Throughout the Scottish referendum campaign, Labour leader Ed Miliband was conspicuous by his silence. His lack of leadership was notable. David Cameron took a low profile too, but he had an excuse – the Tories are toxic in Scotland and any high profile support from him for the Union would probably have put the last nail in its coffin.
Mr Miliband had no such excuse. He just took a back seat. And now, into the power vacuum at the top of the Labour party steps none other than Gordon Brown.
Mr Brown is now a mere backbencher. Yet here he is, setting the political agenda in Britain. I have said before that Mr Brown is more formidable than Tories give him credit for. Now it is his ideas that are driving the debate of today – where does the Union go from here.
Scottish referendum: Gordon Brown vows ‘powers will be delivered’
The article quotes Mr Brown as saying:
We will lock in today the promises that we have made.
Indeed, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, not to mention his own Labour party, are dancing to his tune.
Says the BBC:
A resolution has been signed by David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Mr Brown committing to a timetable of action including draft legislation for a new Scotland Bill by the end of January. The motion will be placed in the House of Commons on Monday.
Signed by the leaders of the three Establishment parties…and by Gordon Brown. In his capacity as what? The Clunking Fist in Chief?
The agenda being pushed by Mr Brown twists the result of the referendum into something it most definitely is not. That resolution
recognises that people across Scotland voted for a Union based on the pooling and sharing of resources and for the continuation of devolution inside the United Kingdom.
Really? Says who?
Early in the referendum campaign, Alex Salmond wanted three options on the ballot:
2. More devolution
3. The status quo.
David Cameron insisted on a simple yes/no to independence. Now that the Scots have voted “No” to option 1, that leaves the other two options. And yet that Commons resolution ignores option 3, and assumes that the Scots want more devolution.
That is mere supposition. Many of those who voted “No” may well in fact want the status quo. In fact some of them probably even want the current devolution rolled back.
Furthermore, of those who voted “Yes”, there will be some who do not want further devolution.
That indeed is my own position. I would have greatly preferred a “Yes” vote and independence for Scotland. Now that has been rejected, I believe that further devolution is the worst possible outcome.
Further devolution will ultimately lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom. It will lead to resentment in England and demands for an English parliament. It will lead to years of bitter wrangling and argument, and is a recipe for conflict in this island.
And yet it cannot be avoided. The breathtakingly rash promise made by the Establishment party leaders has seen to that. In the last days of the referendum campaign, terrified that they were about to lose, they declared that “No” would actually be a vote for more devolution. Alex Salmond’s “devo-max” option, which David Cameron had insisted on removing, had blundered back onto the ballot paper, replacing “No”.
This is a truly sorry mess, and absolutely is David Cameron’s fault. It is by far the biggest blunder he has made as Prime Minister.
How on earth can this now be resolved? If further devolution is granted, the English will demand parity. The British constitution will end up being ripped to pieces to try and satisfy the irreconcilable demands of both the Scottish and the English to govern themselves (because they are fundamentally different in the kind of country they want to live in) and yet be together (because they have been cowed by the Establishment into fearing independence).
A “Yes” vote would have been a smooth and happy way to Scottish independence. A “No” vote would have been a straightforward return to “business as usual”, and the salvation of the Union, at least for a few years. Because of that promise that “No” would actually mean a “half-Yes”, the Union has not been saved.
My prediction is that the promise that Mr Brown and his fellow travellers made will destroy the Union. By effectively removing the Unionist option from the ballot, they have condemned the Union they claim to love.
The further devolution will indeed lead to Scottish independence, but not in the smooth and happy way. There will be years of bitterness and argument, and then independence for Scotland.
The SNP are dejected and downhearted right now. They should not be. They have won. They will need to wait a little longer to see their success, but they have won. Alex Salmond, retiring as First Minister, will see independence for his country in his lifetime, and will have laid the foundations for it. I salute him.
He was helped along the way by the stupidity and venality of Messrs Cameron, Miliband and Clegg.