Independence Referendum: One for the Trainspotters

One of my students pointed out that the SNP commitment to hold the independence referendum in the second half of the 2011-16 parliamentary session is not in its 2011 manifesto. So, I checked and he is correct. Yet, both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon (in the video above Curtice’s article) are very clear that they have an electoral mandate for that timetable. What this means is that the SNP made this commitment orally during the campaign itself. Specifically, Alex Salmond made the commitment during the BBC debate on May 1st. This was described by the Telegraph as a climb down to stop scaring potential voters, while the Daily Record reports in its class style: ‘After weeks of refusing to name a date, he said he wanted Scots to vote on breaking up Britain “in the second half of the parliament”‘. Salmond’s justification in the BBC debate was that the first half of the session would be taken up by scrutiny of the new Scotland Bill. In any case, it seems to have been well-known-enough during the campaign (certainly, all the main opposition parties and media knew about it) to justify recent statements, but it is one of those issues that makes us wonder what ‘the electorate’ is said to give a mandate to – the party in general or the manifesto in particular?

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