Unionists need to deploy emotive, as well as logical, arguments in support of the UK, says KEZIA DUGDALE MSP
Three year ago, on my own blog, I wrote a piece exploring the difference between Diet Coke and Pepsi Max, concluding that they were essentially the same drink with a different combination of artificial sweeteners. Today, our country’s constitutional future hangs in the balance and soon we’ll all be debating the minutiae of saccharine versus sucralose.
I didn’t come into politics to defend the union. I am Scottish and British. They are not competing identities, but threads that weave the very fabric of who I am. I don’t consider my identity to be up for debate, but it now appears to be the issue of the forthcoming Parliament.
With permission, I’d like to throw two toys out of the pram before agreeing to play nicely.
Firstly, I don’t accept that the Scotland Act gives the Parliament the powers to hold its own conclusive referendum on independence. We forget at our peril its powers simply to “negotiate a settlement.”
That is an all-encompassing get out clause – the future of the BBC, the Army, consulates, currency, membership of the EU will all be debated in a referendum campaign but the hard facts and brutal realities can be parked until after the event.
Secondly, the SNP’s comprehensive win in May was both historic and compelling, but it is not a statement of growing support for either a referendum or independence, since both were so completely absent from their campaign.
But how very dare we let the facts get in the way of a good argument!
Here lies the danger for all pro union parties – if the facts bare little relevance to the debate, then we must sing with one voice in order to drown out the regimented war crys for independence from the SNP.
Perhaps it is time to abandon rational arguments and seek to build an emotional narrative around the positive case for the union. A bond. A relationship centuries old – where both parties have rights and responsibilities that they share for the common good. Through sickness and in health.
There’s little doubt in my mind that devolution is the settled will of the Scottish people, but I do worry whether the settled will is perhaps too settled to get off its bum and defend itself.
The SNP’s 2011 campaign was yes, built on “record, team, vision,” but the relentless positivity was also deliberate. It was laying the ground work for a referendum campaign built not on the premise of why independence. But, why not?!
Perhaps there’s merit in the Tories idea of presenting the country with a ballot paper with two clear options “yes to the union” or “yes to independence.” I’d personally much rather make a positive case for the union over a negative case for independence, but that’s just my nature.
Salmond’s command of all committees, the chamber and even the Presiding Officer’s chair suggests that any opposition capacity to influence the question is unlikely, but perhaps their good will as Government would last longer if they were seen to be more consensual on the big issues?
To avoid further suggestion of an “elected dictatorship“, why not give the power to set the referendum question to a Citizens’ Convention and demand all Scotland’s parties agree to adopt its recommendation, whatever it says?
It is in the interests of everyone that the result of a referendum is seen as conclusive, so if the SNP have so much faith in the answer, why not surrender the right to be judge, jury and executioner of the question?
Kezia Dugdale was elected as Labour MSP for Lothians on May 5. She worked for George Foulkes in the previous parliament and is a prominent blogger on the Scottish policial scene. Follow Kezia on Twitter at @KDugdaleMSP.
44 thoughts on “Is the Settled Will too settled?”
“To avoid further suggestion of an “elected dictatorship“, why not give the power to set the referendum question to a Citizens’ Convention and demand all Scotland’s parties agree to adopt its recommendation, whatever it says?”.
I presume that this “Citizens’ Convention” will reflect the composition of the parties in Parliament? Or do you have some other composition in mind?
The majority Government of Scotland will, as is right and proper, decide on the question they wish to ask the people.
Labour had their chance to contribute to phrasing the wording of an independence referendum in the last Parliament – they refused to do so, refused to engage in the referendum, refused to support the people’s right to have their say on the Constitution.
And now, after being utterly rejected by the Scottish people, you suddenly wish to have some sort of say in this conversation between the Government and the people?
This is an absolutely pathetic – and utterly transparent – attempt to thwart the clear democratic will of the people of Scotland. I wish you well in your first term at Holyrood. With petty, pathetic partisan political posturing like this, you won’r be getting a second.
