Tag Archives: alex salmond

Promises of Additional Powers and the Fire that Didn’t Go Out

It might be tempting to think that the latest promise of additional powers for the Scottish Parliament would deliver the reality that the unionist parties consider to be best for Scotland – a stronger Scottish Parliament within a secure and stable United Kingdom.

Note that until this last minute promise was made, we had been led to believe that the best of both worlds for Scotland was a strong (not a stronger!) Scottish Parliament within a secure and stable United Kingdom. We already had it, we just didn’t appreciate it.

So which is it? Probably neither. It is difficult to understand how the Scottish Parliament could be strong at all when the United Kingdom Parliament retains the right to legislate on any devolved matter it wishes, let alone dissolve the Scottish Parliament within a matter of days if it felt the need to do so.

The offer of additional powers is just a cynical move designed to discourage the people of Scotland from reclaiming sovereignty, without which the notion of a strong Scottish Parliament is an illusion. A strong Scottish Parliament would be a permanent institution serving a sovereign people; that cannot happen inside the constitutional set up of the United Kingdom and there is no point pretending otherwise.

(For example, this is why the unionist rebuttal of the Scottish Government’s warning that the NHS can only be protected within the written constitution of an independent Scotland is misleading – it doesn’t matter if the NHS is fully devolved or not when the United Kingdom Government can still legislate on any devolved matter it wishes to.)

Alex Salmond is a very clever politician and like most clever politicians he often indulges in the type of spin and rhetoric that leaves even the most able opponent unsure if they are coming or going. Despite that, I think he is absolutely spot on this time. The last minute promise of additional powers for the Scottish Parliament is a sign of panic in Westminster.

I remember someone warning me once that you should never turn your back on a fire. You would never know for definite that it had gone out. A fire of discontent has been smouldering across working class communities in Scotland ever since Thatcher dismantled Scottish industry in the 1980’s and used North Sea oil revenues to subsidise this devastating programme of decline.

Successive United Kingdom Governments have had an opportunity to extinguish it once and for all, but instead they all chose to ignore it. A last minute promise of additional powers will only appeal to those too wealthy to have been affected by Westminster’s negligence in the first place, or to those too spooked by the perceived risk of constitutional change. For the rest of us, hopefully the majority of us, that particular fire didn’t go out.

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How to Defeat Independence with a Joke and an Inaudible Mumble

Alistair Darling and Blair McDougall should hang their heads in shame this morning, mindful not to let their Dunce caps slip off in the process.

Alistair Darling should do so because he likened the leader of the only democratically elected Government in the United Kingdom to North Korean Dictator, Kim Jong-il.

And Blair McDougall should join him because he happily promoted Darling’s New Statesman interview, in which he was also reported to have said that the SNP represented not civic nationalism, but ‘blood and soil’ nationalism.

It doesn’t matter that the comment attributed to Darling was subsequently corrected by the New Statesman. What matters is that the Campaign Director for Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom, McDougall, promoted the original version of the interview on Twitter, in which it appeared that Darling had made that comment.

Having corrected that part of the interview by attributing the ‘blood and soil’ comment to the interviewer in the form of a question, with Darling replying ‘At heart…’ followed by an ‘Inaudible Mumble’, we are left wondering exactly what he did say in response to the ‘blood and soil’ comment and why this blunder was allowed to happen in this first place.

And apparently, Darling comparing the First Minister of Scotland with the North Korean Dictator was simply poking fun at Alex Salmond’s comment on UKIP winning a European Parliament seat in Scotland, courtesy of English television beaming them into our homes every evening – ‘it was a joke, and should be treated as such’, according to a spokesman for Better Together.

In other words, the interview consisted of a joke and an inaudible mumble – and that would appear to be the basis on which the people of Scotland should be persuaded to reject the right to make all of their own decisions.

Many of the arguments churned out by the Better Together campaign are nothing short of nonsense, and ridiculous interviews by twits like this only serve to remind us that they should be treated as such.

