Why the Debate on Scottish Independence Might Be More Interesting Than You Think?


Recently I’ve noted comments from friends bemoaning the ‘quality of the debate’ around Scottish Independence. For some the journey towards voting is only just beginning and perhaps they are looking for information for the first time. Political nerds like me have been on this for a while but for most people this debate is a slow burn and will only really warm up next year. The comments, though, are interesting because they reflect almost the precise opposite of what my own personal experience of the debate has been so far. Since I began to engage with it I’ve found the referendum has produced some of the most invigorating, complex political thought – on both sides of the argument – that I’ve encountered since I became politically active in the mid 1980’s.

It’s certainly true that a great deal of the discussion in the mainstream media has been of the binary – ‘yay, it’ll be great!’ – ‘boo, it’ll be terrible!’ kind. The official ‘No’ campaign has so far been too focused on the negative at the expense of proposing any positive futures of its own. Dig a little deeper, though, and there are some genuinely inspiring discussions taking place. You can find them happening online on sites such as National Collective, The Jimmy Reid Foundation, Think Scotland and here at Bella Caledonia. They are happening in public at events like The Radical Independence Conference. If you follow the right people it’s happening on Twitter and Facebook too. There are good articles happening in the much criticised mainstream press as well. You just have to know where to look.

Over the last few months I’ve seen Independence based discussions on topics as diverse as crowd sourced constitutions, peak oil, Iceland’s collapse, arts policy in Finland, land reform, wildness as a concept, Black identity in Scotland, the function of defence forces, bilingualism and brain development, immigration, pensions… and the list goes on. Almost every area of public policy seems to be up for grabs. It’s a far cry from the political debate in the rest of the UK where the only area of discussion left to us seems to be whether we get a little bit more or a little bit less austerity.

In the context of independence the parameters of politics suddenly turn out to be more malleable that we thought. The pound, the monarchy, Trident – nothing is a given any more, not even the idea of Scotland itself. Should Shetland be part of Scotland? Should Newcastle? This new malleability is married to a practicality that gives even ordinary political discourse an extra piquancy. Change is possible. Put simply, the Independence debate allows us to explore every aspect of our national life and ask ourselves the question – ‘does it have to be like this?’

For me, one of the most interesting moments of the debate so far was the infamous 500 Questions which Better Together released to mark five hundred days until the referendum. The questions ranged from serious to the silly. ‘What will happen to pensions?’ right down to ‘what will happen to stamps?’ The intention was to drown voters in uncertainty but inadvertently it actually opened up whole new areas of possibility. After all, what should happen to stamps? The Royal Mail in the UK is about to be privatised. In a world of broadband and email do we need a national postal service? If we do, what form should it take? Should it be nationalised? Come to think of it, how does the mail service function in the Highlands and Islands as compared to Glasgow? Is that fair? Where thus far ‘stamps’ had lain as a relatively unquestioned part of our national life, it suddenly became possible to wonder if here was an area where things could be done better, cheaper, more fairly. Five hundred questions became five hundred possibilities.

You don’t have to be a ‘yes’ supporter to engage with this. The referendum is a one-off chance for everyone to question assumptions and imagine a different future. It’s even an excellent chance to defend the status quo, if such is your feeling. Alex Massie is a good example of a writer who proposes what we might call the ‘tory with a small ‘t’’ defence of the Union. He’s not in favour of change but in his engagement he does at least takes seriously the possibility that change is an option. While the most interesting thought so far is coming from the ‘Yes’ camp there’s no reason that Unionists can’t rise to the challenge and come up with some positive futures of their own. Federalism, anyone?

The Independence debate allows us, for the first time, to take off our UK goggles and to see the world through different lenses. It’s a bit disorientating at first but you quickly starts to see all sorts of things you maybe never noticed before. Without the distortion of UK goggles, The British Establishment reveals itself not as a natural and unchanging truth but as a system which can change like any other. Immigration reveals itself as not necessarily ‘a problem’ but as a potentially useful means of counterbalancing Scotland’s declining population. The need to ‘punch above our weight’ reveals itself not as a truism but as a little, perhaps, hysterical? Without our UK goggles, social democracy reveals itself not as a pipe dream but as a distinct and perhaps necessary possibility.

