Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Be Careful What You Ask For #2

British Prime Minister challenged the Scots to hold a referendum as the Scottish National Party had promised during the recent campaign.  He thought to do this because independence is not actually that popular among the Scots these days.  Well, the SNP decided to call the bluff

Cameron's logic made sense--that the possibility of secession is a distraction, that a failed referendum would put the topic to bed for awhile (well, Quebec would teach him that it means secession/referendum talk goes away for about ten years and then starts to build again).*
* People ask: why am I leaving McGill and Montreal. Lots of reasons, particularly the attractiveness of the gig at Carleton, but one reason is that the timing is good.  My house was bought after the last referendum, so it has gained in value.  No new referendum in sight to mess up the value now.  Plus I have not yet been on a bridge or in a tunnel when they have collapsed, but I am not sure how long my luck will hold.
However, the problem is that, as Cameron may find out, preferences are not fixed.  When the federal government (Canadian or British) start messing around with the rules of the system, it tends to cause those who might be ambivalent about secession to become less ambivalent.  Cameron's move here might piss off enough Scots that they get 50% plus one or whatever threshold they need to really create uncertainty and disturb investors.

Oh, and good news (insert sarcasm symbol here), the SNP is already talking of multiple options on the ballot and no vetting by British authorities, so we may get a very opaque, contradictory, confusing (name another antonym to Clarity Act) outcome.

Jolly good show!  Oh, no, not so much.  Yes, this is Cameron's gamble--to push for a referendum when it is not popular hoping that the current polls are correct.  You would think that the man never participated in an election where the initial polls and the final outcomes were significantly different. Too bad he did not consult Rick Perry or Newt Gingrich or (insert random GOP candidate).

The irony in all of this is that Cameron shows he has ignored the lessons that Canada and Quebec could teach about the perils of constitutional debates and the desire to avoid a referendum.  Good times.

The good news is that we scholars of secession will soon have another case.  A case of what?  We don't know yet, but we will certainly have more material.  And for that, we can only give thanks to David Cameron.  I am sure the folks in Great Britain feel the same right, right?

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