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George Galloway’s Fears for Catholicism in an Independent Scotland

I find it difficult to understand why George Galloway’s upbringing as a Roman Catholic in Scotland has led him to fear Scottish independence.

http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/political-news/galloway-attacked-for-snp-catholic-slur.21116305

Fair enough that Galloway opposes Scottish independence and fair enough if he wholeheartedly believes in Scotland’s place within the United Kingdom and everything that it entails.

But it just seems strange to me that he would want to construct an argument against independence on the strength of his perception that there are sufficient numbers of ‘loyalist sectarians’ in Scotland to present a danger to Scottish Catholicism, if located outside the framework of the Union.

Worse still that he felt it appropriate to draw the troubles recently faced by Neil Lennon into the equation.

Not that the latter’s experiences weren’t symptomatic of the type of religious and racial bigotries that spoil certain parts of Scottish society.

It is just that Galloway’s reason for making this particular reference looks more like a cynical attempt to plug his book on Neil Lennon, rather than a means of supporting a coherent and robust anti-independence argument.

And for Galloway to go on to mention that the SNP has an anti-Catholic mentality in its roots – referencing William Wolfe – is to ignore the clear and unambiguous support that Alex Salmond has previously given for faith schools in Scotland and their benefit to Scottish society:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/salmond-let-s-celebrate-catholic-schools-rather-than-grudgingly-accept-them-1.828354

To argue against Scotland having the autonomy to make its own decisions based on an attitude of the SNP’s Convener in the 1970’s is an absolutely pitiful attempt to divert attention away from what Scottish independence is actually about, and raise fear and consternation in the hearts and minds of Scotland’s Catholics.

Agreeing that Scotland should be an independent country is absolutely not equivalent to embracing the policies, views and attitudes of the Scottish National Party, neither currently nor historically. The SNP may not even be part of the governance of an independent Scotland. It is about embracing an opportunity to make Scotland economically stronger and socially better than it ever will be within the United Kingdom.

George Galloway has the right to express his opposition to Scottish independence. But to oppose the right of a country to regain its autonomy by stirring up fears about Scottish nationalism historically crossing over with anti-Irish Roman Catholicism is completely unfair.

Not only does it reveal his lack of faith in Scotland’s ability to build a successful, progressive and inclusive future on its own intellectual merits and using its own natural resources; it also betrays his ideological preferences for a political and economic framework that helped build the social context within which Scotland’s distinctive brand of sectarianism took root and flourished.

George Galloway warned that we should ‘be careful what we wish for’.

But perhaps he should be more forthcoming about what it is he really fears.

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Catholic Schools, Religious Discrimination and Racism

There has been another recent burst of interest in the problem of anti-Catholicism in Scottish society.

Opinions vary on how prevalent it is and whether it is in fact a significant problem or not. Some think it is, and believe they have evidence to that effect, whilst many others disagree.

Within the context of these discussions, the existence of state funded Catholic schools has come up again as an important talking point. Questions have been raised as to why they are funded by tax payers’ money at all, and how much of an effect they have on the enduring problem of sectarianism in Scotland.

In discussing these issues, I think it is instructive to look back for a moment, and compare the way in which Catholic schools figured in public debate at the beginning of the 1900’s, around the time of the Education Act (Scotland), and how they figure in similar debates today.

It is instructive in the sense that one of the deepest roots of today’s objections to their existence may be traceable to this earlier period, during which they took a slightly different outward form; a form that could perhaps throw some light on a question I struggled with in an earlier blog – whether sectarianism is a form of racism. The merit of understanding the answer to this question is that it would help shape the type of solutions we ought to be putting forward to eradicate this type of bigotry from society.

The common objection to the existence of Catholic schools today is that they contribute to the problem of sectarianism in Scottish society by breeding a subconscious segregation psychology at an early age based on religious differences, a situation that is made worse in the eyes of the objectors because these schools are funded by the Government.

According to 2010 figures, there were 373 state funded Catholic schools out of a total of 2,722 schools in Scotland. The Scottish Government’s position on Catholic schools is positive and supportive. The view is that they play an important part in our society and parents and pupils should have the choice to attend one if they want to. They also tend to have very high achievement records.

