The SNP’s logic is flawed, says John Redwood. Leaving the EU single market is bad, and yet leaving the UK single market, which is four times bigger for Scotland’s trade, would be good…
I was pleased Mr Cameron gave the Scots a referendum on the future of Scotland in the UK. I sought assurances in the Commons that the SNP would accept the result, just as I and others who supported the Union agreed willingly to accept the result. The SNP made clear they thought it was a once in a generation opportunity. They said of course they would accept the verdict of the people. It is therefore disappointing that their Leader now thinks they need a second referendum in fewer than five years from the first one which they lost.
Her argument is that leaving the EU represents a major change in circumstances. Apparently leaving the EU single market would be bad news, yet leaving the UK single market which is four times bigger for Scotland’s trade would be good news. She wants a referendum before the UK has left the EU, based on a guess as to the final terms of any Agreement on our future relationship. It is difficult to see why this makes any sense. Surely if the departure from the EU is important, the SNP would wish to see it completed and see how the new Agreement works out before asking Scottish voters again to express their wishes on membership of the UK.
I trust the PM will explain that the Union Parliament will not grant a referendum all the time we are seeking to implement the results of the last on the EU. Polls indicate there is little demand in Scotland for a second referendum. There is more demand for the SNP to use the substantial powers they already have to govern Scotland better. A referendum on the future of Scotland in the Union is a matter for the Westminster Parliament. I would think it would be wise to review the matter after the next Scottish election. If the SNP has done well in that by standing on a ticket of wanting a second referendum then the UK will have to consider the request carefully.
I only want volunteers in our Union, and am glad we settle these things by referendum votes. I also think we need reasonable periods of constitutional stability between major referenda, so governments can use the powers they have got for the purpose intended: the improvement of public services and the pursuit of a more prosperous and decent society. The UK is a serious democratic country. Occasional referenda on big issues are part of that. Constant repeats of referenda would turn us into a debating society with government constantly diverted from the day job of governing well.