At the end of the televised Salmond-Darling debate I tweeted the following:
— Jon Worth (@jonworth) August 5, 2014
With 77 retweets so far, it seems to have struck a chord with some people. It also is an aspect of the independence debate that was only mentioned in passing in the televised clash, but for me it is absolutely central. How is Scotland going to be best governed? is the vital question in the referendum as I see it, and my answer would be it would be better governed from Edinburgh than from London, and hence – if I had a vote – I’d vote YES.
First of all a few caveats. I do not know Scotland well, but do know Westminster well, so my view of Scottish politics is conditioned by the media. Second, as the holder of a UK passport but one who has never lived in Scotland, nor has any Scottish ancestry as far as I know, I am probably stepping on questionable ground by even writing about this – I most definitely make no claim to have full information about this topic.
For me the case for independence is summed up succinctly in Adam Ramsay’s piece for Open Democracy, entitled “Scotland isn’t different, it’s Britain that’s bizarre“. Looking at issues such as renewable energy, inequality and education, Ramsay’s piece outlines the sort of independence that for me, as a modern, Green-lefty, sounds very appealing. Scottish police reform is the sort of policy an independent Scotland could do a lot more of – compare and contrast that to the PCC mess in England and Wales!
There are of course downsides to independence – questions about Scotland’s EU membership, and what currency Scotland will use being some of the major headaches that have not been adequately answered. On both issues I am not personally too bothered though, as I see both as being overplayed by both camps in the referendum campaign. As I’ve argued, Scotland’s EU membership is not automatic, but nor is it complex, but such a mundane answer suits neither side in the campaign. Currency questions are similar – the real reason Alex Salmond can talk so confidently of keeping Sterling is he knows that were Scotland to become independent it would be in Westminster’s interests to allow it – because Westminster would not want the economy of an independent Scotland to tank. But prior to a referendum Darling has to talk up the dangers during the campaign.
All of this, of course, is not a complete and adequate case for independence. Indeed I would favour radical decentralisation of all sorts of powers, not only to Scotland but to Wales and regions of the UK as well. The UK remains financially the most centralised country in the EU, and that has to change. I also think that in a fast-changing, globalised world, you have to take the closest control you can of the things you can still control – education, health, social security for example – knowing that the rest of the issues are too big even for the United Kingdom to possibly be able to control. As Paul Henri Spaak once said, in Europe there are only small countries left. Those that know they are small, and those that do not know it yet.
For the reasons I outline about Scotland in this post, I would be happy to draw similar conclusions about Catalonia, and possibly other regions too. There have to be clear benefits to splitting, and avoiding major downsides for the remaining part (the economic hit to the rest of Spain in the case of Catalonia might be a stumbling point). I also, for what it’s worth, cannot see how to split Belgium viably, due to the complexity of Brussels. But those are questions for a further post.
But in conclusion though, for good or bad, it is a question of independence or not that is on the ballot paper in Scotland, and faced with that question I would vote YES if I had the right to vote.