Scotland Undecides

I’m probably going to regret posting this, in case the cybernats and cyber-other-lot come piling in, but with six weeks to go, I do have to make a decision about how to vote in September’s referendum. Last night I actually hurried home from the pub in order to catch the big debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling (and does anyone else think ‘Salmond and Darling’ sounds like an unsuccessful pilot for an odd-couple detective series?) but sadly this just consisted of two men in suits shouting over each other and scoring debating points so after about fifteen minutes of amusing myself on twitter with the #ScotDecides hashtag I took pity on the other half and turned it off so I could cook supper instead.

The debate (in so far as I did follow it) turned mostly on the mechanics of who will have what after independence – the pandas, the pound, the oil – but to be honest, I’m not that bothered about all that. Whatever happens, an independent Scotland is unlikely to turn into South Sudan, although there’s a risk it might turn into, say, Ireland. Nor, realistically, is it going to become the land flowing with milk and honey that the independence campaigners suggest. It will sit somewhere within the spectrum of other wealthy western democracies – possibly a little poorer but hopefully a little more equal than it would have been had it remained in the UK. I can live with that. There’s a greater risk that the Rest of the UK will suffer from its loss – from an England left ‘locked in a room with Nigel Farage’ (as James Meek so vividly phrased it), to a Northern Ireland left seriously destabilised by the possibilities opened up by the break up of the UK. That does worry me a bit more. In fact, I’m beginning to feel that by moving to Scotland I’ve been accidentally handed rather too much responsibility for another country’s entire future for comfort, and my previous stance of planning to vote yes just to have one over on the Scots Nats when they assume I voted no on the grounds that I’m (half) English is looking a bit frivolous.

But seriously, how to decide, especially now it’s looking close enough that my vote might actually matter? Obviously not by watching the debate. There have been other debates and hustings held locally that have apparently been more illuminating, but I’m not sure I’ll ever make up my mind by listening to other people talk about it. I’m hampered by having no gut feeling on the matter, seeing as I’m not Scottish and – despite having been educated here for six years, and lived here for another six years – I know I never will be. There are some who would argue that we shouldn’t have a say in the matter at all, especially as there are thousands of Scots who won’t because they live in the rest of the UK – but then again, we’ve made a positive decision to throw in our lot with Scotland by moving here. If anything, we’ve got more of a stake than someone who returns at Christmas and wears a kilt to weddings but won’t be paying any of the extra taxes (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. In fact, if I thought an independent Scotland might go for a more redistributive fiscal policy I’d vote for it like a shot, but I suspect it will just squander the oil money the way the UK has done for the last 30 years while pretending we can have the public services of Denmark on the tax regime of the United States).

So short of tossing a coin in the polling station, how should I make up my mind? There have been competing pros and cons going round my head for a while and it goes a bit like this:

Pro: it would be exciting and interesting to be part of history, and live in Europe’s newest country

Con: that didn’t work out so well for the Crimea…

Pro: Scotland is much more egalitarian and instinctively left wing than England, so no fear of ever living under a conservative government again

Con: we will have a large and grumpy and possibly permanently right wing neighbour to our south

Pro: Scotland can pioneer new ways of doing things and we might end up living somewhere a bit like Denmark

Con: except that the economy will be heavily dependent on oil, which doesn’t bode well for it becoming a green cycle-friendly place

Pro: living in a small country means we can influence policy more easily as we’re all that much closer to the levers of power

Con:  the danger then is it’s all about who you know … I’ve seen enough of how things work close up to worry that we’ll end up living in a banana republic only without the climate for bananas and it won’t even be a republic.

And so on.

None of this is particularly helping. At the moment I’m leaning towards voting yes, just out of the human instinct to poke something to see what happens. I apologise in advance for doing this to what is not, at the end of the day, my country, although I do at least promise to stick around to suffer or enjoy the consequences.

What would you do?


24 Responses to Scotland Undecides

  1. Hi Sally,

    I would vote yes because

    1) we would be one step closer to closing the dangerous money pit that is Trident

    2) We’d get a written constitution, which for me is almost a deal-clincher all by itself

    3) We’d get out of the circuit of imperial London which sucks all wealth towards it like some financial black hole

    4) With all the talk of Scandinavia this and Scandinavia that we might sneak a cycling ethos in there – more likely that trying to do it in the UK

    See, I don’t really mind which currency we use, as the rich people will end up with all the money either way, but we could write a constitution that maybe equals the playing field a little. It’s pretty clear what “Plan B” and “Plan C” are – they are either using the pound informally or doing our own currency. I’m not sure why the SNP don’t just say that. And as for oil, it’s on the decline and would be better left in the ground, but again that’s not a deal breaker. The same would happen if we stuck with the UK. It’s not the only string to our bow up here.

