2007 - 2022

Compassion and Constitution

YESSo after taking a couple months away from social media I decided to peek back into Twitter after hearing about the FM’s announcement that there will be another independence referendum (due of course to Theresa May’s abject failure to compromise with the Scottish Government and respond to the Scottish people’s vote on Brexit with anything more than Tory arrogance and all the intransigence and condescension that comes with that). It was great to see all the positivity from yessers, and not so great to see the media hysteria; but while the media reaction was not in the least bit surprising, I’m reassured that most ordinary people are repelled by hyperbole and obvious nonsense. Our battle will be on getting the facts and arguments around our economy and the EU out there, since these are already being incorrectly reported not just by the press but by broadcast outlets too, although I hasten to add that the economic benefits and those of remaining within the EU are not the sum of our argument.

I haven’t just taken a step back from social media, and I will disappear into the ether again soon and for some time (and for all those folks feeling politically exhausted, it really is a choice, in that we don’t have to be switched on all the time, and this really is a perfect time to step back for a bit and refresh if you need it), but I felt the need to engage here for one reason, and that is to say that I think it is absolutely imperative that we understand that voting No can in no way be a vote to help the poor – and we should say so.

Understanding No voters – if we look at the reasons they voted No in polling and studies post indyref – means understanding how much economic fear played into that vote. There has only ever been a minority of self-identified No voters who say they voted No due to their connection to the union and/or to feeling British. The majority have always said it was the uncertainty/risk around the economy of an independent Scotland that led to that decision. Most ordinary voters don’t have ‘a case’ for voting the way they do, they are just trying to make their way through a ton of conflicting information to try to get to an understanding of what is likely the best way forward for them, their loved ones, and indeed Scotland. Of course there are all sorts of preconceptions and misconceptions that can play into that process, but ultimately this is what ordinary voters on both sides tried/will try to do. ‘The case’ for Yes and for No shouldn’t be confused with the voters for Yes and No, in the sense that arguing that the case for ‘the other side’ is flawed in some way isn’t an indictment on those who voted/will vote that way. But we should also acknowledge the obvious, which is that while there is more than one way of understanding an issue like independence, that is not the same as to say that all ways of understanding the issue are equally valid and merited.

I mention this because there have been calls to divorce the moral from this debate, as a kind of nod to the fact that you can be a moral person on either side of the question, but this is a call for an empty and meaningless debate in my view, and seems to be saying that our moral goals for society, and the means by which we want to achieve them, should be exempt from scrutiny and/or are extraneous to serious political questions and considerations. Which is not just bollocks but dangerously so.

When I say that voting No can in no way be a vote to help the poor, this doesn’t equate to saying that No voters in the next referendum don’t care about the poor or aren’t moral people, or even that there can’t be anyone behind the political No case who truly believes that the union has the most to offer the poor (people can believe anything). It is simply a statement signifying a cast iron argument on the prospects for the poor in the UK. And that argument is basically that we know we will have a Tory-led UK for years to come, under a Brexit that the solid consensus among academic economists tells us will be hugely damaging to the British economy, all managed via a Tory ethos that means continued and sustained assault on the poor and the vulnerable for the foreseeable future. There are few things in life more certain than this.

And the suffering all that will lead to isn’t extraneous to considerations around the big questions. The lost lives of those who commit suicide shouldn’t be ignored, as though their misery was unbound to the choices a polity made. People who are already suffering terribly will continue to be pushed further into crisis on all levels by the most right wing government we have seen in living memory. Some of them will end up taking their own lives. There are of course many more who aren’t in such a level of crisis but who are still struggling and whose already difficult lives will only be made harder. And there are many more moral considerations on the question of independence – not least the consideration of how can we be a country able to welcome refugees; how can we remain a home to all those immigrants who chose to make their life here – many of whom are already being deported from Scotland by the UK government despite the protestations of the Scottish government and indeed their local communities. And all this is before we even consider the implications of losing the rights we have as a result of being part of the EU, including our human rights.

Indeed most of the moral considerations around independence, like these, directly correlate to the suffering of human beings. Is there any greater consideration than this when it comes to political choices? Surely at the heart of not only the debate around independence but the need for the vote, is the drive to alleviate the suffering of those in our society paying for the mistakes, lies and excesses of mostly rich white men? Indeed this is a feminist issue too – women have borne the brunt of the majority of austerity cuts, and as a result the equality gap has increased. Analysis by independent thinktank the Women’s Budget Group, released in November 2016, shows that tax and benefit changes since 2010 will have hit women’s incomes twice as hard as men by 2020. Women will be £1,003 a year worse off by 2020 on average; for men, this figure is £555. But crucially the poorest women are the worst affected: those with below-average incomes will be £1,678 worse off (!).

