Within the next year the Scottish Parliament will vote on the SNP’s Bill to hold a referendum on Scottish Independence. Barring any sudden change of heart by one of the other parties it is highly likely that the Parliament will swiftly dispose of these plans, but if it does pass then it is my contention that two referendums will be necessary.
Holding a referendum is a fairly recent addition to SNP policy. For decades the SNPs policy was that once they achieved a majority of MPs in Scotland they would treat that as a mandate to negotiate for Scottish independence. Once negotions had been concluded the settlement would then be put to the people in a referendum.
It remains the contention of the Scottish Government that this single referendum will be all that is required to satisfy the international community. However the fact remains that because of the nature of the devolution settlement the only question that could even be potentially competent for the Scottish Paliament to ask in a referendum is whether or not to negotiate a settlement with the UK Government.
However I contend that a second referendum will be necessary after the negotiations, because ultimately there remains the possibility the the Scottish government could negotiate a bad deal. By not having a decisive referendum after the negotiations, with the full final settlement laid before Scots voters, it could easily be said that the SNP Government have effectively been handed a blank cheque to pay any price for independence. Even after voting to negotiate for independence the Scottish people could decide that the price of independence is too high.
There is a significant body of precidence for this contention, most notably in Quebec. In their referendum in 1980 the Quebecian Governent sought a mandate to negotiate their independence in a referendum, which in the question explicitly stated that “any change in political status resulting from these negotiations will only be implemented with popular approval through another referendum”.
The SNP have misled the Scottish people and the international community about the legality of their plans. Without a second referendum any declaration of independence would be considered unilateral, and would put Scotland in the same place on the global stage as Kosovo. This, surely, demonstrates that the SNP’s plans are not thought-out, ill-advised and bad for Scotland.