Scotland faced with multiple referendums

John Osmond reports on advice given to the Welsh Government to make contingency plans for any outcome of the Scottish independence vote

An IWA/UK’s Changing Union exclusive video discussion with James Mitchell

Whatever the outcome of next September’s vote on Scottish independence the country faces future referendums in the years ahead, an informed observer said yesterday. Speaking at a seminar on Scotland’s future in the Senedd James Mitchell, Professor of Public Policy at Edinburgh University, said the word ‘Neverendum’ described what he was predicting.

In the event of a No vote, Scotland would likely be offered more powers for its Parliament, and if Wales set any precedent, that might entail a referendum. In any event within a few years it was likely that Scotland would participate in a British-wide referendum on EU membership. And if Britain as a whole voted in favour of that but Scotland didn’t that might precipitate another independence referendum within a matter of years. Professor Mitchell said he thought that it was likely Scotland would have another independence referendum by 2029 whatever happened.

Scotland’s Future


This is the first of a series of articles prompted by next year’s referendum on Scottish independence.

Tomorrow: Walter Humes, visiting professor of education at the University of Stirling, says there is likely to be only a few percentage points between the Yes and No camps

On Sunday: Stephen Noon, former senior policy adviser to Alex Salmond and now Chief Strategist with the  Yes Scotland campaign, envisages circumstances in which he might vote Labour or Liberal Democrat in an independent Scotland.



On the other hand, in the event of a Yes vote, the SNP Government had promised there would be a constitutional convention in Scotland to draw up a written Scottish constitution that would need to be approved in a further referendum.

Professor Mitchell said Wales faces major change whichever way the vote goes. “Carwyn Jones has put forward a vision of a different kind of United Kingdom, even in the event of No vote, advocating a federal perspective on future relationships, ” he observed, commenting that the First Minister’s call for a constitutional convention was gaining some traction. “Maybe we’re edging towards a federal political culture at the centre, a prospect that may be helped by a shift in generations in the personnel at Westminster.”

However, he warned against over-estimating the influence Wales could have. Referring to the First Minister’s recent speech in Edinburgh when he rejected the idea of an independent Scotland joining a currency union with the remainder of the UK, he said, “The idea that Wales could veto Scotland’s participating in the pound following independence is unrealistic.” He added that the reality was that very few politicians in either London or Edinburgh took much notice of Wales.

His advice was for the Welsh Government to adopt a position of what he called “purposeful opportunism”, saying, “Wales could be presented with opportunities in the event of a No vote. There’ll be a reluctance in London to offer unilateral concessions to Scotland. It would make it easier to make concessions if Wales was also on the receiving end.”

The key area for negotiations would be funding and the operation of the Barnett formula, which he conceded currently benefit Scotland at the expense of Wales. A Yes vote in Scotland would mean a rebalancing of the constitution of the rest of the UK, and an end to the formula. A substantial No vote might embolden Westminster to tackle the funding question without any fear of a Scottish backlash. On the other hand a Westminster government would be more cautious in the face of a narrow No vote.

Professor Mitchell reflected that until a few months ago he was pessimistic about the conduct of the referendum campaign in Scotland, believing that it would descend into a nightmare of an adversarial contest that would leave the essential issue of the country’s constitutional future unresolved. More recently, however, he begun to take a more optimistic view as a range of policy questions had found their way into the debate.

He gave two examples. One was the Scottish refugee Council that had taken raised the question of the position of people in the debate who were without the advantage of a settled citizenship status. Another was the coming together of the three Scottish island communities – Orkney, Shetland, and the Outer Hebrides – which had come together to put forward a collective set of demands in the context of the referendum.

In each case he said the issue raised were not concerns, bit they had, as he put it, insinuated them as a part of the referendum debate, albeit on the outer perimeter of mainstream vision.  He said the Welsh Government should take a lesson from these initiatives and insinuate its own interests in a similar way: “My advice to the Welsh Government is to make contingency plans for any outcome.”

John Osmond is Editor of ClickonWales.

