Tag Archives: Arguments against Scottish Independence

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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Ironic Interventions

Ironically, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, is the latest leader of an independent country to express concern over the prospect of Scotland becoming independent from the United Kingdom. Barack Obama and Tony Abbott have made similarly ironic interventions in recent months. Their collective view is that an independent Scotland would not serve ‘greater global interests’.

Whilst there are bound to be several reasons for this, we may hazard a guess that the crux would be an independent Scotland’s commitment to removing the United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent from Scottish waters. This would force the United Kingdom to unilaterally disarm for an unspecifiable period of time, thereby ‘threatening global security’ and upsetting the existing international order.

There is also the concern that a diminished United Kingdom would not retain the same standing within the European Union, which would have an impact on the United States’ ability to strategically influence defence and economic decision making within a major supranational institution it cannot directly control.

Finally, the loss of softer powers; it has also been suggested that the United Kingdom would lose a degree of credibility in promoting itself as a model of democracy and justifying some of its military interventions in other regions of the world on that basis.

How could it hold onto that platonic ideal when one of the primary reasons cited for becoming an independent country is that the United Kingdom’s constitutional arrangement delivers a permanent democratic deficit for the people of Scotland, with unjust consequences.

An inability to block the imposition of immoral and discriminatory welfare policies, to reject involvement in illegal wars, or simply to have the government you choose, is hardly the sign of a society that considers itself to be a beacon of democracy, personal freedom and social justice.

Scottish independence would be an opportunity to rethink the relationship between the elected Government and the people governed; it would be an opportunity to reconnect economics with morality, and place universal welfare and social justice at the heart of our political and economic decision making. It might sound too fantastical to believe, but only because we have been conditioned into thinking that way.

More than that, it would be an opportunity to usher in a new era of confidence in Scotland, as a country that is perfectly entitled to enjoy the very same rights that Canadians, Americans and Australians have enjoyed since becoming independent countries. Scotland is an innovative, intelligent and resourceful country that is perfectly capable of negotiating its own way in the world. Successfully.

The United Kingdom Government should be berating itself for refusing to respond earlier to the level of frustration and discontent within Scotland, and other parts of the United Kingdom for that matter, with regards to the political weaknesses, and economic failures, of the union. Had it done so, it may have been able to avoid a late surge in favour of a Yes vote in two weeks’ time.

The union does not deliver what it purports to deliver, nor could it without fundamental reform. As some unionist political commentators have repeatedly warned, the biggest threat to the continued existence of the United Kingdom is not Alex Salmond, but the union itself.

The people of Scotland should not be influenced into rejecting independence by self-interested world leaders, when the objective of independence is to achieve what is no longer achievable for Scotland within the United Kingdom.

If the choice is between serving the ‘greater global interests’ of manipulative, corrupt, self-obsessed, power hungry military superpowers – the United Kingdom included – or having the full range of powers to address the economic, social, moral and cultural needs and interests of the people of Scotland, whether Scotland should become an independent country should not even be a doubt in anyone’s mind.  



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Genetic Determinism is the Last Refuge of a Political Rogue

The leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Johann Lamont, appears to think that one of the key reasons why Scotland should not be an independent country, is that we Scots are not genetically programmed to make political decisions.

Not only is her claim embarrassing, astoundingly false, and logically incompatible with her own position in politics; it is also in danger of creeping very close to racism.

What on earth would possess a political leader in Scotland to think that it is appropriate to ridicule the social, economic and political intelligence of her own fellow Scots on live television, many of whom were watching in the hope of learning more about the independence debate, and many of whom she is supposed to represent in the Scottish parliament?

David Hume, Adam Ferguson, Thomas Reid, and Adam Smith, to mention just a few of the intellectual giants of the Scottish enlightenment, would have been outraged to hear such a comment. As would Jimmy Reid, John Smith and Donald Dewar.

No doubt Johann Lamont is feeling the pressure of her paymasters in Westminster to secure a vote against independence. Not because it is the right thing for the people of Scotland, but because it appears to suit the environment within which she and many others have been emotionally programmed to denigrate their own country. And that is a shame.

