Westminster’s navel-gazing referendum


By Paul Kavanagh

Davie Cameron, leader of the ‘Outnumbered-by-Pandas’ Party, is saving the Union by protecting us poor wee Scots from our own stupidity.  Scots have short attention spans and can’t remember what the SNP told us before the last election.  You know, that stuff about having a referendum in the second half of the next Parliament.  See, we’d all forgotten already.

On Sunday’s Andrew Marr show, Davie put the Coalition’s Scottish masterplan into action.  It was a carefully laid plot which was months in the making, designed to put the SNP on the back foot and wrest control of the terms of the debate from Scotland.  But the best laid plans of Minister Moore gang aft agley … Stop laughing at the back there.

His Eckness was reported to be heading to the Middle East to sign an investment deal with an Arabian country that he’d persuaded to invest squillions in Scotland, buying sand from Saltcoats.  After carefully checking behind the net curtains of Number 10 to see if His Eckness was out of the country, Davidina the Union Fairy waved his magic Tory wand to ensure that the referendum is held before the stroke of midnight.  It has to be soon, because once the time’s up the Union will turn into a pumpkin pulled by a ginger rodent.  Although according to most reports that’s happened already.

Dave’s got a deep personal stake in the Union.  After independence Dave will have no way of preventing Scotland doing something about vast tracts of our country being owned by a handful of the super-rich, like his faither-in-law Sir Reginald Sheffield, supposedly the third biggest landowner in the UK.  Independence might cause Dave problems with his grouse shooting pals and some snippy remarks over the port at family dinners.  

Prime Ministers are very busy of course.  So Davie won’t be saving the Union himself.  He’s delegated the task to Georgie Osborne, who doesn’t have a great deal to do as Chancellor of the UK Exchequer because the Tories have devolved economic policy to their pals in the City of London, the red-light district of the financial world.  Georgie, being only slightly less a toff than Davie, has in turn delegated the heavy lifting to the forelock tugging servants, otherwise known as Michael Moore and Danny Alexander.

Davie and Georgie Osborne say that uncertainty about the timing of the referendum is deeply damaging to Scotland.  And Davie and Georgie ought to know, because they’re doing their utmost to damage Scotland in the meantime with unattributed and unsubstantiated scare stories and attempts to do down a Scotland that might dare to refuse to accept Westminster’s authority.  Far more businesses are concerned about Davie falling out with all the other members of the EU, but that’s not a referendum Davie plans on holding any time soon.  

The venue for the save the Union announcement was a Cabinet meeting held at the London Olympic squashball court. With a rallying volley, the Tories intended to squash Scotland’s balls.  Sadly for them the lob backfired, and it was Davie and his pals who were left clutching their goolies.  

It seemed like a good idea at the time.  By using the Olympic stadium the Tories could claim that Scotland is involved in the Unionists’ favourite jolly, which is costing twice as much as Scotland’s annual pocket money.  The catering for the cabinet’s meeting was organised by the Subway Sandwiches branch at Glasgow Central Station, the price of one dozen egg and mayonaise baps and some goldfish food for Michael Gove has more than doubled the direct investment Scotland has received from the London Games.

Despite doing their utmost over the past 5 years to ensure that the referendum would never be held at all, the Union Fairy solemnly announced that uncertainty over the Union is a distraction from the serious business of government, like the other Union saving policy Georgie announced on the same day, to abolish the highest tax rate for the very rich.  There wasn’t much about this in the London based media, as they were all far too busy working themselves up into a lather about uppity Scots.  But making the UK an attractive place for Russian mafioso billionaires and avaricious bankers is what made Britain great in the first place.  

Westminster can’t allow Holyrood to determine the timing or question of the referendum.  That would be unfair.  The right to screw over the electorate is a power reserved to Westminster.  Scottish people are far too dim to cope with the complexities of a referendum which isn’t hedged about with Westminster style qualifications a la 1979, like allowing the votes of dead people to count as a no.  And we can only be allowed multiple question referendums like that of 1997, when they’re designed to reduce our options not increase them.

But Westminster will kindly allow the Scots to have a referendum, with plastic scissors and grown ups to supervise.  If we tidy up our bedroom, eat up all our vegetables and get enthused about the Olympics, then Uncle Tory will let us have their Westminster navel-gazing version of the referendum.  Is it an innie or an outie?

