Time for a Party?

Disclaimer – although I am a member of the SNP, the following opinions, as in all my posts, are my personal opinions.

In my first attempt at blogging, I considered the future of the Labour Party in Scotland if there was a Yes vote; now, regrettably, I have to discuss the future of the Scottish branch of the Labour Party following a No vote. The referendum vote makes it clear that many previously loyal Labour voters have refused to toe the party line on independence. No doubt some will merely revert to type, and go on voting for any candidate with a red rosette, but others will have had their eyes opened to to the fact that ‘Scottish Labour’ is not going to act in the best interests of Scotland. The close co-operation between Labour and the Tories must have made quite a few Labour voters realise how little difference there is now between the two parties.

‘Scottish Labour’, as it calls itself on ballot papers, is merely part of a Westminster party, whose main priority is to provide as many MPs as possible so that Labour can get their turns at the perks of power at Westminster. If it were more important to Labour’s London HQ, would they not have persuaded one of Labour’s Scottish MPs to act as Scottish leader rather than make do with Johann Lamont? (It probably would not have resulted in much of an improvement.)

Previously, there was speculation that independence might lead to a rebirth of Scottish Labour; forced to separate itself from the UK party, it might have returned to its roots and moved back to the left of the SNP. That possibility has now gone; the Scottish branch will see no reason to change, and in any case would probably not be allowed to by the party’s London HQ, which appears to consider ‘socialism’ as a dirty word and phrases such as ‘social justice’ merely as rhetoric, not to be given any substance.

The No campaign has been disgraceful and thoroughly dishonest, and while the Tories and LibDems are far from innocent, it is Labour which must be assigned the greatest share of the guilt. The Scottish branch of the Labour party deserves to wither and die. It would be a further disgrace to Scotland if Labour were to be rewarded, in the general election next May, by Scotland returning enough Labour MPs to allow Labour to form a government. There is no merit in voting tactically for Labour to keep the Tories out, as there is little difference between the two when it comes to policies rather than rhetoric, and Labour is unlikely to reward Scotland in any way, for fear of offending English voters.

Efforts should be made to encourage anyone who still supports Labour to switch to another party. If they cannot bring themselves to support the SNP, they could back the Scottish Greens or the SSP. There is some talk of the need for a new left of centre party which could attract former Labour voters. Perhaps Labour for Independence members will decide that there is no future for them in the Labour party, and decide to form a new party – one which is both genuinely Scottish and genuinely Labour.

On the one hand, a new party which was able to attract more support than the Scottish Greens or the SSP can currently manage would help to show people that the independence campaign and the SNP are not synonymous, and that the SNP would not necessarily form the government of an independent Scotland. It could certainly attract more people out of the clutches of the Labour party. There may be a significant number of Scottish voters who find the present Labour party too right-wing for their taste, but who stay with it because, for some reason, they distrust the SNP – perhaps because they have been indoctrinated by the Labour party with the idea that the SNP are evil tartan Tories.

On the other hand, there is a risk of the pro-independence movement becoming fragmented. It is important to have as many pro-independence MPs as possible after the next general election to keep up the pressure, especially as there is a good chance that neither the Tories nor Labour will win an outright majority next May. I have not seen any poll results for Scottish voting intentions for Westminster for some time, but they were showing the SNP level with or ahead of Labour. Especially if the recent surge in SNP membership figures is a useful indicator of voting intentions, it is just possible that the SNP might hold the balance of power in the Commons after the next election.

If a new party is formed, it seems unlikely that it could be ready to effectively contest an election in not much more than seven months from now. However, if a new party did manage to reach a stage where it had a realistic chance of winning seats, as an SNP member I personally would support an electoral pact with that party. Ideally, for a Westminster election, whichever pro-independence party has the best chance of winning a particular seat should put up a candidate, and the other pro-independence parties should ask their supporters to vote for that candidate. Perhaps a similar deal should be done with regards to the constituency seats for a Holyrood election, as it is vital to have a pro-independence majority there, to keep up the pressure on the Westminster parties to honour their pledges and, if they fail to do so, keep reminding the Scottish electorate of the Unionists’ duplicity.

There is surely a great deal of anger about the way in which the Unionists bought their referendum victory with promises which they will not keep. (They almost certainly could not keep them, even if they wanted to, given the present political climate in England.) That anger must not be allowed to fade into resignation, or Scotland will not be free as as long as the is still oil to prop up the UK’s mismanaged economy. Perhaps a new party could channel the anger, and keep it alive, by saying things that the SNP, as the ruling party at Holyrood, should not.

