Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Why I am voting Yes in the Scottish Independence Referendum.

From the beginning of the Scottish independence referendum campaign I have been a reluctant Yes voter. I don't think that independence should be necessary to make Scotland a better place, but if we really are "better together" then we would have been better by now. 307 years is a long time to be getting it right, but that is how long it has been since the Union of the Parliaments. The reason it has never worked properly is simply the distance (geographical and cultural) between Scotland and London. Anyone who has worked in London will tell you that the people are great, but they have a very enclosed view of the world. Most have no concept of how far away Scotland is or how large it is. They tend to view Scotland as a county somewhere in the north. Lack of education on the whole of British history and the continued concentration on London as the centre of the country have cultivated this view over many years. Even the BBC weather map has an unfortunate perspective applied to it that makes Scotland seem small. Yet, those of us who live here seem to have greater optimism about making the world a better place.

When I announced on Facebook that I was voting Yes it was greeted with incredulity by some of my friends. Partly because of my long standing assertion that the final vote will be No (not long ago I predicted a 60%/40% No vote) and partly because I seem like such a sensible, level headed person.

In spite of this I am voting Yes and here is why.

Firstly, I just can't approve of sending any more young Scottish men to fight in foreign wars that we had no say in getting involved in. London decides these things and Scottish opinion is poorly represented in that decision making. Yet, Scotland provides a disproportionate percentage of front line troops. If these decisions were made closer to home they might be made better. They certainly couldn't be made any worse.

Secondly, the No campaign have shown no evidence of the additional powers they are offering the Scottish Parliament. They could have already drafted legislation but haven't. They have not been specific about what powers they would be offering. These promises made in the heat of the campaign could easily evaporate afterwards.

Thirdly, the retribution from back bench Tory MPs will be severe. Expect big public funding cuts here next year as Scots are accused of being "subsidy junkies", when we actually pay more tax per head of population than the English.

Fourthly, I think a parliament with full powers elected under proportional representation will mean that people are better represented. At the moment a Green voter gets good representation in Holyrood but not in Westminster. Scottish Conservative voters get poor Scottish representation at Westminster with only one MP. In an independent Scotland these minority views will get greater representation.

Fifthly, and leading on from my last point, I think we will get more radical policies to fight poverty and social injustice in an independent Scotland because there is a greater collective will here to make that happen.

There are some reasons I might have voted No and these are the things that make me a sceptical yes voter.

Firstly, Alex Salmond. I first met Alex when I was attending Scottish Constitutional Convention meetings in the 80's. I find him a fairly inoffensive man, but many in Scotland really dislike him, and his involvement post referendum could be divisive. I considered this and concluded that Alex will be dead in thirty years - Scotland won't. That may sound really callous, but I can't let feelings about one person cloud my decision on the wider issues. Following a Yes vote the Scottish political parties would need to realign, and my hope is that new credible leaders would emerge on the left and we would get a more radical government.

Secondly, Labour. As a Labour voter and former party member I find it hard to vote against the party. However, their main reason for supporting the No campaign seems to be to secure the Scottish Labour vote as a way of getting a parliamentary majority in Westminster. This would be fine if Westminster was likely to deliver. It seldom does. I also feel uncomfortable with London Labour's new found unionism. It used to be an internationalist party, now it seems to be veering towards a sort of jingoistic British Nationalism - no doubt due to pressure on the labour vote in some areas from the fringe right wing parties. I know that many within Scottish Labour are unhappy with this.

I have been looking at the polls and listening to what people are saying around me, and have been surprised. Over the past few weeks I have seen a number of people in my social circle move from voting No to voting Yes. What seems to be happening is that they are choosing to ignoring the detailed argument on economic questions, or the Salmond issue, and look at broader questions of values and making decisions closer to home, by the people who live here.

Last night when I was mowing my lawn I realised that the next time I am doing it the lawn could be in a separate nation.

On the evening of the referendum I will be in Edinburgh at a concert given by the English folk singer Kate Rusby. Because being an independent nation does not mean we can't be together.
Surely the best of both worlds?