Ten years of devolution has meant that in Scotland we’re at least UK bifocal. In England the electorate are not so lucky. I recently spent six months working in London and it astonished me how stunted and depressed the English left has become. Hopelessly adrift, staggering from defeat to defeat, fighting all its battles on the territory reaction. People seem almost unable to imagine it any other way. London is a great city but it’s economic power over these islands is plainly problematic. It bewilders me why the rest of England puts up with the sheer economic and cultural power of London. London skews every aspect of English cultural and economic life. The citizens of Manchester and Newcastle are marginalised in their own polity in a way which would never be tolerated by the citizens of Marseilles or Milan. One would have thought the independence referendum was a chance for everyone in Britain – at least momentarily – to take off the UK Goggles and ask some questions of the status quo. Isn’t it time journalists and commentators in England opened their eyes to the chance? I’m astonished, for example, that The Guardian hasn’t yet covered the inspiring ‘Commonweal’ Project from The Jimmy Reid Foundation. Surely it can’t only be of interest for the left in Scotland. Realism is one thing but to listen to the left in England you’d think the chance to imagine the world as it could be is a gift given to the privileged alone?

Part of the problem is that the independence debate doesn’t split on straight party lines. The ‘No’ side is a coalition of Labour, Tory and Lib Dems. The ‘Yes’ side includes Greens, Socialists, and Labour for Indy. The SNP is pretty much a coalition of nordic social democrats, celtic tiger free marketeers and every shade of economic thinking in between. This makes it quite difficult for the usual political pundits to write about. It just doesn’t suit The Daily Politics or Question Time. In the English print media the referendum there merits barely a mention and what coverage there is tends toward the hackneyed. ‘Jocks wear kilts, they hate English people, they eat mars bars etc.’ No David Aaronovitch, Nigel Farage and Alex Salmond are not the same thing. That’s just lazy thinking. It’s deeply misleading and it turns people in England off what is potentially a very fertile political territory.

British politics is built around binary oppositions which simply no longer apply. Even in Scotland much of the debate has been formed around the idea of a straight fight between SNP and Labour, but seeing the debate in that way misses almost everything that’s interesting about it. Independence is not about the weakness of Labour nor is it about the strength of the SNP. In fact, there’s a strong argument to say a ‘Yes’ vote would see the end of the SNP as the dominant force in Scottish politics. SNP strategist Steven Noon even argued as much in the Scotsman recently. After Independence many SNP voters would rejoin their ‘natural’ parties. Far from an being a one party state I expect proportional representation would mean a swift return to coalition politics in Holyrood with rejuvenated Labour, Tory and Lib Dem parties battling for position with greens and socialists. A rump SNP might carry on for a while but they would have to define new ground on which to fight. You don’t have to agree with Noon’s particular vision of diversity to agree that pondering it as a counter-factual gives the lie to the idea that Scottish politics is homogenous or that the independence debate is a tribal battle between left and right.

The Independence debate is asking new questions about nationhood. Patriotism has not been a major driver. The last forty years have seen the build up of a powerful civic consensus in Scotland which carefully separates electoral polity from national identity. It unsurprising and perfectly logical to find English people living in Scotland who are pro independence. It is also quite normal to meet someone who feels intensely nationalistic and yet wishes to remain in The Union. This careful separation of identity from politics is a genuinely interesting development within European politics and it surely carries intriguing possibilities for the rest of the UK.

I noticed someone on twitter recently praising the victory of The British and Irish Lions in Australia with the hashtag #bettertogether, implying their victory was an argument for the union. The fact that Ireland is already an independent country seemed to have passed this tweeter by. But that moment of daftness was, for me, emblematic of the new nationalism.

The British and Irish Lions are a model for the exactly the sort of contemporary fractal identity that a civic Scotland is creating. Every sports fan knows that one can be a European during the Ryder Cup, British and Irish for the Lions, English during the Ashes and Scottish during the World Cup. Personally I add to those sporting fractals Dunfermline for my running colours and North Queensferry when I’m doing the coastal rowing. None of these identities conflict with any of the others. They’re all contained within the same body. The same is possible with political identities. North Queensferry has an elected community council. Fife has local government. Scotland has Holyrood. Europe has it’s own union. Is it so absurd to imagine, post Scottish independence, a British and Irish Council, a political Lions, convened to represent the shared interests of our shared islands?