Where Now?

I cannot feel disappointed by the referendum result, because at the moment all I feel is anger that

- the Unionists won with a campaign based on threats, smears and downright lies, and so many people must have let themselves be fooled by these;

- British nationalism has triumphed while its proponents said all nationalism is evil;

- the BBC showed such disregard for the idea of impartiality;

- Scotland will remain under the control of the Westminster Parliament which is both corrupt (with politicians voting on issues where they have a substantial financial interest, something which local councillors are, rightly, not allowed to do) and nowhere near as democratic as it pretends to be;

- that Scotland will continue to be denied a proper codified constitution to assert the rights of its citizens.

One scandal is that the Unionist leaders came out with a last minute promise of more powers for the Scottish Parliament, widely but misleadingly reported as something like devo-max, although neither government was supposed to announce any new policies which might influence the referendum result within the ‘purdah’ period. I have seen it said that this is acceptable because Cameron was speaking as leader of the Tory party, rather than as the Prime Minister. Would Alex Salmond have been allowed to get away with this kind of trick? However, the Electoral Commission has already shown that it is merely a tool of the British Establishment in its dealings with the CBI.

I will never forgive the leaders of such a dishonest campaign – may they rot in hell. As for those of them who are, or claim to be, Scottish, I see them as renegades and traitors. Given that so much of the No campaign’s funding came from outside Scotland, yet again, as Robert Burns wrote, “We’re bought and sold for English gold – Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!”

I will never forgive the BBC for acting as a propaganda mouthpiece for the British government. I urge anyone reading this not to support them by buying a TV licence, as the internet provides alternative sources of both information and entertainment.

I will find it very hard to forgive those who voted No because they were afraid that independence might cost them a few pounds, or incomers who voted No because they see Scotland as an English colony. I will not forgive anyone who voted No because they want WMD to continue to be based 25 miles from the centre of Glasgow. I do not think much of people who based their No votes on uncritical acceptance of what they read in newspapers or saw on television, or of people who were too timid to grasp an opportunity to have a better, more democratic country. I despise people who voted No because they do not like Alex Salmond, because they are fools who could not understand that the referendum was not about one politician.

I am deeply suspicious of this result. Before the referendum, I occasionally saw suggestions that the British Establishment would rig the result, and I fear that is just what has happened. There were good reasons to believe that the polls were, if anything, underestimating the Yes vote. Could the Western Isles, an SNP stronghold, really have voted No? Is the significantly lower than average turnout in Glasgow plausible? Of course, many people assume that vote rigging is something that only happens in other countries, but when one looks at how corrupt the British Establishment is, it is easy to believe that they will resort to such tactics if they feel that their interests are being threatened. It would be, in my opinion, naive to believe that they could not rig a vote if they decided to do so. I saw a report that one bookmaker started paying out on bets on a No win even before the referendum; did they have inside information?

The fight must not end here.  If the dream of independence is allowed to fade, Westminster will trample all over Scotland; the Scottish Parliament will lose powers, not gain them, the Scottish budget will be cut, and the number and status of Scottish MPs reduced. It has become all too clear that there is a considerable amount of anti-Scottish feeling in England, which has been encouraged by certain newspapers. This is likely to be exploited by UKIP which has always been hostile to devolution, and the other parties will counter this by attempting to appease potential UKIP voters. Only the possibility of independence can protect Scotland, and there is only one effective way now to maintain that possibility, and that is to keep the SNP strong.

I would urge everyone in Scotland who supports independence, or even just devolution, to vote for the SNP next year, and again in 2016, even if you do not agree with all their policies, and even if you do not like Alex Salmond. You might feel more in agreement with the Greens or the SSP, but while there is much to be said in their favour, they simply do not have enough support to be effective. You might feel loyalty to the Labour party, and have supported LfI, but UK Labour is a profoundly Unionist party which has been completely assimilated into the British Establishment, and Scottish Labour do the bidding of the UK party. Labour would probably be happy to see Scotland assimilated into Greater England, unless they can regain control of the Scottish Parliament and reduce it to subservience to London. You might even like the LibDems and their talk of a federal system, but they have been talking about it for a long time and have never come close to being able to deliver it. Even as part of the UK Government they could not deliver reform of the voting system or the Lords.

