Tag Archives: SNP

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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History, Myths and Value Systems

An article in today’s Herald reports on the decision of the Scotland Office to temporarily block the publication of certain files relating to the Scottish devolution process, with Whitehall ministers having the final say on their release. SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn describes it as “cheating Scotland of its history”:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/westminster-blocks-moves-to-release-secret-devolution-files.19837622

It is unsurprising that this would happen, of course, given that the independence referendum is not that far away and there are likely to be vital pieces of information – which quiet deals were made, when and by whom, who gave away what and why – that could have an effect on how the people of Scotland vote in 2014.

One of the difficulties we have when trying to make sense of key political events today is that their causes, and reasons for occurring, may be inextricably linked to certain people and events in the past, the motives of whom, and the significance of which, are not always easy to understand.

The problem is not necessarily that we are poor at understanding occurrences in the past. Sometimes it is that we are simply unable to arrive at a true account of events because of inherent ambiguities and compelling alternative interpretations, with no means of corroborating any of the versions given.

Other times it is because the truth – as in the case cited above – has been deliberately withheld for political reasons, with lighter and more digestible accounts of events offered up to us in their place through carefully controlled press releases and media coverage.

All of which can make it difficult to fully understand why certain political decisions are being made today – or why some key ones were made in the recent past – and therefore deny us the opportunity to make informed judgements about our country’s future.

The sickening part is that it is perfectly legal for our ‘democratically elected’ Government to manage the truth in this manner on our behalf, and as a result, through the variety of institutions in which we are immersed, control the history we think we lived through in the past, and manipulate the present we believe we are experiencing today.

Almost on a daily basis we have representatives of the United Kingdom and Scottish Governments accusing each other of peddling dangerous myths about independence or otherwise and attempting to mislead the people of Scotland through their own particular slant on events.

Whilst the passage of time will help to loosen the grip of the political and economic myths we build our lives around today, we may never achieve complete transparency in these matters until it is too late for the truth to make a difference. That’s just how this country operates.

When we elect a Government, we are not simply authorising politicians to make decisions on our behalf; we are also gifting them the right to manage the truth behind those decisions. And when a Government appoints itself, as the case may be, we may find that the value systems they carve out from the truths they have been entrusted with begin to diverge from our own in drastic fashion.

In 2014, Scotland’s choice is not simply about where the ultimate seat of political and economic decision making for this country should be. It is about choosing the values that best reflect Scottish interests and the needs of the people of Scotland.

It is about choosing Scottish priorities, such as free education and welfare policies to support social justice, over Westminster ones, such as dismantling the NHS, engaging in illegal wars and keeping Trident out of harm’s way of London.

But the problem is this: these values are easily lost in the mix of dangerous myths and historical inaccuracies we are asked to accept as fact; they are easily promoted by clever rhetoric as the root cause of our economic problems and the reasons behind many of our social ills.

When you manage the truth behind political decisions, you ultimately manage the country’s value systems. And when you manage that, you are a short step away, not only from ‘cheating a country of its history’, but also depriving it of a better future.

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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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Precariously Pinned Together

Whereas Alistair Darling previously threatened that voting for Scottish independence would be like buying a one-way ticket to a deeply uncertain place, Gordon Brown this week warned that it would signal the start of the race to the bottom.

For some people retaining the union is about having an emotional commitment to a tradition and a history. And that is absolutely to be acknowledged and respected, whether we feel the same commitment or not.

But the rhetoric of the likes of Darling and Brown, which unashamedly exploits this emotional commitment, clearly shows that what lies at the heart of the no campaign is neither decent political debate concerning the true interests of Scotland, nor sound economic argument relevant to the country’s financial standing before and after independence.

Rather it is about a deep rooted unwillingness to lose control over the critical variables – mainly the fiscal levers, as they have been occasionally described – that could potentially damage the wealth, privilege and position of certain elite groups of individuals, and undermine the competitiveness of certain other economic areas across the United Kingdom.

Ensuring that Scotland’s right to determine its own social, political and economic future is not granted is therefore their priority, rather than creating a progressive unionist strategy to improve the quality of life, educational opportunities and employment prospects across the whole of the United Kingdom as it currently stands.

The problem is that such a strategy has never been viewed as an integral component of the unionist campaign. It has simply been about blocking a movement for change, for selfish reasons, whereas it should have been about recognising that the motivations behind that movement are signs that the United Kingdom is predicated on a union that is not fit for purpose.

Grasp that simple fact and the unconvincing frontmen like Darling and Brown could have had a better chance of gaining credibility for their paymaster’s position, and perhaps significantly more support.

But those of an independent mind needn’t worry. That is never going to happen. It just doesn’t figure in the thinking of those who run the United Kingdom government that the fundamental political and economic structures precariously pinning the country together need to change.

So in the meantime we can happily let the better together campaigners continue their efforts to persuade the people of Scotland that it is in their interests to stop looking for change. That it is in their interests to stop seeking the right to make their own decisions, just so that the status quo continues to deliver its cosy benefits for a small pocket of people spread throughout the United Kingdom, including Scotland.

