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The Independence Question

So the disclaimers up front…

I’m a unionist, originally from Northern Ireland and I believe in the Union between NI and GB.

I don’t believe in devolution to the regions of the UK.

I’m not all that bothered whether Scotland stays or goes.

I believe nationalism, of any hue, is inherently evil and has bigotry at it’s core.

– – – – –

The UK this week faces it’s biggest constitutional change in over two hundred years as Scotland votes on whether is should become an independent country and leave the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland.

I’ve followed the story pretty closely – I do enjoy a bit of politics – and I have both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ voters on my Facebook feed, who relentlessly give me ‘their’ side of the argument. In truth there has been some nonsense written by both sides.

Glasgow's River Clyde

Glasgow’s River Clyde

The status quo – a first past the post national parliament at Westminster in London, with devolved executives in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh – has been slammed by the Scottish Nationalists as anything from ‘pish’ to ‘nasty’ to ‘anti-Scot’. Westminster is ‘stealing’ Scotland’s oil; the current UK gov’t “wasn’t voted for” by Scotland (despite having 50 odd seats in the parliament); the BBC is ‘biased’; etc., etc.

There is undoubtedly some merit in the criticisms of Westminster – no gov’t system is perfect. The last Labour gov’t (who won 41 of 59 Scottish seats) practically bankrupted the country in the 2008 crash. Tony Blair took the UK into a deeply unpopular war in Iraq. There is a political bubble at Westminster, with professional politicians from all over the UK living and working outside of normal reality. There is Nick Clegg.

But can Scotland wash it’s hands of Westminster? Well, no, not at all. Scotland helped create Westminster when it asked to join England back in the early 18th Century. It helped preserve and refine it throughout the UK’s history. The idea that ‘we didn’t vote Tory so we’re not to blame’ is poppy cock and frankly bizarre – and when people talk of the ‘democratic deficit’ remember that just 3.4% of the UK’s population (or 51% of the Scottish Electoral Register) will be deciding the fate of the UK this week.

Has London stole Scotland’s oil? Well, given that no one knew there was oil under the North Sea when Scotland was last independent you’d have to say no it didn’t. Did they use the revenue well? A subjective argument… we could have created a Sovereign Wealth Fund… but then life in the country would have been very different and not guaranteed to be better.

This week Nick Robinson a BBC journalist – and indeed the BBC itself – has been getting a hard time from Scottish Nationalists. Apparently the ‘Beeb’ has a political bias! Shock! Horror! Try telling that to someone from Belfast… the naive nature of people on the British Mainland was something of an eye opener this week! The BBC has been running a political editorial over ‘the North’, ‘Palestine’ and pretty much every other part of the world for decades. Welcome to the real world Scotland!

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Is the UK perfect? Far from it! Does that mean it’s the ‘devil’s cot’? Not at all.

So what of a future independent Scotland?

Well this unfortunately is the ambiguous part… it’s mostly dreams and hopes – someone quoted Nelson Mandela this week… There is an ‘idea’ of some form of socialist model, there is an idea for some economic model, but the reality is, no one really knows. Today the Nationalists are united behind Alex Salmond (and the apparent brains of the operation, Nicola Sturgeon), but after a potential ‘yes’ vote, what then?

Will the ‘Labour for Yes’ boys & girls support the ‘Tartan Tories’ in the negotiations? Will Alex’s dream of using the British Pound and Keeping the Monarchy appeal? Will joining the EU and the Euro be the right thing to do if you want ‘independence’? It’s all rather murky in detail to be honest and the realignment of politics in an independent Scotland will be dramatic to watch.

The currency thing has been done to death, so I’m not going to go over old ground, save to say, a number of Irish commentators keep pointing to the fact that the Irish Republic had currency union with the UK for 50 odd years… so Scotland is a ‘shoe-in’ for one.

Somehow they’ve completely missed the fact that the RoI’s economy was in the gutter for pretty much the entirety of that ‘union’ and they’ve completely overlooked the state of the Irish Republic’s economy issues thanks to the Euro (a Euro that Scotland will be compelled to join if they seek admittance to the EU).

The ‘Euro’ has had a massive impact on the psyche of the UK and I really don’t see any politician being brave enough to say yes to a Currency Union with anyone – even Scotland. So plan B looks likely… except no one knows what that is… I suspect that the Pound will get used in the short term until EU membership is achieved and then it’s the Euro. I find it unlikely that Scotland will go for it’s own currency only to give that up when EU membership comes along.

The Scots are stereotyped as ‘tight’ with their cash yet a big proportion seem prepared to ignore the obvious risks to the wallets. Economists across the world are being rubbished as ‘scaremongering’… raising risks isn’t popular with the Nationalists.

As the referendum debate concludes this week, Nationalism is of course doing what Nationalism does. I’ve heard stories from friends in Scotland that they will be leaving if there is a ‘yes’ vote as they already don’t feel safe – some have said they’re going regardless.

I’ve seen one person comment on Facebook that they were squared up to on the street & told that they’re ‘English scum’ and of course Alex Salmond has given petrol to the flames by claiming only Yes voters are part of ‘team Scotland’. There are already attempts to intimidate news reporters as Nationalists try to close down dissenting voices in the press (Alert – reporters do lie in the UK, they’ve been doing it for decades Scotland).

Nationalism – for all it’a allure and appeal, really is a vile creature. It’s ruined lives all over the world.

It’s polarising Scotland in a way probably unimaginable fifteen years ago. Families and communities are having fractious arguments about the future of their home. That won’t heal up on the 19th September. It’s a pretty depressing reality facing Scotland in the coming weeks and months. Sure life will go on, but friendships and bonds will be broken, perhaps never to be repaired.

So in conclusion, I can’t fathom what would make someone vote ‘yes’. The economic doubts are huge and real. The social picture already looks fractured to the extent that the sunny picture, painted of an independent Scotland seems unlikely in the extreme. There is already an undercurrent of bigotry from Nationalism – and putting that genie back in the bottle will not be easy.

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About Mcfaggen

Having grown up in Co. Fermanagh where most of my family still reside, I thought it would be worthwhile to keep a blog of my travels around the rest of the UK, Europe and the World.

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  1. Pingback: Scotland Votes No | Finbar On Tour - September 19, 2014

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