Tag Archives: Scottish referendum

UDI may be needed

Brexit still dominates the media, even though nothing of substance is likely to happen in the next few days or even weeks. So, a bit of space to reflect on one aspect of the other issue of major concern to us – Scottish Independence. I refer to the possibility of a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI).

Some proponents of independence are in favour while others seem to want to rule it out completely. In this post I  look at the circumstances in which a UDI may be the only way forward.

I start with emphasising that Independence will only happen when a majority of people living in Scotland have voted for this outcome. So, to be clear, I am most definitely not talking about imposing independence on an unwilling public.

There is probably general agreement that a referendum is the most appropriate way to determine if there is a majority in favour of independence. If the UK government were to agree to another independence referendum, as in 2014, this would almost certainly obviate the need for a UDI.

However there is little sign that this or any UK government will agree to this. 2014 was not the overwhelming endorsement of the U.K. that Unionists were hoping for.

If the UK government continues to oppose a referendum then the pro-Indy movement needs an alternative. Otherwise we are allowing Westminster a permanent veto on independence.

The alternatives seem to be 1. a referendum without the consent of the UK government; 2. using a Scottish parliament election as a substitute referendum. Both pose their own difficulties, a legal challenge against a referendum for example. However it would be extremely difficult for a UK government to stop a parliamentary election.

It is my contention that one way or another voters in Scotland will be given another chance to vote for independence. If there is a clear majority in favour of independence, what next?

The hope is that faced with this clear democratic expression of public support for independence the UK government would begin negotiations in good faith. This may well happen. However we need to seriously consider and be prepared for a refusal on the part of the UK government to accept a positive vote in favour of independence.

It is in this situation that I believe that a UDI needs to remain an option. I am under no illusions that a UDI would be a difficult option. It would also pose serious problems for the UK government. The threat of a UDI may be enough to demonstrate that people in Scotland are serious about securing independence. However if the UK government refuses to recognise a democratic vote in favour of independence then what is the alternative?

This is my challenge to those who want to rule a UDI out, what is your alternative?



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Scottish independence – a pragmatic choice?

The possibility that there might be another indy referendum sometime in the not too distant future has brought out again some of the arguments for independence.  In particular the prospect that to secure victory in the next referendum we will need to broaden our support to include more of the middle class has upset a few folk. That some financial industry types are beginning to talk up the prospect of Scottish independence seems to have really frightened a few more.

The reason for this is that for many, particularly on the left of the political spectrum, independence is seen as primarily, or often, solely as a pragmatic choice. At this moment in time independence offers the real prospect of advancing the interests of the working class and/or making Scotland a fairer and more equal society. But what if this were to change and these new middle class converts to independence were to dominate politics in an independent Scotland?

It is an interesting question, though I fail to see what it has to do with independence. No matter where you live if you want to build a fairer, more progressive economy and society you have to campaign for it and to persuade a majority of your fellow citizens to vote for parties committed to these policies.

Independence doesn’t change this. What it does change is the people you have to persuade and convince. With independence this becomes the people who live in Scotland. This is the whole point of independence, for any country. It is not and can never be about particular policies.

It does seem to me to be a bit strange to argue that the people of Scotland should be given the power to decide policies, but only for the next few years. If after, say ten/fifteen years the people of Scotland have failed to live up to my expectations I will – what? Campaign for Scotland to rejoin the UK? Campaign for Scotland to join Denmark or whatever other country is deemed to be at that particular moment suitably left wing/progressive?

The choice of voting for independence should never be a thing of the moment, a purely pragmatic decision. Independence is a choice for the long term, if not for ever. I wrote about this way back in 2012, which you can read here, and my conclusion then still stands today.

Scotland the country, Scotland the land has existed for centuries with its own distinctive customs and laws. It is on the basis of its continuing existence as a distinct entity – a state – that I support Scottish Independence. Let it be us – the people of Scotland, wherever we come from – who decide our future.



