Thinking about the Scottish Referendum

In his article on the Scottish referendum Charles Litster examines the campaign and encourages us to think and pray about what happens after September 19th. 

The reason for the referendum is plain and simple. The SNP took control of the Scottish Parliament.  If that event had not happened the vote would not be taking place.  In which case, and as a comment about both campaigns, there would not be at times, a derisive and insensitive campaigns by both the Yes and No campaigners.

To be fair the Yes campaigners are more enthusiastic because it is their main objective politically.  That enthusiasm bringing out in a very small minority of cases,  the worst in the campaigning behavior. I must say that the bad behavior is not exclusive to the Yes campaign it also exists in the No camp.  In general the behavior of both sides has been exceptionally good.

The down side is that, it is the bad practice that is published and displayed to the world.  That bad practice casting a poor light on Scotland and its people.  I am not saying the question should not have been asked, that is good. It is the way it has all panned out that is the issue, for everyone involved.

To nail my colours to the mast, I am a No supporter, therefore any reader needs to take this into account.  There will be some bias in what I say as I am predisposed to a particular outcome.

So how did the Nationalists take power in Scotland? The answer in hindsight, the LibDem vote collapsed and that collapse caused the traditional LibDem vote to be shared between Nationalists and Labour.  Remember the days that the Liberals were blamed for splitting the vote. This was the reverse, LibDem vote blasted out of existence and our election planners picking that up after the event. 

Lesson learnt, what applies at a previous election does not always follow through at the next. Constituencies that one feels might be safe may not be, they could well marginals. That was the issue in Scotland. That is more LibDem voters moved to the Nationalists than Labour.

Our Labour vote should have been consolidated across Scotland well before the election and in my view it was not. A lot could have been done at a Constituency and branch level, that is a more proactive approach within their geographical area. There are many ways that this can be done and these are well known to party organisers.

At the moment the Nationalists are using the if it is not broke don't fix it argument. Strange you may say they want to exit and not stay in the UK. However, they say the UK parliament is broken.  The argument runs, the Tories and Lib Dems are in control at Westminster and Scotland never voted for a Tory/LibDem government. For that reason the system is broke and in any event if Labour were to win the next UK election most of the austerity measures would continue. Those measures having a high impact on Scottish voters.  Therefore Scotland is not having the benefit of a SNP nor Socialist government. The bit that is not broken as far as the nationalists are concerned is the UK pound.

Sadly for the voters at the moment, all the main political parties have been wooed by the bean counters. That is the policy of austerity.  From my viewpoint austerity begets austerity. It is simple arithmetic, cut spending, there is less money in the system, so the poor become poorer, and at the moment the rich become richer.  There has to be a better way, and there is.  I will outline my thoughts on the alternatives to austerity in a future paper. 

On 18th September 2014, there are three potential outcomes, Yes, No, A clear majority is not forth coming, that is the vote is equality or close to it.  The last is very unlikely, and I am hoping the voting is not in the order of 49.5% for one and 49% for the other. In that case some could argue the outcome is not clear for each side.

On the 19th from the polls advertised it is more than likely the No vote will win. It is an election so anything could happen. It depends on the mood of the nation (Scotland) at the time of electors placing their vote.  So whatever, hits the news on and around 17th/18th could impact on the outcome.

Whatever happens, there needs to be a period of healing, a time when everyone comes together in unity so that we can all work together for a common cause. That is either Scotland as an independent nation or Scotland working in co-operation with the UK. As Christians that is what we are called to do, help with the healing.   So which ever side of the Border or campaign we are on we really need to think and pray about what we do on or after the 19th.  

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commented 2014-09-03 12:03:50 +0100 · Flag

Tom Carty

The rapidly approaching independence referendum is already transforming the political landscape, and not only in Scotland. It goes without saying, or at least it should, that the Scots have the right to dissolve a union freely entered into. The modern, Social Democratic character of the ‘Yes’ campaign and its priorities should be recognized and welcomed by everyone on the left and its political context respected. It is not the responsibility of Scottish voters to save England from the consequences of voting Conservative.

The UK needs reinventing. Indeed the very name of the state both illustrates and contributes to the constitutional confusion about its identity. Established in response to the Irish uprising of 1798, the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland’ failed to maintain British rule over Ireland, lasting only from 1801 to 1921. The current name is therefore an afterthought, revealing the greatly diminished status of the Irish element after the departure of the Irish Free State: the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’. Unfortunately the first element in the title is also unhelpful: ‘Great Britain’ refers to the union of England and Scotland of 1707 (preceded by the union of the crowns in 1603.). It therefore fails to recognize Wales, which had been incorporated into England under the Tudors in the sixteenth century. The omission is reflected in the absence to this day of any representation of Wales in the flag. Even if Scotland remains united with England, a new name is needed which takes account of the post-devolution status of Wales and of its relationship to the other parts of the UK.

Whichever way the Scots vote in a couple of weeks, there will have to be a new constitutional settlement to take into account either Scotland’s departure or the further devolution promised in the event of a ‘no’ vote. In either case this will demand a readiness to restructure the UK from the ground up, which raises the question of England. Its disproportionate size means English MPs dominate any unitary parliament, and yet with more devolution to the other countries, which is bound to come about whether or not Scotland is one of them, there would be even more matters from which they were excluded. The only satisfactory solution to this structural anomaly is federalism with a UK parliament alongside devolved parliaments for each country, including England or regional parliaments, which would certainly be welcomed in the North of England, in line with the current cross-party consensus on rebalancing the economy through developing the regions. We are living in interesting times.

Tom Carty is a writer and editor. He blogs at ‘Seek First the Kingdom’ and is the author of ‘The Jesus Reader: The Teaching and Identity of Jesus Christ’ (Columba Press, Dublin 2013).

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