Tag Archives: Independence

The Scottish vote for independence should be a celebration – change is happening.

This is a guest post from a good friend and current Phd student, Charlie Langan.

A quick disclaimer to start: I will not be voting in the Scottish referendum. When there was the possibility of having a postal vote, I believed that neither side had provided any substance to vote for . Since then however, I believe that the Yes campaign has provided a story to believe in. Given the opportunity, I would vote Yes.

Yes for a chance to change both Scotland and the UK for the better.

The starting point of the debate though, which is often overlooked, is whether there is a problem with the state of the Union.

There is evidence that the system is not currently working. I am more and more ashamed of the news stories about the UK that make it to Uganda where I live. Despite not being patriotic, I find myself with, increasingly regularity, volunteering my Scottish status to separate myself from these stories. This is something I have never done before.

The turn to aggressive, confrontational and emotive attitudes and policies on immigration, the European Union, tax and social welfare among other issues coming from the UK, seems to me at odds with the progressive political agenda coming from Scotland.

As an environmental economist working on climate change, I recognise the strength of Scotland’s devolved policies based and founded upon science. However, I do believe that Scotland is running to the limit of its powers and is being constrained. Without being able to set taxes and create incentives, it is difficult to nudge people into making decisions that are better for the society we want to be.

Scotland has shown ability and aptitude to develop strong policies giving, at least me, assurances that Holyrood could probably handle sectors such as the economy (and by most measures better than the current UK government performances in health, education and environment sectors).

I think there is a lot of similarities between the current debate on independence and climate change.

Climate change is a problem, but it took a long time to really understand how it affects us all. Scottish and UK society, national priorities and policies aren’t in harmony, and the differences are perhaps becoming irreconcilable.

In this light, the debate boils down to do we need to change or not. It is a lazy argument that change is too risky just because it’s change. Those who refute change on the principle of change are often those have gained too much power under the status quo and don’t want the boat rocked (the equivalent big oil lobby against the green economy and taking action on climate change). The argument heard is often it’s too expensive to change, and closer examination such claims are generally unfounded.

If there is a consensus that a problem exists and there is a need for something to be done, the debate turns to what is the solution for a better Scotland and a better UK?

The problem here is evaluating any solution, as this requires making predictions of the future, or a new future or a new paradigm. Climate models using hundreds and thousands of years worth of data are made to look like child’s play compared to trying to model the complexity of economies. Those who claim certainty are un-honest, and there are many uncertainties making definitive answers difficult. But we are quite good and familiar at managing the risk of unknowns.

In many respects the Yes campaign has been taking a systematic approach to think through the key issues and logically trying to plot the best course that Scotland could follow if independence is chosen; i.e. identifying risks and proposing management. I don’t like Alex Salmond, nor do I attribute all the successes of the Scottish parliament to him, but I have become to believe that he and the Yes campaign continues to capture the progressive nature that exists within many Scottish policies. Drawing upon the scientific wisdom, it’s not the result that counts, but the method used that shows your success.

The Better together campaign have never unpacked themselves; is it “we are better together” or “we would be better together”? I have already dismissed for the former, but the latter – how – what could Scotland gain? What could the UK gain? What can both parties bring to the table that is not already there? What solutions is the no camp providing? Why have we never seen a better together vision for the future of Scotland? What will be on the table if a no vote is returned in the referendum and discussions turn to devolution max? How valuable would UK membership be to Scotland, if we all find ourselves outside the EU?

The nature of the independence and climate change debates has also been similar in that: the no campaign has been taking on the role of the climate sceptics, focusing on trivial or false corner stones of the debate (the hypothetical currency), distorting the wider picture of the debate (its all about the economy), and resorted in threats (you can’t depend on oil). I look forward to future comparisons with the UK debate and eventual referendum on the EU membership; will it also focus on these boring issues?

But here perhaps we are better together, working toward building commonality between Yes and No, then we can rationally and logically take the final step to spilt or not. I would like to see real discussions on pros and benefits of both camps visions’ for the future of Scotland.

Scotland should be giddy with the opportunities in front of it, not cowed into worrying about making the wrong choice. After all, the debate should be a celebration, change is already in motion and in this sense Scotland has already won!


Filed under Climate Change, Politics

Video: Highlights from Scottish Independence TV debate

With just weeks left until Scotland votes on independence, the leaders of the opposing campaigns took to our TV screens last night to debate the pros and cons of independence.

Here are the highlights from the debate:

After watching the highlights I would be interested in your views. If you had a vote, how would you use it? Do you think we are ‘Better Together’ or that Scotland should vote ‘Yes to Independence’?

