|Headline: What can charitably be|
described as "bollocks"
Explosive stuff. Cue Twitter going into a frenzy with Nats expressing mock horror at the suggestion that the UK government would not respect the result of the referendum and that Westminster was being bullying and abrasive and backtracking on its commitment in the Edinburgh Agreement.
Except, uh, that's not what they actually said.
Here's the direct quote, contextualised, from later in the article:
"Dismissing the SNP Government's 18-month timescale for completing negotiations as "totally unrealistic", the source said: "A Yes vote in the referendum would be the start of a process, not the end of one; we would start negotiations. But if Alex Salmond made impossible demands, we would not just roll over and agree to everything he wanted. If we could not reach agreement, the status quo would be the default option."
The senior coalition figure said one such impossible demand would be the First Minister's threat, repeated yesterday, that Scotland would not pay its share of UK debt if it were denied a currency union by Whitehall.
"It would not be a question of denying the wishes of the Scottish people. As the UK Government, we would have a duty to represent the interests of the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland" the source said."
What is actually being said is not that the UK Government will deny Scotland independence even if it votes yes. Rather what is being said is that the mere fact that the SNP have indicated a preferred Independence Day in March 2016 is immaterial in the event that critical aspects of the independence settlement cannot be agreed within the 18-month timescale. Absent the implementation of a scheme (which remember will require primary legislation from Westminster) the position being maintained is that the status quo prevails until something else is agreed.
Observe that, far from reneging on the Edinburgh Agreement, what is actually being said is pointing out exactly what it is and what it is not that the UK Government has committed itself to. In signing the Edinburgh Agreement, they have accepted merely that the referendum result will be respected: Yes or No. They have not accepted the SNP government's preferred terms of settlement and timetable will be respected or anything of substance asserted by the White Paper, which both postdates the Edinburgh Agreement and is a set of political claims made by the SNP who does not always have the gift to claim them. They have not agreed to sign up to a currency union. They have not agreed to initiate an EU Art 48 amendment to secure Scottish EU membership. They have not agreed to implement Independence Day by March 2016.
The other important aspect is to emphasise that, in the event of a Yes vote, the UK Government does not just have the right, but the duty to protect the interests of the citizens of the rest of the UK. If they arrive at the considered opinion that a certain settlement is neither something they are legally obliged to do, nor is it in the interests of the people they represent, they are dutybound not to accede to those terms, even if it is something that would benefit Scotland. This is how sovereign states interact with one another in the real world.
This may be an unpleasant truth for some on the Yes side, but part of the point of sovereignty is the pursuit of national interest. We expect the SNP Government to negotiate in the interests of the Scottish people, not the UK as a whole. Why should we expect anything different of those on the other side? At the point where the UK is to cease to include the Scottish people, it should cease to be accountable to them too. A fair settlement does not mean that Scotland or its negotiatiors get to dictate the terms of independence. Politicians of soveriegn entities adopting hard-headed self-interested approaches on behalf of their citizens isn't "bullying"; it's precisely what independence means.
What has been said here is actually eminently sensible. It is not that "Yes does not mean Yes" as the Herald have shrilly and recklessly misrepresented it. That is a squalid and pathetic attempt at journalism. It is that Yes does not mean what Salmond says it means just because it's what he wants. It doesn't mean that if unreasonable demands like not taking debt absent a formal currency union are made, independence will happen anyway within the prescribed timescale. Yes means Scotland will become an independent state after a mutually agreeable settlement is legislated for by Westminster. Nothing more. Nothing less.