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Scott: time is ripe to revisit independence

Former premier Alex Scott believes Bermuda's new political climate could set the stage for another review over independence.

Mr Scott was a strong advocate for splitting ties with Britain during his tenure from 2003 to 2006, but did not push for a referendum, as he concluded Bermudians were not ready to make the leap.

However, after Senator Jason Hayward, of the Progressive Labour Party, called for independence to be high on the political agenda during Labour Day celebrations, Mr Scott told The Royal Gazette: “Mr Hayward is indicative of someone who holds a very important position who thinks we should review at least this subject — and there may be others.

“This is now a different time and a different political place to that which existed when I was premier.”

The PLP, which has viewed independence historically as a long-term goal, claimed 59 per cent of the popular vote in a landslide General Election victory on July 18, and now has 24 seats to the One Bermuda Alliance's 12 — comfortably the largest majority it has ever enjoyed.

Asked whether he believes there is support within the governing party for independence, Mr Scott said that would be a question for David Burt, the Premier.

Mr Burt declined to comment on the matter when approached by this newspaper. A referendum in 1995 revealed an overwhelming lack of support for independence — some 73 per cent voted against it — but Mr Scott reignited the conversation during his premiership with a series of debates and a report from the Bermuda Independence Commission.

Yesterday, Mr Scott described the airport deal as a prime example of where Bermuda could have benefited from being independent. “We have something like the issue of whether we develop the airport as the former government committed Bermuda to and — Great Britain as far as we can determine — agreed with the government of the day and ratified that going forward. It was for Britain to decide yea or nay.

“There was strong feeling against it in Bermuda but the government of the day chose to ignore the very large body of opinion against developing the airport as the OBA had prescribed, and the British went along with them. We cannot truly be a democratic community as long as another parliament can hold the deciding determination over what we do.

“Bermuda is not an unfettered democracy — it is not one that is complete. Our future is not totally in our hands.”

In 2005, the Commission noted Bermudians were divided over independence, and called for public meetings and parliamentary debates on the issue. Mr Scott said its report should be revisited.

He said: “Independence is a subject that warrants review from time to time. The notion of self-determination or independence was taken up by myself and my administration when I was premier for discussion and consideration.

“As a consequence, there was a robust report written by an independent and diverse committee that concluded — when one considers the mechanics of self-determination — that there was no reason that Bermuda should not proceed to independence. There is no political or economic reason, that committee concluded at the time, to inhibit Bermuda.

“If one reads the report it might be helpful for any interested Bermudian to go through it. It is very comprehensive. It ended up with us having in our possession a blueprint for the way forward if one wants to seriously consider it.

“It would be helpful to revisit that report and then update it — then we can consider its conclusion in the light of our current status and position. Then it is left — as the British have identified and I have always maintained — that it is up to Bermudians.”

Asked whether he would like to see another referendum, Mr Scott added: “It could be decided at the next General Election. The government of the day could put it on their agenda at the next General Election. If the government won the election with significant and workable majorities as we have now, we could then — if it was so determined — make it an item for a referendum or consider other options. It is for the majority of Bermudians to demonstrate their willingness to move in that direction.”

Governor John Rankin declined to comment on independence when contacted by this newspaper.

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Published September 06, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated September 06, 2017 at 7:14 am)

Scott: time is ripe to revisit independence

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