The United Kingdom we live within isn’t actually one single union, it started life as a union of the crowns in 1603, then a union of the parliaments and currency in 1707 and now it consists of many different types of unions. Some of those work and some don’t, some work very much against the interests of Scotland, others work for one UK region or nation but act against the interests of all the others.
Unpicking these dysfunctional unions from those that do work isn’t actually very difficult. It only requires a little common sense; when a system of management fails repeatedly and completely it needs to be redesigned, that is common sense.
The complicating factor is that special interests profit from the maintenance of the status quo:
- Westminster politicians with expense accounts and jobs that will be impacted if Scotland votes to re-shape the system (including Alistair Darling)
- Lords with lobbying contracts
- Business people who have done well and can’t see or don’t care that the system has held others back
- The establishment and those that profit from it including the media, often without understanding that the status quo isn’t actually in their long-term interests either
Those people want you to think it will be harder to change the system because they fear change itself, or because change might challenge their entitlements and privileges.
The Edinburgh Agreement handed the wording of the referendum question to the Scottish Parliament and most commentators expected a big fight over the wording, but were then surprised when the simple clear and easy to understand question with a YES or NO answer was selected.
“Should Scotland be an independent country?”
Why was there no big fight over the wording? Because the question matters a lot less than what people think the word “independence” means.
Two Competing Definitions
The No campaign want to define independence as separation, isolation, the creation of border and barriers, old style negative nationalism, xenophobia, and economically risky.
The trouble is these definitions don’t relate in anyway to Scotland’s enlightened, inclusive and internationally focussed movement for political decision-making to be transferred to Scotland. They do, however, seem to be almost text book definitions for Nigel Farage’s UKIP which is fast becoming an influential force in UK politics (despite losing their deposits in every seat in the last Scottish election).
In contrast, the Yes campaign and the Scottish Government proposition is one where we have the appropriate levels of interdependence and economic interconnectedness, with both the other home nations and with our EU neighbours and trading partners. Crucially we need a system where we have the ability to engage the rest of the world on our own terms, which will enhance trading and political relationships.
The slow death of political union
All the evidence points to the UK having become an unbalanced economy with wealth and power now centralised in London and the South East. Mass economic migration accelerating rapidly over the last fifty years means that the population size of London and the South East sets the political agenda for the whole of the UK. Their economy has become so alien to Scotland’s that the economic and social policies they vote for are damaging not just to Scotland but also the other home nations and the English regions.
Westminster’s one size fits all policy platform isn’t working for Scotland. A win for home rule in the 1979 referendum (52% – 48%) which was never implemented, then the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, followed by the Calman Commission and the recent Scotland Act devolving more powers (but not the ones we need) have all been milestones on the journey towards re-shaping the political and economic model of the UK. The Scottish Government is not suggesting changing the geographic union of Britain, nor are they changing the currency, monarch or social unions, nor the common market for goods, services, trade, capital and people. They are also not changing the defence union through maintaining NATO membership. The political union however – the status quo you get if we vote no; well thats history.
The status quo is already dead, there is a great deal of uncertainty with a NO vote, not least because we do not know what NO means but because the polls also predict a NO vote in the EU referendum. The votes of London and the South East will be enough to take Scotland out of the EU, despite the fact that Scotland is likely to vote to stay in.
Fool Me Twice
Vote NO and trust us to offer some form of enhanced devolution says the No Campaign. Meantime, a Westminster parliamentary committee report says a Devo-Max or a Federal solution can only happen after a UK wide referendum. This would require London and the South East to vote in a way that is usually described as turkeys voting for Christmas (at least in terms of their short-term interests). They don’t want enhanced competition across the UK and they won’t vote for it, even if it’s in the more medium-term interests of a stable and sustainable economic recovery across these islands. Lets also put aside the fact that the two further referendums that follow if we vote No mean there is far more constitutional uncertainty than with a Yes vote next September! Let us actually consider if more powers will actually ever be offered! At a charity dinner last year Andrew Neil of the Politics Show said:
“Devolution, the Calman Commission, the Scotland Bill, the Edinburgh Agreement, all of this and more you have, is because Westminster parties are scared of the SNP. If you vote NO you massively change the balance of power and they will not only give you nothing, but will probably take powers away from the Scottish Parliament”.