There is no question that right now there’s plenty bad temper and fear on both sides of the debate. That’s especially true if you experience it in the mainstream media, or below the line on the comment pages. People care very deeply and they’re not always polite in arguing for their side. But it’s important to state that the ‘cyber’ problem is nowhere near as bad as people make out and it’s pretty easily ignored. The foaming idiocies of those who accuse ‘no’ voters of treachery are plainly absurd. Which is why they receive no amplification from any of the Yes parties or major players. Similarly it’s unfair and unreasonable for Yes campaigners to be constantly accused of anti-Englishness. It would be kind if both sides could agree a rule of thumb – we’re all arguing what we think’s best for Scotland – and just keep the poisonous stuff out of the debate.

With that in mind I’d like to pointers for everyone interested in the indy debate which if observed will help the debate to flourish and grow.

1) There are reasonable arguments for both sides. Most Yes voters have their private doubts as do No voters. The fruitful debate emerges when we share those doubts, not when we pretend to certainty.

2) Try to stay future focused. We can’t ignore the past but lets not dwell on it. This is the 21st century. Surely on behalf of our children surely we can imagine what might be best for them, and not get bogged down in a hundred quid in tax here or there, or whatever economic argument happens to suit your side politically right now.

3) Whichever way this vote goes it’s going to be close and we’re all going to have to live together in the same country afterwards. It will do no good if this debate is characterised by contempt or name calling. There’s no value in building up a new us and them, or fomenting new grudges. If either side feels defeated or humiliated in 2014 we will all be storing up serious trouble for the future.

Personally, I started this debate as a definite ‘No.’ I softened first to a ‘don’t know’ when Labour and Cameron ensured the Devo Max question was removed from the ballot. Now, I’ve become a confirmed ‘Yes.’ Why?

For me it’s a matter of democracy. I like devolved governance. I think small European countries are able to be more democratic, decentralised and community focused than big ones. If the UK’s infrastructure is Victorian, our democratic infrastructure is antidiluvian. The things which matter to me – a sustainable future for my kids; a compassionate political system, the best education, health and economic opportunity for every citizen, imaginative and flexible policy-making, stronger communities, progressive tax… It seems to me that all these things are much more likely to be realised in an independent Scotland than they are within the United Kingdom as it currently stands.

But if the Unionists can put forward a more positive proposal I’m genuinely open to changing my mind. Whatever I think, the debate is out there and it’s happening right now. It’s important that as many people as possible get involved. It may have scunnered you to be asked this question now, you may even think it is the wrong question but the very fact you are being asked gives you the opportunity to examine the way you and your community is governed. Surely that’s worth a bit of your time and imagination?

Getting into the debate on Independence is like jumping into Loch Lomond for a cheeky swim. It looks a bit chilly at first. You hover for ages dipping your toe in the water before eventually you commit and just jump in and you know what? It’s all right. It’s a bit of a shock at first, maybe, but by god it wakes you up.

To those of you hesitating on the shore at Balloch, I say only this, come on in.

Here’s a quick guide to some of the best articles, podcasts, tweeters and blogs on the independence debate (feel free to add your own in comments below for any we’ve missed)


Karine Polwart ‘Karine Polwart: Imagination vital to telling the Yes story’

Iain Banks ‘Scottish Independence – Divorce makes sense for both parties’

Kevin McKenna ‘Scottish independence is fast becoming the only option’

or ‘Scottish nationalists can rest easy, given the opposition’

Iain Bell ‘Independence is risky, but the Union is even scarier’

Pat Kane’s Thoughtland

Joyce Macmillan ‘Why the Unionists Parties Must Offer a Positive Alternative or Face Oblivion’

Blogs and Publications

Bella Caledonia’s Don’t Know series

Scottish Review – Ian Hamilton on the Torrent of Fear

Robert Somynne on Race and Identity

Lallands Peat Worrier – wit and wisdom

Jimmy Reid Foundation

The National Collective

The Commonweal

Scottish Independence Podcast

Lesley Riddoch at Scotsman

Iain Macwhirter at the Herald

Wings Over Scotland


Precious Few Heroes

On Twitter


Comments (59)

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  1. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    There are not “reasonable answers for both sides”. The NO side is entirely based on a dependency mindset which says that Scotland is better off getting funds and services from a generous UK exchequer. They have introduced no other element into their argument so far.
    Federalism is bollocks,has no support in England and is entirely unworkable as England is eight times the size of the three other potential components put together. This however is the most recent red herring being dragged in front of the timorous. The only way federalism is viable in a UK contest is if Scotland, Wales and N Ireland have the same status as Yorkshire or the West Country.
    Perhaps you are thinking of confederalism which is voluntary co-operation in areas of mutual interest of independent countries as is the case in the Nordic Union.

