Patrick Harvie calls for honest answers on Indy from Labour and SNP

The most important people in the debate about Scotland’s independence referendum are the ones who’ve not made up their minds yet.

Some people are motivated by national identity, patriotism or by one flag or the other. They will vote Yes or No with a passion, but they’ve already made up their minds before the debate really begins.

In between, there are many others who are open-minded on the question of Scotland’s future but not yet convinced. They can see the opportunities but they want to understand the risks better.

They won’t be fooled by doomsday scenarios painted by the No camp but they also won’t accept bland assertions from the Yes campaign in place of serious answers.

This is the right way to approach the debate and it’s entirely sensible to use the next two years to put serious questions to both sides and to expect serious answers.

The party political debate has grown ever more hostile and tribal.

Maybe that’s a wider failing of party politics but it is getting worse in Scotland right now. It seems to me that making this fundamentally important decision in a climate of anger and insults would be a terrible mistake. But I believe that a different debate is possible.

I recently went along to the launch of Henry McLeish’s book about Scottish politics. The former First Minister took part in a debate with another writer, Elliot Bulmer, who has worked on ideas for a written constitution for Scotland.

The discussion between them was so much better than anything that takes place in Parliament. There they were, one voting Yes, the other voting No, and each willing to defend their choice but still to focus on the things they had in common.

Both spoke about how government works and how it could work better in the interests of the people. Both spoke about democratic accountability.

Both spoke about the ambitions people had during the original campaign for a Scottish Parliament, the striving for a better kind of politics and the need to recapture that vision.

There was also a bit more honesty than Parliament sometimes manages.

On both sides of the referendum debate, some people are pretending they can look into a crystal ball and tell you what the future has in store for Scotland. We’ll be forced to join the euro. We’ll all be £500 richer.We’ll attract huge overseas investment. The electricity market will collapse. The uncomfortable fact is that neither side has a crystal ball.

Whether Scotland votes Yes or No, we will face uncertainties. Both sides should be honest about that.

The SNP plan to join Europe but keep using the pound as our currency might work. In the short term, it might even be the best option available. The SNP are wrong to offer it as a guarantee and the Labour party are wrong to dismiss it out of hand.

But the wider truth is nobody really knows what state Europe itself will be in by 2014, or whether the UK Government will even be holding a referendum about pulling out.

Instead of bland assertions, we need to focus on the kind of society we want and how government need to work to achieve it.

I want a more equal society, a greener environment, a fairer economy and politics that let people in to participate instead of holding power within the political “club”.

That’s why I find the opportunities of independence so attractive and that’s why I want to be honest about the risks, too, and find ways to overcome them, instead of hiding them.

(Originally published in Daily Record, 19 Nov 12)

Comments (5)

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  1. Andy Anderson says:

    Patrick Harvie is rightly very critical of the political parties in the run up to the referendum, and he is obviously right that there is no real debate about this in the Scottish parliament where we can all see that the “leadership” of the three unionist parties have nether the intention nor the ability to seriously debate this issue.
    He should not worry too much however, since fortunately the Scottish electorate are streets ahead of the political parties on this, which makes me wonder why he addressed his question to them in the first place.
    I attended the Labour for Independence conference in Glasgow where around 100 people, mostly current members of the Labour Party some like Dennis Canavan and myself from strong Labour backgrounds but too committed to left policies to remain in the present Labour Party.
    This group is representative of many thousands of Labour supporters in Scotland. He also knows that in the “Yes” campaign there are many more people keen to debate this issue but not members of any political party.
    In this day and age the debate must be open to all, The “leaders” of political parties, if they qualify for a vote in the referendum, have one vote like all the rest of us, if they want to take part in a sensible debate they are welcome, if not, not to worry, Scotland will manage we have plenty articulate people without them.
    At least now the British establishment after years of secrecy and lies have acknowledged that Scotland with its oil resources could after all be able to have a successful independent economy and even that it would have a greater income per head. Now I would have thought that is well worth debating in a lot more depth than the official media will want, and I for one don’t care what Johann Lamont things about that if indeed she even understands it.

  2. James Morton says:

    The problem is that the debate has become very polarised. It’s not helped by the No camp with its rather recent and somewhat feeble scare tactics about “british” music and “British” culture. The SNP are keeping their powder dry for the real fight, so debate – it we can call it that is increasingly taking place on various Blogs and twitter. But even this sphere of communication is becoming polarised as each site becomes a sort of echo chamber for the converted. Real debate is going to be very difficult to have, unless it happens somewhere in the undecided camp. We need to have a debate about certain things we think are important like universalisim, investment of our shrinking oil wealth. The no camp need something other than “No” and they really do need to stop their silence re: Scotland and how scotland pays it way in the UK. The English have been drip fed a steady diet of stories as to how they pay for everything. If they were allowed a vote, they’d vote to get rid of Scotland in a heart beat.

  3. steven luby says:

    I would say that it was wise indeed to declare the date of the referendum this early. As we have seen from all quarters the rubbish they have tried to feed the electorate. With ‘my crystal ball’ I can see most of this nonsense running it’s course and then we will see all political parties having to face up to not only the referendum reality but from a not too small number of their supporters. I detect a few MSP’s and MP’s coming forward in support as even they can stomach only so much nonsense………………keep watching for cracks in the oppostion to Scottish Independence,because it will come.

  4. Mr Harvie, what a load of nonsense you write; you said, “The most important people in the debate about Scotland’s independence referendum are the ones who’ve not made up their minds yet.” You’re obviously mimicking the comment I made in reply to ‘martinthorpe’, on the article by Robin McAlpine, (Radical Indy Conference 06: The Future Is Not Clear). But your assertion is that the votes of the Yes & no ballots don’t count in the debate and arguments for Scottish independence; you’ve made a very basic mistake Patrick, you presume these ‘arguments’, thus debates, won’t change as the time ticks down to the referendum in some 88 weeks!

    Why don’t you speak about the psychological warfare being meted out by the Labour Party in Scotland? Only two nights ago on Scotland Tonight ‘Flash Harry’ (aka Labour’s Ken MacIntosh), did absolutely nothing to help the report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, but only used methods of distortion, diversion, deflection, and denial to confuse and confound the discussion with SNP’s Stewart Hosie!

    This horrendous Labour Party are completely finished in Scotland when we vote ‘Yes’ for Scottish independence, and they know it! And that’s why they don’t want discussions of the reality of Scottish independence, because it’s a no-brainer; Scots’ would be completely stupid to vote for the Westminster union of continuous massive oppression, degeneration, and overt dehumanisation of our lives and our Nation Scotland.
    What sort of life is that for our children ‘Flash Harry ?

  5. Oh-yeah, and I I’m getting sick & tired of Labour’s pathetic blustering to force us to think they are the estate agents of Scotland’s welfare; Scotland’s independence is for The People to decide, NOT a bunch of gold pension-pot self-interested, Westminster ermine-chasing Unionist Party hacks like Labour, nor even your Party Patrick!

    The people of Scotland WILL decide; NOT political party’s !

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