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Thoughts on a single-question referendum

Posted on August 23, 2012 by

Well now, that rascal Brer Fox hated Brer Rabbit, on account of he was always cutting capers and bossing everyone around. So Brer Fox decided to capture and kill Brer Rabbit if it was the last thing he ever did! He thought and he thought until he came up with a plan. He would make a tar baby! Brer Fox went and got some tar and he mixed it with some turpentine and he sculpted it into the figure of a cute little baby. Then he stuck a hat on the Tar Baby and sat her in the middle of the road.

Brer Fox hid himself in the bushes near the road and he waited and waited for Brer Rabbit to come along. At long last, he heard someone whistling and chuckling to himself, and he knew that Brer Rabbit was coming up over the hill. As he reached the top, Brer Rabbit spotted the cute little Tar Baby. Brer Rabbit was surprised. He stopped and stared at this strange creature. He had never seen anything like it before!

“Good Morning,” said Brer Rabbit, doffing his hat. “Nice weather we’re having.”

The Tar Baby said nothing. Brer Fox laid low and grinned an evil grin.

Brer Rabbit tried again. “And how are you feeling this fine day?”

The Tar Baby, she said nothing. Brer Fox grinned an evil grin and lay low in the bushes. Brer Rabbit frowned. This strange creature was not very polite. It was beginning to make him mad.

“Ahem!” said Brer Rabbit loudly, wondering if the Tar Baby were deaf. “I said ‘HOW ARE YOU THIS MORNING?”

The Tar Baby said nothing. Brer Fox curled up into a ball to hide his laugher. His plan was working perfectly!

“Are you deaf or just rude?” demanded Brer Rabbit, losing his temper. “I can’t stand folks that are stuck up! You take off that hat and say ‘Howdy-do’ or I’m going to give you such a lickin’!”

The Tar Baby just sat in the middle of the road looking as cute as a button and saying nothing at all. Brer Fox rolled over and over under the bushes, fit to bust because he didn’t dare laugh out loud.

“I’ll learn ya!” Brer Rabbit yelled. He took a swing at the cute little Tar Baby and his paw got stuck in the tar.

“Lemme go or I’ll hit you again,” shouted Brer Rabbit. The Tar Baby, she said nothing.

“Fine! Be that way,” said Brer Rabbit, swinging at the Tar Baby with his free paw. Now both his paws were stuck in the tar, and Brer Fox danced with glee behind the bushes.

“I’m gonna kick the stuffin’ out of you,” Brer Rabbit said and pounced on the Tar Baby with both feet. They sank deep into the Tar Baby. Brer Rabbit was so furious he head-butted the cute little creature until he was completely covered with tar and unable to move.

Brer Fox leapt out of the bushes and strolled over to Brer Rabbit. “Well, well, what have we here?” he asked, grinning an evil grin.

Brer Rabbit gulped. He was stuck fast. He did some fast thinking while Brer Fox rolled about on the road, laughing himself sick over Brer Rabbit’s dilemma.

“I’ve got you this time, Brer Rabbit,” said Brer Fox, jumping up and shaking off the dust. “You’ve sassed me for the very last time. Now I wonder what I should do with you?”

Brer Rabbit’s eyes got very large. “Oh please Brer Fox, whatever you do, please don’t throw me into the briar patch.”

“Maybe I should roast you over a fire and eat you,” mused Brer Fox. “No, that’s too much trouble. Maybe I’ll hang you instead.”

“Roast me! Hang me! Do whatever you please,” said Brer Rabbit. “Only please, Brer Fox, please don’t throw me into the briar patch.”

“If I’m going to hang you, I’ll need some string,” said Brer Fox. “And I don’t have any string handy. But the stream’s not far away, so maybe I’ll drown you instead.”

“Drown me! Roast me! Hang me! Do whatever you please,” said Brer Rabbit. “Only please, Brer Fox, please don’t throw me into the briar patch.”

“The briar patch, eh?” said Brer Fox. “What a wonderful idea! You’ll be torn into little pieces!”

Grabbing up the tar-covered rabbit, Brer Fox swung him around and around and then flung him head over heels into the briar patch. Brer Rabbit let out such a scream as he fell that all of Brer Fox’s fur stood straight up. Brer Rabbit fell into the briar bushes with a crash and a mighty thump. Then there was silence.

Brer Fox cocked one ear toward the briar patch, listening for whimpers of pain. But he heard nothing. Brer Fox cocked the other ear toward the briar patch, listening for Brer Rabbit’s death rattle. He heard nothing.

Then Brer Fox heard someone calling his name. He turned around and looked up the hill. Brer Rabbit was sitting on a log combing the tar out of his fur with a wood chip and looking smug.

