A referendum works best when a straight forward …

Comment posted Scottish Referendum must ask us three questions by Richard Trail.

A referendum works best when a straight forward question is asked and a Yes/No answer expected. Adding extra questions may seem simple to the erudite edtitor of this website, but it will simple muddy the waters for the ordinary voter. Keep it simple.

Recent comments by Richard Trail

  • Sad loss of Councillor Al Reay
    I am stunned by this news. Al was talking to me the other night about how he had been up until 1am writing out the motion for the planning hearing in Helensburgh last week. That is how I remember him, hard working, never seeking the limelight, always courteous. He is a great losss to the community.
  • RIP Helensburgh town centre: Waitrose out of town location approved
    Your prognosis for the town centre is dire indeed. It is not one that is shared by many residents of the town. We may have been dazzled by the smooth talking salesmen from Waitrose and blind to the catastrophe which you suggest will befall the town. It is a pity that the clear sighted majority, which you claim exists, did not turn out in numbers at the hearing todaay, and tear the rose tinted glasses from our eyes.
    A more positive vision for the town is now that something is happening, we are getting a new food store for which the public have waited many years, a new pool and leisure centre is promised, the town square is to be revamped and the west esplanade is to be given a facelift. Surely there is something to celebrate in that.
  • Helensburgh retailers full of positivity – for town centre Waitrose
    The Hoskins proposal is for 2 buildings, one the leisure centre facing the water and the other facing Clyde Street for retail.
    So it appears that the only change that he needs to make is add a Waitrose sign on the retail unit.
    You are being a little disingenuous in saying there is a minority with a loud voice pulling the development to the wrong place. As a community councillor I was helping at their desk getting people to fill in an exit survey from teh consultation event. The survey result of 70% opposed to a big box supermarket on the pier head site was no surprise after hearing the comments of the public. The majority who you suggest favoured the pier head site voted with their feet and conspicuously failed to attend.
    It is unfortunate that the planning for this prime site appears to being rushed and I certainly agree that it would be beneficial if the exciting proposal by Gareth Hoskins could be given a fair hearing before irrevocable decisions are made.
  • Freeman challenge underlines management crisis at National Park
    The lavatorial arrangements are described as ‘profoundly unhygienic’ with no further explanation. I am left puzzled as to why this should be self evident. Is the location of the lavatory a key element in whether it is hygienic or not? Is it unhygienic for kitchen staff to be ‘outside’ in their whites? I just don’t get it.
    If it is these outside lavatories are known to be particularly dirty with inadequate washing facilities then that is cause for concern. But ‘profoundly unhygienic’ sounds over the top.
  • National Association of Small Schools backs SRSN as Russell confirms intent to legislate
    As the Labour spokesperson on Health issues in the last parliament, Jackie has an unenviable record. She fell in with the party line to oppose the proposal to bring in minimum pricing of alcolhol, despite it being almost universally recommended by those working in the field. There was an opportunity to support a piece of public health legislation to improve the lives of Scotland’s future generations. She chose to spurn that for petty party considerations. She also continues to denigrate the Vale of Leven Hospital though the Health Board have been persuaded to give it a positive future. It is hard to know what she stand for, easy to see what she is against.

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25 Responses to A referendum works best when a straight forward …

  1. This whole piece is complete and utter nonsense.

    Only an Independent Scotland can decide whether to remain in Europe or to negotiate withdrawal so the whole article is based on an unformed premise.

    Only an idiot would put a question about EU membership on a referendum on Scottish independence. It has nothing whatever to do with the independence or otherwise of Scotland.

    The notion that the EU would prevent the country with vitually all of its oil and gas, most of its fishing grounds and a command of the north Atlantic from remaining in the EU is absurd.

    Scottish independence would represent the breaking up of what was an equal union and both Scotland and the remaining
    UK would be in exactly the same legal position post Scottish independence.

    I’m perfectly confident that Scotland after independence is capable of prospering whether Scotland remains in EU or withdraws.

    In Scotland I find very little of the frenetic anti EU sentiment that is found in the bigotted little Englander,which owes much to blinkered English dislike of France and Germany.
    Significantly there is a queue of nations waiting to join the EU.

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    • There are probably as many bigoted Scots (at least as a percentage rather than actual number) with a blinkered dislike of England as there are bigoted Englishmen with a blinkered dislike for France and Germany.
      Discussions about independence are valuable and much required due to the complexity of the topic and the potential ramifications but any argument is devalued when unsubstantiated insults and generalisations are tagged on.