Despite such Government support, in his Cardinal Winning Education Lecture in 2008, Alex Salmond described the general attitude towards Catholic schools in Scotland today as one of grudging acceptance at best, and outright hostility at worst:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Speeches/Speeches/First-Minister/cardwinlecture

It is an attitude that was passionately expressed by Scottish Conservative MSP, John Lamont, during a parliamentary debate on the Offensive Behaviour and Threatening Communications Bill in 2011, in which he said that our education system was effectively the “state-sponsored conditioning of sectarian attitudes”.

In his efforts to draw a direct link between state funded Catholic schools with the problem of sectarianism in Scotland, John Lamont remarked that the resulting “segregation of our young people has brought them up to believe that the two communities should be kept separate”:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-13891033

Prior to the 1872 Education Act, Catholic Schools were mainly set up and paid for by Irish immigrant communities in Scotland. It was a means of teaching Roman Catholic values and instilling a strong sense of moral discipline to those born into these impoverished communities, who may otherwise have missed out on formal education altogether.

After 1872 Catholic Schools were encouraged to integrate into the wider state system. Many decided not to do so out of concern that the values being taught would be of the wrong influence. However, the 1918 Education (Scotland) Act removed this concern by making provisions to fund Catholic State Schools in Scotland. To many sections of Scottish society, this was a controversial move.

Reflecting on the type of objections to Catholic schools around this time suggests that the concern in the early 1900’s was not the fashionably moral one we come across today of claiming that their existence leads to sectarian conditioning in children – the implication being that the existence of Catholic schools aggravates and perpetuates the problem.

Rather it was that their existence was viewed as an unwanted solution to the problem of Irish Catholic immigrants in Scotland – the implication being that Irish Catholics, with allegiance to Papal authority in Rome, were believed to be a menace to Scottish Protestantism and hence a threat to Scottish culture and to the Scottish identity. There was therefore a racist undertone to the debate.

At a meeting of the Scottish Protestant Congress on the 9th October 1923, whose purpose was to discuss the ‘Burden of Roman Catholic Schools’ and the ‘Effects of Irish Immigration’, and which was reported in the following day’s Scotsman newspaper, The Rev. Dr Mackintosh Mackay spoke of the financial burden of Catholic schools on the people of Scotland and the “progress of Romanism” as a direct consequence.

It was deemed “unfair that the education of the land should be crippled in order to maintain the education of children of an alien population”. It was reported that he could not understand the psychology of Scottish members of Parliament in passing the Bill leading to the 1918 Education Act.

At the same meeting, the Rev. Duncan Cameron spoke about ‘Protestantism’ being synonymous with ‘Scottish people’, whereas those who were coming in were faithful and loyal servants of Rome. He was concerned about Scottish people having to give up the ideals and traditions of their fathers and insisted that ‘the Scottish race had a great mission…the safeguarding of Protestantism’.

Therefore, there would appear to have been a strong link between anti-Catholic and anti-Irish prejudice at this time. The concerns about the financial burden of Catholic schools on the state were almost inseparable from concerns about the threat of Irish immigrants and their children posing a threat to Scottish Protestantism and hence the identity of the Scottish race.

How much of this early twentieth century influence still lingers in the Scottish psyche today is an interesting question and it is not altogether easy to answer. But what it clearly highlights is that the problems of religious bigotry and racism are sometimes so closely interlinked that the one cannot be properly understood without reference to the other.

Perhaps the debate about the continued existence of Catholic schools today is entirely innocent. Perhaps it is simply about the financial burden on limited Government funds in a time of economic austerity and the (tenuous) link between Catholic schools and sectarianism.

Or perhaps these are just some of the objections that tend to be given in a time of greater political correctness – and possibly without conscious intent – to mask the deep rooted cultural attitude of rejecting that which is not perceived to be of traditional Scottish stock and everything that entails.

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What’s So Anti-Scottish about Free Education?

