Written a few weeks back but lost so here again my plan for a couple of years entertainment:
Perhaps Lord Caithness, supported in principle by the Chief Defender of the Union, Lord Foulkes is right about some aspects of how and by whom the referendum on Scottish independence should be run.
Foulkes believes (or believed firmly enough at one point to pour out statement after statement on the issue) that the Scottish referendum question should be within the gift of Westminster, while Caithness believes that the question should be asked of the entire UK.
Foulkes proposition is blatantly unable to stand up unless Westminster is willing to ask the same question of others. This is where it ties in neatly with Caithness proposal that we should ask the question of the entire UK. This would actually give Foulkes idea some credence. With slight modification their joint proposal seems to have many advantages to resolving questions around the Union.
So perhaps a little tongue in cheek- Forgive me if there are gaping holes in my proposal, but I do not have the time to examine in as much detail and depth as their Lordships. I have a day job to do while they are handsomely recompensed for being able to dedicate their time and obvious abilities to scrutinising the issue to come up with such incisive proposals.
Let’s follow the logic of the noble Lords, (and it is no simple matter to follow logic from men of their obvious intellectual calibre). Taking the principles of Westminster jurisdiction proposed by Foulkes and the question needing to be addressed throughout the UK, as proposed by Caithness, their proposals can be made workable with only a little modification.
Four referenda could be held simultaneously across the erstwhile United Kingdom. Each national government would be responsible for its own referendum on the basis of powers devolved especially for the event by Westminster. There would be the obvious exception of England, who would have Westminster working on their behalf as the de facto English government- which is in keeping with the status quo.
The question would be put simultaneously to the citizens of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England, asking if each of their nations wants to remain in a United Kingdom under a single government, with assemblies, executive or government as presently in place. Of course, it would be working blind, as at the time of voting there would be no telling with which of the nations you are voting to be in Union. Feasibly we could end up with Wales and NI taking on the mantle of the UK, although once the results are known it would be possible to renegotiate any alliances and Unions to make sense of the situation should it be required.
There would be several benefits from this approach. Firstly it can provide a major air clearing and avoid any feeling that some member states of the Union are being treated more favourably than others.
I believe we would see less desire for indecent haste in leaping headlong into such a referendum, as is being pushed just now from Unionist factions. There is more likely to be consensus that this is a serious issue requiring serious discussion with the electorate. It would soon be clear that the questions require thorough academic and expert study of all aspects of the Union to provide in depth facts and plans on which to base decisions. This is likely to take a couple of years to prepare.
Another spin off benefit is that we are more likely to see honesty from the various factions, including Westminster, as any attempt to distort facts will always have a corollary effect. For example if Scotland is a net beneficiary from the union then who the net contributors? – the electorate have a right to know. It would be far more important to make sure that the truth is out there.
There are of course problems thrown up – should England choose to secede there would have to be an English government established, as Westminster can hardly be expected to negotiate with itself to determine an equitable settlement. Should others choose to secede or all choose to secede then Westminster would be left to negotiate the terms of its own destruction with its constituent parts.
England would be a unique case as it is likely to be the only nation which has all its major political parties fighting for a vote to maintain the Union. The only politicking to be done would be to bring the electorate onboard!
All in all the plan consists of throwing the Union into the air and seeing how the will of the people has it fall.
The Union as we know it is clearly dead and comprehensive measures are required to determine the political and constitutional arrangements which will see us through the next 100 years.
It would certainly make for an interesting period for political train-spotters.