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A blog about student activism.

Myth-peddlers versus blundering hypocrites: Why we need a real debate on Scottish independence

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This is a guest post by Innes MacLeod. Innes is a History student, lefty, pro-feminist and Smiths fan . Follow him on Twitter (@theInnesMacLeod) or find him crying in the corner.

Recently the debate on Scottish independence has come to the forefront of media attention. The first shots have been fired in a battle which is likely to now define Scottish politics for the next two years in the lead up to the referendum. Though we are in the very early days of this I find myself frustrated with both sides of the argument. As a person who is as yet undecided – but realises how important this decision could be – I feel it is of the greatest importance that both sides state their case both competently and clearly, yet nationalists and unionists alike have failed to do this.

The unionists have undoubtedly been the poorest in this regard in spite of them being responsible for bringing the issue to the fore in recent days, a move no doubt motivated by a desire to distract from current government policy as opposed to feeling that the independence question was of any great importance. I recently heard the unionist side described as the ‘unpopular front’ a description which could scarcely be more accurate. Those leading it are at best uninspiring and at worst detestable figures; they will fail to create any excitement amongst the people of Scotland. This is very important, the recent AV referendum proved this; I know I am not alone in the opinion that the result was more to do with the Lib Dems lack of popularity than a fair assessment of the alternative vote, though the self satisfied yes campaign didn’t help. So who do we have leading up the case for the union?

The Conservatives are undoubtedly most strongly pro-union and being in power in Westminster they no doubt believe it is their responsibility to take charge of the fight, this would be disastrous. Put simply the Tories are not popular in Scotland, they have only one MP here and have been described by their own members as a ‘toxic brand’ in the country. What’s more the Conservatives appear to have put George Osborne in charge, a baffling move as he must definitely be in consideration for the least likeable member of the cabinet. Who else then?

The Lib Dems’ popularity has collapsed during their time in the coalition so they are unlikely to be given the time of day. Labour would seem the most natural being fairly popular in Scotland – however the recent Scottish election showed that this popularity is on the wane. It seems unlikely that Miliband will be able to convince people to stay in a union when he is unable to express any coherent ideas of what the union would look like under a Labour government.  The more senior Labour figures of Brown and Darling have also been suggested but their disastrous record in government will hurt them. We can also rule out the leaders of the Scottish unionist parties as their names are unlikely to be recognised in any household and none have any real charisma to speak of.

It is not merely lack of popularity which has angered me with the unionists but also their glaring hypocrisies. The Conservative party is taking great credit from distancing themselves from the European Union yet simultaneously fighting to keep Scotland part of the United Kingdom. It will be difficult for Cameron to retain credibility on both issues by arguing for separation abroad but unity at home. Labour and the Lib Dems are guilty of similar crimes – both parties support further powers to Holyrood but oppose putting a ‘Devo Max’ option in the referendum (an option which is proving far more popular than full independence and has a very good chance of coming out on top).

The Lib Dems are perhaps the most acute hypocrites as the ‘Devo Max’ option is very similar to their devolution policy and despite them being in favour of votes for 16 year olds they oppose it in this referendum. How can these parties be trusted when they are apparently willing to oppose their own beliefs in order to keep the union intact and when it appears they will do or say anything to achieve this? I have already seen the result of these inadequacies; many of my undecided friends have become increasingly pro-independence almost purely based on their distaste for those fighting for the union.But the unionists are not the only one who has been frustrating in this affair.

The nationalists have certainly come out of the last few days better off but this is unsurprising: their entire political existence has been building towards this debate. They have survived the bombardment of questions from a national media which has been doubtful of the credibility of an independent Scotland and have answered the questions in such a way as to assure me at least that an independent Scotland could function and wouldn’t be disastrous.

What they have failed to do is to underline the benefits of going it alone. The majority of this is, as far as I’ve seen, is based in misty-eyed patriotism which won’t convince those like me who do not buy into these ideas. I would be willing to consider voting for independence if it genuinely benefited the people of Scotland but the SNP have yet to prove this to me and in fact are not really making enough effort to do so, preferring the aforementioned technique of playing on romantic national ideas.

At the risk of stating the obvious, this decision is important. There are many Scots who are still undecided or wavering. To make the right decision – the decision which will be of greatest benefit to the people who live in Scotland – we need each case stated clearly and competently by both sides (unionist and nationalist).

We need to know the facts.

What we have instead are the nationalists using facts only in order to deny that things would be worse rather than prove they would be better – and apparently hoping that the spirit of Bruce, Wallace and Burns will do the rest. As for the unionists, their tactics thus far have been so hypocritical that they are likely to engender a great deal of distrust amongst the voters. The battle may be lost already if they are unable to find a credible voice to state their case.

When August 2014 rolls around, who gets my vote – or indeed whether I will vote at all – will be highly dependent on both of these campaigns getting their act together and, for the sake of Scotland, doing their jobs properly.


Written by CakeCakeCakeCakeCake

January 15, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. “I would be willing to consider voting for independence if it genuinely benefited the people of Scotland but the SNP have yet to prove this to me”

    You don’t think this is implicit in the greater control we’d have of revenue and taxation, and the freedom from the distraction of voting for a westminster government that doesn’t represent voters in Scotland?

    I’m not an SNP ‘fanboi’ by any means. But better representation in the future is the priority for me, and the SNP looks the best route to achieving that.


    Colin Dunn

    January 17, 2012 at 5:07 pm

  2. A very well written article. Its refreshing to hear someone who is more interested in facts than opinions. And rightly so that none of the political parties are willing to grow up and make their case in a more professional and intelligent manner. I get sick of the dirt throwing that goes on, their refusal to try any other method besides trying to throw as much dirt as they can to tarnish the reputation of their rivals is comparable to school playground behaviour.


    April 12, 2012 at 6:34 pm

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