There’s been much speculation about what shape the referendum question will take, if and when Alex finally gets round to asking it.

And it’s assumed that we’ll be asked not only about independence (and a convoluted question at that, aimed at prompting the “right” answer) but also about “Independence Lite” or “Devolution Max” or “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Independence” or whatever we’re calling it now.

Yet Labour, in partnership with the other Unionist parties, have already agreed and secured more powers for Holyrood – through the Calman Commission and the new Scotland Bill – without the need for a referendum. So why can’t Alex do the same? He’s never appeared reluctant in this regard before.

So, here’s Question No.3 in the series of Questions to which the answer is “Er…”:

Why does Alex Salmond think he needs a referendum before he can negotiate more powers for Holyrood?

I’m sure all the regular nationalist readers can hit the pause button on Braveheart for long enough to answer this one in the comments thread.

Got a question which you suspect our nationalist overlords would rather not be asked? Email your suggestion to

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40 thoughts on “Why do you need a referendum, Alex?

  1. Since your moderation is tighter than the security around Buck hoose as Sophie told your candidate in Inverclyde ‘lecture or learn’ you obviously are still stuck in the same groove.

  2. Well, I’ve dragged myself away from Braveheart, it was difficult but anything to help.
    A lot of this depends on whether you believe that any real power is being transferred in the Scotland Bill. It seems to us that the aim of the Scotland Bill is to make the government more accountable without conceding any real economic power. Basically we’ve gained the power to borrow, a power which local authorities already have, we haven’t gained any power over income tax, we’re just being forced to use ones we already had. It looks very unlikely that we will be given anything else we’ve asked for.
    The scrutinising process both in Holyrood and also now in Westminster seems ineffective to us and we believe that our points were not taken at all seriously due to the make up of the committees. Did either committee really investigate the possible deflationary bias inherent within the Bill?
    You also have to remember that the Calman Commission specifically ruled out any discussion of Independence, it was the elephant in the room which no-one was allowed to speak of. How. prey tell, were we supposed to negotiate from that position?

  3. ‘“I Can’t Believe It’s Not Independence” or whatever we’re calling it now.’
    Apparently given latest Road to Damascus conversions from the likes of Lord Reid (recently declined to be heid yin of Scotland is British campaign);Lord Foulkes & Eric Joyce scottish Labour is calling it Federalism:) Do make up your
    mind chaps nobody has any idea where Labour stands here – ranging from
    the Wendy/Gray yes/no/yes/no/ pantomime that could not decide whether Scottish Labour willing to let the people say, to now rabid Federalism that puts the supposed federal party LibDems to shame.

    Do make a decision chaps then perhaps, just perhaps people will have some idea what Scottish Labour stands for in regard to Scotlands constitutional position.

  4. Rob Roy’s the better film. Even us silly Nats know that.

    “Labour, in partnership with the other Unionist parties” – Labour is in open partnership with the Tories now? That’s good to know. Not a surprise to anyone, of course, at this stage of the game, but still very interesting.

    “… have already agreed and secured more powers for Holyrood – through the Calman Commission and the new Scotland Bill – without the need for a referendum. So why can’t Alex do the same? He’s never appeared reluctant in this regard before.”

    The powers granted are not enough, and will never be enough. They are a series of stepping stones towards full independence. It’s not a secret.

  5. Why is Labour so worried about how the referendum question(s) are worded if they are so convinced only 30% of Scots will vote Yes?

  6. One more Scottish Labour MP view to add to the Kaleidoscopic pick&mix policy on Scottish Labour’s Scotland constitution. Tom Harris, one of few Scottish Labour MPs I respect, told me yesterday that most Scottish Labour MPs couldn’t care less between status quo and federalism. So we have the Status Quo wing;the Federal Wing – how big are each of these wings and how many more wings does this proverbial flying pig have ?

  7. Why does Alex Salmond think he needs a referendum before he can negotiate more powers for Holyrood?

    Well simply he doesn’t. Is that not exactly what he was doing when he asked for more borrowing powers, the crown estate and corporation tax? Why? Because he got a very good result. In terms of independence obviously you need a referendum. Whatever the wording, everyone and their granny knows it’s about Independence. I actually thought that this website might be good for debate and it is. I’ve managed to have some discussion with my local MP Eric Joyce on another thread. I think that’s very good and truely hope the Scottish Labour party get their act together and stop attacking the SNP for the sake of it without any clear ideas of their own. There needs to be a good opposition. The Labour party probably still are the natural party of Scotland but I hate to see it transcend into the party of unionism and petty Bravheart comments add nothing. Why does it seem that to be a new Labour supporter (i.e. young people) you have to be a unionist these days? Why can’t someone have Labour values but also think that it would be easier achieved in an independent or at least heavily empowered Scotland? Surely Labour values transcend both in an independent Scotland and the United Kingdom. I currently live in Madrid and do not subscribe to petty parochialism and national triumphalism but I do believe in a stronger voice for Scotland on the world stage. Scottish Labour should be trying to continue their past traditions of doing that.

