Denise Mina – Why I’m Voting No

Denis Mina is a Scottish writer and this is the full text of her BBC R4 Today programme essay on her reasons for voting No

There has been a civic revolution in Scotland. Intense political discussions have taken place in families, town halls, social media and pubs and clubs. 97% of the population have registered to vote. We have an almost fully engaged body politic. I am a no voter and this is why: My family are historical flotsam. We are not policy makers but the people who suffer it.
Those with few social resources do not benefit from rupture in the short term. Sometimes they do in the long term, more often not in my reading of history, but if you have little, then less, the short term can be very long indeed. Since the cost of rupture is borne so unequally, the provocation has to justify it and I don’t think it does in this case.

Long in the memory are the Troubles in Northern Ireland, where the family are from. Glorious abstract notions of nationhood and autonomy are cold comfort if you can’t work, or study or thrive. Pragmatically: if independence is about shared values and not raw Nationalism then the border is in the wrong place.

Also, Independence is a conceptual mistake. We live in a global environment. The nation state is an irrelevant 17th century construct, and the autonomous nation state is even more fantastical. All countries are bound by a web of international and supranational obligations. We would not be autonomous. We would be disadvantaged. Factionalizing can only benefit stateless corporations as we vie to give them the best deal. And, in a rapidly warming world, forming a small country, reliant on continued oil production, is in no one’s interests, not even our own.

Instead of breaking away into small self-interested groups, only collective decision making can resolve present conflicts and secure the future of the planet. But collective thinking is still anathema. We describe our world by reference to individual states or people. It’s still possible to hear debates about whether it was Alistair or Gordon who caused the global economic crisis.

Worse: the consequences of a Yes vote are shrouded in mystery. Attempts to anticipate any negatives are dismissed as scaremongering. A whole Yes belief system has built up around this: consistent signals from the EU that our membership would not be automatic – don’t believe it. The rest of the UK tell us they don’t want a currency union – don’t believe it. Belief is not a plan. Belief is a refusal to discuss. And a chorus of outrage is not the same as an agenda. It takes me to Tahrir Square and the Arab Spring where there was unanimity about overthrowing Mubarak, but no consensus of agenda. The power vacuum was filled with the only group who did have a consensus: the Muslim Brotherhood.

The factional nature of the yes campaign is very clear: Green Yes, SNP yes, Labour Yes. On the upside: the civil revolution means that, whatever the outcome of the referendum, politics will never be the same again.

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7 comments

  1. This is not my text from a R4 program or indeed any program as I do not have the sort of profile that lets me enjoy such a platform and I am also not a writer but a seller of books so my words can seem ill chosen or out of context but if you will allow me the conceit of using your essay, that you probably honed and crafted over time, as a framework then I’ll jot down this reply that I have 30 minutes to write before I pick the boy up from school.

    There has been a civic revolution in Scotland indeed. Intense political discussions have taken place in families, town halls, social media and pubs and clubs. 97% of the Scottish population has registered to vote. We have an almost fully engaged body politic. Why? What has changed that has taken an idea of a Scotland that takes the responsibility for its own decisions to within touch of an actual reality? What has invigorated this electorate?

    
I am a YES voter and this is why: My family, too are historical flotsam. We are not policy makers but the people who suffer it and we are stuck in a political system that does not seem like it will ever change. I would agree that those with few social resources do not always benefit from great political change in the short term but they should be able to choose if they want to change and make that difficult journey to work towards a better society if they so wish. Sometimes those with few social resources do benefit in the long term, more often than you think if you look at history through the lens of the many and not just those headline moments and people that grab them and take their 15 minutes. No one can doubt great reforms have taken place over the years but usually these took place over tens (or hundreds) of years and I personally am prepared for that long journey again. This vote for me is for my children and my grandchildren and if I have to work hard and tighten up for them then so be it. The provocation for such difficult change has to justify it and I think it does in this case.

    Long in the memory indeed are the Troubles in Northern Ireland, where my own family is from but who are also scattered through areas all around the world. But where do you go with this? Do you say you say we won’t we won’t be able to thrive or work in Scotland? Do you predict some dark future for us here? I’m a lot more optimistic.

    Independence is not about raw nationalism. We live in a global environment where nation states work to varying degrees of success together or not. There is no good reason why a Scotland independent from it’s current political union could not work with other other nations in a global (including England, Wales and Northern Ireland) context dealing with issues such as a rapidly warming world where we are in fact NOT reliant on continued oil production forever if you actually look at what is being done in renewables in Scotland now and what the long term plans of the Yes camp are.

