I guess it is easy journalistic shorthand to simply write that the Lib Dems are opposed to a referendum on the subject of independence. Actually what came out of yesterday was that that the party was opposed to this particular referendum. Let's look at the specifics.
The SNP plans was to introduce the Referendum Bill to the Scottish Parliament on 25th January 2010, to provide for a on 30th November that year. For anyone not familiar with the Scottish calender this is Burn's Night and St. Andrew's Day respectively, so there was talk about using emotive dates to try and swing this a certain way, or indeed to hijack even more of Scotland for their means.
There was also the fact of the referendum themselves. Up until 2007 a referendum on independence didn't even feature as a means for the SNP to determine the will of the Scottish people. They aim to get to the goal of indepedence was to have the majority of Scottish MPs or MSPs. They have clearly failed in what has been the aim for 73 years of their existence.
Then there is the question itself:
"I agree that the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of the UK so that Scotland become an independent state."
Now the last time I took place in a referendum there was a document setting out what we were voting on, it was called The Agreement it had been signed on Good Friday. It wasn't a call to enter negotiations into something, it had come after a lot of wrangling, disputes and negotiation to come up with something. So Salmond's Bill isn't a referendum on Independence but a referendum to whether or not to enter negotiations with Westminster. Alex Salmond isn't prepared to enter those negotiations himself, because he knows he isn't ready, isn't in a position of enough power to do so. He wants to take a gradualist approach towards independence from his position of 33% of the vote and 25% in favour of Independence.
Which leads to one thing that was discussed and did come out yesterday. The Lib Dems would back a referendum. A referendum that was clear in its intent Alex Salmond keeps changing what Independence means, do we keep the Queen or not, the army or not, the Bank of England or not, and if we do keep the Old Lady of Threadneddle Street do they set our interest rate. It also shouldn't wrapped in the Saltire, wearing a kilt and printed on a shortbread tin. Well it may as well with the programme for introduction and implementation suggested. Multiple options is a no-go area it should be a yes know.
The press had also foretold it was going to be a spilt. Whilst in a party that is used to discussing hot topics in a grown up fashion, and indeed had seen some very strong debates, very many points of order and points of information to get it through the numerous votes yesterday. What came out was a listening to each others points of views, I'm know that many of the 30+ people who got called to speak were redrafting up to the point that they got called, as many referred back to previous contributions, some even the one who had just taken their seat.
Jeff also seems to suggest in his Steamie article that the Greens have given their backing to the SNPs Bill on Independence. Poor them for being misled, actually if you look at some of the example above it looks more like the SNP is actually a party of Gradualism or maybe even leaning towards Federalism than Nationalism. So maybe the Lib Dems should be encouraging the SNP to join us nationally across the UK to achieve a Federalist Scotland in a Federalist UK. It appears that Alex is prepared to go for strong Scottish Home Rule within some of the confines of the UK. You know something us Lib Dems and the Liberals before us have wanted that for over 100 years.
One thing that the SNP have to learn about Federalism though is that powers are devolved down to the appropriate level. Therefore they have to stop grabbing powers from council level and taking them hostage, like some poor unsuspecting ship anywhere near Somalian water, and hole those powers up in Holyrood. Yes I'm talking about the powers to set their own local taxation at a rate that is appropriate, even if that is a fairer system of local taxation like LIT. Yes that means giving them some leniency in how they should spend what they are given. The SNP are actually exercising more central control than Labour ever dared to take, even in the bad old days of the late 70s.