“I was born and bred in the briar patch, Brer Fox,” he called. “Born and bred in the briar patch!”

And Brer Rabbit skipped away as merry as a cricket, while Brer Fox ground his teeth in rage and went home.

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30 to “Thoughts on a single-question referendum”

  1. Dave says:

    If it’s a parable I’m just not getting it?

  2. Aplinal says:

    Haha.  Nicely done.  I had forgotten all those Brer Rabbit stories.
    “Oh, please Mr Unionist, don’t insist on a single question!”
    “Please, let me have a second question!”
    “Whatever you do, don’t insist on a single question!”
    Or am I getting this the wrong way round?  😉
    Tony L

  3. Embradon says:

    Please don’t force me to have a single question referendum. I would hate that.

  4. Dave says:

    OK, got it now it’s been explained!  Way too early for deep thinking.

  5. Cameron says:

    Thoght you might want to check out Mary Dejevsky piece in the Independent. I could do with some help on the comments section.

  6. Theuniondivvie says:

    Great stuff.
    The added deliciousness is that Brer Rabbit can loudly and endlessly blame Brer Fox for not giving folks the second question he didn’t want anyway.

  7. DougtheDug says:

    I take it that Brer Rabbit is the SNP and that, “don’t throw me in the briar patch”, is the equivalent of, “don’t make us have a single question”.

    However the SNP is not going to unilaterally stick a devo-max question on the referendum ballot paper and the unionists are certainly not going to stick one on themselves so everyone knows that it’s going to be a single question referendum apart from those in the media like Cochers who still can’t work out that any devo-max question has to pass two hurdles to be useful as an SNP fallback option. It has to both win the ballot and to get through the unionist dominated Westminster parliament as a Westminster bill and it will never get over the second hurdle even if it gets over the first.

    Probably a more accurate analogy is to turn the story around and say that the unionists are stuck to the tar baby of a single question referendum. They can’t break loose and provide a devo-max option for the referendum so their strategy is to get the SNP to come and join them and get stuck to the tar baby too rather than the SNP having clean hands when it comes to targeting the devo-max vote in the referendum campaign.

    That’s why Cameron and the rest of the unionists are so desperate for the the SNP to agree to a single question referendum now before the results of the consultation are made public and before they publicly refuse to amend the SNP’s referendum bill in parliament with a second devo-max question. It’s not about stopping the SNP from having a second devo-max option on the referendum ballot paper, it’s all about ensuring that the blame for not having a devo-max option also encompasses the SNP.

  8. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Thoght you might want to check out Mary Dejevsky piece in the Independent. I could do with some help on the comments section.”

    Then it might help to include a link. But as a general point, debating anything in the comments of English newspapers is a waste of time. English people’s prejudices are pretty ingrained, and at the end of the day they don’t have a vote in the referendum so it doesn’t matter what they think anyway. Almost nobody in Scotland reads the Indy, as last week’s sales figures showed.

  9. Iain says:

    it’s all about ensuring that the blame for not having a devo-max option also encompasses the SNP.’
    I know in Unionistworld anything is possible, but do you think they can get away with that? Their constant meme has been it’s Salmond who wants the second question because he wants a fall back position/doesn’t want a referendum. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been wrong, but I think Eck’s left them very little wriggle room despite wriggle being their default setting.

  10. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Yeah, I’m with Iain on this one. The Unionists have campaigned SO loudly and SO strenuously for a single question that nobody will blame anyone but them when it doesn’t happen.

  11. DougtheDug says:

           What the unionists say now and what is said in the campaign will probably be two very different things. The campaign will be all about targeting those voters who want more power for the Scottish Parliament but aren’t yet convinced about independence.

    The unionist campaign for these voters will be boil down to vote NO and get more powers for the Scottish Parliament in the future. The, “Jam Tomorrow”, strategy.

    The SNP campaign for these  voters will be to point out that although they may prefer devo-max there is no devo-max on offer and despite being given the chance to put a devo-max option on the ballot paper and three years to do it the unionists failed to deliver and it’s proof that they will never deliver. Independence is the only option for change.

    That SNP strategy will be spiked if they are party to agreeing to no devo-max option on the ballot paper years beforehand.

  12. DougtheDug says:

    Rev. Stuart,
    The unionists aren’t stupid. They know that there is no way that the SNP can put a devo-max option on the ballot paper. It would simply invite political ridicule.

    There would be endless questions on how are you going to implement this if it wins without a majority in Westminster, does this mean you don’t want independence, why have you put an option on the ballot paper that you are not going to campaign for, is it the SNP’s ambition to have a Unilateral Declaration of Devolution (laughter), are you too scared for independence, is this an admission you know you’re going to lose the independence vote and so on and so on. It would be a disaster.

