There is a parallel universe where the SNP respects democracy.
In this alternative world in 2014, post referendum, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged that two million people in Scotland had voted for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom and that the 10% winning margin — which meant 24% more people voted NO than YES — was clear and decisive.
To show their acceptance and heal the wounds of the divisive, “once-in-a-generation” referendum, three days after the referendum, they attended the service of reconciliation which the Church of Scotland had organised at St Giles Cathedral. Salmond and Sturgeon then returned to the Scottish parliament vowing to devote all their energies to the public services of Scotland, to demonstrate the competence of the SNP in government. They spend the next six years on ‘the day job’ improving Scotland’s health, education and economy.
And then, after the EU referendum, while professing disappointment at the result and declaring the belief that the UK had made a bad decision, Nicola Sturgeon pledged to do all in her power to help the UK government negotiate the best deal possible with the EU, for the benefit of the people of the UK and Scotland. With one important proviso: if Brexit turned out to be as disastrous as the SNP claimed, then she would consider another independence referendum after ten years had passed. Democratically sound and principled, this approach would, I’m sure, have been respected by many on the pro UK side of the debate.
But, alas, we must return to the real world. And we all know what really happened. The results of two referendums, disrespected and disputed by the SNP.
Let’s not forget that the Independence referendum was preceded by the Edinburgh Agreement between the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Government, which said:
The governments are agreed that the referendum should:
- have a clear legal base;
- be legislated for by the Scottish Parliament;
- be conducted so as to command the confidence of parliaments, government and people; and
- deliver a fair test and decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland and a result that everyone will respect
A result that everyone will respect. This most serious agreement, with the potential for the break up of Great Britain and the United Kingdom, was signed by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, and Michael Moore, Secretary of State for Scotland and Alex Salmond, the leader of the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon, deputy leader of the SNP.
But the signatures of Sturgeon and Salmond on this historic agreement meant nothing. They did not respect the result. They did not respect democracy. They began, almost immediately, to campaign for a second referendum. They have never let up on their divisive quest for separation, that continues even now, six years on.
The SNP also behaved badly after the EU referendum. After making little effort to actually campaign to remain in the EU — the SNP spent more on a by-election on Shetland than the EU referendum — the SNP responded to the vote by complaining ad nauseum that Scotland had been “dragged out of the EU against its will”.
But Scotland was not on the ballot paper. The vote was whether the UK should remain in or leave the EU. And the majority of people in the UK voted to leave the EU. For the sake of democracy this vote must be respected.
Politicians in the western world love to trumpet their belief in democracy, but it is easy to approve of democracy when you are winning. The real test is when you lose a vote on an issue that you hold dear. And too many politicians have failed that test, in Scotland and the UK as a whole.
No political party has been as anti-democratic as the SNP. A 100% record disrespecting the results of our referendums. If politicians hand the decision on an issue to the people in a referendum then the politicians must abide by the decision of the people. It is as simple as that.
The SNP has debased respect for democracy in Scotland. If you do not believe me, then consider this: if Scotland is ever unfortunate enough to have to endure a second divisive independence referendum, and the vote is 55% to 45%, are you confident the result would be respected?
Dr Bruce Halliday is a GP and a candidate for Alliance for Unity in the South of Scotland . Follow him @doonhamer1963
(Hint: If you need to check which side has won before you will respect the vote then you’ve proved my point.)