Cameron’s Mighty Proclamation (and why he shouldn’t have made it)

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January 10, 2012 by Nash Riggins

David Cameron has grown weary of ruffling the feathers of his trade partners abroad; indeed, he has instead chosen to turn his gaze toward Alex Salmond and his frustratingly never-ending threat of an independence referendum in Scotland. The Prime Minister has firmly declared that if Salmond and his Scottish National Party are to hold a legally binding referendum on Scottish independence, it must be within the next 18 months – otherwise, the outcome of such a vote will mean virtually nothing.

In what Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, referred to as a “blatant attempt to interfere in a decision that’s rightly one for the Scottish people,” Cameron is expected this week to release a legally binding report discussing the terms of any potential referndum. Yet it doesn’t take a two-hundred-page report in order to fully comprehend the Prime Minister’s stance: if the vote doesn’t happen by next summer, it will never happen.

Mr Cameron’s reason for interfering ‘in a decision that’s rightly one for the Scottish people’ is simple: money. Westminster claims that the looming threat of Scotland’s independence is hampering the growth of business – and unfortunately, they’re absolutely right. Wary investors have passed on dozens of major economically stimulating investments in Scotland throughout the past six months, solely because of the uncertainty of such business ventures. What if an independent Scottish Parliament were to alter trade agreements? What will happen to business when they inevitably raise taxes? Even government subsidies floating up North have been sliced in half – which one could no doubt attribute to MPs’ uncertainty regarding whether or not the UK’s Treasury may be throwing money at a nation that could willingly jump ship at any moment.

Ms Sturgeon is quite right in her assumption that independence is a decision only Scottish voters can decide upon, and just as correct in her – perceived – assumption that David Cameron is an utter tool for calling Alex Salmond on his bluff of Scottish independence ‘just because he can.’ Yet is it not unreasonable for the rest of the United Kingdom to have a simply yes or no within the next 18 months?

Every critic has a different explanation regarding Alex Salmond’s delay of a referendum – some claim that he wants the vote to coincide with the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, whilst others assert that he’s merely waiting on the recession to roll away with the evening tide. The latter is nowhere in sight, however it cannot be ignored that the number of those in favour of Scottish independence have increased in the polls by almost 10% annually for the past two years. Yet even as his support increases, polls indicate that if the vote were tomorrow, the referendum would be crushed by a 65% majority of Scottish voters – which is exactly why the PM has called for a vote sooner rather than later.

Yet not only did a particularly smug David Cameron set a deadline for any potential referendum, but he has also decided that there would only be one, simple question on the ballot – whereas MSPs were planning on including at least one follow-up question asking voters whether they would prefer more devolved powers granted to Holyrood in the place of full independence. Above all else, this was the slap in the face that Alex Salmond should be the most upset about.

Given the choice between independence and a stronger Scotland within a United Kingdom, further devolution of powers to Scottish Parliament is the only action that makes any sense. It is more than reasonable for Scottish voters to demand it in a legally binding referendum, and a betting man would gladly wager that Holyrood will no doubt receive dozens of new powers within the next five-to-ten years – which is exactly why David Cameron doesn’t want the question asked. It’s one thing to scoff at the notion of Scottish independence, but quite another to scoff at a vast number of voters who would prefer that laws concerning only their portion of the country were decided upon by people who actually lived there – or at the very least, visited on occasion.

Scottish voters would be making a drastic mistake to vote for independence – it would hurt their wallets and it would devastate business – however, David Cameron is making an astronomically larger mistake in his assumption that he can publicly embarrass Alex Salmond whilst squashing all future attempts at Scottish independence in one, swift proclamation. If Salmond and his SNP have any backbone whatsoever, they will challenge Cameron’s proposed deadline in court, citing a dozen dry – but crystal-clear – clauses throughout the Scotland Act. In the end, this reserved legal battle will have delayed any potential referendum well-past Mr Cameron’s deadline – and most likely past Salmond’s 2014 deadline as well. Business may be suffering due to the ‘looming threat’ of independence, but the Prime Minister should know better than to pray for rain before a hurricane.

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