Vince on devolution…

While the SNP is busy sticking the boot in over a Liberal Democrat MEP’s expenses Vincent Cable has penned a piece for the Sunday Mail on the potential complications of Scottish independence. I have to take Vince to task a little; one thing should be clear from the start, if the Scottish people want independence then it is their right. I believe whole-heartedly in the doctrine that each nation has its own right to self-determination. This is not something our leadership agrees with given it’s policy on Afghanistan (hat-tip Liberal Vision for rightly supporting withdrawal) however, to me it is part of democracy.

Of course, supporting this isn’t the last word and then does not mean automatically we should advocate it as a matter of principle (if we did we would we would be nationalists). On balance, I think the union remains mutually beneficial though I think it needs radical reform and a more democratised union would survive any political storm. I am a republican and therefore support the complete dismantling of the constitutional monarchy state; the end of royal prerogative, the abolition of the House of Lords and the removal of the monarch as head of state. Furthermore, electoral reform and a written constitution would enhance our democracy dramatically.

In this much changed United Kingdom, with its place guaranteed in a voluntary federation, Scotland I am convinced would find a happy place to sit and would not feel so threatened by the election of an over-mighty executive. It is the election of a Conservative government and precisely in an electoral imposition by England that Vince sees as bringing matters to a head and giving the necessary impetus to the Scottish independence movement;

“But there’s a potential fly in the ointment. If the Conservatives were to win the next Election, we could well see a situation where there’s a Conservative government with a majority in the Westminster Parliament and next to no MPs from Scotland.

I hope David Cameron does not want the United Kingdom to break up but he could be the catalyst for it.”

He may well be right, after all it was the Conservative railroading through of the poll tax that provided the last shot in the arm for the SNP. However, the solution is not to defend the Union as it is but to campaign for a complete overhaul of the state apparatus on which it is currently based. If we want Scotland to stay in the Union then the way to avoid this ‘coming crash in slow motion’ is not through defending things as are but to fundamentally alter the constitutional settlement forever.


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5 responses to “Vince on devolution…”

  1. Thomas Byrne says :

    Or rather the shot in the arm of the SNP was giving them a platform via devolution in the first place…


  2. darrellgoodliffe says :


    I think had devolution not happened Scotland would already be independent. A clear denial of a democratic right is not the way forward and besides the devolution settlement greatly aided the Northern Ireland Peace Process.


  3. Thomas Byrne says :

    The right of self-determination does not mean or imply a right to secede , but rather a right to be included and treated as an equal citizen and as part of the national community of a democratic state. No right to self-determination ever conceived of has given a right to secede from an established state. Every person in Scotland has the the right to ‘self determination’ through Wesminster Parliament.


  4. mtpt says :

    The numbers (from Scotland’s point of view) still don’t add up for independence; that step would end the Barnett formula approach overnight, and cripple the SNP’s various spending programmes.

    That’s without looking at the other consequent losses – especially for defence jobs – and you have to wonder how long RBS or HBOS would maintain large headquarters presences in what is for them a minor market.

    The counterpoint to arguing that Cameron could be the catalyst for Scottish independence is observing that Cameron may well be moved to reconsider the question of English institutions – does he really want Scottish SNP (or the few Labour left!) MPs voting against measures restricted to England and Wales?

    Disagree with Thomas on the self-determination point; self-determination can only exclude secession if you grant to the state a legitimacy and permanence that I for one don’t recognise. The state is merely an instrument of its citizens (really no different from local councils) and without their support has no legitimacy. There are difficult questions about the circumstances in which secession is permitted – particularly geographical homogeneity – but it can’t be excluded.


  5. darrellgoodliffe says :


    You obviously have a completely different understanding of what self-determination means to most people. If it does not include the right to secede then in practice it means nothing; its a bit like saying the right to marry exists with no consequent right to divorce to borrow Vince’s language. It’s also like saying Kosovo never had the right to secede from Serbia (which it did) for example, so how would you like to address that to Kosovans?

    The right to secede is clearly covered since Scotland constitutes a nation state in and of itself.


    I agree entirely that it wouldn’t be in Scotland’s interests to go independent.

    However, what do you think Cameron would do to English institutions that would limit the clamour for independence?

    Agree with you that self-determination does not exclude secession and that although these questions do have to be considered they shouldnt be a barrier to it being permitted if it is willed.


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