Friday, 12 September 2014

Why all sides in Scotland should vote NO(T YET) to Independence.

I care passionately about Scotland and it's people, while I normally avoid posting political opinions on a running blog, I feel compelled to write a blog post about the Scottish Referendum on Independence as I a deeply troubled by the divisive nature of the debate and possible outcomes.

A Divided Nation is no way to begin Independence.

What is very clear is how divided Scotland's people are over whether Scotland should become Independent right now or stay with the United Kingdom.  You can't build a strong, prosperous nation on a divided society. 

If 51% of the electorate vote for Independence on September 18th with 49% against we will see Alex Salmond and the SNP attempt to take Scotland Independent.  Within such a scenario nearly half the population will be deeply unhappy with what is happening to the country they love.  Is this a good place for Scotland to be?

Given how close the polls have been it will be the floating voters that will swing it either way.  What happens if we go for Independence with a tiny majority and those floating voters have second thoughts.  We could easily have a majority of the population that is against Independence but have the wheels set in motion.

If we look to our Holyrood Parliament we'll see an equally divided place, only the SNP and single green party member of parliament are for Independence, while all the main opposition parties are staunchly against Independence. What would happen if the SNP loose the next election and one of the pro-union Parties or a coalition of them get into power at Holyrood?  Would that stop the process or hamper the process?  Or would they call another Referendum?

This is before we look at any of the uncertainties over negotations of what happens to the break up of various government bodies and services that span the border.  While the SNP might paint a rosy picture of how this will all go in Scotland's favour, the reality is that a rapid and unilateral break up will create a huge amount of turmoil and cost during the transition.

With the inevitable uncertainty and disruption a rapid break up will cause, will our population remain convinced that it's a good idea?  Will those floating voters change their minds?  What about businesses and investors?  With the close vote we are already seeing significant companies talking about moving down to England, the pound and the stock market have already been hit.  Business confidence can be a rather fickle and cruel thing, so the whole UK economy and  Scotland in particular, could be heading back into recession.

There are huge risks economically and socially associated with trying to go for Independence with such a divided nation.  It's very clear to me that the time is not right for Independence. 

The Right Way for Independence is to build consensus and co-operation

If Independence is indeed the best way forward for Scotland then the right way to go about it is to build a broad consensus for Independence across the people of Scotland, across all the main political parties in Scotland and with broad support from local and international businesses.

We would also need to work co-operatively with the rest of the UK, working steadily to build the capacity of our public bodies to take local responsibility for providing services.  Some elements will be able to move across easily and at low cost, others will take many more years to get right and cost much more.  Forcing these changes too rapidly will increase risks and costs so patience and long term commitment is required.

With areas like sharing currency where strong links will have to endure after separation we'd need to work with the rest of the UK to find a system of economic and political coupling that is able to maintain a resilient currency.  It may take quite a while to create the right political will across borders to make this possible, crucially it needs to be something that all parties will need to subscribe to, you can't force such things on other nations.

The good thing is that we already have a template in place for this process of gradually taking on more responsibilities in Scotland - we already have Devolution, something that was made possible by the UK government.  We also have further powers being devolved that have already been passed by the UK government, but not yet come into effect.

The UK government isn't some foreign body that lords over us taking away power and riches from Scotland.  The UK has been steadily giving powers to Scotland.  We already enjoy more local powers than any other part of the UK. All main UK parties have declared they are happy for more powers to move to Scotland.

Through Devolution the progression of moving powers from UK government to Scotland has been steadily occurring, we are moving closer and closer to full Independence.  It's happening slower than  Alex Salmond might want but it is happening no less.  The fact that it's happening steadily and co-operatively is a good thing, it means less uncertainty for people of the UK, less risk for businesses of rapid changes.

If parts of the Devolution don't work well then we can back track and have another go at later date.  Getting it right is the crucial part for me.

As Devolution progresses, our political parties in Scotland will have a chance to adapt to greater responsibility.  Evolution of political movements can take decades.  A steady progression also allows the Scottish population time to learn more about which powers we might need to share with the UK and which are appropriate to keep wholly local.

As things progress the end goal could well end up with 80% of population for Independence and all major parties backing it.  Once we get to this stage the last step will be off a mature base where already have the bulk of powers local. Cutting the ties will be less shocking to the people of the UK and business.

This slower route to Independence is the low risk route, building on co-operation and unity will be far more likely to create a stronger and more prosperous Scotland.

Saying NO to Brinkmanship and divisive politics

The idea that this Referendum is our only chance for Independence is quite simply a lie that the politicians are feeding us to try and force us to make a quick decision without thinking fully of the consequences or alternatives.  They want to win the argument no matter what the costs are to our Country.

The truth is that if we stick with Devolution we will still have the door open to Independence in the future.  If the will of the Scottish People moves to clear majority in favour of Independence then there is no way that politicians in Scotland and the rest of the UK would not respond.  We'd simply elect the party that promises the Referendum and it would happen.  It happened this time around with far less support in the population for Independence.

It might take another ten, fifteen or twenty years but we'd be all the stronger for it because we will have consensus in the population, and a timetable governed by rational decisions, rather than the ambitions of a single political party.

This consensus needs a need a new generation of politician to build it.  Right now we don't have a politician up to task of uniting Scotland as well as with the skill to not alienate all other parts of the UK.

We also need a new generation of politicians to develop in the rest of the UK as well.  We deserve better than the current crop.  The whole UK needs reform.  Scotland shouldn't be a special case, but a model for all parts of the UK.

We can't get there in a day though, we need to be patient with them, and for sure not respond positively to the type of crass, dishonest and divisive politics from all sides that we've been bombarded with over the last few months.

NO thanks or NO(T YET)

Whether you are against Independence or for Independence I believe the only safe action to take is to vote NO on September 18th.  If we are to eventually go for Independence then it should be from a platform where we are unified as a nation not divided.  This might take a while, but as we are already doing OK out of a Devolved Scotland the risks of few more years of being patient are pretty low.

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