    1. When you say England is eight times the size of the other three components,is this by population or area? for the mainland island of Great Britain ,Scotland is 33% England 57% and Wales 10%,population size is different but bigger(population) is not always better,and Scotland or Wales are not “shires” but countries in their own right,Scotland having joined England in a political union as supposed equals thus completing the formation of the United Kingdom,but still a country.I left out Northern Ireland because it is not on mainland Britain.

  2. Leon Trollsky says:

    Don’t forget the ‘unsavoury cabal’ over at A Thousand Flowers with a youth focus on indyref/pop culture/feminism/politics. Recent picks… http://athousandflowers.net/2013/08/01/security-and-intel/

    new blog Mair Nor A Roch Wind has had some insightful stuff over the past week or two as well which has provoked some interesting discussion

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Thanks – we will add in all good suggestions

  3. Mathew says:

    This has to be the most insightful and thought-provoking article on the referendum I’ve read to date, and I agree with largely every word you wrote. You’re right about the need to avoid simple name-calling and banal fighting; much of what I see on both sides of the campaign is more interested in discrediting its opposition rather than truly advancing its position and encouraging debate.

  4. Mathew says:

    Reblogged this on Through The Fringe and commented:
    One of the best articles on the Scottish independence referendum I’ve come across, and which perfectly expresses my own views on the matter.

  5. mike vickers says:

    I agree with Mathew – a balanced article and as David Greig says we all have to live together whatever the outcome. And a good list of articles

  6. clochoderic says:

    Good article Mr. Greig, and an important message for both sides.
    May I suggest you add
    Precious Few Heroes: The case for Scottish independence

    And for media scrutiny

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Thanks – will add

  7. dayetucker2011 says:

    Erudite stuff and more evidence for me that the debate is indeed opening up at last. I have noticed a subtle change in the quality of the comments of late and wondered if it had anything to do with Alex Salmond’s announcement that he had invited contributions to the Constitution, from Scotland’s creative writers. No matter, the change is refreshing and welcome whatever the reason.

    I’ve enthusiastically tried to engage here there and everywhere, buzzing between the Yes and the BT sites, reading Twitter and Facebook posts on Independence and right from the start, trying to seek truth between the lines. Much of what I found was a long hard road, requiring much time and patience to sift. People so focussed on knocking each other out with verbal whilst missing or evading the more important conversation to be had. I even got banned from the BT site trying to discuss! Reading this article is like coming up to a bright surface after a long plunge from a great height, into a dark and peaty tarn. I hope the debate will continue to improve because I was really beginning to get depressed.

  8. It remains frankly annoying that even though women lefty undecideds are a huge group, neither the group behind “The Radical Independence Conference” nor “Women for Independence” wanted to include us in discussions about whether or not independence is the way to go.

    If self-linking is allowed, I wrote a series of articles last year on the possibilities of a Scottish Constitution, whether we go independent or remain devolved.

    I find that David Cameron & Ed Miliband remain the best proponents of the case for independence.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Hi Jane – I’m a bit confused – the Radical Indy Conf and Women for Indy – by definition are campaigning for independence so why would they want to discuss other options? There are groups looking at the constitutional process though, have you come across http://www.sosayscotland.org/ ?

      1. EdinburghEye says:

        Indeed – thtat’s why I’ve never attended a Radical indy event, since I’m undecided and therefore my views would be of no interest. It’s a pity that neither side *is* interested in the views of the undecided, since it leaves them both floundering trying to figure out how to convince us to vote Yes or BetterTogether, and I’ m generally sympathetic to views expressed by radical-indy and women-for-indy: they just don’t convince me, and they don’t seem to want to know *why* they don’t convince me. We really need an ‘undecideds’ movement.

