Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Nightmare Scenario

As I'm sure I've mentioned once or twice, I'm intending to vote Yes next month. However, it's worth noting that I wouldn't be too horrified if the result came back No - after all, we've kinda muddled along thus far, so I'm sure we'd kinda muddle on going forward. (Plus, it's worth noting that my reasons for voting Yes are largely driven by a rejection of part of the status quo, rather than a philosophical leaning towards change - not the stuff fanatics are made of.)

But, in the event of a No vote, there was one scenario that really worried me - the one where Westminster chooses to 'punish' Scotland for our having the temerity to ask the question. Such punishments might take the form of a stripping of powers from Holyrood, but would more likely take the form of serious cuts to the Scottish budget - primarily cloaked in a "reorganisation" of the Barnett Formula that determines that budget.

However, I wasn't too concerned about that. I did fully expect some sort of revised constitutional settlement to be put in place, granting a few more minor powers to Holyrood (there really isn't much more that it is practical to devolve), but specifically removing the right to conduct further referenda, thus removing any chance of a repeat. But as for the massive cuts suggested... no, I wasn't overly worried on that front. I had heard a couple of voices raise such possibilities, but they were generally out on the lunatic fringe of the debate.

Until today.

(The key bit, especially in the Telegraph piece, is about the desire to see cuts to Scottish public spending. The desire to not share the pound is another matter, and is both understandable and quite reasonable.)

It is unfortunately the case that the status quo isn't on offer in this referendum, and hasn't been for some time. Probably since the SNP won their majority at Holyrood, in fact. Now, though, it's looking much more like our choices are between the risks of independence and the certainty of punishment.


Captain Ric said...

I don't understand this argument at all. What on earth would the Westminster government get out of "punishing" Scotland for a no vote?

That would only solidify anti-Westminster sentiment and put in place the certainty of a future vote with a significantly increased chance of a yes. Even if you remove the powers from the Scottish parliament, public outrage could force it on Westminster.

They don't get anything out of it.

Furthermore, it's entirely without precedent. We've voted on independence before and afterwards both sides have been praised for the dignity with which they handled themselves and the sense of unity with which politics was resumed.

The precedent is for good relations to resume. Why would it be any different this time?

Steph/ven said...

It shouldn't be any different. And you're right that it doesn't make any sense to punish Scotland for having the vote, if it's been shown that the majority want to remain in the UK.

So when the topic has been mentioned before, it was safe enough to dismiss it as being from the lunatic fringe. However, when it comes from the Telegraph and the Guardian (and, incidentally, the Times as well), our supposed 'quality' newspapers, it becomes a bit more credible.

(That said, on the topic of the Independence Referendum, even our best media are shockingly, sometimes irrationally, poor.)

I don't know how likely this is to happen - as you say, it doesn't make any great sense. I do know that both the main parties are on record as wanting to replace the Barnett Formula with something else, which probably means less (because of austerity everywhere else). But how far they'd go... eh, I don't know.

Bottom line: as the headline says, that's my nightmare scenario.