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…well, not quite. The Scottish National Party has won a 9 seat majority in the Scottish Parliament in the UK elections today. This gives the SNP a mandate to bring a referendum to the Scottish people on whether they want independence.

My knowledge of Scotland is vanishingly small, but I believe they’re in roughly the same position as the Commonwealth of Australia before the Statute of Westminster and the Australian States before the Australia Acts. They have a devolved Parliament, which means they can pass their own laws but they are always subject to the power of the Parliament at Westminster to overrule those laws. Or, I could be very wrong.

In any case, Scottish independence would be a much larger shift than becoming a Republic in Australia would. Under a minimalist Australian republic, almost nothing would change.

What I find interesting is that “polls showed most voters in Scotland oppose independence” even though it would tangibly increase their own freedom and sovereignty.

I also find it interesting that their constitutional structure appears to require them to have a plebiscite followed by a referendum:

In order for a Scottish referendum to take place, the Scottish parliament would first have to pass a bill setting up a referendum. If that was passed by Scottish voters, the Scottish government would negotiate with the UK government terms of independence including such issues as division of the national debt, North Sea oil, the future of the defence bases on the Clyde, Scotland’s membership of the EU.

Westminster would then have to authorise a second and final referendum, asking the people of Scotland to confirm that they want independence on these terms.

Perhaps I’m just misunderstanding the debate. In the leadup to any referendum, the SNP wants a slow transfer of (presumably legislative) powers:

He will call for specific transfers of power to Scotland in an attempt to assemble slowly a consensus for independence, leading to a referendum at some point after 2013

So perhaps, Scottish legislative independence can be achieved by the same means as the Statute of Westminster and the Australia Acts -> a simple Act of Imperial Parliament.

Edit: Here is a slightly more thorough article

Another point to note is that successive UK Prime Ministers have declared their commitment to self-determination by Scotland. David Cameron made some comments on the issue:

David Cameron, the prime minister, acknowledged that the SNP had won an “emphatic” victory but warned that he would vigorously oppose Salmond’s referendum plans.

After pledging to work constructively with Salmond where possible, he stated: “On the issue of the United Kingdom, if they want to hold a referendum I will campaign to keep our United Kingdom together with every single fibre I have.”

Presumably he means that he will campaign against independence during the referendums, then accede to the request once it is affirmed by the Scottish people.

Of course, that leaves two questions. Cameron campaigned vigorously against AV in their recent UK referendum, despite having promised such a referendum to the Liberal Democrats as part of their coalition agreement. And wow, was that No campaign ridiculously harsh, deceptive and just plain impolite. What will Cameron be like when there are no holds barred?

And what will Cameron be like during the negotiations over the terms of independence? There are real conflicts of interest here, unlike debates over the Statute of Westminster and the Australia Acts. The Queen might be put into a very awkward position.


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