Northern Ireland is not only geographically close to Scotland but shares more with Scotland than with any other country. When the majority in Ireland voted for independence from the UK there were 220,000 people in County Donegal. After independence thousands emigrated back to the UK – especially to Glasgow and Londonderry. Only 100,000 now remain in Donegal.
Northern Ireland remained within the UK as was the desire of most people in that part of Ireland. Should there ever be a majority in Scotland for independence it should not be binding on all the people of Scotland.
If, say, Strathclyde or the Lowlands prefer to remain in the UK then that decision should be honoured by a partition of Scotland.
(Lord) John Kilclooney
House of Lords
If the proposed referendum is confined to a “Yes/No” choice the danger to the Unionists is that a vote of yes for independence will be legal and binding.
This would be a disaster for the significant minority who vote against. Surely it would be advisable to split the “Yes” vote. The devo-max option would allow a sizeable number of those who would vote “Yes” in a single question to vote for this, thus ensuring that an outright “Yes” would not be victorious.
Can we afford the gamble of sticking with the single question preferred by the Unionist camp and ignoring the additional option on the voting paper?
The prospect of the referendum on independence has fairly animated all of the opposition groups, particularly as they make the case for maintaining the Union. As there are card-carrying members of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties who will vote “Yes” in the referendum is it time for them to establish independent parties in Scotland?
Jean Urquhart MSP (Highland & Islands)
Amid all the debate over the details of the proposed Scottish referendum, specifically the insistence by some politicians that there must only be one question (“Yes/No” to full independence) to ensure “maximum clarity”, are we not losing sight of an important, democratic point?
The object of the exercise is to capture the wishes of the voters. It seems there are three possibilities: the status quo, full independence and “devo-lite”.
Our democratically elected politicians should recognise this and should actively welcome the chance to discover which of the three is the most popular.
What if devo-lite is indeed the favourite? By deliberately excluding this, our politicians would be deliberately distorting the democratic process. We need all three options on the ballot paper.
Dalgety Bay, Fife
I note with interest the analysis by Ian Mitchell QC referring to the notion of a “legally binding” referendum (your report, 12 January).
The idea that a referendum can be legally binding has been much discussed by politicians over recent weeks, yet it was most interesting to see that such an esteemed lawyer had signed up to the argument.
I distinctly remember learning in one of my first lectures in constitutional law that, as a matter of UK constitutional law, a referendum does not legally require legislation to be enacted in line with its result.
A “Yes” vote may create a political imperative to enact legislation, but that is another matter entirely. However, I did also notice that Mr Mitchell consistently placed the term “legally binding” between inverted commas, so perhaps deep down he too does not really give credence to the idea.
Those who propose lowering the voting age for the referendum to children of 16 should recall Mark Twain’s comment, “When I was 14 my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around, but when I got to be 21, I was amazed at how much he had learned in seven years.”
However he dresses it up, David Cameron well knows he is only offering an advisory referendum. The UK parliament operates under the English constitutional doctrine of the sovereignty of parliament.
Because of this, the Scotland Referendums of 1979 and 1997 were only ever advisory in their constitutional status. Parliament alone assesses the outcome and takes the ultimate decision.
Mr Cameron wants a straight, limited “Yes” or “No” question, to avoid any result where some 66 per cent of Scots vote for either “independence” or “devo-max”.
However, a straight Cameron “Yes/No” rigged choice would be easily circumvented. Devo-max supporters would simply vote “Yes” for independence, safe in the knowledge that UK referendums are purely advisory and that sovereign Westminster would be free to interpret the final result as, broadly, a demand for devo-max.
This is akin to the time-honoured trade union practice of demanding £10 when you really want £5.
It would be far wiser for David Cameron to show respect for the Scottish people by dropping his constitutional chicanery and supporting an honest, three-choice referendum.
(Cllr) Tom Johnston (SNP)
North Lanarkshire Council
Great. We have our mighty UK leader, Mr Cameron, vowing to look after his poor neighbours in Scotland to ensure that we understand where we went wrong voting in the SNP democratically. I had better get down to the dog pound and get a rotweiller to look after my sheep!