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Some More Thoughts on ‘Better Together’

When Alistair Darling urged us to believe in the dictum that we are ‘better together’, I think there is probably a very strong sense in which he genuinely believes that to be the case (but I also think, quite cynically, that he is using a very clever tactic here, which may turn out to be a master stroke).

In fairness to Darling, and those behind the ‘no campaign’, the arguments given in favour of maintaining the political status quo, whilst weak, probably still reflect a deeply held conviction, that the best future for Scotland will be one which is secured through an unaltered position within the United Kingdom.

But rather than simply rhyme off the benefits we apparently enjoy as part of the United Kingdom, and remind us of the impending uncertainty that independence would bring, it might help the case somewhat to promote a positive vision for the future.

My view is that the key problems with the unionist strategy are that it fails to offer one single reason why Scotland should not want to regain full responsibility for its own affairs; and it fails to take cognisance of the growing conviction in many quarters that some form of structural change would need to occur in the United Kingdom if the ‘better together’ promise were ever to be fulfilled.

Even if we were better together in the sense promoted by the ‘no campaign’ – the senses in which we are supposed to benefit, such as having a stronger voice in Europe, or a stronger defence arrangement, for example, are all areas in which the current devolution agreement prevents Scotland from autonomously participating and building any strength in the first place – there would still be an urgent need to address the fundamental flaws in the United Kingdom’s corrupt political, economic and sociocultural frameworks.

It might be possible to muster a little sympathy for the ‘better together’ campaigners themselves – because, after all, we are talking about some people’s deeply held beliefs, which ought to be given due consideration and respect – if what they believed in really did have a promising message to deliver for Scotland. But as far as I can see, it doesn’t; and as far as the spin has gone so far, there is little prospect of a positive message being delivered any time soon.

However, here is a cautionary note to finish with: it is one thing to recognise that our current constitutional arrangement is not perfect, and that there are serious problems that need to be addressed in the United Kingdom as it stands; every day the news greets us with another one, piled up on top of another one.

But until the ‘yes campaign’ is in a position to present a detailed and unambiguous vision of what an independent Scotland would look like, and how it would positively improve the personal circumstances of the people of Scotland, doubts will remain in the minds of those waiting to be convinced that a yes vote would be in their best interests.

We live in a society where most people have simply given up on politicians and have little or no interest in the details of our constitutional arrangement. If the ‘yes campaign’ focuses exclusively on the need to change the latter, without clearly justifying it in terms of improved personal circumstances, it may lose some ground.

For many people, the decision will simply come down to what is better for their own individual circumstances, what is left in their pocket after tax, rather than what is better for Scotland as a nation. And that is exactly what Alistair Darling and company are playing on when they talk about being ‘better together’. It is an attempt to make us feel more secure by not changing anything. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a master stroke for the ‘no campaign’.

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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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It Wasn’t Needed Then…

It is interesting to consider whether an independent country would make the decision to give up its political and economic autonomy today, because it believed that it would become stronger and more prosperous as a result?

Scottish Labour Leader, Johann Lamont, believes that Scotland would do exactly that.

She claims that had Scotland already been an independent country, we would be seeking the type of political, economic and social union that we currently have as part of the United Kingdom.

Lamont supports this claim with the argument that being part of the United Kingdom enabled Scotland to weather one of the worst economic crises of our lifetime when the banking sector collapsed.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-18271392

The implication is that had Scotland been an independent country at the time, exactly the opposite scenario would have occurred. It would not have been able to survive the banking collapse and economic ruin would have been the result.

Whilst I completely respect her right to believe in Scotland remaining within the United Kingdom, I think it is disingenuous to be told that Scotland only avoided complete economic collapse by virtue of its union with the United Kingdom.

This seems to be a key argument used in favour of the Union, among many other similar ones. Yet it was the UK Government’s deregulation strategy that ultimately led us to the point of collapse in the first place. It wasn’t a policy set in Scotland and the Scottish Government had no control over it.

Furthermore I think it is outrageous to suggest that an independent country would make the choice today to surrender its economic and political autonomy to another country, just because certain individuals harboured an unsubstantiated belief that it would be stronger as a result.

As it happens, I think it is an equally unsubstantiated belief that becoming an independent country would make Scotland a wealthier country and create more opportunities for its people. Otherwise both sides of the debate would have clearly set out their stalls. But they haven’t, because they can’t.

There is very little to be gained by rehearsing the same rhetoric over and over again. It is all about creating hope on the one hand and stirring up fear on the other. We know the facts of the matter regarding the current arrangement and many people will understandably take comfort in that.

But I think there is much more to be gained by simply asking the question whether you believe that your country should have the right to determine its own future and whether you want to take responsibility for that, or whether you are content with this responsibility remaining with others.

To return to the original question: it is one thing to suggest that an independent country would seek strong links with other countries in order to strengthen its position in the global economy. That is perfectly standard practice.

But it is another thing entirely to suggest that had Scotland already been an independent country, it would actively seek to give up its right to make its own decisions, because of a misleading and completely unsupportable notion that it could not survive on its own.

Johann Lamont obviously makes this suggestion in defending what she believes is best for Scotland’s future.

But in fact, this way of thinking simply takes us back three hundred years.

It wasn’t needed then, and it isn’t needed now.

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