Monday, September 06, 2010

Unintended Consequences?

I see that Hamish Macdonnell is busy arguing in today's Hootsman that by making independence a key issue at the next election, the SNP risks scaring off those voters who backed the party last time but who didn't want a vote on full self-governance. Now, Hamish is a smart fellow, but by regurgitating the conventional wisdom on this point, he's in danger of missing a trick. A couple of tricks, even.

Here's why. Despite the perpetual spinning to the contrary from politicians and talking heads alike, a referendum on Independence is backed not just by those who want independence – it's also backed by those of other opinions who want to see the question put or who simply would like the right to choose. That's why support for a referendum commands heavy majority support, even if independence itself might not.

Now, the reason any bill won't pass right now is because the majority of unionist MSPs won't back a referendum, as it is their right to do. Yet the parties those same MSPs are elected on behalf of are prepared to back referendums on AV and on further powers for the Welsh assembly. It's impossible to argue for referendums on those matters but not independence without leaving yourself open to a charge of hypocrisy.

Even if you're agnostic on the referendum question, the contradiction is apparent. If you feel strongly enough about it, then that's a pretty good recruitment sergeant for the SNP. After all, what politician ever lost votes by making it clear they trusted the good sense of the voters to decide an issue for themselves? Or put it another way – what politician ever gained votes by telling voters that they should butt out of an issue and leave it all to the grown-ups to decide for them?

However, here's the killer for Hamish's argument. Through their entrenched opposition, might our unionist politicians not be making it easier for unionists to back an SNP government whom, the independence issue notwthstanding, they might actually hold in high regard?

Think about it. By going into the next election pledging to vote any referendum bill down, then any subsequent unionist backsliding on the issue notwithstanding, voters who don't want either independence or a referendum will almost certainly be spared the prospect. As such, they will be as free, if not freer than they were last time round to vote SNP, safe in the knowledge that the SNP won't be able to deliver a referendum alone.

Ah, the law of unintended consequences. Dontcha' just love it?

1 comment:

tris said...

Ha ha ha...

True.

A wee bit more thought would work wonders for some of our political "leaders".