Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Is it Brown or Browne?

Alex Salmond’s SNP minority administration has just published a White Paper reviewing the options for Scotland. Salmond appears to be open to the idea of a “multi-option” referendum in which voters can choose between (a) the status quo, (b) greater powers for the Scottish Parliament, and (c) independence. The three unionist parties have formed an alliance to block any referendum. At least the Labour Party and the Liberal-Democrats are consistent: they don’t want a referendum on the new EU Treaty either; but the Conservative position is hopelessly contradictory (demanding a referendum on the EU Treaty, refusing a referendum in Scotland). Refusing a referendum also plays into the hands of the SNP; they can portray themselves as the party which wants to allow the Scottish voters to decide, and the three unionist parties as “afraid of the voters” (precisely the line the Conservatives will push vis-à-vis the EU Treaty). Things may change, but currently the polls show that there is not a majority for independence (in a recent poll 31% favoured independence and 49% were against, with 20% either “don’t knows” or undecided). But my guess is that voters would opt for additional powers. Yesterday’s Guardian carried a rather confusing article (on page 10) in which the headline and first paragraph reported that Gordon Brown is planning “to press the Scottish Parliament to seek further powers” on the calculation that this would wrong-foot the SNP. But the text of the rest of the article reported that whereas the Liberal-Democrats want the Scottish Parliament to have “new powers over areas such as corporation tax, energy policy, immigration and asylum, doctor’s contracts, broadcasting and firearms”, Des Browne (Secretary of State for Scotland) has said that while Labour will “discuss” this there is “no evidence that moving such powers from London to Edinburgh would benefit Scotland”. Further, Browne said that the SNP was seeking new powers as a “Trojan horse” for independence (presumably the Lib-Dem calculation is just the opposite: new powers would weaken the demand for independence). So which is it: Brown or Browne?

1 Comments:

Blogger septicisle. said...

Strangely enough, on Newsnight last night the Tory was urging Salmond to go with a referendum straight away, because he believed the SNP would lose. Dangerous game, that.

7:13 pm  

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