“I presume that this “Citizens’ Convention” will reflect the composition of the parties in Parliament? Or do you have some other composition in mind?”
Perhaps it could be set up as a proportional to the number of votes each party received. Would that not be the most democratic method?
“This is an absolutely pathetic – and utterly transparent – attempt to thwart the clear democratic will of the people of Scotland.”
It’s actually quite funny watching you shoot yourself in the foot by raving on about democracy. The ‘clear democratic will’ shows that less than 50% (ie. a minority) actually voted for the SNP or other such nationalist parties. So why should should the minority have a stranglehold over the phrasing of the question?
I do suppose you, along with Kezia, roundly criticised the Labour governments of Blair and Brown who led majorities at Westminster on a minority of the vote?!
Like it or not, the Labour party designed the political system in Scotland: to then complain about that very political system when you lose, and mutter about ‘elected dictatorships’ is pathetic and banal in the extreme. Get a grip. Sometimes electoral systems produce governments with a majority – that does not make them a dictatorship.
As for talk of a ‘stranglehold over the phrasing of the question’ – would you say that is a same sort of ‘stranglehold’ that, say, Blair had over choosing to send soldiers to Iraq, or perhaps the ‘stranglehold’ that the Labour Party has in choosing Nuclear power, weapons of mass destruction, capitulation to the will of the rich, destruction and privatisation of public services (except when in opposition, of course – the Labour Party has demonstrated beyond doubt its ability to be hypocritical), etc etc? Or, as I suspect, is this just yet another example of a bitter, twisted Labour Party preparing itself to yet another bitter, twisted and thoroughly negative campaign?
isn’t it revealing that for all her talk on ‘a positive campaign for the union’ Kezia has no positive message to give? All she muster is more of the same… What an enormous disappointment – you’ve failed after only a month in the job!
The minority doesn’t have a “stranglehold”. The majority government – the only majority government in the UK – will set a question, it will be voted on by Parliamentary committees, and then will be voted on by Parliament. The Government is only one stage of a three-stage procedure.
If I was to talk about shooting oneself in the foot, I would mention that the Grand Unionist Alliance (which was so successful it has now lost all three of its leaders) had a majority in the last Parliament, and could have influenced (in fact, it could have dictated) the wording of a referendum then.
Labour were so utterly opposed to the people being allowed to express an opinion that they refused to do so. Talk about shooting yourselves in the foot. Perhaps it was just the arrogance of the Labour Party that made it feel that Scotland would meekly fall into line in May.
Labour refused to support a referendum. During the election campaign, you campaigned against it. You have no moral right – and no right at all in Parliamentary terms – to seek to influence its wording.
Labour was against a referendum (not just against passing it, but against even asking the question). If Labour had any shred of integrity of credibility, it would stay out of the debate on how the referendum should be held. Campaign for a “No” vote, by all means, but you’ve really lost any right to influence the design of the actual vote.
It is a lesson for Labour to learn for the future – never, ever again attempt to thwart the right of the people to express themselves (particularly when they seem likely to agree with you).
“It is in the interests of everyone that the result of a referendum is seen as conclusive, so if the SNP have so much faith in the answer, why not surrender the right to be judge, jury and executioner of the question?”
The only people who should be the judge of the question, Kezia, is the Scottish electorate. For you to try and claim some sort of moral right as an MSP over this process, to bend it to your will, is exceptionally arrogant. Let the SNP ask a question of their choosing – it is their right as a democratically elected government. The people of Scotland are perfectly capable of responding as they see fit, irrespective of whether it is worded the way you want it or not.
It’s actually quite funny watching you shoot yourself in the foot by raving on about democracy. The ‘clear democratic will’ shows that less than 50% (ie. a minority) actually voted for the SNP or other such nationalist parties. So why should should the minority have a stranglehold over the phrasing of the question?
If you dont vote you dont count SNP Majority of people who voted …thats how democracy works!
