There is no sound reason for yet another Scottish referendum

News Letter editorial on Tuesday May 11 2021:

Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 5:31 am
Updated Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 11:56 am
News Letter editorial

Last week’s election to the Scottish parliament was certainly a good one for the SNP.

The separatist party led by Nicola Sturgeon fell a single seat short of an overall majority.

Such a strong showing seems at first sight to bolster arguments for a second referendum.

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However, a closer examination of the figures shows that not a huge amount has changed over the last decade.

The SNP won 45% of the vote in the 2011 elections to the devolved parliament in Edinburgh, Holyrood. The results of this year’s contest show that it had edged up by another 2%, still short of majority support. The Scots are polarised on the issue, but there has not been much movement.

The UK as a whole ought to have a say in whether or not part of its territory can secede. This is what most major nation states say about their regions — that it is not merely a matter for the region but also for the nation as a whole.

That is Spain’s position with regard to Catalonia and the US position with regard to its states. In fact, the US constitution has an even simpler approach: there is no path to exit.

London has been much more generous on this issue. It says that with a 50% plus one vote, Scotland can depart the Union, as can Northern Ireland.

But that then tees up a situation in which one referendum leads on to pressure for another, and again and again until the separatists get the result they desire.

Yet if there is indeed an exit vote, the same cannot happen in reverse. Unionists cannot demand on a poll again and again until there is a majority to return to the UK.

Thus Britain has every reason to say that it has been generous enough in providing a clear possible exit mechanism, but that in Scotland this was put to the test in 2014 and the matter was decided decisively in favour of staying in the UK.

Even SNP leaders accepted that that was a once in a generation vote, and amid ongoing stalemate on the issue there is no sound reason to have yet another plebiscite.

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Alistair Bushe

Editor