Friday, 19 September 2014

Efter the rammy

Perhaps "rammy" is putting it a bit strongly, though the Scottish referendum campaign got a bit lively at times. It was good to hear the leaders of both campaigns calming tempers this morning, and seeking cooperation across party lines. That is more than can be said of some of the younger vocal SNP activists who blamed the ten percentage point "Better Together" majority on the BBC. Given that their leader built his reputation on assiduous networking and cultivation of the national media, that is rather like Nigel Farage claiming that Aunty ignores UKIP.

More likely is that the opinion research which showed the numbers converging as polling day drew closer missed the effect of the postal vote. People who vote by post tend to be older, and older people tend to be more conservative and fearful of change. The opinion pollsters also failed to find a way to assess the views of the declared "don't knows". Finally, the late entry into the debate of such authentic Scottish political figures as Gordon Brown and Charles Kennedy must have swayed voters.

I am relieved that Scotland is staying within what will, I trust, become a Federal Kingdom. The reasons are selfish. Scotland will continue to provide a counter-balance to a predominantly English Conservative House of Commons. The risks of our leaving the EU, or of watering-down the Social Chapter, are reduced as are the dangers of reducing the UK economy below a critical mass. And Jo Swinson will continue to be a member of government.

The advantages to Scotland are less clear-cut. True, the uncertainty of the years of negotiation to join the EU will be avoided. The uncertainty would probably have led to the cost of borrowing going up north of the border, with the knock-on effect on retail prices. But there are numerous examples round the world of viable small nations. To suggest that in the long term Scotland would not survive was deceitful and one reason I did not yield to the pleas to telephone canvass for "Better Together". The other reason was that I did not see how a Welsh citizen with an English accent would convince any Scot, already suspicious of the united front presented by the three main Westminster parties, to change his or her mind.

The misrepresentation was probably greater on the Nationalist side. I was astonished that Alec Salmond should use the fully-devolved health service in Scotland as a weapon against the unionists. It was also wrong to label the contingency plans of the larger financial institutions to move their HQs to London as a "scare story". Given the EU's legal requirement for banks to be headquartered in the country where they do most of their business, RBS and its ilk had no option but to prepare to move head office. Mr Salmond would have been wiser to point out that few real jobs would have been lost. The rebuttals of Mr Salmond's claims to have spoken to various EU leaders about Scottish accession did not help his cause.

The late conversion of Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband to a policy of further devolution could be good news for Liberal Democrats north of the border. Nicola Sturgeon has performed well in the referendum campaign. But, assuming she dons the mantle of First Minister and leader of the Nationalists when Alex Salmond retires from front-line politics, will she have the same charisma as her predecessor? Since devolution has been Liberal and Liberal Democrat policy for as long as I can remember, since the usual suspects on Conservative back-benches are already objecting to a policy over which they were not consulted and since there may also be some back-sliding on the Labour side, we can go into the general election honestly and solidly pledged to give more power to Holyrood.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Ffranc

I noticed that during the recent Scottish Independence Referendum campaign, your party leader, along with those of the Conservative and Unionist Party and the Labour Party, made a pledge that there would be a timetable for more devolved powers. In one of your Better Together campaign leaflets, the people of Scotland were told that “The day after a no vote the tmetable for further powers will be published as a motion before the UK Parliament. All UK parties will support the motion”.

I appreciate that you are all very busy down there in Westminster but respectfully note that this day has now passed and no parliamentary motion seems to have been forthcoming. Could you please let me know when we might expect to see the “UK parties” publish their motion? Thank you.

Kind regards

Robert Tyler

Frank H Little said...

I presume Robert's comment was from a template to be sent to all bloggers from unionist and feeralist parties. If he had read the header to ffrancsais.blogspot he would have seen that I am resident in Wales, not Westminster, and certainly have no influence within the LibDems let alone the coalition.

If he had read the post to which he comments, he would have seen that I had not signed up to "Better Together". If he had read back far enough, he would have seen that I am not a great enthusiast for the PR-driven politics which led to the Downing Street statement.

I am inclined to follow what I understand to be Willie Rennie's approach, a gradual and incremental one.