Devolution is certainly not my settled will.I voted YES in two referendums but not because I was prepared to settle for that.I took trhe view that devolution was only one small step in the right direction.I also take the view that independence is natural and normal.It is about taking responsibility for the claim of nationhood and the freedom to make independent choices and decisions.It is about restoring normal powers to our parliament,collaborating with other nations.It is international and outward looking.
Now I accept that Kazia Dugdale has a different opinion.I respect that,I just dont agree with her.Mostly the opinion polls show that supporters of independence and the union are both minorities.There are a lot of undecided people and we do not know how people will respond during a referendum.However ,those polls do suggest that devolution is not the settled will of many people.While I was impressed by Kazia’s speech in parliament,she spoilt it by referring to independence as being misguided.She presented it as an unexamined fact and I think it is an arrogant and disrespectful way of putting the alternative view.Ma ny of us see a direct correlation between independence and the opportunity to abolish child poverty.Whatever Kazia thinks,she should show more respect to her opponents.
You start off by saying “Firstly, I don’t accept that the Scotland Act gives the Parliament the powers to hold its own conclusive referendum on independence. We forget at our peril its powers simply to “negotiate a settlement.”
Then you say “To avoid further suggestion of an “elected dictatorship“, why not give the power to set the referendum question to a Citizens’ Convention and demand all Scotland’s parties agree to adopt its recommendation, whatever it says?”
You are correct that the Scotland Act constrains the wording of the question that can be asked – that is why the proposed question is phrased the way it is. So how do you propose to give a Citizens’ Convention the power to over-ride the Scotland Act? A proclamation?
Can I take from the comments by Kezia that Labour is now supporting a referendum on the future of Scotland? I had not seen any stories indicating this change in position and would appreciate clarification.
Perhaps rather than take the usual negative approach, Labour MSP’s might wish to submit suggested wordings for the referendum question so that they may be commented upon by the people.
I must say that I am surprised by the continued claims of ” I am Scottish and British”. Are we going to continue to see this during the referendum debate or are we going to see intelligent discourse on the future of our country?
Personally I am still waiting for one person to explain to me why Scotland’s future is better in the union than outside. I am not interested much in historical examples, but on clear vision for the future.
Isn’t it a bit difficult to present a positive case for the Union if one part of the Union – England – has never been consulted on its constitutional status within the Union?
What positive vision are you going to set out; a positive vision based on the ‘settled will’ of the Scottish people but not the English people?
The Union is a union of nations which needs a positive vision that all can sign up to. Scottish parochialism in which Scotland decides what relationship it wants with Westminster and England just accepts asymmetry is not a vision I’m afraid, it will just lead to further unravelling.
“Perhaps it is time to abandon rational arguments”
I thought that happened a very long time ago!
Cybernats – thank you for your input. Now move along and infest somewhere else. the name of the site is a clue. IF however it isn’t explicit enough for you, let me explain.
It is a place where we (labour folks) would like peace to discuss amongst ourselves our response to the political situation we find ourselves in.
While I appreciate that you are only trying to help us (in the spirit of bi-partisan cooperation) find our way, your help isn’t required.
Have a nice day.
What? You just want to talk to each other? Why then does Jeff Breslin have a guest article then?
You really, really need to get out more. Try talking to people instead of circling the wagons….
Here are, for instance, two reasons today that the Union is failing the Scottish people:
http://tinyurl.com/5tuj8xj which links to an article about nuclear safety of our atomic weapons and the disgraceful way that is being treated, and,
http://tinyurl.com/6e9mmcp which links to the completely new concept that you need two referendums to be independent. Who else was ever asked to jump through that hoop?
“While I appreciate that you are only trying to help us (in the spirit of bi-partisan cooperation) find our way, your help isn’t required.”
Given the trend in Holyrood election results, are you sure that’s true? Inward contemplation seems to be having, how can I put this, limited success so far.