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  2. I should have mentioned that Alex Salmond has expressed his personal preference for Scotland to remain in the EU.
    That is also my preference.
    The economic problems in the Eurozone are not about the existence of the EU but about the failure of capitalism, about poor management of debt in several countries and our banking system which has plundered the common weal and are little different from the problems in the US. It is just as well the EU is able to act in union on these problems. UK debt situation is almost the same as Greece’s and much worse than Italy’s, for instance, but fortunately UK has massive revenues from oil to provide respite. However if the Eurozone goes down so does UK.

    The nations that make up the EU are all independent,co-operating freely, but thank goodness for the wise behaviour of Germany.

    The SNP position is that post independence the people of Scotland will be allowed to decide whether to remain in EU or seek withdrawal

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  3. My understanding was that Scotland would have a choice…and I haven’t seen anything to the contrary by the SNP.

    Perhaps we should concentrate efforts on realising Independence first.A difficult enough concept for many,without complicating matters,by introducing a “scary monster” to the debate.

    You have to ask yourselves a simple question…Does Scotland matter? and if the answer is YES then Independence is the only route to go.

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  4. The late Prof. Neil MacCormack devoted many hours to establishing the post independence situation vis a vis the EU. The fact is that the UK is already in the EU and post-independence its component parts, Scotland and England plus Wales, would have to negotiate their way OUT of it if they saw fit.

    I think the EU is a quite separate question which ought to be asked of the Scottish people once they’ve decided on independence. We have too many economic roots in the EU to yank the tree out without consequence and it would take careful planning to remove them safely.

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  5. For Dave McEwan Hill and Anne Baird:
    The EU ‘back then’ and the EU today and tomorrow are profoundly different things.

    Thinking, plans and arrangements that might have fitted for Scotland ‘back then’ will not wash in the EU’s today and tomorrow.

    This does not mean that some beneficial arrangement might not be possible but it would have to be a radical rethink in the light of changed circumstances and understanding – and it would have to be transparent.

    It is unnecessarily damaging to trap oneself – and one’s country – in out of date and out of touch thinking. ‘Events’ force change.

    The First Minister had clearly indicated that his personal preference was for EU membership. That was ‘back then’.

    He needs to to be able to stand that up today and tomorrow in the light of the way things are and not how they were – if he is to persuade others of the wisdom of that route in the light of the current crisis.

    We do not accept for one moment that Scotland would have to negotiate its way ‘out’ of the EU. It has no position to negotiate. By chance of the constitution of the UK, it has been included within the umbrella of UK membership,

    If the UK decided to leave, it would have to negotiate its exit and that exit would take the entire UK with it.

    If Scotland were independent, ‘back then’ when times were flush, it might have argued successfully for quick entry as a separate state. Not now.

    If the other two celtic fringe nations also left the UK, the plain fact is that England is the major economic power of the four by dint of size and could powerfully argue that it was the majority inheritor of the UK membership.

    If Scotland alone left the union, a tri-partite UK would simply carry on in EU membership – although in the coming order, outside the eurozone, it would be one of the much less significant satellite members and not a core member.

    It could not be more important to consider carefully the implications of this likely change. The inner circle of a new EU will be the decisions takers; and their decisions will simply be handed down to the satellites – who will not be included in a much smaller eurozone.

    If the France/Germany embryonic plan for this post-crisis eurozone and EU comes about, it is pipe dreaming to imagine that Scotland could be a member of the core group in the circumstances that would obtain – or that it would want to, given the tightening integration of fiscal political and legal management. There is no advantage in leaping from frying pan to fire.

    Being in the outer ring would give little protection in exchange for a lot of regulation and much unquestioning acceptance.

    And a last point of logic – again paying attention to the difference between then and now: there were indeed countries queing to join the EU and, formally, there still are.

    Whether that remains the case we have yet to see. Every state in and around the current EU, has a great deal of thinking to do.

    We maintain that it is imperative that the Scottish electorate know the Scottish government’s thinking and intentions on possible EU membership (and of what feasible sort) before they vote on independence.

    An independent Scotland would, of course, deal with its future as and when events occurred – but that is very different from avoiding the consideration now of a major issue we KNOW NOW we will have to come to a view on. And this is a matter that directly impacts on the notion of independence.

    If the Scottish Government refuses to inform the Scottish people on this crucial issue, discuss the options openly and poll opinion in the independence referendum, it would be offering an opaque wrapped package at the referendum.

