So after lots of huffing and puffing a bit of clarity about the proposed referendum on independence for Scotland. The UK government's offer to amend the current Scotland Act to give the Scottish Parliament the legal right to hold such a referendum is to be welcomed. Despite lots of claims from the SNP to the contrary there was always the likelihood, if not certainty, that any go it alone referendum would be challenged in the courts, with all that could mean in terms of delay. M'Learned friend, Lallands Peat Worrier has a very good and readable account of the potential legal difficulties here.
However the UK government has done itself no favours with its blatant attempt to attach strings to this offer. They just never seem to learn that the more they try to shackle Scots, the more Scots are likely to vote for independence. In any case Salmond has pretty much resolved the key issue by announcing that the referendum will take place in autumn 2014. A St Andrew's Day referendum anyone? It is hard to see the UK government going to the wall to try and force an earlier referendum. So it looks like Salmond and the SNP have got what they wanted. A legally binding and thus challenge proof referendum on more or less the date they wanted.
There will no doubt be a few more public wrangles about the fine details of the referendum - who will supervise the campaign and the count etc, but with a bit of luck we can all get down to debating the merits of the case for independence. Here I think the Unionists will find things rather more difficult than they expect. Already we have countless references to making the positive case for the UK, but, on examination there is never anything of substance. The most Unionists can come up with it seems is to hark back to the past and go on about how wonderful things were long ago. When it comes to the present or the future they have little of real substance to say. More on this in later posts.
One telling example of how rattled and worried the Unionists are is the suggestion that Scots living in the rest of the UK should be allowed to vote in the referendum. This raises all kinds of questions, for example why just Scots living in the UK? Why not Scots no matter where they live? This of course then raises the problematic of who can count as a Scot? The proponents of this idea can only justify this proposal on the basis of ethnicity or some kind of racial or national purity. Exactly the opposite of the kind of Scotland that those of us in favour of independence propose. Scotland is for those who live here and for those who in the future choose to live here. And the referendum will be decided by the people who are living in Scotland and registered to vote at the time of the referendum. Wherever they come from or whatever nationality they hold.