Brain Monteith MSP, former of the Conservative Party, raises just that interesting question in today's Edinburgh Evening News.
He looks at the relative strength of the pro-independnce vote in Scotland over the recent pass it looks unlikely that any referendum in the near future would be successful. The SNP would say that every vote for them, the SSP and the Greens is a vote for independence but as Monteith mentions there are many reasons why people vote for one of these parties and the reason may not always be independence. Some people vote SNP tactically to get or keep Labour out. Some people who vote Green do so for environmental reasons and are not aware that they are for an independent Scotland, this is bourne out by Green supporters I have meet while canvassing.
So Monteith proposes that the Unionist parties Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats calls Alex Salmond's bluff and call a referendum. There can even been three options and a transferrable vote. He suggest the following options.
1. Independent Scotland
2. Home rule within the UK
3. Abolish Scottish Parliament and return to UK wide rule only
If the referendum is lost where would the SNP go, their cheif plank of existance would be removed from beneath their feet, and he muses would their leading lights seek to find their home in another party for the good of constituents.
Even if the referendum did come down on the side of independence as Monteith points out Ireland didn't come out too bad, admittedly it took them about 50 years to become the Celtic Dragon we now know. But Scotland would be starting from a higher comparitive skill and industrial base than Ireland had in 1922.
It is a interesting and intriging proposal. Why should the SNP the only ones to think of calling a referendum on Independence? If a no vote were to scupper plans for the SNP and their strength would not this benefit the other parties? Typical of Monteith's new found freedom outside the Conservative Party that he should think outside the box.
I wonder what hs take is on the West Lothian Question?