I want to reiterate that this is a blog about the ideas of the referendum, not a political attempt to persuade people. I don’t want to change your vote, if your vote is right for you. I want to clarify thoughts in my own head and hear your thoughts too. It’s a very emotive subject, but I trust my friends and my readers to be generous in their thoughts and comments.
Ask anyone who is passionate about the referendum the question “What are you voting for?” and they might give quite a list. I know what I’m voting as I am – for a Scotland which is part of the country I love which leads and inspires the rest of the UK, as it has done in the past and indeed today. I’m voting for togetherness and stability for generations to come; I’m voting for evolution above revolution.
I want to think about what is at the root of the Yes that people are voting for. Yes is an easy word to sell. No is trickier. It feels better, brighter, happier, to vote Yes. Of course it does. Who wants to be part of a “no” campaign? It makes you feel good to say Yes. The positive issues which Yes are promoting are very tempting.
A Scotland which is truly democratic, ruled by the people that Scotland voted for.
A Scotland which can use its vast wealth to lift people out of poverty.
A Scotland which can be free of Tory rule for ever.
But underlying those positive images is what I feel to be negative ones. In fact, all of those statements are negative thoughts, dressed up in the summer print frock of a shiny Yes. Those statements above are really saying
We are not currently democratic
Our poor are suffering needlessly
We are unfairly governed by a tory party we did not vote for.
Added to that, the leaders of Yes are offering reassurances that things will not change – we’ll keep the pound, we’ll keep the Queen, we’ll stay in Europe, we’ll keep the BBC. Whatever your views of the validity of those claims, they are offering that much will stay the same, much will change – and the main change is self governance from Holyrood, rather than from Westminster.
It’s a big question, as to whether Holyrood is more democratic than Westminster, and I’ll come back to that, but the main motivation for many of my fiends voting Yes seems to be liberation from Tory rule.
“We hate being governed by the Tories” is a common statement to hear. But to vote because of the negative effects of a Tory government is short-sighted, when you consider that Scotland has far more Tory voters in it than one might think.
In 1979, Thatcher’s first election victory, 31% of Scottish people voted Tory. The next election it was 28%, as was the next. Tories have never got less than 15% of the overall vote. 15% is certainly more than enough, under proportional representation, to hold a balance of power in a coalition in Holyrood. My suspicion is that with every Holyrood election under independence someone will have to do a deal with the tories.
What does any of this matter?It does matter if your reason for voting Yes is a dislike of conservatives, because there are plenty of them in Scotland. Perhaps the conservatives in Scotland seem less threatening than those in Westminster, but they are there, and possibly hold a balance of power.
The real questions (for me) are whether Independence will
- make generations of Scots better or worse off
- Make us more or less democratic
- Change the Scottish character for better or worse
- Make us better moral agents in the world.
As I said in my previous post (and I don’t want to bang on about it, I’m not evangelising here) I think the answers to those questions are that a mobilised, pollitically engaged Scotland can do all of those things better as part of the UK – the only question mark being the “will it make us more or less democratic”, which as I said I’ll leave until later.
So let me end with this – there is no doubt that the referendum campaign itself has been pollitically engaging and passionate. It has meant more people than ever before are able to vote. It has meant people demand of their politicians the answers to their questions – rather than the answers to a question the politicians want to be asked. An engaged, aware, sometimes demanding Scotland can do wonders for the rest of the UK, and for itself. Whatever the vote, I think it matters hugely that this does not diminish and dissipate, with a simple x on a piece of paper.