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What’s the point of a pro-indy majority at Holyrood?

Quite a lot has been written, and no doubt will continue to be written, about how best to achieve a pro-independence majority in the Scottish parliament. Should independentistas vote SNP on both the constituency and the regional votes? Or should they give their regional vote to one of the other pro indy parties – Greens, RISE, Solidarity? With the SNP still riding high in the polls, some argue that a regional vote for them will be wasted. So it would be better to vote tactically for one of the other pro indy parties. Others argue that tactical voting for the regional seats is just impossible. No one can really know in advance, and certainly not at this stage, just how well or poorly the SNP will actually do in the constituencies.

I find most of this to-ing and fro-ing a tad irritating. Just for the record I will cast my regional vote for the Greens. Nor out of any attempt at tactical voting, but because I am convinced by (most) of the policies offered by the Greens. On the other hand if you prefer the SNP, you should vote SNP both times. What is missing from all of this is just why a pro indy majority in the parliament is so important?

Again, to be clear, a pro-indy majority is important as only a pro indy majority can initiate another referendum. However is that all there is to it?  Another referendum may be a necessary requirement for independence, but the main challenge in the meantime is to persuade as many of the 55% who voted No, to change their minds. Having a  parliamentary majority to hold a referendum is not much use if we have not at the same time succeed in persuading a majority of the electorate to vote Yes.

My concern is that none of the pro indy parties are coming up with ideas on how to move forward. What can the next Scottish parliament and government do to move the debate forward? I would suggest there are at least four key areas in which the parliament can take the lead – a constitution, the transition to independence, the economy and international recognition.

An independent Scotland will need its own constitution. There is no reason why work on this cannot begin now. In Catalunya, their new parliament with its pro indy majority has established a study commission on a constitution. We could follow this line and set up a select committee of the parliament to prepare a draft constitution. An alternative would be to set up an independent Commission to develop a constitution. In both cases, an essential part of the remit would be to involve the public as actively as possible in the generation of the constitution. Any final decision would be taken by the parliament as a whole and then by the public in a referendum.

The transition to independence following a Yes vote in a future referendum will involve significant legal changes and some intensive negotiations with Westminster over important matters such as the national debt etc. The White Paper for the referendum outlined the range of issues that would need to be resolved. However the White Paper, necessarily, was just the proposals of the SNP. There is a broader pro indy movement, and it would be good to see all of this movement involved in discussing and preparing for a future transition to independence. Again this could be via a select committee or an independent Commission.

The economy was by broad agreement the area were the YES movement made least progress. This covered worries about the affordability of pensions, the importance or not, of North Sea revenues and the currency issue. Too many voters were unconvinced by our arguments and were more inclined to be swayed by the assertions of doom coming from the No side. Before any second referendum we must have first convinced a clear majority of the soundness and long term stability of the Scottish economy. Work needs to begin now. And this work needs to involve as many people as possible. Parliament and the government need to establish how this work will be done and to oversee it. This will ensure the work has credibility. Much preliminary work has already begun, but it needs to be brought together in one process.

International recognition was another area in which the YES side failed to convince a majority. Doubts about Scotland’s continuing membership of the EU in particular dominated much of the campaign. What I found most surprising was that the YES side had not managed to get any significant support from EU bodies nor from other member states. I find it hard to believe that everybody in the EU parliament or in all the governments and parliaments of other countries were adamantly opposed to Scottish independence.  After all in 2006 all the EU member states, including Spain, recognised the independence of little Montenegro, after its independence referendum. Not only that but newly independent Montenegro was almost immediately accepted as a candidate for EU membership. Unanimously, which means that Spain also voted to accept Montenegro.  It still seems incredible to me that we allowed to go unchallenged this notion that the EU would welcome Montenegro with open arms, but would reject Scotland. We need to find a way of establishing and maintaining formal and informal links with the EU parliament and the parliaments and governments of the other member states. The objective is to get at least some of the other states to publicly state that an independent Scotland would be welcomed within the EU. Similar links should also be established with other countries, especially with the USA and Commonwealth countries. It should not be too difficult to persuade the many countries that have become independent from Britain to support the wishes of the people of Scotland as expressed in a referendum.

