Friday, February 14, 2014

UK teeters on the brink of dictatorship as Tory government threatens to ignore referendum result

There's a very good word to describe a situation where a government sustains its power in direct contravention of a democratic vote, and that word is 'dictatorship'.  There are two very good words to describe a situation where the government of another country seeks to retain control over a nation that has freely chosen to be independent, and those words are 'colonialism' and 'imperialism'.  All three words fully apply to the threat issued by a spokesman for the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government that, unless Scotland gives way to all of London's demands in the negotiations on independence, the referendum result would simply be ignored, and Scotland would remain subject to Westminster rule against its will.

Like apologists for so many other would-be dictators down the ages, the anonymous Tory source tries to excuse the planned power-grab by indulging in a touch of victim-blaming, but his logic is utterly fantastical.  It seems an independent Scotland would have no right to consider itself a successor state to the UK, and it would therefore have no right to any of the assets of the UK such as sterling - but it would nevertheless have an absolute responsibility to take on a proportionate share of ALL of the UK's liabilities.  If we failed to dutifully bend over and accept such a ludicrous double-standard, London would feel obliged to simply carry on governing Scotland on a colonial basis, with all pretence that this is a "voluntary union" finally consigned to the dustbin.  It's rather like a divorce settlement where the husband gets to keep 100% of his assets, but the wife has to give up 50% of hers - and she's gently reminded that if she doesn't consent to this equitable arrangement she'll be locked in the attic for the rest of her days.

Although the threat is probably meant sincerely, the good news is that a) it makes a Yes vote more likely because it will help open the eyes of undecided and "soft No" voters to the profoundly anti-democratic character of the same London establishment that claims to love and respect Scotland ("welcome to reality" as Ed Balls would say), and b) it doesn't have a hope in hell of actually working in the real world.  The one and only circumstance in which the Scottish government would ever issue a unilateral declaration of independence is a situation where the people have voted Yes and London defies the people's will.  Such a declaration would command the overwhelming support of Yes and No voters alike, not to mention the people of England who have a considerably greater sense of honour and fair play than their political representatives.  The international community would also have little choice but to recognise Scotland's independence, given the right to self-determination that is enshrined in international law.  In other words, a Yes vote moves us way beyond the position where the London government can simply choose to 'keep' Scotland - although clearly that penny has yet to drop.

*  *  *

2014 has so far been notable for a significant number of particularly bizarre "referendum polls".  There's been what feels like endless polling of people who live in other parts of the UK (none of whom have a vote), and of course there was ITV's regional poll of voters in the Borders and Dumfries & Galloway (a disproportionately anti-independence region that contains just 5% of the electorate).  Now we have the weirdest one of the lot - a Populus referendum poll of over-50s (a disproportionately anti-independence age group) who live throughout the UK, meaning that only about 8% of them actually have a vote in September.  Just how many more niche No-friendly groups will the media want to poll between now and referendum day, I wonder?  Will we see a YouGov poll of Orange Order members?  A ComRes poll of Sark residents with the surname Barclay?

Unusually, the over-50s poll has a big enough sample that the results of the Scottish subsample can be considered statistically credible - but only if they were properly weighted, and its not at all clear whether they were or not.  For what it's worth, though, older Scottish voters in this poll are more likely to support independence than Ipsos-Mori have been suggesting, but a touch less likely to support independence than Panelbase have been suggesting.  That probably means that Populus will slot in somewhere close to the average if they ever get round to conducting a full-scale poll of the real electorate (ie. people over the age of 16 who actually live in Scotland).

The most encouraging set of figures are these -

20% of over-50s in Scotland have become more pro-independence over the last year.
12% of over-50s in Scotland have become more anti-independence over the last year.

As the organisation that commissioned the poll has noted, the debate is clearly
shifting votes and the gap is narrowing as a consequence.  Welcome to reality, Mr Balls.


  1. Given how easily the Westminster politicians ignored the voters over Iraq, I don't think th at we can rely on opposition amongst the English electorate stopping an out of control Westminster government.

  2. I have to say I'm amazed at how naive some are being with this. Most economists have said that a standalone currency is the more sensible option for a country wanting to be independent.

    Aside from that, there is absolutely no imperative for rUK to let us use Sterling (we can call our currency the pound so that part doesn't matter) and I can't believe how many people are thinking this is some sort of outrage.

    (And I say this as someone who is voting Yes)

  3. Craig : "There is no imperative" other than the fact that sterling is a shared asset, and not the sole possession of one side? Do you have a view on whether it is "some kind of outrage" for the London government to seek to deny us access to sterling AND then ignore the referendum result anyway? Does there ever come a point where Scotland actually has some rights, to go in tandem with our responsibilities?

    The other point is that an independent currency is not really the alternative to a formal currency union - the chances are that we would just carry on using sterling anyway, a decision that London would have no veto over.

  4. If they ignore a yes vote revolt

  5. It is not outrageous that the UK Gov says we might not agree to a currency union. They might not. It is outrageous to say we're taking it off the table, which effectively is what they were saying. In the event of a Yes vote the Scottish Government must be able to go into negotiations with its own agenda. Less subtly perhaps if we let Oborne et al smack us around on this one they will just move on to something else. We need to hold our nerve and not be bullied.

  6. Who is this spokesman for the government?

  7. The UK has never been a democracy in the whole of its existence.

    The Uk state has been built to benefit the City of London nothing more by,sublimely, bribing politicians in giving them access to directorships, house of geriatrics and the revolving door of establishment jobs.

  8. Well
    Bugger you and your little referendum ,its got to be said its a lot more honest and upfront than George Cunningham's little wheeze aint it?

    just a bit more like the old colonialists of the raj, give the natives a few beads and some fire water , that'll keep em quiet for a while.