I totally agree with you Altany, they are fast becoming a virus across any forum and website that is for Labour folk. This is what they do though……….they are right and everyone who doesn’t agree with them is wrong. They have stalked the internet for months with their opinions and trying to ram it down our throats. In my opinion this website is for Labour only, so I can re-iterate what Altany says………..move along! I fleetingly considered Independence but in the last year the thought of being a separate country with a bunch of pushy bullies does not float my boat! I’ve endured appalling insults and bullying in the last year over the net by SNP supporters with run up to the election. This is just the last straw that I come on this website wanting to discuss my party, Scottish Labour and to be confronted by a hoard of SNP supporters! What they aim to do is ruin this page……they think they have claim to Scotland, we Scots that don’t vote SNP or Independence are harrassed by many of them.
Elaine – thanks for persevering amidst the bonkers ranting of the cybernats. We’re taking a much stricter approach to moderation now, so that LabourHame becomes a nicer place for normal people who just want to debate the issues, not just sneer and bully their compatriots for daring to disagree with them.
I’m English not British.
I want England out of the UK. What’s so special about the Scots? They voted for the SNP to hold a majority in Holyrood? So what?
The SNP went into the 2010 general election with 6 MPs at Westminster and came out with 6 MPs at Westminster. An electoral humiliation in anybody’s language, especially after four years SNP rule in Holyrood.
Consequently, Scots have no more mandate for an independence referendum than we in England do. Simply having their own parliament is not a mandate for a referendum by any means. If so, then we English can have an English Parliament, seeing as 63% of people in England want one, as the average of reputable polls say.
63% of the 35% of Welsh voters who bothered to turn out for the Welsh Assembly referendum this year, opted for increased powers for their assembly. That represented 22% of the total Welsh electorate. What’s so special about the Welsh that they get three referenda, 1979, 1997 and 2011, on their assembly, but we English are still awaiting our first as a nation?
I’m sure we can rustle up 22% of the total English electorate to vote for an English Parliament.
So, let’s not bother with a referendum as it is a foregone conclusion, let’s have an English parliament now. Then we English can have a referendum on independence too.
I have said for many years that England should have it’s own parliament.
Then you can have your pocket money from London and spend it as you wish.
Roll on English indepenence
Is it true that the slang word in Scotland for a massive hairy sporran is “Barnett”?
You do realise that having just lost the election so spectacularly it might be an idea to engage with people outside of your shrinking party? If the Labour Party merely gazes at its navel then it will achieve nothing. It needs people who do not (presently) consider themselves to be “Labour folks” to vote for it. Most of the contributions here from what you deem to be “cybernats” have been quite constructive and polite. You might also want to consider the fact that this website appears to be an attempt to construct an online community (similar to the one you caricature) to compete with the voluminous quantities of discussion spaces for SNP supporters.
This sort of nonsense tribalism is symptomatic of one of the Labour Party’s many present problems in Scotland.
Stephen – given the quality of your contributions and you somewhat limited comprehension of democracy, I cannot help but wonder whether your second name is an intentional pun.
Yawn. The first ad hominum attack. Instead of resorting to misplaced smug superiority try answering some of my points lucidly.
I’m not sure “Is it true that the slang word in Scotland for a massive hairy sporran is “Barnett”?” strictly constitutes a “point”. If you want to be treated respectfully, might I gently suggest that you’re going about it in a rather stupidly self-defeating way?
Perhaps the intenal Labour debate should begin with “How can you be in favour of the incoherent Calman nonsense and be against independence?” Beats me.
Similarly, how is it that the Scots rejecting their Grand Committee and opting for a parliament is OK, but we in England are to be fobbed off with a dog’s breakfast of a Grand Committee with even fewer powers than Scotland’s had? How is it Scottish, Welsh and N. irish MPs are to be omitted from voting on English matters until a Bill’s 3rd reading?
“Incoherence” describes the LibLabCON precisely.
“And now, after being utterly rejected by the Scottish people, you suddenly wish to have some sort of say in this conversation between the Government and the people?
