One Chance, Just One Chance

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By Jonathan Rowson

We have a few hours to persuade no-leaning voters who might be swayed by a pernicious promise that they can keep the apparent safety and comfort of the UK, while also getting ‘further powers’ for Scotland.

This offer of devo-pseudo-max, devo-we-forget-to-tell-you, devo-definitely-dodgy, devo-but-don’t-ask-what, devo-special-powers-but-you’re-not-superman business is actually much more of a threat to the cause of independence than you might think. Considering the context of the offer closely makes it clear why tomorrow is an opportunity that is very unlikely to come again.

The problem is not just that ‘the vow’ and its antecedents were cobbled together in a manner that will offer a good figurative definition of ‘cobbled’ for years to come.

The problem is not just that it arrived well into the eleventh hour, so clearly as a desperate response to an imminent constitutional threat rather than a longstanding democratic desire.

The problem is not just that this ‘further devolution’ and ‘new powers’ that dangle in the air are vapid and vague, while so much of the no campaign has been vindictive or vainglorious

And the problem is not even that there is no UK mandate for these promises, and every reason to believe that further powers for Scotland in any meaningful form will be resisted unless there are commensurate and concomitant changes in the rest of the UK, all of which will be complicated and contestable and take years to resolve.

You see all of those problems are propped up by another one, illustrated by the editorial position the Herald announced yesterday. I wrote for the Herald for seven years and was impressed by much of their reasoning, but I found myself dismayed by a key premise that is really axiomatic for their argument:

“To them (Westminster politicians) we say this: The Herald backs Scotland staying within the UK at this stage. But fudge this process, stitch it up and fail to deliver far-reaching further devolution, and make no mistake: you will be guaranteeing another referendum – one that you will lose, and deserve to lose…Substantive autonomy for Scotland’s parliament and government could unify Scotland. Such autonomy is not merely an aspiration: it is a demand.”

This sounds impressively measured and muscular at first blush, but I think it is politically naïve.

The Herald understands that promises of further powers could lead nowhere special, and suggest that this is an acceptable risk involved in voting no, because if that further devolution process does under-deliver, as many suspect it might, there will be another referendum just like this one.

Except why would there be?

There is no good reason to think there will ever again be anything resembling the 2012 Edinburgh Agreement which was, by international standards, pretty generous to Scotland, giving us the chance to unilaterally secede from a political union, with a helpfully worded question and requiring only a simple majority of votes.

Think about it from the perspective of the rest of the UK. Now that the prospect of Scotland becoming independent is a real and present danger, why would it make any sense to allow a vote of this nature to happen again, or to have the threat of it happening again as part of the political process?

Any extra powers for Scotland will have to be part of a broader UK constitutional settlement. Much of the UK thinks this current referendum result will be decisive, indeed David Cameron has been arguing – completely disingenuously, but still – that this is why Devo-max was not on the ballot paper in the first place; this prior commitment to the UK had to be established first. More importantly, when the British population woke up and suddenly realized Scotland might actually say yes they were pretty astonished that one part of the UK was ever given this chance of a unilateral vote with a simple majority.

So Scotland is very unlikely to ever be given the same kind of power that it has at this moment. A UK wide constitutional settlement will almost certainly place the bar higher, for instance requiring a 2/3 majority to secede, or a UK-wide vote.

No means Scotland remains in the UK and plays a relatively minor part in the constitutional conversation of the UK. Westminster might well not deliver significant extra powers to Scotland but that’s not the main point. If they don’t deliver, we may not be able to do anything about it.

So while I hesitate to quote from Mel Gibson, a line from his famous Braveheart battle cry does have resonance at this crucial moment. 

On top of all the other reasons for voting yes, when you imagine British Realpolitik that would follow a no vote, for Scotland it should be clear: there really is “one chance, just one chance.”



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24 replies

  1. What chance does the NHS have….NONE.

  2. Great.. but problem is that this message is not getting out to the wider electorate, only BC readers and I’m not sure how widespread that readership is. Real danger that democracy itself is strangled due to the power of the mainstream media.

