Picture the scene. Your nation has been involved in a lengthy discussion about the pros and cons of the biggest infrastructure project undertaken for a century - a new proposed high speed rail link. Almost every angle has been agonised over and a decision looms. When suddenly, from a capital city 400 miles away comes a last minute intervention. What if the rail link wrecks the landscape? Has anyone thought of that?
The roar of OLD NEWS would be heard as far away as Shetland. But exactly such a "lost-in-time" contribution has just been made by the UK government regarding the Scottish referendum. Have we thought that it should be held sooner than later "for our own good?" Er, yes. A lot.
It staggers me and most Scots that David Cameron and indeed the whole London commentariat could possibly have thought his proposed "deal" to have a speedy binding Scottish referendum - or nothing - would be greeted in Scotland as anything other than a stale bit of last week's bread fit only to be chucked straight back over the fence.
On the "bold call" for an immediate referendum - to paraphrase Monty Python - "we got one already." Wendy Alexander boldly called for Alex Salmond to "bring it on" in May 2008 and was whacked over the proverbial heid by her own boss Gordon Brown - and laughed out of town (and out of office) by then opposition leaders like David "Bring it on this time" Cameron. Folks down south may have forgotten or never known about this "minor" aspect of the story - Scots haven't.
Meantime an election campaign happened here in April with speeches and debates (I believe they do the same sort of thing south of the border) - during one of which Alex Salmond enlarged on the SNP's manifesto promise to hold an independence referendum in the next parliament. It would be in "the second half of the next parliament. Thus by election day no Scot could be under any illusion about the SNP's plans. Once again that detail may have escaped scrutiny down the road - up here everyone and their donkey knew that was the deal. And of course the argument that Scotland is suffering economically because of uncertainty about its constitutional future has also been floated and largely sunk north of the border.
Apparently Dougie Alexander listed a series of such missed investments in Scotland on the Today programme this week. It would be interesting to compare that list with the list of big renewable investment announcements made recently here - and where in the UK is there NOT uncertainty? Thanks to Cameron's Euro fiasco the UK's future in Europe is now completely uncertain. Does that mean Cameron wants a referendum now on EU membership for the good of stability and investment in the UK? No - thought not.
On the issue of two questions or one - we've been debating that since May and would like to welcome London-based latecomers to the ongoing debate. On the issue of the binding nature of the result being null and void unless the referendum is held by a certain date (the sunset clause) - jings. This really is casting the Scots into their own personal Groundhog Day where no-one but us seems to remember the similar 40% rule introduced like a belated spanner in the democratic works by a Labour MP before the 1979 devolution referendum. In effect all that "yes but no" mechanism achieved then was to let Scotland be devastated by full force Thatcherism, delay devolution by 20 years and set up precisely the suspicion and mistrust of Westminster politicians that helped the SNP win a landslide victory last May. Doh.
Besides in practical terms do Scottish voters actually WANT a big election soon after two cliffhangers in 2010 and 2011 and an AV referendum - no. 2014 - or 2015 as an informed little bird suggested to me yesterday --- will do the Scots quite nicely. As I mentioned in yesterday's Scotsman article, the bumbling/bullying and scaremongering nature of the unionist case so far would make any self respecting Scot embarrassed to be on their side - regardless of views on the merits of independence.
I think it was Jack McConnell who warned of Scotland sleepwalking towards independence. Now we know what would cause 5 million Scots to be fast asleep in the first place! If the unionists don't raise their game north of the border WHERE THE VOTES ARE, they'll convince themselves all is hunkydory and tempt undecided Scots to vote yes, partly to give their complacency a kicking. And yet even today Scots Secretary Michael Moore is making his pressstatement about the referendum "deal" in London not Edinburgh. One is so strongly inclined to say hell mend them. At least the stooshie has resulted in some clarity -- despite all the threats coming from Westminster about illegality beyond a 2013 "use by" date, Alex Salmond says the referendum will be held in Autumn 2014.
The whole row reveals a two speed reality in Britain. For a Scot it's like getting a joke 700 times faster than your slow, slow parents. Except, the situation is maddening not funny.
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