    ‘Independence’ cannot simply be independence from ‘England’ and from the Sterling area. That would be an immature understanding of the nature of independence. And charging thoughtlessly into the folds of the EU as it has become would be proof that Scotland doesn’t believe it can stand on its own two feet.

    ‘Independence’ is never about choosing one master over another,is it?

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    • My comment had nothing to do with past or present, just the legal position.

      I have mixed feelings about the EU but recognise that there are strong existing links and companies and communities who depend on those. If we are to leave the EU we need to do it with careful planning having debated it properly and created support systems for the losers. I think that’s best done by a Scottish government that is able to evidence the running costs of Scotland. No-one will be in that position until independence is actually here.

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  6. Whilst I’ve obviously got an agenda having written a fun book on this subject, I recall a dinner conversation several years ago with total strangers who hailed from somewhere called Esher, somewhere in England. They were the usual faux posh people who all seem to have the same accent.(grinning in the knowledge a very good friend will read this)

    It is only now, having read the piece above, do I actually understand why I said what I said across the dinner table. Essentially, cutting across 90 minutes of polite dinner conversation:

    “Are you actually FOR an independent Scotland?”
    “Of course.”
    “Don’t you think Scotland will suffer outwith the UK?”
    “Of course. It’s going to be hellish, maybe even worse. But at least we get the chance to start again and do it right in the interests of our own country.”
    “And will you all speak Gaelic?”
    “It should be banned. It was never Scotland’s language and serves to confuse communication in a unified country, Plus english is an international language.”

    Whilst my little diatribe above may suggest I should be living in a tent at St Pauls Cathedral, the core suggestion from rather a few years ago (2008 & a grotty wee restaurant in Lochcarron) was that the writing was on the wall and we needed to start again.

    Events since tend to confirm the validity of the core conversation. Scotland needs to rewind and start again as do rather a few other countries.

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  7. This comment merely compounds the nonsense of the original article.
    Let me spell it out simply.
    The people of Scotland cannot make any decision about whether Scotland should stay in the EU until Scotland is independent.
    Until then this question is irrelevant.
    You appear to have some knowledge about what a future EU will be like. This will come as news to the actual EU which might not even exist next year – though I’m fairly sure it will survive largely despite this crisis.
    As we are not actually sure what our present government in London might be doing – or have to do – next month by what judgement do you imagine we can know what an independent Government in Scotland might think about the EU five years from now. This is childish stuff.
    And who’s to say whether Alex Salmond and/or the SNP will be in power five years from now
    Perhaps by then my opinion about the EU will have changed. I might prefer by then to be part of EFTA or the Nordic Council (in fact I’d rather be part of them right now than any a part of the sinking UK).
    As a matter of fact the Scottish economy is much better balanced than the economy of the UK as a whole which is now in unsustainable condition and which suffers from a southern end which is overpopulated, underpowered (critically now, importing power from both Scotand and France) hugely unproductive and overpaid. I don’t think the general pubic are quite aware of the problem we are actually in.
    Apart from Germany the economies in Europe doing best in the present crisis are the fleet footed smaller ones and it won’t do to mention Iceland unless it is also mentioned that it has a growth rate of over 6% at the moment. It of course kicked its partly British owned banks into touch and refused to saddle its people with their debts. Ireland too is experiencing fairly quick economic growth from a very difficult position indeed but both of these small countries had in fact less national debt per capita than UK suffers at the moment and both of them will have learned the lesson of not getting too closely tied up with the US and UK economies and banking.
    It is also worth noting that the Greek economy is in no worse a position that the UK’s and Italy is actually in a better condition but neither of them have the huge oil revenues that are presently supplying the collateral that is allowing us to borrow vast sums on a daily basis. At the moment oil is providing just over 20% of UK’s corporation tax (which is exactly why they can’t devolve corporation tax to the Scottish parliament – it would bankrupt UK).
    Any suggestion that we are advantaged by clinging onto this sinking UK ship is very debateable indeed. And the suggestion that we are assisted by being part of a big British economy but should think about getting out of a huge EU economy is contradictory.
    I suggest For Argyll should concentrate on providing news about Argyll (and Bute, as I am always reminded)

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    • For Dave McEwan Hill: You seem to be saying that the Scottish Government – unlike any other responsible government – does not (and indeed, should not) do advance planning and does not produce robust strategies to meet obvious potential eventualities? If this were so, who would vote for independence?

      Time teaches that those who evolve with change survive and those who cannot become extinct.

