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Bad news: this has had to be moved from The Lounge :(

Good news: you can now say what you like :)



Next year Scottish residents will get to vote in a referendum on whether Scotland should become an independent country. For this process to work you have to have an appropriate question. One that is simple to understand and neutrally worded.


Responsibility for coming up with a suitable wording was delegated to an independent body, the Electoral Commission, and has been accepted by the UK and Scottish governments. The question the Scottish National Party wanted was “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country”. Language is a complex thing and the subtlest choice of words can influence behaviours. After extensive testing it was decided that "Do you agree" has innate bias because it tends to incline neutral voters to a positive view i.e. to support whatever is being proposed. So the question that Scottish voters will be asked next year will be:


“Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes / No.”


The commission has also proposed arrangements for campaign funding so that both "sides" have equal spending power.


Scotland has always had its own distinct identity, including a distinct legal system, but joined with England in 1707, under the Acts of Union, to create a new nation Great Britain. Under these acts Scotland retained its identity and legal system but the new nation combined national functions like treasury, defence and foreign policy.


Interestingly it was assumed that "England" included Wales - a Principality - but legally this was not watertight. So 40 years later a further Act was passed to confirm this. Even more curious, it specifically included the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. This town had swapped backwards and forwards between England and Scotland so many times that no-one was quite sure where it belonged! So, just to be on the safe side, they bunged it into this Act as well - the Wales and Berwick Act 1746 :D


In Britain we don't have referendums on laws, only on constitutional matters. That's because under our Parliamentary system of government we elect a representative - a Member of Parliament [called an "MP"] - to act on behalf of constituency voters and use his / her judgment when voting in the legislative chamber [the "House of Commons"]. But where there is an issue concerning the nation state at the highest level convention has developed that these matters are put to the nation.


That's what happened in 1975 when Britain was negotiating to join the European Common Market [which is what it was then - an international free trade area on agreed terms], and we may get another referendum on whether we want to leave [recently promised by the Prime Minister - yeah, right, government promises heheheh].


And that's what's going to happen next year - because for some time more and more people in Scotland have been seeking separation. At some point a tipping point is reached where politicians have to decide how to respond. In some countries this can lead to fighting and insurrection. But the UK is a mature democracy and the referendum process is obviously a more democratic and humane response


So now it's up to the Scottish voters. Personally I hope they vote to retain the Union because I think Great Britain is a more viable entity than two separated nation states, and disentanglement will be a complicated and expensive business.


As the song says "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" but if the Scottish people decide to part company then so be it.


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  • Site Administrator

I'm not sure of the legalities, but is the referendum result binding? The question, as stated, will say what the voters want, but it doesn't imply any sort of timetable or answer any of the implementation questions if the answer is "Yes", such as military bases, membership to the EU, membership of the Commonwealth (I think this one is a given, but you never know...). Sorting out the complex set of ties between Scotland and the rest of the UK is decidedly non-trivial, and is going to be prone to arguments between the parties.


A real simple example of what I mean. Great Britain has permanent membership of the UN Security Council with veto rights. What would be the status of a part Great Britain that splits off? Can it claim the same rights? Who decides?


All solvable, of course, but the solutions are not necessarily going to be found quickly, nor is everyone likely to accept the final solutions.

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Good questions Graeme. As I understand it the referendum is just the first step in what will become a very complex process if the vote is yes. The various parties have got less than a year and a half to put together a roadmap for the stuff you've mentioned but the actual implementation will of course take a lot longer and will involve international entities like the UN as you mentioned plus of course the EU. There may also be implications for the Commonwealth countries too. More information I am sure will emerge this year as the debates get going. If the vote is "yes" then it's inconceivable the SNP would not go full steam ahead for separation - that is what they were set up to do :D

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  • Site Administrator

Yeah, but let's consider a hypothetical situation. The UK, as a whole, as a government debt. The rest of the UK says that Scotland's share of that debt is X and the SNP disagree. What happens? Can Scotland become independent without agreement on what their share of the currently national debt will be? If there's no agreement, can they legally become independent without a war?

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Yeah, but let's consider a hypothetical situation. The UK, as a whole, as a government debt. The rest of the UK says that Scotland's share of that debt is X and the SNP disagree. What happens? Can Scotland become independent without agreement on what their share of the currently national debt will be? If there's no agreement, can they legally become independent without a war?


Why not arbitrate a forced write-down of UK debt by the portion held by Scotland through the IMF? Basically, it would avoid war, reduce the value of the Pound Sterling, and Scotland would be a blank slate upon independence. Of course, the UK would basically be robbing its debt holders in order to settle the bill of a Scottish state, but it's not an unheard of practice.