  3. If anybody believes that there will be extra powers then they should be getting treatment,for they should not be out alone.There will be no extra powers there is a better chance of powers being removed and Holyrood turned into a shopping mall.Each time they have said more powers they lied no ifs no buts blatant lies,I remember when 11 SNP M.P.,s went to Westminster and we got promised the MOD was moving to Glasgow,and there was even the St.Enoch hotel left standing to be used as the offices,next election(because some people believed them) SNP dropped to 4 M.P.,s,and see how the MOD is thriving in Glasgow? no neither do I,and that was 1974,everytime the SNP vote went up so did the promises,and when the vote went the promises disappeared,then 1979 “Vote no and we will give you something better than what Labour are offering you” and then,and then still nothing,and some still want to believe that is taking stupidity to a new level.If some of them think that if they don’t keep their word we will have a new referendum we wont be allowed the British state has form for lying cheating and being stupid enough to cause wars,and civil unrest,they wont keep their word because they cant keep their word,its not up to a back bench Labour M.P. who never attends and the three “leaders” of the Tories,Labour and Lib-Dems,they have to go to the country with all the promises put in their manifesto and thats when UKIP comes into being,oh please don’t believe them don’t be so trusting they are liars.Another point the man that let the banks have free reign,followed by the man that let the bankers off,and is making us pay for their gambling and £million bonus’ you cant trust them.

  4. Do you see Manchurian Candidate Gordon Brown having a complete meltdown today ? Reminded me of Peter Finch in the film Network ” I’m mad as Hell ” speech.

  5. After a NO vote you will never get the chance to challenge Westminster.

    You should get ready for one phrase that you will hear over and over
    “….the settled will of the people”

  6. To all yes voters-
    How many job loses do you think is acceptable to achieve your dream of independence? 
    How many home repossessions do you think is acceptable to achieve your dream of independence? 
    Both will definitely happen to ordinary working class scots as a direct result of independence! 
    My answer to both questions is No.
    What is yours? 
    Think about it………VOTE NO!

  7. Scotland will not accept a No result in any way ,shape or form.fraudulent or otherwise.

    This country-yes -that’s what Scotland is- will no longer be letting’ Wastemonster’ piss on our back and tell us it’s raining-

    THE GAME’S UP FFS!!!!!!

    It’s as plain as the nose on your face that the polls have been ,and still are being manipulated by the powers that be.They do as they are told.

    They will not however be able to claim that -surprise-surprise- its ended with a totally unrealistic 51%NO/49%YES result

    .Do me a favour!!!!!!

    Let the TRUTH out!!!!

    The den of Vipers down south are already beginning to eat their own.They better get used to it.

    Time for the people in these islands to get a grip on what’s really being done in their name.ffs

    REVOLUTION NEEDS A GO!!!!

    DO IT!

  8. No is the progressive vote that will bring more devolution.
    Independence and seperation is a huge unnecessary gamble with our future our children and our grandchildren’s futures!
    VOTE NO!

  9. It is a pity that the referendum is not being monitored and audited by independent foreign observers. I cannot help feeling that even now there are ballot boxes dotted about the country filled with NO votes ready to be added to the pile.
    The referendum is the nice way of doing things, where you have tea with your soon to be ex- in the lawyers office.
    The other way is to get MSPs who support independence elected to the Scottish Parliament. With a big majority, they vote to secede and declare independence. Job done.
    (Please note that Kosovo was never a country at any time in its history. A province, a county, a burgh maybe, but not a country. When the Kosovo Assembly declared independence by a simple majority the State of Kosovo was recognised within 24 hours by the UK.)
    The UN is interested in the independence of nations and there are various declarations and papers on this.
    Unilateral secession is possible. Not only possible but will be the only solution in two years by which time the NO voters will have realised that they have been suckered down the river.
    To avoid this mess vote YES.

  10. To all yes voters-
    How many job loses do you think is acceptable to achieve your dream of independence? 
    How many home repossessions do you think is acceptable to achieve your dream of independence? 
    Both will definitely happen to ordinary working class scots as a direct result of independence! 
    My answer to both questions is None!
    What is yours? 
    Think about it………VOTE NO!

  11. To all the pro onion supporters what’s so good about the onion is it the poll tax, the bedroom tax(as brought in by Gordon broon),food banks or maybee it’s the next round of austerity cuts that’s been signed up to by all Westminster party’s or maybee your so far up your own arse you wouldn’t know the truth if it bit you in the backside

    • And the next contrived war, engineered by the Bankers, Oil Corporations and Globalists, this time the bogey men are ISIS !!!

  12. i agree . On the up side is a slim simple majority enough for no to claim a decisive decision? i don’t think so. 3/4 is what would be more truly decisive i suppose, either yes or no.

    But…even with new impediments to yes there would still be a way : unilateral declaration of independence. it’s possible a no vote would leave the only road to independence through a unilateral declaration, USA style.
    In this case it might be through the Scottish Parliament,probably one stripped of labour members. In the beginning i suppose it would be seen as illegal by the british state, but i don’t expect england would would invade to force the issue, especially if scotland has been forced to keep the nuclear capacity it wanted rid of!

    People could start writing versions of the declaration of independence now, as some people have suggested popular participation in a written constitution after a yes vote.

    if no is largely an older person’s stance, time and further neo liberal governments may bring a larger Yes majority in next few decades, or even the next few years.

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