This is an absolutely pathetic – and utterly transparent – attempt to thwart the clear democratic will of the people of Scotland. I wish you well in your first term at Holyrood. With petty, pathetic partisan political posturing like this, you won’r be getting a second.”
New definition of polite obviously needed.
I suggest if my tribalism offends you, then you should go to one of the ‘voluminous’ discussion spaces for SNP supporters.
I did use the word “most” for a reason. The Labour Party needs to engage with the voters it has lost. If it follows the insular path that you suggest on this somewhat Bay City Rollersish attempt at a Scottish blogsite then that recovery will be a very long time coming. And believe me, I’m not offended in the slightest, just offering a constructive observation.
That’s the point. Labour hammered the SNP at the general election. Scotland returned a majority of Labour MPs to Westminster.
What happened was Scots voted for the party shoveling money into Scotland as fast as possible, led by a Scot, namely the Labour Party.
In the Holyrood elections Scots voted for the money-grabbing SNP. This was the Barnett blackmail vote, to extort more money out of the UK Treasury. If people are offended by by use of the word “extort” then consider Salmond’s SNP’s use of the word “filch” in relation to oil revenues. That’s pretty offensive to the rest of us, not only the English, and from Scottish government ministers no less.
With respect to navel gazing, this is pretty much how we in England regard Scotland, sitting there gazing at its own navel, muttering how much better a belly it has than the rest of the UK, raising its head periodically only to bellow “it’s our oil”.
I don’t see why the rest of us should be made to hang around for the navel-gazers to make up their minds whether they should be in a union with us or not.
Time “tae think again” and recognise that 55 million people in the UK should not be held to ransome by 5 million.
Having this destabilising constitutional matter hanging around for three years is no way to run a country, especially when 55 million people are left out of the debate and decision-making.
This matter is constitutionally way more significant than AV, but we still had an AV referendum foisted on us in England. This was only a Labour policy and Labour was bashed in England, so we had already voted against AV.
The one constitutional matter the English wnat resolved more than any other is the West Lothian Question, and most want it solved with an English Parliament.
“The one constitutional matter the English wnat resolved more than any other is the West Lothian Question, and most want it solved with an English Parliament.”
Do you have a source for either of those claims?
Secret plan to deprive independent Scotland of North Sea oil fields
The proposals included suggesting to Labour ministers, for whom devolution was a manifesto commitment, that progress towards a referendum should be delayed, in the hope that enthusiasm north of the Border would wane.
Labour lied to the Scottish people then and nothing they have done since shows no change.
Scotland has, to some extent, a sophisticated electoral culture, although it is not the brilliant secret fiscal scam that you appear to believe it to be. Most people vote as they believe that they are voting for the party that they hope will form the next government, and therefore the SNP has always struggled to gain any traction at Westminster post-devolution when supporters who are not party members can vote SNP and pursue their political objectives via Holyrood. Just because many of us north of the border do not believe that the Anglo-American economic and social model is preferable to Northern European social democracy does not make us either greedy or economically illiterate. We are just a different society in many ways. Therefore I believe that we would perhaps agree on a quite similar constitutional make-up of these islands.
“it is not a statement of growing support for either a referendum or independence, since both were so completely absent from their campaign”
What a load of tommyrot this is. I’d been led to believe you were one of Labour’s bright new hopes, but this is the same old disingenuous girning that led the party to humiliation. The only conclusion it’s possible to draw from such a ludicrous statement is that you’re saying the electorate didn’t know that the SNP stood for a referendum and independence. Which is so epically, embarrassingly stupid and feeble that you might as well just concede the 2016 election right now.
Well, let me start by saying that it is good to see this site up and running, even if many of the comments so far are rather predictable.
Since you rightly point out that the Scottish government doesn’t have the power to ask just any question, how is that to be reconciled with the wish to have a consultation on the question to be asked? The need to remain within the limits of the Scotland Act seems to dictate that the question is framed by legal experts. Does an exercise which is limited to simply picking one, and only one, question from a list of quite similar questions have any value?
