Scotland granted independence vote

Breaking up is supposed to be hard to do — but Britain’s government confirmed Tuesday it would happily offer Scotland the powers it needs to sever centuries-old ties to England.

LONDON — Breaking up is supposed to be hard to do — but Britain’s government confirmed Tuesday it would happily offer Scotland the powers it needs to sever centuries-old ties to England.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s government said it would sweep away legal hurdles to allow the Scots a vote on whether their country should become independent for the first time since the 18th Century Act of Union, which united Scotland with England to create Great Britain.

But in return, Cameron — who opposes any breakup of the United Kingdom, which also includes Wales and Northern Ireland — is urging Scotland to make its intentions clear “sooner rather than later.” He claims investors are becoming increasingly wary of Scottish leader Alex Salmond’s plans to delay a vote for several years, damaging Britain’s economy.

Salmond, head of Scotland’s semiautonomous government, has long championed independence to allow the country greater control over lucrative oil and natural gas reserves in the North Sea.

His separatist Scottish National Party insists that winning autonomy over tax and spending policies — powers the Scottish government doesn’t presently have — would help replicate the economic success of neighbours like Norway, which has used its energy riches to fund state pensions.

“This is a huge decision for Scotland. This is potentially the biggest decision we have made as a nation for 300 years,” Salmond said Tuesday, on a tour of an oil facility in Dyce, eastern Scotland.

He insisted that Cameron should not take any role in setting out the timetable for the crucial referendum.

“We are not going to be stampeded and dragooned by a Tory prime minister in London,” Salmond said.

Since Scotland voted in favour of a domestic legislative body in 1997, its parliament has had autonomy over education, health and justice and can make minor alterations to income tax. For now, London retains primacy on all matters relating to Britain as a whole — including defence, energy and foreign relations.

The other nations of the U.K. also have administrations with some limited powers. Wales voted for a national assembly in 1997, while the Northern Ireland Assembly was created to provide cross-community government in the province under the U.S.-brokered Good Friday peace accord of 1998.

Salmond accuses Cameron of pushing for an early vote in Scotland in the hope of killing off any split in the United Kingdom. Both Cameron and Britain’s opposition leader, the Labour party’s Ed Miliband, plan to campaign against Scottish independence.

The timing of the vote could be crucial. Recent opinion polls indicate rising support for independence, after surveys showed backing for the separation hovering at about 30 per cent for several decades.

Salmond hopes to hold a poll most likely in 2014, when nationalist sentiment could be at a high as the city of Glasgow hosts the Commonwealth Games and Scots mark the 700th anniversary of the battle of Bannockburn, a key military victory over England.

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said that under current law, Scotland’s parliament could not hold its own legally binding referendum, meaning any attempt to enforce the result would be illegal. He said Britain’s government would temporarily grant Scotland’s administration the rights to hold a binding poll.

“This government believes passionately in the United Kingdom,” Moore told the House of Commons. “For over 300 years our country has brought people together in the most successful multinational state the world has known.”

Danny Alexander, Britain’s deputy treasury chief and a legislator who represents a Scottish district at Westminster, said the decision would help “avoid years of legal wrangling” and speed Scotland’s path to a decision.

“I think that jobs, investment and growth in Scotland are much more important than waiting for the anniversary of a medieval battle as the key that determines your timing for a referendum,” Alexander said.

Cameron has suggested Scotland’s vote should only put forward two choices — independence, or the status quo, dismissing calls for a third option, under which Scotland would have control over all but foreign policy and defence.

Salmond hasn’t ruled out including the lesser option, referred to as “independence-lite,” but said his own party would campaign in favour of a permanent split.

“What I think the Scottish people deserve is a fair, clear and decisive question,” Cameron said.

Salmond’s party has said that if it succeeds in winning independence, Scotland would keep the Queen as head of state and — for now at least — retain the British pound as its currency.

Just Posted

Red Deer area businesses recognized at Business of the Year Awards night

“It’s an honour just to be nominated.” The popular words echoed throughout… Continue reading

Child sex offender should get 12 years: Crown prosecutor

Stuart Peter Hunt has pleaded guilty to 10 child sexual exploitation and pornography charges

Legalizing cannabis cost estimate for Red Deer just under $400k

Although the province of Alberta has announced $11.2 million for cannabis legalization,… Continue reading

WATCH: Every square tells a story: Edmonton expert is exploring Red Deer’s quilting history

Community members can bring in family heirloom quilts for documentation

WATCH: Two weeks away from Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer

In just two weeks, Ponoka’s Shayna Weir will compete with the best… Continue reading

Film with Fan Bingbing, Bruce Willis cancelled after tax case

BEIJING — The director of “Air Strike,” featuring Chinese actress Fan Bingbing,… Continue reading

Michael Buble shuts down rumours of retirement from music

LOS ANGELES — Michael Buble is shutting down rumours that he’s going… Continue reading

After Canada legalizes pot, industry eyes rest of the world

MONTREAL — Cam Battley is a top executive at one of Canada’s… Continue reading

Facebook’s election ‘war room’ takes aim at fake information

MENLO PARK, Calif. — In an otherwise innocuous part of Facebook’s expansive… Continue reading

Military to overhaul morale-boosting trips after review finds serious problems

OTTAWA — Canada’s top general is overhauling military morale-boosting tours after an… Continue reading

Police hand out a few hefty fines for allegedly violating Cannabis Act

The celebratory mood that marked the legalization of recreational cannabis lost a… Continue reading

PHOTO: Say goodbye to City Hall Park flowers

A sure sign that winter is on its way is when City… Continue reading

PHOTO: Chew On This! campaign draws attention to national poverty

Lunch bags were being handed out in front of The Hub downtown… Continue reading

Most Read