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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Let's talk about Scotland

It was 21 years ago that Czechia and Slovakia split from one another – to each’s great surprise. I was there in 1992/93– and can vividly remember the political impasse in Prague and then the celebratory noises in Bratislava. Most of my friends were Slovak – and they all seemed to regret the split despite the feelings about Czech arrogance
For the past few years, it is the Slovaks who have had the most to celebrate – with both their economy and politics. It was all so quickly done – deals by the senior politicians - with no opportunity given to ordinary people to express an opinion.
In this sense it is not at all like the Scottish situation whose referendum in September this year has been scheduled for more than 2 years.

I’ve just had the thought to drive to Scotland – via Slovakia – and chat to my friends along the route (including those in Belgium) about the situation.
The relationships are, of course, a bit different – both in scale and history. Scotland has less than 8% of the UK population (compared with Slovakia’s 33% share of the CS citizenry) – and Scotland has been a significant player  for 300 years in the story that is British capital and Empire (whereas Cz and Slo were linked as a nation for only 70 years).

I left Scotland and the UK in 1990 – but did participate (somewhat ambivalently) in the 1979 referendum – which was slated to give Scotland the devolution the country obtained only in 1999. My inclination this past year has been to vote yes - like the vast majority of Scots, I simply feel the political class in London is a different ideological race. And the tactics these past few weeks of the Westminster (and Brussels) "so-gennanten" leaders certainly make me feel a bit “stroppy”. The suggestions of cretins such as the EC President (Barroso) and the UK Finance Minister that there could be no currency link ; or easy negotiation to EU membership  is pure shock tactics…..and so counterproductive. 
These idiots don’t know my countrymen – who will simply come off the fence – and vote yes.

The only reason the “No” vote (which a few months ago was so strong) is collapsing is because the UK is now ruled by neo-liberal feudalists who, for Scots, are aliens at 2 removes. 
The PM (who is not so desperate as his Labour counterpart) has now invited English people to write to their Scottish relatives to convince them to stay in “the Union”. Here is one interesting effort
And also a lovely tongue-in-cheek list of 76 things for the English to apologise to the Scots about

We now appear to be entering the third of four phases of the referendum campaign before the actual hustings in August. Each phase has been dictated by the Nationalists. In the first phase, their task was simply to get people to accept that a two-year campaign was not too much and that the running of the country would not be neglected. Labour leader Johann Lamont's justified criticism of this simply failed to resonate.This was followed by the elaborate countdown to the white paper, which seemed to confer Arc of the Covenant status on this mystical document. It weighed in at more than 600 pages and the No campaign attempted to smear it as being overly heavy and grandiose.
Yet there was a sense that voters, even those who might never get round to tackling it, were impressed that their intellects were being taken seriously at a time when the No campaign seemed not to be taking them seriously enough in trying to persuade us that Scotland would resemble 1970s Albania if it voted for independence.
Following publication of the white paper, the numbers began slowly to shift. The third phase has seen the Westminster political and coffee-house set begin to sit up straight and pay attention. This has been accompanied in Scotland by the long-awaited engagement at street level with the referendum issues. Here again, the Yes campaign has got its act together far more effectively. It ought to be acknowledged, though, that the No campaign faces several social and cultural handicaps here that it is powerless to overcome. Its leaders know, as do the rest of us, that organising rallies and public meetings in the shadow of the union jack risks them being hijacked by the scarecrow element of Ulster loyalism and the British far right.
Two weeks ago, I visited the Yes campaign website searching for an open event that I could attend, preferably off the beaten track. Between the end of January and 1 March, there were more than 200 happenings, a mass engagement that touched every nook and cranny of the kingdom. Seeking a similar event to attend on the No campaign website, I could find only a handful.I informed a friend of mine who is close to some senior members of the No team that, if this pattern were to prevail until 18 September, it would be the difference between victory and defeat for his people.
Within a few days, a glut of fresh activity appeared on the No horizon, but I was not convinced. Yes are engaging with the common people of Scotland in pubs, fairgrounds and town centres all over the country. In some of those places, the No response, in the absence of organising their own event, has been to try to have them ejected under spurious anti-politicisation laws.
Here is one Guardian writer (Jonathan Freedland) also trying to support the No campaign.
But the place to find the real argument is the pages of the great Scottish Review – here and here.

I have a feeling that there will be many others like me who worry about the sheer uncertainties involved in blithely voting "yes" to separation, with all the risks the subsequent negotiations with the UK rump and the EU would hold..... 
I have already confessed that I was an active campaigner during the 1979 referendum for a devolved Parliament - in the "No" camp - and then, in the privacy of the voting chamber, actually voted "yes"!
Devolution has been a success

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