I didn’t gloat when we won, I haven’t gloated in the year since and I’m certainly not going to gloat now.
The vast majority of people who voted in last year’s referendum did so with the best of intentions, because they truly believed that their preferred outcome was the right one, because they believed it was most likely to lead to the outcomes we all want – a decent society, a good life for our loved ones, a fair chance for our kids.
Yes, it’s tempting to focus on the twitter morons and rabid idiots on both sides who flood Facebook and comments sections, or even the rare occasions when these clowns get some fresh air with ensuing unwelcome results. But I still refuse to believe that these people are anything other than a distasteful, vocal minority – albeit a worryingly significant one.
When I woke on September 19th to confirmation that Scotland had voted No, my reaction was not glee at beating the Yes side, it was joy at what I believed to be the best outcome for Scotland, for the UK and, most importantly, for my kids. But in direct contrast to my joy, there was a Yes voter somewhere, dejected because they genuinely felt that the best outcome for their kids had been denied.
So no, I won’t gloat. But neither will I sit back and let the losing side dictate the terms of their defeat, let Alex Salmond tell me why I really voted No or let the SNP fabricate spurious claims to “prove” how scandalously we were lied to.
It is not uncommon of the SNP to tell everyone else what it is that they really think. From attempting to convince Scotland that people could only vote No if they were risk-averse, feart and duped by scaremongering, their logic has now regressed into telling us that we only voted No because we were fooled by promises of more powers and the infamous “Vow” – which of course has been broken, so they say.
This is a barely concealed attempt at generating grievance where none need exist, pretty much the SNP’s only possible tactic these days, as SNP MP Martyn Day openly admitted to in this interview.
It’s no secret that the SNP have one policy, one aim – independence. It’s also no secret they’ll continue to work towards that one aim despite last year’s defeat in a “once in a generation” referendum. To do this, they cannot admit the faults in their own campaign – that voters were skeptical about the Yes campaign’s fantastist economic claims; weren’t convinced by their duplicitous claims on oil, currency and the EU; and saw no basis in claims that the Union was bad for Scotland. To admit this would be to undermine the next independence campaign, something which must be avoided at all costs.
So to cover for their own faults, the SNP have instead jumped on the strawman offered them by Cameron, Miliband and Clegg in the infamous “Vow”. For me, the Vow was an unnecessary publicity stunt which did nothing more than summarise what the Better Together campaign had already said whilst offering the SNP a gift for stirring yet more resentment.
At the time, even the SNP agreed that “the Vow” was meaningless. Nicola Sturgeon:
Following the No camp’s last minute ‘vow’ on further powers – which fails to guarantee a single power that would come to Scotland – http://www.snp.org/media-centre/news/2014/sep/sturgeon-meaningless-offer-powers-falls-apart
Yet somehow, the SNP would now have us believe that the Vow was the decisive factor in their defeat, that if it hadn’t been for the “panicked last minute offer from Westminster parties” we’d have all reverted to our default position of voting Yes. And, of course, the Vow isn’t being met. We told you that already. It’s self-evident.
At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, SNP’s leader in the Commons, Angus Robertson, again used both of his questions to ask David Cameron about “The Vow”, claiming:
One year ago today, to the day, the Prime Minister made a Vow to the people of Scotland. Promises were made to deliver Home Rule and as-near-to-federalism-as-possible. However, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown now says that the UK Government is, and I quote, “falling short on the delivery of the recommendations of the Smith Commission on Scottish devolution”. When will the Prime Minister deliver on the promises that he made to the people of Scotland?
Classic SNP. Smudge a bunch of different topics in together, hope no-one notices and then claim it’s all Westminster’s fault.
“The Vow” didn’t offer Home Rule, federalism, devomax, Full Fiscal Autonomy, Full Financial Responsibility or anything else the SNP are trying to pretend it did. The Vow was simply a timetable for enacting legislation that would be drafted following a No vote; legislation which would be negotiated from the further devolution proposals announced by the Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Labour and Scottish LibDems on the 16th June 2014. Read it.
Tell me which part of that hasn’t been met. Quote the line.
You can’t and the reason is that what little detail it contains is being delivered. There are only two tangible promises in the Vow: that the process for delivering new powers will start on 19th September and that the “Barnett allocation of resources” will continue.
The former, and each step of the timetable mentioned in the first paragraph, were met:
- work to begin on the new legislation on 19 September, the day after the referendum.
- a “command paper” to be published by the present UK government setting out all the proposals by end of October.
- a white paper to be drawn up by the end of November after a period of consultation setting out the proposed powers
- a draft new law to be published for a new Scotland Act in January 2015.
And ironically, the only party who has been trying to prevent any implementation of “The Vow” is the SNP, introducing an amendment to the Scotland Bill for Full Fiscal Autonomy which would see the Barnett Formula scrapped.
