THE Scottish Government has confirmed it is poised to drop its flagship plan for an independence referendum in this parliament, despite spending three and a half years preparing for the vote.I think the pledge was to hold it before next year's election not 2007 but pedantry aside, the cancellation/postponement is a recognition of political reality. But that reality, in terms of the likely voting breakdown at Holyrood, has been the case since the SNP came to power as a minority government, so what's changed?
First Minister Alex Salmond is set to abandon plans to put his referendum bill before MSPs and will instead appeal directly to the electorate to back the need for a vote on independence at next year's Holyrood election.
The strategy was unveiled to Nationalist MSPs last week and will be discussed at a Cabinet meeting tomorrow.
The SNP had pledged to hold a referendum before the 2007 election, with a preferred date of St Andrew's Day, on 30 November, this year.
But with any bill expected to be voted down by opposition parties in Holyrood, Mr Salmond is instead planning to "appeal over the heads" of the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Tory parties and try to get the electorate to support a vote on independence
Not so much "changed" as "not materialised in the first place". The hoped for increase in momentum pushing for it from the public has, despite projects such as the National Conversation, simply not developed in any meaningful form.
*However* the Conservatives and the Lib Dems want a referendum on an AV voting system, for which there is also no "momentum" from the electorate whatsoever for. The Labour Party, although not 100% united on the issue, want a referendum next spring on more powers for Wales. Guaranteed a "yes" vote on that one? Not at all certain; the "yes"s are hardly riding forward on a wave of overwhelming public support.
So... if the SNP do make the independence referendum in Scotland an election issue (and they would be silly not to), then what coherent arguments in a democracy can the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, in particular, make against its granting?
Thanks to Tony for the handy background on this one;)