Today the SNP led Scottish government is putting forward plans for a referendum, Alex Salmond is proposing four options; the status quo, the limited change offered by the Calman Commission, maximum devolution and full independence.
Labour opposes any referendum. Somewhat incoherently so do the Tories and the LibDems. Both parties claim to be in favour of localism and returning power to the people wherever possible. The Tory arguments for repatriating powers back from Brussels to Westminster apply to giving the Scottish the right to self-government in Edinburgh. So why do they oppose measures that move towards those goals in Scotland? Isn’t it just petty partisan calculation?
Guido thinks Scottish Toryism is a busted flush. Every nation in Western Europe has a strong, centre-right, patriotic party capable of forming a government – except Scotland – which has a weak centre-right party seen as too English. Justifiably so. Cameron says he will not allow Scotland to go independent on his watch, reminding us that his party is the Conservative and Unionist Party. Well that isn’t very localist and it isn’t “trusting the people” to deny them a referendum. The rhetoric doesn’t match the policies again.
Maximum devolution (where the Union government in Westminster maintains foreign policy and national defence) is compatible with the localist ideas and rhetoric advanced by Tories and LibDems. Brussels is where the fundamental legislative action takes place anyway. London effectively pays for the national defence of the United Kingdom already, that wouldn’t change if Scotland became fiscally independent, though the £19 billion Boris identifies as being exported from London would inevitably be reduced. If Scotland had to stand on its own fiscal feet it would soon discover that having a Sovietised economy is not sustainable. An independent Scotland would see the SNP turn from being a left-wing nationalist party into a normal centre-right, patriotic party as found in every Western European democracy.