I am strongly of the view that the new parliament, if there is a pro indy majority, needs to quickly get moving and establish select committees, Commissions or whatever, to carry out the necessary preparatory work for establishing an independent Scotland.


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A Year On – Still Yes

With the first anniversary of the referendum upon us, it is as a good a time as any for a bit of reflection. Like just about everyone who participated in the Yes campaign I found it an exhilarating, exciting and rewarding experience. We failed to convince a majority of our fellow citizens, but we did convert hundreds of thousands and the momentum was clearly with Yes. This momentum has continued and it is the pro independence side that remains the more buoyant, determined and optimistic.

I share in this determination and optimism. I remain convinced that independence is the right way forward for Scotland. My reasons remain the same. Basically that the key decisions about the future of Scotland should  be taken by the people who live here. It’s all about democracy and taking responsibility for our future.

I reckon that a majority of Scots also share this position. Alas, we did not convince enough of them that Scotland was economically viable as an independent country. Worries about our long term economic viability were expressed in many ways. Fears that an independent Scotland would not be able to afford the pensions for older people. The fear that many businesses would leave the country. Allied to this the fear that if Scotland was out of the EU this would damage our economy. The worry that Scotland was too dependent on (declining) revenues from the North Sea. Finally, fears about the currency of an independent Scotland – what if Westminster said no to us using the pound?

All of the above factors were influential in creating a climate of fear about the economic prospects of an independent Scotland. They were together the main weapon of the No campaign. In this they were ably abetted by our very biased media, who kept up a constant barrage of scare stories and fears throughout the referendum campaign. So I agree with those who believe that it was the failure to convince more people about the long term economic viability of an independent Scotland that lost us the referendum. It is many ways a wonder that we managed to convince so many, given the hostility to our campaign.

Where I part company with many on the economy factor is that I do not believe that the currency was in itself the crucial factor. A factor yes, but for me, no more important than the others mentioned above. From my perspective, currencies are just not that important. Just about all the independent countries in the world have their own currency. Yet the economic performance of these countries ranges from the abysmal to very good. Equally there is no clear pattern to discern from among the few countries that either share a currency or just use someone else’s currency. Greece, Ireland and Portugal have all had economic woes, but so have lots of other countries with their own currency, including our very own UK.

What was damaging in relation to the currency question was the uncertainty that surrounded it. Would Westminster agree? How strong or weak would an independent currency be? But this was the same with all the factors around the economy.  There was uncertainty about the EU, about just how rich and viable Scotland was. Uncertainty is the name of the game.  Uncertainty applied as much to the UK and staying in the UK. But nobody in the media was prepared to pose these questions or rigorously challenge the Unionists on the long term viability of the UK in either economic or social well being terms.

My central point is that we still have much work to do to convince No voters that Scotland has the resources to be a stable and successful country. I am disappointed that we did not do better on this score. I still feel that we should have done more about international comparisons. No two countries are the same, but Denmark and Scotland do have a lot in common in terms of geographic location, size and population. I am no economist and no expert on Denmark, but I find it impossible to work out just what natural advantages Denmark has over Scotland. Yet nobody, not even in the No campaign would suggest that Denmark is not one of the most successful countries in the world. Nobody ever suggests that Denmark should not be an independent country on the grounds that it is too small and too poor. So why did we not challenge Unionists to demonstrate with evidence why Scotland, unlike Denmark would not be similarly successful?

The economy has to be the key issue for winning a second referendum. Independence will only come when a clear majority of Scots have confidence in the wealth and resources of their country. The perilous state of the UK economy and its uncertain future should offer us fertile ground for building the general case that Scotland has all the resources needed to be a stable and successful country. This will not be about specific policies, but about the basics of the economy – the rich range of natural and human resources at our disposal.


