Thursday, 2 January 2014

Why I am voting YES


This year the people of Scotland, which means those of whatever origin or nationality who are resident here and over the age of 16 on 18 September, have the chance to vote on whether we want to continue to be ruled by English politicians based in London or to choose our own representatives to rule us from Edinburgh.

The issues are purely and simply about the structure of government, given that in the lifetimes of all current voters the Scots have hardly ever been ruled by a party that the majority wanted. In my case this experience goes back to the election of 1970, but at least in those days under a two party system there was a chance of change. That ended after 1979, when pig-headedness caused the Labour party to fragment, the resulting three parties meaning that the United Kingdom was ruled by a succession of right-wing Conservative or New Labour governments, none of which had the support of a majority of the electorate.

We have seen foreign excursions and wars, some of them illegal, whereas at home we have seen the wholesale theft of national assets through privatisation. The former have caused death and devastation abroad, the latter has ruined our national utilities, transport and housing stock. This has continued to the present day with the Royal Mail the last to go. There’s now almost nothing left of value in the public sector. Meantime the gap between rich and poor has widened terribly.

After the general election of 2011 it seemed for a brief instant that there was a chance that permanent minority rule could be ended for all time by the introduction of proportional representation. The Liberal Democrats held the balance of power. They could and should have made the introduction of PR a deal- breaker, but as we all know they blew it. As a result the Westminster system will remain profoundly undemocratic, whatever we in Scotland decide.

Now in its second decade the devolved Scottish Parliament has achieved a great deal in areas such as health and education over which it has a reasonable measure of control. I suspect that one by-product of this has been to obscure from most Scots the bizarre changes that have been going on at the same time in England. While the Scottish NHS has been coping quite well with winter epidemics and most sections have avoided bankruptcy English health trusts have been seriously damaged by privatisation. Down South Mr Gove has been introducing so-called free schools and other crazy inventions, all without the support of a majority.

It’s well known that devolution was introduced because a number of Scottish Labour politicians calculated it would satisfy Scots and end our wish for self-determination. For party reasons the system was designed to ensure that it would take a landslide for any party but Labour to get overall control. Of course precisely that happened when the SNP swept the board. So, what’s the problem with devolution?

First, and fundamentally, in terms of the UK’s unwritten constitution Holyrood exists only at the whim of the parliament in Westminster. Westminster can theoretically cancel devolution and abolish Holyrood and may do so, especially if there is a no vote. Factions in both main parties support this.

Second, the areas where Westminster has retained control are important to us all. At the lower level, many ordinary matters like controlling airguns require to be approved by London. Far more important are issues like weapons of mass destruction, our relationship with the rest of the world and our economic policy. Taking these in turn,

Nuclear weapons

I was at the start of my secondary education when the American fleet arrived in the Holy Loch on the Firth of Clyde. My parents supported this move, as they profoundly feared the Soviet threat, apart from which my father’s Far East war didn’t end until late 1946 and his views were coloured by the factors behind the Japanese surrender.

Almost seventy years later one of the biggest stores of nuclear weapons in all time sits about 24 miles (40 km) from Scotland’s largest city. This is insanity on a massive scale, insupportable on any rational basis in the modern world, whatever the arguments might have been in the past. The bombs are under American, not United Kingdom, control and there are no circumstances whereby an English politician would or could authorise their use against American wishes.

I suspect that if my parents were alive today they would see the madness. I also suspect that the immediate post-war generation of politicians who supported the programme at first would also see it, were they still around. Tragically we are now ruled by younger men and women who have never known careers outside of politics and who are blind to or just refuse to see the madness. Having the bombs makes them feel bigger people than they really are.

Bluntly, voting NO supports these dangerous lunatics.  Let’s not even try to work out how many hospitals/schools etcetera could be provided from the money saved. It’s an awful lot, but that’s not the point.

Foreign relations

First of all, post- independence England doesn’t become “foreign” in any meaningful sense. It’s nonsense to suggest there will be border posts on the M6 and M1. That is garbage put out by unionists completely underestimating our intelligence. It would mean that the Scottish/English border was the only one in Europe where a pass was required. Tragically the press loves this kind of emotive tripe, for example the political commentator on the Independent saying her granny’s grave will be in a foreign land – where’s your Rupert Brooke when you need him?

Second, Scotland won’t be “thrown out” of Europe as a result of independence. I prefer the reasoning of jurists such as Judge David Edwards to Spanish conservatives with an axe to grind over Catalonia.

Scotland has always enjoyed close links all over Europe, testimony to our history as a trading nation, going back to even before William Wallace and his Luebeck letter. We had trading posts everywhere, shared our universities, enjoyed similar educational and legal traditions, in short pre 1707 Scotland was truly a European nation at a time when England was looking world-wide to build an empire. We all know that this still counts when we Scots travel about Europe.

There is no legal mechanism for a state or part of a state to be expelled from the EU, assuming there were to be a will to do this. It is as offensive as it is plain wrong to say that Scotland would not meet the requirements for EU membership. It’s also a bit odd to suppose that Spain would do something that would exclude her fishing fleet from our waters.