  8. Alex

    Just wants to split the vote up in the hope this will reduce the anti-Independence bias throughout the entire length,breadth and depth from the very top to the very bottom of Scottish society.
    A fact Which every reputable indicator has shown for the last 300+years and is
    ignored distorted and denied by the legions of the cybernats.

    The truth is the snp Government could with their fluke majority quite constitutionally and legally proceed to negotiate for Independence and hold an election to find if the Scottish people accept the outcome if they had the ‘Balls’

  9. Petty headlines that do nothing for the public face of Labour should be avoided at all costs don’t you think.

    The Scottish voter detests negativity, Labour exudes negativity, ergo rejection at the polls

    Change the record or face oblivion.

  10. Question was “Why does Alex Salmond think he needs a referendum before he can negotiate more powers for Holyrood?”
    Because that is what the Scottish Government said it would do. It really is as simple as that. The electorate understood this and judging by the result warmed to the idea. It should also be remembered that in the very few polls conducted on the topic, a huge majority of the electorate want to be asked their views on the constitutional question. The real question is why would any democrat be opposed to a referendum on such an important matter? There does seem to be an appetite for change, now whether that is independence, Fiscal Autonomy or something else is surely for the people to decide. So lets have the debate, lets ask the people after all it is their decision to make.

  11. Alex Salmond needs the promise of a rerefendum to keep his party from fragmenting.

    Without the prospect of “independence”, they’re just a bunch of disparate reactionary romantics, revolutionary socialists (same class actually, come to think of it), frustrated Tories, oppositionists, hangers-on and camp-followers with nothing in common except a lack any real idea of where we go after “independence”.

    And since he always needs the promise of a referendum, he’ll never actually have one….

    1. Whether you like it or not, the SNP will give us a referendum on the pertinent options available for the Scottish people and that includes choosing between independence, FFA and keeping the current status quo. Given the fact that the SNP won a commanding majority it’s extremely unlikely that the status quo will remain after the referendum as there is obviously a strong desire among Scottish people for change. That is why even among your own party there have been several calling for Labour to cement policies for a form of federalism. Times are changing and Labour must accept and adapt. It’s up to the electorate what path Scotland will take and the onus is on all political parties to listen and carry out the wishes of Scots voters. Politicians work for the people, not the other way round.

      1. “It’s up to the electorate what path Scotland will take”

        Does that mean you will accept their will if they reject full independence?

        1. Of course I will, we live in a democracy and the referendum is needed to ascertain the true wishes of the Scottish people. Will you accept it if we do choose full independence or FFA? The days of the status quo are all but over, of that I am 100% certain.

          1. Please tell your MSPs then. Some of them are under the impression that you will keep on having referendums – one of them told me “until we get the right answer”.

    2. Well he probably wouldn’t have a referendum, Alex, if he thought it would be gerrymandered as per your wishes on your inaptly named Braveheart blog

  12. @ John Ruddy

    Independence is inevitable, it’s only a question of whether we take the longer route via FFA or give a straightforward Yes to the referendum. The majority of economists even among the Unionists agree on that. When we were offered devolution or status quo, 75% chose devolution. When we were asked to vote on May 5th, we chose the SNP to lead us forward, either with FFA or as an independent nation. We did not vote for the status quo that the current form of devolution stands for, if that had been the settled will then we’d have a Labour government in Holyrood.

    1. Nothing is ineveitable.
      So you are now saying that despite what you claimed that you would accept the will of the people in a referendum if they said no, you WOULD keep on having referendums? Until the people realise its inevitable?

      1. I accepted devolution but viewed it as a step towards independence, I will accept FFA if that’s the result of the referendum and will still view it as another step towards independence. When I say independence is inevitable I do not say that it will be as a result of the referendum (although it very well could happen that way) but once the people of Scotland see the benefits of FFA they will not hesitate to vote for independence as the natural progression. Devolution started the road to independence and there’s no turning back now.

        1. So are you saying that you will keep on having referendums? Presumably once you get independence you will stop having referendums and claim “that is the settled will of the Scottish people”!!

          1. I’ve never heard of any nation that chose to go backwards after achieving independence, have you? Many have left UK/Commonwealth and none have ever regretted it. 🙂

          2. What we are saying is that we are relaxed about independence, it may not happen at the referendum but devolution started the ball rolling, the momentum is there and it will eventually happen.
            The present situation is unsustainable and no-one wants to go back to the old ways (well, maybe the tories do).
            Incidentally, if we do not take the majority of our fellow Scots with us then independence makes no sense, so we are prepared to wait.

