When are Better Together going to start telling us what the consequences of a ‘no’ vote will be?
The news this morning is that Prime Minister David Cameron is declining to take part in a televised debate with First Minister Alex Salmond. Instead, Salmond should be debating with Alistair Darling, chair of the Better Together campaign and Labour MP for Edinburgh South West.
Cameron’s reasoning, according to a Downing Street spokesperson, is that:
“…he believes the debate should be led by Scots in Scotland and that is why Alistair Darling will lead for the No campaign”
–quoted in today’s Sunday Herald
Is it me? The outcome of this debate will affect the whole of the UK, not only Scotland. The question being asked is whether Scotland should request independence from the UK government. He is one of the four signatories of the Edinburgh Agreement which is allowing this debate to go ahead in the first place. For the elected leader of that UK government to say that it’s not his role to advocate for Scotland to remain part of the UK makes no sense to me at all. Especially when he’s terribly concerned that the debate goes “the right way”. He’s not quoted as to which, in his opinion, is the right outcome, so I’m not going to presume:
“this is an issue of enormous importance, we cannot in any way let this argument go the wrong way. We’ve got to fight every day. It’s one of the biggest issues of next year, if not the biggest. I desperately want it to go the right way…I try and keep a really close hand on all this”
-speaking to Fraser Nelson of The Spectator
Gee. Thanks Dave.
Alastair Darling is obviously an experienced politician (you can check out his voting history here) , and well-respected, but I’m unclear as to what his qualifications are to present an alternative to the Yes campaign’s vision. As a backbench member of the party currently in opposition at Westminister, he has, at best, a minimal say in what Scotland’s role will be in the UK post-2014. His decision to “talk straight” with the electorate about the country’s economic situation and his own party’s prospects (Guardian, 2008) may well have earned him a bit of respect from voters, but can we imagine him being brought into the Labour fold again any time soon?
I could even understand Cameron’s determination to keep away from the debate in favour of Johann Lamont taking on Salmond – at least the leader of the Scottish Labour Party would be able to tell us what she would expect and demand from Westminister in the event that Scotland continued to be part of the UK. But to say that a backbench member of the opposition party best placed to represent what is, according to the opinion polls, the majority view of Scots, is a massive admission of the irrelevancy of the coalition government to the majority of Scots.
As a wary and cautious Yes-leaning voter, I’m desperate for some real explanation of what the consequences of voting ‘no’ will be. Answers are constantly being demanded of the SNP and other members of the ‘Yes’ campaign, but really, when are we ever really voting in any election on anything other than desperate hope that at least some of our favoured party’s promises will be kept? I feel far less certain of what a ‘no’ vote will mean for Scotland – will Scotland’s voice be heard in a UK referendum on continuted membership of the EU, for example – than I do about what a vote for independence would mean. Of course in an independent Scotland there would be years of negotiation, the outcomes of which are uncertain. However, we’re all subject to global circumstances that we will never be able to predict or control, but we can be in control of choosing a leaders whose policies are, we believe, motivated by principles that match our own.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”
-Albert Einstein (probably)