      The Scottish government, its thinking, advance planning, strategies and positioning, must evolve with this crisis. When we emerge from it, the way Europe works will be very different.

      If the eurozone survives in some form, the EU too will survive in some form but what is certain is that what the EU then is will, in practice, become much more the United States of Europe – with a single fiscal policy and with very much more integration not only financially but politically and legally. If it is to survive, it will have no other choice. What has accelerated the current crisis is the lack of such central and unified controls.

      And of course this means that being part of a united states of Europe – whatever it is actually called – requires loss of sovereignty.

      This is why it is imperative that the Scottish electorate know what is the planned relationship between an independent Scotland and Europe, both in the major hypothetical forms the EU might adopt and in a situation where the eurozone and the EU have gone.

      Because, in voting for independence, the assumed scenario is voting for sovereignty.

      If Scotland is likely to go on to cede that sovereignty, the electorate need to know that before they vote.
      And if the Scottish Government believes that Scotland cannot survive truly independently and would need to be in a bigger boy’s pocket, ceding its sovereignty as necessary for survival, then that has to be honestly made known before anyone votes in a referendum.

      Otherwise, by default, the referendum would be based on a false prospectus.

      And by the way, you seem also to be assuming that Argyll is unaffected by and uninterested in what happens to Scotland and in storms in the larger economy. While the antics of local government here often make one wonder what planet Argyll is on, the evidence of our audience size, as they need to be. suggests that Argyll folk are very connected up, as we all need to be.

      A last and necessary point of fact. It is naive in the extreme to say that the economy of Greece is ‘no worse’ than that of the UK and that Italy’s is better.
      The UK has a massive deficit, which is disguises by using the figure with the impact of the bank bailouts subtracted – but independent external agencies have been convinced by the austerity measures introduced and the country’s credit rating remains viable, with the interest on its debt standing at less than a third of the rate Italy is subject to.

      Italy, however, has debt of 120% of its GDP, and growing, It has barely any growth – 0.1%. It has been having to borrow substantially and regularly at around 7% interest rates, adding to the overall debt burden. As things stand this is not a survivable spiral.

      The world of money is fuelled by confidence and that confidence is based not only on figures but on more ephemeral but impactful matters like national attitudes, habits and character. Anyone can make mistakes, get caught up in an accident of another’s making and get into trouble – but the responsible will hunker down and work to sort it out. The UK is judged to be a responsible state where Greece is not and Italy is of serious concern.

      Debate is healthy, necessary and productive but it ought not to be debased by the skew of agendas outside the issue. It has to be well informed, open and honest. We have no agenda other than doing what we can to provide good information and analysis of matters of general concern and particularly on matters germane to major decision-taking.

      We work hard to provide this aspect of our service over a spectrum of issues. For example, there is the issue of fracking, with its almost inevitable toxic pollution of the water supply and SEPA’s go ahead for a fracking operation at Canonbie. There is the issue of carbon capture and storage which relates to the controversial proposal for Hunterston on the Clyde, now in the hands of the Scottish Government for a final decision after North Ayrshire Council’s objection. We had previously published serious research articles on these matters, at a level that no other media service in Scotland attempted.

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      • Currently Scotland has very little of sovereignty and has no seats on the EU table. With independence we will, whilst being junior partners, have gained an entitlement to speak which has been sorely lacking since the UK joined the EU. Hence, minor nations have derogations to suit their particular conditions and problems which Scotland has not obtained because UK ministers have no interest in arguing for them.

        Far from becoming more junior, Scotland would have gained the merit of its own wee seat at the table. Whether it wants to keep it is a matter that deserves its own dedicated debate.

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  8. Pingback: Big firms ‘scared to do business in uncertain Scotland’ – Scotsman | UK - iWooho.com

  9. A referendum works best when a straight forward question is asked and a Yes/No answer expected. Adding extra questions may seem simple to the erudite edtitor of this website, but it will simple muddy the waters for the ordinary voter. Keep it simple.

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  10. I in no way decry Newsroom’s dedication to provoking debate and thus welcome this article. However, I think it is very much a red herring, produced by conflating two quite separate issues: Scottish sovereignty and the future of the EU.

    Dave McEwan Hill is absolutely correct in his assessment of the situation. EU membership is entirely a matter for the UK Parliament and any alteration in our EU membership via a referendum could only be made by the UK population as a whole (there is of course an argument that this state of affairs also holds for a vote on Scottish independence but let’s ignore that for now!).

