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, Political editor Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this
    +27

    Comment number 1.

    There was no uncertainty until Westminster decided to create some. And as the body that have singlehandedly created numerous economic problems for Scotland I can only conclude (as it it wasn't obvious) that Westminster are a bunch of utter hypocrites!

    Does anyone actually believe Cameron cares about Scotland? I don't, never have, never will!

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 2.

    "Meh". Just apathy. No inflamed political passions - enough blood has been split here.

  • rate this
    +60

    Comment number 3.

    Scottish Independence is the best thing that can happen to England. It will force reform of Parliament, which all the parties have resisted. It will force reform of the political parties, which ditto. It will probably strengthen the English economy at the same time as Scotland's economy will also strengthen. Separation worked for Czechoslovakia, why not for Scotland and England?

  • rate this
    +57

    Comment number 4.

    The Scottish government detailed in their manifesto that the referendum wold be held in the second half of the present parliamentary term. The people gave them a majority on this basis. Westminister should let us get on with it. Cameron should remember that finding a Tory in Scotland is like finding a hen with teeth

  • rate this
    +45

    Comment number 5.

    I'd have thought Cameron would be keen to get rid of Scotland from the UK. There are more pandas than Tory MPs in Scotland. If Scotland were to leave, the Tories would be much more likely to win a majority in Parliament. The only reason I can think of he'd want to keep Scotland is the oil revenues.

 

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