Tag Archives: Scottish Referendum

Britain’s New World

Alex Salmond official photo, supplied by the Scottish Parliament

Alex Salmond Photo from Scottish Parliament

Britain will never be the same. The day after Scots voted 55-45 to support the United Kingdom, on promises by unionists for a new range of Scottish powers, Prime Minister David Cameron set in motion a process to empower not just Scotland, but also Wales and Northern Island — and potentially to remake the British political system.

Meantime, First Minister Alex Salmond, who devoted his life to Scottish independence, shocked Scots by resigning, which he had earlier said he would not do if his Yes campaign for independence failed.

“For me as leader, my time is nearly over,” he told reporters in Edinburgh. “But for Scotland the campaign continues and the dream shall never die.”

United Kingdom prime minister David Cameron said he was “delighted” at the referendum result, and in a speech Friday rejected Salmond’s assertion that the campaign continues. “There can be no disputes, no re-runs – we have heard the settled will of the Scottish people.”

Cameron appointed Lord Smith of Kelvin to oversee devolution in Scotland, and  William Hague to oversee plans for a system allowing more powers for citizens in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, developed at the same pace as Scottish devolution.

“Now it is time for our United Kingdom to come together, and to move forward,” said Cameron. “A vital part of that will be a balanced settlement – fair to people in Scotland and importantly to everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well.”

Salmond  called on Britain’s leaders to honour that settlement, and the 11th-hour promises made in the last weeks of the campaign, promptly.

Wrote Salmond: “The unionist parties made vows late in the campaign to devolve more powers to Scotland. Scotland will expect these to be honoured in rapid course. Just as a reminder, we have been promised a second reading of a Scotland Bill by the 27th of March next year and not just the 1.6 million Scots who voted for independence will demand that that timetable is followed but all Scots who participated in this referendum will demand that that timetable is followed. “

 – Deborah Jones

 Continued ….

Photo by Moyan Brenn, Creative Commons via Flickr Kilchurn Castle, north of Glasgow, Scotland, in Loch Awe

Kilchurn Castle, north of Glasgow, Scotland, in Loch Awe. Photo by Moyan Brenn, Creative Commons via Flickr

Excerpts of Salmond’s blog post on the Scottish referendum site: 

It’s important to say that our referendum was an agreed and consented process and Scotland has by majority decided not at this stage to become an independent country. I accept that verdict of the people and I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland.

But I think all of us in this campaign say that that 45 per cent, that 1.6 million votes, is a substantial vote for Scottish independence and the future of this country. Let us say something which I hope that unites all campaigns and all Scots. I think the process by which we have made our decision as a nation reflects enormous credit upon Scotland. A turnout of 86 per cent is one of the highest in the democratic world for any election or any referendum in history. This has been a triumph for the democratic process and for participation in politics.

For example, the initiative by which 16 and 17 year olds were able to vote has proved to be a resounding success. I suspect that no one will ever again dispute their right and ability to participate fully and responsibly in democratic elections.

So we now face the consequences of Scotland’s democratic decision. Firstly, Clause 30 of the Edinburgh Agreement is now in operation. On behalf of the Scottish Government I accept the results and I pledge to work constructively in the interest of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Secondly, the unionist parties made vows late in the campaign to devolve more powers to Scotland. Scotland will expect these to be honoured in rapid course. Just as a reminder, we have been promised a second reading of a Scotland Bill by the 27th of March next year and not just the 1.6 million Scots who voted for independence will demand that that timetable is followed but all Scots who participated in this referendum will demand that that timetable is followed.

I’ll be speaking to the Prime Minister shortly after this statement but can I return thirdly to the empowerment of so many Scots entering the political process for the very first time. It is something that is so valuable it has to be cherished, preserved and built upon…

Whatever else we can say about this referendum campaign, we have touched sections of the community who’ve never before been touched by politics. These sections of the community have touched us and touched the political process. I don’t think that will ever be allowed to go back to business as usual in politics again.

Excerpts of Cameron’s speech, posted on the UK government site:

So now it is time for our United Kingdom to come together, and to move forward. A vital part of that will be a balanced settlement – fair to people in Scotland and importantly to everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well.

Let us first remember why we had this debate – and why it was right to do so.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) was elected in Scotland in 2011 and promised a referendum on independence. We could have blocked that; we could have put it off, but just as with other big issues, it was right to take – not duck – the big decision. 

I am a passionate believer in our United Kingdom – I wanted more than anything for our United Kingdom to stay together.

But I am also a democrat. And it was right that we respected the SNP’s majority in Holyrood and gave the Scottish people their right to have their say…

Scotland voted for a stronger Scottish Parliament backed by the strength and security of the United Kingdom and I want to congratulate the No campaign for that – for showing people that our nations really are better together.

I also want to pay tribute to Yes Scotland for a well-fought campaign and to say to all those who did vote for independence: “we hear you”…

To those in Scotland sceptical of the constitutional promises made, let me say this we have delivered on devolution under this government, and we will do so again in the next Parliament.

The 3 pro-union parties have made commitments, clear commitments, on further powers for the Scottish Parliament. We will ensure that they are honoured in full. 

And I can announce today that Lord Smith of Kelvin – who so successfully led Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games – has agreed to oversee the process to take forward the devolution commitments, with powers over tax, spending and welfare all agreed by November and draft legislation published by January.

Just as the people of Scotland will have more power over their affairs, so it follows that the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland must have a bigger say over theirs. The rights of these voters need to be respected, preserved and enhanced as well.

It is absolutely right that a new and fair settlement for Scotland should be accompanied by a new and fair settlement that applies to all parts of our United Kingdom. In Wales, there are proposals to give the Welsh government and Assembly more powers. And I want Wales to be at the heart of the debate on how to make our United Kingdom work for all our nations. In Northern Ireland, we must work to ensure that the devolved institutions function effectively.

I have long believed that a crucial part missing from this national discussion is England. We have heard the voice of Scotland – and now the millions of voices of England must also be heard. The question of English votes for English laws – the so-called West Lothian question – requires a decisive answer.

So, just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish Parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare, so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, should be able to vote on these issues and all this must take place in tandem with, and at the same pace as, the settlement for Scotland.

I hope that is going to take place on a cross-party basis. I have asked William Hague to draw up these plans. We will set up a Cabinet Committee right away and proposals will also be ready to the same timetable. I hope the Labour Party and other parties will contribute.

It is also important we have wider civic engagement about to improve governance in our United Kingdom, including how to empower our great cities. And we will say more about this in the coming days.

This referendum has been hard fought. It has stirred strong passions. It has electrified politics in Scotland, and caught the imagination of people across the whole of our United Kingdom.

It will be remembered as a powerful demonstration of the strength and vitality of our ancient democracy. Record numbers registered to vote and record numbers cast their vote. We can all be proud of that. It has reminded us how fortunate we are that we are able to settle these vital issues at the ballot box, peacefully and calmly.

“Now we must look forward, and turn this into the moment when everyone – whichever way they voted – comes together to build that better, brighter future for our entire United Kingdom.

Further reading on Facts and Opinions:

Scotland Votes, Frontlines blog post

Scotland Decided: what the experts say

An expert panel looks at what happened, and where it leaves the UK and Scotland.

ALEX SALMOND: The Independent Scot. By Murray Leith

If there’s one figure that anyone anywhere would associate with the Scottish referendum campaign it’s Alex Salmond, first minister of Scotland, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), and the man who could be responsible for the break-up of the United Kingdom. But who is he, where did this political whirlwind begin and where will it take the man and his party?

Scottish leader downplays difficulties of independence. By Jonathan Manthorpe, April 2014 (Subscription)

Scots  will vote in a referendum on September 18 on separation from the United Kingdom. But the division of assets and liabilities in the break-up of a country is complex and vexatious – and in the case of Scotland, these matters are particularly difficult. The latest polls in Scotland, with the undecided vote discounted, shows 52 percent of respondents support staying with the United Kingdom while 48 per cent want independence.

