The referendum last September was rightly hailed as a prime example of democratic engagement which led to a decisive result. It fully met the requirements of the Edinburgh Agreement from 2012, which stipulated that the referendum was supposed to deliver “a result that everyone will respect”.
With their signatures Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon committed themselves to it, as did Michael Moore and David Cameron.
A meaningful continuation of the democratic process would have been exactly this: respecting the result and working constructively with it rather than against it by trying to build the case for a second independence ballot.
But if political leaders are not happy with the outcome of a vote they can choose not to listen to it. Instead they may use opportunistic tactics to create the required mood until they feel the time is right to listen again.
They may even pretend that this is democracy. In reality it’s paradox intervention by undoing democracy using democratic means. Alex Salmond may use his rhetoric to influence opinion but ultimately it’s Nicola Sturgeon who needs to make up her mind whether she wants to stick to her commitment or to abdicate from it by paving the way to a “neverendum” in the SNP election manifesto.
Nicola Sturgeon is not correct to say that “no politician has the right to stand in the way” of another referendum on breaking up the UK.
If we believe that the UK is only a “union” state, that is, a “union of nations”, then we would have to concede her point. However, the authentic unionist position sees the UK not merely as a union state, but largely a unitary state. That is, not just a union of nations, but largely a nation of unions.
In this nation of unions, everything that happens in one part of it is the concern of all the other parts.
We, the people, exercise our concern for those parts through our MPs in the British Parliament; the same Parliament which the SNP has legitimised by its presence. Therefore, all the people of the UK acting collectively through our elected politicians in parliament are perfectly entitled to stop another referendum. The Prime Minister has the right to speak for all these people.
Unfortunately, quite a few “unionist” politicians and commentators have now adopted the Scottish nationalist frame of the UK as merely a “union” state.
Such unionists should be aware of the dangers of this unstable frame to the cohesion of the UK because it leads inevitably to Ms Sturgeon’s notion that Scotland can just do its own thing without regard to its place and its responsibilities within the larger nation, without regard to everyone else in the UK, and without regard to the British Parliament’s ultimate decision.
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond said the referendum was once-in-a-generation chance to be independent. Now another one is likely as circumstances are changing with the Tory government. Maybe they need to realise there are changes every day in life, especially political life. However, those of us in the majority who voted No are assured by the First Minister of Scotland that it will not be politicians who bring forward another vote; it will be the people.
Does she mean all the people or just the SNP voters?
She certainly shows in Holyrood that she does not represent the voters of other parties or the majority who voted to stay in the United Kingdom.
Doris MH Duff
The First Minister says that “no politician can impose a referendum on Scotland” – words intended to calm fears that she could do so.
Equally, she says, if the Scottish people do vote in future to have another referendum, then “no politician has the right to stand in their way” – this directed at Prime Minister David Cameron, who has said there will not be a second referendum during this term of the UK Parliament.
How can such a gulf exist between two democrats? The key is in the First Minister’s reference to the “Scottish people” voting for a referendum.
What she means by this is a reference to those who vote for the SNP in the 2016 Holyrood election. There are two problems with that.
Firstly, it is unlikely the SNP will secure 50 per cent of the full electorate. Secondly, that election will be based on a manifesto with a multitude of policies given varying degrees of priority. Not everyone who votes for a party can be assumed to support everything in the manifesto.
The First Minister is simply doing what she and her SNP colleagues so often do: equating their supporters with the people of Scotland, as if the rest of us do not exist.
The Prime Minister’s position is consistent with the “respect for the referendum outcome” wording in the Edinburgh Agreement, the talk during the referendum of a once-in-a-generation decision, and recent opinion polls showing the continued desire of the majority of people in Scotland to want to stay in the UK.