Who are We?

Radio Scotland’s Crossfire this morning provided an interesting and in many ways revelatory intervention from the Unionist of the day on the programme. Didn’t catch her name, but her interjection came when Andrew Wilson was discussing how independence would mean that in Scotland we would be able to take political action on our own behalf. At this point the Unionist interrupted to make clear that for her when she talks about “we”, she means the people across the whole of the UK and not Scotland.

I congratulate her for this intervention and the clarity she has brought to the independence debate. For despite the best or worst attempts by Unionists to divert media attention to other issues, e.g. currency, EU etc, this is what the referendum is all about. Who gets to vote and thus decide on the political issues that will determine, for better or worse, the future of Scotland?

I remember many, many years ago studying for a course on Politics with the Open University. Part of the course covered the conditions for the emergence of democracy. One of the more memorable quotes from this section was something like: Before the “people” can decide, there has to be agreement on who are the “people”. This it seems to me to get to the heart of the referendum. It is not about oil, currency or any of the other faux issues that Unionists would have us talk about. It is instead all about who are “We“?

For Unionists “We” are the people who live across the UK. On the other hand for those of us in favour of independence, “We” are the people who live in Scotland. It is after all the future of Scotland that is at stake. Why should people who do not live in Scotland have a vote in our future? The only reason one could vote no, is if you felt that the UK was more important to you than Scotland. Which is what the guest on Crossfire openly admitted this morning.

If only the rest of the Unionist campaign was so open and honest! The trouble for Unionists is that for the overwhelming majority of people living in Scotland, it is Scotland and its future which matters most. The UK comes a far second. This again is not surprising. For most of us living in Scotland it is the areas of differences that most affect our daily lives. Whether it is education, health, the law, local government, police, social work, transport or whatever, just about everything that matters most to us is already different in Scotland. In most cases it has always been different and since the inception of the Scottish Parliament the differences with the rest of the UK have become even more pronounced. Added to this the fact that in many other important areas of life, religion and sports or example, Scotland again has and always has had its own independent identity.

So for most of us living in Scotland, our natural allegiance is to Scotland, irrespective of where we originally came from. Allegiance to the UK has been on a steep decline over decades. Which is why Unionists try to avoid the democracy question – Who runs Scotland? We need to keep focussing on this simple question – who do you want to decide the future of Scotland? The people who live in Scotland or the people who live in the whole of the UK? If this is what voters have in their mind when they vote, then we will win with a very big Yes majority.

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