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Another Referendum?

Lots of people it seems are getting quite excited about the prospect of another independence referendum in Scotland. In large part this is due to the double outcome of the recent UK election – a massive win for the SNP in Scotland alongside the return of a Tory government at Westminster. Some people are keen to start a campaign to put pressure on the SNP to hold another referendum in the near future. I think this is unwise. First of all because the SNP made it clear that this election was not about another referendum. For them to suddenly change their mind on this would be severely damaging to their own credibility with the Scottish electorate. But more importantly to call for another referendum without the confidence that we will win would be disastrous for independence. To lose another vote close after the first would set back the prospect of independence decades or more. It is jut not worth it. We need to take a bit of time and think carefully about when and how we can demand another referendum.

55%+ This was the winning share of the vote in the last referendum and just about everyone has regarded this as a clear victory. Particularly those on the No side, who have made much about 55% being a substantial and clear result. 55% was also the target set in the Montenegro referendum in 2006.  Independence was achieved with 55.5% of the vote. Interestingly the rest of the world recognised this result, including Spain! This then should be our minimum target for a future referendum. I know that 50.1% is legally a win, but we should aim for much more. 50.1% can hardly be claimed to be the settled will of Scotland. Independence is not something to be taken lightly. I want a clear majority of my fellow citizens to be convinced of independence. That way we can all confidently move forward. 55% should become our base line. No talk about another referendum until we are convinced that we can get over this figure.

60%+ In any future referendum we can expect once again the whole might and machinery of the British establishment and their allies in the media to be thrown at us. Project Fear will be resuscitated and if possible doubled in resources. We must be prepared for some people to be swayed by this fear factor again. Hence the 60%+. We need to have the support of well over 60% of the population before thinking about calling another referendum.

Consistent support will also be a requirement. I would want polls to show over 60% in favour of independence for at least a year and preferably longer. This lead also needs to be stable. It is no good if polls fluctuate widely with some over 60% and others much lower. Remember, losing another referendum is not an option.

The above outlines my views on the level of support for independence we will need for another referendum. This will determine when that referendum could be held. There is also though the not so small matter of who has the right to call another referendum and on what basis. It would be nice to just call a snap referendum when you are 99.9% certain you will win, but that is almost impossible to do. Other than expecting to win, there has to be some kind of justification for holding another referendum.

The SNP has raised the notion of “material change” into the debate. This is suitably vague, but the actual material change that is deemed serious enough to give rise to another referendum would need to be accepted as sufficiently serious by a clear majority in Scotland. Otherwise there is the risk that many voters would be alienated enough to vote No again. Voters do not look kindly on being asked to vote on someone else’s whim. This means that there is a second hurdle for us to overcome before calling for another referendum. The justification for the referendum has to be accepted by a majority.

There is one final hurdle to overcome before another referendum. That is who can legally call one?  The SNP long argued that the Scottish Parliament had the right to call one. This interpretation of the Scotland Act was vigorously challenged, and not just by Unionists. When the last referendum did come about it was by virtue of an agreement with the UK government and legislation passed at Westminster. The fact that the SNP agreed to this, leads me to believe that the SNP had themselves come to the conclusion that Holyrood does not have the legal right to call a referendum on what is still regarded as a reserved matter, i.e. the constitution.

Our new masters at Westminster have made it pretty clear that they will not allow another referendum in the lifetime of the current UK parliament, which is due to run until 2020. It does not look likely that either Labour or the LibDems would favour another referendum either. Though both these parties are so weak and likely to remain weak well after 2020, that their views are not that important. While things change and we cannot rule out the possibility that the Tories might agree to another referendum, I doubt it very much. They only agreed to the last one because they were super confident they would  win and win by a mile. They got a bit of a shock. The next time, another referendum would only be called when the SNP was super confident of winning.

