2007 - 2020

Why part of me is now finally ready to vote Yes.

How strange political conviction is. Of course there is the rational approach. Lets just take independence as an example, some of us believe it would rationally make our lives better, others don’t. The rational approach can be argued out with the old chestnuts,- economics, achievement of a greater sense of fairness in our domestic lives, our more appropriate foreign policies, the endorsement of a more satisfying sense of self and community engagement. The delivery of our great country’s hugely under-utilised  potential.

All perfectly reasonable and objective.
Those then are amongst the arguments we so often have amongst ourselves in this great debate.
But I once heard a remark from Mike Russell, who I don’t know properly so this isn’t a names drop, but what I do know like immensely,  when in the middle of a discussion he remarked: “What you have to realise is that we are not rational beings we are human beings”. It was fifteen years ago he said it and it has struck home with me ever since. He was just so right. It was a major remark. Thanks be to him.
I think the part of me that is a human being is now, after so many years of fighting it,  prepared to consider voting Yes in a referendum. People assume that just because I label myself a Unionist that I must dislike Scots, have no faith in us, not enjoy our glorious countryside, not revel in the disparity of the various subcultures with their contrasting musical and poetic traditions.
Such folk assume that I don’t howl with pleasure when I steer a boat through Corrywreckan just as the great tides are beginning to boil or grin at the wind at the Ardnamurachan lighthouse as a white tailed sea eagle wafts through, riding down the back of the wind not having to move her wings as the rhythm of life she is feeling. But you are wrong, oh so wrong. Don’t you dare  tell me I am not allowed to rejoice in being Scots merely because I am yet to sign up to your cause. You have no exclusive right to love my country just because you believe it should be independent.
And that annoys me.
Listen I’m not sure if I would die defending those aspects of my Scottishness, but I sure as hell might risk a limb. The human being part of me wants independence with a deep and abiding passion. Oh to wake up on the morning after the vote and open my eyes to a sense of living in a new and optimistic nation, one without all the nonsense of Westminster with the transparent fraud of the Lords and the self interest of so many in the Commons. I get it, I really do. And it so nearly tips the scales.
So that’s the human side of me, and poetry so often beats economics as well it should.
But the converse. What is it within me that still even against such passion sticks with the Unionists?
Well it’s not cultural that’s for sure. I remember standing with a group of several thousand No voters in one of the formal gardens in Edinburgh’s New Town and looking round in horror. I am not of that tribe. I own no burnt orange corduroys, have no desire to breed a pheasant just for the pleasure of blowing it’s head off, do not pronounce Yes as Ears, care not who wins the cricket and accept that whilst Boris may be a reasonable polemical journalist, he is in the wrong job.
No for me the clincher will always be the environment.
It’s now over a year since I traveled to see the wonderful Dalai Lama to discuss the role that Walter Scott played in the re-imagining of Scotland and whilst fun it was really just a glorious, if well intentioned,  waste of time. But what was not a waste of time was to stand on the very edge of the Tibetan plateau, an area the size of Europe, and contemplate the future of our globe.
Nothing terrifies me as much about global warming as much as that plateau. Consider here we have a land mass that is the water tank of one fifth of the world’s population and that water tank is changing even as we watch it. Not in a hundred years time, not even fifty, but now.
Now you can watch some of the railway lines collapsing as the permafrost that holds their rail line studs thaws, gaze in horror at the valleys that once held massive glaciers and are now naked of ice, ponder the movement of the rivers servicing North West china and northern India.
How much time before massive migration starts from these areas, and we are not talking about a few poor folks in a leaky rubber dingy here, but armies on the move.
As I move into the last couple of decades of my life (I am sixty eight) I cannot bring myself to prioritise fighting for Scottish independence, however noble the cause may seem, when in contrast global warming descends on us like an all enveloping duvet.
I am sure those who don’t share this conclusion will suggest that it is only if we gain independence that we can make a contribution to that crisis, and you may well even be right. But forgive me if I don’t share that opinion.
We are not rational beings we are human beings, indeed Mr Russell, but the climate change crisis is now upon us and all we can do to ameliorate it is to work from the rational rather than the human.

