The Crystal Ball Politics of Scottish Independence

by Charlie_East_West on November 26, 2013


So there we have it. The Yes campaign led by Alex Salmond has published its 670 page White Paper opus on their vision for an independent Scotland.

Unsurprisingly, this paper looks great in terms of purple heather prose, but less impressive in terms of hard answers to the key questions surrounding negotiations on currency, Bank of England control and EU membership. The Better Together ‘No’ campaign has immediately seized upon this and are claiming that the White Paper does not answer any of these hard questions.

Perhaps they have a point. But, the No campaign are also missing the point. So when is the No to Scottish Independence campaign going to give us details to show how it is better for Scotland remain in the UK? Where is their vision for a better future? As they accuse the Yes campaign of a lack of detail, they stand accused of showing no detail themselves. At present, the debate remains sadly stuck in a vortex of presumptions from the Yes campaign, and presumption and scaremongering from the No campaign. On an issue as important as this, both sides are failing the people of Scotland right now. But, at least the Yes campaign have made an attempt to spell out a future for Scotland. Where is the equivalent in Westminster?

I have mentioned this on a previous posting, but it is important to raise it again today:- Clear language is everything – especially in politics. It therefore saddens me when I see and hear the negative language used within the independence debate. And sadly, after today, it appears that nothing is going to change between now and next September, when Scotland votes on its most important political decision.

As journalist Alex Massie so eloquently stated recently: “My sense is that many of the people paying most attention to this campaign are the people most likely to be depressed by its current content. They ask “Is this all there is?” They wonder if it can’t be better, more enlightening, more elevated, more inspirational than this? What, in the end, are we fighting for? It often seems that the duelling campaigns are incapable of recognising the difference between what is important and what is vital. Questions about EU membership are important but they are not vital. They are, essentially, questions of process, not of principle. If Scotland votes Yes there is no reason to suppose that these european issues cannot be resolved in a perfectly reasonable, amicable matter.

Of course, again, the details are not trivial but if the matter is resolved by the question of which side better persuades a majority of Scots that they will be a couple of hundred quid a year better off if only they vote a given way then, by God, we will have been wasting our time. Because that would be an ignoble victory. Ignoble because, in the end, it trivialises the question. Can identity, nationhood and governance be reduced to such petty-cash accountancy? And if it is then what does that say about the people who allowed it to become so? I hope we can be better than that. I hope we can, at some point, discover some inspiration somewhere along the line”.


For me the debate comes down to this. I love Scotland. I love England. I love Britain. But the decision that the Scottish people must make is to vote for the best interests of Scotland – economically, socially and culturally. It must not be about some form of petty nationalism on either side of the debate. It must not be about whether someone likes or dislikes Alex Salmond. It must not be about scaremongering.

The crux of the matter, like everything in politics these days is about the standard of debate (or lack of it). High standards are sadly lacking in the Scottish independence debate, and as always, there are two narrow sides to the debate – one side and the other side = blinkered tribalism. Where is the understanding that on an issue as big as this, with so many complexities – that both campaigns might just have a point on certain issues? Instead, all we get (in particular from the No campaign) is that the other side are wrong. Full stop.

Yes, the White Paper does not answer all the questions – but how can all the questions be answered when we are dealing with an issue that has yet not happened? The Scottish independence debate has become a game of crystal ball politics.

So, looking into my own crystal ball towards Scotland’s future:-

a) What would Scotland’s future be like after a No vote? I fear that the future would not be a good one. We would continue with neoliberal, reactionary, free market dominant politics – that prays upon many people’s misplaced fear and loathing. I have seen nothing from the Westminster status quo to suggest anything else.

b) What would the future be like after a Yes vote? Who knows. But, at least an independent Scotland will grant the country a once in a lifetime opportunity to renew, develop and become socially progressive. Scotland has the assets, resources and the nous to make a decent fist of independence – and crucially, give themselves the opportunity to think and act positively when unshackled from a neoliberal dominance elsewhere.

Sadly, I cannot vote on the Scottish independence referendum as I am now a legal alien outside of my homeland. But, I will always really care about the future of my old country. I have now come to the conclusion that I would vote Yes to Scottish Independence, because for the life of me, I cannot see how Scotland would be better served by remaining within the never ending reactionary Westminister orthodoxy than creating an independent country that has the chance to be better than all of that.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Pam Armstrong November 26, 2013 at 3:18 pm

As another disenfranchised legal alien, nothing sums up my feelings about the issues as well as this article. Thanks.


Alx w November 26, 2013 at 6:52 pm

The debate is depressing on both sides, although i’d suggest the onus is on the yes campaign to make the case for things being significantly better after deunification. But let’s be clear that this is more like a divorce than anything else, as such it will be a mess in the short term, and who knows in the long term. There is the question about the children (n ireland), the finances, the awkward bit with all the shared friends, that’s before we even touch the cd collection. Personally (as a non scot) i think this is more about a general disconnect between voters/non voters and the politicans and especially with westminster. I think a wider solution for many of us english in the regions the scots will be abandoning is a genuine look at a federalised uk, where all the regions get more of a say in how they are run.


Charlie_East_West November 27, 2013 at 7:57 am

Personally – I think there is also a case for separation for London…but I will leave that to George East to elaborate…


Bob Waugh November 27, 2013 at 12:14 pm

There is another aspect of this. It is not that Better Together has “failed” to come up with a positive vision. They can’t.

The British state in its current form was put together by elites in a pre-democratic era. That is why unlike most European states it is averse to the idea of a written constitution stating what rights citizens might have, and persist for its main parliament with a voting system which produces “strong government” rather than a proper reflection of the increasingly diverse society it fails to mirror.

To defend such a state inevitably draws one into reactionary stances, so the unionist campaign so far is based on creating fear and suppressing collective self-confidence. Its message is “leave what we have always had well alone” and its subtext is ” don’t get above yourself: leave it to the people who have always been in charge”. Hardly surprising that with a few eccentric exceptions, the Left in Scotland has come into the Yes camp.


Charlie_East_West November 27, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Bob – that is a really interesting angle of debate. I agree with you.

Whenever there is a serious threat to the orthodoxy, the political and media establishment starts to fight dirty – this has manifest itself over phone hacking, expenses, Europe, voting reform and Scottish Independence.


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