In these circumstances, with polls consistently, over a number of years, showing a big, big vote for independence, the UK government might, just might, realise the game is up and concede gracefully. I wouldn’t bet anything on it though. UK governments are not known for acting gracefully. At least not until after the event. If the UK government were to stubbornly refuse another referendum against the clear wishes of an overwhelming majority of Scots, what then? The only option I can foresee is that the next election, UK or Scottish, is turned into a plebiscitary election. If a majority of the electorate vote for parties in favour if independence, and this vote is over 50%, preferably well over 55%, then the Scottish government declares independence.

This would work, both domestically and internationally, provided that there was a large enough majority for independence in Scotland and the UK government was seen as denying Scots their right to a democratic vote.  At present we are a very long way off from this possible outcome. As I have outlined above we are also a very long way off the conditions for calling for another referendum. We need time to increase support for independence so it becomes the clear and settled will of well over 60% of all Scots. Much work to be done.


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Post referendum – some initial thoughts

The final result was a disappointment. There is though, no need to get too despondent. The opposite is indeed the case. We on the Yes side have much to be proud of and though we failed in our objective this time, there are many encouraging signs to be found in the campaign and the vote.

A great triumph for democracy and voter participation
Not everyone gets the chance to vote for independence. Just ask the Catalans! The referendum campaign inspired hundreds of thousands of Scots to get active, get involved and get better informed. This was shown in the voter registration and the high turnout. The Yes side contributed massively to this achievement.

Historic high for Independence
With 45% of the electorate on a very high turnout of 84% this is a massive step up for the pro independence movement. Considering where we started from, in the mid to high 30s this is great progress. The other gain is that many of these voters will remain activists in future campaigns.

Most age groups voted for independence
This is some more excellent news for the future. Only two age groups, the 18-24 year olds and the over 65s voted No. Unfortunately the 65+ group is both a very large group and a group that tends to get out and vote. This time 73% of them voted No. However not to put too fine a point on it, this group is not the future of Scotland. I am part of this age group and only too aware of this. If we can keep the other age groups on the Yes side the momentum is towards a majority for independence.

No significant gender gap
This was one of the major themes throughout the campaign – women were much less likely to vote Yes than men. Much was made of this, but when push came to shove there was only a tiny difference – around 3%. Perhaps in the future we can put this one to bed.

Working class areas boosted the Yes vote
This is one of the stand out features of the results. The four council ares that return a majority for Yes are all predominantly working class areas – Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire and my own Dundee. Well done to the fabulous four! However many other councils with large working class populations came very close to delivering a Yes majority. In Inverclyde for example the Yes vote was 49.92%, while North Ayrshire recorded 49% for Yes. Other councils where the Yes vote was above the 45% overall score included South Lanarkshire, Renfrew, Clackmannan, East Ayrshire, Falkirk, Highland and the Western Isles. Apart from the last two, all the others are predominantly working class areas.

A good night for RIC
Much of the credit for the higher than average Yes votes in these councils must go to the work of RIC. Regular canvassing paid off in Yes votes. Though RIC initiated and pushed this part of the campaign, the success was not due just to RIC. The Greens, Socialist party, unattached individuals and let us not forget many members of the SNP, including MPs and MSPs also played their part.

Very bad night for Labour
Difficult for Labour to try and deny this, the results in the councils mentioned above were a disaster for Labour. Large swathes of Labour voters have decided in favour of independence. They no longer trust Labour on many key issues, and the party will struggle to win these voters back. This is a constituency that the pro independence side must retain. Which can only be done with a clear left wing alternative.

Not too good for the SNP
While the overall result is good and a new high for independence, the high Yes votes were not in the traditional SNP areas, with the exception of Dundee. Areas where the SNP have done well in Holyrood and local elections all voted No, often by quite large majorities. This will cause some consternation in the party. The SNP still seems to be most voters’ first choice as the government of a devolved parliament in large parts of the country, the North East for particular. However there is little sign that this success is translating into votes for independence. If we are to win independence the other non SNP voices will need to play a more prominent role.