    Anyway, I could go on, but that’s just some initial thoughts. I too thought the “debate” wasn’t much of one, and I thought the whole format was pretty dodgy as well. Whatever happened to “this house believes …” and the each party putting a case forward to persuade the listeners? I don’t think many will have been persuaded and the audience got to pitch in their own ill-informed prejudices into the mix. Unedifying all around.

  2. Difficult one.
    As one who has no connection with Scotland and has only ever visited twice it’s hard for me to say what to do what’s best for Scotland. I do wonder what the the possible consequences might be for those of us left stranded in England should Scotland leave the UK. If it’s true that without the Scottish vote England moves even further to the right than it is already and Scotland develops a Scandinavian style state then you may well get an immigration problem.

    • England’s immigration problem is Scotland’s solution to the problem of a small population. More immigrants, more taxes, more entrepreneurs, more small businesses, more prosperous economy.

  3. oftpaster says:

    I live in England about 3/4 of the time, and the rest in Scotland. I don’t get a vote, but I do have to live with the result.
    Two thoughts:
    1. Would the people behind the Edinburgh Tram System have anything to do with the government of Independent Scotland?
    2. (seriously selfish). I don’t believe that England would have another Labout government in my lifetime. I’m pretty old, but all the same….

  4. disgruntled says:

    PaulM – I’d be a tiny bit more optimistic about point 4 if the famous White Paper had mentioned cycling at all (other than to claim Scotland invented it).
    Nigel – yes, I’ve had quite a few ‘don’t leave us’ comments from friends in England. I’m sure there’s room for a few more up here if need be

  5. disgruntled says:

    @oftpastor – those thoughts have occurred to me too. But on the other hand, if Scotland makes a go of it, it might give England some inspiration…

  6. Not so sure that the Crimea is a good reference, the reason it was annexed by Russia was that the Russian were worried about the Ukrainian choosing to join NATO. Even if an iScotland were to be out side NATO I can’t somehow see it choosing to the Russian sphere of influence.

    As for oil, truth is, the economically reachable stuff is fast running out. On the other hand, Scotland already produces over half the UK’s renewable energy and does have the most ambitious CO2 reduction targets of any country. OK, so it keeps missing them, but that could change, if it were free to determine its own path (current UK energy policy is holding be renewable energy development in Scotland). So yes Scotland could become more like Denmark which gets >90% of its energy from renewable sources.

    I fully understand your point about influencing policy 😉

    The thing the whole UK, and not just Scotland, needs is constitutional reform. Decision making needs to be closer to the people and more democratic. The current situation where the Lords the world’s second largest decision-making body after China’s, remains unelected is something that desperately need to be reformed.

    In many ways those outwith Scotland have missed out in not being able to hear (or even be a part of) the constitutional debates which have been going on in public meetings across Scotland. All that has been reported at the National (UK) level, is the poor quality stuff that was shown last night. There is so much more to the opportunity that is before us, than what was on offer from those two.

  7. disgruntled says:

    I wasn’t being *entirely* serious about the Crimea, although if one of our powerful northern neighbours (Norway say?) sent in the troops it mightn’t be the worst outcome…

    • But Scotland does occupy an important strategic geopolitical location. The reason Trident is based in Holy Loch is because of its easy access to the North Atlantic and also a wide number of routes to get there unobserved, unlike say from the south coast of England.

      There are serious unanswered questions about whether rUK would be able to keep Trident if Scotland does vote yes. So the Crimea analogy isn’t to far fetched. The discussion around NATO membership has rather brushed this issue under the carpet.

  8. Bob says:

    Don’t you just *love* democracy? All those bloody decisions. No wonder we (in these parts anyway) have such low voter turn out. Too much thinking involved.

  9. Neil says:

    I’d vote for staying part of the Union if I had a say. Probably mostly from inertia – that’s what I am used to and I can’t see the advantages of splitting up. But i am English in England so may be biased. I hadn’t thought of the possible lurch right by the rest of UK – that is a worry.

  10. Andy in Germany says:

    I’d suggest that a written constitution is worth a yes vote: having lived 14 years in a country with one, I can say it makes a big difference to how the authorities can deal with individuals. It doesn’t make everything perfect, and it does take effort to gain access to the rights we theoretically have, but at least it does provide a foundation for a more fair society, and some of the chenges to the law in the UK, for example, would be unconstitutional in Germany, so vote ‘yes’ just for that, if nothing else.

    Maybe it would prompt discussion of having a written constitution in rUK?

    I think it could also be a good opportunity for Wales to step away from rUK, which is another excellent reason.

    And making it harder to maintain Trident would be good as well, as it is basically loeased from the US in any case, and why exactly does the UK need the ability to anhilate another country thousands of kilometres away?

    And as for Edinburgh Tram: hving trams in a city is an excellent idea: we seem to manage it in Europe without the cack-handed implementation that caused so many problems in Edinburgh.