Further reading elsewhere:
Salmond to resign after Scotland rejects independence, Agence France-Presse 

Scotland’s pro-independence leader Alex Salmond said Friday he would resign after losing a referendum that left the United Kingdom intact but opened a Pandora’s box of demands for more autonomy across Britain.

Scotland is staying. London’s headaches are just starting, Christian Science Monitor 

British leaders are relieved by the Scots’ vote against independence. But devolving new powers to Scotland – and perhaps to England – may be a bigger challenge for Westminster than the referendum was.

Queen Accepts Scotland’s Apology (Satire), Borowitz Report, The New Yorker

In the aftermath of Scotland’s “no” vote in the referendum on becoming an independent country, Queen Elizabeth II, of Great Britain, took to the airwaves on Friday morning to inform the people of Scotland that she “graciously and wholeheartedly” accepted their apology. “Although the matter of independence has been settled, one question remains very much open,” she said in an address televised across Scotland. “And my answer to that question is this: yes, I forgive you.”

 

 

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Scotland Votes

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Photo by Maria Navarro Sorolla, Creative Commons, via Flickr

Opinion polls put the result of today’s Scottish vote on independence on a knife’s edge, but no matter the outcome the referendum will have fundamentally changed Britain’s modern balance of power.

The United Kingdom has been together for better, and worse, since 1707 when Acts of Union formalized a union that was already in many ways in effect, through a century-old joint monarchy. A Yes vote will lead to the hard work of disentangling it. Custody battles will be fought over assets and liabilities, from British nuclear arms to the national debt to North Sea oil. But a No vote — given 11th-hour promises for far more Scottish autonomy, made by the pro-union side in the last frantic days of the referendum campaign — will also fundamentally change  Britain.

Of all the analyses that tried to pick out the strands of history that drew Scotland to this precipice, one consistent is that Scots and most other residents of the U.K. have a fundamentally different view of society. Scottish politics are consistently more communitarian than in England, where individualism and hard-edged capitalism tend to reign. As a profile in Der Spiegel of Scottish independence leader Alex Salmond noted, he “became political during the 1980s because of Margaret Thatcher — as a result of her cuts to social welfare, privatizations and the poll tax that was introduced in Scotland one year earlier than in the rest of Great Britain. The Iron Lady inspired an entire generation of Scottish patriots.” Canadian political scientist James Laxer called the Scottish referendum the “World’s first vote on economic inequality.”

Alex Salmond © Scottish Parliament

Alex Salmond Photo © Scottish Parliament.

The man at the centre of this sea change in the U.K.’s status quo is Salmond, First Minister in the Scottish Parliament and the architect of the referendum.  An economist, former student of medieval history, and a consumate politician, Salmond has devoted his life to his country’s independence. F&O offers a short profile in Dispatches, Players — ALEX SALMOND: The Independent Scot, by Scottish political scientist Murray Leith. An excerpt:

If there’s one figure that anyone anywhere would associate with the Scottish referendum campaign it’s Alex Salmond, first minister of Scotland, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), and the man who could be responsible for the break-up of the United Kingdom. But who is he, where did this political whirlwind begin and where will it take the man and his party?

His political opponents may label him everything from “driven” to “smug” but among them a common theme is that Alex Salmond is intensely private; a man “difficult to know”, and about whose private life very little is known. Many in Scotland could probably not confirm if he is even married. He is, although his wife Moira is 17 years older than him, they have no children, and she rarely appears in public. He likes the horses and gambles on races, likes his golf too, and knows his history. He is considered a natural politician by many, although some dismiss him as cold and calculating, but he is certainly the face of Scottish nationalism today. … read ALEX SALMOND: The Independent Scot.

