Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Scottish Independence: The Vision thing

Inspired by a lovely Radio 4 "Analysis" programme on the Scottish independence debate I had a read of the pro-union Better Togther argument and was shocked to discover how profoundly cack it is. The Radio 4 programme asked the question what positive vision of the union is being presented to sustain Scotland’s continued membership of the United Kingdom. The answer? No much.

Here is the “Better Together” vision:

- We’re stronger as part of the UK, you know, “stronger”
- The UK is better placed than a separate Scotland or England to compete in the global economy
- As part of the UK we have real clout in the UN Security Council, NATO, the EU, AND we have Embassies around the world
- Lots of Scottish people live in England and lots of English people live in Scotland

(Then there’s the negative: “Times are really tough at home and really turbulent internationally. In the future Scotland's prosperity will be strengthened by keeping the British connection. We need more growth, more jobs, and more prosperity in Scotland. We don't need uncertainty, instability, and barriers for our businesses.”)

Now, I don’t know about you, but nothing in the above especially motivates or inspires me. For starters I’ve no idea what “stronger” means in this context. The economic (or prosperity) argument is interesting, except one of the factors encouraging independence is the way the economic, infrastructure and development policies pursued by successive UK governments have been disproportionately skewed towards London be it spending billions more building train lines into, out of, in and around the place or campaigning against EU restrictions on financial sector bonuses.

Then there’s international “clout” and what that’s actually meant in terms of the morally repugnant wars Scotland has been made a part of. Or there’s the billions wasted on a disproportionately large military budget give or take the rank hypocrisy currently on show with regards to Ukraine where – surprise, surprise – the fact Russian “oligarchs” buy London flats and financial products appears to have trumped any notion of a just foreign policy let alone one with “real clout”. Would an independent Scotland be any better? It couldn’t be any worse and there’s real scope to finally step away from the UK’s post imperial hangover and special relationship self-pleasuring.

As for people living here there and everywhere, so what? No pro-independence supporter is saying there would be any restrictions, just think about the voter eligibility requirements. Rather, it’s the anti-independence lot that’s continuing to threaten travel and labour market restrictions if Scotland has the audacity to vote in favour of a government that would actually take Scottish interests seriously.

Then there’s the basics “Better Together” just doesn’t seem capable of getting its head around. Like, Scotland’s political culture is different, OK? We barely vote Tory and voted the SNP into Holyrood when Labour was in power in the UK. Devolution accommodates this to an extent I guess, but when successive Westminster governments are so hell bent on unpicking the great UK institutions like the NHS and the Post Office that once actively made the UK united, then feck ‘em, Scottish independence is simply acknowledging this fact.

However, its not just that the “Better Together” arguments are in themselves cack -  which they are - it’s the pro-union lot’s complete lack of a compelling vision – give or take the chance for us all to wear Team GB swimming trunks -  that really strikes me.  Like the crux of their argument seems to be it might cost everyone c.£752.37 extra a year to live in an independent Scotland. Fine, I’ll pay up because by contrast and by definition independence offers Scotland both a transformative vision and an otherwise unobtainable opportunity to make this a better place.

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