If you have compassion for the poor and the vulnerable; if you want Scotland to be a home to those fleeing war, famine and persecution; if you want an end to those who made their home here being forced to leave; if you want to protect what are fragile but also vital social attitudes in today’s world (fragile because we’ve mainly only managed not to tag onto the xenophobia train due to earning this politically, and thus we cannot be complacent); if you support women and our right to equality, if you value the legal protections we currently benefit from but stand to lose, then how can the considerations and arguments in relation to all this not factor into debate around our constitutional future? (And these are just some of a plethora of moral considerations that it would take more than one article to cover).

If we want a debate about what matters, that debate has to have moral considerations and goals at its heart, and the economic arguments are really about achieving a robust economy to facilitate those goals (in addition to the overall purpose of a strong economy). So the economy isn’t the only important consideration as some seem to be implying; indeed it isn’t even the only factor in being able to deliver a better, fairer society. For example with regards to immigration, that is a simple policy choice; a progressive, compassionate, humane immigration policy is one which is implementable as soon as we are independent. Human rights is such a policy choice. Laws to ensure equality are such a policy choice. Laws to protect employees are such a policy choice. I could go on. The crucial point here is that there are precious aspects of our society that depend not on our economy but on progressive government and legislation. To focus only on the economy is the same as saying these issues just don’t matter very much (or even worse, that the people they impact adversely don’t matter so much). I can’t think of many things that matter more.

Thus I would argue that when we know the misery and detrimental impact of staying in the UK for the poor and indeed for many other groups, in all the ways described above, the case for an independent Scotland need only have the potential of offering better for people, and the likelihood of not offering worse, to be the best option.

So on that point, going back to the economy, the potential of remaining within the single market while the rest of the UK leaves is enormous for Scotland. We even have academic economists, dismissive of the economic argument for independence last time, now describing indy as the better economic option, and others going further and asserting indy is ‘the rational choice’. We will soon have the Growth Commission set up by the Scottish government, publishing their report with details on how an independent Scotland can grow its economy. And the think tank Common Weal has also released a breakdown of the kinds of options an independent Scotland would have on dealing with the deficit progressively, and in doing so they not only provide clarity on our ability to do just that, but they also hammer home how taking different (more progressive) choices is what an independent Scotland is all about.

In fact I would say that voting for independence is a statement of trust in progressive politics. We are a wealthy country and no-one disputes this, and if we really do believe that progressive policies are a better management of our resources for the benefit of our people than right wing policies are, then what is there to seriously doubt? It’s not like we are going to vote for indy and then vote in a Tory government. And contrary to what the right-wing press constantly bleat, Scotland isn’t benefitting from the money of English taxpayers, we are in fact – like all parts of the UK – in deficit and having that plugged by borrowing. An independent Scotland can borrow too (!), so again, wouldn’t we rather be a progressive country borrowing less and enacting a plan to reduce the deficit, than part of a regressive UK borrowing for us, running the UK economy such that its constituent parts outside of England have unusually and unnecessarily high (notional) national/provincial deficits, due to the UK being a uniquely and completely dysfunctional state? And all with a government that has no plan at all when it comes to cutting Scotland’s deficit let alone enacting one. And that’s all before we even consider the economic onslaught that is Brexit hurtling towards us undoubtedly widening the deficit still.

So not only is there great economic potential with independence in the EU, recognised by economists, and with all sorts of options around dealing with the deficit that don’t at all reflect Tory austerity; but this is juxtaposed against an economic situation that is definitely going to get worse if we remain in the UK, and one which the UK government has no plan at all to improve. And on that point, unionists will find that the Scottish deficit is not their beating stick in this debate, but rather it is a damning indictment on the UK government, not just in terms of their economic mismanagement of the UK, but also due to the fact that they have no tailored package of proposals to reduce Scotland’s deficit – to do so hasn’t even occurred to them. The Tories basically approach the Scottish economy with the Boris ethos that a pound spent in Croyden is better than a pound spent in Strathclyde. We simply cannot afford for this kind of failure and complete abdication of responsibility to continue.

So when we look at the impact of Brexit on the UK as a whole – and on Scotland’s deficit – and who the Tories will make pay for the cuts they make – and indeed the rights UK citizens/prospective UK citizens will lose – and the impact on women’s equality; it is an entirely negative picture. Whereas we know we will be a more progressive country if we vote for independence, and this point couldn’t be more important or meaningful. We will finally be able to have the centre-left social democracy we always vote for, and will thus be a country where there will be no need and no desire to take more from those struggling and an active desire (and public pressure) to do better for them; a country where our rights will be protected, where equality is paramount, where we will welcome those who wish to make their home here, and where we are best placed to protect our society from right wing populism. As such, a vote for independence isn’t just the less risky economic vote, but it is also a vote for a society that isn’t just likely to be better for most people, but one that definitely will be on many counts right from the very beginning. And even those out there who disagree that independence is the better economic option, can’t seriously dispute that it won’t mean a better society in the ways described.

