The Velvet (or Tartan) divorce gets closer


by Dave Taylor

In 1992, polling was less developed than it is now, but a poll at the time showed that in the now independent Slovakia, only 37% of Slovaks wanted independence from Czechoslovakia.

The Slovak leaders tried hard to represent their people and advocated a looser form of co-existence.  Then the Czechs elected Václav Klaus, described as the Margaret Thatcher of Central Europe, on a ticket of forcing a close federation with Slovakia or having two independent states.

In Scotland, we wait ages for an independence poll – then two come along at once! Literally, “at once”.  Both polls were conducted at the same time.

TNS went with the question that was formulated by the SNP in the last Parliament:

“I agree that the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state.”

39% agreed; 38% disagreed, 23% weren’t sure.

Meanwhile, MORI had been listening to what the SNP have been saying, and reckoned a two question referendum was more likely.  

MORI asked: “The first question will ask whether you agree or disagree with a proposal to extend the powers of the Scottish Parliament to include more laws and duties and all tax-raising powers, while Scotland remains part of the UK.”

67% agreed; 24% disagreed, with a mere 5%  unsure.

Then: “The second question will ask whether you agree or disagree with a proposal to extend the powers of the Scottish Parliament to enable Scotland to become an independent country, separate from the UK.”

(I doubt that the last few words would appear in a referendum question.)

35% agreed; 58% disagreed, with a mere 7% unsure.

All this, of course, simply confirms what we already know from previous polling. If offered the chance for fiscal autonomy, most Scots would opt for that, as opposed to either independence or the status quo.

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning,” as the leader of a plucky little country once said while trying to ensure the independence of his country.

Does Cameron capitulate?  Withdraw the Scotland Bill, and replace it with a new one giving Scotland what its people want?  Is he a Santa Claus bringing gifts to the people, or a Václav Klaus imposing central rule from Prague?

More likely, he’s a Toom Tabard, reluctant to take risks, and with no real authority.

The referendum will happen.  Scots will vote for at least a massive increase in Scottish autonomy.  Negotiations then need to take place.  Doubtless they will be long, wearisome, and as unproductive as those in the former Czechoslovakia.

The result is likely to be similar.  On 17 July 1992, the Slovak parliament adopted the Declaration of independence of the Slovak nation.  Though when the Scots Parliament follows the Slovak example, 1 July sounds a better date, the anniversary of the first tranche of powers being returned to Scotland.