Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Clear question appears to scotch Scottish independence

  • Print

Should Scotland be an independent country or not?

In negotiations concluded on Oct. 15, Prime Minister David Cameron of Great Britain secured the single in-or-out question he wanted. But the choice facing Scottish voters in 2014, and the campaigns to influence them, will not be nearly as simple as the words on the ballot suggest.

John Curtice, an elections analyst at Strathclyde University, says Scots divide into three roughly equally sized camps. The first wants independence, and the second prefers the status quo. A final group, accounting for about 30 per cent of those polled, would like to stay in the union but also want more powers for Scotland. In effect, they are the swing voters. With two years to go until the referendum, the campaigns are already converging on them.

The separatist Scottish National Party will try to woo them by making independence seem trivial. The party has already underlined its enthusiasm for the queen, the BBC, the pound, the Bank of England's interest rates and British opt-outs from irksome European Union rules. Its leader, Alex Salmond, talks of a "social union" between England and a newly independent Scotland.

He will have a hard time convincing Scots he can deliver these things, though. Independent Scottish participation in sterling, EU opt-outs and the BBC are not, and will never be, his to give.

Unionists, meanwhile, are trying to convince Scots that voting "no" would result in a hefty dose of new powers. On signing the referendum agreement, Cameron called on Scots in favour of more devolution to vote to stay in the United Kingdom. Labour has launched a commission to draw up a new devolution package, which will report next year and advance a final set of proposals in 2014.

The Liberal Democrats already have proposed far-reaching changes, including a new federal structure for the entire union. Under their plan, Scotland would raise about two-thirds of the money it spends.

Jeremy Purvis, of the pressure group Devo Plus, hopes the unionist parties' proposals will coalesce in the run-up to the referendum. He'd like to see them present voters with a clear set of commitments, to be featured in all three main parties' manifestos for the 2015 election, showing that a vote against separation is not a vote for the status quo.

If that happens, much of the wind will be taken out of Salmond's sails. He may be a romantic Caledonian nationalist, but many SNP voters -- and even some party members -- would be perfectly satisfied with the advanced devolution proposed by the unionist parties. Nationalist hopes that a busy Scottish cultural calendar in 2014 and participation by voters as young as 16 will significantly boost the separatist turnout seem optimistic at best.

The referendum is therefore forcing the SNP to make concessions to the union, while pushing unionists toward further devolution. The gap between the visions set forth by the two sides, while roomy, is shrinking. It now concerns questions of identity -- citizenship, flags, titles, membership in international organizations -- more than retail politics.

Can Scotland be sufficiently independent within the United Kingdom? Unless Salmond can persuade the average voter that it cannot, the union is safe.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 22, 2012 A11

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Three injured in Sherbrook Street fire

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Water lilys are reflected in the pond at the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden Tuesday afternoon. Standup photo. Sept 11,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)
  • Challenges of Life- Goose Goslings jump over railway tracks to catch up to their parents at the Canadian Pacific Railway terminalon Keewatin St in Winnipeg Thursday morning. The young goslings seem to normally hatch in the truck yard a few weeks before others in town- Standup photo- ( Day 4 of Bryksa’s 30 day goose project) - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Do you think Doug McNeil is the right choice for CAO?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google