    The unionist side would simply say that it couldn’t implement what the SNP proposed without a consultation with the rest of the UK to see how it affected them both economically and in terms of good governance and that would take at least another parliament to do that and then it would have to go to a UK wide referendum as it affected the whole UK. In other words, nae chance.

    The SNP would be a laughing stock.

    The unionist parties are the only ones who can put a devo-max or devo-whatever option on the referendum ballot paper and they know it.

    So why are they so desperate to get the SNP to agree to something that is entirely under their control?

    It’s all about corporate guilt. They want the SNP to be party to the decision to have no devo-max option in the referendum to damage the SNP’s campaign for the votes of the devo-max supporters.

  13. Iain says:

    ‘That SNP strategy will be spiked if they are party to agreeing to no devo-max option on the ballot paper years beforehand.’
    It’s possible, but I can imagine a scenario where the consultation comes out in favour of a single question (which I think is what polling there is tends to support). The SNP will then do the noble democrat bit, saying we’ve given the Unionist camp endless opportunities to formulate a position on stronger devolution which they’ve refused to do, we’ve consulted with small and big ‘c’ civic Scotland, we’ve even, gasp, sent an e-mail to an NGO pointing out substantial support for a second question. However the time for talking has now passed.
    Then, as ever, it’ll be a battle for which narrative is more convincing.

  14. James Morton says:


    I would suggest that what the Unionists are saying now is exactly what they’ll say in the campaign. They didn’t try to race the SNP to the bottom, they started off there and they’ve really got nowhere else to go. They can’t even say “NO” in the campaign literature, nor are they talking about Union. They have boxed themselves in talking about vague notions of togetherness that a first year student in political science could tear apart with ease. Their only hope to raise their game and reach the undecided voters would be to offer devo-max in real terms, not some vague silliness about wee dugs and sausage rolls. The problem with that is they don’t actually want Scotland to have devo-max and if you listen to some black-hearted unionists like Cochrane; a no vote should be followed with a rolling back of Holyrood…basically voting for Union should be the devo-minus option.
    I also think that Cameron does not intend to be portrayed as the Villain here, taking the flak and let labour off the hook. I think the Tories would very much like to see Labour get badly burned in Scotland, which would completely wrongfoot Slab and leave them effectively rudderless. Labour would end up being Brer Fox not the tories.

  15. heraldnomore says:

    Casting aside the weans’ Enid Blyton tales I went to see Uncle Remus.  It’s like trying to understand a speech from Johann, but he did say to me:

    “Shoo! don’t you pester ’bout Brer Rabbit.  He kick up he heels en put out fum dar.”  Then he added:  “Dem ar chick’ns crowin’ ‘g’in honey.  Done gone by nine er’clock.  Scoot out fum dis.  Miss Sally’ll be a-rakin’ me over de coals.

    I think it might be back to Enid, and Brer Rabbit gets a Riding Horse for the bedtime stories tonight.  “You just wait till you ride me home, Brer Rabbit!” said Brer Fox, gritting his teeth.  “You just wait!”   

  16. DougtheDug says:

          The results of the consultation are one thing but what the SNP must not do is to agree to no second question with the unionists.
    If the devo-max option is to disappear then it must be because the unionists abandoned it or as a result of the consultation with the Scottish people and not because the SNP made a decision with the unionists to remove it.

  17. R Louis says:

    And there we have it, Salmond outfoxing the unionist foxes.  Will they never learn?

    I do think the point above, by James Morton is very pertinent, in the notion that a NO vote will not lead to devo max, but rather devo minus, and a rolling back of the Scottish parliamentary powers.  

    Vote NO, and you’ll get devo minus, not devo max.

  18. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “They want the SNP to be party to the decision to have no devo-max option in the referendum to damage the SNP’s campaign for the votes of the devo-max supporters.”

    Yes, of course they do. I want to be able to teleport instantly anywhere in the universe, and there’s bugger-all chance of that happening either.

  19. Turnip_Ghost says:

    I was genuinely thinking that the tar baby being quiet was the SNP and that the rabbit was the no camp getting angrier and angrier trying to punch and kick the yes camp but only getting themselves stuck 😀 oopsy! Makes sense now though!

  20. DougtheDug says:

    Rev. Stuart,
                    Never said they’d achieve it but it’s the reason for this constant demand from the unionist side that the SNP agree to a single question referendum right now and why they are willing to agree to the vote for 16 year olds and legally binding referendums to achieve something that they control already.