So no, “The Vow” hasn’t been broken and to claim otherwise is just desperate.
And can we stop pretending that “The Vow” swung the result, or even had any sort of significant impact. As we know from the Edinburgh Uni research into voting behaviour in the referendum, less than 4% of people who voted No, less than 1.9% of total voters*, cited “more powers” as their reason for voting no – with no reference to what proportion of these people were in any way swayed by the Vow. And why would they? It hardly bloody said anything.
*thanks to Nial in the comments below who pointed out that my original text that “4% of voters cited more powers” was misleading and would more accurately be recorded as per my edit
Most people can probably stop reading here. Below, I’ve added responses to the two most common claims of “vow breaking” – around permanency and meeting Smith Commission recommendations.
First to the “permanency” argument – the Vow contains the words – “We are agreed that the Scottish Parliament is permanent…”, a phrase that is echoed in the very first clause of the proposed Scotland Bill.
The SNP then proposed an amendment by which the Scottish Parliament could only be abolished by means of a referendum. Quite why you’d need to define how you could abolish something “recognised as permanent” isn’t clear but there you go. This amendment was initially voted down but I see that it is back on the agenda today as David Cameron has indicated the Conservatives will introduce an amendment to change the wording.
The thing is that it doesn’t matter. No Parliament can bind its successors so it is technically impossible to make anything a “permanent part of the United Kingdom’s constitutional arrangements”. To claim that the vow is broken because your meaningless platitude is better than my meaningless platitude is just bizarre. Besides. The Law Society for Scotland were perfectly content with the original wording of the Bill…
This is nothing more than desperate attempt to generate grievance where there is none and if the SNP want to engage in ludicrous sophistry then it could be pointed out that “we are agreed that the Scottish Parliament” is a statement, not a promise.
And then there’s the general moan that the Scotland Bill doesn’t reflect the recommendations of the Smith Commission. Again, I could refer you to the Law Society of Scotland’s analysis which said “we welcome the introduction of the Scotland Bill into the House of Commons. It reflects the Smith Commission agreement and provides for further powers across a range of areas for the Scottish Parliament.”
I could point you in the direction of independence-supporter, constitutional lawyer and all-round decent sort Andrew Tickell when he ridicules the notion that there are “systematic vetoes” inherent in the Bill…
But then I could point you at the cross-party Holyrood committee which highlights some areas where the draft legislation does not meet “the spirit or substance” of the Smith Commission proposals. Ah, the naysayers bray, we told you so. But is this a “betrayal”? Is this “yet another example of the Westminster establishment screwing Scotland over”? No, of course it isn’t.
Read the actual findings of the committee, some examples:
I’m failing to see the great betrayal there (read the full report here). Some administrative concerns and a gripe that the wording may lead to confusion around the devolved scope. Is it just me or isn’t this the entire point of having the Bill scrutinised by Parliament through committees and various readings?
And this report from the House of Commons Library reaches the same conclusions, with the technicality of some wording on welfare devolution being the sole “substantive difference” between the Smith Commission proposals and the draft bill.
Don’t get me wrong, the failure to accept a single amendment to the Scotland Bill during the first and second readings was both wrong and bad politics. But let’s not forget that the SNP also voted against amendments, notably one from Labour seeking to create an independent commission to investigate the impact of Full Fiscal Autonomy on Scotland’s public finances… one wonders what possible motive 55 of the SNP MP’s could have in voting that one down, and alongside the Tories nonetheless.
It’s important to remember, though, that the law is not yet passed, amendments have already been made in committee and further amendments will be accepted before the Bill is actually passed. Perhaps we should wait until we see the final Act before passing judgement? Until then, though, I have to say that I’d be quite happy for the SNP to use their considerable political pressure to ensure that the Smith Commission proposals were kept. I just wish that they would do so in a manner which aimed at reaching a fair settlement on the Act, rather than using the law-making process to fabricate grievance on a political ideology we voted against last year.
But let’s assume the worst-case scenario and the highly unlikely event that the Scotland Bill leaves Parliament with no further amendments and no clarification to the wording used. Does anyone really consider that this would cause a material change in someone’s intention to vote? Is there one person in Scotland who thought “well I voted No because I was really keen on that ‘additionality’ clause in the welfare proposals but now it’s been missed, well I just feel betrayed”.
I mean, seriously, if you truly think that someone would change their mind based on such minutiae then I’d have to suggest that you’re looking for reasons to be outraged.
If you disagree, please feel free to quote to me the section of the Scotland Bill which you think undermines the Smith Commission, tell me what you think it should say instead and then argue, with a straight face, that this pedantry would make a single person in Scotland change how they voted in last year’s referendum.