But whatever individuals may think of the prospects of an independent Scotland, we can be sure what staying in the UK means for the poor, the vulnerable, immigrants, women, our rights and protections, our ability to forge a caring society and indeed our economy; and we can be certain that we will all increasingly be encouraged by five billionaires to blame each other.

The moral case for independence is thus the human case and gives meaning to our whole argument for independence. The moral case is valuing how this choice affects people first and foremost – especially the people who need change the most and who will be worst affected if we remain part of the UK. And it’s saying not only that our welfare, rights, equality and being an open society matters, but that these matter so much that these considerations are central to our political priorities, goals, and arguments.

We can be moral people and lose the moral argument, and we can be moral people and win the moral argument. The argument – the merits and validity of what we put forward – is what is important. There is a reality here that our arguments can be measured against, so let’s not shy away from making the moral/human argument, and certainly not due to ideas that equate to thinking there can’t be moral arguments. The only way people matter in all of this is by considering the full impact on our lives of which way we go, and the stakes have never been higher. It’s simply never been more important to make the moral case for independence.

Comments (28)

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  1. SleepingDog says:

    My impression of mainstream Anglo-British culture is that it practically defines itself on having enemies. If an independent Scottish culture was focused on the commonalities of people (and the environment, which this piece leaves out), and can avoid making bitter enemies at home and abroad during constitutional upheaval, then I think the groundwork would be laid for an ethically-based state.

    Vera Brittain, writing during World War 2, had advice on the function of minorities. Avoid both belligerence (point-scoring, provocation to invite persecution) and self-righteousness (regarding those who disagree with you as thoughtless and ignorant). And for minorities working for an international peaceful settlement, four approaches: self-conquest by learning through humility (minorities are not always right); assist the victims of power; keep alive the civilised virtues; and plan for the post-conflict world.

    I think those ideas are in tune with the sentiment in this article.

    1. Justin Kenrick says:

      those are 4 really helpful pieces of guidance – thank you.

      Combining taking a moral position based on the clearest possible assessment of the facts (as this article very eloquently and informatively seeks to do) with nevertheless remaining open to hearing others interpretations, is not easy.

      How, for example, would you respond to the tone of voice and criticism in Richard MacKinnon’s response immediately below?

      – Dismiss it as intentional obfuscation, as trying to deflect rather than engage with the facts presented in the article, because those facts are so self-evident and challenging?
      – Point out, as Alan Bissett very clearly does, the double standards that seem to be at play (double standards evident in the NO sides insistence that Sturgeon spells out the future in minute detail when no such requirement – because it is impossible – is made of the BrExiting side of the argument? Or
      – Listen to it to try to understand fellow family or friends who were NO voters?

      At the moment my starting point in this second IndyRef is:

      – To ensure that we rebut the lies the monopoly media perpetuates, but ensure that those arguing for (or silently intending to vote) No, for whom care for others is their primary reason, are made welcome by us even as we present the facts.

      Meanwhile, I’m wondering about taking Kimberley’s excellent advice:

      “for all those folks feeling politically exhausted, it really is a choice, in that we don’t have to be switched on all the time, and this really is a perfect time to step back for a bit and refresh if you need it” !

      1. SleepingDog says:

        I think the article is part polemic and part appeal, written in the first person as an individual perspective. Responses to the article or its component parts should be judged accordingly, I guess.

        My own view is that if an author writes a position-piece like this, which is valuable in terms of integrity (combining the appeal to elevate the moral over the economic argument with setting out their political agenda and social values), then responses may still focus on only one aspect and ignore the summary. My suggestion would be to break even a short article like this into subheaded sections to add structural guidance and steer comments that way.

        So the author (and others) might be interested in people who agree/disagree with the moral over economic argument, and yet disagree/agree with either the means/end of Independence, or with the selection and choice of values (“welfare, rights, equality and being an open society”). And in some cases where a term may need further clarification, a hyperlink can be useful, perhaps to appreciate what the author means by “open society” here.

        Unless a writer takes care, they can seem to be both appealing to open a discussion whilst appearing to be making a list of relevant things that must be accepted first, closing off other debate. In which case the quality of comments may suffer. This is less of an issue if an article separates the issues in sections that can be independently assessed.

