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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!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

No Way Back

For the first time this morning, the polls show a majority of voters in Scotland voting for independence and has Westminster politicians in panic mode - now apparently poised to offer a Constitutional Convention. 
But it was an article in yesterday’s paper which expressed things most clearly for me
The debate has intoxicated Scotland. Feeling involved in something BIG has intoxicated Scotland. People have seen the opportunity to seize power. It has become worthwhile to take an interest in political issues, achieve an understanding of them, discuss your own understanding with others, start formulating your own ideas…… The saddest thing is that what most Scots want – what I want – isn’t even on the ballot paper. I don’t want the UK to break up. It’s a unique institution in which four individual countries operate in concert, as a single state, in comradeship. It’s a beautiful thing. Or it should be.
But the democratic deficit across the UK is highly problematic, and likely to become more so. Supposedly apathetic voters often say during general election campaigns that “however you vote, you always get the government”. It didn’t occur to Westminster that this referendum could be the exception – that this vote might shatter the status quo
 It was the British Prime Minister apparently who removed a third option (“DevoMax”) from the ballot paper and who created the stark choice Scottish voters have faced during this 2 year campaign. At the moment he did that, the polls showed – as they had consistently for years – that only one third of voters actively wanted independence……..a referendum was therefore conceded in full confidence that the independence option would be rejected……
But the question on the ballot paper asks simply whether people “agree that Scotland should be an independent country”. That was what we Scots call a “No brainer” – who in his right mind would vote for “dependence”?? And no one has ever denied that Scotland is a country or, indeed, nation. Everyone considers themselves “independent”   
Hardly surprising that, during a conversation which has lasted at least 2 years (more like 4 – since the last General Election), a slow shift in opinion has taken place. Indeed what is surprising is that it is only now that “Yes” voters seem to have reached the majority.
 
But – and it is a very big but….. the Leader of the Scottish National Party has made it clear he wants to leave only one of the six unions Scotland apparently belongs to. He has been widely mocked for actually not wanting independence at all – but for wanting something the papers have called “independence-lite

Things are now going to get very confusing….…..if this strongly-touted, last-minute concession of a constitutional convention is announced, the distance between the British and Scottish Governments will become very small…It will be the “Yes “ voters who may well be left behind.
If Salmond, the Scottish Leader, had argued for a clearer break – no pound, no European Union, no “social union” (whatever that meant) – then things would have been very clear. But he has fudged the issue very cleverly – way back in 2011 he talked about “fiscal autonomy within the UK” as his preferred option – what others have called “Devo-Max”. But this was ruled out. It is not on the ballot paper – although it has been the consistent line of Salmond’s talk during this campaign when his line has been that there would be no difficulties in keeping the pound and membership of the European Union. Big questions were raised about this – but in a manner I commented in February which would not satisfy the voter
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-genannten" 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 between England and an independent Scotland ; 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. 
Yesterday’s Guardian article continued
Yet something strange, even sinister, has come to light during the referendum debate. It’s that pro-unionist politicians are the ones who seem least willing to change the union in order to preserve it. They scoff at the idea of a shared currency, of a single market, of a shared membership of the EU. They say that they won’t co-operate with any of that. They want only the union they’ve got, not the union they have the opportunity to create, one held together by what they have in common, yet one in which members are able to go their own way, if and when they wish to.These people cling to this clapped-out, 300-year-old union, even though it’s clear that reform is long overdue.
Weird anomalies abound. Embarrassing anomalies. Only in the UK and Iran do religious prelates automatically take a seat in the legislature, with the established church, the Church of England, by default in effect the church of the UK. 
As for the downright perverse situation, in which Scottish MPs have the right to take part in votes that shape the future of England but are irrelevant to their own constituents, under devolution, what’s the plan on this glaring example of democratic deficit – to let it drift for ever? Scotland has become impatient. It wants the UK to start taking democracy seriously. If it won’t, then Scotland is perfectly capable of doing that for itself, alone.
England’s electorate is starting to see that a referendum it doesn’t have a vote in could change England for ever. This, it is generally considered, is not very fair. But the unfairness doesn’t emanate from Scotland. It emanates from a Westminster that assumes the political passivity of the UK and everyone in it. David Cameron wasn’t too bothered about giving Scotland a vote on the future of the UK. It was easy to ignore the fact that the rest of the UK was being excluded, simply because he didn’t think it was going to come to anything.
Even if Scotland doesn’t vote yes, and merely comes close, it will still have called Westminster’s bluff. Many politicians ask sneeringly what Scotland would gain from the“independence lite” that Alex Salmond is suggesting – an independence that does not break up the UK. They miss the point for a simple, awful reason. They are unused to thinking too much about the electorate, other than at election time, so they cannot see that the revolutionary change would be in how people felt about government, how much greater a stake in government the individual would perceive herself as having.
Members of the establishment see voters as giving them a mandate. They are not interested in sharing the mandate with the people who have granted it. 
The Better Together campaign says: “Leave it to the big boys. It’s all too complicated for you lot to understand. Get on with your work. Look after your kids. We know best.” The Yes Scotland campaign says: “Think about how government impacts on your own life. Understand it. Reflect it back. Don’t be intimidated. Get involved. Get your workmates involved. Get your kids involved. We can work out what’s best together.”
One campaign says: “Be quiet.” The other campaign says: “Speak.” Is it any wonder that yes has gained converts, while no has not?Scotland got its referendum because it asked for it. Westminster’s been “asking for it” for a long time. It underestimated the Scots, and it underestimates the rest of the people of Britain too. Everyone in the UK can seize the initiative, as Scotland has. Start thinking about possibilities, instead of accepting stasis. Start seeking conversation, instead of putting up with pontification. Start talking. Start hoping.
 So far, so good. But the article’s final paragraph had me a bit confused……
Developed and sophisticated democracy can thrive in our four countries, replacing a tired old adversarial system, built for days gone by and resting on its withered laurels. Join Scotland, people of the UK, and liberate yourselves. For that, paradoxically, is the only thing that can keep us together.
 But that’s no longer on the table.

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