Unfortunately, unless the rules of the game are changed fundamentally I’m not seeing how your suggestion can result in meaningful debate. And changing the rules may not be politically feasible. Having Westminster enact the referendum legislation, to allow a wider choice of question, is something which would require careful handling to avoid any appearance of being “tricksy and wrong”, as David Cameron said when rejecting demands for a Westminster-led pre-emptive referendum.
Scotland is neither going to leave the union by tricks and wording nor will it stay by the same. Both sides of the question are going to have to make their case and juvenile gamesmanship will only lessen the cause of the culprits.
If Labour and other supporters of the union (setting aside for the moment that between a quarter and a third of Labour voters support independence) want support for retention of the union, they have to make the case and convince Scots that they are better in than out. Hiding behind the Scotland Act or other Westminster legislation will only harden views and increase support for a stronger and more negative response from nationalists. The debate about a potentional end to the Treaty of Union will either be intelligent and aspirational or it will descend into juvenile name calling, threat and counter threat.
So far the debate has been free of violence, unlike other similar situations, and it is incumbent on all of us on both sides to keep it that way. Respect and dialogue will do that, insults and accusations will not.
With respect to my good friend from England, the decision is not yours to make. Like in a marriage, both parties must consent to continuing the cohabitation. Either party, unilaterally, has the right to withdraw should they feel that it no longer serves their needs. There is no right of veto for one on the other.
If England were to choose to end the union, Scotland would have no choice to accept that decision. The same holds true in reverse. The only debate is the terms of divorce, nothing more.
It is way too late to colour your site in Tartan-it only makes everyone think of the SNP.
It is not because they commandeered it either-you “Scottish” Labourites despised it, draping yourselves in the union flag.
Welcome to the debate. You will have a busy time defending the union in the coming months, and we need to hear the arguments. But what Scotland really needs is a Labour party which can put forward policies and vision for Scotland in the post independence world.
Labour used to have values and compassion which you could respect. That seemed to all go with Blair and Iraq. Time to find them again, and stop trying to appease the voters of the SE of England.
When Scottish Labour realises its future is not in the UK, it will come of age as a proper opposition, and perhaps even a party of government. Till then I’m afraid it’s an irrelevence, and speaking as an SNP member I worry about the poor quality of the opposition. Parties in a very strong position like the SNP today need a constructive but strong opposition to keep them from becoming complacent.
@Topher – you’re right, we need a decent opposition to the SNP government. Just look what they did in 2007 with the concordat; they managed to cut more money from services to the most vulnerable by winding up the Supporting People programme way before Osborne got into No.11. Services have been damaged for years by the SNP; the future they are making for the most vulnerable in Scotland is not a good one-and by extension, that will affect every one of us.
In seeking a reconciliation with the Scottish electorate and rebuilding trust with your supporters when can we expect a wholesale apology from Labour for the way in which Westminster MP’s concealed the truth as contained in the McCrone report of 1974 from the Scottish public for more than 30 years.
And I thought Labour were the only party accused of being backward looking! We are where we are. Scottish Labour needs to look forward, and thats what this site is about. If you want to discuss the past, go ahead – but this web site is probably not the best place to do it.
One thing we need to do as a party is produce a credible vision of our future energy needs – the oil is not going to last forever. It also needs to be something which is affordable too – fuel poverty is something which increased under the last Labour Government, and we need to do something about that – perhaps forcing supply companies to offer the best tarifs to customers using pre-paid meters (usually the lowest paid or those on benefits who can least afford it).
I struggle to get my head round people claiming to have both Scottish and British nationalities. I understand perfectly people who identify themselves as Scottish as opposed to being British. I can understand and accept why some people may prefer to say they are British rather than Scottish. I can understand people having dual Scottish and English national identities. But trying to be two conflicting and competing things, Scottish and British, at once just seems confusing to me. By identifying with a British nationality, surely all that’s doing is denying the very existence of Scotland as a nation. This relegates being Scottish to a regional identity, no different from being a Yorkshireman, Brummie or Scouser – all very distinctive identities, but not nationalities by any means. Perhaps the fact that unionists can justify this to themselves without explanation is why they are comfortable being unionists, and the fact that I need this point explained to me would suggest why I’m not.
