Scottish independence: Does it take two to separate?

Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon says Westminster is interfering in Scottish business

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"Here we go again... another Tory-led government interfering in Scotland".

That is how Alex Salmond's Deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, responded to the news that David Cameron wants to give the Edinburgh government the legal power to hold a referendum - but only with strings attached.

At issue here is a very simple principle. The government in Westminster is saying: "It takes two to separate".

In other words, breaking up the UK is not a matter for Scotland alone. In so doing, they are echoing the behaviour of the Canadian government in the face of repeated attempts by Quebec to secede.

Tortuous process

After two referenda were held in Quebec - one in 1980 and one in 1995 - and after a painfully close result - 50.58% against versus 49.42% in favour, the Canadian Parliament passed a Clarity Act.

It gave the Canadian House of Commons the power to decide whether a proposed referendum question was considered clear before any vote, to judge whether a clear majority for change had been expressed and to override a referendum decision, if it felt the referendum violated any of the tenets of the Clarity Act.

It is a reminder that, were Scots to back independence, this would mark the beginning and not the end of a long, tortuous process of negotiation between the Scottish and Westminster governments - over currency, the monarchy, the armed forces, North Sea oil revenues, pension rights and much more besides.

Unionist politicians believe the more they can force the electorate to focus on that now, the less likely Scots will be to back the idea.

The reason the Scottish Secretary is planning to unveil his approach this week is because the Scotland Bill - which gives the Scottish Parliament some new powers - returns to the House of Lords in a couple of weeks.

Passionate Unionists in both the Tory and Labour parties are lining up a series of amendments designed to limit Alex Salmond's freedom of movement.

The Coalition wants to get in first.

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

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    If Cameron leaves Salmond to his own devices he will eventually turn his constituancy away from the idea having him in charge.
    I can only conclude Dave wants to rile the Scots into supporting Salmond.
    At the moment it serves the Scottish electorate to vote Nationalist to remove Labour from local control.
    They no sooner want independence than we want them to go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    If Salmond wants to win, all he needs to do is just insist that all English voters get a say

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Czechs and Slovaks had a quick and amicable divorce. Both countries are doing well. Montenegro had no problems. That nation too is doing well. Even Southern Sudan had no problems in going to the ballot box despite the murderous ways of its northern neighbour.

    Once a decision has beem made to hold a referendum, which is the hard part, the rest is quite straightforward and easy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    #2 Nimrod Ping
    "If Salmond wants to win, all he needs to do is just insist that all English voters get a say"

    Absolutely. Opinion polls have shown a majority in England for Scottish independence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Here we go again...

    What? The governing party of the United Kingdom is not allowed to comment on an issue that does, like it or not, involve the United Kingdom? Shock. Horror.

    All NS needs is some blue war paint plastered on her face and that picture would be surprisingly fitting.

    Her attitudes and heckling are not needed, what's needed is informed debate.


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