THE UK elections watchdog has recommended the Scottish and Westminster Governments set out what will happen after next year’s referendum by 20 December this year.
According to The Scotsman, a report published today by the Electoral Commission suggests both administrations should publish what their next steps would be should their sides triumph in the poll.
The 20 December deadline was suggested by the commission in an attempt to provide some clarity about what would happen in the immediate aftermath of either a Yes or No vote. The UK Government has ruled out pre-negotiating an independence deal before the 18 September poll.
For all the fuss the British parties made about the need for the Scottish Government to follow guidance set down by the Electoral Commission, it is they who have failed to clarify the implications of a No vote.
On the other hand, we have unionist spokespersons openly talking of rolling back devolution in the event of a No vote. The talk is of removing powers from the Scottish Parliament or even abolishing it altogether. The wishes of the people of Scotland having ceased to be of any concern once they have voted to forfeit their only leverage.
We know what independence means. We have scores of other countries, comparable to Scotland in various ways and to varying degrees, which we can to look to for examples. What is notable about all of these countries is that the sky has not fallen on any of them as a consequence of their constitutional status. For all of them, independence is normal. Not one of them is seeking to give up that independence. If it was suggested to the people of any of these nations that they might vote to relinquish independence they would think the very notion quite insane.
We also know much of the detail of what the early days of independence will look like. It is not possible to know more because the future will be what the people of Scotland decide. But we know very clearly what the present administration intends as the starting point from which the people's project to build a better, fairer Scotland will begin.
Unionists claim that these plans will be catastrophic for Scotland despite the fact that the main criticism is that, for very good reason, they change very little. In one of their trade-mark contradictions, they say that independence will be both a change too far and no change at all.
Some independence supporters also criticise the SNP for not being sufficiently radical in its thinking. They forget that the current administration has no mandate to make the kind of changes they seek. No government will have that mandate until after the 2016 election.
There are two processes involved here which are too often confused and conflated. There is the process of BECOMING independent, and there is the process of BEING independent. The Scottish Government is charged with responsibility for the former. The latter is the responsibility of the people of Scotland.
What being independent means is limited only be our imagination and our determination. We have no way of knowing where a No vote will take us. But the signs are not good.