Sunday, 6 April 2014

What if there's a No vote, then?

It is an unthinkable thought, the aftermath of a No vote. It is of course a likely outcome and that is why we are doing everything to campaign for a Yes vote. Indeed the need to bridge a gap is an extra incentive the Unionists just don't have. However, let me now offer my own approach to an outcome that favours a No vote.



First, there's the immediate aftermath of the No vote, the disappointment and deflation following so many months of hard campaigning but then the gracious acceptance that the people of Scotland have decided, albeit through listening to too much fear and scaremongering, to TRUST WESTMINSTER to deliver for them. This wouldn't be a vote to stay friends with England and Wales, our friendship and solidarity with people south of the border, especially with the working class, should be regarded as a given in any circumstance. There are many ways to help out people south of the border, the word charity comes to mind, but to give up our sovereignty in the hope that electing Labour MPs will be enough to bring a change of culture at Westminster would take some sacrifice. There has to be a very compelling financial case to stop people in Scotland deciding enough is enough we're taking control of our own affairs now. But a decision to be say No to independence, whatever the case, is a vote trust the UK political elite with important reserved issues. The moment I hear Johann Lamont declaring 'the people of Scotland have voted to remain British' is the moment I'll be fuming because for many of us being British is more about a simple belonging to a place that is called 'Britain', that is Great Britain. For many of us being British simply means being English, Scottish, Welsh or a mixture.

But then once the weekend of the 19th-21st has passed comes the questions of what next? and weeks later our collective attention will start to shift towards next May's UK General Election. For me personally I know what I will do if there is a vote for the Union. Having devoted so much of my time to the campaign I will tune in to the coverage of the first 24 hours or so after the declaration and maybe watch FMQ's a week after the 18th. But after that, I can announce, I will withdraw altogether from following Scottish politics and that will continue for several months. What will be the point in following Scottish politics in the dying months of 2014? What will be the point when we we're just going to continue hearing pointless acrimonious exchanges. The cause lost it is better to take time out to recharge our batteries and spend our time thinking about other things that interest us. There is first of all the Ryder Cup to look forward to.

But we will return and I would be perfectly willing to work with the unionist politicians to help get the right deal for Scotland. But I would want them to recognise that we are not simply nationalists we do have a conscience for everyday politics. A vote against Scottish independence means we will have a lot to worry about as a nation. We will have chosen to stick with a Westminster system that may take us out of the EU. In that scenario the case for Scottish independence would be opened out once again. Personally, much as it would be to our advantage in the likelihood of winning a second independence referendum I do not want any part of our island to leave the EU so I would vote to stay in the EU. If the majority of people in Scotland do so it could send a message about the strength of our attitude towards EU integration one that may contrast with England.

There's no guarantee that further powers we have voted for will come into effect. There's no single cross-party vision for further devolution other than the flimsy Calman plans. For all that might be good about Labour's red paper (if there is anything) vainly calling the plans 'the Truth' won't hide the real truth that Labour might not win the next UK General Election. You have to win the election south of the border to win it at all. Can the voters of Scotland really take that chance? What about Ming Campbell's plans? It's supposed to be federalism but how do you sell that to people south of the border if there's nothing for England. I was once in favour of the union myself as a teenager but when I started to consider the possibility of a federal style UK having learned a little about how it worked elsewhere in the world, I realised that England was far too disproportionately big to be one state or province so it should have regional devolution. The unionists talk about solidarity with the rest of the UK but how can we really exercise that politically if we're not doing anything about decentralisation in England? And therefore how can we sell Ming's plans to the voters of the UK if they're not going to get anything out of a change that will to some extent affect them?

With different plans how can those who are not aligned to either party decide which plans to back? Ultimately it would be for the UK Government to guarantee these further devolution plans. If these plans depend on the election of a specific party at Westminster it's hard for many of us to endorse because we really don't want to have an opinion about which of the parties we don't support being the next for Government. Before the 2010 election I was generally in favour of the Liberal Democrats but they're now a party in crisis and how do I know they won't form yet another coalition with the Tories? I certainly don't want a Labour majority, Westminster should have a proportional system that means no one party gets an overall majority. Plus the chances are I will want to elect my local SNP candidate so cannot do that simultaneously to voting Labour in general. I hardly take kindly to Labour politicians telling me not to vote for the SNP just on the basis that it's supposedly a two-horse race between Labour and the Tories. If a Labour majority is just as likely as a Tory majority then so too is the middle ground of a hung parliament. Gordon Brown did consider a Lab-Lib-SNP coalition in the week after the 2010 election and that could have worked. I don't want Labour, however socialist they claim to be, to have everything their own way. Getting SNP MPs elected will help strike a favourable balance. So I am not going to be put off voting for my local SNP candidate unless I really feel the Labour one is exceptional. But at best Labour in Westminster would likely be the lesser of two evils.

So the Devolution Commission is a partisan matter for Labour which may or may not come into force. If there's an appetite for change in Scotland and across Britain I don't see what there is in any party's proposals. At least we know what we're getting with independence, the main so-called unanswered question is not much of a debate now: a currency union is going to happen whether its formal or informal and to make any changes common sense dictates that must happen through careful discussion first. Through a series of blunders two weeks ago, the No campaign lost control of the ball and now people are starting to think, well we are a nation, so why shouldn't we be able to govern ourselves. A bit of Scottish nationalism but it's enough to make people realise the case against independence has to be good enough to match what we could gain out of being a separate sovereign state with its own representation on the world stage.

The polls are tightening now but we still have to work hard to win the hearts and minds of the Scottish population. Yet the momentum is there and that is all that will be needed to weaken unionist knees as the common chatter becomes "Well, why not? We are quite capable of running our country ourselves."

 
The latest polling, early April 2014

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