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

Why the left outside Scotland should start cheering the independence campaign

This is a guest post by James Mackenzie. James is the former head of media for the Greens in the Scottish Parliament, and ran the party’s 2011 score-draw election campaign. He is also a founding editor of Better Nation, one of the few group blogs in Scotland whose editors don’t agree on independence.  

Some on the English left, including Owen Jones, think a yes vote in the independence referendum would be bad news for the rest of the UK. The typical reasons include the fear of a perpetual Tory-led administration at Westminster, and a general view that nationalism is a distasteful ideology with which the left should have no truck, working class solidarity (“a working class resident of Dundee has more in common with a working class resident of Doncaster than with his middle class neighbours”).

Not only are they wrong, but Scottish independence could actually be a radical blow to the forces of conservatism across the UK.

But first, the fears, starting with the presumption of perpetual Tory rule in Westminster. Since 1945 the Scottish delegation have only changed the outcome of a general election three times out of eighteen. The numbers are here.

In two instances, Harold Wilson would twice have had a hung parliament rather than a weak Labour majority of three or four – both in 1964 and October 1974. I like hung Parliaments and minority administrations, personally, because they require cooperation and give rare moments of power to neglected minorities.

And in 2010, the Tories would have got an absolute majority of 19 without the Lib Dems to do exactly what they like, rather than a majority with the Lib Dems to do almost exactly what they like. And the rest of the UK wouldn’t have learnt what Scots learnt when the Lib Dems were in government here from 1999-2007: that they can’t be trusted. So that’s unfortunate. But rare.

And it’s fair to say that the MPs we’ve sent to London haven’t always been first-class – and the standard continues to fall as ambitious politically-minded Scots increasingly prefer to contest Holyrood seats. Of those that remain, to quote myself, “You won’t miss them. We won’t miss them either.”

As for the distaste for nationalism, the thing people like Owen either forget or ignore is that many Scots supporters of independence aren’t nationalists. They’re Greens, Socialists, radicals, localists, and anyone else who either feels Westminster can’t or won’t be reformed any time soon. Even many in the SNP fall into this category, even if some of the “non-nationalists for independence” in their ranks gloss that as “civic nationalism”. Plus, there are nationalists on the other side as well as pragmatists – anyone who argues for a continued Union based on myths and history of Britishness falls into the former category.

What’s more, although the SNP combine a centre-right economic position with a soft liberal social policy, they’re really nothing like the kind of right-wing nationalists you see elsewhere in Europe, even if some of their fringe supporters are rather grim. Sure, the SNP are as weak on climate change as Labour or the Lib Dems, but that is hardly enough to justify attempts to demonise them by people who know little about them.

From the left arguments against independence, that leaves working class solidarity. I’ve personally never understood why that same argument doesn’t apply to the working class in Ireland, France, or Peru, but let’s leave the idea of creating a Union with them all. Also, let’s forget that plenty of solidarity and cooperation already involves working across national borders – especially between neighbouring EU members.

Instead, turn it on its head. What could independence deliver for the left, for the working class, for environmentalists, feminists, socialists, peace activists and the rest?

For one thing, Scotland could be a good example of practical alternatives to the immigrant-stigmatising, poor-hating, soggy Westminster consensus. We already are on many issues. We got control over the health service well before the worst of the moves towards privatisation in England in particular. If the English left want to point to a successful model to adopt for their health service, we’ll almost certainly be keeping the flame of the NHS’s founding principles alight. While England and Wales saw tuition fees trebled, Scotland saw them abolished. We’ve shown how PR can work both for a national parliament and at a local council level. Across all the issues I care about, independence would let us go much further. Attitudes here are, across the parties, are much more positive about immigration and asylum, and any divergence there would be a pretty good test case for what it would be like if England rejected the “immigration is a problem” myth.

A particularly clear example is Trident. If Scotland achieves independence, it seems likely that the clock will start ticking for the closure of Faslane. That will force the rest of the UK either to spend vast and unpopular sums rehoming this Cold War technology, or to consider how to accept a scaling-back of its nuclear ambitions. At worst, that looks like a massive campaign opportunity for the anti-war left outside Scotland.

And finally, the real purpose of independence for me: a vote against Westminster governance. It’s not just the Scottish left that regards Westminster as using a barely democratic electoral system, hobbled by inherited office-holders, in hock to corporate vested interests, opaque, and alienating. Ask yourself: if you had a vote next September to get Westminster out of your life forever and to replace it with a more open and fairly elected parliament, wouldn’t you take it? And wouldn’t you be just a little bit narked when people who don’t have a vote urge you to vote for Westminster?


Filed under Politics