While the SNP demand clarity over what the ‘No’ campaign stands for, PAUL DEVLIN asks what the ‘Yes’ campaign is offering beyond the current platitudes.
It is instructive that recent comment and debate regarding Scotland’s constitutional future has focused intensely on the ramifications of Devolution Plus and Devolution Max, with both arguably being scrutinised more thoroughly than the SNP’s vision of Independence (or Indy Lite as defined by the Devo Plus group).
In fact, after the Devo Plus launch, a spokesman for Alex Salmond said:
“The Devo Plus launch reinforces the need for clarity, in place of the current confusion, about what No in the referendum from the Tories and other anti-independence parties means. This information needs to be in the public domain well before the referendum.”
Implicit in this is the suggestion that such clarity on Independence exists. Moreover, a recent Sunday Herald editorial stated that: “there is clarity on the meaning of independence”. However, while there have been pronouncements that Independence will rid Scotland of poverty and deprivation, the SNP’s position seems to be subtlety moving towards a basic position of it is better to have certain powers than not.
Whilst there is a certain amount of obvious logic in this, what is not logical is to constantly bemoan the lack of economic powers while at the same time propose that an ‘Independent’Scotland’s Monetary Policy would be decided by the Bank of England. Moreover, once a Parliament/Country possesses powers, the crucial issue is actually how it decides to use them. ‘More competitive rates’ of Corporation Tax inevitably leads to a race to the bottom while potentially benefiting owners/major shareholders of certain bus and media corporations.
Between now and the autumn of 2014 (as well as the date being leaked to a certain recently (re)launched Sunday newspaper, it should be remembered that Autumn 2014 was conveyed to Sky News before it was announced to the Scottish Parliament), it is crucial that the Unionist parties and especially ourselves in the Labour Party develop more detailed proposals for enhancing the Devolution settlement in the event of a No vote. However, it is surely incumbent on the SNP to offer a compelling vision of an Independent Scotland beyond platitudes such as “a country that does the best for its citizens” (Linda Fabiani), “A Fairer, green, more prosperous country” (Joan McAlpine) and a country which “can be a beacon for progressive opinion” (Alex Salmond). On the latter point, we need detailed answers on how an Independent Scotland would protect the most vulnerable in society, improve social mobility and reduce inequality, arguably the three pillars of Progressive Politics.
The debate between now and 2014 is not about anniversaries and our ability to host sporting events, it is about the future of our nation and what type of country we wish to be, both internally and in the global community. The time for platitudes and references to avoiding the war with Iraq (from someone who referred to humanitarian intervention in Kosovo as “unpardonable folly” and it should also be borne in mind that Devo Max and possibly Independence Light would entail a shared foreign and defence policy in any case) has passed. The debate which Scotland deserves needs to start with a clear outline of what a Yes vote would mean.
Paul Devlin is a Labour Party activist in Glasgow South CLP.