ANOTHER REFERENDUM?

I have an old-fashioned view of referendums; I regard them as incompatible with Parliamentary Democracy, the form of government that has evolved in Britain over the centuries. One needs only to look at the referenda conducted by the Germans in the 1930s to see how they can be manipulated to obtain the desired result.  A competent government will only call a referendum in circumstances when it can be sure to win. The fact that our most recent referendums produced results that neither the Scottish nor the British leaders wanted only goes to show how incompetent both David Cameron and Alex Salmond were.

The doomed demand by the Liberal Democrats for another referendum is no more than a cynical attempt to frustrate the will of the people; for however flawed the idea of a referendum was, it cannot now be undone. A second vote would only compound the damage, because any question on the Leave result could only divide opinion on the Leave side, but the Remainers would still be united. Any reversal of the Leave vote would unleash unprecedented anger in the country.

A second referendum on Scottish Independence is much more likely, but equally undesirable. I had a number of objections to the first Scottish referendum, beyond my dislike of referendums in general. Since the separation of the United Kingdom affects all citizens of the country, why should not they all have a vote? More specifically, why should all the Scots living in the rest of the UK be denied a say? Given the substantial vote for remaining the UK in the last referendum, I think that another vote for independence is unlikely to produce a different result.

The prospects for an independent Scotland were not good last time round, and they are far worse now. With the UK leaving the EU, if the Scots were unable to convince the Spanish to accept then as new members, they would be in left in limbo – an impossible position. Catalonia wants its own independence, and anything which would encourage them (such as encouraging the Scots to seek independence) is deeply unpopular with the rest of Spain. The only hope for Scotland is to somehow remain in the E|U when the rest of us leave; but the complicated negotiations that would follow a vote to leave the UK would not be completed in just a few months, by which time Brexit would be a fait acompli. The Scots would be dragged willy-nilly out of the EU, to rejoin it later if such a thing were possibleEven if they were able to become a EU member, they would be erecting a trade barrier with England, by far their largest market. In return they would be allying themselves with a European Union which is in turmoil. They would have no option but to accept the Euro as their currency. I understand their economic condition would be even worse than that of Greece, and look where membership of the Euro has left that benighted country; the IMF ha recently stated that the Greek position is unsustainable.

In the worst scenario, but one that is not impossible by a long chalk, they would have voted for a country with no place in either the United Kingdom or the European Union. This is in spite of their main aim in voting to leave the UK being to maintain this membership of the EU. The oil market that was looking quite robust at the time of the first referendum has collapsed since then.

With the consequences of the referendum of June 23rd taking a large part of our national attention, the prospect of another vote North of the Border is no more than an unwelcome distraction. They are not that important to England, but England is very important to the Scots. They are not particularly foolish, but if they let their hearts rule their heads and go for independence in a second referendum, I truly pity them. Their situation would be much worse than that of Ireland, which is a least part of the EU. They would have a hard border with England, a pathetic currency, a dire economy and all the drain on resources of independence; an army (even if a feeble one), an air force, and  a navy; and a diplomatic corps. across the world. The loss of their substantial naval shipbuilding capacity would be an inevitable consequence, as this would have to transferred to England. Virtually the only thing which would stand between them and a third world future would be production of Scotch whisky.

As I said, I do not like referendums; parliamentary votes are a much better way to make decisions, because all the relevant implications can be considered and discussed before a vote is taken, and such a vote is not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. We have already seen how this is causing us problems in respect of Brexit, and the same would inevitably follow a Scottish vote to leave the UK. The possibility of both halves of a divided kingdom remaining members of  the EU no longer exist. I would be very surprised if, on mature consideration, the added insecurities of a post Brexit Britain made for a different outcome in a second referendum. The SNP have no option but to make grand statements, but their position is fraught with problems.

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

THE BLOG FOR THOUGHTS ON THE FUTURE

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