Lots still to do
The last minute panicking by the Unionist parties has opened a veritable can of worms for the UK. Making solemn vows to the people of Scotland will soon come to be seen as the easy bit. Delivering anything worthwhile may prove not just difficult, but almost impossible, to quote the not much missed Senhor Barosso. With English MPs likely to say No to everything and the Welsh and Northern Irish governments wanting more, Unionists may come to regret winning the referendum. We on the other hand must keep holding them to account and exposing the contradictions at the heart of their vows. As the Catalan activist Maiol Sanaüja commented, either the UK becomes a real federation or it implodes. Let’s help it implode!

Keep going
Life is full of disappointments, so we must let this one hold us back. I hope most, if not all the wonderful pro independence campaigning groups keep going in one way or another. A fairer and better Scotland is still to be won.

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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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Vote Yes to join the world

The basic and most important reason for voting Yes is that only independence will enable us to extend and complete our democracy. The proposition is simple. Collectively, we, the people who live in Scotland will be ones who will do the best job, over time, of making Scotland a stronger, fairer and more successful country. Full democracy means that we will have to take responsibility for our relations with the rest of the world. This for me is one of the more exciting prospects that will come with independence. For it is only with independence that Scotland will be able to fully participate in and contribute to all the international bodies that are relevant to us and our future.

To some extent this already happens. Usually missed by our Britnat friends, Scotland is already an independent country in most sports, with our own, direct representation on the key world and European federations. No-one, not even those in the No campaign questions this. Political independence will mean we can build on this experience and secure our own, direct representation in all the other international organizations that interest us.

Some will be obvious and pretty uncontroversial, such as joining the United Nations, World Health Organization, World Trade Organizaton, the European Union etc. Others will be a bit more controversial, such as joining NATO. However away from the big world and continental bodies, an independent Scotland will be able to join some of smaller, regional organizations. Two immediately spring to mind – the British and Irish Council and the Nordic Council. With Scottish independence, the British and Irish Council will have the opportunity to become a more important and meaningful body, representing as it will three sovereign states, alongside the devolved administrations of Wales and Northern Ireland. Perhaps the time will come for England to be represented in this council.

The Nordic Council is still a bit of an unknown entity in Scotland. Despite the best efforts of Lesley Riddoch and Nordic Horizons. Yet Scotland has a lot to gain from closer co-operation with our Nordic neighbours. I wrote a post about this way back in 2009, which you can access here. As I wrote then Scotland should apply for observer status with the Nordic Council irrespective of the result of the referendum. Independence of course will mean we can opt for full membership. The key point is that with both councils, Scotland has much to contribute and equally, much to learn from the experience of our neighbours. The great advantage of independence and the chance to join other groups is that this sharing and learning will no longer be filtered by the lens of Westminster and London.

Freeing ourselves from this Westminster/London centric view of the world will be one of the major benefits of independence. And not only at official, governmental level. Independence is likely to have a major impact on the media in Scotland, both print and broadcast.  Whatever becomes of the BBC post independence, the big, big advantage for all of us it that it will not be British and will no longer be run from London. We badly need a broadcasting service which is open to developments around the world and does not automatically treat what happens in England as of prime significance. As many commentators have pointed out Scotland is much closer to the European norm in education for example than is England. Our broadcasters should reflect this and keep us more informed about how education and other public services are delivered and financed in the rest of Europe as opposed to using England as the preferred benchmark. While our Nordic neighbours would seem obvious territory for greater coverage, I am sure we can learn from developments in countries as far away as Australia, New Zealand, Venezuela etc. Once free from looking at everything through the filters of London, everything becomes possible.