9 thoughts on “Scotland faced with multiple referendums

  1. No matter what happens in the referendum, the UK will have changed forever.

    The Scots have shot themselves in the foot. And the head too. For never again will any Westminster government be able to allocate major infrastructure projects or critical public service operations to Scotland, unless such decisions can be quickly unwound or the investment recovered.

    This is the legacy of a few years of SNP rule. I don’t expect those of us in Wales to evr afford Plaid Cymru the opportunity to inflict similar damage.

  2. Can Scotland have a referendum to get back in the UK when they need to?
    Would England have a say or would England still be in existence?

  3. Scotland will say No next year, then they will say Yes to stay in the EU. That would mean a 2nd referendum and the electorate of Scotland would then realise that they have to break from London’s insularity. Ultimately, therefore, it could well be the visceral ranting of UKIP, with its crude form of English Nationalism, that forces the Scottish people to snap the Union. Wales will be no more than a moribund onlooker as the ideological divide between Scotland and England becomes the key area for debate. The only way that all of this could change is if Plaid Cymru became a truly radical party and started to talk openly about Welsh political autonomy…some chance!

  4. Yvonne,

    Whilst the UK Government remains a government for the whole of the UK, it is both morally, legally and expeditiously obliged to distribute infrastructure investment in the UK fairly and on objective terms, and will continue to be so obliged after a ‘no’ vote in the Scottish referendum. Or are you suggesting that, de facto and inherently, the UK Government is an English or ‘non-Scottish’ government and takes partisan decisions (and will take decisions in a ‘post-no future’) on that basis?

    I’m not saying you’re wrong, but it’s an interesting position for a unionist to adopt: accepting that the union government is inherently incapable of disinterested objectivity and therefore supporting the union more out of fear of the consequences of its subjectivity than belief in its inherent virtue. A little medieval perhaps?

    I think you’re a little ‘off-message’ for Better Together, but I respect your honesty.

  5. My heart bleeds for Evonne.

    The English actually having to be equal with inferior nations – Terrible!

    Next they’ll have to abolish slavery and give women the vote. Damn they did!!

    Never mind, just ignore it and pretend it never happened. Freedom and justice might go away. But not if I have anything to do with it!!!!

  6. Phil, I’m merely pointing out the realities of life. Fifty million plus voters in one country and five million in another ever increasingly loosly linked country. You think that makes for fair Investment objectives?

    Come on. This is a tough old world we are living in. If you chose to bite the hand that feeds don’t expect not to get bitten back. Why do you think Plaid Cymru has gone so quiet over recent years?

  7. The Scottish People will vote for independence. What total arrogance of the English and their quislings to declare Scotland will not survive with out London’s meddling, perhaps London intends to invade Malta,India and the U.S. to rescue them from independence.
    In due course Wales will become independent to. United Kingdom government of wales is a dismal failure. Look at the GVA figures, the health service, education, immigration control, foreign policy all dismal failures of London Government. We can no longer afford government by London. FREE WALES!

  8. Yvonne – you mean things like THIS could possibly happen now the Celtic fringe can no longer be regarded as a reliable part of the UK?

    Absolutely no truth in the rumour that this MoD College got moved from Wales to England so the MoD doesn’t have to worry about who might be in charge in a few years time! Or even so they don’t have to worry about extending the Day School Allowance (North Wales) scheme to some other part of Wales so the military staff can have their kids educated in English in private schools at taxpayers’ expense as they, quite rightly, can in 5 counties in North Wales…

    Nope – there can’t possibly be any disadvantages to running a government establishment outside England… You must be imagining it! And I’ll wake up in a minute…

    Mind you, after the NO vote Scotland will still be marginally less unattractive for government infrastructure than Wales. Whether HMG decides to reward the people of Scotland for voting NO will probably depend on the attitude of the Scottish nats in defeat. They can lose gracefully and fall on their claymores or they can lose-lose. I suspect the latter.

  9. Yvonne / John

    As I said, “interesting” positions to adopt if one is a true unionist. Arguing on the basis of fear of an English backlash will garner you short-term attention but long-term will undermine your argument on the inherent virtues of a union. Indeed you do so now, you just don’t realise you are.

    ‘Knowing the price of everything but not understanding the value of anything, etc.’

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