In less than two weeks, the people of Scotland will have voted on whether or not we wish to be a country independent from the existing United Kingdom.
There has been a huge amount of debate, which predictably hasn’t all been the most civilised at the best of times. I’ve tried to resist the urge to get involved in every online discussion, confining my personal views to in-person gatherings of a few friends (and over a lot of whisky). The times I have chosen to delve in, I’ve been attacked (from both sides) in the most bizarre and arbitrary ways. Like many others, I feel like it’s often more hassle than it’s worth to nail your colours to the mast.
All of that said, I passionately believe in Scottish independence. I don’t expect you to agree, but it would be remiss of me not to explain why.
Here’s the main reasons why I am voting yes:
The following is dependent on the understanding that despite the current political union, Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are all distinct countries. If you disagree with that premise, then that becomes a whole different set of questions.
Constitutionally, Scotland’s people have no practical say in the government of the United Kingdom.
For me, this is the most important reason of them all.
Even if every eligible Scottish voter was to vote for one single party (and that’s not too far off the truth), it would make no real difference to the outcome of the UK General Election. As a result, there is very little pressure on governments in Westminster to listen to the needs of those in Scotland. How can there be accountability if there is no way for Scottish voters to impact those who get into power?
Scotland has a distinct political identity from other parts of the UK, with different priorities and problems. This is evidenced by the different approaches to issues such as higher education funding, and the detention of families seeking asylum.
If the Scots want to vote for the Tories, or decide to have nuclear weapons on the Clyde, or to ditch the European Convention of Human Rights… then that is fine. Ultimately, whether Scotland votes to the left, right, or middle is irrelevant. Whatever the choices though, let’s make sure that the people who live in Scotland decide for themselves, and have a real say over the government that holds power over them.
I believe that Scottish people need to take responsibility for their own decisions, and not just whinge about ‘the English’, or Thatcher, or ‘that government we didn’t vote for’.
As the result of the makeup of the UK government, Scots currently have the most convenient get out of jail free card in any debate. Sure, it might be awful how immigrants are treated, or that we sent troops to Iraq in pursuit of a war that was later discredited, but hell… we didn’t vote for the government that made those calls anyway.
This is a dangerous situation, which only serves to increase complacency. Things might suck, but that’s not really our responsibility. We’ve been marginalised politically, so they can sort it out.
Scotland has to take responsibility for its role and actions in the world – both the successes and the failings – not just hide behind the current political situation. An independent Scotland will no longer be able to blame all of our flaws on our neighbour south of the border – which can only be a good thing.
Scots have no business voting on issues that only affect English people. The West Lothian question needs resolved once and for all.
This anomaly created by devolution remains unresolved. Funny how nobody really likes to bring that up now though, eh? Political parties (mostly Labour) have cynically abused the fact that Scottish MPs can push through their own selfish policies against the wishes of local people. This has to stop, and independence is the logical resolution. Leave decisions that affect people in a particular area to those that are elected to represent the people that live there.
Here’s what I’m not concerned about:
There’s a whole host of common issues that are brought up in the course of almost any discussion about independence, despite their basis being shaky at best. Most of these are addresses in the pro-independence publication the ‘wee blue book‘. Here’s a few in particular that I hear often, and that I’m not concerned about.
Denying self determination on the basis that we should seek to avoid disagreement is fundamentally flawed. We do not live in one state-less, unified world; determining the limits and practicalities of political power is something that is perfectly normal.
Asserting that your own people should make their own decisions is not about encouraging conflict but about taking self-responsibility. Voting for independence isn’t a statement against any neighbour, but an insistence that you have the right to control the decisions that affect your future. We support this in plenty of other situations, so let’s not reverse that because it doesn’t suit us with regards to Scottish independence.
Giving up your right to have a real say in your life in order to avoid conflict is neither a healthy, nor sustainable option – and a bad argument for rejecting independence.
Currency and Borders
The contention that an independent Scotland would not be allowed to use the Pound is sheer fantasy. There are plenty of examples throughout the world where currencies are used with no formal approval from the originating country. Anybody who takes this position is simply playing a card to try and put pressure on people to vote no. “Well, if you vote yes then you can’t have our money!!” – it’s pish, pure and simple.
I almost can’t quite believe that the question of borders is even realistically being pursued as an issue. We already have a prime example of where a ‘foreign’ country has open borders with the UK in our neighbours across the water in the Republic of Ireland. There are specific agreements that regulate the movement of people across these borders, and the idea that this couldn’t be extended to Scotland is nonsense. Like currency, it may well require negotiation, but to use as a weapon to dismiss independence is either ignorant of wilfully misleading.
Want to talk about conflict? The UK government consistently leads us into conflict with our closest of allies in Europe. Specifically, the current CON-DEM coalition is seeking to have us withdraw from many of the international agreements and unions that bind us together – including those that assure the protection of basic human rights. That isn’t just about being able to chuck some terrorist with a hook out of the country when we feel like it by the way – but the formal rescindment of our commitment to the end of capital punishment, and the use of torture.
With regards to Scotland’s membership of the European Union, the European Commission has said that they would give a definitive answer to the question if asked. So why don’t we have that yet? Because only the UK Government can formally request them to do so. They won’t.
That aside, this situation is without precedent in the EU. There are countless people in Scotland who have been European citizens by dint of the UK’s membership for decades. If independence nullified that overnight, there would be a far bigger headache than any administration would be able to handle – including those who are currently in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland through the rights of their partners. The European Community was not designed to allow for countries exiting, but to reduce barriers, harmonise laws, and further entrench members. It’s in nobody’s interests to exclude Scotland from the EU.
Whatever you decide, if you can vote, make sure that you do. This isn’t just some drop in the ocean like so many other elections, but one where what you vote can really make a difference. Demonstrate just how important this is, and whether the ultimate choice is to affirm the union, or declare independence, don’t let Scotland be dismissed.