      2. bellacaledonia says:

        Hi Jane you say ‘I’m generally sympathetic to views expressed by radical-indy and women-for-indy’ but ‘they just don’t convince me’ – which is it?

    2. Yanni says:

      Hi Jane,

      You should probably also consider reading the work of the Constitutional Commission – http://www.constitutionalcommission.org/ – on this matter. The blunt truth is that constitutional change in that sense under the current UK arrangements is simply not possible. They can’t even meaningfully reform the House of Lords!!

      If such change is really important to you – it is to me – then in simple terms there is only one option and that is to vote “yes”. The opportunity to create the kind of Scotland we can all support and be proud of is now. Without a “yes” vote, the people of Scotland certainly won’t have any more powers than now and arguably a lot less in the future. See Andrew Neil’s recent tweet on this:

      “If you vote NO you massively change the balance of power and thy will not only give you nothing, but will probably take powers away from the Scottish Parliament”

      Good luck and hope to see you on the other side of a “yes” vote next year.

      All the best.

      1. Bella Caledonia: “I’m generally sympathetic to views expressed by radical-indy and women-for-indy’ but ‘they just don’t convince me’ – which is it?”

        What I said. Because they aren’t working on any means by which their views will be expressed in the independent Scotland. Or if they are,they’re doing so at indy-supporting only events, excluding input from people who agree with their views on human rights, etc, but who aren’t committed to a Yes vote.

        Independence for Scotland could easily lead to Scotland going *backward* on human rights.

        Yanni: “You should probably also consider reading the work of the Constitutional Commission – http://www.constitutionalcommission.org/ – on this matter. ”

        Read, blogged about it extensively last year, and got abused by the CC’s Facebook group for being mentally ill because I wasn’t accepting that I had to want independence if I wanted a constitution for Scotland. Haven’t taken part in Constitutional Commission discussions since,either: the ugly crap that came down on me for remaining honestly undecided was an eye-opener.

  9. alimath247 says:

    Couldn’t agree more with this article. I just hope Holyrood doesn’t replace Westminster in a straight swop at the centre of our public life and that the Highlands – or other areas – does not replace Scotland on the margins. Scotland just has to look beyond the mindset of binary oppositions.

    1. Peter says:

      & that is my greatest fear. Still is reason to pay attention to whats going.

    2. Taranaich says:

      ” I just hope Holyrood doesn’t replace Westminster in a straight swop at the centre of our public life and that the Highlands – or other areas – does not replace Scotland on the margins. Scotland just has to look beyond the mindset of binary oppositions.”

      Holyrood has already proven to be vastly different from Westminster in several key areas: proportional representation, a greater mix of parties, with even the regional branches of Lab/LibDems clearly to the left of their national patrons, even the setup of the chamber with all members facing the same direction as opposed to the binary Westminster chambers. Even if Holyrood starts to emulate Westminster, it’d be much easier to change things in a country of 5 million than 60 million.

  10. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    Exactly , Charles. We are talking about populations. The “Federal” solution is a blind alley and a nonstarter
    but will be used by some to deflect the argument away from independence.
    There is no way the people of England would join into a federation that had Scotland and Wales with parity of power with England. Nor should they. And the powers-that-be know that. So the only way that such a federation would work would be for Scotland to be judged a regional part of it par with the likes of Yorkshire or Kent or the South East of England. We would be looking basically at an extension or a re-arrangement of devolution.
    Anything that could do for us independence can do much better so we we should be on guard against federalists coming among us and thinking we are daft .
    A much more sensible solution of course is the confederal solution. That is a voluntary sharing of responsibilities and functions in areas where that is practical and sensible in for instance a British Union (which sensibly would include the Irish Republic) on the same lines of the Nordic Union which operates in the Scandinavian countries. Scotland would of course have to be independent first for this to happen

  11. Douglas says:

    I would agree with David Greig, the debate is generally speaking excellent. I know this because I have something to compare it with, after all, which is the situation in Spain and the Catalan referendum which has not been agreed with Madrid, and which the Catalans are pressing on with regardless. They already tried that once back in 1933 and it got them nowhere, and I fear for Spain which is a country I love as much as my own (“Oh white wall of Spain / oh black bull of sorrow”), a tragic country in some ways, a country which have never really worked out what learning to live together means.

