The following press release has just come in from the SNP media team:
‘A commitment to allow overnight ballot counts in the Referendum Bill Committee’s Stage 1 Report has been welcomed by the SNP.
‘The report sets out the framework for next year’s referendum, including an endorsement by the committee of the approach taken in the Bill when it comes to the declaration of results, which allows local results to be made before the national result in counts conducted immediately after polls close.
‘The report also acknowledges the importance of information from both the Scottish Government and the UK Government post-referendum, encouraging further information from both Governments about the process that would be followed in the event of a Yes vote or a No vote – as recommended by the Electoral Commission.
‘While the Scottish Government is committed to providing voters with the information they need on a Yes vote and the opportunities of independence, with the publication White Paper in the autumn of this year, the UK Government has failed to provide voters with information on what a No vote will mean.
‘Commenting, Stuart McMillan, SNP MSP for West Scotland and member of the Scotland Bill Committee, said: “The SNP has long committed to making sure voters are as informed as possible, and this report indicates it should be no different when it comes to next year’s referendum.
“Allowing for overnight counts and announcing local results as they come in will ensure that the Scottish public remain informed up to the minute on the historic independence referendum.
“When it comes to post-referendum information, the SNP Government’s White Paper will provide a comprehensive blue print for an independent Scotland that will make clear what voters can expect when voting Yes. By contrast the UK government has failed to rise to the occasion and outline what a No vote would mean for people in Scotland. Their silence speaks volumes: a No vote is a vote for nothing.
“The SNP is championing a Yes vote through being as open and transparent with information as possible. Voters in next year’s referendum looking at the imbalance in information provided to them from both sides will see a compelling reason to vote Yes for an independent Scotland.
“We are providing people with the facts of what a Yes vote offers – the opportunity to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands and make our country a better place to live.” ‘
The White Paper
Stuart McMillan’s formal reassurance here that: ‘The SNP Government’s White Paper will provide a comprehensive blue print for an independent Scotland that will make clear what voters can expect when voting Yes’, is strong, unequivocal and is to be universally welcomed.
Those unsure how to vote absolutely need such robust detail.
Those intending to vote ‘No’ will be open to convincing financial, economic and operational detail of ‘what voters can expect when voting Yes’.
Those already intending to vote ‘Yes’ will be glad to have authoritative and resilient detail to support their intentions.
Nothing could be more important than this White Paper. One way or another, it will determine the vote.
We look forward to the publication of this crucial paper.
The overnight count
The overnight counting of ballots that the SNP are welcoming here is also to be universally welcomed. It is hard to imagine anyone living in Scotland – and many beyond it – not caring what the outcome of this vote is to be.
This decision will irrevocably determine the future of the country and no one should have to wait any longer than necessary to know what it is.
The sheer immediacy of overnight counts and declarations will help to underline the view of the electorate, whatever it should be.
A shot in the foot
It is a pity that this very positive announcement is marred by failure to rise above silly attempts at political points scoring.
Slamming the UK Government for not making a sales pitch to Scots is not a defensible position.
Since the wording of the ballot paper for the independence referendum was agreed by the SNP Government as being a single question only – ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ – the UK Government could be accused of illegitimate interventionism if it appeared to enter an auction.
There is no opportunity to vote for any alternative they might offer – and they would have no mandate from the UK Parliament for such offerings.
Moreover, since any offer could not be voted upon, there would be no leverage on delivery on promises made; and the UK Government would leave itself open to SNP predictions of likely political infidelity.
The only dignified thing the UK Government can do is to leave it to individual voters to weigh the relative cost/benefit balance of being in the Union – which, good or bad, they already know – against the cost/benefit balance of being independent, much of which, pending the publication of the White Paper, is speculative.
‘Openness and transparency of information’
The major hostage to fortune in this respect is the First Minster’s direct lie on the matter of having legal advice on EU membership for Scotland.
The First Minister, to all intent, IS the SNP, IS an independent Scotland.
This lie from this source could not have been more damaging to trust. The party cannot deny, defend or excuse it. They simply have to live with it – but it’s existence utterly undermines any claims like this one.
The only way the SNP can, with any credibility, be described, as it is above, as being: ‘as open and transparent with information as possible’ – is if one accepts that providing virtually no substantive detail whatsoever is ‘being open and transparent’.
It could be said to be such, of course, since it effectively commits itself to nothing and leaves a blank manifesto to be completed in the heads of every potential ‘Yes’ voter, imagining the sort of Scotland they would personally like to see.
The core issue is the economy, because without a strong economy, nothing else is possible, however desirable it may be.
The determining feature of whether the economy of an independent Scotland can succeed centres solely on the currency to be adopted.
With the Eurozone still in recession, facing more financial crises to come, with substantial knock-on economic impacts on member and non-member states, the UK will be in no position to risk its own economic recovery by permitting Scotland access to the Sterling zone without having draconian controls.
Those controls will leave an ‘independent’ Scotland wishing to use the pound – and, realistically, there is no viable alternative – with potentially less budgetary control than it has under the current devolved arrangements.
It is the lack of any robust detail to date that makes so many people hunger for the promised calibre of the White Paper.
If these promises are delivered, publication day will be a good one for the pro-independence lobby.