Scottish independence: How Scotland's constitutional logjam could be broken, and why it must be – Scotsman comment

The independence debate has so dominated politics in Scotland in recent years that it has been dubbed the “neverendum”. There are several reasons why this is a problem.

It creates uncertainty about Scotland’s future. Any international company thinking about opening an office in Scotland would be foolish not to consider the likelihood of ‘Scexit’.

It has also meant the SNP has become the dominant force in politics without the usual degree of scrutiny. With most unionist votes split between three parties, ministers can be confident some voters will always back them. Even the most dedicated politician needs to feel the weight of public pressure.

Perhaps worst of all, it has caused division and rancour among the population, that politicians on both sides of the argument must be careful not to inflame lest emotions spiral out of control.

Ending the neverendum, therefore, should be a priority for both the UK and Scottish governments.

Nicola Sturgeon hopes to do that by holding and winning a referendum next year, despite the refusal of the current UK Government to allow one. But there are other ways.

For example, if Westminster is determined to prevent Indyref2, a new Conservative Prime Minister, open to fresh thinking on the subject, could instead agree to major constitutional reform, creating a federal UK with a written constitution.

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Nicola Sturgeon 'open to negotiation' on her independence referendum plans
Nicola Sturgeon said she was 'prepared to compromise' over a second referendum on Scottish independence (Picture: Andrew Milligan/pool/Getty Images)

This could fit with the Tories’ levelling up agenda, with different parts of the UK able to adjust their governance to suit their needs. The SNP would not get independence, but would get home rule and strong legal protection of the Scottish Parliament’s powers.

If the SNP balked at this ‘halfway house’, there are potential pathways to a referendum agreement.

For example, the deal could include a 30-year time bar on any third referendum. It could also require a super-majority of, say, 60 per cent. This level of support would provide a firmer footing for the new nation and would, after all, be less than the level of support for EU membership in Scotland.

Independence supporters might be outraged by the latter requirement, but this could be assuaged by handing control of the timing to the Scottish Government, at least until any future change at Westminster.

There are just ideas. But, however it is achieved, we simply must find a way to unstick this damaging constitutional logjam.

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