We should be willing to wait another 15 or 20 years for another referendum only if the Scottish Parliament is given substantial, useable additional powers in the very near future.  If, as seems likely, the Unionist parties are either unwilling or unable to deliver these powers, another referendum is much more likely to deliver a Yes vote once some of the people who voted No this time realise that they have been conned.

After the infamous 1979 referendum, when Scotland was denied the devolution it had voted for, demoralisation set in; the number of SNP MPs dropped and Thatcherism wreaked havoc on Scotland. Probably, having a few more SNP MPs would have made little difference, but what if Scotland had returned a majority of SNP MPs? This time, we have the Scottish Parliament to provide some protection, and we have the possibility next May of another hung parliament where a good number of SNP MPs might be in a position to force concessions, perhaps even another referendum. Certainly, a majority SNP Government at Holyrood and an SNP majority amongst Scottish MPs could raise the possibility of a unilateral declaration of independence as a last resort.

Is the Alternative to Independence More Devolution?

The unionists are claiming that the Scottish Parliament will get more powers in the event of a No vote, and the media are talking as though we are being promised something significant. It is true that many Scottish voters would have chosen devo max if that had been on offer, but the unionist proposals fall very far short of that. Nevertheless, it is worth considering what are the chances of significant additional powers being granted in the event of a No vote.

First of all, we have to remember that these ‘promises’ are being made by politicians who are not renowned for being trustworthy. For example, before the 2010 general election, Cameron said that there would be no major reorganisation of the NHS in England, but he started one within a few weeks of becoming PM. It is therefore likely that any such promises will be quietly forgotten about following the general election next year.

Even if they are not, the next step will be the creation of a commission or convention, which will spend the next couple of years leisurely deciding just how little can be offered. Eventually a bill will be put before Parliament. In order for it to pass in the Commons, it is likely that one of two things will have to happen, given that it is unlikely that whichever party wins the next election will have a large majority. Either the opposition will have to agree to support the bill, or the government (whether Tory or Labour) will have to avoid any significant back bench rebellion – something which is more difficult than it used to be because the government cannot make a vote a confidence vote and thereby threaten revolting back-benchers with a general election.

Today I read a number of comments on the BBC news website, and many of the comments appear to be from people outside Scotland who are angry that the Scottish government might get any additional powers. The canards that Scotland is heavily subsidised by England, and that Scots want independence because we hate the English, also appear with depressing frequency. These ideas, spread by the unionist press as part of their campaign against independence, appear to have found fertile ground and taken root. English MPs will of course take into account the views of their constituents, and many of these will be vocally opposed to anything that is seen as rewarding Scotland for voting No.

The dark horse in English politics (in perhaps more than one sense) is UKIP, who would like to reduce the powers of the Scottish Parliament, not increase them. They might have a significant number of MPs after the next election, and might even be a coalition partner of the Tories.

Even Scottish Labour MPs appear to be opposed to additional powers for Holyrood, because these will inevitably diminish the status of Scottish MPs. Any major extension of devolution will exacerbate the infamous West Lothian Question, and may result in Scottish MPs being formally barred from debates and votes on matters which do not apply to Scotland; they would then effectively be second class MPs.

I therefore suspect that, even if the next UK government were to put forward a bill to give the Scottish government more powers, it might be voted down in the commons; the more significant the powers offered might be, the less likely it is that they would be passed. If the government did manage to get the bill through the Commons, there would still be the Lords; my guess is that the ‘vermin in ermine’ would be quite happy to punish Scotland for daring to give the British Establishment a fright.

All talk of additional powers by the unionist parties is a confidence trick; even if they were willing to deliver them, it is very doubtful whether they could manage to do so.

How Corrupt is the British Establishment?

There has been a great deal of indignation about the wicked behaviour of Jimmy Savile, that friend of ‘the great and the good’, but that now seems to be merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Allegations of widespread abuse of inmates of children’s homes have reached the newspapers and television. A little searching on the internet brings up claims that this abuse included sadistic rape, with some of the victims dying as result, or being killed to silence them.

How much of this is true, I have no idea; I am certainly very sceptical of dramatic allegations about Ted Heath, particularly as they seem to have come from an unreliable source who has made similar claims about two former American Presidents. It is just possible that the stories are all completely false, or all completely true, but much more likely that the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes.