Honest words indeed from a committed unionist and leading expert on Westminster politics. Consider this scenario: would a Tory/UKiP coalition after the 2015 UK General Election be likely to have extra powers for Scotland on its policy agenda when they may have not have one single representative here? Or when they have the larger constitutional issue of EU membership to tackle?
Nobody wants the status quo either!
The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey was devised on the premise that the SNP would never win a majority and so there would never be an independence referendum and so many of the questions are out of date, but the last one threw up a fascinating result.
When asked how Scotland should be governed:
- 8% opted for a form of independence that included the word separate and not in EU
- 16% opted for a form of independence that included the word separate
- 50% opted for the devo max option
- 11% for the status quo
- 11% for dissolving the Scottish Parliament
A fair conclusion is that independence is more popular than the status quo and that maintaining the status quo (which is what a No vote does) is no more popular than the idiotic idea of scrapping the Scottish Parliament in the No camp!
When asked a slightly different question on who should make decisions on behalf of Scotland (not using the word separation) the same sample threw up very different results:
- Independence won with 35%
- Devo max 32%
- Status quo 24%
- Ending devolution (closing the Scottish Parliament) 6%
The NO campaign has been busy asking us not to vote for “separation” and making some plainly ridiculous claims as to how bad this separation would be. The problem with that tactic is that separation isn’t on the ballot paper – I don’t want separation. Independence is on the paper and so is the status quo, but nobody wants the status quo, even the political parties campaigning for a No vote don’t want the status quo.
The winner will be the one that wins the Devo Max votes without losing the support of their core vote. Devo Max has some horrendous flaws though, it is sometimes described as having all the benefits of independence except that we would leave Defence, Foreign policy and Welfare under Westminster’s control, but these arguably represent some of Westminster biggest failings. Independence allows us to share services with the rest of the UK whilst ensuring economic and social policy control in Scotland and the choices such as not to enter an illegal war in the Middle East or host nuclear weapons fifty miles from our largest city. It is independence that gives us the best of both worlds.
For example; the bedroom tax is being applied across the whole of the UK because house prices in London and the South East are artificially high. Rents have increased significantly and so therefore has Housing Benefit (200% since the slowdown began) so they say we can’t afford to pay the benefits to disabled Scots – except that housing benefit has only risen 14% in Scotland during the same period.
Foreign affairs and defence being left at Westminster would mean that our soldiers could still be required to fight in unwise and even illegal wars, and Scotland would still play host to nuclear weapons that cost Scotland £1.5bn a year just to maintain, money most Scots believe we could better spend elsewhere.
Business for Scotland believes the Scottish Government offers a form of independence that maintains the unions that work in the best interests of all the home nations. These will include a currency union with a prudent financial stability pact, free trade, open borders, social, cultural and family unions, in the case of the examples such as British Lions and Ryder Cup Team, a sporting union. We get to agree with our friends and neighbours in the British Isles what unions should be maintained for mutual gain, but more importantly we get to bin the ones that harm Scotland so we can tailor our economic and social policy in the interests of a distinctive economic landscape, challenges and opportunities and very different values, ideals and outlooks within Scotland and on the world as a whole.
In the interconnected global economy we require an element of co-operation and interdependency, to trade and co-exist peacefully. That’s the way of the world nowadays. This mature level headed internationalist, rather than old style nationalist approach seems to have caught the No campaign off-guard. They are arguing for the Scottish people to reject a form of independence that isn’t on offer. That is not real independence they cry, but it very much is. It just happens that the No campaign don’t doesn’t understand modern concepts of workable, mature and common sense Independence.
Once again, separation isn’t on the ballot paper. Modern independence that gets rid of the failings of Westminster and adopts the elements of Devo Max that work whilst rejecting extreme versions of independence is on offer next September.
Before we vote there will be a clear roadmap to a better Scotland, one with all the powers we need to improve our economy whilst simultaneously meeting our nations social and welfare needs, sounds just like what the people of Scotland really want and will vote for once independence is fully defined.
Maybe the slogan of the Yes campaign should be “Independence in Europe and Independence in the UK”?