Scotland is a nation that looks out at the world. We’ve given the world loads and readily absorbed external influences too. I think we work best when we interact and collaborate on a local, national and international level. When it comes to the UK, and our place – or not – within it, I want to rip it up and start again. I want us to become federalised, collaborative and cooperative.
The Yes Campaign’s positive optimism is infectiously impressive and evidently effective. As many people have pointed out, the No/Better Together Campaign have, for the most part, concentrated on a more negative and pessimistic approach, which is a much harder sell. However, there are, I believe, more positives to considering a No vote than for Yes.
I am a socialist. I believe in the power of society, of working together to help each other. I’m a massive fan of the welfare state, NHS and whatever might be left of the UK’s nationalised services (which I would one day love to see nationalised again – and if you can nationalise a bank that’s bigger than the whole country’s GDP, then anything’s possible). I am pragmatic about socialism, I think we should have a society which enables and encourages entrepreneurial enterprise, albeit tempered by a strong sense of responsibility and accountability.
As a socialist, I am not at all comfortable with nationalism. I believe we should be breaking down borders and thinking and acting as internationalists rather than separating ourselves. I have many Yes supporter friends who don’t like the SNP. (I would caution them to remember that while it may – or may not – be the case that the SNP don’t survive another election, and probably not with Salmond as leader, it is the SNP who will negotiate the terms of independence in the event of a Yes vote. That’s a lot of faith to put in the hands of a party you don’t like nor support.) My friends on the yes side support independence because they see it as a way to change what’s wrong with Westminster. I don’t think there are many people in Scotland who view the way Westminster has operated, and how it’s treated most of the UK outside of London, as being fair. But rather than turn our backs on the UK, leave our seat at the table and opt out entirely, I would rather we affect change from within. You have to be in the system to change it, I think.
I wish this referendum had asked people about whether they wanted independence or a form of devo max. However, that is pretty much what the choice is now. Whichever way the vote goes on Thursday, the UK will never be the same again. My hope is for a positive no vote and then the devo max dominos will cascade around the UK, bringing about empowering radical constitutional change.
Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales should all have devolved governments with maximum control over issues affecting our nations. There are suggestions that England should have a devolved parliament too, which isn’t a bad idea but for me it doesn’t go far enough. For me England has never sat well as a nation. People in the North East are very different from those in the South West. The Midlands, South East and North West all have their own distinct characteristics. And then there’s London, which operates like a city state anyway. The regions of England are more like individual nations. And each nation and region in the UK has its own character, but there is still a sense of Britishness that is common to everyone living on our group of islands. So to make that work efficiently and fairly as a country, each region in England should have its own devolved government too.
This has been suggested before. Now I think it’s essential. The UK would be comprised of a collection (nine, I think) devolved governments that all feed into a congressional government in Westminster where each of the devo gov representatives sits on an equal level and works together to make decisions that benefit everybody. Will this idea get any love from Yes? Possibly not, but I hope the undecided give it thought. The Yes side becomes negative when it comments on the opposition. There will be Yes supporters who decry these ideas as idealistic, unrealistic, uncertain and unachievable – all criticisms which can easily be made of the far from certain promises the SNP make for the pro-independence movement.
However, I believe we can all work together to bring about positive change. It is possible to do what’s best for Scotland and consider our fellow people around the rest of the UK. It’s possible to be proudly patriotic without being nationalist. I am excited about the prospect of real, radical reform. I hope for a positive No outcome at the end of the week and then I want us to set aside our differences, capture the positive enthusiasm for empowering change and work together to make it happen in a way that benefits everybody in the UK. That, to me, is an enlightened, Scottish way to act.
Dougal Perman is an entrepreneur and creative director of digital media production companies.