Westminster cannot countenance a third option on the ballot.  Devo-max means a Scotland which is responsible for all its own affairs and finances but which pays an annual sum for defence and foreign policy to Westminster.  Westminster would no longer be absolute sovereign.  Westminster would be beholden to us and would have to provide value for money.  They’d have to come clean about their underhand dealings and their secret agreements to sook up to right wing American presidents and work out a constitutional settlement that was fit for a 21st century democracy.  That must be avoided at all costs.

The Unionist strategy is transparent.  Once the Westminster navel referendum is out of the way and Scots have been scared off the idea of independence, Davie and his crew of misbegotten waifs and strays will then be able to determine the Scottish constitution without the threat of independence hanging over them.  They’re praying that we haven’t noticed that the only times during the past 30 odd years that Westminster has paid Scotland the slightest bit of attention is when they’re terrified that we’re about to walk out on them with all the oil, renewable energy and whisky that’s paying for their Olympics, High Speed Railway lines, and nuclear warheads.  

So Westminster is demanding that the Scots give up their electoral nuclear deterrent and unilaterally disarm.  In return the Unionist parties promise that they’ll be really motivated to do something about the Scottish desire for greater self-rule and the creaking anachronism that passes for the UK’s sinking ship of state.  However they can’t actually tell us what this might entail.  Scottish Tory leader Ruth Krankie demonstrated her fine grasp of Scottish current affairs by confessing to a BBC interviewer that she didn’t actually know what devo-max means.  So it’s a safe bet that the Unionist response to a vote against independence in their pauchled referendum will involve ignoring us completely and clawing back powers from Holyrood to ensure that it can never happen again.  

Johann Lamont again exhibited her exquisite sense of timing.  Johann has an unerring ability to jump onto a runaway train seconds before it crashes into the buffers, killing or maiming all on board.  She fully backed the Tory plan for a like it or lump it referendum as soon as poss, and spent the evening touring television studios trying to avoid the question of whether that means she’ll be sharing a platform with the Tories.  Like Jim Murphy, who has yet again managed to absent himself from the Scottish political scene, he was last seen playing student politics with Ed Miliband over defence cuts, Johann will only share a platform with Tories behind closed doors where secret deals can be cooked up away from the prying eyes of the Scottish people they’re attempting to screw over.

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP’s biker chick who is possessed of the rare ability to look good in leather trousers, was suitably unfazed by the Unionists’ bluster.  The SNP will stick with its plan to hold the referendum in the second half of the Parliament, she said, “We’re going to do what we said we’d do before the election.  I know that’s a novel concept in England.”

By Tuesday Davie’s plan was dead in the water.  So it was fitting that the Scottish secretary, dead man walking Hermann Moorester who relies upon the rusting bolts in his brass neck to keep his career from tumbling into the grave, was sent to salvage what he could in a speech to the House of Commons.

Gone was the insistence that the referendum be held before midnight.  Apparently it’s not so damaging after all.  However the Unionists now calculate that the longer it is to the referendum the more time they’ll have to come up with scare stories so they can make it damaging.  There hasn’t been a whiff of a mention of the promised “positive case for the Union” from the Unionist camp at any time over the past few days.  

Now the Westminster undead are trying a new tactic – a referendum held by Holyrood would be illegal, and Westminster would sue in the Supreme Court the Unionist parties have set up in London.  A court whose legitimacy to rule on matters of Scots law has already been disputed.  The Unionists, with their unerring sense of the lie of the Scottish political map – never knowingly avoid a pot-hole, or indeed an elephant trap marked “elephant trap” in day-glo neon lettering – believe that this is guaranteed to make them popular with the electorate.

Back in the real world, the one inhabited by Scottish people, it makes not a whit of difference whether the referendum is “legislative” or “consultative”.  In independence movements, the only court that counts is the court of public opinion, domestic and international.  Any politician who resorts to a London court in order to overturn a democratic Scottish vote is likely to find their career cut shorter than Ruth Krankie’s hairdo.

On Tuesday, Alex Salmond announced that the referendum will be held in Autumn 2014.  The question and timing will be decided by the Scottish government, as promised.  Eck knows something that Davie doesn’t.  What Dave is constitutionally incapable of understanding is that it’s precisely because Scotland will not be lectured to by some posh Etonian Tory who knows bugger all about us that the UK’s days are numbered.  

The days of being told what to do by Southern English Conservatives are over, and with a fair wind, after Autumn 2014 the Tories and their nuclear warheads and pretensions to Empire will be gone for good.  Let’s wish Margaret Thatcher a long and healthy life so she’s alive to see it.