In case you missed it, F&O posted earlier this week a “Cole’s Notes” sort of guide to the referendum by Coree Brown, a Scottish PhD student — Scotland’s independence referendum: a beginner’s guide:

Voters in Scotland will go to the polls on September 18 and answer the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” The result will be determined by a simple majority vote, and is expected to be announced on the morning of September 19. … read Scotland’s independence referendum: a beginner’s guide

F&O International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe’s column in April addressed the complexities of a breakup, for Britain but also for  Europe. An excerpt of Manthorpe’s column Scottish leader downplays difficulties of independence (subscription):

Scotland’s First Minister and Nationalist Party leader Alex Salmond is generally reckoned to be the canniest politician in the British Isles.

So it was entirely in keeping that he chose today, the day when the English patron saint St. George is celebrated, to cross the border to the northern English city of Carlisle to promote Scottish separation.

Salmond’s aim, with the campaign for Scottish independence heating up ahead of the September 18 referendum, was to calm anxieties. Little will change when Scotland becomes independent, Salmond underlined as polls show pro-separation supporters significantly narrowing the gap on the “no” vote’s slim majority …

It is in Salmond’s interests to minimize the implications of Scottish independence, which might come in 2016 if there is a majority for separation in the September referendum. But the potential fall-out not only for the United Kingdom, but also for Europe and the European Union is profound. …  read Scottish leader downplays difficulties of independence (Subscription or day pass required*)

Much of the world is transfixed as Scots take their future into their ballot boxes today, with the tally expected Friday morning. But keep in mind that the Scottish quest for independence is ancient: two millennia ago fierce Scots not only kept their lands free but put the Romans on the defensive, and in 1320 Scottish leaders wrote the Declaration of Arbroath and sent it to Pope John XXII, claiming Scotland’s status as an independent, sovereign state. (You can watch a video of  professor Ted Cowan speaking of Arbroath on YouTube, here.) Deep history suggests that today’s Scottish referendum on independence will not be the last of the matter.

 — Deborah Jones

UPDATE September 19: The pro-union “No” campaign won the referendum by about 55 to 45. Nearly 85 per cent of eligible voters made a choice on one single clear question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”  The results by late Friday Scottish time,  55.25 per cent No and 45.65 per cent Yes, are on this Scottish site. Alex Salmond resigned the day after the referendum.

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? We appreciate your interest and support:  for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1. A subscription is required for most F&O original work. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in theform on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Alex Salmond: The Independent Scot

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond with Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, at a press conference in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle. Photo from Scottish Government

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond with Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, at a press conference in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle. Photo provided by Scottish Government

By Murray Leith, University of the West of Scotland

Alex SalmonImage © Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body – 2012. Licensed under the Open Scottish Parliament Licence v1.0.

Alex Salmon, official photo © Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body 2012.

If there’s one figure that anyone anywhere would associate with the Scottish referendum campaign it’s Alex Salmond, first minister of Scotland, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), and the man who could be responsible for the break-up of the United Kingdom. But who is he, where did this political whirlwind begin and where will it take the man and his party?

His political opponents may label him everything from “driven” to “smug” but among them a common theme is that Alex Salmond is intensely private; a man “difficult to know”, and about whose private life very little is known. Many in Scotland could probably not confirm if he is even married. He is, although his wife Moira is 17 years older than him, they have no children, and she rarely appears in public. He likes the horses and gambles on races, likes his golf too, and knows his history. He is considered a natural politician by many, although some dismiss him as cold and calculating, but he is certainly the face of Scottish nationalism today.

When Alex Salmond became active in politics while studying economics and medieval Scottish history at St Andrews university in the early 1970s, it was a conservative institution, and the SNP had remained a fringe party for most of the period since its formation in 1973. Yet it was to the SNP Salmond immediately flocked, becoming vocal, very active, and honing his skills for the future.

Interestingly, the story of how he came to join the SNP illustrates his propensity for controlling his public image. It is habitually said that he did so after an argument with his Labour-supporting English girlfriend, although his biographer, David Torrance, notes that this story is “not exactly solid”. Whatever the impetus, his passion for the nationalist cause has remained strong; strong enough to fuel a constitutional revolution in a country where such things just don’t happen.