Unless some effective form of mind control is developed (which is a scary idea), in any society there will always be individuals whose sexual desires will overpower their morality; the presence of such individuals within a society does not necessarily reflect badly on the society as a whole – unless that society protects the perpetrators instead of the victims.

One of the disturbing aspects of the Jimmy Savile case is that it appears that  a significant number of people were aware that Savile was a sexual predator, and yet he was able to act with impunity. On the internet, Savile is alleged to have procured victims for others to abuse; if this is true, then he was not just an evil individual, but part of an evil conspiracy, which may have operated for many years and have involved largely members of the British Establishment.

It has emerged that a dossier handed to Leon Brittan when he was Home Secretary somehow disappeared, and that 114 documents relating to alleged child sex abuse are unaccounted for. On the internet, it is alleged that Special Branch officers threatened people who were trying to investigate this abuse; one person claimed to have had a gun held against their head. As recently as 2011, an American journalist, who was investigating what happened at the Jersey children’s home Haut de la Garenne, was banned from entering the UK for more than a year by Home Secretary Theresa May. (leahmcgrathgoodman.com)

Two separate reviews have been announced by the Government. Whether these will be effective remains to be seen, but my cynical suspicion is that they will be allowed to drag on for years without being allowed the resources needed to have much chance of uncovering any real evidence. At the most, one or two people on the fringes of the Establishment will be thrown to the wolves, people who are perhaps closely associated with the Establishment but not truly part of it – rather like Jimmy Savile.

Was there indeed a particularly vicious group of paedophiles operating within the British Establishment over many years? Were they systematically protected by other members of the Establishment who were aware of their activities? At this stage there is no real proof available, but I think that, on balance of probabilities, the answer to both questions is yes. If one looks at the financial links between politicians and business, it is easy to conclude that the Establishment is financially corrupt. If the Establishment has indeed protected possibly murderous paedophiles within its midst, then it is not just corrupt but depraved.

At the start of this post, I said that Savile’s activities were the tip of an iceberg. It is tempting to think of the Establishment as the Titanic, headed at full speed towards that iceberg, but I fear that the Establishment really is unsinkable and will get away with only minor damage.

We need independence to distance ourselves from the stink of Westminster, with its archaic, rotten system of privilege as epitomised by the House of Lords. As an independent state, we will no doubt have our own Scottish Establishment, but as a smaller, and at least slightly more egalitarian, nation than the UK we should be better able to keep it in check.

Is Miliband the New Blair?

I was in Malawi when news of Tony Blair’s first general election victory arrived, and there was jubilation amongst the expats there. At last the Tories were out, and surely Britain would recover from Thatcherism. But the PPP/PFI scams continued, anti-trade union legislation was not repealed, and the rich kept getting even richer. Then Tony Blair told Parliament lies to justify participation in an illegal war. According to opinion polls, there are some people who will vote No to independence if they expect Labour to win the next UK government, in the belief that Labour will cure Britain’s ills. The lesson that should be learned from history is that a New Labour government will continue Tory policies, and its Prime Minister will be a liar.

Ed Balls has declared his opposition to a currency union, and Ed Miliband has threatened to impose border controls, in the event of Scotland becoming independent. Either of these measures would have negative consequences for the rUK as well as for Scotland, raising the question as to why they are being proposed.

One obvious answer is that these are merely empty threats, intended to scare timid voters out of voting Yes in the referendum, and that following a Yes vote they will be quietly forgotten about if Labour win the general election next year. Surely a Labour government at Westminster will have enough problems on its hands in any case; why would they want to create more by stirring up trouble with Scotland and damaging trade between the two countries? If Miliband and Balls are making empty threats, which they have no intention of ever carrying out, then they are liars. If so, they are not by any means unusual at Westminster.

If Miliband and Balls are not liars, then the next question is why they would be prepared to act in a way which is likely to be harmful to both Scotland and the rUK. There are no border controls between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, which has its own immigration policy, nor have there been any calls to implement such controls. Why should Scotland be treated differently from Ireland in this respect? If an independent Scotland were to be excluded from the current British Isles common travel area, I can see no reason why Scotland should not sign up to Schengen; if so, would Ireland perhaps follow suit, leaving the rUK isolated within its own border controls? Also, as the Wee Ginger Dug has pointed out, the basis for the UK’s opt-out from Schengen (the lack of a land frontier with any state within Schengen) would be demolished – not that this would matter if (or rather when) the rUK flounces out of the EU because the rest of Europe will not do what Westminster demands.