Comments (42)

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  1. Dougie Harrison says:

    Maxwell, this is indeed an interesting insight into your mind, and your political priorities. It took Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion movement she inspired to get me off my ageing arse well over a year ago, to try again to do something about what I believe in. (I’d had an interesting but hardly valuable period in an uninspiring SNP branch, after a lifetime working on the left for our Scots Parliament.)

    The Green movement is the only political organisation operating across the UK which recognises Scotland as a separate nation. So the Scottish Green Party, whilst it works with similar organisations in England and Wales and beyond, on issues which demand international co-operation, also campaigns for an independent Scotland. And is itself a separate legal entity. Its six MSPs provide support to the Scottish Government (usually) on a critical issue-by-issue basis. If you’re not aware of its nature, I suggest you look into it. It sound to me from what you say in this piece, that it might be a comfortable and stimulating political home for you. I have found it so for myself; I’m a wee bit older than you, and have always been a socialist.

    1. maxwell macleod says:

      My understanding is that when the ever excellent Patrick Harvey accepted the opinion of his party that they should support the SNP he also allowed the likes of Robin Harper, surely the father of the modern green party, who were adamantly against the independence movement to remain.
      If there was an active group within the Scottish Greens supporting that position , perhaps led by Andy Wightman who seems pretty ambivalent on the issue I would join immediately.

      1. Dougie Harrison says:

        Maxwell, if you have to wait until someone else leads something you can support, my 55 years of political experience have taught me you may have to wait a wee while.

        Do it yourself pal!

  2. Mary McCabe says:

    I don’t understand why prioritising tackling climate change makes you vote No to independence. The two issues aren’t in opposition to each other.
    As you say yourself, an independent Scotland free to exploit its renewable potential (coastline the length of China’s, 90% of the water in the UK, the most wind in Europe) is likely to do more for the climate than the U.K. (which has withdrawn its renewables subsidy and remains wedded to the idea of fracking and nuclear power).
    You don’t have to campaign for independence. By all means put your efforts into campaigning for climate change.
    Just – if the chance comes again to vote for independence – don’t actively scupper it.
    As Dylan sang: If you can’t lend a hand then get out of the way, for the times they are a -changing.

    1. John Tracey says:

      Mary, I didn’t read the article as you have. I thought Maxwell was talking about what he sees as the priority. I don’t see the words that suggest “prioritising tackling climate change makes you vote No to independence”.
      Quoting Dylan as you have puts doubt in my mind about how pro-independence (or perhaps just some) see how to achieve independence. I do not want people to “get out of the way”. I want them to come along and if, as is their right, they don’t want to come I hope they will accept independence when that becomes a reality.

      1. Bob says:

        That is entirely the point Mary is making. If Global Warming is the priority then Maxwell would without hesitation unreservedly support Independence for exactly the reasons Mary gave.

        As to the Dylan quote you suggest there is “perhaps just some” Independence that would be acceptable to pro-independence supporters. There is not. This was dealt with by the previous referendum known as Devo Max and the infamous Gordon Brown/Labour ‘federal UK’. All shown to be Scotch Mist.

        1. John Tracey says:

          Bob, thanks for getting me to reread my comment. The word ‘supporters’ is missing before the brackets.
          It is the number of independence supporters thinking brushing people aside is the way forward that I wanted to be what was said.
          Hope that makes it clearer.
          Thanks again.

    2. Derek Thomson says:

      One hates to be a pedant (stop lying,) but is it not “Get out of the way if you can’t lend a hand?” – I’m refusing to either Google or check my book of Dylan lyrics so am happy to be corrected.

      1. Mary McCabe says:

        I didn’t want to be a pedant either and so I also refused to check. I stand corrected.

      2. Alasdair Macdonald says:

        A Smug Pedant writes: It is “get out of the new if you can’t lend a hand.” The “new” refers to the changed world.