A clear sign of Scottish Labour’s gradual drift towards Tory type thinking was posted yesterday in Johann Lamont’s speech to mark her first anniversary as leader of the party:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/political-news/lamont-calls-for-an-end-to-free-tuition-at-university.19706720

Her general point is the obvious one, which Cameron and Osborne have never tired of ramming home, that the policy of free universal services is unsustainable in the current economic climate.

Perhaps that is the case, but they always omit to say that the current economic climate includes horrendous sums of money wasted every year on unnecessary and illegal wars, and the vast amounts of revenue lost by turning a blind-eye to multinational organisations choosing not to pay their share in corporation tax. Not to mention the unforgivable betrayal of Scotland’s future that occurred when the decision was taken not to set up an Oil Fund.

Lamont develops her point by arguing that persisting with the unaffordable policy of free higher education has been made possible at the expense of significant cuts to the further education sector, which has in turn created huge inequalities between Colleges and Universities.

So whereas Lamont claims that the policy of free higher education in Scotland is being paid for by the college sector, others might feel justified in countering that claim with the reminder that there would have been no need to reduce spending on education at all, had successive Conservative and Labour governments in Westminster not chosen to squander substantial sums of money elsewhere.

The most troubling part of her position is the manner in which her argument progresses from the economic sustainability concern to an attack on the fairness of free education, when graduates are said to expect higher earnings over their lifetime compared to non-graduates. Free education is either fair or it isn’t, regardless how much money self-helping politicians have thrown to the wind.

And perhaps the most baffling part of her position is the contention that the Scottish Government’s policy of free education is anti-Scottish. It is difficult to understand exactly what this is supposed to mean. How can it be anti-Scottish to promote a principle that has been distinctively Scottish for generations?

In his St Andrew’s Day message, Alex Salmond commented:

“Scotland is proud of its history of invention and discovery. We actually invented quite a bit of the modern world, from the telephone, to television to penicillin to beta blockers. However, perhaps – actually certainly – our greatest invention of all, the one that made all of the others possible, was the invention of universal free education.”

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On the SNP and NATO

Historically, the SNP has always been opposed to NATO membership.

There now appears to be a shift in their thinking, which many people consider to be contradictory.

Some have seized on the fact that an independent Scotland would intend to remove nuclear deterrents from its waters, whilst remaining a member of NATO, as an opportunity to argue that the SNP’s independence ambitions are inconsistent with its defence policy.

Former General Secretary of NATO, Lord Robertson, believes that if an independent Scotland were to separate from the United Kingdom, currently one of the three strategic partners of NATO that host nuclear deterrents, it would effectively hold the contradictory position of wanting to be part of a nuclear alliance whilst ridding itself of its nuclear weapons through independence. He has got a point.

http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/lord-robertson-brands-snps-policy-on-nato-flawed.19184982

For my part, I am not entirely sure why the SNP would want to shift its historical opposition to NATO membership other than to garner popular support for its independence ambitions – many people still consider it to be a crucial component of a credible defence policy.

However the problem I have with the likes of Lord Robertson is that, whilst his central point is valid, he goes on to reveal the true motive behind his criticisms of the SNP in the claim that it doesn’t make sense that Scotland would want to remain in NATO, yet secede from one of its most strategic partners, when it is that partnership that gives Scotland a level of international influence, protection and safety, that would be impossible for other small European countries to achieve.

There appears to be a growing tendency among Unionist supporters, such as Lord Robertson, to mask their own fears about the consequences of Scottish independence for the rest of the United Kingdom, in the form of apparent benefits for the people of Scotland if they remained within it, benefits that would be lost in independence.

This is a typical example. The article referred to above claims that experts estimate that it would take around twenty years for England to build the right type of facilities to house nuclear weapons. Or in other words the denuclearisation of Scotland would lead to the denuclearisation of the rest of the United Kingdom.

That scenario would force the United Kingdom to drastically alter its defence strategy. It would also deal a devastating blow to its international standing. Few Westminster based politicians, including distinguished Labour Peers, and other key defence industry stake holders, are likely to allow that to happen without a fierce fight. It is not about looking after Scotland’s interests. It is about individual and institutional self-preservation. And that just muddies the water.

