The news today that Labour and the Tories will both be supporting a Lib Dem amendment in the Scottish Parliament to prevent any referendum on independence before the next Holyrood elections in 2011 is somewhat worrying.
Now, I'm not one of those, such as Lib Dem MSP John Farquhar Munro, who think that a referendum should be held immediately to 'clear the air'. But I think it is futile not to recognise that a referendum probably does need to be held at some stage. Saying that a referendum can't happen in this parliament seems somewhat arbitrary.
It's also of concern to those of us who want the Scottish Parliament to have significant additional powers - in particular over finance - but who believe that independence would be damaging. I had hoped that the Calman Commission might come up with some radical proposals to enhance devolution and it would only be right that such proposals be put before the Scottish people in a referendum, with independence as an alternative option. However, if a referendum of any kind is not going to happen, that may indicate that Calman is going to be rather tamer than some of us might wish.
As I've argued before, a referendum should only be held when there are concrete proposals on the table for both independence and an enhanced devolution settlement. If that doesn't happen before 2011, then it's fine to continue opposing a referendum. But if there are such proposals, then a referendum should be held.
And it's absurd to think that this is an issue that's just going to go away.
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