  11. disgruntled says:

    @Bob – it is of course better than the alternatives! I make sure I turn out to vote for every election (even nonsense ones like for the health board) just because I know how hard won the right to vote has been.
    @Neil – I think it’s more about losing a large chunk of reliably left-leaning MPs in Westminster.
    @Andy – I’m actually (*gasp*) not that keen on the idea of a written constitution in the UK, not because it’s necessarily a bad idea if you’re starting from scratch, but just because I can’t see our current polity coming up with anything that wasn’t an over-complicated, unimplementable mess. Hopefully anything Scotland comes up with will be short and sweet and allow a reasonable amount of muddling through in practice

  12. I’m voting yes, for almost all the reasons that Paul Milne has listed above. Especially to get rid of Trident. I don’t care what currency we use, but I do want to be governed by politicians actually elected by the people of the country I live and work in. I was born in England, I’ve come to live in the country of my forefathers. We all come from somewhere else, but we’re here now. Let’s make it a great place to live.

  13. fonant says:

    I’d vote Yes, mainly as an instinctive reaction to Tories who seem so desperate that you vote No. What are they afraid of, if Scotland became independent?

    Perhaps also in the hope that a Yes vote would give politics in the UK a much-needed shake-up: vote Yes and then implement some form of proportional representation, and watch the first-past-the-post Tories in Westminster really start to sweat!

  14. John Gibson says:

    This is what the SNP do to people in Scotland.

    Good luck with your future.
    John Gibson

  15. Paul Gipson says:

    I think you are probably the first undecided I’ve come across, although that is probably because you are not really Scottish yet.

    The true Scot seems convinced that Salmond is either a saint or a lunatic who should be locked up. There is no doubt about the right decision and the other side are just ignoring all the facts. Unfortunately it is very reminiscent of debates in Northern Ireland.

    I’m not even a half-caste (but have been here longer) and still get a vote. Seems like it is between the devil I know and the devil I know.

  16. disgruntled says:

    @Alison – yes, losing Trident is a bonus, especially if it re-opens the question in the whole of the UK about replacing it
    @Fonant – given the spike in the polls for yes every time Cameron opens his mouth on the subject, you could argue he’s playing the long game and trying to eliminate a large block of Labour votes in one fell swoop
    @John – I’m no fan of the current Scottish Government, but independence wouldn’t mean SNP rule necessarily (in fact you could argue it would make it less likely)
    @Paul – yes there are some very entrenched positions, although I meet plenty of undecideds too.

  17. A few more points…

    For the last 50 years at least the vote in Scotland has not made a difference in what happens in the UK westminster elections. There are so many more voters and MPs in England than Scotland we’re just a drop in that ocean. So losing Scottish votes is not actually a big deal.

    Faslane. I suspect this is really the major reason the Westminster gov is really bothered. They can’t afford to relocate it somewhere and with the well known NIMBY factor, who’d have it? If the rUK were to lose Trident altogether they’d have to admit that they aren’t really the world player they like to think they are. Empire ended ages ago but the mind-set lives on.

    I’ve met a few undecideds who want to hear reasons on both sides. I’m pretty clear in my mind the advantages and disadvantages, and I’ve yet to hear a reason to vote No that trumps Trident.

  18. cripleh says:

    I want to vote Yes, I truly do, but my own personal circumstances come into play. I live in Gretna but work in Carlisle therefore I cross the border every day. I emailed Yes Scotland the other day asking how exactly this would pan out regarding what currency I’d be paid in and would I need a passport to get to and from work every morning. The reply amounted to ‘You’ll be fine but we can’t give you details on how’. Better Together painted a dark picture in which I would be paid in pounds which would be worth 24p a day back home and I’d have to give a blood sample to get across the border.

    It would probably have been far better if we were able to see exactly what the process would be from the 19th of September in the event of a Yes vote. Westminster would never do this however as they don’t want to appear to be entertaining Scotland leaving for fear it comes across like advocating it. The debate thus far sees Yes claiming roses and sunshine whilst No saying Hadrian’s Wall will be rebuilt and electrified overnight.

  19. @cripleh, this, like so many other things, will be subject to negotiation. There are loads of things we can’t know now that people are demanding to know. Yes campaign are assuming the negotiations will go well and be aimed at making things straightforward and easy. BT are assuming … well, I’m not sure what they are assuming. That England won’t be bothered about the good will of their neighbours and put every obstacle in the way? The current currency debate does not bode well on that score.

  20. misspiggy says:

    I’m English in England, but if I were in Scotland I’d vote yes. You’ll have a small population in quite a big land mass, with a reasonable amount of natural resources and human skills, plus a good prospect of being supported economically through EU membership or part-membership. Even if Trident remains in Scotland the English government will have to pay through the nose to keep it there.

  21. […] (without much help from the politicians while the summer seemed like it would never end […]

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