But to return to the question of the SNP and NATO – I firmly believe that an independent Scotland should not play host to nuclear weapons. It is not the type of Scotland I want to see after 2014. But as Lord Robertson correctly points out, it is difficult to reconcile this with the apparent readiness to inherit NATO membership, given that NATO is a nuclear alliance and agreeing to its rules means agreeing that other countries could, in theory, be called upon to use nuclear weapons on your behalf.

There is a contradiction here, no doubt about it. It would appear that the SNP’s shift in thinking is towards the idea that it is ok to be part of an alliance predicated on the use of nuclear weapons, but not ok to be a host country for these weapons.

The SNP’s problem is that Scotland already is a host country for these weapons. Other members of NATO not hosting nuclear weapons simply do not have to confront this uncomfortable contradiction. It will be interesting to see what kind of political rhetoric and linguistic trickery the SNP are going to use to reconcile it in the run up to the referendum.

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Definitely Better Together

The Edinburgh Agreement confirmed that a section 30 order will be laid in the Scottish and United Kingdom Parliaments to allow the Scottish Government to hold a referendum before the end of 2014 to decide the country’s constitutional future.

With very good reason, it has been billed as the most important decision the people of Scotland will have had to make in more than three hundred years.

Notwithstanding the fact that the ordinary people of Scotland had little or no input to the original decision that established the United Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707, the decision to be made in 2014 will indeed be momentous.

Public opinion appears to be divided. Many people in Scotland feel that their strong emotional and cultural ties to the United Kingdom, together with the perceived economic benefits of being part of a larger entity, means that the continuation of the Union must be achieved.

Many have a strong belief in Scotland’s right to determine its own future and regain the autonomy it gave up when it entered into political union with England three hundred years ago; the crux is that only by doing so will the country be able to maximise its own resources and build a stronger economic and social future than it would have if it remained within the restrictions of the Union.

Others are still to be persuaded either way and are likely to delay their decision until more precise details are provided. They may be waiting for quite some time. For most, the decision will be an emotional one and the Yes Campaign and Better Together Campaign will build their arguments around that fact.

It has been said that one of the problems with the Yes Campaign is that it still needs to create a clear and credible account of what an independent Scotland would look like. We are told that the detail will be worked out in due course.

But in the meantime the Better Together Campaign is likely to trade on this lack of clarity and create a feeling of uncertainty around the very idea of independence. It will exploit the fact that many of us are subconsciously reluctant to take a chance on moving towards the unknown, when what we already have is a feeling of security within the Union. We know our place.

Ironically, this is the fear that also lies at the heart of the Unionist agenda – the current economic status, political stability and national security of the United Kingdom will be challenged by the removal of an economically significant and politically important part of the equation.

Facing up to the daunting prospect of having to dismantle the United Kingdom is likely to cause a great deal of anxiety in Westminster. It is likely to throw up many difficult challenges with very few experts around to guide the process. It will be horrendously complex. It will be ridiculously expensive. And it will be psychologically unsettling.

And going by the scare mongering tone of the Better Together Campaign’s arguments, this is the angst that has been shaping their view from the beginning. Their arguments against Scottish independence would seem to reflect their own concerns about dealing with the aftermath, and protecting what they already have as career politicians, rather than a genuine concern for Scotland’s best interests.

The deciding factor for me is simply that every country has the right to self-determination. Through regaining that right Scotland will enjoy the same opportunity that almost every other country in the world enjoys – to make its own decisions and shape its own future; and this includes not knowing all the answers. It includes making mistakes and getting things wrong. That is part of the life of an autonomous nation. It is not to be feared.

That said, I think there is a sense in which we are definitely better together. But I am not talking about the sense promoted by the Unionist campaigners. I believe that Scotland will be better when the people living in this country come together to achieve a common purpose. It is the purpose of making this country better than it has ever been before.

That is the true sense in which we are better together.

Together in an independent Scotland.

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Scotland’s Unfinished Business

I have just finished reading Henry McLeish’s interesting new book, ‘Scotland the Growing Divide’.

