The rat trap

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By Rod Mac

When the SNP announced during their annual conference last year, the first after their resounding win in May, that they may be including a third option in the referendum, I was initially left scratching my head in puzzlement for a moment.  Why were they talking about the possibility of including a third option of voting for Devo Max?  When they went on to explain that this option would be up to others to put forward and set out, I was no further enlightened.

Why give the opposition the chance to wreck the quest for independence? Why allow them a foothold, when the SNP held all the aces?  Why were they giving it house room, with polls predicting that full powers within a UK framework falling just short of outright independence was the most popular public option?

I didn’t ponder on my musing for long, for I immediately smelled a catch.  What the catch was exactly, took me an hour or two more to work out.  Between the polar opposites of independence and status quo, it might be a close run thing, but having full fiscal autonomy within the UK was near as dammit independence, and only a short hop to the full bhoona.  Therefore a win/win situation, there was no chance in that scenario that the status quo stood any chance.

I was obviously not alone in quickly spotting this fact, and Kevin McKenna, in an article in the Observer, immediately announced that independence was now a shoe in certainty.

I next expected to see either Labour or the Libdems to start framing such an option.  It had to be their natural argument surely?  After all the Lib Dems are the party of Home Rule allegedly, thus they would be bound to run with FFA.  It was what they always wanted, wasn’t it?  Well actually no.  It seems they are no longer keen on the idea, which seems a shame when the polls seemed to actually be supporting them for once.

Labour would frame Devo Max then?  After all, hasn’t Labour always bragged on about them being the party of devolution?  Well no actually.  Admittedly a Labour Government did put devolution in place, but only very reluctantly, and they had previous for sabotaging the 1979 devolution referendum.

So what on earth was going on? Why the reluctance to form a favoured position on either FFA or some form of increased powers under devolution?  It seems they smelled a rat, and they were very wary of it.  In actuality it was not a rat at all, It was a rat trap.  Alex Salmond and the SNP had set it up, and placed a nice tasty bit of Camembert in the middle of it.

The LibDems, Labour and Tories all started squealing ‘Fix!’  The SNP were rigging it, as far as they were concerned, and they didn’t like it one little bit.

The SNP quite reasonably responded that it was no fix.  They were giving the others far greater choice, not less choice, and also saying just frame what you think it should be and we will consider putting it in.  More importantly they were listening to the people of Scotland, who seemed to quite like the option of having more choice about how they wanted Scotland to be. 

What on earth is so despicable about allowing such freedom of choice and respecting the populace’s opinions?  How much fairer can you be, than to allow everybody a chance to vote on another credible option, not of the SNP’s preference.  It was generous in the extreme for a government to be so respectful.  But you would have thought that they had proposed bringing back hanging by the response they got.

A number of polls giving the three options were conducted by polling organisations, and the people seemed to be around 80% in favour of full autonomy within a UK framework.  So, surely then the Unionists would promote the people’s seemingly preferred choice?  No chance. The Unionists were having none of it.  One would think they were being offered poison.  In actuality it probably was poison for them, because despite the rhetoric over the years by Labour and the LibDems, they simply didn’t believe their own messages.  They wanted the status quo of power remaining with the UK London government, and all their personal perks, expenses, titles and fiefdoms. Scottish Home Rule in a wee pretendy parliament? No thanks!

After much daily squealing since May last year, they finally lost all semblance of the plot.  On Sunday, Cameron decided that Westmister was going to take over the referendum, that the Condemned government would decide when the referendum could be, that they would decide what could be asked, and between them and their FUD colleagues, they would decide who could and could not vote in it.  In effect, stealing the Scottish government’s rightful mandate, and running roughshod over the will of the Scottish people.  

The result?  The Scottish government said over our dead bodies you will take over the referendum, or tell us what we can or cannot do, and absolutely not are you going to take the Scottish people’s mandate away from them.  So Foxtrot Oscar!

By Tuesday events went into melt down.  The Tories having decided that Ozzie Osbourne was going to lead on their defence of the Union, back tracked rapidly on imposing an 18 month deadline, still demanded that the referendum be a yes/no affair, and held as soon as possible.

The Libdems backed them up after Clegg denounced Scots who wanted independence as extremists.  And Labour finally decided to come out of the closet and reveal their Conservative Unionist credentials, repeating word for word Camerons demands “as soon as possible” on “a clear question” in the person of Johann Lamont on Channel 4 news.

#SNP trended on Twitter, the SNP membership site crashed under the strain of the influx of new members, the issue actually made the main Item on Newsnight proper.  All the main Unionist parties stopped all pretence, and all sang from the same hymn sheet, with the Scottish Labour Deputy leader taking over the hopeless Lamont on Newsnight Scotland, sitting comfortably arguing by the side of Ruth Davidson the Conservative Scottish Leader. On STV, the same pair plus the Lib Dem’s Jo Swinson (Willy Rennie was nowhere to be seen) all got together as a rabble to shout over Nicolas Sturgeon to attempt to drown her out.  I suspect 3 versus 1 is a pattern we will continue to see when the debate begins properly.  Not exactly fair play is it?

But the rat trap has been well and truly sprung.  Much to the SNP’s joy, not even they could have hoped to catch all the rats in the one trap.

There will be no doubt now whatsoever that all of these parties, no matter what they say, only have Westmister at heart, and certainly not the people of Scotland’s wishes.

All Labour and the Lib Dems needed to do was make a case for extra powers within a UK framework, which the majority of Scots seem to want.

But no, rather than try to represent the people’s wishes, to examine and propose reasonable alternatives, they chose instead to side with the Tories, who have less Scottish representation than the pandas in Edinburgh Zoo and are far less loveable.

It’s a rat trap … and they’ve been caught!

This article was first published on the Auld Acquaintance blog and appears here courtesy of the author.