On 18th September 2014, my fellow Scots and I will be asked to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question:
Should Scotland be an independent country?
I have been losing sleep over the answer to this question because I feel so utterly lost and conflicted as to how to respond. On one hand, I am happy to see democracy at work – this decision should be made by the people of Scotland – on the other hand, I don’t have a clue what the right decision is, or what the implications of my vote are going to be. I feel like someone has handed me a complicated piece of machinery with no instruction manual and asked me to operate it without making a mistake: too much responsibility with not enough information.
Campaigns have already begun to try to win my vote with a variety of groups attempting to convince me to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’. And after much thought, deliberation, straining and researching, I have reached the profound and certain conclusion that my answer is: I don’t know.
‘I don’t know’ because neither side of the argument have yet been forthcoming with the instruction manual for their machine. The policies and objectives put forward to me, and my Scotland-residing brothers and sisters, have been thoroughly vague and smacking of rhetoric. I have had to do so much digging, research and interpreting in order to compile even the most basic list of ‘pros and cons’ surrounding Scotland’s independence and I’m still not even sure that it’s complete and correct. It concerns me that information about the actual factual ramifications of my vote are proving so difficult to come by, because it suggests that each side is depending on my not-knowing the truth to win my vote. I get the very distinct impression that I am expected to vote with my emotions, rather than with the facts, and I don’t like it. This is worrying: Scotland has a long (sometimes glorious, sometimes shameful) tradition of pride and sentimentalism, either for our place in the United Kingdom or for Scotland in opposition to England, and some people are very passionate and patriotic about which camp they reside in. It seems evident to me that I am being asked to ‘pick a side’ based on the feelings I have about Scotland’s history, roused up by the sugar-coated carrots of vague and hyperbolic policies – which at this point, seem like nothing more than emotional manipulations. I have no strong ‘feelings’ about an independent Scotland, but many of my brothers and sisters in Scotland do. I believe this to be a problem. It is wrong for my fellow Scots to be coerced, perhaps unknowingly or subconsciously, to make this decision based on loyalty to the British Crown or Scottish Land, under the guise of taking part in a rational choice. Surely a body of people cannot make a rational and educated decision when being encouraged to puff up with emotion, and at the same time, being furnished with so little factual evidence? We, the people of Scotland, are due to receive a White Paper sometime in November, which will detail the ‘facts’ about becoming independent from the UK, but you and I both know that ‘facts’ are malleable and can be framed to say whatever suits the agenda of their utterer. My distrust is founded on, and compounded by, the reality that the race to win my vote has already begun based on speculation, emotion, and ‘ifs ands buts and maybes’: if there are yet no facts then which of my decision-making faculties are being appealed to? The answer, I fear, is my emotions. Until the facts are made available, it seems that we are being asked to gamble; making our choice via the extent to which we love Scotland and dislike England. This gamble is going to be responsible for the fate of future generations in Scotland and beyond. They will be the ones who have to deal with the repercussions of our sentiments when we are all dead and gone. The more I think about it, the more our sentiments are a hinderance rather than a help: they seem a wildly inappropriate catalyst by which to make this decision. And to be asked to do so makes me very uncomfortable.
I have done my best to compile a list of the dreams and ambitions offered to us by the main proponents of ‘yes’ and ‘no’. What follows are the basic pros and cons- the scaffolding that’s holding the referendum up – but please, bear in mind as you read them, you are reading a wish list, not a list of facts or certainties.
Benefits from Scotland becoming independent from the UK: the ‘Yes’ Vote.
We could make decisions from a parliament that is more relevant to, and invested in, the people it represents.
This is a super idea and I can totally see the merit in governmental decision-making power that is based closer to home, but we are not voting for the idea alone, we will also have to vote for the people who will promise to put the idea into action on behalf of the people. What concerns me about this point is that it may turn out that Westminster understands Scotland just fine…and that it is the indivuals we elect – rather than specifically the English parliament – who make a mess of cranking the machine and signing the dotted lines. In which case, aren’t we just as likely to have idiotic or misguided decisions make by elected individuals in a Scottish parliament?
We would have control of our oil and gas resources.
*Sigh* Unless some unbiased and independent person in-the-know is going to publish well-researched statistical findings about this matter, we the public are in the dark and can only trust what we are told. And what we have been told by the media so far is exactly this:
He said, she said, he’s lying, they are lying, you can’t do this, we can do this, they are spending all your money on lawyers, they are destroying data, your country is in debt, we are richer than you. Blah blah blah. It really is just noise. What is the truth? Will we benefit from keeping our oil to ourselves or not? Show me the research that says so. Unless we are furnished with a report, signed, sealed and delivered by an independent body, perhaps comprised of economists, scientists, ecologists and engineers et. al., we are in no position to make a judgement and should not be voting with this in mind at all.
We would ban nuclear weapons from Scotland.
This is the one policy that would swing my vote for independence if it were true. I really hope it is true. We simply don’t know right now. I want to see a piece of paper signed by all parties concerned, detailing that nuclear weapons will be removed from Scotland on such-and-such a (soon) date. After the fact, I do not want to come to learn of any non-public small print that says, “Due to the complexities of ‘legal separation’ of military resources, it’s going to take 20 years to get the nukes gone.”
Have a look at the Yes Scotland q&a page for more information on these points.
Benefits from Scotland remaining in the UK: the ‘No’ Vote.
We would keep the £GBP.