    The right in Madrid make Cameron and the Tories look much better than they often do here. Cameron has played his part in this referendum, and he should be given credit for that, even if the devil will be in the details if YES wins. And the Scottish independence movement deserves credit for not doing what the Catalans are doing and pressing on regardless. In Scotland, we knew how to wait when the Home Rule bill fell victim the First World War, and when MacCormcik had a all those signatures back in the fifties. We knew how to wait.

    But we have a process now, not a perfect process, but still a process, in which London publishes a white paper and Edinburgh publishes another one. Of course it is biased, unfair, incomplete….but it is a process. And we have some good writers, in the Herald particularly

    And we also have Bella Caledonia, which stands out among all the sites for me precisely because it is a wee bit anarchic, and most importantly, as far as I am aware, doesn’t censor bellow the line comments (and I am a radical democrat, and I don’t make a distinction between below the line and above the line; in fact, often what is going on below the lines is often more interesting.)

    And yes, sometimes people get it wrong. Who hasn’t done that? The internet is unforgiving, and we all have a bad day now and again. A wee bit generosity never goes amiss, but this idea that the debate is inferior is a a myth. Compared with what?.

    We are Scots, we are cantankerous, disputatious Scots, the country whose national church has undergone god knows how many schisms. It’s fundamental to our nature to dispute and to argue and to sometimes overstate our case. But the debate in general is excellent, I agree.

    What I would like to see is the YES campaign rolling out some of Scotland’s big intellectual hitters. Where are they so far? Maybe they’re holding their fire until September. We need to hear from them.

    1. An Duine Gruamach says:

      I’d certainly count James Kelman, Alasdair Gray. Ruth Wishart, Lesley Riddoch (as a practical thinker who looks at concrete examples of a better way of doing things there are probably few in the public sphere to match her) and the late Iain Banks as among the biggest intellectual hitters in Scotland. Wouldn’t you?

      1. Douglas says:

        Aye, of course. I suppose I mean I was a wee bit distressed that more people didn’t come out for Gray in the fracas over the book which nobody reviewed called Writers Unstated. And in which at least half of the contributors made the same point as Gray, in different language. Kelman did of course, he supported Gray, but I felt Gray was abandoned somewhat, and I have read his literature. There is a trace of irony under every sentence he writes. He deserved better.

    2. Great article David – The willingness to stay open, to not close down possibilities, to look for the best and not assume you’re right – these seem to me to be the qualities of true independence of mind and spirit.

      In the same spirit I also really like this input from Douglas “And yes, sometimes people get it wrong. Who hasn’t done that? The internet is unforgiving, and we all have a bad day now and again. A wee bit generosity never goes amiss, but this idea that the debate is inferior is a myth. Compared with what?” . . .

      Generosity leads to a very different future than that shaped by fear. It is strange though that this seems to mean the Yes side of the debate has to behave generously – which is how you generate hope – while the No side can attack as much as it likes since closing down possibility is how you maintain the status quo.

      But I agree:
      If Milliband and Cameron and Clegg turn round and abandon austerity for the poor and enrichment for the rich, if they abandon policies that victimise the poor and decide that punching above their weight with nukes is childish, but that helping ALL children to have secure and happy homes is crucial, then I for one would quite happily vote Yes to people in England and Wales joining us in reclaiming democracy. Until then, I’m still heading towards a Yes that hopefully helps show them that another way is possible.

  12. Christa Jensen says:

    Kudos to you!
    This article is well written and doesn’t try to impose an opinion on it’s reader. I especially enjoyed your part about the political parties vs ideology. It’s really quite spectacular how a debate on independence becomes a cultural identity subject. Personally I like to see how a Scot will be defined in an independent Scotland, especially because Scotland is so diverse and will likely be even more so in the future with the decline in population. New Scots could very well be foreigners drawn in by a new and more centralized Scotland.
    I would like to add though, the lack in media coverage in England (read: London) could quite possible reflect that in that area at least – there are more naysayers or it could (as it probably is) just be Westminister influence.
    Anyhow! I am looking forward to more media coverage on all sides, also Scottish.