  3. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    Thank for sharing your thoughts with us on this matter. Do you think the UK, particularly in the light of Brexit and under the control of a neoliberal clique which views regulation, including those on environmental matters as per se bad, is likely to move in a significant way in the next few years to take the kinds of action that will contribute to an improved planet? Including territorial waters (even without the slice Blair and Dewar sleekitly filched) Scotland comprise more than half the UK. So, supporting an independent Scotland offers the chance of making significant improvements to the environment, given that both the Greens and the SNP are significantly committed to global climate targets. Already Scotland produces more than 100% of energy needs by renewable means. Fishing is a significant part of Scotland’s economy, so healthy seas and sustainable fishing are important. We have huge amounts of fresh water and it is essential we keep this clean. Much of Scotland is sparsely populated with substantial amounts of peat bog. Reafforestation – which is moving apace – and protection of peat will contribute to controls on carbon dioxide levels. And, people – even some in the Labour Party – are talking more seriously of land reform and increased local ownership.

  4. Squigglypen says:

    What guff! Why do all the nations of the world want to run their own country and will fight for it..and not let a lot of foreign tossers do it for them…what’s wrong with you!I bang my head on the wall while you contemplate pheasants ..head blown off or global warming…Is there something in our genetics that make us unable to look out for our country…thank god the kids polled 78% for independence…they are the future..not you.

    1. david kelly says:

      well said

    2. Pete Roberts says:

      Squigglypen, you speak my thoughts.

    3. James Dow says:

      You nailed it, how disappointing to see this type of expression in a Scotland at this time.
      But never the less our brilliant young adults are about to take charge and restore Scotland to her rightful position amongst the worlds other Sovereign Nations.
      Scotland Forever.
      James Dow

  5. Roland Stiven says:

    Maxwell,
    I like the MR not rational beings – human beings. Very Star Trek. You are right about the mass global migration – and it seems most do not realise just how dramatic this will be. It will happen at some point in the not too distant future irrespective of actions we take now. A mass movement northwards that will pay no heed to our current petty borders or civilised niceties. We have no idea how it will play out but I doubt it is going to be nice. In the meantime I’m with Yes, – I found, quite a while ago, that once you say it, it doesn’t take too much energy or turmoil – it just makes (Rational!) sense.

    1. Well said. Max’s semi-conversion is wonderful and incomplete. It requires his rational self to outline how the British state is more likely to lead us into the steps necessary to confront climate breakdown. There’s no rational reason to support that claim.

      1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

        However, rational argument is only part of the solution to brining about a change in attitude: there is an emotional aspect, too. I am sure most of us have experience of situations where we have deployed pretty sound arguments for a case and have dismantled arguments against it and yet we do not cause a change in attitude. (Most of us, as teenage youths, have experienced this when trying to convince our mammies to change their minds!)

        Project Fear recognised this by seeking to raise fear in people to stop them from changing their minds.

        Only Mr Maxwell knows how he feels and he has to be self-reflective about this. In face to face discourse we can often judge when the emotions have been engaged, but written discourse loses that element. So, perhaps, Mr Maxwell could consider accepting the hypothesis of change and note those things which bring about unease and then examine them in more detail.

  6. Jim Sansbury says:

    Dont bet on Westminster to heed the warnings of climate change.
    As independents we’ll make our own appropriate environmental policies.

    1. maxwell macleod says:

      Really?
      let us assume that Indie 2 is in 2023, result yes, implementation 2025, three years of settle down, 2028. Instability as Europe is re-imagined.
      And then in 2030 we can start taking a leadership role? Sounds great, Though as likely as a Colonsay summer.
      I wish I needn’t say that the climate crisis is imminent and that that is what we should all be concentrating on, but I don’t buy the theory that the quickest way there is through indie. Wish I could, but my sense is that it is only through radical internationalism and not nationalism. though I do respect that many in the indie movement are not nationalists.

      1. Dougie Strang says:

        I think that’s the key for me. It’s not either or. I agree that radical internationalism is the only way the change required can be effected; but I also know that radical localism is the only agency most of us have. I’m not a nationalist, if anything I’m an extreme green; but I’m also a democrat, and it would seem that the majority of Scots aspire towards a kind of Nordic social democracy; whereas England seems to be aligning itself with the rightwing nationalism of countries like Hungary and, of course, Trump’s America.

        Just look at the last GE. It would be patronising to suggest that England was duped. I think people knew fine what they were voting for.

