More arguments in favour of two referendums for Scottish independence

Further to my previous post setting out why I think there should be two referendums on Scottish independence – one advisory, for the Scottish people alone; and one definitive, for everyone in the UK – here are some more arguments in favour of a double referendum for the Scots (irrespective of the issue of giving the rest of the British people a say in their constitutional future). These arguments are also taken from a comment I made in a continuing debate with Gerry Hassan.  Actually, this is not so much a two-way debate – as I don’t think my arguments are being taken seriously, whether deservedly or not – but more a case of me pursuing dog-in-the-manger-type opposition to the idea of there being only one referendum, which I think would be unfair to the Scottish people, let alone to everyone else. Anyway, here are those arguments:

I wouldn’t write off a second referendum so easily. There is a precedent, which was the second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland. You mentioned a referendum for the UK to leave the EU, Gerry. I can’t imagine that only one referendum would be held on this: there’d be one vote on the principle; then, if the people voted to leave the EU, there’d be protracted negotiations on the terms of separation, which would set out the continuing relationship between the UK and the EU, such as free movement of goods and people; residency rights; regulatory and trade relationships; continuing UK participation in security and international-relations aspects of the EU; financial terms, i.e. whether and for how long the UK would continue to contribute to various EU funds, such as those used for bail-outs, agricultural subsidies, social and development funds, etc.

The end result of these negotiations might well be a form of ‘separation lite’, with the UK effectively continuing to enjoy some of the fruits of membership of the EU – and incurring some of the costs – while being politically independent. I can’t imagine that the final deal, which might well not be what the British people thought they’d voted for, would not be put to them in a second referendum. In fact, it would be felt to be downright unfair not to do so.

Very similar arguments apply to Scottish independence. Apart from my arguments above about the right of the English, Welsh and N. Irish people to have a say on whether they wish to belong to the completely new ‘UK’ that would result from Scottish independence, many people in Scotland (even those who’d voted ‘yes’ to independence in the first referendum) would doubtless feel short-changed if the terms of separation were negotiated and weren’t what they expected: either going too far or not far enough. So many things very similar to those involved in a vote for the UK to leave the EU would have to be worked out in the negotiations that it would seem just a matter of basic natural justice to consult the Scottish people whether they agreed with the final deal.

Alternatively, if the SNP is insistent on holding only one referendum, it should set out its bargaining position in full, so that people know exactly what they’re voting for, e.g. how the oil revenues will be dealt with; what portion of the UK’s national debt will be allocated to Scotland; Scotland’s EU membership; citizenship questions; dividing up the UK’s defence forces; etc. Then I would agree that a ‘yes’ vote would deliver a strong mandate for the Scottish government to negotiate those precise terms. If, then, the final deal was rather different in certain key details, then the Scottish government could chose to hold a second referendum, literally on its own terms, if it felt this would secure a nationwide consensus behind independence.

Let’s reverse the argument. If a ‘first’ referendum failed to win a ‘yes’, but only by a narrow margin, would the SNP drop all hope of ever securing independence in another referendum at a future date under revised terms? If the answer is ‘no’, there’s your dismissal of a second referendum blown to smithereens.

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  1. […] Posted by englishwarrior Further to my previous post setting out why I think there should be two referendums on Scottish independence – one advisory, for the Scottish people alone; and one definitive, for everyone in the UK – here are some more arguments in favour of a double referendum for the Scots (irrespective of the issue of giving the rest of the British people a say in their constitutional future). These arguments are also taken from a comment I made in a continui … Read More […]

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