The cost of of UK government borrowing – the interest rate on UK government bonds – has recently been edging upwards, while the UK national debt is also rising inexorably. This is a toxic combination. Scotland has a higher per capita GDP than the rest of the UK. If an independent Scotland leaves the sterling zone (basically the UK plus odds and end such as the Channel Islands), then the sterling zone’s debt to GDP ratio, which is already alarmingly high, will increase even if Scotland takes on a per capita share of the UK national debt. This is likely to affect confidence amongst foreign investors in the rUK’s ability to repay its debts. At the least, this will lead to a further increase in the cost of borrowing for the rUK; at its worst, this could trigger the kind of economic collapse that Greece has suffered. A currency union may be desirable for Scotland, but it would appear to be essential for the rUK.

If there is a Yes vote in September, there will not be enough time for negotiations over independence to be finalised before the UK general election next May, and so it is possible that the final deal will have to be agreed with a Labour government at Westminster. Perhaps that government will behave as Miliband and Balls are implying it will. However, if Westminster insists on border controls, refuses to negotiate a currency union, insists on being the continuator state of the present UK (perhaps essential if they are to keep their important – to them – permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and denies Scotland an equitable share of the UK’s assets, then Scotland will have no moral or legal reason to accept any responsibility for any part of the UK national debt. Could the rUK avoid a catastrophic loss of investor confidence if their national debt to GDP ratio jumps by several percentage points overnight?

Let us assume that the Labour leaders are not barking mad or complete imbeciles. Then surely they will recognise that it is in the best interests of the rUK to be a good neighbour to Scotland, and co-operate with the Scottish Government to the mutual benefit of the two countries. If they nevertheless choose not to co-operate, then presumably it will be because they are determined to punish Scotland for choosing independence. Why would they wish to be vindictive towards Scotland unless they hate not just Scottish independence, but Scotland itself? Perhaps they are pandering to the increasingly vocal xenophobic element in England – it is not just the Tories who have lost voters to UKIP, after all. Given the portrayal in some of the media of Scots as ungrateful, English-hating subsidy junkies, a bit of Scotland bashing could be a vote-winner down south.

One can therefore conclude that Labour’s leaders are liars who make threats they would not carry out, or vindictive people who will try to harm Scotland if we should dare to assert our right to govern ourselves, or selfish people who are willing to harm Scotland and the rUK to win votes, or idiots who do not understand the implications of what they are saying. I certainly would not like to live in a country governed by such people, which is one of the many reasons I will be voting Yes to give Scotland a chance of a decent future.

PS – I know that much of what I have written could very easily be modified to apply to the Tories and their junior branch, the LibDems. As has been said by others, at least with the Tories you know where you are, even if it is somewhere very unpleasant. With Labour, you may be in a marginally better place, but it will still be nowhere near as good as they have promised. I do not want to even think about where we would be with UKIP.

 

Why Do I Not Want to be British?

As I wrote in my last post, I consider myself to be Scottish rather than British, and have done so for as long as I can remember. I do not really know why this should be the case, given that I grew up at a time when Scotland had no Parliament, and independence seemed like a distant dream of a few people. Yet even then Scotland retained enough of its own identity to be a nation, not merely a region of the United Kingdom, and I must have accepted this from quite an early age. England has always seemed a bit foreign to me, albeit less so than other countries where I have lived and worked; it was always Scotland that was my true home.

There are two reasons why my reluctance to identify myself as being British (except reluctantly for official purposes) has increased. The first might be considered trivial by some, but the second is much more serious.

I take a casual interest in history, and as a result have read quite a few books and watched a fair number of television documentaries on a variety of historical topics, many of which have dealt with events since the creation of the UK in 1707. Having a somewhat pedantic nature, I have repeatedly been irritated by the use of ‘England’ or ‘English’ when it is clear from the context that it is ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ which is meant. For example, there might be references to English warships in an account of the Napoleonic wars, or to England declaring war on Germany in 1914 or 1939. Where these are quotations of something said or written by someone from outside Britain, it is perhaps forgivable, because they would just have been following the example set by many English people in the past. Even modern authors sometimes use the terms ‘English’ and ‘British’ as though they were synonyms and fully interchangeable. When I was abroad, if I had told someone that I was British, they might well have assumed that I was English.

