Guy Aitchison (London, OK): With all the hubbub surrounding Wendy Alexander’s U turn on a referendum last week I missed the Constitution Unit’s contribution to the debate, released in this press notice.
According to the Unit a “Yes” vote by the Scots in a referendum authorised by Holyrood would not be enough to secure independence. There would need to be two referendums. The first would be a “consultative referendum” authorised by Holyrood. It would deal with the “principle” of independence and permit the Scottish Parliament to enter into negotiations with Westminster which has the final say under the Scotland Act. The second referendum, authorised by Westminster, would deal with the terms and conditions of Scottish independence (including that Scotland should separate from the UK). Says the Unit’s Director, Robert Hazell: “People in Scotland might support independence in principle, but think again when confronted with the terms of independence. The terms will include not just issues like North Sea oil, but division of the national debt, ending all financial transfers from the UK government, and Scotland’s continued membership of the EU. The Scots are entitled to know the detailed terms of independence before making such a big decision”.
In his post on the Alex-Wendy debate last week, Anthony pointed out that “Labour has conceded an absolutely stunning constitutional principle: it has accepted that the Scottish parliament has the right to call a referendum that will decide on that country's independence.” If the Constitution Unit is right, however, Alexander’s call to Salmond to “bring it on” is of somewhat less significance. She is simply recognising Holyrood’s right to seek authority through referendum to enter into negotiations with Westminster: a requisite second referendum on the outcome of these negotiations might convince the Scots to change their minds.