  2. Richard MacKinnon says:

    Why is it that the title of Kimberley Cadden’s third paragraph ‘Understanding No voters’ makes me feel thoroughly depressed? My immediate reaction is, ‘why do you need to understand’? Or to put it more bluntly. ‘what business is it of yours Kimberley?’
    I get further depressed, no depressed is the wrong word, aggitated is more apt; I get a bit iggitated (maybe even irritaed?) when I read Kimberley’s last paragraph, that, “There is a reality here that our arguments can be measured against, so let’s not shy away from making the moral/human argument,……..” .
    First of all Kimberley, that is plain wrong, you cant measure political arguments. When you talk of reality, moral argument and how you can measure them you are being a bit naughty there, as I think you know. That kind of thinking, ‘bogus moral certainty’ , puts me in mind of the evangelical street preacher, you know the type, they are so convinced in their own beliefs they not only have to go out and convince others, they are unable and completely and totally disinterested in other opinion, so certain are they that they are right.
    So Kimberley, if in the next few months you feel it necesassary to preach to others, remember this, not everyone thinks like you do. Other people might think the exact opposite to you and you know what, and I want to impress this upon you Kimberley because it is important, other peoples opinions are just as important to them as yours are to you, and as I say, there is no right or wrong political morality.

  3. Willie says:

    The question about whether England can afford to be independent,and the response it received, maybe tells all.

  4. Alan Bissett says:

    “There is no right or wrong political morality.”
    This is a relativist position that can allow some seriously dodgy opinions a veneer of legitimacy. You can’t argue that a political philosophy is no more or less ‘moral’ than anyone else’s just because someone somewhere holds it.
    “You can’t measure political arguments.”
    Of course you can. That’s what poverty statistics are for.
    What’s interesting about this is that Unionists accuse Yes campaigners of immorality *all the time*: abandoning the working-class in the rest of the UK, putting the livelihoods of the poor at risk to chase their ‘separatist dream’, ‘hating’ the English etc. What’s more, I only ever see other No campaigners encouraging these aspersions rather than challenging them. Unionists rarely fret about their own tendency to alienate Yes voters, by accusing them of having lower ethical standards than themselves, but they certainly leap to the defensive and cry THIS IS WHAT NATIONALISM DOES!!! when they feel Yes are attempting to argue their own moral case.

    1. Angie says:

      What is ‘interesting’ is that you seem incapable of constructing a coherent point. First you admonish the guy for moral relativism and insist that politics is measurably ethical based on outcomes – poverty. The road to hell and good intentions spring to mind…


      You insist that outcomes such as a demonstrable and not annecdotal rise in anti-Englishness (sadly), and the history of nationalism and it’s malcontents and other associated outcomes should not be measured on ethical terms based on outcomes.

      Mak yer mind up – and I’m a Yes voter, just get tired of nationalists like you who alienate those we need to persuade with your hyperbole.

  5. Andy in Germany says:

    In the German constitution article one ssays:

    1: “The value of individual people is non-negotiable. All To observe and protect this is the obligation of all state authorities
    2: The German people recognise these invoable and unalienable human rights as the basis of every human society, of peace and justice in the world.

    It is the only part of the constitution that can’t be amended.

    This is why people with disabilities in Germany have the right to a house and place of work adapted tho their needs

    This is why there is a basic minimum safety net, possibly with a few holes in it admittedly, but still there and a basic right for citizens and a lot of legal residents.

    It is why someone with psychological issues can get help and rehabilitation

    It is why a refugee can appeal against deportation and receive help to do so.

    It is why, as a British national, I can live here in safety with my Japanese wife, without fear of deportation.

    It is why my British/Japanese children have the right to a full education, be it a degree or a vocational qualification, essentially for free, even tough they are ‘foreign’. Even though we were not born here.

    Because the basic law is on our side, it is there to support the rights of people who don’t have millions of Euros, who don’t have the ear of the government and their own bank.

    It isn’t perfect, it doesn’t always work for everyone (I know, I work with people with disabilities and Psychological issues) but it is there, and it does work, and Scotland can have the same.

    You don’t have to follow the ‘not wrong’ political morality that says the few can lord it over the many

    You don’t have to tell people to die in the gutter so the rich can have even more.

    If Germany managed this in the midst of the destruction of the end of world war two, with bumps and adjustments over the years since, then Scotland, can do it now.

    And, if Germany is anything to go by, it will do just fine.

  6. Eric says:

    The moral argument is fundamental, in my opinion, but it also helps to spell place names properly if one wants to appeal to a wide audience: Croydon, not Croyden. 😉 Good essay!

  7. Nial says:

    “Our battle will be on getting the facts and arguments around our economy and the EU out there”

    Facts like…

    Scottish trade with the r-UK being 4* the trade with the EU.

    Our £9Bn/ year support from the r-UK. Small schools and hospitals in the Highlands and Islands are expensive to run, as part of the UK the money is spent.

