizarre thing, of course, is that the public overwhelmingly supports a two-question referendum, by a thumpingly unequivocal margin. The Unionist parties and media are furiously attempting to prevent Alex Salmond from doing something that their own voters wholeheartedly support, and which the SNP's voters largely don't want – a somewhat extraordinary position for any rational political party to be taking.

It's not a new position for them, of course. For the duration of the last SNP government all three Unionist parties were bitterly opposed to a referendum being held at all, despite a huge majority of Scots – from all sides of the debate – wanting one. The result was that the SNP's wafer-thin minority control of Holyrood was turned into a comfortable majority in 2011.

But it seems the FUD camp has learned nothing. For four years they lied about the SNP's position on just about everything, and obstructed the people's clearly-expressed desire for a referendum. Despite the electorate's resounding chastisement of that approach, their policy going forward seems to be much the same. The SNP has clearly stated its preference, but also that it's prepared to listen to the people of Scotland if their view disagrees. The Unionists and their tame media and polling organisations are determined, still, to lie about the SNP's stance and ignore the wishes of the people. We'll see how that works out.

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  1. 11 10 12 08:05

    Some Questions « Still Raining, Still Dreaming

9 to “Does Alex Salmond need a translator?”

  1. ghjklsdfghjkl

    Pedant alert!
    Paragraph 3 shoud read "So that all seems pretty straightforward and unambiguous."

  2. ghjklsdfghjkl

    Sorry – should have added – good article – spot on – keep up the good work!

  3. RevStu

    Man! It's lucky my rubbish web hosts have had a broken server all afternoon so hardly anyone saw that. Fixed now, ta.

  4. DougtheDug

    It wasn't totally broken because you could ping it and it would respond. It just wouldn't talk sense to anyone.
    Probably running Labour Server 2008, the open source Libux Demstro Slackjaw or  MS-DavidSon.

  5. douglas clark

    There is a problem here. Whilst many Scots may wish a second question on the referendum it is up to unionist parties to deliver it. It is not, so far, clear that they will.
    Indeed it seems to me that they cannot  offer it, because they know they cannot deliver it through an English dominated Parliament. So we are in pig in a poke territory.
    That may be the realpolitic of where we are at right now.

  6. DougtheDug

    The Unionist parties and media are furiously attempting to prevent Alex Salmond from doing something that their own voters wholeheartedly support, and which the SNP’s voters largely don’t want

    I don't think the Unionist parties are trying to prevent Alex Salmond from putting a second question on the ballot paper. What they want is for Alex Salmond to agree to a single question and then the whole devo-max , indylite, devo-plus, federal parliament, blackety-blah, smackety-shmah more powers question and the Unionist parties obvious failure to deliver any valid framework for a more powerful Scottish parliament can be quickly buried and the ownership of, (and subsequent blame for), the single option referendum can be landed squarely on the SNP.
    The longer the SNP keep the devo-max option in the air the more and more obvious it becomes that the promises of more powers from all three unionist parties are just vapourware. That's why they want to shut it down as soon as possible.

  7. Bill C

    I think that it is fairly obvious that the SNP leadership were never in favour of a second question, it would only dilute the YES vote.  Thus the SNP can now go to the people saying that they would have considered a Devo Max question but the nasty unionists wouldn’t allow it.  Hence all those who were in favour of Devo something are in a dilemma, either stick with something they don’t really want or take a chance and go for independence.  Given Labour and Tories attacks on the welfare state over the next couple of years, I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of Devo something type people will become independinistas in the coming months.

  8. Vincent McDee

    I’m not so sure Bill C, not that the devo type will become pro-independence (that’s obvious), but about the SNP being able to claim “the nasty unionists wouldn’t allow it”.

    More likely it would be the other way around, the nasty unionists claiming they allways wanted to offer a better devolution, but THE INTRANSIGENCY OF THE NATS ON A SINGLE QUESTION REF DID NOT ALLOW ANY ROOM TO MANOUVER!!!

    Whatever the rules agreed, they will sure try to move the goalposts to affect the result their way….. want to bet?!   

  9. Commenter

    C’mon you people! You are being disingenuous. I am a strong supporter of Independence and I’ve even used the arguments here to hammer the Bitter Togetherers when they bring up the one and two question matter in debates. But it seems to me that notwithstanding AS’s and the SNP’s utterances that they will only sponsor a single question he/they have been muddying the waters about a second question on the ballot paper albeit sponsored by some other organisation.
    I have also used another argument, ie, that the SNP knowing full well that Devo Max would be a non-starter and probably not even achievable any time soon at Westminster nonetheless deliberately obfuscated the matter of a second question. This was to cause confusion amongst the No-Men to sidetrack them for a while and to enable the SNP to eventually claim that Westminster has not allowed the Scottish people’s will for a second question to prevail and thus the Devo Maxers should now vote for Independence if they want something like Devo Max. 
    You take your pick. And it matters nought now since apparently it is going to be one question.

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