The Scottish National Party-controlled Scottish Government today began fleshing out a timetable for Scotland to become an independent nation once again. For opposition parties in Scotland it was a case of, “Hawd on a wee minute."
Today, SNP Deputy Leader Nicola Sturgeon outlined a timetable for Scottish independence in a document titled, “Scotland’s Future: from the Referendum to Independence and a Written Constitution.”
It’s to be expected that parties favouring continued Union with England won’t make it easy for SNP leader Alex Salmond as he attempts to steer Scotland towards the most important constitutional event since the 1707 Act of Union with England, but once again, those opposing independence demonstrated they had few substantive arguments when it came to selling a vision of why the UK was good for Scotland.
They attacked Scotland’s First Minister for focusing too much on ‘process’. BBC News reports the Liberal Democrat Michael Moore, Secretary of State for Scotland in the Westminster Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government as saying,
"The Scottish government should be concentrating on the substantive issues of the independence debate, rather than endless distractions over process. Once again, they are devoting their energy to the picture-frame when they don't have a painting to put in it.”
The reality is that, so far in Scotland’s independence debate, the Scottish National Party, in contrast to the pro-union ‘Better Together’ campaign, has consistently put forward their vision of where an independent Scotland’s place in the world might be. An independent Scotland is, after all, the SNP’s raison d’être.
Any clear vision of what makes continuing with the present United Kingdom model so attractive has been notable by its absence from the debate to date.
The difficulty for the parties supporting the Union is that they seem to be either incapable or unwilling to espouse a positive view of a continued Union with England. Today, once again, as the SNP unveiled their ‘Independence Day,’ timetable, the Westminster parties and their local representatives in Scotland set about wringing their hands about something the Scots are perfectly entitled to ask, “If we vote ‘Yes’ how long will it be before Scotland becomes independent?”
Secretary of State Michael Moore told BBC Scotland that that the SNP’s proposal lacked any credibility and accused Sturgeon of being deliberately misleading about the complexities of splitting Scotland from the rest of the UK.
Then former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling, one of the ‘high heid yins’ in the pro-Union ‘Better Together’ campaign, told The Guardian, "What they are saying is that in less than a year you can break all the ties of the past and you can fix something entirely new."
Not to be outdone, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, leader of a party now almost invisible in the Scottish parliament where they were once in coalition with Labour, told The Metro,
‘The SNP have hopelessly underestimated the scale and complexity of this. They would have to negotiate over 14,000 international treaties, a currency, and the division of assets, membership of NATO and the host of international organisations.’
All of this was faithfully reported by BBC Scotland and all of it, not for the first time, had the air of being somehow too complicated or too difficult for an independent Scotland to cope with.
Once again, those in the ‘Better Together’ campaign came across as patronising to the Scottish electorate. Do they really have no better vision to offer the Scottish electorate other than the same old ‘ye cannae dae it’?
Mr Rennie, I suspect, must have googled “How many UK treaties” and ran with the rubric from LexisNexis. Had he bothered to google a little further, he’d have found that break-up of states is not an unknown concept in International Law. As the saying goes, there’s a law for it. Next time he should try googling ‘Vienna Convention on Succession of States in respect of Treaties.’
As for the timetable being too long, it took the USSR a mere nine months to dissolve itself in 1991, despite a 76.4 percent positive vote to retain the Union in the referendum of 17 March 1991 and despite having a huge nuclear arsenal. However did they manage?
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