    I don’t agree that collective thinking is still anathema. I may have no problem continuing to be Scottish, British, European and a Londoner but there is also a part of me that wishes that everything could be like that John Lennon song and where we lived in a borderless world where we all worked together collectively working for a better world and where we could go boldly where no (wo)man has gone before. Wouldn’t it be brilliant eh? Well maybe that another referendum and another journey. This referendum is about leaving an idea of one nation and having another.

    There may well indeed have been a few people who have banged on about whether it was Alistair or Gordon who caused the global economic crisis but it’s all about the silly political game forced onto both sides. A bit like the ridiculous idea of basing your vote on whether we might be £500 a year better or worse off in five years time depending on which way you vote. Making arguments for the past or the future that way miss the point of the central argument.

    I would be very surprised if you don’t think the no campaign has been littered with scare stories and fallacious arguments. Perhaps you have misunderstood the reaction from the yes camp to questions you may or others have asked.

    Perhaps if I give you my personal response to those ‘beliefs’ you say have been built up.

    “A whole Yes belief system has built up around this: consistent signals from the EU that our membership would not be automatic
    No we actually don’t know if it would be or not but we will deal with it. It might take time but it’s more likely we will be let in than not. Do you not agree?

    “The rest of the UK tells us they don’t want a currency union”
    My response is not “don’t believe it” mine is so what? I think the official response has actually been let’s start negotiating when we get the vote in but mine is we will deal with it whatever. As I said before it’s worth it. (It is interesting though when you get treasury officials or indeed random Whitehall voices like Phillip Hammond saying there would be negotiation – but let’s see)

    Belief is a plan. Belief starts change. Belief is that if you take a white seat on a bus or stand in front of a tank that change may not happen for you but that change will come for those that follow. Belief is not a refusal to discuss and you misrepresent this whole movement as just a chorus of outrage and not having a real agenda. Have you read the SNP manifesto? The Green manifesto? Talked to Yes voters. These are very intelligent thought out documents and ideas whether you agree with any of it or not. There are lots of areas where there is a consensus of agenda which is why there are so many Labour voters voting Yes. So I reject you analogy of Tahria Square and the Arab Spring where there was unanimity about overthrowing Mubarak, but no consensus of agenda

    If we are independent we will have a parliament where both our votes will count and if that means we have a still energized electorate where we argue about what the agenda will be then bring it on.

    The non-factional nature of the yes campaign is very clear: Green Yes, SNP Yes, Labour Yes, non-party members yes and because James Aldridge YES and I’m NOT GREEN, NOT SNP NOT LABOUR but I believe I am part of a true grass roots coalition for change, for control, for real hope.

    On the upside: the civil revolution means that, whatever the outcome of the referendum, politics will never be the same again or maybe if it is a no vote that remains to be seen…

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  2. Words of wisdom from one of our best authors.
    The people we see at our local food bank will not benefit in any way if Yes wins the vote.
    Strength lies in cooperation and in numbers, not in a mad rush towards the unknown,driven by pledges and promises which do not bear scrutiny.
    The divisions which have erupted in our political and social landscape will need to be resolved ;I cannot understand the arrogance and complacency which led to the third option being thrown out.

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  3. “Belief is not a plan. Belief is a refusal to discuss.”

    As a no voter it worries me that belief has become almost the only acceptable currency for political change. It’s almost as if a vacuum has opened up in UK politics into which this has flowed and submerged people. We are all swimming in it now.

    Something has gone wrong somewhere.

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  4. Its unfortunate that Salmond is a lawyer rather than an Economist ! And its unfortunate that Cameroon, Milibland, Brown and Clodd don’t seem to understand economics and the state public debt either.. !

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  5. This could all unravel very fast ! The financial markets are completely unforgiving, ask anyone from Argentina or the Spanish, Cypriots (who had their financial assets confiscated by the state banks) etc.
    Scotland has moderate reserves of £17Bn . I read that it needs reserves of 140Bn, if that’s correct its a big ask for 5m ppl and a few indebted banks.
    As for UK finances the government on this side of the border are overspending and therefore waisting 1Bln every two working days. They (the financial illiterati in Westminster and Whitehall) are overspending the equivalent of Apple’s entire cash reserves every year – its quite unbelievable really !! haha .
    So much for Oxbridge degrees in PPE or classics etc, if you can’t do basic A level maths..

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