We don’t do referenda very well in the UK. I’m not sure if they’ve been successful in other parts of the world, but the last one we held descended into an avalanche of BS that froze the debate beneath so many lies that the truth couldn’t be found. When placed in the hands of the public, the truth lost out.
So now we, and by ‘we’ I actually mean ‘they’, the Scots, have a chance to vote on another constitutional matter: whether or not to embrace independence and leave the United Kingdom. It is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, so how is the debate shaping up?
Not very well, is the answer. Frustratingly, neither side seem to be arguing about the issue itself: independence. Instead it has devolved into a tit-for-tat argument as to whether or not Scots would be better off outside the union or not, when in fact they should be discussing the philosophical core of the question. It is very much like when the AV Referendum descended into talk of “Will this be good or bad for Nick Clegg?” or “Will this let in the BNP?” when in fact these are all transient issues, inconsequential when picking a piece of constitution that could last hundreds of years. If Scotland becomes independent every Scot could become broke, or they might each become over-night millionaires, and yet it wouldn’t matter. They are choosing the future of their country, to reject or accept the motion based upon the state of their wallets over the next few years, or even decades, is incredibly short sighted.
The cynic in me feels that the Yes campaign would like to avoid this philosophical core of the debate, because it appeals to a nationalism rooted in a bygone era. Yes the Scots have had to put up with atrocious acts by the English hundreds of years ago, but seeing as how the current population of Scotland are not hundreds of years old, to resent the English for acts committed by those who are dead against those who are also dead isn’t very logical. A more reasonable objection to unionism would be to call for a republican state free from monarchist rule, but the yes campaign have already stated that they’d like to keep the monarchy, significantly diluting their argument.
Despite my Grant ancestry, I consider myself English because, well, I was born and raised in the south, but like my northern brothers and sisters, I cannot stand conservatism. Tory policies offend me to my very core, but dissatisfaction with the policies of successive Westminster governments cannot be used to justify seceding from the union, because this is an ever repeating argument. If Scotland leaves the UK because they don’t like the policies of the nation as a whole, then what’s to stop the Isle of Skye leaving Scotland when the successive Scottish elections doesn’t go their way? And so on, and so on. Dissatisfaction with a democracy isn’t a reason for independence, it is a reason for devolution. Unfortunately the Yes camp seem to be focusing all their attention on pointing out how shit the conservatives and labour governments have been. That might be true, but that’s democracy folks.
Now, to those who believe passionately in a Yes vote, I hope you don’t think me unfair. If you want to argue that you feel no kinship with the other nations of our union, then that is a completely legitimate argument, and I wish you the best of luck making it, but so far that is the only argument that stands up and I don’t think it’ll find a majority.
As should be clear by now, I hope that Scotland votes No to Independence. But once that No vote is secured, we should completely overhaul the way our democracy functions into a federal system where Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish parliaments have full control over their state-wide policies, leaving issues such as foreign policy to a core executive government.
Something does need to change, and Scots need more autonomy, but a bitter divorce is not the way to go.