A British take on the case for Scottish independence
As the date of the referendum on Scottish independence looms, the polls suggest that support for the No vote has narrowed to 48 per cent, while the Yes vote trails with 42 per cent; a marked improvement from the 32 per cent the Yes camp were polling this time last year. At the least now, the Yes campaign appears to have attracted sufficient support to be able to force the issue of another referendum within a generation. Perhaps in November of this year we will be drawing comparisons between the 49 per cent of Scots in 2014 and the 49 per cent of Quebecers in 1995.
The opposing camps, Better Together and Yes Scotland, have both sought to define the debate in their own terms. The Yes campaign romanticizes and waxes lyrical about patriotic nationalism and self-determination; the No campaign scare-mongers and refuses to fathom a competitive post-independence Scotland. It is a polarized debate in which the old stalwarts of union square are up against nationalistic upstarts. This opposition is typical of an independence debate, yet the Scottish case also has its own particularities that Catalans or Quebecers may not relate to.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is, as its name suggests, a synergy. A less-than-united kingdom would find it difficult to have its voice heard on the international stage. But perhaps the era of Britain’s having its voice heard, which spanned much of the last five centuries, must end. The big difference between the Yes and No camps, I believe, is that Westminster politicians like Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown would rather see themselves as part of a bigger whole than as part of a nation of a mere six million people. A modest self-rule, for them, would mean that Scots would never have their voices heard on the global stage.
The Yes campaign’s would-be remedy to this dilemma is membership in the European Union. This, however, leads to another debate: surely Spain would exercise its veto of Scotland’s membership for fear of creating a precedent that Catalan or Basque nationalists could use to their advantage. An independent Scotland in the European Union would also be able to pursue popular policies which are blocked in the Westminster Parliament, such as not renewing Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent Trident, nationalizing the North Sea oil reserve, stimulating the public sector, plugging the gaps in the welfare state, along with ceasing privatization of the National Health Service.
Many Scots have their greatest grievance with both under-representation and misrepresentation in politics. Of the 59 parliamentary constituencies in Scotland, only one returned as a member of the Conservative Party, which leads the two-party governing Westminster coalition that is pursuing policies in Scotland that, frankly, few Scots voted for. Your man on the street, however, may not know whether Scotland returns 59 or 259 Members of Parliament to Westminster ̶ he simply does not want to be governed by a Parliament 500 miles away from his own.
Therefore, I urge anyone reading this article who has the right to vote in the referendum next month to rid themselves of the fear of the unknown and realize self-determination by voting YES. Surely Scotland ought to be ruled from Edinburgh: you would not want to be asking yourself “what if?” in twenty years, as many Quebecers now do, would you?