In it he develops a strong argument in favour of Scotland remaining within the United Kingdom.

But unlike the majority of fear mongering politicians who are firmly entrenched in the ‘Better Together campaign’, McLeish does not feel the need to question Scotland’s economic worth as a stand-alone nation, nor belittle its potential value to the international community.

Despite the fact that McLeish describes Westminster’s relationship with Scotland in less than positive terms, he nonetheless argues that the best future for Scotland is one in which it remains within the United Kingdom – however, not under the present constitutional arrangement.

McLeish believes that status quo Unionism and Independence are divisive scenarios. He believes that they are not the only options open to the people of Scotland and that we should start thinking immediately about exploring a ‘third way’.

His position is that he truly believes in the United Kingdom, whilst at the same time he acknowledges that the current constitutional arrangement is not fit for purpose and must adapt if it is to survive.

McLeish believes that more a federal style of government would better serve the nations that make up the United Kingdom. Rather than repeal the Treaty of Union, he would rather see it reformed in a manner that goes beyond devolution into an arrangement of shared power, taking Scotland towards ‘a more radical form of home rule’.

It is a very interesting and worthwhile argument. It is a suggestion to the people of Scotland that independence in the traditional sense promoted by the SNP isn’t the only option if we want to be much more fully responsible for our own future, whilst preserving some of the real benefits of being part of the United Kingdom.

But at the same time it is also a warning to the rigid unionist thinkers that their unwillingness to countenance any challenge to Westminster’s absolute sovereignty could be the very thing that destroys the United Kingdom in the longer term.

It is difficult to argue with this line of argument. It presents a compelling alternative to the two options on the table at the moment. It makes sense, but it describes a state of affairs that would be unlikely to gather sufficient support within the context of our current political thinking.

There is no denying that the Union will have to adapt if it is to survive. There is no denying that old style British politics and the absolute sovereignty of Westminster are out of date and causing more problems than they are solving. And there is no denying that the current constitutional arrangement no longer works for Scotland.

The majority of unionist thinkers are simply burying their heads in the sand about it; whereas the ones who are fully aware of it are trying hard to convince us that the status quo is in our best interests. They don’t want to adapt. Their ‘better together’ campaign underlines that fact with gusto.

I genuinely cannot see ‘the third way’ materialising. Politics is too much of a game; politicians and their party sponsors have too much to lose on a personal level if things change in a manner that doesn’t suit their private agendas. There is just not enough honesty in British politics, nor enough progressive thinking, to make it happen.

The idea of sharing sovereignty is not compatible with Westminster’s reason for being, and I doubt it ever will be without the type of wholesale and radical reform of British politics that would shock the entire country into a new way of thinking and working – and that is precisely what we need, according to McLeish.

For my part, I would still prefer to pursue complete independence in the traditional sense, even if the United Kingdom did manage to shock itself out of its constitutional slumber and McLeish’s third way became a real option (attractive as it may be for many people not yet convinced about the benefits of independence, yet struggling with the thought of remaining part of a rigid union that has failed Scotland for generations).

Devolution was described by John Smith as Scotland’s unfinished business.

That can mean different things to different people. To me it is simple. It means we have had a standing commitment since the 1997 Referendum to ensure that Scotland’s progression to independence would be achieved within our life time.

2014 is our opportunity to finish that business. For the future of our country.

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The Independence Debate & The Politics of Rogues

Various questionable arguments have been thrown into the debate about Scottish Independence in recent months; so much so that it is now becoming amusing to see predictions of economic ruin sitting right next to forecasts of previously unachievable wealth and prosperity.

It is almost as if we are being told, ‘don’t listen to the other side’s nonsense, it will lead you in the wrong direction; now, here are the facts, on which you need to make your decision’. In this respect, both are as bad as each other.

Encouraging others to adopt a course action by exaggerating benefits and making grand promises that may never be fulfilled, looks remarkably similar to some of the unscrupulous sales tactics adopted by individuals operating at the gutter end of the market.

Whilst encouraging others against that same course of action by instilling disproportionate fear in their minds, reveals much more about the psychology, and personal circumstances, of the scare mongering individuals than it does about the reality of the situation.