After leaving university Salmond worked as an economist for the government and then the Royal Bank of Scotland but remained active in the SNP. As the party went through turmoil in the late 1970s, as the first fight for a Scottish legislature was fought and lost, he became a leading figure in the “79 group”, advocating a more active, left-wing approach. This led to him being expelled, briefly, in 1982.

Returning a few months later, he would be elected to the Westminster parliament in 1987, and leading the party within three years. After devolution he retired as leader, only to return in 2004 after the party suffered losses in the Scottish elections. Nor did it take him long to turn the party around, becoming the first minister of Scotland in 2007, and leading the SNP to form the first majority Scottish government in 2011.

This journey from expelled rebel to triumphant leader only illustrates his political capacity for winning battles others might abandon or avoid. In a few short years he first brought an end to internal feuding within the SNP, then united the party behind a more gradualist approach, leading it to supporting a less idealistic form of independence within the EU. His tenacity is clearly effective.

Yet he is often criticised for that tenacity. It has been claimed that there is no “lightness of touch” in his debate. Considered a skilled debater, he is fierce and relentless, but perhaps better in the rough and tumble of the parliamentary chamber than in the light of a TV studio. After performing badly in the first head-to-head debate in the referendum campaign he returned to what many see as a solid win against Alistair Darling, leader of the Better Together campaign.

Salmond never actually achieved the knockout blow many expected. All the same, he has brought the SNP to the brink of their ultimate goal, and in doing so, clearly divided a nation. With opinion polls showing Yes neck and neck with Better Together, he has had to fight to overcome some of the personal dislike he clearly raises among many Scots. The Yes campaign has often felt the need to emphasise that a Yes vote is not support for the SNP or even one man, even though we all know who the man and his party are.

Any vote could be seen as a win for Salmond and the SNP. If not independence, more powers have been promised by the other parties. And with a reported registration rate of over 97% the people of Scotland have engaged with politics and could be voting in numbers most western democracies have not seen in over a generation.

Salmond has said he will not resign as first minister should he lose, and the next elections for Holyrood are not scheduled until May 2016. It seems unlikely he will disappear from the Scottish political scene anytime soon. But one thing about Alex Salmond: he often does not do what is expected. And even when he moves on, his legacy certainly will not.

The ConversationCreative Commons

Murray Leith is Senior Lecturer in Politics at University of the West of Scotland. He does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Further reading:

King Alex: The Man Behind Scotland’s Independence Movement, By Christoph Scheuermann, Der Spiegel

When Alex Salmond is nervous or restless, he scrapes his right thumbnail over the back of his left thumb as though scratching an itch. It’s a minor tic, one that only becomes apparent after spending some time with him. Salmond has been Scotland’s first minister, a position akin to prime minister, for seven years and is fighting to split off from the United Kingdom. This Thursday, the Scots will vote in an independence referendum and polls indicate that Salmond is closer to his goal than ever.

Perhaps not surprisingly, he has developed a callous on his left thumb.

Scottish referendum: World’s first vote on economic inequality, by James Laxer, The Globe and Mail

When the Scots vote in their historic independence referendum next Thursday, Canadians, especially the Québécois, will be watching closely. Having held two sovereignty referenda, the Québécois may feel that they are the masters in such enterprises and that the Scots are their apprentices. In 1980, the Québécois voted No to sovereignty by a 60-40 margin, and in 1995, the No side prevailed by a mere one percentage point of the votes cast.

In fact, the Scots are not replicating the earlier exercises in Quebec. Dressed in national garb, the people of Scotland are voting in the world’s first referendum on economic and political inequality.

Scottish Vote Weighs Pride Against Risk, by By Steven Erlanger and Katrin Benhold, The New York Times

EDINBURGH — The people of Scotland decide Thursday whether national pride outweighs economic risk.

The vote on independence is taking place without any of the usual factors that drive the dissolution of great nations: no war, no acute economic crisis, no raging territorial dispute. In fact, the situation is quite the opposite: peace, a slowly recovering economy and a central government in London that promises to grant more powers over taxing and spending to the Scottish Parliament.

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