This should have been a momentous week in Scottish politics. Should have been but wasn't. Instead, it's been a week of dreary bickering, first ministerial egotism, bombast and clumsy vote-rigging. The launch of the Scottish Executive's referendum consultation paper revealed (to no-one's great surprise) the SNP wanting weans to vote, to delay the referendum for a thousand days, a laughably biased question and a plea to 'civic Scotland' to come up with a second question.
Within hours a self-selecting group popped up, declared themselves to be 'civic Scotland' and started briefing that they were the voice of Scotland and they demanded a second question on the ballot. The problem these folk have is that they have no democratic mandate from the people of Scotland. 'Civic Scotland' in the '80s and '90s was a rainbow alliance of political parties, churches, trades unions and community groups which drew its democratic credentials from the votes of the political parties. Any grouping without support from political parties better explain where its democratic mandate comes from.
However, the biggest problem this new grouping has is its relationship with the Scottish Executive. The SNP make no secret of their belief that: 'He who pays the piper calls the tune', and it's beginning to look like a deal has already been struck amongst some of those organisations which rely on Scottish Executive funding and their paymasters.'The Scotsman' carries a story today warning that there are fears that 'civic Scotland' is being leaned on by the SNP. The truth of the matter is that 'civic Scotland' is not being leaned on by the SNP; they are being directed by them. A second question along the lines of Reform Scotland's DevoPlus has already been agreed by some of the folk in 'civic Scotland' as has a timetable for announcing such a decision - making the meeting planned for Monday nothing but a sham. Those organisations who genuinely care about Scotland would be well advised to steer well clear of this travesty of democracy.