Henry Hill is a British Conservative and Unionist activist and writer. Follow Henry on Twitter. He is also editor of the non-party website Open Unionism, which can be followed on Twitter here.

Both sides pretend Scottish referendum is about their own specific policy proposals, again

Lamentably, there appears to be continued confusion over what the Scottish referendum is actually about. Alex Salmond and John Swinney appear to think that it is a plebiscite on their White Paper – Salmond has apparently claimed that a Yes vote will give him a mandate for the specifics of the paper, whilst Swinney maintains that since currency union is in the paper, and the UK government have agreed to abide the referendum decision, the UK will accept a currency union.

On a different tack are those, both nationalist and pro-union, who argue that the referendum is actually about giving more powers to the Scottish parliament. Labour shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran has warned that Salmond may try to ‘sleepwalk’ Scots into independence by promising to keep so much of the UK (Sterling, the Crown, the intelligence services, and so on…) that he can sell independence as a sort of glorified upgrade for the Scottish Parliament. On cue, Lib Dem peer Lord Purvis of Tweed, a former MSP, steps forward to offer a vision of the UK which is just about as skeletal (“refreshed”) as Alex Salmond’s, save for the critical distinction that it still technically exists.

According to this wing of the pro-union camp, a No vote would be taken as “tacit approval of the cross-party consensus” that “a No vote was not the end of a process but the start of a new, enhanced phase of devolution” – the next leg of the never-ending ‘retreat to victory’ of the devolutionary imagination.

Setting aside the depressing fact that some federalists appear to believe their position is the default result of the No vote, both sides are deliberately miscasting the referendum. It is not about a White Paper, or ‘more powers’, or ‘a shiny new age of independence/devolution’. It is about whether or not Scotland is British. That’s it. It really is that fundamental.

All the faff coming out of the various sides – how Carwyn Jones can’t defend the union until he gets more powers, for example – is poppycock. A No vote is a vote for Britain, a Yes vote a vote for independence. Two big, simple, definitive options that don’t tie into any specific policy proposals at all.

It makes sense for the Nats to duck that fact, of course. They sense they’re on to a loser, and like their Quebecois counterparts they’d rather win through sleight of hand than not at all. For the unionists, however, it is mystifying. We put a lot of effort into securing a two question referendum and removing the weasel ‘more powers’ option which would prevent a definitive endorsement of the union and leave the road open to further wrangling. That done, we’ve set about turning the ‘No’ option into the ‘more powers’ option. Had we simply asked Alex Salmond to remove ‘No’ from the ballot paper in the first place, I’m quite sure he’d not have objected.

Welsh FM would move to block currency union

In a significant intervention in the independence debate, Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones has stated that he is currently unpersuaded by the SNP case for a post-Union currency union, and would “demand a say” on any such deal between the British and Scottish governments. Jones’ stance is the latest evidence to support the view given by Boris Johnson that such divorces are often “wretched, and painful”.

Jones’ attack actually puts paid to not one, but two of the SNP’s publicly-stated assurances: not just the specific idea of a currency union, but the broader, comforting notion that separation negotiations will be an amicable affair where the British government doesn’t fight the corner of its remaining citizens as hard as it can.

Tories demand apology as police investigation says ‘Yes’ computers weren’t hacked

Jackson Carlaw, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has demanded that Yes Scotland apologise to the police after an investigation into the alleged hacking of a Yes email account revealed “no criminal activity”. The separatist campaign had previously described the alleged hacking as ‘an assault on democracy’ after it got out that they had paid a constitutional expert to write an article making the case for a codified Scottish constitution which made no mention that it had been bought with Yes money.

A separate investigation into the alleged hacking of the private email account of a senior Yes staffer is ongoing.

Dissident republicans try to bomb Belfast

In the latest sign of escalating violence by dissident republican groups, masked men hijacked a car in an attempt to bomb Belfast’s main PSNI barracks. The bomb went off when being examined by the Army, but nobody was injured. This is the latest in a string of similar attacks where civilians are coerced into a bomb delivery role, which greatly reduces the detectability of the attack and the risk of capture for the attackers.

Inverness becomes first place in Scotland to implement Universal Credit

One of the few policy areas where the British government actually governs Scotland, the implementation of Universal Credit has crossed the border. The policy has already been implemented in parts of England (perhaps to avoid a repeat of the poll tax ‘testing stuff on Scots’ fiasco), and the full UK implementation is due to be completed by 2017.

However this process is being held up by the Northern Ireland Assembly, which has yet to legislate to apply the policy to the province. Although welfare is a reserved issue Northern Ireland has the devolved right to tinker with its implementation, and the DUP and Sinn Fein appear unable to reach agreement.

DUP bring Doctor Who to the Commons

In a frankly surreal turn of events, two Democratic Unionist MPs have moved a Commons motion about how great Doctor Who is. This really happened.

Strangford MP Jim Shannon, who has watched the show ever since it started (he was eight), claimed somewhat preposterously not to have a favourite. The motion was also signed by a Conservative and a Liberal Democrat. Labour were unrepresented, presumably because avid Whovian Tom Harris was incapacitated somehow.

SNP unveil ‘White Paper’ on independence

This has been extensively covered by the mainstream media, so I don’t intend to reiterate that here – those interested in links can find them in abundance at the excellent Vote NO 2014 Facebook page, which I encourage all pro-Union folk to Like and Share if they’ve the seconds to spare (for anti-Union folk, enjoy the dozens of new comment sections to fight in).

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