Does Alistair Darling believe in democracy or not?

lord-darlingBy Al Harron

As a member of the House of Lords, you would think Alistair Darling would be doing everything in his power to ensure Scotland’s democratic mandate was respected.

After all, he was adamant that the result of the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum be adhered to, and he acknowledged “the sovereign will of the Scottish people” in his second debate with Alex Salmond.

As such, you would think he would support the democratic choice of 62% of Scots to remain in the European Union – especially since he was so active in the Remain campaign, warning against the devastating impact leaving would have on mortgages, trade, and the economy:

“This assessment makes it clear our economy would be more vulnerable and less resilient if we vote to leave the EU; leading to higher mortgage rates for families and higher interest rates for Britain’s businesses.

“This is not a report Leave campaigners can simply dismiss as ‘biased’ or ‘scaremongering’. It is a serious piece of work that should make everyone think twice about irresponsibly gambling with people’s jobs and livelihoods.”

“It is clear from this report that Britain is stronger, safer and better off remaining a member of the EU.” 

Source here:

“Those wanting to leave the EU want to pull Britain out of the single market, which would mean introducing tariffs and barriers to our trade and putting billions of vital trade at risk,” Darling said.

“There is no trading arrangement outside the EU that gives us the free trade we rely on today. Leaving would put jobs, low prices and financial security at risk.”

Source here:

He even said he was more worried about the prospect of leaving the EU than he was during the onset of the Financial Crisis in 2006:

“We’ve got no Government, we’ve got no Opposition. The people who got us into this mess have run away – they’ve gone to ground and we now have a four month gap before we’re likely to get a new Prime Minister.”

“It is not a happy situation, which is why I am more worried now than I was in 2008. A difficult problem could be fixed because you could see what you needed to do. Here, there is so much uncertainty, so many unknowns; it is going to be very damaging for the country.”

Source here:

Yet while he spoke of leaving in the EU in such strong, grim terms, all of a sudden that means nothing when it seems the only way of preventing those terrible things from happening to Scotland is independence from the UK:

“I think everybody knows that if she thought she could win a referendum now she would hold a referendum tomorrow.

“All the evidence is that public opinion hasn’t changed much since 2014, and one thing that is very clear is that a majority of people don’t want a referendum any time soon. All the time we are discussing referendum bills, there is a whole generation of young people missing out on the education they need, the health service has got major problems, the problems of Police Scotland haven’t gone away.

“Talking about the constitution is a great smokescreen for everything else going on. I don’t think she will hold a referendum any time soon because she doesn’t think she can win it. So why not get on with what she was elected to do and govern Scotland?”

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A couple of things are wrong with this. For one, it is not clear that “public opinion hasn’t changed very much,” for not a single poll since the referendum has been below 45/55 – and a fair number have seen a reversal of majorities. For another, it is not clear “a majority of people don’t want a referendum any time soon,” as a recent Panelbase poll showed 53% of Scots want a second referendum within the next 3 years – which, I’m sure, some people would classify as “anytime soon.”

And, of course, the people of Scotland had their say on the SNP’s government of education, health and police, and saw fit to elect them by an even greater percentage than the landslide 2011 victory.

Mr Darling is, no doubt, well aware that the SNP was elected on a manifesto which explicitly contained the possibility of holding an independence referendum in these exact circumstances:

“We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.” – SNP 2016 Manifesto

46.5% of Scots voted for a party presenting the above manifesto commitment: there has not been a party with a stronger mandate in the modern history of the Scottish Parliament. This is a greater percentage than the second two largest parties combined, a greater popular percentage than the current UK Government’s majority, and the largest majority of a government in all of Western Europe. Nicola Sturgeon is thus, demonstrably, doing exactly what she was elected to do – which is to respect the mandate given to her by the people of Scotland.

“I am very clear that we were told this was a once in a generation decision two years ago, so it is.”

