REGULAR followers of the independence referendum battle will have witnessed a familiar pattern over recent months. The “No” camp raise a subject – EU membership, defence, the pound – asking how it would be affected after secession.
The “Yes” camp responds with a categorical answer, hoping to reassure that such issues are easily resolvable. The “No” camp accuse the “Yes” of assertion. The “Yes” camp accuse the “No” of scaremongering. And on we go.
The paper from the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) proposes a different path, suggesting the pro-independence campaign ignore the bait and set out a post-Yes vote framework where uncertainties would be democratically resolved.
It sets out a three-stage process, following a “Yes” vote. First, there would be a period of negotiation with the UK. Under the SIC’s vision, a negotiating team assembled from political parties, employers, and bodies including trade unions and the CBI would work out the foundations for the new country, such as how much of the UK’s assets and liabilities Scotland would be required to take. There would, the SIC envisages, be a number of red lines, agreed consensually, to show a ‘clean break’. But, the paper says, “it should be a first principle that as much as possible should be resolved democratically” not during closed-door negotiations. Second, there would be a constitution drawn up that would set out issues like citizenship and membership of international treaties. Depending on what people wanted, it could include more specific issues. Third, a whole list of issues would be put under the heading “democracy”. Before elections, bridging arrangements would keep things as they are then the elections would decide everything from European policy to tax and defence.
The SIC argue the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence should limit itself to setting this process out and that the SNP should stick to “giving a framework to enable us to then disagree about the shape of things to come”.
The downside is such a strategy allows independence to be characterised as a “pig in a poke”. Keen to reassure, SNP ministers have sought to state that an independent Scotland will keep the pound and inherit membership of the EU. The SIC argues it is better to state clearly that independence would throw up choices for people to decide. It notes: “By setting the issues in terms of a structure which will resolve them, it shows the possibilities of a functioning Scottish democracy.”