I’m writing this for myself, mainly. On Thursday I will be voting Yes to Scottish independence and have some close family who are as yet undecided on which way they will vote. Hopefully I will be able to articulate some reasons why I’ve chosen to vote Yes and it might help them come to a decision either way. It might also be of interest to family and friends that are voting No and don’t understand my own reasoning.
Unfortunately I can’t offer you any facts. Factual information has been like gold dust in the referendum debate. As Sherlock Holmes once said “It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” I would dearly love to apply cold logic to our Yes/No problem but smarter folk than I have thus far failed to do so. What Sherlock needs is a Dr. Watson, a man with experience, common sense and empathy. We all suit the bill there as far as I’m concerned.
All I can offer is my personal opinion on how I arrived at my decision and the assurance that it makes no difference to me which way my nearest and dearest (or anyone) choose to vote. I truly believe that the point of living in a modern democracy is to listen to the concerns and wills of both sides of an argument and come to an agreement that works for both. Compromise is not a failure.
I am not naive about the problems facing Scotland if it became a newly independent nation. There will be huge hurdles in negotiating a currency union, if one can be negotiated at all. Each of the other fiscal options come with associated risks and benefits that I’m certain you will be able to research on your own. We, within the union or out-with it, are saddled with a huge financial deficit. This will not go away on it’s own and should rightly be forefront in our minds when thinking about the near to mid future of our economy. Will becoming independent bring about our debt repayments faster? I don’t know. I’m not sure anyone does know. This website (http://www.economicshelp.org/blog/334/uk-economy/uk-national-debt/) puts our current UK debt at around 75% of national GDP, it’s a number so big that I can’t actually equate it to anything real, £1,304.6 billion. That is wild. How did this happen and do I want to continue to be part of a society that allows a select few to oversee this catastrophic accumulation of debt and then pass it on to the millions of people they are meant to protect whilst remaining comfortably above any widespread downturn in fortunes by actually raising their own wages, and seemingly their middle fingers to the masses? No.
But surely I would be able to affect a change in this system of removed elites by voting in a government with a vested interest in championing the rights of these affected millions and not severing Scotland from the UK? Actually I can’t. As has been widely discussed elsewhere neoliberal politics has congealed the three (remember there used to only be two?) dominant Westminster political parties into a self serving Eton Mess, each so concerned with claiming the centre of the centre ground that they will willingly abandon the principles of their parties, and as such their grassroots electorate. I don’t agree with them, but I don’t actually mind people being Tories or any other political persuasion, unless of course it’s racist/sexist/homophobic etc. I think difference breeds debate which breeds compromise and ultimately change. Much like the rest of the post-modern, post-millennial, post-internet funk we are currently living in, our Political system has ground to a stagnating halt. The referendum has shown that if people are engaged in the process of democracy then they leap at the chance to take part in it. We live in a small country and in Scotland our political leaders are much more aware of the issues facing us day-to-day as they don’t live elsewhere. I agree that Edinburgh is far away from Mull or Shetland and as such the new Scottish Government will probably spend more time thinking about central belt politics than highland/island ones. But it’s a lot closer than Westminster is.
There is also the problem of House of Lords: I don’t feel like I need to expand on that.
In Scotland our education, legal and health systems are already separate. They aren’t perfect but for me they are better than what is offered to people in the rest of the UK. If we had full financial control over all our resources I think we would eventually show that we could succeed in other areas of society, in welfare, in our environmental obligations and in our economy. I have different political aspirations than what is offered to me by the current, and might I suggest unalterable system of governance, and I want to affect a change. I completely understand why UK policy is so London centric, that’s where most people live and it makes more sense to look after people there. But it doesn’t suit me and I don’t think it will ever result in the kind of society I want to live in. If I vote yes I think I have a much better chance of actually engaging in the process of making a better, fairer society and am wholeheartedly inspired by the ideas put forth by the Common Weal (http://allofusfirst.org) and by other such forward thinking groups. The cynic in me thinks this is just wishful thinking and that people are people, that in an independent Scotland these policies would receive the same welcome they would in our current system. However, I know for certain that they won’t be received at all as things stand and I want to try.
The issue of nationalism worries me. I have been to a few debates and had to sit through Yes voters shouting down No voters. I’ve been embarrassed to listen to people harp on about Bannockburn and, my least favorite phrase of all, “the English”. Being English has nothing, NOTHING to do with this debate. Plenty of my good friends are English, some live here, some live in England, some want independence, some don’t. For me, this referendum is about local governance and all the people that happen to live within the political boundaries of Scotland. That’s also the reason why I am completely comfortable with Scottish people living outside of Scotland not having a vote. Billy Bragg has written concisely about this very point here (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/16/scottish-nationalism-british-westminster-class). These rumblings worry me, but then I see the huge number of intelligent, articulate and inspiring people I know that also share my hope for a better society and I am heartened. I have listened to so many people I respect passionately argue for and against independence and it fills me with pride that I am living through such a momentous and invigorating time. However you look at it, the independence debate is a positive thing, and I think it’s worth remembering that we wouldn’t be having any of these discussions at all if the Yes movement hadn’t called for a referendum on Scotland leaving the UK in the first place. I am not a nationalist; it turns my stomach to read doe eyed laments for Scottish and British histories. I am however proud to be a European and feel that through independence Scotland will have closer diplomatic ties to our continental neighbors. Also, I just straight up don’t believe that the EU won’t allow Scotland in. You might disagree.
There are other points that sway me.
- Oil: it’s running out either way. I would hope that we use any remaining profit from it to pay off our horrific debt and to invest in becoming global leaders in renewable energies. We are surrounded, quite literally, by resources we can harness to provide clean and sustainable energy for the future of our children and planet. Independence gives us the platform from which to begin this paradigmal shift in dependency.
- Shale Gas: no thank you.
- Trident. It honestly baffles me that nuclear warheads are still seen as vital to our defence. No one will ever use them again and the financial drain is catastrophic; get rid of them. Also, morally I can’t reconcile myself with being part of a country that thinks it is OK to still threaten the world with what must be the most abhorrent force human nature has ever realised.
- Immigration: Another South East specific issue that is almost completely irrelevant north of the border. We actually NEED people to live and work here.
- It doesn’t faze me one jot that Scotland wont be a world leader. The UK is deluding itself if they think that China, India and Brazil will care what this tiny island thinks about Global issues in 50 years time. United with Europe however, we have the democratic clout to actually have a say. I also would argue that an independent Scotland is less likely to charge in to illegal wars.
- On that note, I don’t care that we won’t have a huge army. I have no idea why Britain needs to have the 5th highest defence expenditure in the world. I would hope that Scotland’s would be significantly less. People tend not to want to fight you if you don’t hit them first.
There are other things that I’m confident of. There will not be border patrols and checkpoints between England and Scotland. England and Scotland will continue to work together in trade and good will, and with a shared cultural heritage. Scotland will remain geographically and fundamentally connected with the rest of the UK, it will just have a different system of governance elected by the people that live there.
I understand why people will choose to vote No on Thursday and wish no one any ill feeling for exercising their democratic right to do so. Whatever the result, we will be living and working together trying to make a prosperous future for us all. I just think that by voting Yes I’ll have a chance at realising the society I want to build.