Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Why I'm voting No

I'd hoped to do better than this for what is my last post before the vote on Thursday but like Chris Deerin, this referendum has quite literally made me ill.  I was struck how different one's perception of all this depends on the little slice of the world one inhabits.  One of my oldest friends finds the debate to have been a largely good-natured discussion about the sort of country we want to live in.  He was genuinely shocked when I said I thought this has been about the worst thing I have ever seen happen to my country.

It was good to be reminded that all this depends on your Sitz im Leben.  In my street, for example, you could be forgiven for thinking this wasn't happening at all.  There's a couple of posters but those who decline to wear their hearts on their windows are in the overwhelming majority.  Canvassers there has been none, at least not when I'm in, which to be fair isn't that often.  But elsewhere my experience has been this debate has divided our nation quite bitterly with friends and family who normally agree on most things at each other's throats in a plebiscite that reduces complex choices down to a 'you're with me or against me' binary decision.

This, I accept, hasn't been the experience of others but I think the chances of a Scandinavian social democracy at peace with itself emerging from a narrow Yes vote are precisely nil.  I have no idea how many years of austerity would face an independent Scotland.  Deutsche Bank's Great Depression scenario seems unlikely but no more than the suggestion that hard times would last a year or three, as one nationalist colleague suggested to me.  I doubt Scotland would have a functioning independent state in that time-scale and would expect austerity to last at least a decade.  I would feel more relaxed about this if I thought I knew people were aware that this is what they were voting for but as I said here, all the evidence I have suggests that they don't.

This getting the opposite of what people think they're voting for forms part of the reason why I'm voting No.  You don't want to live in a country that has foodbanks?  Well, you better move to one that doesn't have any because you have them now and they are still going to be there if Scotland votes Yes.  Those who don't like austerity better brace themselves for what's about to come.  As for 'neo-liberalism', wait until you see the stance the government in an independent Scotland will be compelled to adopt to replace the capital that will surely flee.  And regarding Europe, people need to understand that a Yes vote is a vote to leave the EU with no prospect of re-entry if Scotland refuses to acknowledge its responsibility for its share of the UK debt.

But while serious, all these are side-issues as far as I'm concerned.  I'm voting No because I'm Scottish and British.  It's not an abstract concept or something that has been imposed but rather what I actually am.  Scotland is my home and so is Britain; it would break my heart to see an international border erected here. Independence would make more acute that feeling I've always had of not really belonging anywhere.  I appreciate this is a bit selfish but Britain is as close as I'm ever likely to get and I don't want to lose it.  The answer to those who say I can lose this common home and keep it at the same time is, I simply don't believe you.  I don't believe the nationalists are okay with with me being British.  They claim I can keep this while their activists spew venom at the very idea on the streets and across social media.

I don't want to get into a boring argument about how representative the goons screaming 'quisling' and 'traitor' into people's faces are.  Most people aren't political activists and most political activists are not crazy like this but there's enough evidence in for me to stick to my original position*: what we are being asked to believe is that in our case, nationalism will turn out to be something other than what we already know it to be.  I'm sorry if this is too negative but I just don't believe them: this is why I'm voting No.

*I hope Chris Deerin will forgive me for re-working his turn of phrase in the piece linked above.


water said...

I too am feeling ill about this referendum .MSM negativity about Scottish self determination (nationalism if your naw)

Unionists left Devo max off ballot paper,which would of united Scotland.Make it a stark choice and independence will crumble,It hasn't and now the country is split.

Only happy,vote is a day away.

Simon Fawthrop said...

"...but I think the chances of a Scandinavian social democracy at peace with itself emerging from a narrow Yes vote are precisely nil."

Not least because the people claiming that's what you will get don't understand Scandinavian economies. They are Capitalist free markets first and foremost, then they have high taxes. Sweden, for example, let Saab go bust rather than waste tax payers money propping it up, on the basis that if Swedes didn't want to pay for their their cars they wouldn't make taxpayers pay for them. Would the SNP (or the English left for that matter) have done that? I doubt it.

The problem is that the No vote now means something completely different than it did 3 months ago and there is going to be a big fallout because of the way Westminster politicians have been making promises on the hoof. A large number of people, including my wife who has no interest in politics, are now alive to the the West Lothian question and want answers. That's another Constitutional crises in the making as the McKay report has highlighted.

But even more of a problem for Westminster politicians is the recent promise to maintain Scotland's advantage with the Barnett Formula. I happen to think that in the great scheme of things it isn't worth worrying about, but I'm in a small minority and it is going to cause a political storm and not just in England who will feel they have to pay for it. The Welsh and Northern Irish aren't happy either.

Finally, after the negotiations following a No vote there will be a large section of those who were voted No who will be unhappy that they didn't get what they thought they we were promised and will add grist to the next referendum campaign's mill.

As the Chinese would say, we are about to live in interesting times, no matter which way the vote goes.

Al said...

The referendum has been divisive - but that's to be expected. We're debating the future of the country - it's important! Personally I'd be more worried if the issue had been met with apathy. At the end of the day many of differences in opinion (at least in my experience) are between close friends and family. These relationships are strong enough not to be diminished by this.

I agree Scotland isn't going to become a Scandinavian social democracy if it goes for independence. It will become it's own country, whatever that may be. Yes, Scotland will almost certainly be poorer in the short term, and it's true the Yes movement has little coherent vision (as is natural in any coalition). But I think we can be relatively confident the Scottish economy will be adaptive and continue to be highly productive in the long term. I also think there are good reasons to be confident that decisions taken closer to home will result in better governance than current arrangements. The SNP are in for a shock if they think they can put a lid on the political engagement that has grown over the course of the past two years.

I'm Scottish first, but I also have a British identity. Whatever the outcome tomorrow, it won't have much of an impact on this. For me at least, Britishness is a shared cultural identity which is not dependent on a particular political arrangement. Is there good reason to treat a Welshman or an Englishmen differently from an Irishman in terms of Britishness? If not, no reason why this should it be different for a Scotsman.

Mike said...

I specifically sought out Shuggy's Blog for the real objective & perceptive analysis of Scottish Independence and, as ever, Shuggy delivers. Sadly, I'm a disinterested Englishman, but never mind:
a) I'm hoping for a Yes win - it's the more interesting result and I don't have to live here. Romantically, on behalf of Northern England, take us with you. But intellectually, who's driving?
b) A Yes win is Salmond's worst nightmare. He wants New Improved Devo Max - it washes election shenanigans whiter than white. This nationalist stuff was just an electoral gimmick that got out of hand.
c) Cameron & the professional Tories will be glad to see the back of the more troublesome parts of the UK but "the PM that lost the Union" will be a black mark with the High Tories. He only campaigns here to boost the Yes vote.
d) The SNP will become the new Scottish Tories. The City gents can still visit to shoot grouse, the Royal Family can still visit their favourite castle and most of the land will still be owned by the same people. And Donald Trump.
e) You need your own currency & a floating exchange rate to avoid bankruptcy. No Euro, sterling, dollar, etc. Chasing tax-cuts & tax haven status will lead to bankruptcy.
f) I'm told Scottish nationalism is different from English nationalism. Welcoming immigration is a phase countries grow through, eg. America, Australia, England.
g) We have some failed Scottish banks we need you to buy back. And we'd like our share of the North Sea oil & gas revenue now. We've never seen any of it so you must have kept it.
h) Well, goodbye, thanks for Robert Louis Stevenson and all the best.

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