    EU enforced “turbo charged austerity” to meet the entry criteria.

    VAT on childrens clothes and shoes… http://www.accordancevat.com/vat-scottish-independence/

    Driving the country to penury isn’t going to help the poor, and you talk about the ‘moral case’ for independence.

    1. Jeff says:

      You planning to keep wasting money on nuclear weapons, then Nial? There’s your moral case for independence right there, without even mentioning anything else.

  8. Reasonnow says:

    I agree with Andy in Germany. Scotland should adopt a US style Constitution and Bill of Rights to Life, Liberty and Property. No individual or government has the right to initiate force through taxes, prohibitions and regulations, even to do good. Every individual has the right to live thier life any way they choose as long as it does not infringe on the equal rights of others.

  9. Eleanor Ferguson says:

    I am constantly surprised that some people are apparently unaffected by the increased suffering that the policies of the Tories have caused so many people. My daughter is disabled and is ‘lucky’ to be so disabled that her care provision is not likely to be cut ( although the way things are going I can’t be sure!). She is also lucky to live in Scotland where the Government has reinstated the Independent Living Fund which the Tories have abolished in England. It is certain that there will be a Tory government for years to come and a worsening situation with Brexit and people moan about being tired of referendums instead of grasping the chance to change things while they can. Do they just hope that things won’t be as bad as all that- at least not for themselves. I really am baffled and I do think it is a moral choice. I am quite comfortably off but I can’t be happy about what is happening to others.

    1. Valerie says:

      I think that’s the key – I can’t be happy with what is happening to others.

      I am both disgusted and horrified by the conditions in the South at the moment, the breakdown of basic services. The continual trumpeting of the Tories that Labour are fiscally inept, when the UK has never been in a worse situation, without Brexit. I keep saying that all Tories are now Brexiteers, out of necessity, to divert from the complete mess they are presiding over, every problem can be laid at Brexit, the will of the people, the EU, and then Scotland, land of the ungrateful subsidy junkies.

      If anyone believes we have to go down with the ship, out of loyalty (emotion) or we are better off (financial) really needs to have a long hard look. Take a keen interest in the south for our direction under a future No vote. Applications for nursing posts have dropped by 90%!!!! That’s due to EU nationals not applying, as well as effect of disinvestment, so less money for hiring.

      This is all headed North, it stands to reason. We hand our taxes over, get a portion back, and the UK borrows for things we have no say over, like Trident, HS2 etc.

      Stop believing or for Unionists, stop pushing this deficit garbage. We can’t borrow money, the deficit is what WM borrowed, and says belongs to us. Even if you thought any of it was true, it’s crap management by our overlords.

      Dystopia is headed our way with a No vote. Nicola Sturgeon has signalled to the country and the EU we want a vote, so don’t use Scottish resources as bargaining chips, in the way EU nationals have been used.

      On paper, I could turn my back on all this, no ties, just enough to leave the country, but I love this country, and I do care about others, it’s in my background, and it makes hard headed sense to want citizens properly looked after, with dignity.

      If there is another No vote, there will be an exodus from this country, and not just folk like me, at end of their working life, but the talented, skilled etc. Until then, I’m doing my bit for a Yes vote.

  10. Fay Kennedy. says:

    You are so right Eleanor for it’s the challenge each day to see the suffering of people in a rich society and to know that there seems to be only a few who care enough to take on the mantle of working towards a decent civil society.

  11. Alf Baird says:

    “The …case for (Scottish) independence”, no matter whether moral or economic, means little to those whose dominant culture is that of British/English. Culture is therefore the key issue for many No voters – all else is secondary – though they often claim otherwise. The more British/English that a person living in Scotland feels, the more likely they are to vote No, irrespective of moral or any other factors. This is why the msm has played the British ‘card’ endlessly on our screens and in the press, to reinforce that feeling of Britishness. As language IS culture, then to help reduce our ongoing cultural oppression, we need to teach our natural indigenous (Scots) language in schools, as well as English, like many other European countries do, as also the case in former British colonies. That we do not teach our indigenous language, or are not permitted to, only serves to confirm our colonial status, and continued British cultural indoctrination. This in turn explains the unnaturally high incidence of voters in Scotland who remain opposed to their own nationhood.

    1. Alan Bissett says:

      I’m no longer surprised by the amount of No voters whose central motivation is being ‘British’. All other arguments are convenient for them, but largely irrelevant. It’s about identity. For such culture-driven voters they’ll front-load the ‘deficit’, partly because they feel it’s their strongest argument but mainly to make their reasoning seem rational rather than emotional. There’s a quick way of cutting through this facade though: ask them about the Gaelic or Scots languages – which have nothing whatsoever to do with economics – and hear them roar with outrage.

