My thoughts (again) – on Scotland and Independence

Thoughts on Scotland and Independence

I wish I could come up with a better and stronger reason for being interested in the Scottish referendum than “just” considering myself British, but I’m not sure I can. I could push that, for the first two years of my life, I knew only Scotland and spoke with such a strong Scottish accent, my poor (African) mother reported that she was at pains to understand me at times. Or maybe I could stretch to the tentative mention of an Aunt who, during one visit, mentioned that my Great Great Grandfather may have been a Scot. We haven’t been able to work out anything more about that – it helps to explain the pale hue of my mother’s line but without some idea as to who or when, then I guess I’m stretching too far (definitely wouldn’t be enough for me to play for the national Rugby team).

No – I have always loved Scotland and it was my mother’s wish that I be born there. She couldn’t help it that she wasn’t well enough to travel and I was born in England – my Dad was there and our heart was in Edinburgh! Honest.

But either way, any way, we are all of us in the UK affected by the Scottish referendum. I am torn in so many ways – I would love to be voting in this referendum but I’m also glad that this is not my decision to make. There is – what feels to me – a mischievous streak that would love, love, love to see an Independent Scotland. I have no doubt that Scotland as an independent country could thrive – although possibly not with Alex Salmond’s leadership. But I’m proud to be British, and a big part of that pride stems on keeping Scotland within the Union. Emotionally, there is no way to resolve these sides – they take prominence on pretty much alternate days at the moment… And today I think the change has been hourly.

One of the most disappointing aspects to me of the “Yes” campaign has been their lack of any sign of back-up thinking. The “No” campaign is always going to be hampered by the fact that it is – by its very definition – negative! It will always be negativity. Who can see “Yes” and then say that’s a Negative campaign? That’s the first point that David Cameron lost – it may initially only have been 1 point but now it’s too close to call and that 1 point may well prove too much to have given.

But hmmm – what do I feel? I’m a proper swinger. I’ve had too much time off work lately to have ignored the option to go and look at the arguments – on both sides. I’ve looked and I’ve considered. And I’ve been disappointed by the lack of openness from the “yes” campaign as well as the lack of passion from the “no” campaign.

There are huge questions looming. Instead of pushing that “…Westminster will [need to] agree to our position”, why not work on developing an alternative plan or plans? Why not consider unilateral use of the Pound at least in the meantime and work with the Scottish banks to develop an independent currency? Why not develop a plan for an EU application – rather than assume an automatic membership? Why not say what your back-up plans would be?

That’s the thing that would rip the carpet right out from under the “no” campaign’s feet. Europe is not happy but it might be happy to think about new members in maybe 10-15 years’ time. What if Scotland had to wait that long? Why not develop a plan for that now and develop something that might be more palatable, at least in principle.

The No campaign, on the other hand, has been a classic example of how not to run an election/campaign. They have focused on party politics. This is NOT a party political campaign – this is about Scottish independence, which happens to have the SNP as its main driving force. Focusing on the party politics aspect – calling this “Alex Salmond’s plans” or referring to the “SNP” plans is too limiting and it makes a lot of voters switch off. I’d be offended if, on a “yes” day, I were suddenly categorized as a particular “voter”… it shows a singularly ineffective view of the entire campaign. The “no” campaign has completely misunderstood this – and just makes one feel that Westminster’s view is more horrifically divorced from the current feeling within the country than anything else.

Scotland is lucky to have this focus.

Wow – I just had to reread that last sentence which is why I have also isolated it. I’m not sure where it came from but I know it’s what I meant to say. What Scotland has right now is an unprecedented opportunity – voter engagement is higher than it’s ever been in my lifetime – can we ALL learn from this? We do have more of a say in our politics than ever before – we can pressure our parliament, our MPs without having to wait for time in their surgeries simply through social media. But we don’t use it – or we don’t use it well. Why didn’t we have this level of engagement when we had an opportunity to change the way our votes are counted?   We will almost definitely see a majority of people coming out to say that their votes “won’t count/don’t matter” next May but did they take the opportunity to change their voting system when it was offered so that their vote might have more say? Maybe we do just need to offer simpler questions to the country: Would you like a more influential voting system: Yes or No? OK – it’s too easy to say “which system” but that’s effectively what Scotland is voting on, isn’t it? Well no – what they have is an opportunity to vote on something completely different. No ambiguity, no representative level about it (other than the subsequent negotiation, obviously)…

Maybe it’s that that’s my sticking point. I know that the negotiations would still be on a representative basis – Alex Salmond (would he be the lead negotiator if he were voted out of leadership in May?) has already shown that he can get his way over David Cameron (although who knows who will be leading the rUK discussions after May) on some very key points.

An independent committee on how best to implement either Independence or Devolution (including for the rest of the UK) would be best placed to consider the various options which need to be reviewed – maybe we should have put those folks into a bunker already but I can almost certainly say that – were I eligible to vote, I still wouldn’t know which cross I’d have put on the paper tonight and I think that’s no bad thing.