One question at a time

While I understand the importance of Scotland’s vote to remain in the EU, I am wary of referendum questions which conflate quite separate issues. My support for independence is in no sense or measure dependent on that implying membership of the EU. I seek the restoration of Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. Stop! All else follows from this and is subsidiary to it. And that includes membership of the EU.

Let’s try an analogy. Suppose you were being asked if you wanted to go on an all-expenses-paid vacation to some luxurious resort. There are various options available. You can go at any time of your choosing; by boat or by air; alone or as part of a group etc. How much sense does it make to append to the question of whether you want to go on this holiday only one of the sub-options? Presumably, you do want to go. But forcing you to select one of the additional options effectively precludes the others.

Referendums are awkward enough. Ideally, they should offer a clear binary choice between to absolutely defined options. It is seldom possible to achieve this. And there is always the likelihood that some part of the electorate is going to vote on a question other than the one actually being asked. Like using their EU referendum vote as if they were being asked to endorse David Cameron.

The fundamental and crucial constitutional issue is not whether Scotland is in the EU or not, but whether Scotland has the full capacity, as an independent sovereign nation, to freely negotiate the terms of its association with the EU – and the rest of the world. Any specific mention of EU membership – as with asking about the monarchy – simply muddies the constitutional waters.

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About Peter A Bell

Thinker. Listener. Talker. Reader. Writer. None of my attitudes are immutable. None of my conclusions are final. None of my opinions are humble.
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4 Responses to One question at a time

  1. Richard Scott says:

    I agree that, ideally, the matter of Scottish independence should be decided on its own without consideration of other matters. So if Scotland wants to be in or out of Europe, this should be decided in Scotland by the people who live in Scotland. But I do wonder if in the interests of achieving that independence, we should consider forming common cause with those who are unenthusiastic about Scottish independence, but who are avid Europhiles. I don’t know how many of them there are – in my experience most of those (including myself) who voted to remain are not exactly enthusiastic about Europe. They just don’t want to be isolationists. If there are significant numbers of people whose desire to be in Europe is so strong that they could be persuaded to vote for an independent Scotland in Europe then why not frame the question that way, given that a clear majority of Scottish people did vote to be in Europe? After all, an independent Scotland in Europe is what is likely to be achieved after a vote for independence. If the question can identify a highest common denominator, then why not?

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    • Peter A Bell says:

      Firstly, there is no such creature as the “avid Europhile”. Or, if there is, it is hiding in the same place as the pink unicorn.

      Secondly, if people really want Scotland to stay is the EU they already know that voting for independence is the best (only?) way to achieve this without it being part of a referendum question.

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  2. Keith Houston says:

    I agree with the fundamental point, one straight question at a time. We could of course ask voters to decide on the terms negotiated for Scotland’s membership. I wonder if we are missing a little of the reason why IndYRef2 is on the table though. There are a number of voters that are telling us they’ve changed there mind on this one issue.

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    • Peter A Bell says:

      Whether we have a referendum on EU membership will be a matter for the people of Scotland. When we are independent, we will have a written constitution which will define the criteria for holding referendums. If there is enough demand, it will happen.

      You make a good point about the reasons for #indyref2. There is too much talk about it being “triggered” by Brexit. Another referendum was always going to happen. The EU fiasco is simply another factor in making the case for it.

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