Monday, January 9, 2012
Prime MInister David Cameron fires off a broadside and challenge to Alex Salmond over referendum, he wants vote to be "legal, fair and decisive"
The Unionists are on the ‘warpath’, so it seems, with David Cameron throwing down the gauntlet to Alex Salmond.
Cameron is looking for a quick referendum because he thinks that this will ensure the continuation of the United Kingdom.
In the last parliament, the SNP said that they would have a referendum during the course of that Parliament; they abandoned it because they didn’t have the numbers.
Even if they could have got it through, it would have been the wrong time because I have always believed that two full terms must be served in order to show competence and they would have lost it under the political landscape in Scotland at that time.
After the landslide victory of the SNP in May 2011, they pledged again to hold it in the latter half of the second term.
And they have the numbers to push it through Holyrood.
However, the referendum has a number of issues connected to it, of a legal nature that needs to be addressed before anyone can start talking about what the question might be.
Cameron wants Alex Salmond to accept an offer from Westminster that would enable Holyrood to hold a legally binding referendum on Scottish independence but there is a catch, he wants the offer to be time-limited.
The poll would have to be held before August 2013.
This would be about a year or 15 months of campaigning with activists expected to work two elections back to back.
And there are several problems with that, namely that there is lack of knowledge and personnel to get the message out at a local level in a manner that is direct and personal to the voters.
The referendum is a ‘special’ politically; it requires a different approach than the run of the mill campaigns.
In Pollok Constituency, on average circa 6 activists generally turn out to service a population of 60,000.
So, each activist would have to contact 10,000 people and speak to them. On average an SNP Activist on a workday of 2 hours would deliver in the region of 200 leaflets and as we know, 98% of unsolicited mail just gets chucked straight into the bin.
So, for 2 hours work plus travelling time which is an hour each side of the work day, the activist has delivered one leaflet per hour that is read.
Plus the SNP has decided to have a membership drive, seems fine in principle, I even wrote about this prior to the SNP announcement away back in July 2010 and how that should be done.
Where are the people going to come from to do that work?
And since this is effectively a sales pitch, how can people sell an SNP Membership when the members haven’t had any sales training?
Also if they ‘sell’ a membership what are they offering as an incentive to join?
Unfortunately the SNP like many political parties hasn’t evolved to offer enough options for members to take up.
I also wrote about that previously and raised the issue with Nicola Sturgeon that Glasgow needs its own stand alone training hub.
Unfortunately that idea was one of a number of ideas for a new type of SNP which offers the members more than they currently get, not taken up.
I wanted to see install a learning culture at branch level, but was met by such a hostile reaction to my idea, apparently dumb and ignorant is more preferably which probably explains why there so few people are willing to be SNP Activists in branches as a percentage of the total branch membership.
‘Not my problem anymore’.
To return to Cameron, he says that if Alex Salmond fails to take up his offer, then Westminster will seize the initiative and hold its own referendum.
I think this idea was always on the table by the unionists.
I previously blogged the earliest that independence referendum could be held was mid 2014 allowing the SNP an 18 month campaign which might have a realistic chance of success.
If the unionists timetable is pushed through, then the current Council Campaign would have to be effectively abandoned and given lip service in favour of the independence campaign which would have to come to the fore.
So, what should Alex Salmond do?
Well, issue a statement that the Scottish Government wouldn’t be threatened and make plans if it all goes sideways and they are forced into an early referendum.
A recent poll of 500 Scots, conducted by Ipsos Mori for the new think-tank BritishFuture puts support in Scotland for independence at 29%.
17% were don't-knows.
One poll isn’t enough as support for anything and anyone is always volatile, however 54% of people want the nation to remain part of the UK.
In 2010, during the Westminster election the SNP went into that election with 7 MPs, they finished with 6. Alex Salmond was predicting the possibility of somewhere in the region of 20.
Not a single new MP was delivered, which begs the question why isn’t the SNP seen as a credible force at the ‘big boys house’ of Westminster?
Cameron was blunt when he said:
"It's very unfair on the Scottish people themselves, who don't really know when this question is going to be asked, what the question is going to be, who's responsible for asking it. We owe the Scottish people something that is fair, legal and decisive."
At present, the SNP think they are playing a carefully crafted game by saying: ‘we aren’t telling you when we are having the referendum’.
Personally, I don’t think this is clever, if they had gone with my date of June 2014 then everyone would be better off and Cameron wouldn’t have oxygen to threaten.
There are many in the SNP who need to learn that there is a difference to being clever and thinking you’re clever.
I would suspect that Cameron’s threat is laying the ground work for what will be a series of future legal challenges on the question and other aspects of the referendum by others.
And we should not forget that Westminster, as the constitutional authority are the only people who can hold a legally binding poll but Westminster has the power to alter the Scotland Bill to allow such a referendum to take place.
That may come with a time limit because the unionists know no party has finite resources or personnel available for an active campaign.
There might be a majority in Holyrood for the SNP, but in Westminster it is 6 in a sea of 650.
So,we should name the day and start to close down avenues, it is called being proactive to solve problems before they occur.
Proper planning prevents piss poor performance.
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University