  21. Cuphook says:

    I was reading some Unionist’s opinion on the second question the other day (it might have been Johann Lamont) and they were saying that Scotland has already voted for devolution so we don’t need to be asked again. She then pointed to the grudging concessions that Westminster has made since the SNPs victory as the blueprint for the future.
    If we were to accept this position it raises a lot of questions, not least, when a majority government in Edinburgh asks for additional powers like devolution of the Crown Estates and London says ‘no’, what do we do when we’re not allowed to express a legitimate democrat demand for Devo Max?
    Anything other than independence leaves Scotland at the mercy of politicians who really don’t care.

  22. balgayboy says:

    Good apolugue, unfortunately the last thing the victim (The People of Scotland) needs is some perverse mercy from it’s predator. We will decide our own survival and future by a simple YES vote come 2014. No need for the briar bush for us just self determination will attain the garden we wish to be part off.

  23. Cameron says:

    Sorry, my earlier post was a bit rushed, as I wanted to get back the open goal the Independent has presented us with today.  The Mary Dejevsky article I reffered to is entitled “We’re rewriting the nation’s future. Here’s how it looks…”. It is a clear piece of pro-unionist propoganda, which dismisses the 2014 vote as a vanity project of AS.
    This is an open goal which I am sadly not best suited to take advantage of. If there are any legal or constitutional big hitters out there, or statos, ect., whith time on their hands, please come and help me.

  24. Macart says:

    Heh, nicely put Rev.

    Basically the SNP have laid the trap perfectly. They have proclaimed to all and sundry who would listen that as the Scottish Government it is their duty to recognise a significant body of opinion within Scotland and followed this through by an open offer to any and all appropriate Westminster bodies to champion the cause of this opinion. They then threw a second bone by holding the consultation (results to be released soon). Again they will say ‘Yup this surely is a popular option and even we feel its worthy of notice’ however it is only their duty to report the findings of the consultation. Now as the the leader of the SNP, Mr Salmond has also quite openly stated the SNP are a party of independence and it is neither their job nor their duty to forward a case for Devo anything, neither is it within the SNPs or the SGs remit to deliver on an improved devolution option.

    Over to you Dave, let’s see how much you value this union which you would ‘strain every fibre of your being’ to retain. 

  25. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    Spot on DougtheDog and Stuart.

    It’s all about the SNP getting the Unionists to admit that Westminster will never give The Scottish Parliament real fiscal powers.  That’s why the SNP have to keep the Devo Max issue going for  a good  while yet.

    I think the STUC’s consultation stance could be very important. Did anyone see the labour supporting radio jounalist (can’t remember his name) on Scotland Tonight a few days ago? He sounded as sick as a parrott. He knows what’s coming.           

  26. MajorBloodnok says:

    Not really O/T – I assume you’ve all seen this (from Peter A Bell’s excellent site)?

    “Professor Matt Qvortrup, from Cranfield University in Hertfordshire, said historical precedent showed that Alex Salmond’s SNP is well placed to break up the Union.
    Of the 46 referendums held worldwide since 1905, 42 have resulted in a new independent country being formed – with two of the remaining four “no” results later reversed.”

    Don’t tell the Unionists!

  27. Cameron says:

    @ Rev. Stuart Campbell
    “English people’s prejudices are pretty ingrained”
    Sorry if this ruffles any feathers Rev., but this seams a bit bigoted if you ask me. What makes you think I am not English, my Scottish name?
    Sorry I didn’t think of the link, and sorry for trying to be helpfull.

  28. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Sorry if this ruffles any feathers Rev., but this seams a bit bigoted if you ask me. What makes you think I am not English, my Scottish name?”

    I’d have thought it was clear that I meant “the prejudices of the typical English commenters on threads about this particular subject”. If we really have to spell every single sentence out in full we’re not going to get much work done.

  29. Cameron says:

    @ Rev. Stuart Campbell
    Sorry, but it wasn’t clear that it was English posters you were referring to, and not the English in general. The structure of your reply did not make this clear.
    ” If we really have to spell every single sentence out in full we’re not going to get much work done*.
    The arrogance if this suggest to me that you have been ensconced in your ivory tower for too long. The vote in 2014 is an issue for all Scots to become involved with, not just journalists and political pundits. I suggest you might want to take this on board, otherwise ordinary Scots like me might decide your blog is just another excersise in mutual back-slapping.

  30. peter mirtitsch says:

    I have to laugh, as the SNP have never campaigned for a second question, and it has repeatedly been overlooked that in any case, the SNP cannot deliver Devo Max, as it is outwith their remit. It would have to be a Westminster government which gave Devo Max, in that they can transfer powers to Holyrood.

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