In practice, the meaning of a word is not defined by any dictionary, but by how it is used by most people; dictionaries change to follow usage. I have a dictionary which defines a troop as a unit of cavalry or armoured vehicles; to my annoyance, the BBC and others now regularly use it as a synonym for a soldier. New dictionaries will no doubt include this new meaning. Thus, if many people treat ‘British’ as equivalent to ‘English’, I cannot bring myself to say that I am British. To me, this would be tantamount to accepting that Scotland was absorbed into England in 1707, and that Great Britain is really Greater England, an idea which I utterly reject.

The more serious reason is that I would be ashamed to call myself British. The first time I can remember feeling this way was in 1982 when I heard that the General Belgrano, a 44 year old light cruiser, had been sunk by a British nuclear submarine outside the exclusion zone declared by the British Government, with the loss of 323 lives. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Falklands Conflict, and accepting that there is an argument that the General Belgrano may have been a threat to British forces, it just did not seem right to me at the time.

However, that pales into insignificance compared with the invasion of Iraq, when Blair lied to Parliament to get approval for British participation in an illegal invasion which resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and which has left Iraq racked by violence which still claims hundreds of lives each month. Overthrowing a dictator may be a good thing, but sometimes the price is far too high. Yet Britain intervened in Libya (which is also still plagued by violent feuds between different factions), and might have done so in Syria if things had worked out a bit differently.

Then there are the revelations of killings and torture by British forces in Kenya during the struggle for independence. Perhaps Britain was not as bad as other colonial powers, but her record is far from spotless, even if one considers only what has happened in my lifetime.

If there ever was a reason to be proud of being British, it was the creation of a welfare state, including free medical care, at a time when Britain was exhausted and nearly bankrupt after the Second World War. From then until the Thatcher era, living standards increased, and serious poverty decreased along with inequality in the distribution of wealth, even under Tory governments. But the rot set in with Thatcher.

The inequality of wealth distribution is rising again, and did so just as fast under New Labour as under the Tories. Even during a financial crisis, the rich seem somehow to have got even richer, at the expense of everyone else. The government has bailed out irresponsible banks, failed to take action against dishonest bankers, but acted to protect bankers’ bonuses from EU regulation.

At the other end of the financial spectrum, benefits are being slashed, not merely for the comparatively few genuinely work-shy but for the disabled, the chronically or seriously ill, and for the people for whom there are simply no jobs available; people on benefits are faced with these being stopped if the DWP can find any excuse to impose sanctions. Some Remploy factories, the only places where some disabled people had any chance of employment, have been closed because they did not make a profit. Atos declares people who are terminally ill to be fit to work. Disabled people can be forced out of their specially adapted homes by the bedroom tax. Unemployed people are forced into workfare, while unelected Lords can claim £300 tax-free, plus expenses and subsidised food and drink, for an hour or two of work or just sitting on a comfortable seat.

The NHS in England is being broken up and the pieces are being fed to companies, such as Serco, who will prioritise profits over patient care. In England, the legal obligation that the NHS provide free treatment has been removed, and it will probably not be long before anyone who does not have private health insurance will get only the most basic health care.

Of course there is a great deal of anger about this, but there has been a concerted campaign by the media to put the blame for many of Britain’s problems on immigrants who are supposedly flooding into the UK to take ‘our’ jobs, claim benefits or live a life of crime, and also on the supposed large number of benefit cheats, although these are actually a rather small percentage of claimants and cost the country far less than tax avoidance and evasion.

In terms of the UK, there is no real democratic cure for this, as the Tories, New Labour and the LibDems all offer essentially the same policies with slightly different rhetoric. As for UKIP, their purposes is to attract voters who are disillusioned with the other parties and to channel their resentment away from the bankers and speculators of the City of London and towards the EU which might impose effect regulation on the financial sector.

How could I be proud to be British, when I see what Britain has become? I know that Scots have played their part, for both good and ill, in Britain and in its former Empire. Quite a few of the current crop of politicians whom I do not respect (to put it mildly) are Scottish. However, I do not believe that an independent Scotland will participate in illegal invasions, pursue such vindictive policies towards the most vulnerable of its people, or be as right-wing and xenophobic as the UK seems destined to become.

I know that even if Scotland becomes independent I will still be, legally, be British as well as Scottish, but I would dearly love to be Scottish, not British.