Changes in broadcasting are likely to happen almost immediately after a Yes vote. However the print media world may take longer to change. Though change it must. Detailed coverage of Westminster politics will soon cease to have much significance in an independent Scotland. This should open up new possibilities for Scottish based and hopefully, Scottish owned newspapers.  Other relatively small independent countries, such as Denmark, Ireland, Switzerland etc all manage to sustain quality newspapers which combine in-depth coverage of national developments with good coverage of international affairs. Who knows, some of our budding journalists might welcome the chance to cover changes in Germany, Scandinavia, France, Canada etc, instead of just toddling down the road to London. We desperately need a media which informs us of developments from around the world which are relevant to the key issues in Scotland. A responsive and responsible Scottish media may be one of the most welcome if unexpected benefits of a Yes vote.


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More patronising nonsense from Cameron

Another day, another lightning visit from David Cameron. And yet more empty promises along with the by now obligatory scaremongering. I will leave it to others to unpick the veracity or lack of, in Cameron’s alleged promise of more devolution after a No vote. The most obvious response of course is, if more devolution is such a good idea why not deliver it now? After all you are the Prime Minister with a clear overall majority at Westminster.

Instead I want to focus on the bit in his speech where he referred to the referendum as a major life decision. Which it clearly is. However Cameron rather gave the game away with his analogies. Here is what he said, “This referendum is a major life decision – and you don’t make one of those without getting all the information you can. You wouldn’t buy a house without getting a survey done. You wouldn’t choose a car without an MOT.”

This pathetic analogy only shows how little Cameron understands what is happening here. First of all we are trying to get all the information we can. It is patronising in the extreme to suggest we are not. It is even more patronising to infer that he, David Cameron is someone we should trust for information. It would really help enormously in this task, if all the main media outlets, including the BBC were not so irremediably biased and do not even attempt to provide a balanced coverage. It would also help if your government were to provide some real facts and information instead of just scaremongering. You could for example formally request the European Commission to report on the legal position if Scotland votes for independence. But no, much better to rely on the discredited Barroso to issue threats to Scots.

Secondly and if anything even more patronising, is the comparison of independence with buying a house or a car. Independence is not about buying something. How typical of a Tory to reduce the right to self determination to a monetary transaction. As someone once said, He knows the price of everything and the value of nothing! I have news for you Mr Cameron, we do not want to buy anything. To continue for the moment with the house analogy, Scotland already is our house and we already own it. We just want to be in full control over the future of our house. We’ve done the surveys and we are fully aware of just how resource rich our country is. And we are pretty determined that these resources will in future be used for the benefit and wellbeing of the people who live here, and not be wasted by Westminster on Trident, wars of aggression and propping up the City of London.

Mr Cameron continued on the theme of major life decisions with the following, which is both patronising and ignorant. “And you shouldn’t make a decision about changing your nation – forever – without knowing in full what the consequences may be.” I am not at all sure how you would go about changing your nation. Assuming that anyone would want to. It should not need pointing out, but as Mr Cameron seems to be rather ignorant on this matter, we must let him know that we don’t want to change our nation. I personally don’t think much in terms of nations, but to the extent that Scotland is both a country and a nation, then Scotland is our nation.

Certainly the UK is not a nation. It is a state, but it is not a nation. Otherwise why all the talk about the UK as a multi-national state?  Cameron, not for the first times seems a bit confused on this matter. Britain isn’t a nation, it is not even a state. Britain or Great Britain is part of the UK. The other bit is Northern Ireland. Memo to Mr Cameron, just think of the full name of the UK. It is a pity that Mr Cameron did not enlighten us on what the hell he meant with his reference to changing our nation. But enlightenment does not seem to be Mr Cameron’s strong point.

We do however want to change our state. In both senses of the word. We no longer want to be part of the UK state and instead want to live in an independent Scottish state. We also want to change the nature of that state. We want our Scotland to be a fairer, more equal and more democratic country with a sustainable economy which works for all of us. That’s the real change we want and that only independence can bring.

