My View on Scottish Independence

BraveheartI cannot claim to be an expert in the matter, nor am I an economist or politician (although this could actually aid my argument), however I feel that my thoughts on Scottish independence should be aired for mine and my readers sake. Firstly, I urge people to focus on the issues that the vote would actually address and not to concern themselves with which side has the most money or which parties are backing it. I find it hugely ironic that the big three Westminster parties have formed an unholy alliance to combat an expression of self-determination. If anything, their open similarity on this issue brings to light how similar politicians from Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have become. However, the lack of a voice for independence in England is a problem. It drives a wedge between Scottish and English (and RUK) workers, with those south of the border denouncing independence in order to avoid being stuck with Tory rule for the next fifty years. This argument does have it’s merits, in fact some of my closest friends hold this view. Despite this, I feel that relying on this particular argument is somewhat selfish, I am sure if an independence vote for Northern England (wherever the extent of this would be I do not know) were held today we would be cheering, and most probably the Scots would be too. I suppose there are two reasons this argument is so effective. One being that, as I have referred to already, there is no real Yes campaign in England, so workers in the Rest of the United Kingdom do not personally empathize with the Scots needs and wants for an independent state. As well as this, it also highlights the disunity between the left in Scotland and the RUK. The Scots often have their own Trade Unions (and with Trade Union membership low as it is, this does not help), and their own major left party. From a students perspective, NUS Scotland appears to be a utopian vision of what a progressive NUS would look like if controlled by left groups and not Labour Students. For Scots, freedom from Tory rule is likely one of the most important factors in voting Yes, however individuals south of the border should applaud their secession, not condemn it.
The second issue I want to comment on is the overwhelmingly economic focus of both sides of the debate. I have read countless articles commenting on the dire economic future of Scotland, and how Alex Salmond’s (ironic as he is an ex-oil economist) predictions for the monetary impact of North Sea oil are overrated. [1] [2] Quite frankly, I don’t care. If a countries economic prospects were the determination of whether unitary bodies should secede the world would most likely be a very different place. In fact, federal states such as the U.S. and Germany with very different state ideologies and economies would no doubt denounce the bloated central bureaucracies and leave declare independence forthwith. Although economics are important, this should not be the major deciding factor or headline for either campaign. I think some of the interest in the oil question in relation to Scottish independence goes back to the Thatcher era. Unlike Norway (whom Salmond has pointed to as an example), Britain quickly reaped the monetary benefits rather than cleverly investing them for the future, and the advantages were therefore largely squandered. SNP adherents claim they can utilize the Norwegian model, creating an oil fund for the future. This aim is highly admirable, and illuminates a key ideological division between Scotland and England, despite many doubting Salmond’s current leftist leanings.

This brings me onto what I feel is possibly the major point in the whole debate: ideological differences. Many articles comment on the near complete lack of Conservative presence in Scotland, indeed there are actually double the amount of pandas in Scotland than Tory MPs, which I personally find highly amusing. [3] Hilarity aside, the current support for the SNP is partially a result of the move to the right under New Labour. It is reported that former Labour adherents flocked to the SNP, expressing feelings that “We never left Labour, Labour left us” and the like. [4] The importance of this must not be understated. I have no doubt that many people below the Scottish border feel a similar way. As I concluded in a recent academic essay: we do not have a crisis of participation (as many political scientists and commentators think), but a crisis of representation. It may be that if the outcome of the referendum is a Yes vote that the same cliquey and unrepresentative politics presides in Holyrood as it does in Westminster, although at least the opportunity to change this would be within the Scottish people’s grasp. In fact, many of the toxic policies that are seen to dominate in London may be definitively escaped with independence, or at least increased powers (which is looking a near certainty if the vote is No). For example, with the recent rise of UKIP and their quasi-xenophobic approach to immigration, Scotland would be able to break free of a brutalist cap in favour of a more progressive points system, no doubt boosting Scotland’s labour force. [5]

All in all, I see independence not as some utopian perfect solution, which the ‘Better Together’ campaigns seems to mock, but at least a step forward for a portion of the population of the British Isles. In a similar way that I see socialism, independence for the Scottish people would be a long term move in order to solve some of the most endemic problems of our society. Obviously with a statement such as that it is unlikely I feel the SNP can fulfil such radical goals, but yet again, they are a start. I almost find myself smiling to myself at their rhetoric, which would be almost anathema to Westminster politicians:

“The question is not whether Scotland can afford to be independent. We have the people, resources and ingenuity to prosper. Instead we should be asking, why isn’t Scotland doing better, given all the natural and human wealth we enjoy?” [6]

[1] http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21606869-independent-scotland-would-be-rich-country-terrible-prospects-costly-solitude

[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-28260475

[3] http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21606832-why-we-hope-people-scotland-will-vote-stay-union-dont-leave-us-way

[4] http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21606865-confluence-historical-forces-north-sea-oil-and-absent-minded-politicians-has-put-britains

[5] http://www.snp.org/blog/post/2014/may/what-yes-vote-means-immigration

[6] http://www.snp.org/referendum/the-new-scotland