One quick final essay on Scotland before the vote starts…
1) One thing i love about Scottish law is the verdict Not Proven. It isn’t Guilty nor Not Guilty – it says the case is inconclusive. It is a wise 3rd option for a jury to have.
2) Rabbie Burns has a famous song lyric…
“We’re bought and sold for English gold,
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!”
Well, in my view the current crop of politicians are a parcel of rogues in their own right. The referendum is architected to suit the goals of politicians, not serve the interests of the Scottish people. It suited the SNP to adopt a Yes/No single response question, because they could then polemicise about those who might vote No as being not True Scots… hence shame or bully them into agreement. It suited David Cameron and the Tory government to have a Yes/No vote, because they felt it would scare those, who were thinking with their wallet or about their national institutions, and it would compel those, who were proud of the Union, into voting No. Both political sides thought that their interest was served by forcing the issue into a “your on one side or the other” position. In the end neither side really cared a jot for what might actually be the best approach for those that end up feeling the impact of the referendum – i.e real Scots (& English & Welsh) folk.
If i had been back in the UK and living in my Scottish homeland, the campaign i would have started would have been “NOT PROVEN”. And you know why? It’s because the case for either side is really Not Proven for the majority of Scots – most of us don’t really want to desert the folks across the border with whom we have so much in common, but many of us feel that there should be more responsibility for self-government North of the border.
On the latter note, one reason oft neglected for more devolved power is that we want to be able to hold those in power genuinely accountable for their frequent failings – currently the Scottish parliament opts for the political excuse “The Big Boys in London made me do it!”. Give them more power, so they can’t cower behind that specious message, but instead have to stand up and bear culpability when they mess up… and, on occasion, perhaps (after all it is politicians we are talking about) take credit for their positive achievements.
So, in my view, there should have been a 3rd option on the ballot paper and it would have much more suited the Scottish nature. There should have been a enhanced federalised option, where the Scots folk could have said “Aye, we like our fellow Brits, but we need to more accountability to ourselves”. Call it Devo Max, call it what you like, there was a 3rd way and it was one that would have garnered a lot of support. It would even have made sense to have it as a pre-stage for a subsequent full independence referendum. If Devo-Max won, then 10 years later another full independence referendum would be held.
My suspicion is the the SNP didn’t want this because it would have been too popular. Instead they sold out the interests of the general public for their more tendentious “Are you with us or against us” vote. But the Tory government were no better, don’t get me wrong. They assumed they could crush the SNP by scaring those not against the Union into voting No. They were perturbed about more federalism leaking into the rest of the UK and their centralised power being diffused. So they too disregarded what would have been to the benefit of the Scottish people and opted for Yes/No.
And both parties opted for a simple majority in this monumentous decision. Oh, it sounds good in theory, but just look at how close the polls are? So, if 50.1% vote Yes tomorrow and 49.9% vote No, then Scotland severs a 300 year-old nationhood based on the opinion of 10,000 people who up until they voted weren’t sure. The inmates are running the asylum, for sure… or perhaps more accurately the rogues are running the referendum. So there is and always was a floating majority, who could vote either way. Down to the agreement cobbled together by the political cabal, the very fate of Scotland and the UK rests upon tiny differences in opinion of those who aren’t sure in the first place.
This isn’t like electing a government. That works on simple majority, since 4-5 years later you can vote another lot into power, if it turns out the lot who scraped in are no good. This is a major structural upheaval to society, with the risks of severe economic turmoil for Scotland and even the rest of the UK. Rogues, indeed!
So, let’s say the vote is Yes by 0.2% of the vote and let’s say that some of the predicted negative economic impacts happen (they may not, but let’s say they do). So those floating voters start to feel the pinch and start to see business going South and they think “you know what i preferred being part of the good old UK”. Now, you have a change in what Scotland wants – at least when measured against the mandate for independence. Suddenly a majority are Pro-Union again. Well, how does that work? Do you break up a nation against the wishes of the majority? That seems an egregious act and wholly undemocratic. Yet, if the Yes vote wins, there is a very high chance that will happen.
Again, the self-serving political forces are responsible. An actual mandate for independence should require a clear majority – the US constitution requires a 2/3rds majority for changes of a certain level of import. Now that makes sense. If 66% of a country wants something, then you are justified in claiming that it is the will of sufficient portion of the people.
When the opinion of the populace is separated by 10,000 individuals, that is not a mandate to state “the people have spoken”. In fact what it says is the the people are clearly divided. They are as a whole unsure of exactly what they want: but someone has forced them into making a decision where they had to choose. And even in that choice, they could barely separate themselves one way or the other. Only a parcel of rogues could architect such a process to decide a nation’s fate.
To me the scandal in the whole referendum (whichever way it goes) is the way that political forces have manipulated the system to suit their own ends, rather than spent time and effort to create a referendum structure that really offered fair and due process to the Scottish people. And, one more time, both sides are equally as guilty in this – both felt their interests benefited in the “Yes/No divide and rule” option.
So, there isn’t the 3rd option that should have been offered; there is no steadier path to navigate to a reasoned referendum on independence; there is no actual requirement for the result to reflect the true coherent will of the people. Instead, Scotland has to wake up and to make a choice that a decent number of people will believe is not the choice they want to make, nor should have to make. However, if they don’t make one, then they aren’t even participating… and that would be even worse. That’s the last masterstroke of the politicians – how can anyone living in Scotland not vote? They will feel (for once) compelled to cast their choice, but for many without the option they would naturally gravitate towards.
In the end, i am disappointed about much with this referendum. The behaviour of many has been appalling: the aggressive bullying approach, the abusive ugly manners on display, the personal vitriol spat at people simply for holding a different view. For a country that spawned one of my heroes, David Hume, I am genuinely ashamed of far too many of its citizens.
But worst of all is that, whatever the results and though this time it wasn’t for English gold, Scots have let a parcel of political rogues buy and sell their future.
This referendum of the rogues is most definitely Not Proven