Prior to the referendum on 18th September, the debate on whether or not Scotland should be ‘independent’ will grow louder and more passionate. That’s a reasonably safe prediction, despite the level of the current volume on the subject.
Unfortunately the vast majority of the debate does, and will continue to, completely miss the point. At the very start there is the emotion inducing term of ‘independence’, which is illegitimate itself as it is promoting views that Scotland is governed by the will of other countries, when in actual fact it is nothing more than a union from which Scotland will gain ‘independence’. In any form of government, it is us asking representatives elsewhere to put across our views in a political forum: the case here is that the forum is currently in London rather than Edinburgh. There is no tyranny going on. Most decisions that are better passed down locally are often passed down, either to local councils or regional governments. There is also no sense of ‘our interests are ignored in Westminster’. The interests of a Scottish citizen (like myself) in Westminster are no more ignored than that of a London citizen: the forum’s location is just a geographical issue. Decisions are made in favour of the population itself, based on many different demographics (location being just one) and the vast, vast majority of decisions have absolutely no relevance to whether someone lives in Scotland or elsewhere in the UK. Those that do – such as healthcare organisation locally – are decided locally already. The idea of centralised government being necessarily problematic is nonsense. This kind of analysis gets completely lost in the rhetoric and confusion of independence.
This misunderstanding of what independence actually is hasn’t been helped by celebrities, who have imparted their usual lack of informed opinion; exemplified best by one particular Scottish swimmer in the commonwealth games, who after achieving a finish worthy of a gold medal, pronounced it was “for freedom” on exiting the pool. One truly wonders whether these celebrities, and the fan bases they are influencing, genuinely have any idea what independence actually means. Freedom will not be any greater or lesser after the referendum, it just means a different group of politicians in a separate geographical location will have a slightly different agenda for ruling the country with the same kind of dogmatic, party led approach. Let’s not also forget that the SNP, who would presumably be the party to take control of Scotland after any potential independence, already have control of most of the areas of life in which they would be able to make significant differences: healthcare, education – the areas where real change comes. It is strange that these areas of Scottish society have not improved since they came under independent control, yet they argue improvement would somehow occur when other less important areas of life become fully devolved. Make no mistake, the truth is that independence benefits the SNP, and few else. Scotland’s views are already represented at the world stage, it is just usually a UK party doing the representing rather than an MSP. Independence enhances the SNP’s political reputations, but it does little if anything positive for normal Scottish people. The negative effect on those with no vested interest in the SNP is much more worrying
The real strength in a union of countries is financial and, unfortunately, financial concerns are now one of the most morally punishing in the world. When depressions hit – and they will hit, regardless of how much oil revenue you currently have, especially with the amount of spending Scotland has in public services – larger unions of countries have a much greater chance to absorb that depression and deal with it. They have a greater number of industries to take over when one industry hits a slump, or a regulation induced drop in profits, and they have greater financial incentives with which to garner a recovery. Not to mention they have a greater reputation with which to borrow capital in the mean time to ensure the country does not go under in times of financial crisis.
The campaign for independence has almost no answer to real economics. Depressions are a certainty – they exist, and they hit every country eventually. The best way to safeguard against them is to have more power to fight them off. Yet the financial arguments of the Yes campaign that do this are incredibly uncertain and backed with little to no evidence: the idea of keeping the pound is not certain, the idea of staying in Europe is not certain, and the idea of harnessing current oil revenues to fight future decline is not even believable (the constant pointing to Norway, in fact, seems like a desperate grasping at straws: Norway has been planning for years, is a completely different culture, and is almost a minority of one). It is, however, as economically certain as one can get that Scotland will struggle with depression more when it is independent. That’s the only change we can be certain of, and it is extremely worrying.
The dogma of the Yes campaign is usually to say ‘Don’t believe the negativity’, as if the certainty of economic disaster is somehow irrelevant: only rainbows and unicorns exist in an independent Scotland. Yet it is not scare mongering to suggest that economics is important, and that evidence is more valuable than hopeful, positive uncertainty. When depressions hit, real people lose their jobs, their livelihoods and statistics say they also lose their health and drop their life expectancy when unemployment strikes. Failing to get countries out of depressions fast is a moral genocide, as is failure to ensure long term financial stability. If you are rich and don’t care for the long term increase in poverty, by all means vote for ‘independence’, but if you have a conscience, reason says you should listen to the ‘negativity’.
It is not a moral decision to opt for independence from a union which grants much greater financial stability, when devolution is not only already in place but also on the table for going even further. This is the historical equivalence of using the argument ‘let them eat cake’: ignoring reason, asking voters to ignore evidence and yet still daring to argue that they have a solution.
The entire idea of independence, in modern Scotland’s case, is a politically invented concept; fuelled by historical confusion, benefiting only the reputations of a set of politicians whose entire careers have been devoted to this cause. Make no mistake, this is politicians wanting to save and enhance their own careers at the risk of millions of others, trying to blind people with patriotism. It’s not the first time it’s happened in global politics, and it won’t be the last, but the best we can do is ensuring its failure here. Being governed by a UK government led by the Conservatives, in which needless public service cuts put everyone in danger, is a huge problem. The solution is to vote them out at the next general election, and to convince as many others as possible to do the same, not to ruin the long term financial stability of an entire region of the UK.