Of course if Scotland voted no and the UK were to vote to withdraw from Europe in the referendum promised by David Cameron we’d all be out. On the other hand an independent Scotland within Europe would be one of only two English-speaking bridgeheads for countries like the USA and South Africa wanting to do business there.

Economic policy

For decades policy has been based on the needs of London, despite those of the regions of the UK being very different. One of the surprises in recent years has been the competence with which the Scottish Government has handled the limited control entrusted to it by Westminster. It is offensive to suggest that Scots are too stupid to run our own national housekeeping, particularly when London’s record in recent years has not been impressive.

I won’t lengthen this note by discussing the economic arguments in detail. I suggest that anyone interested who hasn’t done so should follow them elsewhere, on sites such as newsnetscotland.com and wingsoverscotland.com. One thing we all know about economics is that predictions are always wrong.

Next, what is this debate NOT about?

It’s not about Alex Salmond, despite his being the most effective politician in the United Kingdom in my adult lifetime by a long Scots mile (and sincere in his convictions, which underpins his effectiveness). Personally I have huge problems with the SNP over certain legal and human rights issues, failure to order a Lockerbie inquiry, fish farming, playing games with Trump and Murdoch etcetera, but independence is too big an issue to make a fuss of those just now. We can all vote for whom we want later.

The present Scottish voting system will almost certainly bring about coalitions and I suspect we’ll be living mainly under centre left administrations with a good deal of consensus politics. After all, the substance of a lot of the policies that Labour, SNP and the Greens propose is the same. The Greens are mature enough to admit this, but Labour under Lamont feel obliged to oppose everything on principle – she’s even ditched her support for CND. They will eventually have to grow out of this behaviour if they want a share of power.

Another thing the debate is not about is narrow nationalism, something the press has tried to smear the SNP with in the past, with some success. It’s true that some of the hairier nationalists in the 1960s wrapped themselves in tartan, but we’ve all moved on from then.

It’s a sad comment on the failure of the Union that the Scottish population remained static for about the last seventy years at just over 5 million between 1939 and 2000, with a modest increase since then. Overall the population is ageing and it seems that as many young people leave as come here. Unlike England we desperately need the talent and energy that come with new people. 

Modern Scots have proved good at integrating incomers, which has resulted in a wonderful new cultural diversity in places like Glasgow. By contrast modern England is becoming increasingly xenophobic and restrictions imposed to suit the South will have desperate impacts in the North.

Finally the debate is not about fear. To date the unionist message has been characterised by fear – fear of the unknown, of the oil running out, of our stupidity and even of what the English may do to us if we “break free”. Some of those putting that message across are probably motivated by fear – fear for their own futures as politicians or broadcasters, as there’s no doubt that independence will derail a lot of gravy trains.

There doesn’t seem to be anyone arguing that our lot in Scotland will actually improve under the union if we vote no – what we’ve got now is the best we’ll have, so that’s it. The choice is between staying in the mess we’re in with no control over it, or voting yes and taking charge of our own destiny.

That’s my summary of the issues as I see them. It’ll be old news for those already in the Yes camp, but I hope it may help some of our undecided friends to make up their minds.


Have a happy and interesting New Year!

Update 11 January 2014

This post is generating some interesting comments and I'll eventually do another post with my own responses rather than dealing with these individually. 

3 comments:

  1. Funny seeing people are still taken in by this 'Democracy' malarkey.
    For the forth year in a row I did not fill in or sign the Voters Registration Form, (under threat of £1000 fine). Yet I will still appear on the Voters roll.
    .
    However the vote goes we will still be run by the European Union.

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  2. Must say I'd be sad if Scotland said goodbye and think it would be bad for Scotland. I'm half Scottish and being in the UK means I can call myself British, Scottish, English and a Londoner all at the same time. Independence would introduce additional costs as institutions are duplicated and it is not clear that there would significant economic benefits to Scotland - indeed there is evidence that Scotland has significant net benefits from membership of the Uk. There's also the currency issue, in that Scotland would either have to have its own or use another (pound or Euro) over which it has little control and hence would be likely to pay higher rates of interest on borrowing. And on that subject my understanding is the demographics of Scotland are worse than that of the rest of the UK so there would be risks of difficult times in the future.

    Slovakia grew out of independence thanks to to a combination of low taxation and high skills, but although Scotland has the latter I'd be worried about the former (unless ironically it stays in the UK). Slovakia also has a younger population.

    I recognise I have no vote and hence no real voice which is a shame as it feels as if something is being lost, and Scotland is already a nation, along with England and Wales.

    I feel the energy and national pride should be focussed on building up Scotland with its current status, looking at raising its profile and status internationally rather than comparing itself internally within the UK.

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  3. Again I am a half Scots expat. I strongly oppose independence because is all that will happen is that Scotland will be ruled even more firmly than it is now by the EU.
    It is a travesty that Scots abroad aren't allowed to vote. From my viewpoint this renders the whole exercise invalid but then whenever was Wee Eck and his friends fairminded or listening to the alternative viewpoint.

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The Wherrymen

The Wherrymen
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