Coalition set to call SNP's bluff on independence

 
Robert The Bruce The SNP wanted to tie in a referendum to the 700th anniversary of Robert the Bruce's victory at Bannockburn

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The battle over the future of the United Kingdom will begin in earnest this week.

On Monday morning the cabinet will discuss proposals to give the Scottish Government the legal power to hold a binding referendum on Scottish independence providing the vote is held within a specified timeframe - perhaps the next 18 months - and is a straight choice between staying in or leaving the UK.

Coalition ministers talk publicly about ending the uncertainty surrounding Scotland's future in the UK.

Privately they speak of turning the screw on Alex Salmond, Scotland's first minister, who has yet to spell out when or how he will put to the vote proposals to fulfil his life long ambition of independence for Scotland.

Ministers in Westminster insist it is they who have the legal power to stage a legally binding referendum.

They are ready to transfer that power to the Scottish government but are discussing setting conditions to ensure that a poll is seen to be "fair, clear and decisive".

This would mean a simple yes/no vote on whether Scotland should stay in or leave the UK rather than giving voters a third option of greater powers for the Scottish parliament - what some call "devo-max".

It would also mean holding it soon. Ministers are considering setting a deadline of 18 months - earlier than the date some Nationalists dream of - the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in 2014.

The Scottish Secretary Michael Moore will be very wary of anything which Alex Salmond can present as Westminster trying to impose its will on the Scottish people.

However, he is also under pressure to head off moves in the House of Lords - when the Scotland Bill returns in a couple of weeks time - to force an early IN/OUT referendum on Scotland.

 
Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 276.

    The level of debate on this site alone demonstrates that there is little advantage to the people of Scotland in waiting for 18 months to decide. Irrespective of what side of the argument you take, let's get on with it !! But there is a responsibility on ALL parties to ensure we are given ALL the facts to allow us to make an informed decision - facts, not rhetoric and puffed up egos.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 275.

    A poll by Ipsos MORI indicated that the majority of people living in Scotland do NOT want independence; the results implyied that only 22% were in favour.
    When Alex Samond declares that he holds a mandate which is supposed to represent Scotland's wishes, we need to remember that he won c.50% of the vote in May 2011 from a 50% turnout. That only represents 1/4 of those eligible to vote.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 274.

    In his report on BBC1 News this evening, Nick Robinson didn't appear to know the difference between the Union of the Crowns and the Union of the Parliaments. It's this sort of ignorance from the UK national media that drives people into the arms of the SNP...!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 273.

    @269, yeah plenty that's why there only two Tory MPs in the northeast

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 272.

    It seems that most of the pro-union comments are centred on abuse directed at the Scots and AS in particular, rather than advancing convincing arguments for Scotland staying in the Union. Is that because there aren't any?

    As far as the idea of the rest of the UK deciding on whether the Scots can leave the Union, I'd like to see that argument applied to a referendum on the UK in the EU.

 

Comments 5 of 276

 

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