To appeal to this piece of abject nonsense as a reason why Scotland should remain within the United Kingdom smacks of fear, loathing and desperation. If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, genetic determinism is the last refuge of a political rogue.

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A Fine Array of Academics

A fine array of academics led by Professor Hugh Pennington have quite clearly been banging their learned heads together to come up with a few more ‘reasons’ why it is better that Scotland does not have the right to make all of its own decisions on issues of great importance to the people who live here.

The primary one appears to be that the excellent tradition of great Scottish thinkers contributing to global problems would come to a regrettable end with independence; in other words, our world leading reputation for innovation and discovery could be irreparably damaged because we would no longer be able to share ideas outside of Scotland and would no longer be able to benefit from UK funding.

Professor Pennington is quoted in various newspapers as saying that ‘the absence of barriers allows not just funding and people, but ideas and innovation, to flow freely across borders’.

I find it incredible that he would make this type of comment whilst arguing against independence. Which type of barriers does Professor Pennington think would suddenly be erected in an independent Scotland that would create a hermetically sealed bubble around Scottish ideas and innovative thinking?

More than that, I find it utterly astonishing that he would think that we would believe that two or more independent countries could not collaborate on significant international research programmes and access appropriate funding for that purpose! How on earth would we have progressed thus far?

Good ideas are not stopped at the borders of an independent country any more than disease causing bacteria are held up for checks at passport control; but unfortunately, when it comes to political interest, it seems to be much easier for influential thinkers to spread bad ideas that frighten people today, than it is for the rest of us to share good ideas that will bring real benefits in the future.

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Scotland’s Separation Anxiety?

Unsurprisingly there are a number of people who intend to vote ‘no’ in next year’s independence referendum, whilst there are many others who remain to be convinced either way. It is interesting to consider whether part of the reason for this is that as a nation, Scotland may be suffering from a type of separation anxiety?

Whilst there might not be a single specific cause of separation anxiety in every instance, it is sometimes the case that it affects individuals who have been deprived of opportunities to fully explore their autonomy during their formative years, and therefore believe that they are limited in their capacity to make significant decisions, and take independent action, when it matters most.

In severe cases, it can have a crippling and suffocating effect on confidence, particularly when the reduced state of autonomy has been enforced over a considerable period of time by a third person on whom we have become dependent as our decision maker, and whom we have been trained to perceive as a necessary condition for our survival.

Whilst the negative psychological impact of this process is not always easy to recognise or articulate from a first person perspective, its behavioural manifestations can be easy pickings for those who have a vested interest in reinforcing the desired direction of power, particularly if there is the slightest indication of dissatisfaction with the status quo.

And so it is instructive that the Better Together campaigners frequently use the term ‘separation’ when criticising the Scottish Government’s ambition to regain full decision making powers for Holyrood. It is almost as if they were trying to manipulate the vulnerable psychology of a nation that has had its autonomy denied or restricted in order to secure the political and economic interests of others.

But that would be immoral, particularly if you questioned whether the type of separation anxiety that Scotland may be suffering from, whilst it would have already existed in a basic form as a result of generations of external control, had been deliberately exaggerated and exploited for the purpose of securing a ‘no’ vote in 2014.

Exploiting the natural anxieties that exist among some of its people, in order to make a nation believe that it would not be in its best interests to make its own decisions, would be incredibly damaging. It would be the point at which Scotland decided to turn its back for good on an opportunity to come up with its own distinctive solutions to its own unique problems, and it would be the point at which Scotland chose to avoid living through the social and cultural changes that would be required to achieve its true potential.

The main problem I have with this is not so much that I would be devastated by the outcome – if the majority of Scotland decides to vote ‘no’, then so be it – but that it would not be obvious that any such decision was actually made from an authentic standpoint. To vote that you disagreed with Scotland being an independent country may in fact turn out to be a vote not to experience a very uncomfortable episode of separation anxiety.

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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.


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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‘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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