Following the SNP's astonishing victory in last week's Scottish Parliamentary election I was determined to raise the question of who has the authority to consent to the break up of the United Kingdom. Alex Salmond insists that this is a question for Scottish voters only. I think he is wrong. Union was the consequence of consent  by both sovereign nations. I believe voters throughout the UK should be consulted before it is broken up. The Mail on Sunday invited me to write about it. You can read my column here.  Then the Today Programme invited me to debate the topic. Listen here

This is not a selfish argument. I am a unionist and I recognise that a majority in England might choose to divorce Scotland, even if Scotland preferred to remain in the UK. As things stand that is probably  the most likely outcome. But the arguments for unity are powerful, the consequences for nations that have split asunder are often bad and usually unpredicted, and I am a democrat. Let the people choose. 

Comments

It was a great debate on the Today programme. I have to say that you won me round.

The tricky issue turns on whether the referendum is a vote on independence for Scotland or retention of the Union. Salmond will argue that it's the former, of course but the debate highlights the hazards of any referendum - namely how do you phrase the question on which people are being asked to give their verdict?

Since independence for Scotland would destroy the union forged by the acts of 1706 and 1707 there is no real distinction between the two questions. Hence my proposal. Add to this the presence of 800,000 Scots-born people in England - who would be disenfranchised by a referendum conducted in Scotland alone - and 400,000 English people in Scotland - who would be entitled to vote - and the eccentricities of the SNP's position become plainer.

Ok, so how would you like the referendum question to be phrased in a way that reflects all this?

I agree that the union between England and Scotland should be disolved and that Scotland should become an independent nation state. Vote Yes or No

 

 

 

 

Pretty good! I'd put that forward to the Electoral Commission or whoever...

Deciding the future of the UK