The UK is our country, and all Scots should have a say before being dragged out of it.

The UK is our country, and all Scots should have a say before being dragged out of it.

by Brian Monteith
article from Tuesday 25, October, 2016

NICOLA STURGEON wants to drag Scotland out of the UK to take us into the EU – when only two years ago in order to drag us out of the UK she was quite prepared to take Scotland out of the EU.

Back then, she and her co-conspirator Alex Salmond tried to deny that an independent Scotland would be outside the EU having to apply for membership to get back in. Salmond then made up a story live on air that he had taken legal counsel that it would be okay, which he refused to release following freedom of information requests. After it reached the courts, with much taxpayers’ money being expended to defend the SNP government, poor Sturgeon had to tell the Parliament that the advice never existed.

Now Nicola Sturgeon believes she can go one better than Alex Salmond and try for a second referendum that she can win. Being outside the EU and its single market is the pretext, even though it is not a significant or material change, because at the last referendum if she had won we would be outside the EU and its single market already.

The SNP knows it has no rational economic case that can appeal to voters and to win the referendum it must rely on raw emotional appeal. That means two things, the first is that everything must be done to ensure the number of those that will vote in favour of the Union through emotional appeal is limited; the second is that to convince those that do have a vote not to exercise it in favour of the UK the referendum will become even more bitter, divisive and intimidating than the last one.

Supporters of the No campaign who endured the public ridicule, shaming, insults and threats (real and implied) during the last referendum might think that it could not get worse – but I have absolutely no doubts that if we have a second referendum it will. I shall write about this issue another time, but with the Bill for indyref2 now being published I want to turn to the issue of the franchise.

Sturgeon is proposing that eligibility to vote be the same as the last time, namely using the local government register provided for Council and Scottish Parliament elections. This may sound nothing out of the ordinary and uncontroversial – but it was controversial last time round and it remains so today. The problem is that David Cameron let a lot of people down by conceding so much ground to the SNP in the Edinburgh Agreement and Sturgeon is now trying to take advantage of that as if it set a reasonable precedent.

Since 2014 legislation has been passed to include 16 and 17-year-olds on the local government register, so they will no longer need a special dispensation like last time. I have no strong views either way about 16 and 17-year-olds being allowed to vote. What I must point out is that while the SNP considers this group mature enough to vote it also believes it so immature, so unable to be responsible for their actions that it has legislated for a state guardian to be appointed for each and every one of them.

The SNP has made a calculation – that harvesting the more independence-leaning youth vote trumps any inconsistency in policy. This is in keeping in maximising the vote of supporters that will make an emotional decision in favour of independence while marginalising voters who’s emotional decision might be for the Union.

By choosing the local government register and not the general election register all EU citizens resident in Scotland are also given the vote. Last time round the SNP thought that they would win this group but was surprised to find that the majority of EU citizens who did vote supported Scotland staying in the UK. Nevertheless, we can expect the SNP has calculated that this group will now vote for independence, if only to find a way of Scotland getting back into the EU. We shall see if this assumption is true if, in any resulting campaign, the SNP starts targeting the EU membership issue at EU nationals. I think it’s a certainty.

So that’s two groups the SNP wants to give a referendum vote, what groups does it want to deny a vote to?

One group the SNP has consistently sought to deny a say is Scots who live and work in the rest of the UK, or indeed around the world, by limiting the referendum franchise to only those who are resident in Scotland.

I have written before about my twin sons explaining they were born and raised in Scotland, attending primary, secondary and university institutions in Edinburgh, St Andrews and Glasgow. They could not be more Scottish. One settled in Glasgow while the other was drawn by the nature of his qualifications to the City. Neither had left their country but the one that went to London was excluded from the first referendum for not residing in Scotland.

He was judged to have no right to a say in Scotland’s future, while EU nationals that were transient workers and had not sought citizenship were given a vote – as residents. The SNP intends to repeat this injustice presumably on the reasoning that Scots outside Scotland will have a stronger attachment to the United Kingdom.

Given that the SNP’s policies on migration and joining the single market could result in a hard border following independence, Scots living and working in the UK but who regularly ‘go home’ to see their parents and friends would undoubtedly have a vested interest in preventing that outcome.

There would be a number of ways to resolve this problem – such as creating a special referendum register – something that could be done if the vote was not expected for a number of years (such as after Brexit), but this is unlikely to happen as the SNP would do everything in its power to stop it.

Far easier would be to use the General Election register, which allows those who are not currently in Scotland (being overseas or in the rest of the UK) a postal vote so long as they have been on that register in the last fifteen years. This would, however, exclude the EU nationals and the 16 and 17-year-olds, so we could expect the SNP to reject this idea. To include both groups would require new legislation – but given that Westminster has to approve any referendum anyhow, legislation will be required and could be used for deciding the franchise and making any arrangements possible.

Theresa May must hold fast on this issue for a great deal is at steak.

It is argued by the SNP (and others) that the independence vote is about how Scotland is governed and that it should therefore be restricted to residents only. It is also said that this was the franchise for the devolution referendum so why change things?

The reason change is needed is that the vote is about far more than how Scotland is governed, it is also about Scots having their British citizenship taken away from them, not just by fellow Scots but by people who are not British citizens themselves.

Most Scots find no conflict and have no guilt about working in the rest of the UK, it is their birthright. When we go to Corby, Cardiff or Coleraine for work or pleasure we are still in our own country and enjoy all the rights anyone from those places already enjoys.

Nationalists wish to take this away from Scots who believe they are British, or Scottish and British, and they want to do it without Scots – who have exercised their freedom of movement within the Single market that is the UK – having a say.

Nationalists deny the UK as our country, or even a country at all, and thus feel entirely justified in excluding Scots who live and work elsewhere in the UK.

David Cameron’s Edinburgh Agreement was a travesty of natural justice and conceded far too much ground to Alex Salmond. The SNP got the timing, the question, the franchise and the organisation of the referendum it wanted. That mistake should not be repeated. Theresa May should not allow it to become the precedent for future referenda. Establishing a franchise that allows Scots in the UK and abroad a say in their future must be written into any referendum agreement.

 

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