    I will be pecking in and staying informed all the way from Aarhus, Denmark! Could an independent Scotland and Denmark be closer in the future? I think so 🙂

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Hi Christa, thanks for the comment. On your specific question: ‘how would a Scot will be defined in an independent Scotland?’ Probably as they currently are, as someone who has come to work and is resident in the country. Though perhaps you meant culturally rather than legally?

    2. Douglas says:

      Christa, of course you’re right, there’s no such thing as a national character, I don’t mean to say there is. But there are cultural factors in a country, not immutable, which influence people, this seems to me to be obvious, or just as obvious as to say that Cervantes and “Don Quixote” influenced the European novel or Kierkegaard influenced the European existentialist tradition.

      One of my grandmothers was a radical Calvanist and the other was a radical Communist. They didn’t often meet thankfully, but when they did, you could have plugged the Scottish national electricity grid into the room and there would have been a surplus of electricity! It was mental, sheer bedlam!

      Does that influence you? Of course it does.

  13. James Coleman says:

    “In fact, there’s a strong argument to say a ‘Yes’ vote would see the end of the SNP as the dominant force in Scottish politics. SNP strategist Steven Noon even argued as much in the Scotsman recently. After Independence many SNP voters would rejoin their ‘natural’ parties.”

    I don’t know how this ridiculous argument has gained traction, As far as a I am aware it has arisen from an obscure article by Stephen Noon published in the Scotsman a few weeks ago. However I have read a few of Stephen Noon’s blogs on the subject of the Indyref and in my view he has no credibility whatsoever as a ‘strategist’ or even an ordinary worker for the SNP (anyway I thought he was with the YES campaign until he left).
    It is a ridiculous argument for the simple reason that no politician or political party is ever willing to give up power after it has fought for years to gain it. And how could any politician or party spurn the just political rewards to be obtained after attaining their long held ambition. It just does not make sense.
    And to think that the carpetbaggers from Westminster would be welcomed back with open arms is even more bizarre when they have fought so vehemently, scurrilously, and bitterly against Independence. In any event after Independence there would still be much to do to set the country on its feet and only the SNP would have the credibility and nous to do that.

  14. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    James Coleman

    I agree entirely

  15. douglas clark says:

    I am frankly a bit of a fan of Steven Noon.

    However, there is, probably, no space in an independent Scotland for two left of centre social democratic parties. As things stand at the moment, the SNP have the upper hand in terms of talent and commitment to these ideals. I think that might count for a great deal in any post independence political settlement. As a nation, ahem, we are largely left of centre. Do you vote for people that actively stand against that, or do you vote for people that are trying to achieve it and have a fair track record?

    It is a bit of a Jimmy Reid moment when you realise just how far the Labour Party has deserted that ground. They have triangulated themselves to the verge of destruction.

  16. Barry says:

    There would be a lot more discussion on this if the “Better Together” and the “Vote No to Scottish Independence And Save The Union” pages didn’t keep banning people for making logical arguments backed up with proof…

    If you don’t fit their agenda and you constantly prove them wrong you get banned….not exactly free speech.

  17. Robin Hodge says:

    This is a valuable and thought provoking contribution to the debate. I agree, we all have layers of connections, identities, commitments and loyalties – fractals as you put it. These can be many and varied including family, local community, football team, region as well as country and political structure.

    But surely it is best to have the confidence to connect and participate at all levels. How can it make sense to advocate taking part in the local community, the Scottish Parliament and the European Union but withdrawing from the UK Parliament?

    We, Scots, will always have interests we share with our closest neighbours in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – matters to discuss, plans to make, procedures to harmonise, resources to share. If we were to pull out of the political structures that have been developed for mutual benefit across the UK, it would simply leave us all weaker. The next generation of political leaders would be faced with the challenge of rebuilding political links with the rest of the UK. With luck and sufficient time, they might just manage to get back to a semblance of where we are now – with institutions where we are represented and involved in all the crucial decision making areas.

    The argument that we do not always get everything our own way, that the prevailing political agenda is currently driven from the South East of England with a right of centre focus and a demoralised Labour party, does not justify pulling out. As we learn from our earliest interactions with one another, sharing involves compromises, everyone has to give as well as take but it is always better together.

    1. Douglas says:

      Robin, the Scottish government already works with Westminster on many issues and always has done, so I can´t see how this can be a concern at all.

      The proof is the Edinburgh Agreement itself which shows just how well the two governments can work together on issues of common interest, of which there will be many, when independence is delivered. The difference is that under independence the relationship will be one of equals.

      The political will of the people of Scotland will be much better represented in an independent Scottish Parliament than under Westminster rule. That is undeniable.

      And we could actually catch up with the rest of the world and establish a democratically elected second chamber instead of the anti-democratic House of Lords, something the Labour Party conspicuously failed to abolish, after years of empty promises.

      All those Labour Party Lords, they just love their ermine….


    2. wanvote says:

      What about the renewal of Trident ? Is this one of the ‘compromises’ that people in Scotland must continue to ‘share’ with UK ? Does this make us ‘better together’ ?

    3. alharron says:

      “The argument that we do not always get everything our own way, that the prevailing political agenda is currently driven from the South East of England with a right of centre focus and a demoralised Labour party, does not justify pulling out. ”

      Except in this case, “not always getting everything our own way” means 1 in 3 children in Scotland living in poverty, being part of the 3rd most unequal nation on earth, the highest infant mortality in the developed world, and a whole litany of shameful statistics. You can’t just dismiss the huge cultural and political gap between Scotland and the rest of the UK as if it’s just part & parcel of living in a democracy. If you think things will get better when the Coalition are out of office, you do not understand the problem.

      The prevailing political agenda has been “currently” driven for the past 30 years – coincidentally about the same period in which it was discovered Scotland has been a net contributor to the UK – and time and again, Scotland has been pushed to the sidelines for the “greater good,” be it elections or even the lives of the citizens – a significantly greater number of Scots died in the World Wars, Scotland used as a testing ground for biological weapons, placing the UK’s nuclear deterrent within fifty miles of its most populated city.

      “We, Scots, will always have interests we share with our closest neighbours in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – matters to discuss, plans to make, procedures to harmonise, resources to share. ”

      And we will continue to do so, but as equals, not subjects. The interests of Scotland have been, and are being sacrificed – not for the good of the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but for the aristocracy, the elite, the wealthy. In the UK, we cannot do a thing about that. Independent, we can.

  18. One of the few really enjoyably balanced approaches that I’ve read over the last 12 months. More power to your pen (or whatever form of modern electronic trickery you used to collate your thoughts).

  19. Excellent article that echoes a lot of my own thoughts on the subject (re-blogged at Views From The Boatshed).

    While the quality of the debate outside the mainstream media is encouraging the question that I’m struggling to answer is how do these good ideas coalesce into movements/policies/actions that will bring about useful changes to the ways that we manage our collective lives?

  20. David Stenton says:

    An excellent article, which points up not only the possibilities for redefining a Scottish nation, but also highlights challenges that both sides of the debate are facing right now. In my view, a major challenge is the accessibility of the debate: not everyone comes online for their political fodder, and those who don’t come online rely on the mainstream media, which so far has not provided much in the way of balanced reporting. I sincerely hope that situation changes after publication of the White Paper. Victory will go to the side that convinces most “don’t knows”, and that requires an informed, informative debate across both the mainstream media and sites like Bella and Wings. Thanks, David, for provoking thought!

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  23. I’ve two contributions to offer – one (A) about my journey to Yes, published just this weekend past (1st March), and one (B) on a vision of post-independent Scotland from last summer:

    (A) http://internationalsocialist.org.uk/index.php/2014/03/mental-health-the-class-struggle-and-the-independence-referendum/

    (B) http://echocollective.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/scotlands-road-to-socialism-an-exercise-of-vision/

    Both have received lots of excellent feedback and lots of trolling… be grateful for your own input 🙂

    Nicky P

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  25. Bernard says:

    All the people who are planning to vote Yes need to hear a potential story: The year is 2050. An ordinary person wants to buy a nice magazine, so he/she goes into a shop. He/she suddenly hears somebody screaming, “Stop! What are you doing? What on earth are you doing?” A voice replies “I am trying to take over this shop to work here with you! I have given up on looking fairly for a job because I was meant to have a job in other countries in Europe but I couldn’t because of Scotland leaving the EU”. If you don’t want to risk this happening because Scotland might leave the EU if it becomes independent, then vote no.

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