          3. @Snowthistle,
            My point is that some of your elected representatives (and caledonian67 since he hasnt clearly answered my question) seems to want referendums every 5 years until you get the right answer.

            The reason this concerns me is what happened to Quebec – the Paris Quebecois kept on having referendums about leaving Canada, and it had a effect on Business confidence and jobs.

          4. Slight (vast!) difference being that Quebec was a French colony within Canada and was never a country in it’s own right. Scotland however was a fully unified and independent country for 1,100 years prior to the Treaty of Union in 1707.

            As for the referendum destabilising the Scottish economy, have you not been keeping up with all the new investment from foreign nations in Scotland? Spain, Japan and China etc don’t seem to be worried. 🙂

          5. Caledonia,
            Yes theres a difference between Quebec and Scotland, but the point remains that a continual series of referendums damaged business confidence. The Bank of Quebec, for instance even moved its HQ from Montreal to Toronto! Yes there doesnt seem to have been a problem up to now – but then theres never been a serious possibility of a referendum up to now, has there? Nor has there been the threat of continual referendums until the “right answer” is given?

            Oh and by the way, Scotland hasnt been a fully unified and independent country for 1100 years prior to the treaty of Union. Lothian for instance was only ceded to the Scots by England in 1018 – less than 600 years previously.

          6. Pakistan left the Commonwealth in 1972 and rejoined in 1989. So clearly it regretted leaving. Also South Africa left in 1961 and rejoined in 1994. In fact the only countries that have left and not returned are Ireland and Zimbabwe.

            Incidentally Mozambique joined in 1995 despite no connection with the UK or its empire having been a Portuguese colony, similarly Rawanda joined in 2009 and that was an ex-Belgian colony.

            So not only have as mamy members gone backwards as you put it and re-joined as have left but two countries have joined with no connection to the UK at all. So I don’t think the Commonwealth is a good exemplar for your point.

      2. Sorry John,

        Are you saying there shouldn’t be future referendums?

        If it’s a no vote this time.

        My nephews won’t get to vote on it in 9 years when they can vote if they want one.

        My son if his generation wanted too couldn’t vote on it in 17 years when he is old enough to vote.

        Some democracy.

        1. I didnt say there shouldnt be future referendums – but a constant stream of referendums would be bad. Perhaps a commitment to not having one say for 20 years? After all, the referndum in 2014 will be 20 years after the last constitutional convention, and that seems about right.

          I only ask because there seems to be some confusion, with some SNP supporters saying there wont be a neverendum, and others saying there has to be one every 5 years. Even the First Minister has been vague on this.

          I’m just after some clarity.

          1. John, firstly I’m not a “he”, I’m a 44 year old mother who had to fight tooth and nail to get her younger son the education he needed due to his disabilities. Back in 1998 my son was 4 years old and there was no provision in Forfar for Primary School Special Needs pupils other than an autistic base at Langlands School. My son, who is not autistic spectrum was to be put in that school, which was not equipped for his needs. I took on the local authority only to be told that I needed the (then) Scottish Executive’s (Labour dominated) permission to send him to Lochside Primary in Montrose, which has a fabulous Support for Learning Base. I had difficulties in even obtaining the Parent Pupil Charter and was finally sent a full copy after threatening to take my case to The Courier. Once I had it, I was dismayed to find that it did not allow children to have the best education for their needs provided by the local education authorities across Scotland and there was no precedent to send pupils from Forfar to Montrose even though they are in same county, yet I could have sent my son to be educated cross boundary in King’s Park School Dundee. I gathered support via my son’s Special Needs Nursery at Townhead Brechin (funny how he was allowed to attend Brechin but not Montrose), the educational psychologists, speech therapist dept and Dr Kami Annand (Child Medical Officer) and also the staff of Lochside’s base. With their help I set a precedent and won the right for my son to attend Lochside and for all costs incurred to be met by local authority. In 1999 there was an amendment made to the Charter because of my efforts and that’s helped thousands of children and their families all over Scotland. Please stop trying to be patronising and start addressing the real needs of the people of Angus instead of complaining about the SNP’s referendum.

            Perhaps now I’ve shared a little more about myself, you will begin to understand why I stopped supporting Labour and have turned to the only party which will bring about the changes necessary for Scotland to thrive without having to bow to Westminster’s will and beg for every scrap they grudgingly give us.

          2. I’m sorry if I misrepresented your sex – your have to admit its not as obvious what sex you based on your name are as against my name!

            I agree that the circumstance you describe are very poor, and I would have expected greater support from the local authorority to provide suitable SEN support in every burgh in Angus, and if that were not to be possible, to provide free transport to where it is available. I am at a loss as to why you needed the permission of the Scottish executive to send him to Lochside, as this decision was surely one best taken locally, and in conjunction with you. You would certainly have had my support in your campaign – regardless of whether it was a Labour Government or an SNP council.

