Three more thoughts on the Scottish independence shenanigans
On Tuesday I wrote up three thoughts on the scrap over Scottish independence. Here are three more.
First: PMQs this week saw Cameron and Miliband attempt their opening gambits on independence. As the long campaign effectively kicks off, they both stumbled a little. Miliband pointed to the need to ‘have the discussion about the serious issues involved’. The Labour leader’s opening argument in the most serious constitutional debate in the UK since universal sufferage? He started off by talking about “Shared institutions… like the NHS…”. Health is already devolved to the Scottish Parliament. NHS Scotland is a separate body. Oops.
Cameron agreed in theory with the need to make the case for the union, but did nothing to do so. And this should come as no surprise. Because while the NHS is already devolved, at least Miliband can give examples of government powers in which he believes. For Cameron, the position is trickier. In order to make a case that Scotland should be governed from Westminster, the Prime Minister would need to make a case for government. As a hard neo-liberal this doesn’t come naturally. Policing is already off the table – already devolved. What is there left that he believes in? Monetary Policy? Foreign policy? What he is being asked to do is make a case for the state in a Scottish referendum right as he makes a case against the state across the UK – right as his cuts and privatisation slip into fifth gear… What positive vision can he propose? If you believe in no government, why does it matter who isn’t governing?
Second: “Devolution to Scotland and Wales did not go far enough – the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales should get more powers.”
That’s the Liberal Democrat policy on the matter (pdf). Why then is Liberal Democrat Scottish Secretary Michael Moore working to exclude that very option from the ballot of a referendum on Scotland’s constitutional future? Specifically, they say that they will consult with the Scottish parliament on what this should mean. Well, Holyrood is majority SNP these days. Greens and sensible Labour types like Malcolm Chisholm, and possibly a couple of the Lib Dem MSPs if they’re honest, also support either independence or significantly more devolution.
Imagine if the Lib Dem Scottish Secretary enacted the Lib Dem policy. Imagine he did consult with Holyrood on how many more powers short of full independence the Parliament should have. You can bet your bottom dollar the answer would be the same as the question posed in Salmond’s second referendum option. The question Michael Moore is now blocking. Is this Moore playing games, or Cameron and Osborne pulling the strings? Or, to ask the more traditional question, is Moore Scotland’s man in the cabinet, or the cabinet’s man in Scotland? The Lib Dem’s man in cabinet, or the cabinet’s man in the Lib Dems? With both questions, it’s looking more and more (excuse the play on words) like the latter.
Third, everyone is quite right. We do need to stop talking process and start imagining what independence might mean. If it is a yes vote, this will be the first new country for a long time born not in blood and poverty but in peace, hope, and relative prosperity. That’s an exciting possibility. Here on Bright Green, we are hoping to have some discussions on this soon. We hope you’ll join us.
However, i meant to add, that with this current unimaginative, shower running the UK at the moment anything as creative and forward thinking as a Federation of Island states will remain a distant dream.
Adam, that’s re-assurring, as on this side of the border, it often feels like Scots are wanting to build a new Hadrians Wall between us and them.
Personally, i think a Federation, or Confederation of states, not necessarily full union but maybe some mini EU type of body for the British Isles would be great, as there are lots of areas were we can co-operate as partners for the greater good.
David – I know lots of Scottish Nationalists, and none of them are against the idea.
@ Adam, i would love there to be a new Federation for the British Isles, i think it would be great for everyone here, Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh, CI’s and IoM, because what the likes of SNP, Plaid Cymru say, there is a lot of things that can be gained through working together for our mutual benefit, and together these islands have a population of around 70m, are prosperous, well educated, and could and should make more effort to co-ordinate things that could benefit everyone, environmental policies for one, transport, like a universal education system as another.
Unfortunately, i can’t see it happening in my lifetime, as the Scottish will block it, and i think Irish nationalism still has enough grievance left in it to probably not to want to forge something along those lines just yet.
@themushypea – thee is no reason why we couldn’t have a new federation of countries in the British Isles, which guarunteed freedom of movement.
Hi Ogilvy – I agree in theory that this is the case, and am in favour of the EU. Unfortunately the EU is still too culturally weak a Union to confer that sense of belonging and to guarantee that freedom of movement. It is a short lived entity whose future is deeply uncertain. It would be foolish to give up 300 years of Unity for a very shaky 20 years…
MushyPea – those benefits of freedom of movement and commerce would be guaranteed by EU membership. I’m neither English nor Scottish, so I have no horse in this race, but I can’t help but thinking that the deconstruction of the old countries born of the nationalistic frenzy of the 18th and 19th centuries, and their replacement with a more rational union, can only be a good thing, not just for Europe, but for mankind as a whole.
The sad thing about this debate is that it is likely to be about who gets what – money.
Personally I am in favour of maintaining the Union, not because I think Scotland would not survive (I think it would) but because I think we would be culturally and economically worse off in the broadest sense. We all gain from the freedom of movement and belonging the Union affords, we all gain from the opportunities and protections offered by the larger unit.
At the same time I think we all gain by having a country (and for some an identity) that is not purely based on historic ethnic lines – the UK. I was born in England to Scottish parents, and have grown up and lived in Scotland, England and Ireland. I can feel British, but it is harder for me to feel English or Scottish. My Indian/Chinese/Irish partner feels the same.
At the same time though I think there is a need for reform. A federal approach would be my preferred option (ideally without a monarchy and with a written constitution, but that will have to wait).
I wrote about this a while ago: