Letter from Hanoi, Vietnam on our Independence Referendum
The letter below arrived on the Bella desk (via Margaret who helps organise for Yes Helensburgh & Lomond). Sometimes you need an outside view to help put things into perspective. Thank you Phi Yến Pham.
June 28, 2014
A Vietnamese view of Scotland’s vote for independence
I have never been to Scotland, am not a journalist and normally have no interest in politics. I have, however, become fascinated by the independence debate in Scotland where I understand that some recent online polls have suggested a very high level of support for Independence while the most recent offline poll suggests that Scots will be much more likely to vote in favour of independence if they think the current British government will be voted in again.
But the question I ask myself again and again is: why would anyone vote No?
As far as I can tell it seems to be because some people think independence represents a risk whether to their pensions, their place in Europe, the use of the pound sterling or many other things on which I keep reading that people feel they “have not been given enough information”.
To me this is astonishing for two reasons.
Firstly even on the other side of the planet I have been able to find perfectly reasonable answers to these questions. Clearly nobody is able to predict or guarantee the future – I’m an economist so this is only too apparent to me – but it is odd to me that people post such comments online when I can find the answers myself in a few clicks.
Secondly because in the last 70 years alone, that is to say since the end of World War II, my country has had to fight for our independence in three separate wars:
- From 1946-1954 we fought against the French occupation with the loss of between 175,000 and 300,000
- From 1954 to 1975 we fought off the American occupation with the loss of 450,000 and 1,165,000 and a further 600,000+ maimed many by toxic chemicals that still affect people to this day,
- Finally in 1979 we fought a border war with China that left 26,000 soldiers and 10,000 civilians dead and many more maimed.
After these three wars Vietnam had nearly nothing but now we are one of the fastest growing economies in the world and perhaps more importantly the Vietnamese people were recently ranked the No.2 in the world in term of happiness.
My generation is very thankful and proud for everything the previous generations did for us and the happiness that autonomy brings breeds further solidarity between the people of Vietnam in what I believe you might call a virtuous circle.
By comparison Scotland has so much already, an education system with some of the best universities in the world, products famous the world over as well as abundant energy sources from oil and gas to renewables such as hydroelectric, wind and wave power. More importantly you, like us Vietnamese but apparently unlike your southern neighbours, are clearly socialist in that you believe this wealth of talent and resources should be shared with the people. And yet my studies leave me to understand that your more numerous neighbours commonly elect governments who only offer you limited powers to follow your own politics and generally favour the further accumulation of wealth by the already wealthy.
Well now you have a chance to win your independence without firing a single shot, without anyone being killed, without toxic warfare that poisons generations. From this outsider’s perspective it really is the chance of a lifetime, a once in a generation opportunity, perhaps even in many generations. I can’t tell you it will be easy – it may actually be quite tough – but I am sure that future generations will be proud of your generation.
Phi Yến Pham