    If we Scots vote for independence in the Scottish Government’s referendum then this will change our position viz a viz the EU not a jot: our sovereignty will be just the same, no more or no less than it is right now so we do not need to consider the question of our membership of the EU at the same time we consider independence.

    With independence comes the ability for the Scots to consider their EU membership if we wish to do so and without reference to the rump states of the UK but not before.

    I think the SNP’s position on EU membership is very clear and has been since the early ’90s: the party has no intention of seeking to leave the EU on independence. I don’t think Mr Salmond needs to emphasise this any further. Any change in sovereignty in the future would require the approval of the Scottish parliament (and by definition the Scottish people). The mere fact that Scotland becomes a full member of the EU rather than just a region changes nothing in terms of our relative sovereignty.

    Of course, it may be that the EU becomes unattractive or even disintegrates and this may lead the Scots to decide to leave. Once we are independent that becomes our choice and our right. But let’s focus on independence first. We are at least two and a half years away from a vote (presuming no spoiler from Westminster) by which time the face of the EU will have changed and hopefully its future clearer. Until then, we Scots cannot actually do anything about the EU so we just have relax and focus on what we can change and improve.

    I have just finished editing a proposal for a very large EU research project involving 30 partners in about a dozen EU countries and costing millions of euros. I must confess to wondering as I worked my way through it whether the EU itself will be in any position to fund its Framework programmes in a year’s time and if this effort was in fact a complete waste of time. However, we have to work on the basis that things will become better while acknowledging they may become worse. To do anything else invites stagnation and makes predictions of failure self-fulfilling.

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  11. I would hope that Alex Salmond would pledge to have a referendum vote on staying in the EU, if the vote for independence was successful.

    Alex Salmond may of indicated that he see’s no reason to leave but should that not be down to the people of an independent Scotland to decide?

    With the way Europe appears to be heading, Scotland would simply be leaving one master to take up yet another life of servitude with a new one. Don’t see how we really gain with that one!

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      • Anne – Yes, but we aren’t fully integrated and the UK government has made it pretty clear that they would be unwilling to give up any more sovereignty to Europe.

        You know the way Europe is probably heading, Germany and France will do everything possible to ensure Europe becomes a ‘super nation’. Which it inevitably will, as it is the only way the ‘European Union’ can succeed.

        An independent Scotland would then need to decide if it wanted to leave Europe or become fully integrated.

        The SNP state they are currently happy being in Europe and favour full integration, in the EU’s current format. Would that still be the case if full integration meant giving up the one thing they have been fighting so long for, a truly independent Scotland.

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  12. In the context of the SNP it has always been the view that the Scottish people should decide on matters like the EU, the monarchy, immigration and a host of other things that will be changed by independence. The SNP may argue one way or another but it’s unlikely to simply impose its will on a resistant public. That’s how we got into the union in the first place!

    Independence will bring the opportunity to have those debates and make those decisions without the influence of UK politicians whose arguments are based on a different circumstance. The EU is not the sole issue to be settled and so I think it sensible to have these debates, one at a time, from the new context.

    The EU was demonised by Thatcher and has been blamed for many things that were actually the policies and actions of the UK government. It will take more than we few to really examine how intermeshed we are with the EU and whether we win or lose from being in it post-independence. Trying to do that as we unravel ourselves from the UK would, in my opinion, be too complex a job to do well. Once we’re independent, I may well be the first to argue that we’d be better out of the EU. I just don’t think the two things are bound together or should happen at the same time.

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  13. Anne – I’m not anti EU, I think it currently offers many more positives for Scotland than negatives. However I think most people would probably agree that there is a very high probability that the EU will be changing, quite dramatically, very shortly.

    I don’t think we will be able to avoid this debate as it will become inextricably linked with the referendum debate. With the current proposed timetable for a referendum and the pace at which Europe is moving, I think it is inevitable that they will both happen at about the same time.

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  14. Douglas – I agree with you entirely, unfortunately I don’t think we will even have had time to cut the cord, far less learn to walk, before a referendum on the EU is in place.

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  15. The question about remaining in the EU, like a few others like the monarchy and membership of Nato, only have any meaning AFTER Independence. Until then the Scots may have an opinion but have no power to choose.
    So the question is “Do we choose Independence?” – one thing. If we do then and only then do the other questions arise – to be answered in the circumstances and on the basis that they can be asked then – not now.
    Mark you, they will have to be asked!

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  16. I agree with Gerry F – we have to decide if we want to be independent first. Then, and only then, can we look at EU, EFTA, Nordic Council, NATO, etc. if they are still around by then…!

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