There are no available statistics to guarantee if the £GBP or some new Scottish currency would be weaker or stronger. So we’re back to gambling again.
We would remain more powerful as part of the UK’s Armed Forces.
This may be intuitively true since Scotland is smaller when separate from the UK, but again, there could be other benefits to leaving the UK’s Armed Forces, like not getting dragged into wars we don’t agree with. It could also be the case that more military jobs would be created if all the necessary departments for a Scottish Armed Force were located in Scotland, again, without the facts, there could be convincing rhetorical suggestions either way.
Mortgage interest rates would be decided by the UK.
So?…’Being decided by the UK’ does not automatically mean cheaper or better. For this to be convincing, Westminster needs to make a pledge or an offer, they need to propose some actual and realistic competitive rates and post them online so that we, the public, can make an informed decision.
It would be ‘bad for jobs’ if Scotland left the UK.
‘Bad for jobs’ is a direct quote which seems to be anchored in no facts whatsoever. How do we know it would be bad for jobs? Where is the research that says so?
Scotland has full powers when it comes to health and education and spends £1200 per head more than the rest of the UK.
What? Surely this is an argument in favour of Scotland having more of its own power?
We get ‘the best of both worlds’.
I can see, intuitively, that this could be the case. My stepdad is English, as are many of my friends, and I also have Scottish friends who reside in England. To make ourselves a foreign country to England at this point seems like a tangled and complicated web that may not lead to us being better off, but again, we’re talking feelings here, not facts.
Scotland sells more to the rest of the UK than it sells to the rest of the world combined.
What is this statement? Is it a threat? Is it supposed to incite a sense of togetherness? We cannot deduce from it how Scotland’s trade with England would be affected by independence. The laws and regulations concerning trade should be clearly set out before we vote, not guessed-at until after, or else…what are we voting for?
You can read the lealet for yourself, I pulled this information straight from the Better Together Campaign (the ‘no’ campaign).
Besides the distinct lack of facts from both sides of the argument, I have other questions and meta-concerns not addressed by either side. The first of which is this: Since Scotland is so multi-cultural and diverse, does the emotional attachment to an ‘independent Scotland’ really have meaning that the ‘yes’ proponents would have us believe it does?
My next concern is that our world is becoming a global community; doesn’t it seem counter-intuitive to move in the opposite direction, becoming more separate and isolated as a nation? Becoming independent not only separates us from the other residents of the island that we share, but it also tells the rest of the world, who will surely be watching, that we wish to be separate too.
My final concern is that the posing of the question: ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ will serve to reignite old rivalries, a ‘them or us’ mentality, amongst some people. This is exactly the opposite of what Scotland needs right now, since we all must live side-by-side with people from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life. From religion, to sport, to east vs. west, there are elements of our nation that are unhealthily divided. Regardless of their intentions, I find it very difficult to support a group of people who nurture and foster our nation’s frequent – and often damaging – inclination towards creating opposition, who have little more than fantasy and rhetoric as the backbone of their argument.
In my ideal world, I would vote for greater devolution of power to Scottish government, and I would support the First Minister’s use of Scottish voters’ clout to request more power and independence in areas that are specific to Scotland’s social & cultural standing; and ecology and resource profile. But of course, this option is not on the table because the leaders of our nation have shown themselves to be stuck in the hyperbole of ‘them or us’, ‘yes or no’, ‘Scottish or British’. And this could not be father away from what being Scottish and British means to me.
I would vote for transparency. If the ‘yes’ campaign came out with an utterly transparent fact sheet, stating what an independent Scotland could and could not do, with facts and figures and sans rhetoric, I would vote for them.
I would vote for respect and understanding. If Westminster were to propose a fair and open negotiation of our autonomy as a Scottish nation, I would vote for them, simply because to me, getting rid of the illusion of opposition would be the healthiest thing that we could do as both a Scottish and British nation, moving forward.
I dislike wearing my cynical hat, I don’t think it suits me, but for now, I must. I really think that if ‘yes’ or ‘no’ are put forward as our only options, and we believe that ‘yes’ or ‘no’ are our only options, then that in itself serves to show that we are not ready to effect such drastic change.
I’d like you to weigh in on this. Are you a Scottish person willing to share which way you’re going to vote and why? Are you a non-Scottish person whose nation has failed/succeeded at becoming independent? Do you think my point of view is mistaken?
Have a read of the Guardian’s Essential Guide to Scottish Independence. What do you think?
Still, I am in the mindset that I do not know which way to vote. Should I choose not to vote? Those who do are labelled ‘apathetic’ and are often blamed when the outcome of a vote is unwanted. Should I vote by destroying my ballot paper? This is the official way to refuse to decide, but what happens to the destroyed ballot papers? Nothing…they just get discounted, the act is not strong enough to indicate a protestation.
If, like me, you believe we have been thrust into a false dichotomy, and that neither ‘yes’ nor ‘no’ is the way forward, then write to your MP. To vote for a false dilemma gives it validation. To write to your MP stating that you are unhappy with being presented with so hyperbolic a choice is a vote in itself. England is not the enemy, and whether Scotland will or will not be better off outside of the UK is a mystery, but the cogs that turn to move both Scotland and England forward, I believe, are more intricately wrought than a heavy-handed and ill-informed ‘yes’ or ‘no’ can break or repair.
Stanley Odd Frontman Solareye/Dave Hook has done the conundrum justice through the medium of rap.
Next Time… N is for ‘News’ : Good news from around the world, not being reported in the mainstream media.
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