Scottish independence

Kiran Stacey

One of the most frequent criticisms of the campaign against Scottish independence is that it can come across as high-handed and patronising. Number 10 has been particularly alert to the danger of southern Tories leading the campaign for exactly that reason. David Cameron said in January:

I humbly accept that while I am sure there are many people in Scotland who would like to hear me talk about this issue, my appeal doesn’t stretch to every single part.

Given that sensitivity, you might be surprised at the latest attempt by the UK government to appeal to Scots thinking of voting no. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Nigel Farage in Scotland

Nigel Farage in Scotland last year

Nigel Farage is in Edinburgh today, trying to improve his party’s reputation north of the border.

He is unlikely to receive a warm reception, even if it doesn’t go as badly as last time, when he was forced (!) to barricade himself in a pub when surrounded by dozens of anti-Ukip protesters telling him to “Go home to England.” Read more

Kiran Stacey

The Sunday Times’ front page this weekend will have surprised many people who are watching the Scottish referendum campaign with interest. The paper reported a new poll by Panelbase showing a bump for the independence campaign. Their headline read: Read more

Kiran Stacey

George Osborne and Danny Alexander will front two important pieces of analysis next month into why being in the UK benefits Scotland both in terms of its currency and its financial services sector.

The first of these papers could prove particularly interesting. It will argue that the best kind of relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK would be full fiscal and currency union – ie remaining part of the UK.

But it will also give an intriguing answer on the terms on which Scotland could leave the UK and yet still retain sterling as its currency. Read more

Kiran Stacey

North Sea oil - how much of a loss will this be?Amid all the debate about the economic viability of an independent Scotland, one element of the debate has been left behind, namely what Scottish independence would mean for the rest of the UK.

Martin Beck of Capital Economics has sought to remedy that today, putting out a 12-page briefing note on whether the rest of the UK would suffer if Scotland went it alone. Many of the conclusions are speculative: an awful lot depends on what the independence settlement looks like and what happens to the economy after 2014. But there are some interesting points definitely worth pulling out: Read more

Kiran Stacey

Alex Salmond and David CameronDavid Cameron will meet Alex Salmond in Edinburgh on Monday morning to put the seal on a deal to transfer the power to the Scottish government to hold a referendum on independence.

As part of that deal, the British government will make sure there is a straightforward, single question, while giving way on allowing the Scottish government to give 16- and 17-year-olds the vote.

This is being treated with some consternation at Westminster, where many fear it will undermine the current constitutional settlement of only allowing adults to vote. Lord Forsyth, the Tory peer, called it a “backdoor way” of changing the voting rules, arguing that it should be debated properly in parliament. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Alex Salmond with David CameronIt has been assumed in Westminster for several months now that the Scots will get an independence referendum, and it will happen in 2014. But mutterings are beginning to emerge that this may not happen at all - and here is why.

After David Cameron signalled he was willing to give way on his preferred date of 2013, the only things left to work out were supposed to be who got to vote and what the question would be.

The first of those points of tension looks close to being settled. Number 10 this morning all but admitted it was willing to let 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in the referendum if the SNP insisted on it. When asked if allowing this to happen would set a precedent for general elections, a Downing Street spokesman said:

These are two different things. One is a referendum on the independence of a nation which is an irreversible decision. The other is an election for the government, which can be reversed after five years.

 Read more

Kiran Stacey

Ed Miliband and Alistair DarlingI revealed in this morning’s FT that three former political heavyweights will take the lead roles in the fight against Scottish independence. Each is surprising in their own way:

For the Tories, David McLetchie. But what does choosing a former Scottish leader say about Ruth Davidson, the current one?

For the Lib Dems, Charles Kennedy. Having maintained a low profile since the beginning of the coalition (which he voted against joining), it will be a pleasant surprise to many to see the popular former leader return to frontline politics.

But it is the third one, Alistair Darling, who will be Labour’s leading figure in the campaign, that is most surprising. Whereas the other two do not have prominent Westminster roles, Darling only stopped being chancellor two years ago, and has even been talked of as a possible party leader to usurp Ed Miliband. Read more

Kiran Stacey

Last week, we were told that the UK government believes the Scottish parliament does not have the legal right to hold its own referendum on independence.

Since then, debate has focused on what the legal consequences would be if Alex Salmond pushed on and held one anyway: would it be regarded as “consultative”? Would the UK government challenge it in the courts? If so, would that look like London bullying Edinburgh?

Today, Jim Wallace, the former deputy first minister and Lib Dem leader in Scotland, has intervened in that debate, using some pretty strong language to try and head off the possibility of Salmond simply going ahead and holding his own referendum. In the most striking passage, Wallace says that to do so would be not just illegal, but undemocratic: Read more

Kiran Stacey

Amid the Labour-dominated headlines this morning on the first day of the party’s autumn conference in Liverpool, something else caught my eye. The Independent on Sunday had a story about David Cameron tackling Alex Salmond head on. It read:

David Cameron is to go head to head with Alex Salmond in a bitter battle over the future of the union between England and Scotland.

The Government is to fight what it sees as “outrageous” claims and increasingly aggressive moves towards complete self-rule from the Scottish First Minister in a desperate attempt to stop Scotland from “sleepwalking into independence”.

 Read more