The Scottish Independence Referendum is over, the results declared, and I feel relieved as much as happy that the result went the way that I hoped. A letter in today’s Guardian sort of expresses what I feel;
When the no vote won, it felt like an enormous relief. I can still feel Scottish, then, perhaps even more so since not excluded. I can be as Scottish as I choose, whatever that means. Thank goodness. We are all world citizens. We might as well try to get along.
I know that there are a lot of disappointed people in Scotland today. I hope you believe me when I say that can understand your pain. When you put time, effort, money, passion and belief into something and it doesn’t work out the way you had hoped, it hurts.
The “Yes” campaign brought a new passion, a new style and a new level of engagement to politics in Scotland. At least part of this was due to the fact that an existential question had to be answered, and that for once every vote counted. I hope that the level of passion and engagement will continue when politics goes back to ‘normal’ representational politics , where the questions are not so easily framed and the answers are less clear-cut. I also hope that we can tap into that passion south of the border. I will expand on that in another post.
Why did “Yes” lose
There have been acres of newsprint and terabytes of blog postings already on this subject so I think I should add my bawbee’s worth to them.
Failure to answer big questions
I feel the main reason was an unwillingness or inability to answer some fundamental questions.
The big question that the “Yes” campaign totally failed to answer was the currency question. Their answer was “we will continue to use the Pound Sterling”. When it was pointed out that this was neither practically nor politically possible, they blustered and basically said ‘we’ll sort it out later’.
Practically it wouldn’t work, because as the Euro has proven, currency union without political and fiscal union at a federal level doesn’t’ work. Politically it wouldn’t work because all three main UK parties had said they wouldn’t allow it. The reason they wouldn’t allow it was because they were worried about an independent Scotland building a deficit of Greek proportions and the Bank of England being left as lender of the last resort. Even if both those problems could have been overcome, there would still have been the problem of Scotland’s interest rates and monetary policy being set in London.
The funding of the Scottish Exchequer was also never properly addressed, other than to say that oil revenues would cover any gap.
It became every thing to everyone
I felt that one of problems with the yes campaign was that it presented an independent Scotland as a blank canvas. You could paint any picture you wanted onto it. This is obviously an attractive notion, and it seduced many people, notably singer/activist Billy Bragg. Obviously had “Yes” won the day a there would have been lot of disappointed people a few weeks down the route to independence. The redistributive Social Democracy being promoted by Common Weal is obviously incompatible with the small state, tax-cutting, Tiger economy that those on the Libertarian end of Nationalism were hoping for. Equally the petro-chemical fuelled economy implied by much of the Scottish Nationalist Party’s economic predictions was at complete odds with the Scottish Green Party’s vision of a Scotland fuelled by renewable energy.
Many people who I interacted with on Social Media, normally after I had raised a question about something that Alex Salmond had said, told me that the referendum was not about the SNP. I will admit that there were other strands within the “Yes” campaign but Salmond set the overall tone. While some people loved him, a lot more, including myself were completely turned off by an ego the size of Ben Nevis and the arrogance that went with it. His answer to any criticism of his policies was” I’m right, you’re wrong”.
Where do we go from here
Scotland has said yes to continuing as part of the United Kingdom, but it is a qualified endorsement. The debate has shown that our current constitutional arrangements are no longer fit for purpose in the 21st century. We need to come up with a new settlement for the whole of the country, and not something stitched up by Westminster. We can see this happening already. David Cameron makes his proposals not so much because he thinks they are right for the United Kingdom but because he thinks that they will put The Labour Party in a difficult position and therefore be good for the conservatives.
This cannot be about narrow party advantage. We need a sound and lasting settlement made in a way that allows everyone their say in how it is reached.
Unlock Democracy have an E-petition calling for just this which I would ask you to think about signing.
It is probably time to reconsider (again) how we elect our representatives. The Single Transferable Vote is an idea whose time has come.
As well as this I would like to see politics south of the Tweed develop some of the passion and thinking that people like Common Weal have brought to the Scottish Independence debate.
A final aside:
There was an important vote on the 18th that did go in favour of those voting “Yes”. Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews finally dragged itself out of the early neolithic and into the 21st century by voting to allow women members.