It’s the second and final Scottish independence debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling tonight to be shown live on the BBC, which means those of us who live outside of Scotland won’t be at the mercy of STV Player as we were last time.
With just a few weeks left of campaign from both sides before the referendum this could help undecided voters make their decision. As a Scot living in England this could well also be the time when people here suddenly realise what’s at stake as an independent Scotland would change everything. Up until recently the general impression I’ve got from speaking to people about it ranges from a general contempt for the idea of Scottish independence (oh, Scotland’s too small anyhow), to ignorance of the issue as they think it’s about UKIP/BNP style xenophobia (oh, it’s because they hate the English isn’t it?) which often results in long conversations trying to explaining that over 400,000 English born people live in Scotland and this is about the idea that countries should have self determination to be truly democratic.
However the most annoying is the ”but it’s all about emotion isn’t it?’, which assumes the people of Scotland are just spotty teenagers kicking out against a hard, but loving parent. There’s little actual serious discussion but there is an increasing coming to terms that not only might it happen, but actually it might be something that works. The dawning of this is why there’s now such a focus on the currency side of the debate (as the Bank of England was nationalised in 1946, Scotland’s share of the pound’s assets would have to be returned which is why the BoE isn’t ruling out a currency union) as if it’s something the Yes side are confused about, but their position was made very clear in the White Paper which makes it clear Scotland can use Sterling just as Ireland did, and other countries did when gaining their independence.
There are things that the Yes campaign need to make clearer, and some of their number are playing on the Braveheart nonsense, while attacks on social media on Better Together supporters like J.K Rowling is pointless and helps only Better Together. This isn’t to say that Better Together are angels. They’re not, but it doesn’t help the debate to make the same sort of mistakes Better Together are.
There’s also the assumption it’s a debate of equals, when in fact Yes is a grassroots campaign that’s mobilised people drawing upon the support of people not just born in Scotland, but people who believe in democracy and that a country should be free to succeed or fail on it’s own without what Westminster decides, which these days, is for the benefit of London and the South East. The No campaign counts the entire UK establishment in it’s ranks so you’ve got some very strange bedfellows indeed as on one hand you have the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems showing there’s nothing separating them, sitting alongside the Orange Order, The Daily Mail, UKIP, The Guardian, The Telegraph, and a whole bunch of people and organisations acting in the interest of maintaining the status quo, The assumption and declarations they make say the Union has been of huge benefit to Scotland and in 2014 onward, it will continue to be.
Except it clearly isn’t. This isn’t to say Scotland hasn’t benefited from the Union. It has, but try telling someone in a shitty tenement in Possil that the Union is going to help them when they see billions of pounds worth of investment piling into London and the South East, while Scotland gets scraps back from what it pays in. There’s those on the Better Together side playing the ‘well, if you work hard, it’ll come” but with the majority of working families working hard and still being in poverty, it’s bloody obvious the system is broken not to mention, weighted for the very wealthy in an unequal society.
Better Together are telling you there’s a crock of gold at the end of the rainbow if you just stick with them then it’ll be alright, even though the evidence of the last 40 years says it won’t be. So the one thing you have to ask yourself if you are considering voting No is who exactly is going to be Better Together? It’s not going to be the working class and the unemployed, of the doctor or nurse working in a privitised NHS. With the Tories looking to further privatise the NHS, and Labour just being a slightly less evil version of the Tories, Scotland faces a problem with NHS funding under the Barnett Formula, so the truth is the only way to prevent an Americanised healthcare system is by voting for independence.
However with the entire establishment weighing in against independence which includes civil servants being advised how to vote, there’s still a lot of ground the Yes campaign has to do to make up ground. It can do that by highlighting how an independent Scotland can ditch austerity and create a more egalitarian society along the lines of the Scandinavian countries. Only today it was revealed that councils in the poorer areas are getting the worst cuts, so that Scotland and the poorer parts of the UK aren’t seeing the benefits of a Union which is now serving the wealthy. It’s telling that a number of high profile Better Together supporters are very wealthy and while it’s simplistic to paint this as poorer people will vote Yes and wealthy No, there’s a line drawn between people who have benefited from the status quo and those who have too, but they want to look forward and ensure others also benefit.
It’s galling to see Better Together supporters on the Tory and Labour benches say that ‘Britain is broken’, but at the same time they present a picture of a shiny, happy Britain to the voters of Scotland that’s a sham. There’s no vision of Britain after a No vote, which incidentally, would also mean a shake up because if some of the rhetoric is to be believed, in the event of a No vote there are some in the establishment who will be looking to inflict some sort of ‘punishment’ upon Scotland and with some whipping up xenophobia against Scots for easy votes, then there’s a clearly uncertain future within the Union, not to mention a promise that Labour and the Tories will drag the UK further down this hateful neo-liberal path it’s trodden for too long.
The Yes campaign at least presents positive visions. A country unhindered by the sucking pit of London, and with power centres already well spread across Scotland (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen) the future can be bright. Yes, it will be a leap of faith but when you’ve been beaten, battered, dismissed, and called too small, too poor, and too stupid to make your own choices then the only logical option is to proves the bastards wrong. Some of those promoting the benefits of the Union suffer from some form of the Dunning-Kruger effect and they don’t see that the UK isn’t working. An independent Scotland sitting to the north and east of a diminished UK showing a workable socially democratic alternative to the Westminster system scared the living shite out of Cameron, Milliband, Clegg and all those others who benefit from the system weighted for the very few. My hope is that once people here in England, Wales and Northern Ireland see an example, they’ll demand more and change will come.
An independent Scotland can help those who’ve been in poverty for generations. It can create jobs. It can make things equal. It won’t be easy and there will be hard, hard times, plus an independent Scotland has to ensure success is spread all over, and this includes the Shetland and Orkney Islands right down to the Borders. Nobody should be left behind. Push that message and paint that vision alongside the vision of a UK in perpetual austerity, working families in poverty and the wealthy becoming even more powerful and Yes should find that push they need.
So, the people of Scotland. All of you be you Scots, English, Welsh, Irish or wherever. If you have a vote, use it and think not of the fear of change, but the fear of things staying the same. Things cannot remain as they are, and you have the power to change things. Use it on the 18th of September and give Scotland a chance to become an example for the rest of the UK to follow.