I am grateful to Stephen Tall over at Lib Dem Voice for alerting me to Ming Campbell's views on an independence referendum for Scotland.
Now, there is no doubt that Ming's position is the correct constitutional one. If it came down to it, a party conference vote would not be binding on the MSPs, who could choose to ignore the expressed wishes of their own party and vote against a referendum if that's what their consciences demanded.
But as a recipe for political success, it strikes me as utter folly and madness. I really don't see that creating a feeling of resentment among your own party activists by demonstrating utter contempt for their views has much to commend it as a strategy. People work hard to help get MSPs elected and I doubt too many party members would be willing to bust a gut for people who just ignore their views when it comes to the crunch.
And if the MSPs did decide to vote against a referendum after the party had endorsed it, they would be seen as being doubly undemocratic. They would be seen as going against their party on an issue where they would also be seen as denying the people of Scotland a say on their future. That would be an act of political lunacy.
I predict that if the MSPs did adopt such a line, in the next Scottish Parliament it wouldn't be 16 of them making a decision - it would be less than half that number.
Ming's intervention on this subject has been cack-handed in the extreme and won't have done his side of the argument any favours. And I say that as someone who is not convinced that there needs to be an immediate referendum, but thinks that it should wait until there are concrete proposals on the table for both independence and an enhanced devolution settlement. Ming has actually made it more likely, not less, that the Scottish Lib Dem conference will vote to support a referendum.
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