I disagree with the sweeping statement “the SNP’s comprehensive win…. is not a statement of growing support for either a referendum or independence”. For quite some time more and more Scots (regardless of whether or not they support independence) are in favour of holding a referendum. It is right to say the SNP’s victory is not on its own necessarily a sign of increasing support for independence. However on the point of letting people decide their nation’s future I think there’s a danger of under-estimating the voters’ intelligence slightly, especially since the Scottish electorate has been called the most sophisticated in the world with good reason.
People voting SNP know perfectly well what they are voting for, and anyone who says different is burying their head in the sand. As well as being a clear statement that they think the SNP would make a better government than Labour (based on the Team and Record parts of the SNP package), the recent election result is most definitely a sign that people do wish to have their say on the future of their country (the Vision), a say that has been denied to them up until now by the combined London based Unionist parties. It’s welcome that Unionist parties finally appear to be coming round to the view that the people of Scotland should be allowed to decide. But I have to say that given their previous behaviour I’m slightly suspicious of the very sudden change of heart, the motives and the demands to hold the referendum immediately – rather than allowing time for a full and proper debate to take place with all the facts and figures – this all seems rather opportunistic.
Part of the problem for Labour is the perception – rightly or wrongly – that all their talented people see Westminster rather than Holyrood as the place to be. I genuinely hope that for the sake of politics in Scotland we do have both an effective government AND opposition for the next few years. The “opposition for the sake of opposition” tactics we saw between 2007-11 can no longer work in a parliament where one party has an overall majority, and with a large intake of new and talented young MSPs from all parties with fresh ideas, hopefully this will dramatically change over the next few years.
Turning to the Con-Dem part of the unionist alliance, the highly confrontational attitude that appears to be coming from the UK government at the moment can only play into the hands of the independence movement in the long term. If there’s going to be a great battle on the future of Scotland, rather than compromise and reasonable discussion with handover of new powers to Scotland in a calm and sensible manner, then I can only see one realistic winner with who the Scottish people will side with. And it’s not going to be the guy with the same name as the well known American documentary maker.
If I were a unionist, given the very strong position Alex Salmond is currently in, I’d be handling him very delicately, doing everything possible to try to pacify him, giving Scotland substantial powers (rather than the very limited transfer suggested by Calman which is only a very small step in the right direction) including the economy, broadcasting and the Crown Estate, and generally not stirring things up any more than necessary. I’d also do everything I can to try and stay as calm as possible and stay firmly within the realms of rational argument (take note!) Any emotional displays of unionism do have the very real danger of coming across as a sort of “Last Night of the Proms” jingoistic and imperialist show. If the union is to win, it can only do so by being cool headed and dealing with cold hard facts. Hasn’t the stiff upper lip been the British way forever anyway? And isn’t there something decidedly un-British in patriotically waving the Union Jack around in a way that Americans might see as normal for them to do with their Stars and Stripes?
For many Scots up until now their hearts have told them independence might be a nice idea one day, but their heads have so far always told them no, better stick with the devil they know. It could be argued that a lot of people are nationalists with their hearts and unionists with their heads. That could change very quickly if people can be persuaded to believe the nationalist rather than the unionist figures, and how much Scotland would be better off as an independent country, able to manage its own economy and resources properly. I see the Union as no longer much more than a loveless marriage of convenience that might have been of some benefit in the past but has well and truly outlived its usefulness. There remains very little emotional attachment, particularly for people of the younger generation. Independence is not from my point of view an end in itself, but the means by which we get our economy going, create jobs and make a fairer society for everyone to live in, which I think is the main reason most people of a social democratic persuasion get into politics in the first place. If the public start to see things this way too (which most nationalists have realised for a very long time), I’m certain they will have the confidence to go forward with independence in the next few years.