Mr Darling fails to acknowledge that his side – the winning side – told us things too. Things like Scotland boasting “the most powerful devolved parliament in the world.” Things like “Devo max.” Things like “as close to federalism as you could possibly get.” Things like “a modern form of Home Rule.” Mr Darling’s party reneged on those promises, by vetoing proposals to the Smith Commission and voting down amendments to the Scotland Bill 2015 from the most popularly supported party in Scotland.

If you are not willing to respect the mandate of the people of Scotland and their clear desire for far greater powers and autonomy, then you have no right to criticise the SNP taking steps to ensure the mandate of the people of Scotland based on observations and opinions you falsely claim were “promises” or “pledges.”

“Remember, the decision was far more decisive than the European referendum if you look at the margins.”

In what universe is 55% “far more decisive” than 62% “if you look at the margins“? Is Mr Darling going to pretend that two million No votes matter more than 1.6 million Remain votes, even though the referendum franchises were totally different? Or is he simply comparing the Scottish vote in 2014 to the UK-wide vote in 2016 – an asinine and pathetic false comparison?

When asked about the lack of a figurehead for the next Better Together campaign, Mr Darling continued his conceit that Nicola Sturgeon is bluffing about a second referendum:

“I don’t think it is an issue, because I don’t think there will be a referendum any time soon. One thing that unifies me and Nicola Sturgeon is that neither of us wants one any time soon. I don’t think she does.”

I have to wonder where Mr Darling gets this idea that this idea of the SNP not believing they can win independence. Then I remember: this has all happened before.

It was widely believed in 2007 that the SNP would seek to kick a referendum “into the long grass” because they knew they would “currently lose a referendum heavily.

Wendy Alexander claimed in 2008 that “the SNP don’t want a referendum, because they know it’s unwinnable.”

Iain Gray suggested in 2010 that the SNP postponing a referendum until after the next Holyrood elections was a tacit admission of their desperation, and that Alex Salmond had “lost his nerve.”

David Cameron claimed in 2012 that Alex Salmond “knows the Scottish people at heart do not want a full separation,” and tried to force an earlier referendum.

That the pro-UK parties can simultaneously pretend the SNP are “bluffing” about independence, yet do everything in their power to stop the SNP from actually achieving it, is actually a remarkable bluff in itself – they’re hoping people wonder why they talk so eagerly about the SNP’s “bluff” in one breath, then pledging to block another referendum in the other.

If you believe in the sovereign will of the people of Scotland, then you believe in upholding their decisions even if you disagree with them. The SNP did not declare UDI on the 19th of September; they acknowledged that the official referendum result was for the UK, and did not put the White Paper into motion. In 2016, the SNP saw that the sovereign will was to remain in the EU. If there is no way for the people’s will to be upheld while part of the UK, then the decision to choose whether to be part of the UK should be offered to the Scottish people.

Unlike Alistair Darling, supporters of Scottish Independence are not going to ignore the sovereign will of the Scottish people if they don’t happen to agree with it.


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5 thoughts on “Does Alistair Darling believe in democracy or not?

  1. David Cornelius

    The man is confused. On the one hand he talks of democracy and on the other he sits in the House of Lords. He speaks through his ermine and feathered hat!

    Nice to see you getting a gig here on Indyref2, Al.

  2. seanair

    Must get out the photo of AD (complete with beard) down Pilton way with his Socialist banner. Yes it’s the same man! How strange…..

  3. finnmacollie

    Of course he believes in democracy. He’s an unelected Lord. How much more democratic would you like him to be?

  4. diabloandco

    You know some years ago Mr Darling spoke the truth by saying in an interview ( while I think a little oiled on good whisky) that when the people of the UK found out what they ( labour ) had done with the economy they ( the people ) would be seriously pissed off – that’s almost verbatim according to my memory.

    I have searched and searched but have not found the interview – someone had hidden it far from the public eye.

  5. Pingback: A True Test of Mettle | A Wilderness of Peace

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