PS. I strongly recommend this article about UKIP

http://www.newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-opinion/9262-scotland-welcomes-their-first-tea-partier

 

What is the Referendum Really About?

The Scottish Secular Society, after consulting their members, have declared their support for independence.

http://scottishsecularsociety.com/sss-formally-supports-independence-for-scotland-and-the-yes-campaign/

I fully agree with their statement, except for one very minor quibble; in the last paragraph, they say “the referendum [is] not a choice between British and Scottish identities”. If this had been qualified, perhaps by the word ‘necessarily’ after ‘not’, I would not disagree with it. As it is, it provides the trigger for me to write about something which has been on my mind recently.

Various pundits on both sides of the debate have given their opinions as to what the referendum is really about, or in other words why so many people in Scotland wish to regain the independence that was lost over three centuries ago. Some of these are simplistic propaganda, such as the idea that Scots want independence because they hate the English. Others are of a more thoughtful, intellectual nature, but I might still not agree with them.

The fundamental difficulty with any such attempt to explain the independence movement is that opinions are personal; looking at a wide range of topics, it would be very difficult to find two people with essentially the same views on every one. In the independence debate, there are so many different issues involved that, if a large number of people intending to vote Yes were asked to list all the reasons why they support independence, and to rate the importance of each reason, they would give very varied answers.

Hence my one little quibble with the statement by the Scottish Secular Society. For some people, the issue of identity, Scottish versus British, will be an important factor in the their decision as to how they will vote. Of course, for many of these people their identity will have been decided long ago, and they will simply vote according to that identity, but there may well be some who regard themselves as both Scottish and British, and who do feel that, in deciding which way they will vote, they are indeed making a choice as to their identity.

A further complication is that there will be some people whose vote will, in effect, contradict their own idea of their national identity. Some who consider themselves to be Scottish will vote No, perhaps because they believe some of the unionist scare stories. Others will do so out of self-interest – I do not expect many Scottish Labour MPs will vote Yes to lose their current jobs.

On the other hand, I expect there will be people who have moved from England to Scotland, and who still consider themselves to be English/British, who will nevertheless vote Yes, because they believe that an independent, progressive Scotland will become a better place to live than the UK under the rule of a right-wing government, whether that is Tory, New Labour or even, just possibly in a few years time, UKIP. It is possible that some people in that situation might feel that a decision to vote Yes is also a decision to adopt a more Scottish identity.

Can I answer the question in the title? Yes, but only from a strictly personal point of view, and even then not fully.

I think of the main reasons why I intend voting Yes as falling into three categories which I label as emotional, financial and political, perhaps more for neatness than accuracy.

The emotional category is that I identify myself as Scottish, and not British (except very reluctantly, for official purposes; I might discuss the reasons for this in a future post.) Therefore I want my country, Scotland, to be run by a government elected by its own people.

The financial category is that Scotland will benefit economically from independence, for a number of reasons which will be familiar by now to anyone who is likely to be reading this blog.

The political category is that, whereas the UK has never been truly democratic, an independent Scotland will become more democratic, with a codified Constitution developed by ourselves, and this will lead to the development of a better, less unequal society. As a similarly-sized country, we can try to emulate the Nordic countries. We can get rid of nuclear weapons from our country and have a Defence Force which is not used for aggression.

If I were asked about the relative importance to me of these three categories, I would not be able to answer with any confidence. The most that I could say is that all three are important, but they are different, and I do not know how I could quantify their importance to allow me to rank them – and that is without considering all the arguments which make up each category.

However, I can say that I have listed the categories in chronological order. The emotional argument (patriotism, you could call it) has been there for a very long time, certainly since my late teens. The financial arguments came next, perhaps encouraged by North Sea oil which made it clear that Scotland could easily afford to be independent. The political arguments have built up as my disillusionment with UK politics has deepened, starting with Thatcher, being maintained by New Labour, and intensifying with the current Coalition.

If I do not feel able to list, in order of importance, the main reasons why I support independence, then obviously I cannot say why people in general will choose to vote Yes or No. When some pundit on television, or writing in a newspaper, claims to have some insight into what has led us to having a referendum, or why the debate is going the way that it is, I will treat those claims with a very large pinch of salt.

My opinions, as expressed in this blog, are just opinions; feel free to be just as sceptical of them as I am of the opinions of newspaper columnists and the like.