The polls say the referendum is too close to call. The undecided, possibly as much as much as 15%, will decide if Scotland will become an independent self governing country or stay ruled from Westminster. Please pass this article on to any undecided voters you know.
With only one newspaper supporting YES the undecideds are well versed in the No camp’s complaints about a YES vote but are largely unaware of the problems and unanswered questions about a NO vote.
It is vital that undecided voters are aware that those that have considered the arguments and decided to vote Yes have mostly weighed up the arguments and believe there are more problems and more uncertainty with a NO vote than with a YES vote.
For the sake of democracy in Scotland the undecided must be allowed proper scrutiny of the problems that many feel come with a NO Vote. Please pass this list of questions on to any undecided voter who is still looking for balance.
Questioning the powers on offer from the NO camp.
Westminster politicians have at the last minute stated they want Scotland to have more powers in the event of a No vote, but they fought to have Devo Max taken off the ballot paper as a third option when this was supported by the Scottish Government.
The powers on offer are not agreed on by the Westminster parties, and many are opposed by politicians in the rest of the UK who will be asked to vote on them in the Westminster Parliament. No new powers have been announced recently and as well as there being no real job creating powers on the table the powers being offered amount to between 20 and 30% of the powers that Scotland would have with a YES vote.
Question 1 – How can Scotland believe in the more powers offer from the Westminster Parties when they opposed real advances in devolution right up until a poll put the YES vote in front and when the Westminster Parliament, of which Scottish MPs make up a small proportion, effectively has a veto.
For 23 of the past 35 years Scotland has had governments that the people of Scotland didn’t vote for. We are outnumbered by the rest of the UK population, to the extent that even when we vote the same way as the rest of the UK, the Government we get is focussed on the needs of the mass populations of London and the South East.
Most people feel devolution has worked well because many decisions that affect the people of Scotland are now made in Scotland but overall budgetary control and control over major areas of spending such as welfare, defence, international relations and the vast majority of taxation and job creating powers remain devolved to Westminster.
Question 2 – How can it be argued that politicians based in Westminster (the majority of whom are not elected to serve the people of Scotland) can make better decisions for Scotland than a fully empowered government elected by and acting in the interests of the people of Scotland?
Questioning Westminster’s management of our public services
Scotland has elected governments that make different decisions on spending priorities on public services and welfare and the NHS. Scotland has used the current powers of devolution to go a different way to Westminster on policies such as no tuition fees, free prescriptions and free personal care for the elderly.
Our Parliament has also used its devolved powers to protect the Scottish NHS from the privatisation that is increasing in the rest of the UK, but did not have powers to stop the bedroom tax for example. Scotland through devolution can control some spending but overall budgetary control is retained by Westminster: George Osborne is targeting £25 billion in further spending cuts after 2015 and Labour has stated that they can see no room to avoid those cuts.
Question 3 – If Westminster is cutting the Scottish Government’s block grant and privatising the National Health Service, isn’t it better for Scotland to control all of its finances to protect Scotland’s NHS and our approach to welfare? Does this not prove that Westminster will continue to hurt the vulnerable if there is a No vote?
Questioning Westminster defence and military policy
Westminster cut Scottish defence jobs by 27.9% over the last decade and many feel they have failed to properly support personnel returning from conflict. Westminster’s planned £100 billion spend on more weapons of mass destruction which will be based on the Clyde is based on projecting power around the world rather than working with others to protect peace.
The proposal under independence is to create a sustainable Scottish Defence Force with more conventional forces and personnel and no nuclear weapons. This means that Scotland will be appropriately defended, better able to help in peace keeping and aid missions around the world and will be able to make significant budget savings.
Question 4 – Is it not better to have a modern, well equipped, conventional defence force that can both protect Scotland and help promote peacekeeping and international development, whilst transferring the massive savings from not having nuclear weapons to priorities than mean more to Scotland such as ending child poverty and taking care of our elderly and vulnerable citizens?
Questioning the negativity of the No campaign
No one can deny that the No campaign’s message has been completely focussed on negativity, highlighting – or some would say exaggerating – perceived uncertainties with a move to Scotland becoming a self governing independent country.
Policy statements have been made that create uncertainty, such as the Westminster parties’ insistence on stating that there will be no currency union. Every month, between 5 and 6 billion pounds worth of goods are sold to Scotland by companies in the rest of the UK. Up to one million jobs in the rest of the UK depend on that trade with Scotland, which is why the majority of voters now believe that it is a political tactic by Westminster and not a sensible plan for managing trade between Scotland and the rest of the UK.
The Conservative Party has offered a referendum on EU membership after the next general election and many believe Labour cannot win without also matching that promise. As it looks like the EU referendum will result in a vote to exit the EU from England and a vote to stay by Scotland, there is more uncertainty about a no vote on EU membership for Scotland than with a YES vote.
Question 5 – Many undecided voters say they are waiting for a positive message from the No campaign to compare to the Yes campaign’s positive plans. They must ask themselves, does the NO campaign lack a positive reason for staying in the union and have no positive vision for creating jobs and prosperity in Scotland because there is no positive reason to vote NO?
Questioning the morality of negativity on pensions
The NO campaign has targeted older voters by suggesting that an independent Scotland would not be able to afford its pensions. This targeting of often elderly and vulnerable people with negativity that does not stand up to scrutiny represents everything that is wrong with Westminster politics.
Having paid national insurance contributions all pensioners are legally entitled to their pensions from the Westminster Government. It does not matter what country pensioners live in, their pensions are guaranteed. The Scottish Government has also guaranteed that pensions in an independent Scotland will increase by the average of 2.5%, the rate of inflation or average earnings, which ever is higher. This means that pensions are locked in and guaranteed.
Private pensions are again unaffected, as the company you have a pension with is legally required to pay your pension no matter where you live. Many pensioners draw private and public pensions whilst living in Spain, Australia, New Zealand etc. Scotland has also generated more tax per head than the UK average for 33 years in a row and would have been £8.3 billion better off as an independent country over the last five years alone. This shows that Scotland would be better off financially as an independent country and more able to meet its pensions obligations than the UK.
Question 6 – If the Westminster parties are content to spread fear and worry amongst vulnerable sections of our society such as pensioners, are they the type of politicians we want making decisions that effect pensioners on an on going basis? Can we trust them?
Conclusion The vast majority of people believe that the Scottish parliament is best placed to make decisions for Scotland, it seems self-evident but many are still undecided which way to vote. Undecided voters often say that their heart says Yes but their head is uncertain who to trust. There are arguments on both sides; no point is uncontested except probably that Scotland could afford to be independent if it so chooses. It all boils down to whom you trust and if you vote YES then you are putting your trust in the people of Scotland to run their own affairs. In the end that is what it all boils down to.