            I assure you that I am not trying to be patronising, and I’m sorry if I come across as such – and I am not complaing about the referendum. My concern is at continued uncertainty that could be caused by continual referendums. This will only harm the prospects for jobs and growth in our economy. Have we not had nothing but talk about independence and the referendum since the election? Are we to have a 3 year referndum campaign dominating Government every 5 years? Seemingly confused messages have come out of the SNP, with some saying no, and others saying yes.

          3. I believe you live in Montrose, John? If so and you truly wish to help the people of Angus who require SEN support, it would be an idea if you visited the base at Lochside to see the amazing work they do with the children and press our local authority to provide the same model of SEN services in one Primary School in each Angus town as there is a very real need for this. The staff of the SLB there will welcome you and be very happy to show you what can be achieved to bring the very best education tailored to each child’s individual needs. They cater for a wide spectrum of disabilities and without them my son would not now be in mainstream 6th year at Forfar Academy studying for his highers (he has a scribe to help with written work supplied by the base there). This region is crying out for better support for pupils with learning and physical disabilities. Lochside is the only fully supported base of it’s kind in Angus, the children there are happy and eager to learn, they are not closed away from mainstream, they all take part in peer activities with their mainstream pupils up to the point of their individual abilities, it’s the best of both worlds educationally. Full base support plus integration with mainstream classes that builds confidence in the SEN pupils, while removing the issues caused by singling pupils out as “different” by forcing them to either be completely separated from mainstream or made a target for bullying by being accompanied in mainstream by a personal classroom assistant. That sort of set up increases these children’s isolation and encourages “normal” pupils to make fun of those who need more support. Lochside breaks down the stigma and should be emulated in every school.

            As for the issue of independence referendums in the future if this one fails to get a majority vote? It’s less than 2 months since the SNP’s resounding win and there have been many other issues to tackle. I feel sure that when Holyrood resumes after the summer, there will be more clarification on independence and what it means financially and constitutionally so people can begin to have reasoned debates instead of this endless bickering over hypothetical scenarios.

          4. Those facilities are the sort of start in life I’d like all children to have across Angus, and across Scotland. I’m glad that you’re son has achieved that, and I’m sorry that you had to fight against the system for it. Providing this type of education is something that I want us to work towards, and as I’ve said in the past, if that means we work with the SNP to achieve it, I havnt got a problem with it. Speaking purely personally, I dont think Angus Labour has achieved as much out of being in the ruling alliance as we should have done, and I wont be supporting it in the future. I want our councillors to be standing up for Labour values and the people who elected them, rather than spending most of their time implementing the policies of a different group of parties, all of whom have different values (and none).

            I hope that we can settle down to solving Scotlands problems in a constructive manner, and perhaps the recess at Holyrood has caused some of this endless speculation about independence, but it is dependent on the SNP Government to sort out this, as I beleive its only going to get worse, the closer we get to the referendum date.

          5. For John Ruddy: Far from Quebec being a grim (as you would see it) example of frequent referendums on independence it in fact meets almost exactly your limitation to occasional referendums.

            There have been only 2 referendums-1980 (lost by 20%) and 1995 (lost by 1%). No doubt they will have another one at some point.

            Perhaps you should insist on them having one in 2015, being 20 years since the last one 🙂

  13. Is this a serious question?

    The SNP believes a democratic mandate is required before any major constitutional changes take place.

    Other parties may believe the same, or not. That is up to them.

  14. People who like to be sneery by calling other people Bravehearts shouldn’t ask silly questions.

    Referendums are how we decide issues of constitutional importance. It’s a pretty global thing.

    Incidentally I see Henry McLeish has added his voice to those calling upon Labour to back FFA. He also cautions against sharing a platform with the Tories, it’s getting interesting now isn’t it.

  15. ‘The reason this concerns me is what happened to Quebec – the Paris Quebecois kept on having referendums about leaving Canada, and it had a effect on Business confidence and jobs.’

    Interesting comment, but even more interesting article from Iain MacWhirter as he actually visits Quebec and observes
    “Quebec has had decades of constitutional instability and thrived.”
    “The sovereignty movement has enlivened political debate here and ensured Quebec got the best possible economic deal from the federal government.”

    The SNP will fight tooth and nail to win an Independence referendum for freedom of our nation and fully expect to win, but if we lose will be just disappear and give up 🙂 Nope not a chance we will indeed try and try again until full freedom and equally of our nation is achieved , and of course like every other nation free’d from rule by the British we will never seek to return to its fold.

    Saor Alba

    1. And I have seen other studies which show that Quebec had 20% less inward investment than other provinces, and of course the Bank of Montreal moved to Toronto due to the Bloc Quebecois demand for independence!

      One thing that markets do not like is uncertainty. Perhaps the SNP should try to give them some certainty.

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