Arc of Prosperity

Scottish Independence within the EU – with a Scandinavian Slant


Westminster has ‘learned the lesson of Quebec’

Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael
Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael by Cabinet Office, on Flickr.

There’s an interesting wee interview with the Scottish Secretary in the Sunday Herald today:

Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael said September’s ballot will be a now or never moment for the Yes side […]

Rather than a “neverendum” — where a No vote only led to further ballots — he said a No vote could prove a so-called “neveragaindum”, in which the independence issue was permanently settled.

Carmichael said Westminster had learned the lesson of Quebec, where botched reforms led to a second ballot on independence 15 years after the Canadian province rejected the option.

In the interview, Carmichael does give the impression that he simply doesn’t think there will an appetite for another referendum because of demographic change and the impact of further devolution.

However, if further devolution ends up delivering a mixture of Devo Nano and a removal of some powers from the Scottish Parliament in return, and it becomes abundantly clear to a large majority of people in Scotland that they were lied to by the No side in the referendum campaign, it’s easy to imagine a huge majority for independence in 10-15 years’ time.

What does the bit about having learned the lesson of Quebec mean then? It sounds like a thinly veiled threat that Westminster will take steps to ensure another referendum becomes an impossibility. This could for instance involve changing the electoral system for Holyrood or enacting legislation to make independence referendums illegal.

I might be wrong, of course, and all Carmichael means is that the nice Westminster politicians will teach the Scots to love the Union after a No vote, but it sounds like an unnecessary risk to me.

I’ve heard people saying they think the referendum came a bit too early, and that they would have preferred waiting a few more years before voting for independence. They should heed Carmichael’s warning. This referendum is quite possibly the only chance we’ve got for a generation or more. Nobody should vote No to get independence in ten years’ time. Because No means No.

5 thoughts on “Westminster has ‘learned the lesson of Quebec’

  • “This referendum is quite possibly the only chance we’ve got for a generation or more”

    This referendum is definitely the only chance we’ve got for at least the lifetime of anyone alive today and possibly longer, because Westminster will introduce legislative change to make another referendum impossible. They thought they were on a certain winner when they vetoed the “more powers” option, but given current polling, they won’t take the risk of giving Scots another shot. Once bitten……

    Maybe when all the oil is gone and almost everyone in Scotland (and the North of England) has moved to the Great London city state because that’s where all the jobs are?

    • Nobody knows the future, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t do something to make a future referendum almost impossible. After all, they thought they have done that already by putting an electoral system in place for Holyrood that was designed to prevent one party from every getting an absolute majority.

  • I believe I posted previously that westminster, in the event of a No vote would legislate to make another vote impossible. I would say that is exactly what they are going to do. Plus give more powers to councils.

  • No one knows for certain but it will be at least 20 years, if not 50, before another indy referendum would be possible from my angle. Crucial time for Scotland. More exploring is needed on what the outcome of a “No” vote would be. What is the opportunity cost of “NO”?


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