Saturday saw people travelling from Dumfries, Fife, the Borders, Glasgow and across central Scotland to be part of the Building a Movement for Yes event. There’ll be a full report to follow, but first a round up of some of the news and views this St Andrews Day.
This is the key bit here: ‘10.21 A referendum is essential because the Scottish Government believes that this debate cannot be restricted to the Scottish Parliament. The National Conversation has allowed the people to articulate their views, and it is now time for them to be invited to express those views in a formal way.’ Read the whole thing here.
Four possible scenarios for Scotland’s future are contained in the white paper:
1) no change in the present set-up
2) more powers, as recommended by the Calman Commission review of devolution
3) a major transfer of responsibilities from Westminster to Holyrood, such as full financial autonomy
Speaking at its launch in Edinburgh, Salmond said: “It’s time for the people to have their say on Scotland’s future. The debate in Scottish politics is no longer between change or no change – it’s about the kind of change we seek and the right of the people to choose their future in a free and fair referendum.”
Perhaps assuming that all political parties are ready to jettison their core beliefs at a moments notice, Iain Gray predictably urged the SNP to drop the referendum and instead called on the Scottish Govt to drop it and focus on more immediate concerns, such as the recession.
As you’d expect the media is uniformly hostile, sometimes viciously so to the referendum idea, or perhaps just to democracy in general.
Despite universal gloom and doom amongst the commentariat its a pretty clear referendum choice. Despite the repeated accusation of SNP intransigence and dogma, it’s pretty conciliatory, some would say too much so.
Whilst trying to set as bleak a picture as she can muster Jackie Ashley at the Guardian concludes:
“The deals to be done are fascinating. To get a referendum through the Scottish parliament, the SNP needs Labour or Tory votes. Labour wouldn’t want the devo-max option on the ballot, though the SNP (and perhaps the Tories) would. But as the tectonic plates of Scottish politics shift, these are details that can be dealt with. The result? A referendum on Scotland’s place in the UK is now seriously on the cards, at some stage after next spring’s general election. What Salmond is announcing in Edinburgh is not a fantasy agenda. And it could have a direct relevance for every citizen, every taxpayer and every political party in the rest of the United Kingdom. Whether St Andrew’s Day 2009 feels like a moment to celebrate depends on your taste in politics. I, for one, feel a little queasy.”
Kevin McKenna (‘I Trust the People to Save the Union’) writes a spirited diatribe ending atleast fairly: “A referendum on returning us to an independent state, though, will be the election of our lives. A democratically elected nationalist government has a right to present it and we have the right to take part in it.” He does however talk quite a lot of drivel in between a strong opening and a fair ending, including the remarkably stupid comment that:
“There are few, if any, separatists who can demonstrate how everyday life in Scotland will improve after independence in any specific area.”
Closer to home Iain Macwhirter is dabbling in semantics asking: ‘The real question is does independence matter?”. Well the answers to Iain and Kevins questions return home in body bags from Afghanistan and until recently from Iraq on a all too regular basis. And the common riposte in today’s papers has been about the cost of the referendum, yet no one is blinking an eye at the arrival of the hideous Astute (sic) submarine on the clyde or the insanity of the Trident nuclear programe (estimated cost £125 billion) which Iain’s own newspaper revealed only a day ago that – as Cilla used to say ‘Surprise Surprise’ – our deterrent isnt very independent after all.
Iain writes: “The Calman report, for all its faults, is a tribute to the success of the SNP in office. All the unionist parties now support giving Holyrood greater tax powers, something that would have been inconceivable only three years ago. Whoever wins the next UK election, something like Calman is going to be introduced and this will require the active…”
This just isnt true. Almost as soon as the Calman Commission reported the three parties unity impoded. The Liberal Democrats have been gleefuly indolent, the Tories are in total disarray (see Sunday Herald again) while Labour are offering the prospect of control over handguns in six years time.
You ask does independence matter? Yes it does, and most people know it. Scotland’s independence would represent a huge geopolitic event, hence Jim Sillars recent articulation that the reason the Union is being fought so strongly is that the nuclear weapons on our soil represent the Anglo-British States membership to a permanent position at the UN Security Council. It’s only our own brow-beaten self depreciation that tells us we are not of any importance. The media are complicit in this, evoking what C.J. Watson once described as ‘the sense of weariness, of the absence of hope, and lacerating self-contempt which is a marked component in the psyche of colonised people’ (Literature of the North, 1983). We are self-colonised, but the description might seem familiar.
That sense of being insignificant and lacking in direction, more than anything would change with self-determination and shift the sort of hopeless politics represented by Scotland having no representation in Copenhagen despite showing genuine global leadership in climate change legislation.
The reality is that no-one elected Calman and the opponents of independence need to be specific about what they are putting on the table, hence, I believe options two and three.
I don’t believe the media any more. I don’t believe in the banking system, I don’t believe in eternal growth, I don’t believe the British State protects us. I don’t believe in weapons of mass destruction in my country, I don’t believe our troops should have been in Iraq, nor should they be in Afghanistan. We can only change these things by creating a new democracy that’s fit to the challenge of the post-crash reality, away from the corruption of Westminster and the suffocating institutional consensus of Union, free market and elite rule. These politicians and these instutions are irredeemably lost and the sooner we realise this the better.