In 4 weeks’ time the Scottish independence referendum will have taken place, and at present the outcome is still unpredictable.
I find myself in a difficult place with respect to the referendum. Most of all, I wish it wasn’t taking place at all. But it is, and I am trying to avoid all the hype and buildup by ignoring news items related to it, which is challenging!
The centre of my concerns is this: I’m English, but I’m surrounded by Scots living in England who don’t have a vote, some of whom (most I suspect) are frustrated that they have been disenfranchised in this way. My wife is a Scot, my two programme directors and my head of section at work are Scots, and although I don’t personally have any research links with Scottish universities, my research area is very strong there (I expressed concerns about the future of research funding in a previous post). So relations at all levels with Scotland are important to me. And although my views are irrelevant to the referendum, I am convinced that Scotland would be better off staying within the UK, although as I mention below, there is a need for constitutional reform which could lead to the Scottish parliament having more power, along with the other devolved parliaments.
As a lifelong socialist I can understand the frustration of being ruled by a Tory-dominated Westminster government when there isn’t a Tory majority in Scotland. But the answer must surely lie in giving the Scottish parliament more powers, while Scotland remains under the UK umbrella. Independence is such a drastic step, and it’s a lurch into uncharted waters too. One of the irritating aspects of the SNP’s campaign is the glib reassurances from Salmond et al that things like the currency and EU membership will somehow continue as they are. If they were honest with their voters, they would admit that everything (yes everything) will be up for negotiation if Scotland votes to become independent. Instead they peddle promises of an independent country that will retain all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of the present regime. It is concerning that so many people have been taken in by these promises (including many who should know better!)
Of course, as was pointed out by Bella Caledonia, regardless of the referendum outcome, the ensuing debate has raised questions that won’t go away, including broader questions about the need for further constitutional reform in the UK. The old Westminster dominated system may no longer be fit for purpose, and our constituent countries may need more devolved powers. But when it comes to matters of defence, economic muscle and political influence, I think it’s still in the interests of Scotland (and Wales and Northern Ireland for that matter) to remain part of the United Kingdom. That’s why I will be quietly crossing my fingers (and everything else available) for a No outcome on September 18th.