Scottish independence referendum can revitalise political debate

By staff writers
25 Jan 2012

Scottish Greens, the SNP and civic groups have welcomed the publication of the independence referendum consultation in Scotland, announced by First Minister Alex Salmond.

Supporters of the referendum are calling for the coming months of civic debate to act as testbed for a more inclusive way of doing politics in Scotland.

Yesterday Mr Salmond gave the Hugo Young lecture in London, in memory of one of Britain's most distinguished political journalists, in which he set out the case for a self-governing Scotland and said that independence would be positive and good for England as well as the Scots.

A renewed, independent Scotland could and should be a "beacon of progressive values", said Mr Salmond - stressing social solidarity, health and welfare, economic partnership, environmental action and the rejection of nuclear weapons.

He also cheerfully weathered a withering and scornful interview by BBC TV Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman, who at one point sought to liken him to dictator Robert Mugabe.

Commentators have suggested that the aggression and disdain of the 'metropolitan elite' in London is only strengthening the case for independence campaigners, or those who favour a 'devo max' alternative to the presently restricted terms of devolution within the UK.

Greens have welcomed the role of the Electoral Commission in the independence process, and alongside the SNP have repeated their call for the UK Government to give ground and withdraw their opposition to allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the referendum.

Patrick Harvie MSP has also asked the First Minister to confirm that any negotiations regarding the transition to an independent Scotland would leave no room for a deal on Trident remaining in Scotland.

Mr Harvie, co-leader of the Green Party in Scotland, said: "I welcome this consultation and the opportunity for a genuine discussion on how, over the coming years, we can engage in an effective and fair way with all Scots on the future of our constitution and our democracy. Greens have a vision of a more radical democracy in Scotland, with far greater levels of discussion and decision making at community level. Our hope is that the debate over independence will spark a new enthusiasm for people taking control over the future of our country and our communities."

He continued: "The draft bill published today [25 January 2012] gives the Scottish Parliament a real chance to prove its ability to work constructively and design a referendum that is fair and decisive. I welcome the move to accept the oversight of the Electoral Commission by the Scottish Government. Now it's time for Westminster to give ground and allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote. Young adults of this age can be sent to war - how can it possibly be just to deny them a vote on what type of country theirs is in the world?"

He continued: "The First Minister is right to say that an independent Scotland could rid itself of the presence of nuclear weapons. But we need to go further: no Scottish Government, either before the referendum or after it, should be able to do a deal with the UK to retain Trident on our shores."

"There are many people who want to vote Yes, who came to support independence on the nuclear issue alone. We must not betray them by leaving the door open to nuclear weapons in Scotland. That door must be locked forever," concluded Mr Harvie.

[Ekk/3]

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