      I was chatting to one in our corner shop the other day. He gave himself away when he asked, “Who would bail you out if there was another crash? What would you do then?”

      I said, “Don’t you mean what would WE do?”

      “Yes,” he said, “We. That’s what I meant.”

      Of course, we also know that if Scotland was in surplus rather than deficit they’d claim this shows how well the UK economy works in our favour…

      1. Angie says:

        Get back in yer box and stop projecting Alan. Many many No voters are not British nationalists. To imply so is insulting and aggressive. They are simply acting in what they think is the best for them and their families. We need to persuade not antagonise.

        1. Valerie says:

          Well, that’s not aggressive or insulting at all. We all need to be looking to you for subtle persuasion, eh?

          I fail to see how Alan is ‘projecting’, when he is recounting an actual experience. That’s reporting, not projecting.

          In my last 3 years, his report is very typical of what I’ve encountered, almost word for word. The point being, it’s hard to discuss with someone who doesn’t see this issue as ‘we’. Independence supporters are called all sorts of names, and it facilitates this ‘othering’.

        2. Alan Bissett says:

          I didn’t say all No voters, I referred specifically to the ‘culture-driven’ ones.

          We’d be foolish – and unprepared for the debate – to pretend they don’t exist. In significant numbers. It’s not antagonism to point it out, when they tell us themselves that their British identity is what’s important to them. Look at Melanie Reid’s article in the Times today. She rails against ‘nationalism’ and ‘identity politics’ while simultaneously complaining that a Yes vote would ‘take away my British identity’! The piece is being eagerly retweeted by leading Unionist voices as we speak, as something which encapsulates their own feelings, including the ones who front-load the economic argument.

          Of course, there are some No voters for whom it’s a pragmatic choice about the fiscal arrangements, but there are others – many, many others – for whom it’s simply about preserving ‘Britishness’. The economics really are secondary to them. These are the ones that you will simply not persuade, ever, no matter how you present the argument.

          A recent Panelbase survey, for example, found that a whopping 48% of No voters would now vote Tory. I’m prepared to bet that almost every single one of those is a British nationalist in ideology (whether that’s how they describe themselves or not) and there will even be a fair amount of Labour types who will tell you that they’re ‘proud to be British’ or whatever as a reason for voting against independence. It’s pointless denying that they really do say these things all the time.

          I’m simply pointing out the obvious. That’s hardly ‘aggressive’.

          1. Alf Baird says:

            “I referred specifically to the ‘culture-driven’ ones. We’d be foolish – and unprepared for the debate – to pretend they don’t exist.”

            You are right Alan, they do exist, as anybody knocking on doors wid ken. We should remind ourselves of voting intention surveys during IndyRef1 which found that 80% of voters coming from rest UK and living in Scotland would vote No, which is about double the probability of Scots voting against their own nationhood. Such a significant variation cannot be explained simply by differences in morality or economic expectations (i.e. Scots folk and folk from rest UK would be expected to have a broadly similar split in perspectives over these specific aspects), it can only be explained by fundamental cultural differences. This further suggests that Scottish independence is fundamentally a matter of culture. Which is why I remain slightly bewildered that after 10 years ‘in power’ the SNP Culture/Language Ministers have yet to bring forward a Scots Language Act, language being a critical element in any culture.