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Heheh, guys, you do love talk of wars. But you overlook the fact that England and Scotland had their wars over 100s of years. We are now mature democracies with embedded institutions across all levels of society and robust, independent and highly effective legal systems recognised as such across the world. We're not the Balkans. There will be disagreements and I don't have details of the roadmap - no-one does yet - but these will be addressed by negotiation. Sure, bargaining positions will not be equal because England has a bigger population, more wealth and greater power but it would be in neither side's interests to create an unstable or unsustainable settlement would it, just as if you live in a house joined to your neighbour's with shared foundations neither occupant would wish their neighbour's house to be damaged or the foundations undermined. There has to be common sense as well as realpolitik not to mention both countries will still have the same Head of State :P

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  • Site Administrator

Having the a similar situation here in Canada, with Quebec deciding on separation every so often, and nearly winning it the last time they tried...the government of the day created the Clarity Act to which they solicited the Supreme Court of Canada to more or less recommend the rules for deciding succession.


I really don't know if it went so far as to say what debt, what assets of the Canadian Government, etc. would Quebec get, but it did state that 50% plus 1 was not enough to begin the succession process.


Currently we have a 'National' party in Canada as the official opposition yet over half of their seats are within Quebec, so they are turning their backs on the rest of the country and proposing the axing of the Clarity Act and bring in the 50% plus 1 rule to appease the separatists in Quebec.


I'm sure with a few Quebec members here at GA they will have an entire opposing view of what is going on, but that makes our country great, we can argue and still not be mad at each others :P

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Britain has direct experience of when to "let go" of territory. Many times over in fact :P
And if any nation should be supportive of the right of self determination then it's the good old US of A. Heck you were the first guys to do it! :D
As I said earlier I hope separation doesn't happen but I can't object to the right of the Scottish people to split away if that's what they want to do.

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This appeals to a romantic notion of what Scotland was all about when it was independent. Reality was quite different. Like certain US politicians and political aspirants who talk about "their America," or die-hard southerners shouting, "The South shall rise again," (I've actually heard that many times) they grasp at a fantasy, out of discomfort with reality.

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I agree. But they've been griping and moaning about this for so long now it's just boring. So let 'em have their vote so they can put up or shut up. Better this way then going down the Irish route. That did NOT go well ...

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@rustle: The same goes for the upcoming referendum on Britain in Europe - it's brought up because of a few people who grasp at an old historic fantasy, out of discomfort with reality. 

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@rustle: The same goes for the upcoming referendum on Britain in Europe - it's brought up because of a few people who grasp at an old historic fantasy, out of discomfort with reality. 


The EU's a whole other ball game of course - wanna do a blog on that Paya :D

And, unlike the Scots, the EUphobes haven't had 300 years to build up a head of steam :P

As for "few", Paya, I don't have reliable figures for either [not sure anyone does] but in the case of Scotland it was certainly enough to put the SNP into power as the party in government - which indicates that the majority of those who voted do back the idea of Scottish independence [not definitive, I know, because under the "first past the post" electoral system it is possible that a majority of those who voted did not back the SNP and there were anti-Labour protest votes - but again I don't have the numbers].


Btw how does "@rustle:" work? :/

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I for one am voting No.  We still need the Union, 


If the Snp were to get shot of two members, I think my vote could be different.


It's funny to look at this from outside.  The Union has been a powerful tool, Scotland has always had a touch of Independance within it.


We have our own Laws, schooling system and banking.  


Add to this the devolved powers we and our Celtic neighbours have been given, you will see quite a few differences.


The Snp are using one Celtic trait, I use Celtic rather than Scottish, as this trait runs through the Irish and Welsh to.  That is Pride, for a nation of 7 odd million we have done a lot.  Since the industrial revolution, many major innovations were by Scottish minds.  Sadly they are in the past but as a nation we adapt, what was once a great industrial powerhouse, we know specializes in sciences and genetics.


Zombie mentioned the Armed Forces.  As a nation Scotland contribute more military personnel, per capita, than the other three.  Many of these men and women are proud to fight for their country, like their brethren from the union.

Pride is a powerful tool.  


Below is a link for the equality in marriage act Scotland.  Listen to the words.  I think it says a lot. As a Scot I'm proud of the simple statement it makes.  


I'm proud to be a Scot, I am also Proud to be British.




if it doesn't work go to YouTube type in its time gay marriage Scotland and watch.

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Thanks for this Kiltie. I agree that the various nations within the UK have clear and distinct identities and I firmly believe we all benefit from being together in one State. But "Scotland" has been banging on about this for so long now, I guess we English are getting a bit bored. So now you will have your vote ... and what will be will be :)

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