Sunday, 26 August 2012

To Lose One Referendum Would Be Unfortunate

No chance, then, of the obvious solution to Scotland's increasingly bitter division over the redefinition of legal marriage so as to include same-sex couples.

The SNP, which always knew that it was going to lose the independence referendum, is already staring into the face of a two-to-one defeat, possibly including a win in no local authority area. If there are a few, then they will be a very odd collection: the SNP's citadels, which are among the richest places in Europe, and the strongholds of Sheridanism, which are among the poorest.

The last thing that the SNP needs is the loss of its socially conservative (mostly Protestant) electoral and activist base in disgust. Yet that is exactly what is now happening on a large and increasing scale, just as the same measure is causing the similar collapse, from a weaker starting position, of the Conservative Party South of the Border.

Meanwhile, being a practising Catholic is the single strongest indicator of being a Labour voter in Scotland, and the further up the Scottish Labour Party's active or employed life one looks, the more Catholic it becomes. So don't expect a restored Labour Executive to give any priority to this, to put things at their very mildest.

Instead, expect the same approach as in England: there would be a free vote if this were ever introduced as a Private Member's Bill, and, while there would be no overt obstruction of such a Bill, there would be absolutely none of the Government or Executive support without which it could never realistically hope to reach the Statute Book.

At Westminster, there is no remaining expectation that this proposal is going to be laid before the House of Commons at all, and certainly this side of the next General Election and therefore as a Government Bill. But at Holyrood? Much the same, it would seem. And more so by the day.

This is a political lesson learned the hard way. It will not be forgotten, if at all, until the world has moved on sufficiently that people will struggle to believe that this idea was ever mooted in the first place.

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