It makes you want to ask the question, what do the latter really think they are going to lose by acknowledging that it would be better for Scotland to make its own decisions, and why do they really want the rest of us to feel the fear of that loss too, in the way that they pretend to?

And it makes you want to ask of the former, why do they feel the need to spin a fabulous, sometimes confusingly mixed, story around a couple of facts and stats, immediately casting their credibility in doubt and raising questions about whether they are indeed the people to take this country forward in the right direction?

Perhaps the only reality we can work with in entering this debate is that being an independent country is simply about taking full responsibility for your own affairs, and nothing less than that.
Everything else we have been told, and will be told countless times over, about how damaging independence would be for Scotland’s position in the world, or how wonderful it would be for our economy, is imaginative conjecture.

It is an attempt to manipulate our emotions by individuals who know that they have too much to lose.

Both campaigns recognise that they have, in fact, too much to lose; not just from a political point of view, but also from a personal, selfish point of view. Their obsession with winning this game at all costs is beginning to ruin what should otherwise have been the build-up to a momentous event in our country’s history.

In fact the event itself – regaining independence or reinforcing the union – is beginning to look like it will be spoiled. Either way, it is beginning to look like it will turn into a reflection of the politics of self-interested rogues, than a reflection of the best interests of the ordinary people of Scotland.

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‘Better Together’?

The irrefutable strength of the Scottish Independence campaign is that it is built on the fundamental right of self-determination. All nations have the right to choose their own sovereignty and political status, without external interference, and that is essentially what the independence of Scotland would secure.

It is insisted that independence is therefore the natural condition of a nation such as Scotland, and that the people of Scotland are best placed to determine its economic, political and social future. I completely agree with this.

In my view, the only argument that would ever convince me that we were ‘better together’ is one that would demonstrate, first of all, that Scotland’s claim to nationhood was ill conceived, and hence that we had no right to self-determination; and secondly, that the people of Scotland were simply incapable of taking full responsibility for the future of their own country.

It would take a very powerful argument to convince me that it is better for Scotland to have its economic, political and social future controlled and determined by a Government that sits outside of Scotland; a Government that the people of Scotland can rarely influence, if at all.

When Alistair Darling launched his ‘Better Together’ campaign to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom, I was hoping that he, as the former Chancellor of the United Kingdom Government, would offer some sound economic and political arguments why Scotland would indeed be better off remaining in the union.

I genuinely wanted him to challenge my thinking on this matter. I genuinely wanted to feel that Alex Salmond would now need to come back with some strong rebuttals. Perhaps then he would need to begin filling in some of the gaps in his own vision. But no need – there were no strong arguments forthcoming, just a watery statement about how we should embrace and celebrate our cultural diversity and our great social union.

I am with Darling in recognising that cultural diversity is a good thing. It is a fact of life in an interesting, prosperous and thriving nation. It is what Scotland was built on. It is absolutely to be embraced. I am with Darling in acknowledging that loving Scotland does not mean having to leave the United Kingdom behind. But it does mean exactly that if your love for Scotland means that you want to take responsibility for your own affairs.

The poverty of Darling’s argument has not gone unnoticed. And it is not because he failed to come up with hard facts and figures demonstrating that Scotland could not survive on its own – in fact, he acknowledged that it probably could, given its oil wealth – but because he failed to put forward one single convincing reason why a nation such as Scotland should not want to determine its own future.

In some respects we may well be better off together. In some respects, there will be strengths to be gained from being part of a union that you cannot have on your own. That much is obvious. But it does not preclude the fact that there may also be many other respects in which you are not better off together. That much is obvious too.

I believe that it would be significantly better for Scotland as a nation to create and nurture its own opportunities, and to maximise its own resources, than have its future determined by a Government that believes that independence should be avoided because it is unsettling, inherently risky and unjustified; and fronted by a scare mongering individual who tries to spook us by insisting that independence ‘would send our children to a deeply uncertain destination’.

Sorry Darling, poor effort; I, like many others, remain unspooked.

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