In a previous article about Scottish independence I pointed out that the only definite outcome from a “yes” vote in next year’s referendum will be a negotiation to disentangle the political and bureaucratic ties between Scotland and the rest of the UK. Beyond that no-one knows what an independent Scotland will actually look like or how it will fare.
Even on the big stuff we are flying blind into the referendum. Nobody knows if we’ll retain the Queen as head of state or become some sort of republic. No-one can say if we’ll stay with sterling, or join the eurozone, or opt for an independent Scottish currency. It’s all open for debate after we vote “yes”.
When you consider how ill-defined the outcomes are it’s clear that this referendum has been designed to appeal to our hearts rather than our heads. The words on the ballot paper will say “Should Scotland be an independent country?” but we’re really being asked to question ourselves: “Do I believe in Scotland as a nation?” “Am I truly Scottish?” “Do I have the courage to break away from the tyranny of English rule?” Independence is presented as an article of faith and the referendum as a test of your self respect as a true Scot.
Appealing to our emotions isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Cultural identity is important. But the premise behind all of the implied questions on the ballot paper is that I am currently an oppressed person, struggling to express my true identity under the rule of a foreign power, and it’s my duty as a Scottish patriot to rise up and vote my way to freedom.
It’s a false premise in every respect. I’m already free to be as Scottish as I want at all times. As a Scot I have the same rights and privileges as any ordinary punter in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the same opportunities as everyone else. Political independence from the rest of the UK isn’t going to give me any more of any of these things. I’m already 100% Scottish and as free as I can possibly be.
What I don’t have are systems of democracy and economics that function for the benefit of the population at large. But independence isn’t going to give me these things. My local community will still be on the periphery, largely ignored by the unholy triumvirate of politicos, press, and lobbyists, busy with their own noise around the honeypot. Only the location and the accents will have changed. The same old buachar will be batted to and fro between political opponents, leaving the rest of us just as disillusioned and frustrated as we are now.
Crucially, independence will not fix our economic system which is currently trundling our economy towards the edge of a cliff. Our political masters on both sides of the Tweed appear to believe that we’re merely at the bottom of “the economic cycle” and they only have to tickle the housing market to make the recovery happen. They do not understand that the system itself is so flawed and has been so badly abused over the last 30 years that it will come to a complete standstill at some point in the future. Exactly when this will happen or what the fall-out will be is impossible to say but the exponential accumulation of debt by the many, to the advantage of the few, is nearing its limit. Something’s going to break.
Independence, as it’s currently being presented, is a distraction from these real issues. If you feel passionate about being Scottish or British, by all means vote with your heart in September 2014. But don’t allow yourself to be conned into thinking that the world will be a better, fairer place after the vote. It won’t.
In the meantime, if someone can show me a vision of a reformed democracy that provides sustainable prosperity for all, and demonstrates that it can best be delivered in an independent Scotland, then I’m interested.