  12. Frederick says:

    Although I don’t doubt the ethical sincerity of Kimberley’s sentiment, that independence will automatically result in a more inclusive social democratic country that is more inclined to address inequality, and I don’t disagree with the excesses and callousness of the Anglo-Saxon free market model pushed by the right of the Tory party, but as a No voter I’m still yet to be convinced by the evidence and rationale put forward and believe the opposite; that Independence will actually lead to a fractured economic area (the UK remember 64% trade is a reality as such is the asymmetry of dependency of Scotland on rUK in such terms – see the macro econ dependency of Greece and the relationship with Germany, or Denmark and Northern Germany/ Southern Sweden) and the constraints thereby forced upon the smaller country.) and lead to greater inequality. Also, there is a level of economic ignorance to contend with – Does Kimberley really think borrowing on capital markets and racking up more debt (far worse than anything the UK does) to plug the huge deficit is wise given the experience of half of Europe in the last decade?
    It’s the inability to place Scotland in any other context than the hubristic ‘exceptionalism’ that irks and frustrates. Scotland and the old certainties will not be the same after Independence as now in the union. The union creates the political context and insulates allowing the space for such rhetoric and voting behaviour vis a vis the global circumstances. Put simply political cultures are not static but change depending on external and internal circumstance. Scots are human and are therefore subject to this swithering also. So, the question is which way will it turn.
    Here are some reasons and thoughts:
    1) An Anglo Saxon Yes: One of the reasons many of a centre left rejected Yes (aside from an aversion to flags and nationalism) was that those most powerful pulling the strings were fully signed up Anglo Saxon model guys. In fact the only credible economic policy in the White Paper was to slash Corp tax by 3% and then some. Alex Salmond and fellow chums like Mathewson (ex-Boss of RBS and Fred the Shred’s mentor) have consistently touted indy Scot as a riding the global neolib wave – in exactly the same way as the Brexiteers. The question must now be posed with hindsight, if Yes had won – given the current economic circumstances – zero growth across Europe (except for Ireland who are still recovering from 08), imposed austerity of the EU/IMF on PIGS, the collapse of the oil price and a 10% budget deficit – which model is more likely to have been consolidated? The high tax, high spend social democratic model – or – the low tax, low welfare liberalised model? The evidence from elsewhere is pretty damn clear.
    2) Borrowing and Bonds and Tax: The Scottish Government HAS the ability to borrow through the bonds markets – local authorities also can issue bonds – there is a limit as it is underwritten by the Bank of England and the UK tax payer – this is a crucial point about borrowing. Yet the SNP has not touched this power, why not? Similarly any time tax rises are mentioned in Scotland there is every excuse under the sun. Scots have consistently voted against Tax rises and greater redistribution, not for it, despite the rhetoric there is very little to distinguish attitudes from the rest of the UK. It’s the safety of the fiscal transfer that allows this hubris and conceit.
    3) Comparative Politics: Let’s look at evidence elsewhere. Portugal has a longstanding history of leftist politics – the Carnation Revolution was leftist, union led, they also have similar social stratification like Scotland and are fairly monocultural. Yet in crisis, the need to reduce the deficit this leftism evaporated and they voted for a centre right government to accept IMF/ EU austerity. Mainly because the brunt of the cuts will always fall on the poorest and the similar sized middle class in Portugal when push comes to shove are human like anywhere else look after themselves. They then in 2015 switched back to Centrists/ left ish government (still pursuing structural change and debt consolidation/ austerity just like Osborne) – the main point is all countrys can change back and forth and that politics is fluid – there is no set culture. A better comparison is Scandinavia.

    Scandinavia: There was much comparison with Scotland: Things to consider – All the Scandi countries have shifted to right wing politics over the last decade away from the soc dem Third Way Model (New Labour) towards market liberalisation, diluted union law, neo racist immigration law – see Denmark and repatriation – de regulation (although Sweden was always de reg) marketisation in Education, Health and other public services – See Norway and partial privatisation of the health service, see Sweden and Free schools. The reason is that it is widely recognised that social democracy requires homogenous inclusion – people vote for high taxes and high welfare because they, their friends or relatives benefit from it – this has been eroded by immigration and stagnant growth – and hence the far more significant far right than we have in the UK. The shift is because it has become clear to Scandi’s that the model is not sustainable as it is predicated primarily on mono economies of high value natural resources that price out all other industry – Oil in Norway, timber in Finland, Iron Ore and minerals in Sweden + over reliance on narrow sectors and conglomerates like Nokia or Siemens. The ironic point is that they are, in order to preserve their Soc Dem model, seeking closer ties and union within a wider Scandi framework to facilitate it. A Nordic alliance based on natural trading partners, fiscal transfers and structural adjustment funds – Sound like anywhere?

    Again the point is there is no exceptionalism in political culture it shifts with circumstance.

    Scotland and Exceptionalism: What Yessers seem to want: 1) High rapid immigration to pay for pensions and fill low paid jobs to facilitate narrow high value sectors – financial services, tourism, renewables and energy tech etc. 2) Simultaneous social dem – high tax and spend, welfare provision – and high redistribution 3) High growth at a time of stagnation in all developed economies 4) Green policies that hamper growth – see fracking 5) While filling a massive gap in public spending.

    The warning signs from history (just look at Brexit after New Labour tried this but in times of plenty/ Trumps America is similar) and elsewhere are that this cocktail leads to very unpleasant tensions and extreme political results. Yessers who assume they are above all other people and social trends are deluding themselves and highly arrogant.

