No region of Scotland should be dragged out of Britain against its will

No region of Scotland should be dragged out of Britain against its will

by Michael Banks
article from Wednesday 25, November, 2020

THE 2014 INDYREF required only a Scotland-wide simple majority of valid votes cast.  If there were to be a repeat an IndyRef2 should, conversely, require a simple majority of the registered electorate.

In the 2014 IndyRef the only Scottish Parliament Electoral Region to vote "Yes" (for independence) was Glasgow.  For the record, the unitary authorities of Dundee, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire voted "Yes", but not their respective parliamentary regions as a whole, namely North East Scotland, Central Scotland and West Scotland.

If an IndyRef2 required only a Scotland-wide simple majority of valid votes cast, the Table shows that the swing required to achieve a Scotland-wide "Yes" vote is 5.3 per cent.  The swing required to achieve a "Yes" vote in each region (aside from Glasgow that voted "Yes" in 2014) spans from 0.4 per cent for Central Scotland to 9.5 per cent for Lothian.

Consequently, a 5.3 per cent swing would result in only a minority of regions (three) voting to leave, namely Glasgow, Central Scotland and West Scotland.  The majority of regions (five) will have voted to remain in the Union but would be “dragged out” the Union by the Scotland-wide simple majority of valid votes cast.  Hardly democratic. 

Graham Gudgin, in these pages, has suggested that for secession to be democratic, a majority of Scots must vote to leave.  He prays in aid the 1979 DevoRef that required a prescribed percentage of the registered electorate (40 per cent) to vote for devolution, to succeed.  Referendums are good for democracy.  Constitutional referendums should require a simple majority (50 per cent plus one) of the registered electorate to succeed.  The Table shows that in 2014 only 37.8 per cent of the registered electorate voted to leave the Union.

I champion the British Union while respecting the right of the people of a region to choose secession.  Politicians should accept that the lived experience of the people of a region carries greater significance than historical boundaries.  An IndyRef2 should require a simple majority of the registered electorate of a region, for that region to leave.  Regions voting to leave, whether or not contiguous, would form an independent nation.  Other regions would remain in the British Union and continue as a devolved home nation.  

In the 2016 EU referendum the SNP complained that Scotland did not vote to leave the EU but was “dragged out “of the EU by the UK-wide simple majority of valid votes.  The SNP can hardly fault the logic of an IndyRef2 where regions that do not vote to leave by a simple majority of their registered electorates would remain in the Union.

To avoid misunderstanding, the following six matters need to be made transparent.

The first is the nature of the offer.  The offer of an IndyRef2 on these terms is made on a "take it or leave it" basis; the terms of the 2014 IndyRef should not be resurrected.  

The second is the form of the question.  The IndyRef2 question should be adapted from the 2014 IndyRef question: “Should Scottish Parliament Electoral Regions form an independent nation?”.  A separatist who voted "Yes" (for independence) in the 2014 IndyRef, would vote "Yes" to the new question, assuming no change of mind.  

The third is to define the electorate.  Holders of British citizenship, aged 16 or over, on UK electoral roll and either resident in Scotland or born in Scotland (ie ex-pats).

The fourth is citizenship.  Citizens of independent Scotland would no longer hold British citizenship.  Citizens of independent Scotland would automatically become Scottish citizens.  They would no longer enjoy the health, employment and other benefits of the UK.  Scottish citizens would need to apply for British citizenship, permanent residence, or temporary visas under the rules applying to foreign nationals.

The fifth is devolution.  The regions voting to remain in the Union would continue to have a devolved parliament.  The Act enabling an IndyRef2 should provide for a parliamentary election for devolved Scotland to follow shortly afterwards.  That will enable citizens of devolved Scotland to elect a new coterie of MSPs, with many SNP MSPs having decamped to a newly formed parliament for independent Scotland.

The sixth is the EU.  For an IndyRef2 voters should be mindful that an independent Scotland will wish to join the EU.  Scotland's 2019-20 Current Budget Balance (including North Sea revenue) is -6.8 per cent of GDP.  To qualify for EU membership Scotland must have a deficit of -3 per cent or be subject to the Excessive Deficit Procedure that will impose higher taxes and/or lower public spending and potentially sanctions.

It is unlikely that the SNP would support such a manifestly democratic offer because it is unlikely that a simple majority of the registered electorate of any region will vote to leave the Union.  The Table shows that in 2014 only Glasgow, Central Scotland and West Scotland achieved 40 per cent or more of the registered electorate voting to leave.

If those three regions were each to achieve a simple majority of their registered electorates, who has the right to deny them independence?  The UK, including a devolved Scotland comprising the other five Scottish Parliament regions, will prosper in any event.

Michael Banks is a retired lawyer who specialised in company and commercial law. He was the Brexit Party PPC for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk in 2019.  Thereafter he formed the Vanguard Party to champion social conservatism and the Union and intends to stand on the regional list for South Scotland in 2021. 

Map by Spesh531, Nilfanion - CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35473912

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