Monday, 15 September 2014

You're probably best putting the kettle on right about now before you read about the Scottish IndyRef

From the Facebook page of one of the Yes Provan volunteers. He is originally from England but now resides in Glasgow.

#YesBecause ...

So many positive futures are up for grabs that the thought of anything other than a Yes feels like it'd be the biggest missed opportunity for Scotland (and it's neighbours) that I can imagine happening, for as far into the future as I can comprehend.

I've seen absolutely no credible reason why Scotland couldn't be more successful as a normal country than it has been (and will be) whilst awkwardly contained within the failing state of convenience that is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

This is not a breaking up or abandonment of Britain; it's setting a precedent for the rest of Britain by reconfiguring its democratic basis. And not before time.

Part 1

You're probably best putting the kettle on right about now.

Scotland as reforming constituent of the UK is a nice idea in theory, but I can't subscribe to the reality. I used to be very open to the federal arrangement, but I'm not convinced that it's workable. There seems to be scant appetite for genuine devolution of power to English regions. And there's no getting past the fact that England is over ten times the size of Scotland (in terms of population), so it'd be a lop-sided federation. The half-baked 2011 AV referendum was an example of how ambivalent Westminster is to even a modest level of self-led reform. In terms of managing foreign relations, the UK government's performance is not something to be cherished by my reckoning.

"More spent on them per head than other parts of the UK" is true (excepting London and Northern Ireland). But it's not telling the full story. Scotland has generated more tax per head than the rest of the UK for each and every one of the past 33 years. Yes, Scotland's 8.4% of UK population receives ~9.3% of UK spending. But it generates 9.4 per cent of annual UK tax revenues. An independent Scotland could expect to start with healthier state finances than the rest of the UK.
Oil? A finite resource? Unquestionably. It's been running out since the first barrel was extracted. But there's still a good few decades of it left by pretty much anyone's measure. Incomes dropped last year? Yep, as a one-off blip. Because of a particularly high level of investment, which tells its own story about the expectation of future returns. No-one is pretending that it'll bring "utopia". And moving away from it being a large part of the economy should be a priority. But name me a single country that wishes it didn't have its reserves of oil knocking about. Though even without oil and gas, the GDP figure in Scotland is still bigger than most UK regions. These reports go some way addressing the issues raised in the 'fiction' bit: & There's also the spectre of McCrone in the 70s.

Salmond? It's not a referendum on him. He can be voted out in 2016 if that's what's wanted.

The South East? Volatility gets mentioned in terms of oil. But few things are more volatile than the City of London and an economy resting on inflated house prices in the SE. Here's an ONS graph of how the UK has been handling the whole wealth distribution thing: and the video it comes from: Better Together?

The EU? What's deemed to be good for the UK isn't necessarily good for Scotland. It's not inconceivable that the proposed referendum on UK EU membership in 2017 could see the UK withdraw, and take Scotland with it, against it's wishes. NB: Other countries with ~5m people have 13 or 14 MEPs. Scotland currently has 6 UK MEPs.

NATO? I don't particularly hanker after membership, personally, but 20 of NATO's 28 members neither possess nor host nuclear weapons, so Scotland without Trident wouldn't be an anomaly.

Are Finland or the Netherlands not independent because they share the Euro with other countries? Is Canada truly independent from the USA even though they have shared defence priorities? The last time I checked, the UK is building aircraft carriers but won't have any planes for them, so there's an agreement in place for French aircraft to use them. All countries are interdependent to some degree. No country operates in isolation. And that's a good thing. The point is that Scotland as an entity will take a formal role internationally, rather than having to go along with the often rather different priorities of the Westminster-led UK. There are a lot of ways to be an independent country:

I don't know what point it is that the Yes campaign are alleged to be making "against anyone English or living in England, no matter how much Scottish blood they have". I flat out reject the 'Scottish blood' angle being dragged into this debate. I don't know where to start with the 'remnant of English Empire' angle, so I won't go there. The monarchy isn't being questioned as part of this referendum, so that's an aside. And the (re-)asserting of ancient civilisations is way off track.

Part 2

Federal UK - Scotland is a country in a way that a region like Yorkshire or The Midlands, for example, aren't. And that's where I think the federal thing stumbles. Not that there's ever realistically been a sniff of it.
Foreign relations/multinational corporations - I don't consider the UK handling of them to be an example that Scotland needs to worry about living up to. I don't hanker after international 'influence' per se, either. I feel compelled to point out that, on a worldwide scale, Scotland isn't small. In a list of all countries by population: it's in the top half. Plenty big enough to hold its own. One UK positive: we're not too shoddy on international development aid. And long may that trend continue.

Oil - I think that any talk of a population share of oil is a red (black?!) herring. All credible sources I've seen based the share on geography and put it at ~90% to Scotland, not 'all'.

Debt - You can't renege on a debt you're not liable for, and the UK gov has already confirmed that it'll accept full liability for all of the debt. The proposal is that, in response for the creation of a currency union, Scotland will pay a per capita share of the debt.
Land ownership - It's one measure of wealth and there's definitely room (as it were) for improvement. But I don't see it as a feather in the cap of the Union or an achilles heel of Independence.

Euro - My understanding is that to join the Eurozone you have to be part of the ERM II for two years, and that participation in that is voluntary. Haven't forgotten about Greece and Spain. Or Ireland, who didn't request a re-entry to our Union when they hit trouble. And from what I've read, Iceland seem to be coming back strongly after actually jailing those responsible for their crash. Back in the UK, our banks needed a £640bn US gov backed bailout. Over fourteen times as much as the UK put into RBS. The UK doesn't have the broad-shouldered standalone independence that many would have us believe.

Plebs v rulers - This is along the lines of an angle I've heard from one of the more erudite of my No-supporting pals: a trad Labour type point about working class solidarity - the shared values of bus drivers and nurses in Perth, Pontypridd and Plymouth. Which I accept as a thing that exists. But what of the bus driver in Prague? Or the nurse in Peru? How is the political entity of the Westminster-led UK (in it's current incarnation) relevant to them? It isn't. Which begs the question of why the UK is being championed as the best vehicle for furthering the collective interests of us plebs and proles.
Undemocratic? - I can't buy into the claim on any level. I have been on a grassroots voter registration drive like no other. Every door has had a leaflet through it with simple instructions on how to register to vote. Turnout is expected to be unprecedentedly high. Scotland, as a country with its own established and acknowledged legal, healthcare, educational, and civic structures, &c, has a legitimate basis for asserting self-determination, as acknowledged by The Edinburgh Agreement.

 "If you don't know, vote No" is the line that's getting repeated by the Better Together campaign. I consider it to be one of the most shamelessly arrogant and insidious political messages I've ever heard. Boiled down, you're being urged to extinguish your inquisitive thoughts, to shut up, give up, and presume that this referendum somehow has a default answer. Which is in stark contrast to the message from the various stands of the Yes side, who are encouraging everyone to read up, discuss, and get involved in the debate. Educate yourselves. Engage. Query. Think. There are many voices and many sources to choose from and weigh up. And if you genuinely and honestly don't know after considering the cases presented to you, then exercise your democratic right not to vote at all. Or spoil your ballot paper if it takes your fancy. But don't let anyone try and convince you that there's some sort of default answer to all of this.

Also of interest is his friend Mark Shields' blog. He has posted several articles on the Scottish indyref and his coversion from NO to a YES voter, the links to which appear below...

Reproduced (with some minor alterations) with the kind permission of one of the YES Provan activists. All images have been added.