    4) A progressive UK and a History of Changing Political Culture: The UK in the last 50 years has switched from hard left politics – 70’s – Free Market monetarism and Neolib – 80’s – Soc Dem Third Way – 90’s – Centre right conservatism – 2000’s – populist nationalism and isolationism – Now. The UK is not unique. This journey has been shared by almost all countries in the world in some context – USA, Australia, France, Scandinavia, China – has a ferocious debate about further liberalisation vis a vis a return to social welfare of the Communist era and so on…why will Scotland be different? Why will Scotland simply not follow the wider patterns elsewhere and be subject to the winds of rapid tech change and the redundancy of the human to the machine, the unprecedented speed of information and platform globalisation, the fact that the state even if it wants to address poverty can’t, alone. The smaller the market the more difficult.
    The fundamental point I’m making is that no country is exceptional – no country is more caring or more callous towards it’s poor, it is subject to circumstance and changes with circumstance. There is nothing to suggest – even with historical voting figures (subject to the construct of UK) – that either the UK or Scot Indy is more or less likely to follow a more inclusive path (see Hume and the problem of induction). Also, under Indy the same circumstances as now – domination by London/ SE economically and a frustrating inability to change direction – will still be the order of the day. Slovakia still has to sneeze when the Czech republic catches cold.
    So what are we left with? 1) Indy – with all the econ pain and division that cause – a 10% budget deficit is unprecedented in post war terms 2) The status Quo of inbalance across the UK.
    I prefer neither which is why I shall vote No again and put my faith in my fellow travellers in Cornwall and Manchester and Scunthorpe who also want a centre left pragmatic shift (not a shouty radical one). At least this way the best economic super structure is maintained while we ride out the current storm of populism, isolationism and global economic reconfiguration. The future to poverty alleviation is not protectionism and building walls but overlapping sovereignty and new federal structures. Rather than alienate my friends in Sheffield or Swansea, I will continue to try and persuade them that regional parliaments and greater UK federalism that has 1) safety net of fiscal transfers 2) Optimujm Currency Area 3) Integrated internal market …while also allowing the freedom for each local to act beyond the UK current unitary state straight jacker in the wider world. I want Manchester and Glasgow to be having conversations about poverty and sharing initiatives with Bilbao and Harbin.

    1. GreatClunkingFist says:

      Thought provoking contribution.

      However, I don’t buy your belief that there’s a tight commonality across nations which iScotland would be bound by. Not to the extent you imply. Any country spared the full extent of neoliberalism retains a greater sense of shared endeavour, reflected in the civility with which they deal with their own citizens and new arrivals.

      I’d also question the view that New Labour tried to promote a view of social democracy worthy of the name given the various egregious examples of public impoverishment (gold, housing, pfi, london fetishism).

      I applaud your faith in the fellow travellers elsewhere, however, with FPTP and a long track record of the UK voting on naked and narrow self interest, I cannot share it.

    2. Valerie says:

      I don’t understand your being against isolationism, yet spurring the chance to remain in the EU? Your desire to see poverty initiatives shared in Bilbao and Manchester, but leave the EU under Brexit conditions?

      Share poverty initiatives in Europe? We aren’t even letting EU nationals have rights to remain! We read a new horror story every day about actual or threatened deportation. Trades and services down south are slowly grinding to a halt, as EU nationals pack up, and go on to a more welcoming country.

      Poverty is incredibly idiosyncratic to an area, right down to towns or cities. What causes poverty in Bilbao, will have little in common with the reasons in Manchester or Glasgow. Poverty is mostly caused by economic conditions, and guess what, we have the chance to get our hands on the levers to start controlling that.

      Choose being a country that is open, tolerant and outward looking, that learns from others by choosing Independence within the EU. Choose protectionism, isolation, Borders, bankruptcy, austerity, increased poverty, further attacks on disabled, a dysfunctional NHS and tax haven with a No vote.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        Quite evidently Frederick expresses what is in reality a cultural decision, like many apparently ‘natural’ No voters – i.e. ultimately he simply ‘feels’ himself to be mair British/English than Scottish, and his emotion and empathy for political like-minds in English cities and regions reflects his dichotomy. The dominant forces in his cultural mindset means he will probably always be a No voter, no matter how negative the consequences may be for the Scottish economy, or for an oppressed Scottish people. Moreover, any concept of or desire for Scottish nationhood also seems to have passed him by.

    3. Valerie says:

      BTW, Alex Salmond was never Fred the Shreds mentor. Try and stick to fact, rather than cheap shots for dramatic effect.

  13. Frederick says:

    Oh and what I also forgot to mention was that the Silent majority – the middle class of Scotland – many of whom vote No will still be here after Independence. They aren’t going anywhere. This assumption that the whole of Scotland shares Yes Soc dem values is naieve to say the least.

    1. Angie says:

      That’s actually a very good point. If Scotland does leave the UK, then the vote will only be marginal, a few %. I’ve struggled with this also since Indyref1 when I was much more certain. Once there is no more constitutional issues to argue over is it possible that we will see a back lash and many No and some Yes – who vote for nationalist and identity reasons -reject left wing politics. Are Scots anymore likely to vote for tax rises and greater welfare? I don’t know.

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