Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Lib Dems should not be threatening constitutional trickery to stop Scottish independence

A very good post from Dan Falchikov on Lib Dem Scottish secretary Michael Moore's comments on Scottish independence. Dan writes:

By saying that a second referendum is needed (no doubt to be followed in quick succession by Labour and Tories) Michael Moore again allows the party to be seen to be on the wrong side of the debate and trying to illiberally block the expression of the will of the Scottish people.

There is a danger that the Lib Dems north of the border have become part of the establishment - a sort of rural and suburban version of the Labour party, and arch defenders of the union. It was certainly not always so. Liberal support for Scottish home rule has long historical roots, and before the SNP won seats in the Commons, the Liberals were the only party in parliament supporting devolution.

There is surely a great deal of political territory between supporting independence and using questionable constitutional procedures to prevent it happening. The result of the recent Scottish election shows that voters are at the very least willing to support a referendum, whatever they decide when it happens. Lib Dems ought to respect that wish, welcome the fact that voters can have their say, participate enthusiastically in the debate, make the case for maximum autonomy within the United Kingdom and be willing to accept the outcome whatever people decide.

In saying this I'm letting my head rule my heart. I don't want Scotland to become independent, because I value the union. Indeed I'm a product of it - having a Scottish father and an English mother, supporting Scotland in sports internationals, living in England, but having spent formative years residing north of the border. I would like Scotland to remain part of Britain. (I agree with David Mitchell's recent Observer article on this theme.)

It's not for me to decide, though, but rather for those who live and vote in Scotland. Wistful sentiments from Anglo-Scots will doubtless be counterproductive in protecting the union, but more so will British ministers trying to think of artificial obstacles to thwart Alex Salmond. A revival north of the border, and a successful defence of the union, will require Scottish Lib Dems to show that their hearts (and heads) are in the highlands (and lowlands) of Scotland not in Whitehall and Westminster.

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