Sunday, 19 June 2011

Tory MP Pushes Quick Referendum

This blog was originally posted to Keane on Politics by Kristofer Keane.

A Conservative MP has submitted an amendment to the Scotland Bill calling for a referendum on Scottish independence to be held this year.  Jacob Rees-Mogg, a character of some infamy in Scotland, submitted the amendment yesterday which would require the referendum to take place within four months of the passing of the Bill.

Rees-Mogg's amendment would have a referendum asking us:
"The Scotland Act increases the powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
Should there be full independence for Scotland instead?"
Apart from the already much alluded-to desire by unionists to get a referendum by as quickly as possible in the hope they can still win it, the question is skewed as it plays the actual powers of the Scotland Act against full independence - unlike Salmond's question there is no possibility for the status quo or to demand further powers short of independence.

Presumably, the Tory backbencher hopes that the option of some more powers against independence would help secure a unionist win while also preventing a call for greater financial powers - a result which the SNP are probably more likely to win than full independence under their own planned question.

It seems unlikely that the amendment will pass, although it could have support from strongly unionist Tories and Scottish Labour MPs.  If it did pass, I think a question being pushed by an MP from the south of England rather than of Scotland's own design would, if anything, make an independence campaign win even more likely as it would further erode Westminster's claim to supporting a degree of Scottish self-determination.

In the long run, I still believe a referendum in 2014/15 is more likely. I know that 24 June 2014 has been posited as a possible date for being the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.  And if English Tory MPs keep trying to push Scotland around in the mean time, it can only help to bolster support for independence.


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