        What if the question isn’t: “should Scotland be independent?” But: “facing climate crisis and ecocide, who do we want to stand with, politically and environmentally, so that we might work more closely with them to further a green agenda both nationally and internationally?” Meanwhile, under our current UK government, we seem intent on “making Britain a paradise for disaster capitalists”: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/09/boris-johnson-trade-deal-us-chlorinated-chicken.

        Of course we’re in the thick of turmoil, and there’s no returning now to the kind of extraction-based, and heavily polluting, prosperity of the C20th, but it seems most rational to me to wish for as much agency as possible over how we face the turmoil.

      2. Marga says:

        Inter-nationalism – I think the secret is in the name. If you’re not a nation, you can’t contribute to policy, it’s done for you, and in the case of Scotland, which historically has almost never had the government it voted for, you will not like the results, but tough, given the UK’s voting system, and its take on majority as monopoly.

        Really don’t get why km0 is accepted as common sense especially in essentials like food by Greens and socialists, while km0 in governance is looked at askance. Is it really logical to approve one and not the other? In other words, here’s an emotional or class reaction, possibly harking back to “too wee, too stupid” etc. What a pity.

      3. Bob says:

        ” maxwell macleod
        28th August 2020 at 9:36 pm

        Really?”

        This article is full of unsubstantiated straw man arguments leading down blind alleys away from reality that a majority in Scotland support Indepndence. With frequent use of the word “great” and a sly joke made of one of the most beautiful parts of our country, shows the author is trying to hide that he has no detail knowledge of the subject.

        1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

          “Straw man” and “false dichotomy” – tactics so beloved of huckster politicians and journalists – disappointing.

  7. James Dow says:

    It’s about our land and taking the opportunity to unravel the devious constraints that were entwined around her beautiful form, we the people as Scots are Sovereign but we can never be truly free until We walk apron a Sovereign Scotland.
    At heart we are a tribal people welded to the land this magical mystical spiritual beautiful land, Scotland.
    We are indebted to this uniquely formed land that in part contributed to the formation of a unique people Scots, it is also a land which was coveted for many hundreds of years by a foreign enemy ironically this constant threat melded the the various constituents of Scotland into one people in defence of their people and land. Scots a people that have massively and disproportionately contributed to the wellbeing of all mankind, a people welcomed and respected for their courage honesty diligence and ethics.
    A people credited with bringing forth the Modern Enlightenment, Voltaire “ We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation “ Scots are more than entitled to be proud of their ancestors themselves and the high regard they are held in worldwide. It is now the time for Scotland’s brilliant young adult to take charge of their nations destiny by restoring Scotland as a showcase nation of just what’s possible through the application of compassion integrity and honest endeavour to ensure the security and wellbeing of your people and nation.

  8. Kenny Smith says:

    Sorry utter pish, grow a spine and pick a side. Either for or against. If Green priority is your main concern they are far more achievable in an independent Scotland. Tuck your skirt in and embrace the need for change. Scotland is yours as much as it is mine, you want better, we all want better let’s make better happen. Don’t consider voting yes, make yes the priority then you can have a country that will answer the call of the people who call Scotland home. We don’t want fracking, GM crops or choroiniated chicken, but guess who does?

    1. Kenny Smith says:

      Sorry the article I meant not comments above

  9. SleepingDog says:

    At the individual level, perhaps we all have our blindspots, our particular weaknesses in rationality. But at larger scale, if we form a political collective, our decision-making processes can overcome those individual weaknesses and make rational, planetary-realistic decisions. However, there is no way that the flawed UK/British imperial quasi-constitution can support such real democracy (it’s a theocratic hereditary monarchy with secret workings and the very minimum of involvement by its subjects). The only realistic way that the people of Scotland can achieve collective rationality in the near future that I can see, is through Independence, which should trigger deep constitutional deliberations that will allow embedding the environment and non-human life in a new, codified constitution, borrowing the best from other examples around the world. And maybe giving something back, becoming part of a global effort to improve the patterns of our interactions, not viciously cling to corrupt privilege, incompetence, secrecy, world-annihilating belligerence, institutional racism and elitism, a bullying and sexually-abusing top-down culture, incontinent avarice and toxic overconsumption.

