Today the Government considered transferring the power to hold a formal and binding referendum to Holyrood.
This sets up a very interesting position that has major implications. The creation of an Independent Scotland would involve the division and transfer of resources. What would happen to the oil fields and the tax revenues from them, for example?
An Independent Scotland would need a whole new framework for its defence and currency.
The issues around implementing an Independent Scotland are too complicated for this post, so I will focus the politics.
In many ways, the devolution of Scotland was one of the finest moments of the last Labour Government. The history books will clearly show that it was Labour who first gave Scotland it’s first taste of independence, when no-one will remember about an independent Bank of England or the introduction of tax credits. The real irony is that it is Labour who stands to lose most as the devolution they set free evolves in an ever greater independence.
The SNP has gone from strength to strength since devolution, forming a distinctive Scottish flavour. The SNP took policy positions which were far closer to the traditional Scottish Left than New Labour ever was. Donald Dewer’s death in October 2000 was a huge loss, and no Scottish Labour Leader has chimed with Scotland like Donald since. Labour simply didn’t understand that a new Scottish identity was taking shape – confident, distinctive and not wanting to be run like an appendage of England
This rise of the SNP and the decline of Scottish Labour resulted in the Scottish Parliament Elections of 2011, where the SNP captured 69 seats, and Labour netted just 37.
In a December 2011 poll IPSOS Mori reported the SNP voting intention at 51%, compared to 26% for Scottish Labour, with Alex Salmond having an approval rating of +35%
This poll also showed the Scottish Conservatives at 12%, and the Scottish Liberal Democrats at 8%
Scotland has been barren for the Scottish Conservatives for decades – they are simply an irrelevant political force.
Against this backdrop, a row between David Cameron and Alex Salmond suits them both. David Cameron knows that Scotland is simply a no-go area for the Conservatives, and if Scotland does vote for independence, Labour loses a large chunk of MPs in Westminster. A Labour Government based on English and Welsh Constituencies looks very, very hard to achieve. David Cameron would see politically the loss of Scotland the same way as Ed Miliband would see the loss of Surrey, Berkshire or Cornwall.
Conversely, the SNP can use any attempt by the Westminster Government to control, delay or intervene in an independence referendum as further evidence of London thwarting the self determination of Scotland.
This is why any war of words between Downing Street and Holyrood helps everyone but Ed Miliband’s Labour.