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The Joys of Yes

_63052357_016047950-1As Referendum Day comes ever closer, it is time to step back a bit and reflect on the extra-ordinary nature of this campaign. For it is truly unlike anything ever seen before, not just in Scotland, but I suspect anywhere in the UK. I am, I have to admit, old enough to remember what passed for a campaign way back in 1979. This referendum was for a pretty unexciting Assembly and the campaign was suitably drab and uninspiring. It was much better in 1997 and this applied not just to the referendum campaign itself, but to the campaigning in the years before. There were lots of public meetings and leafletting. I can remember Jim Sillars addressing a packed out meeting in Anstruther. There was also another well attended meeting in St Andrews which featured Ming Campell and George Galloway, both advocating a Scottish Parliament. However even the 1997 campaign was nothing like the current one.

What really stands out this time around is the sheer number of grass roots, community based groups who form the bedrock of the Yes campaign. These groups are organizing public meetings, events and activities in just about every town and village across Scotland.  While there are Scotland wide bodies, such as Yes Scotland itself and others like Labour for Indy, Radical Independence, Women for Independence, National Collective etc, the main work is being done by local groups staffed by local volunteers. This work includes canvassing and leafletting to street stalls, Yes Cafés, public meetings, pub quizzes and goodness what else.

What is emerging from all this is that there is an enormous appetite among most people in Scotland to get engaged in this debate.  Most people are excited by the prospect of independence. Some are still not sure, a bit worried if we really are rich enough. But they want to know more and the more they know, the more likely they are to vote Yes. The other aspect of this campaign that stands out is the enthusiasm and joy of those working for a Yes vote. People from just about all backgrounds, ages and from all political expressions from the left to the right are working together in harmony.  There are differences of emphasis of course, but all parts of the Yes campaign are willing to share platforms and meetings and to treat one another with respect and even to enjoy themselves.

It is not just in public meetings and events that the Yes campaign is engaging with the wider public. This can also be seen in the range of articles, reports and analysis coming onstream. I am not here referring to the Scottish government’s own publications or those commissioned by them, but to the work produced by the various campaigning groups mentioned earlier and by the immense range of blogs advocating independence. To mention just a few, the Jimmy Reid Foundation is in the process of producing a series of reports on what an independent Scotland might become; National Collective produce regular articles and reports from the perspective of the artistic community, while blogs such as Wings over Scotland and Bella Caledonia offer daily comment and analysis on the developing campaign.

There is nothing remotely comparable on the No side. The No campaign reminds me of nothing more than an old general election campaign. Led from the top with an almost exclusive focus on elderly, white, male politicians. The preferred setting – a TV or radio studio or a closed door meeting. It is also clear that the No campaign is financed and led from London. Better Together, though it has Scottish front men, seems to take its orders from elsewhere. The main party leaders at Westminster have agreed to work together to save the Union. Though on the ground and in the streets it has proved almost impossible to make this work. The fact of the matter is, Labour, Tories and LibDems just do not get on well together. In fact they probably hate each other almost as much as they hate independence. Where is the joy on the No side? Where are the people of Scotland?

This general election feel to the No side is also reflected in the way the media are covering the debate. They are only too happy to limit and control the debate to what goes on in studios. BBC, STV and the print media like to think they are influencing the campaign, when in truth they are both distorting and ignoring what is actually happening. Not used to covering and reporting on grass roots, popular campaigns in the UK, they seem to have decided to just ignore what is happening on the ground in Scotland. Driven by their own Unionist, Britnat bias, they have been left floundering. This is most obvious in the London based media, where only sporadic glimpses are allowed into the nature of the debate up here. Most of the time Scottish independence is still dismissed out of hand as something silly, romantic, backward looking, if not just an outburst of anti-Englishness.

The vibrancy, the positive ideas, the inspiration, the visions of a different and better Scotland all come from the Yes campaign. This is what both the No side and the media in general have missed and probably not anticipated. And it is this enthusiastic engagement with what an independent Scotland can become that is making a Yes vote more and more likely.

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