  10. Daniel Owens says:

    What I have seen since 2014 is a silencing of Scotland’s voice on matters of the environment at a UK level. To me, anyway, the rational approach is to remove the gag that westminster places on Scotland and allow our voice and our example to be heard and seen at an international level. For now, Scotland’s potential as a leader in renewable energy is shackled to Westminster’s corrupt agenda of saying one thing but doing another – and all the while the money flows into the pockets of tory party chums.

  11. William Ross says:

    Maxwell

    It is always interesting to read your articles. You obviously see the World very differently than I but you are very entitled to your opinions.

    Can I clarify what you are saying at the end? You are now swinging towards Scottish independence for largely emotional reasons, it seems to me. But you hold back because of the overwhelming ( as you see it) necessity to fight climate change. You are convinced of the vital nature of the climate change battle because of what you are seeing in the high Himalayas.

    My question is this: is your position that in the light of the coming climate change apocalypse:(a) it is simply redundant to waste time on the (infinitely less valuable) objective of Scottish independence or:(b) climate change can be more effectively tackled through the continuing UK?

    Is it worth considering that the UK has about 1% of the World’s emissions and Scotland about 0.1%? Are you aware that the World’s glaciers have been receding since the end of the Little Ice Age in the mid 19 nineteenth-century long before the post Second World War spike in carbon emissions? What is CO2 is not the sole or main causative agent? If the threat you raise is so serious why are China and India completely oblivious to it? Are you aware that the (lunatic) UK Climate Change Act is actually one of the strictest climate change measures in the World and that Boris is taken in hook,line and sinker ( ask his girlfriend) Are you really not interested anymore in UK politics? What is your solution to the Himalayas problem? Slash fossil fuel use in Indian and China and replace it with what? What kind of disaster will the elimination of fossil fuels in China and India bring?

    Just some Saturday morning questions!

    William

  12. grafter says:

    We need to waken up fast or there will be no such thing as “Independence “.

  13. SquirrelTowers says:

    The words ‘Think global and act local’ rind true to me. I am English so the emotional aspect of Independence you mention passes me by, but I do support Independence. The reason is my experience working in Scotlands renewables sector for the last 16 odd years. I have seen at close hand the negligent policies of the Westminster government kill the burgeoning sector. The Tories after 2014 slashed the support for onshore wind, they cancelled the world leading Peterhead Carbon Capture project (now sadly its to others in the world to lead on this), they annihilated (with the help of Brexit) Scotlands burgeoning tidal turbine sector.

    This is one of the saddest blows to me, Scotland had the first commercial tidal array in the world off the coast of Islay, now with the end of support from the EU via EMEC (this support is now moving back in to the EU) and NOTHING from the Westminster government the opportunity for Scotland to sell Tidal Turbines to the world (like Denmark does with Wind Turbines) has been lost. Amazing technology not supported to commercialisation by the UK government. The Canadian government has recently commissioned a tidal array off Novia Scotia from a Scottish tidal turbine company as long as the turbines are built in Canada (which is a smart move). Tidal energy provides base load endlessly reliable, all that innovation in Scotland unsupported and now gone thanks to visionless leadership in Westminster.

    Lets now move on to onshore wind, Scotland stands at 90% renewable electricity which is worls leading. At 12GW, the sector is over three times bigger than it was at the end of 2009, the SNP actually changed the planning system to get renewables schemes quickly and efficiently through the planning system (check out the Energy Consents Unit). There is actually 13 GW already consented in Scotland (doubling the amount of renewables we already have) but its not being built because the Tories don’t support onshore wind at all, despite it being the cheapest renewables available. With an extra 12 GW of renewables we could be starting to generate Green Hydrogen, which is a new technology most counties struggle with because they don’t have ‘excess’ green electricity, unlike Scotland (see where I am going with this now).

    How about Interconnectors to the Scottish islands which have enormous renewable potential and opportunities for great jobs for Island communities, yep this hasn’t been consented by the central UK powers that be at OfGem. How about grid charges where the renewable energy has to pay to access the national grid (close to London they pay generators).

    I could go on and on…… Scotland is already leading the world in Green Energy (thats why they decided to hold COP here), but being tied to Westminster is killing any hope of a green future for my kids. I encourage everyone to do their research on this issue.

