Sunday, January 15, 2012

Salmond has the right to have the referendum he wants

The week's news has been dominated by the spat between Alex Salmond and variously David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Michael Moore over the Scottish referendum.

Despite very sensible advice from Dan Falchikov that

A period of silence from Moore, Cameron and Osborne on the constitutional question would be welcome - and might buy the Scottish party some breathing space to remove itself from the unionist hook it has impaled itself on

according to yesterday's Guardian Nick Clegg had still not managed to let things lie.

Whatevever the legal niceties, the SNP won a mandate for a referendum last year, are pretty much entitled to hold it on their own terms, and a spirit of begrudery and obstruction from Westminster will make independence more likely.

Whichever way, it seems to me that the status quo is not sustainable, with Scotland simply administering the proceeds of taxes set by Wesminster and therefore not having to confront the economic choices that tend to define the differences between political parties. It also means that Scottish politics becomes defined not by genuine ideological choices but by legislation governing the sale of alcohol and the like.

Since 1999 government from Holyrood has basically been in the hands of three different parties all espousing varieties of centre-left social democracy. Although that it the part of the political landscape that I inhabit too (alghough I would stress Liberalism not social democracy) I can't help thinking that for Scottish politics to come of age it requires Holyrood having real control over tax and public spending decisions, not being a supplicant to Westminster.

The Liberal Democrats north and south of the border would be better accepting Salmond's mandate, avoid being painted into the Unionist corner and instead get on with campaigning for devo max.

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