Sometimes you can’t help but feel sorry for the Lib Dems. There they are, devoting themselves to a career in politics only to discover that they are less relevant than Sydney Devine in a Lady Gaga soundalike contest. And then a Lib Dem goes and opens their mendacious gob, and immediately any residue of sympathy that you had for them goes the same way as the party’s reputation for telling the truth, flushed down the pan, never to return.
Wullie Rennie, the only Rennie on the planet who actually causes acid reflux, got the dung ball rolling a few days ago when he announced that the Lib Dems would vote down the next Scottish budget, even if they happen to agree with it. Lib Dem support for any future Scottish budget will be conditional on Nicola Sturgeon ruling out any prospect of another independence referendum forever. That’s a bit like another party announcing that they will vote down a Lib Dem budget unless the Lib Dems forget about the one policy that most defines them, seeking proportional representation for elections to the House of Commons. Because, entirely coincidentally and not in any sense a self-serving way, that will result in more Lib Dem MPs. A Lib Dem said so, and you can always rely on a Lib Dem to tell the truth. Especially when they make a solemn pledge on student tuition fees.
Well, OK, it’s not really like that at all, since Lib Dems don’t get to be in power anywhere, and when they do they’re happy to sell whatever principles they might have had for a couple of ministerial motors. But still, you can always imagine it. The power of the imagination is a mighty thing, more powerful than the Lib Dems’ electoral strength, more powerful than the truth that will set you free. Which is why the Lib Dems are prisoners of their past.
Anyway, never one to indulge himself in one load of acid burn sanctimonious claptrap when he could get two in for the price of one, Wullie at the same time demanded that the SNP get behind the Lib Dems’ call for another referendum on the EU. Because that’s totally different and not hypocritical at all. It’s only referendum results which the Lib Dems were on the losing side of that ought to be revisited. Everyone knows that. Or at least everyone that Wullie allows on his number 17 bus. It’s a condition of him selling you a ticket as your travel from Kelty to Cowdenbeath, you won’t be allowed on the bus unless you agree not use your trip to Cowdenbeath for promoting Scottish independence.
Not to be outdone, party leader Vince Cable announced today that if there’s to be a second Scottish independence referendum, which he’s opposed to, then that needs to be followed up with a third Scottish independence referendum if Yes wins because really what we’re playing here is best of three. After all, it would only be fair. No won once, yes will have won once, so there needs to be a third referendum as a decider. Insisting on a third referendum is in no way a contradiction to his impaccable opposition to having a second referendum. He can swallow that pile of guff, because he’s been overdosing on the Rennies.
What Vince is claiming is that if there’s a yes vote in a future independence referendum, then there needs to be a third vote on the outcome of any deal between Scotland and the rest of the UK. This in no way will act as an incentive for the British Government to approach independence negotiations in a vindictive, lying, and underhand manner. Oh no. Not at all. The fact that insisting on best of three gives the British Government a very strong incentive to play dirty and dishonestly during independence negotiations is entirely coincidental, as coincidental as proportional representation leading to a bigger number of Lib Dem MPs.
Let’s be honest here, Vince is not making this proposal out of a deep concern for democracy, he’s doing it in order to make Scottish independence more difficult to attain. But even on Vince’s own terms there is a big flaw in his plan. What Vince is overlooking here in his typically self-serving Lib Dem way is that the second Scottish independence referendum will already be a vote on the outcome of the deal that was delivered.
The next Scottish independence will be a referendum on the outcome of the deal that was promised to Scotland by the anti-independence parties on condition of a No vote in 2014. If Westminster had been honest, upfront, and sincere in the promises that it made to Scotland in 2014, and moreover had actually delivered on them after securing that No vote in 2014, then Scotland would not currently be discussing the prospect of another vote on the independence issue. So this second independence vote is already that referendum on the deal that Vince was proposing in his oh-so-clever-clever way as a wizzard wheeze to keep Scotland within the UK.
Vince doesn’t get a get out of jail free card on the lies, the deceit, and the outright contempt with which the Westminster parties treated Scotland in the aftermath of the September 2014 vote. He doesn’t get to pretend that it’s only the independence campaign and parties which have to be held to account on any deal that they can deliver, but the anti-independence parties get a free pass on theirs.
The Lib Dem leader asserts that the people need to have a confirmatory vote on the outcome of a referendum. Fine. That’s exactly what this second referendum is going to be. That’s precisely what independence supporters are asking for. This coming referendum on independence is a confirmatory vote on whether Scotland is going to accept what Westminster, what the Conservatives, what Labour, and what the Lib Dems, have delivered compared to what they promised us in 2014. Are we going to confirm or reject what Westminster has given, as opposed to what they told us they’d do.
This second Scottish independence referendum will take place precisely because Westminster has lied to us. If every promise had been kept, if every commitment had been delivered, there would be no pressure for another vote. This coming independence referendum is the confirmatory referendum on the deal that was delivered. Scotland is not going to give the Westminster establishment a third opportunity to lie to us again.
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