Lots of discussion about the future of the United Kingdom. Mr Alex Salmond tells us he believes that after 300 years, the UK should cease to exist. This is a very big issue for all the people of the UK, and its reassuring to me that we are now engaging with it seriously - and have decided to settle the question by asking the Scottish people whether they want to break from the UK. While I believe this is a matter of legitimate concern to all UK citizens, I accept that it will be decided by Scottish voters alone. Cannot see a practical way around that.
Personally, I do not mind much about the date of the referendum. My contrarian view of the world tells me that if its held in association with the 700th anniversary of Banockburn, it will look cynical, and backfire against those who played the 'cynicism' card. I also feel it should be held on the current voting register, and not extended to 16-18 year olds. Again, such a move would look cynical. But I do care about the question. Or rather that there should be just one question, involving two options. I do not believe in 'preferendums', which are usually advocated by those who are afraid to trust the people. "Do you want Scotland to withdraw from the United Kingdom, and become an independent state - Yes or No" ? That'll do. And the referendum should be binding. If the Scottish people do say Yes, immediate steps should be taken to give effect to the result. No idea what will be agreed, so at present, this is just my personal best guess.
Appeared on Sunday Supplement for a 10 minute chat about it with Paul Murphy this morning. Bethan seemed to want us to talk about the position of Wales, post a Yes vote. Since I do not believe there will be one, it was all a bit hypothetical. Must admit I find it difficult to consider seriously something that's not going to happen. Never been much good at 'What ifs'. Life's too short! But Paul did say he was in favour of an English Parliament - and regional assemblies. The only plus of this huge increase in the number of politicians is that they would be great job creation schemes! Actually, I don't support either of these developments. I simply do not believe its possible to have a workable 'federal UK' with one partner as dominant as would be England. Even if we were to have English MPs dealing with 'England only' issues on a Friday, I don't think it would work. (E.g. my constituents health issues are dealt with by the NHS in England). And regional assemblies would do nothing worthwhile - and both cost and confuse. But I see that the BBC has given Paul's comments a lot of coverage.
The Scottish Question is not new. What is new is that Scotland has a First Minister who wants to withdraw his country from the UK for the first time. And he's a charismatic politician, with an attractive way with words, who slides away from serious discussion like a tickled trout. But in England this 'cheekie chappie' image is beginning to look like smugness, and arrogance. The English are beginning to ask whether they really should be putting up with this - and that they might be better off without the Scots. The English are wrong about this. Alex Salmond will over-reach (he may have done already), and he will not be there for ever. I fully expect him to be replaced by someone who wants to work within the UK, so that together, the nations that make up the UK can continue to achieve more than if we travel down the path of separation.