One goal of the independence movement will be to convince those people who are nationalists at heart but unionists with their head to become nationalists with their heads too. I believe in a few years time this will be enough to bring us slightly above the 50% of voters needed to win the referendum. They will have to highlight the possible benefits and opportunities that independence would bring, as well as being honest about the challenges we would face. An independent Scotland will not be the wonderful land of milk and honey some unionists like to think that nationalists believe.
Independence will not be the solution to all problems in Scotland, but it will give us some of the tools we need to solve many, but not all, of those problems for ourselves – and to solve these more effectively and at a more local level. Some other challenges will exist needing co-operation between Scotland and England and other European nations as EQUAL partners, which is a perfectly normal situation for neighbouring countries to be in. But it will no longer mean that one nation imposes its will, or is perceived as imposing its will without the consent of the other, which has been a major problem within the UK in both directions in recent decades. I have no doubt that the debate taking place in the next few years should be at a rational level with little place for Braveheart or Rule Britannia sentimentality on either side, and I’m optimistic that it’s a debate that is there to be won.
PS – One question raised is “to avoid further suggestion of an “elected dictatorship“, why not give the power to set the referendum question to a Citizens’ Convention and demand all Scotland’s parties agree to adopt its recommendation, whatever it says?” Did we ever hear demands for this during 18 years of Tory government, or 13 years of New Labour? Can we really afford yet another layer of elected democracy, and do we not elect our MPs and MSPs to take such decisions on our behalf anyway?
PPS – Alex Salmond (it is nice to use his full name sometimes even if others can’t bring themselves to!) does not command the Presiding Officer’s chair. Tricia Marwick was elected by the parliament as a whole, by a secret ballot that was not whipped along party lines. Given that the SNP form the largest group in parliament, it’s not surprising the new Presiding Officer is from that party.
I think the idea of Britishness is actually a result of our mongrel heritage. Its that mix of Scottish, English, Irish etc cultures. I consider myself British, because although I was born in England, my father was Irish, my mother half-cornish (a whole other seperatist movement there!) and this was confirmed by me marrying a Scottish lass (who also has Irish ancestory, though further back than mine)! Our children will no doubt think of their heritage as British – what better word to describe the mix that they will have been given.
300 years ago, there was very little of this mixing going on. People in Scotland could trace their lineage through the ages back to the picts, while south of the border having an ancestor at the battle of hastings was de regour. Nowadays, we are all mixed up – mainly through the industrial revolution, and the movement of peoples to find work, and partly through the immigration from commonwealth countries. The last 300 years of shared heritage has much to be proud of – contributions that might not have been made had England and Scotland stayed seperate.
By the way, with a grandfather (who died many years ago) having come from Yorkshire I can tell you they dont consider themselves to be a “regional identity” any bit as much the Scots do! I think he would have hated Yorkshire County Cricket CLub abandoning the rule about “foreign born players”!
Interesting to see the misspelled “ad hominum” here, because the only other poster I ever saw to a blog who insisted on that spelling was not English, but a Certain pro-Serb ex-Liberal who is definitely from up here.
Anyway, I have agree with others, I didn’t know Labour had employed a rational arguementin support of the Union, it seemed to me base, emotive fear mongering
“but the relentless positivity was also deliberate”
Kezia, this reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from your former boss, George Foulkes, when he becried the way the SNP were trying to govern Scotland for the benefit of its people: “they’re doing it on purpose!”
The undertone here alarms me somewhat. You’re either suggesting that positivity has no place in politics (which would make sense, since your party is relentlessly negative), or you think there is some sort of evil, hidden agenda behind the SNP’s positive message.
I have still not heard the arguement for those in the party (Labour) who do value being Scottish and want to return to traditional socialist values. It is not anti labour. I am not playing into the hands of the SNP. I want a Scottish Labour party who campaign for the people of Scotland. Do not assume we are all card carrying unionists.
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