Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Scotland: The decisive argument?

I have always felt that for Scots (or more accurately the inhabitants of Scotland) the decisive argument (in the Independence Referendum debate) is not going to be economics, but some form of belief. It will be a leap of faith for those with the courage.
Chris Hume concludes:

The main motive, if Scots opt for independence, will be their desire to shake off the incubus of English conservatism. The natural centre of gravity of Scottish politics will be more leftwing than that of the UK. Scotland could be a successful, liberal-minded and social democratic nation on the Scandinavian model. Nothing wrong with that, except for English progressives who will have to contend with a centre of gravity that has moved to the right. For England and Wales, politics will adjust. The Labour party would become more rightwing to ensure a competitive system.

In the end, it seems to me offensive on the part of both sides in the debate to concentrate so slavishly on the economics, when realistically the economic outlook cannot and should not be decisive. It is as if they have both leased their campaigns, in the old adage, to people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. It is the heart that will decide the future of our island, not the pocketbook. That is surely right.
The Guardian 3 August 2014 : For Scotland, the independence debate is about more than the economy, stupid

A commenter IvanBunin77 comments:

It’s about political systems, representation and responsibility, not money. Do we want to continue the way we are, sending 10% of the total MPs to a large parliament 500 miles outside Scotland’s border, which is often governed by a party with very weak support in Scotland, or do we want to govern ourselves, in a parliament in Edinburgh, 100% of whose MPs are voted for by the people of Scotland, and represent ourselves directly in the EU (which the UK may be leaving in 2017…)? It’s also about a break with what many people on both sides of the border see as a broken, self-serving system. A country of 5 million with a parliament elected by PR is a wonderful prospect.
IvanBunin77 03 August 2014 8:13pm ibid

I find myself agreeing, with dread. I live a few miles outside Scotland’s border and about 300 miles from a government and parliament that seems just as remote to me as it does to the commenter above.

If I was in Scotland, I think I would vote YES for these sorts of reasons. Whatever you choose, there is risk. In the end do you find the courage to grasp the opportunity offered because you have a “national identity”? The opportunity to embrace the benefits of self-determination at the cost of giving up the dubious benefits of being part of a “Great” Power?

I dread being left, for any “national identity” I have is chained to London and Westminster. With the progressiveness of the Scots lost, reform will be so much more difficult and the attitudes and outlooks that so many Scots detest will become more entrenched.

I am resentful that I have no say and that I will be rendered ever more disenfranchised. But that is the fault of the Westminster system not of the Scots. They have carved out an opportunity and barring a loss of nerve they will take the decision that I would take if I had that opportunity.


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2 thoughts on “Scotland: The decisive argument?

  1. Peter on said:

    As an English person living in England, I’ve generally considered that independence is not a good idea for both regions, but then it would bring a few benefits to England financially and politically.

    The current set up is the worst possible scenario with Scotland governed by a Scottish parliament AND Westminster, but England having Scottish ministers being able to vote on purely English matters. There is also the issue of funding via the Barnett formula which gives more money per head to Scotland than England, allowing financial perks such as free university education and prescriptions, which give an unfair advantage to the Scottish parliament.

    One thing that Scotland and England do have in common is the remoteness of Westminster, and the belief that much of what it does is for the benefit of London and not the rest of the UK.

    As I see it, the best option is for Scotland to remain in the UK, but also to have an English parliament. This should be accompanied by the dissolution of Westminster, seeing as it has given most powers to the EU anyway, or an alternative of leaving the EU and retaining a small UK parliament to oversee the areas of government that would be difficult to split between England and Scotland such as currency and defence.

    Even more radical, but not practical (unfortunately) is for London to be declared a separate state (much like Monaco) allowing it to do it’s own thing, but NOT to be able to call upon the citizens of the rest of the UK, particularly the high flyers to maintain it’s dominant position, and then we can really see if it can stand up to it’s boast that it subsidises the rest of the UK, without the benefit of all the brains from the rest of the UK that it routinely sucks in.

    I have deliberately not mentioned Wales and NI as there are different issues.

  2. The current set up is the worst possible scenario with Scotland governed by a Scottish parliament AND Westminster, but England having Scottish ministers being able to vote on purely English matters.Peter – in comment above

    This is the classic “West Lothian issue” (a result of structure), but I am more concerned about what we might call the “Westminster issue” (a matter of attitude).

    The “attitude” is around:

    • “not invented here”,
    • a colonial attitude to anyone outside the M25 and
    • a deeply entrenched affection for outmoded structures – such as
      • an unelected House of Lords,
      • a principal legislature elected by an antiquated voting system not suited to the diversity of views in the country,
      • a Prime Minister who wields power well beyond what should be allowed by the “first among equals”

    This is then made worse by the worst of “city attitudes”

    • “born to rule”
    • “every little helps” – said by banker when screwing the rest of us
    • “Loads of money”
    • rewards for failure
    • Financial Services are more worthy than genuine creation of wealth.

    I don’t feel that “English Devolution” is the answer – in fact that is what Scottish Independence would in some ways move us (the English) towards. We would still have the “Westminster Issue” – “even accompanied by the dissolution of Westminster”, we stand the risk of it just being reinvented in another guise.

    The problem with the UK is that it has a dominant peripheral city. The problem with a devolved (or independent) England is that it would have (a proportionately) even more dominant peripheral city.

    “Kicking London Out” could be cutting our nose off to spite our face – we would just risk having a dominant (and independent neighbour). This is party because we tend to view “London region” as the Greater London Authority (broadly bounded by the M25). but why?

    If an independent “London State” was defined as a little enclave, Inner London, within say the North and South Circular Roads (what London-centric names!) it would be reliant on an independent South and East England (however redefined) for labour, power, waste processing, food and water. Alternatively define it as a real city state with the area within the District Line and DLR area as “it”

    Greater London does not have a “national identity” like Scotland, so would not qualify for self-proclaimed independence – it would (unlike Scotland) have to be negotiated with the rest of us. “London” thinks it is all powerful; but that is partly because we have surrendered this perception; if they had to recognise their dependence on the rest us of we might see a healthier balance.

    England without the London effect (or within a UK with a tamed London) would be healthier, but if we are “reinventing” the governance of these islands, is (England minus Central London) a sensible unit? We have to judge “sensible” not just in terms of identities but also in terms of effectiveness (see an earlier post).

    For effectiveness I am a strong believer in trying to develop an alternative economic centre of gravity to London (which will always be geographically there) and I think we need a national project to do this – for the national benefit. The M62 corridor strikes me as the most promising place for this alternative – and high speed rail would allow multiple centres to economically develop “as one” without creating strip development along the M62. The model might then be applied to the Nottingham/Derby, Leicester, West Midlands triangle – which has the potential to have similar clout to an “M62 City”.

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