Friday, November 27, 2009

Forsyth throws down the gauntlet, Russell looks sheepishly at the floor.

An interesting suggestion from Lord Forsyth:
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean said Scots should be handed two ballot papers when they go to the polls next spring, one for electing their MP and the other on separation.

The Tory peer predicted there would be an overwhelming vote in favour of remaining part of the Union, thereby taking the “wind out of the Nationalists’ sails”.

This would force Alex Salmond, the First Minister, to start addressing domestic issues such as education and health instead of focusing on separation, he claimed.
Yes, perhaps. What's more interesting though is the SNP reaction; remember here we have a prominent Unionist not only calling for a referendum, but also wanting it as soon as possible:
Mike Russell, the SNP constitution minister, said there should ideally be six months between referendum legislation being passed and the vote being staged.

He said it was accepted wisdom not to hold a referendum the same day as a general election, and he was not sure Lord Forsyth’s question would be deemed suitable.
Theoretically, if the SNP get their way next week and an election takes place in May, then there's the six months. If he had said that the referendum needed also to pass Westminster, then of course there's no way that it could be done now within 6 months...but it would be very strange for a SNP Minister to use that as an excuse. That "accepted wisdom"? As far as I know there is no precedent within the United Kingdom for this; on mainland Europe (as in the US) referendums do take place on the same day as muncipal or national elections- has there been any academic research on this to back up Russell's "accepted wisdom"?

His reaction sounds all a bit too defeatist to me, all the more reason for Lord Forsyth's proposal to be taken seriously then?


tony said...

I'm interested, the only negative that I can think of off-hand, and it is a crucial one. Is that the momentous occassion of deciding independence get's caught up in an election campaign.

I'm not sure that it would suit either side, but it has got me thinking!

Right I've thought about it, I'll take it ;¬)

O'Neill said...

"I'm interested, the only negative that I can think of off-hand, and it is a crucial one"

I don't think it's that big a negative from a SNP pov; after all their electoral support is greater than the support for independence at the minute and I would have thought they could capitalise on having both votes on the same say to pull the latter up.

Russell's reaction was curious tbh.