  14. Jings McGee says:

    Responding adequately to climate change requires international co-ordination and regulation of the kind only entities as large as the European Union can hope to achieve. The idea that the UK can contibute materially on its own is for the birds; the UK is rapidly becoming a basketcase that will need to lower its standards in order to survive — and one of the first things to be deprioritised in that context will be the environment.

    Scotland in the EU, with proper support for green R&D, is a far better prospect from the perspective of climate change than is the UK.

  15. BSA says:

    Just get over yourself. You’ll find it will clear the head of precious self indulgent havers. And if, as a result, you do declare for the Union, you might actually find the case for it which the Dalai Lama and Tibet obviously couldn’t provide.

    1. Maxwell macleod says:

      Many many thanks for your courteous replies and congratulations to Mike Small for B.C

  16. Mary McCabe says:

    You say your “human side” (your heart) is for independence whereas your rational (head) is pro-Union.
    However to me you give the opposite impression.
    When you campaign to save the planet, reason (based on the past record of small European nations such as the Scandinavian countries and indeed the Scottish Govt itself) indicates that small is beautiful and that, in the case of large empires with their links to global capitalism and the warfare industry, power corrupts.
    It appears to me (I could of course have got the wrong impression) that it is your heart that is with the U.K, Old Blighty and the empire on which the sun never set.
    It struck me that you felt most Unionist when you were in Tibet. Tibet was a small clean living country which has been culturally and demographically destroyed by a huge empire which is itself responsible to a large extent for laying waste to our environment.
    Most people who are emotionally pro- Scottish independence would feel instinctive sympathy with Tibet. Yet this political aspect didn’t seem to occur to you at the time.

    1. maxwell macleod says:

      You make a good point and I am grateful. Its very hard to know which way t jump. I am quite sure that the indie vote will now win
      Many thanks

      1. Neill Simpson says:

        Looking back on the past 50 years, ask yourself if we have been going in the right direction. Do we want the environment to be treated as a midden while everything is turned into a ‘market’? Do we want the social consequences of worsening inequality? Do we want to keep nuclear weapons in Faslane? Will Government from Westminster ever respond to the needs and wishes of people outwith London?
        I lived near Manchester for 21 years, and the view from there is not much different to the view from here, near Glasgow; but we have a glimmer of hope for things to be different here. Sadly, the precious Union is not the way forward.

      2. Josef Ó Luain says:

        There’s only one way to resolve your dilemma—Jump! You’re unlikely to injure yourself to the extent that you most likely will by attempting to pump blood into a corps with the expectation of its resuscitation.

  17. Craig P says:

    Personally I think Scotland would be more green than the UK – if for no other reason than PR gives green politicians a stronger voice. We also have more potential for renewables. It’s just better business for Scotland to be green.

    The more important point is international co-operation. I remember Wendy Alexander using bird flu as a reason Scotland couldn’t be independent, as there needed to be a joined up response to bird flu, and birds flew across borders. The fact birds can fly is clearly not a reason to do away with countries, rather it is an indicator that international co-operation is vital. Same for climate change. I suppose the argument can be made that the UK would be better at international co-operation than Scotland. Not sure I could champion that argument myself though.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Craig P, I am sure the argument will be made that the rUK will maintain the UK’s world-beating international bribery and corruption levels without Scotland.
      https://www.transparency.org.uk/corruption-statistics

  18. Chris Ballance says:

    Maxwell, just got round to reading your article.
    Yes, climate change is the most important issue – nothing else comes close. But independence is about good governance, and that’s relevant to climate justice. Surely no-one can argue, especially now, that Westminster is a sound, well run government? Do you think it’s as likely that a Boris Johnson-type figure could command a majority government in Scotland as he can in England? (Personally, I don’t think our voting system would give it him).
    And do you not think that good governance for 6million of the UK population would be at least slightly better for addressing climate issues, than having all 65million of us badly governed? That a democratic voting system and things like citizen climate change assemblies are good things which Westminster isn’t going to have in the foreseeable future?
    Come on, come and join us. I remember your dad joining the Greens despite having major issues with some of our policies. Join the Scottish Greens and help put more pro-climate change activists in Holyrood. One click to come and join us demanding climate action in Holyrood. https://members.greens.scot/join We may not be the whole solution – but it’s better we’re there than not.

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