It’s time to have an adult conversation about Scottish Independence
Nationalism seems to have more variations and interpretations than The Bible, and, like The Bible, it often just seems to be used as an excuse in predominantly white countries, to hit brown people.
With political groups like the EDL or BNP, Nationalism in the UK can often be associated with a very ugly and ignorant form of violence and racism, based on simplistic definitions such as skin colour. However, North of the border, a more wholesome Nationalism has been manifesting itself at the forefront of political debate since devolution in 1997, and has done nothing but gain momentum since. Next year will see all that momentum culminate in a final question that theoretically should bring the matter to a close: “Should Scotland be Independent?”
Outside of the UK, Scottish Nationalism is often simply perceived as hairy, kilted warrior poets, throwing off an imaginary yoke of oppression in some glorious battle, fought to “outlawed tunes, on outlawed pipes”. And as absurd as this mentality may sound, it is undeniably the form of Nationalism that captivates and sells, and the version most feel they can relate to inside and outside of Scotland. Despite the idealistic draw of a romantic struggle for freedom, this must be thrown out of the political debate.
In an age of multiculturalism, in one of the most cosmopolitan little islands in the world, nationalism can no longer be about factions of people defined by birth and blood line fighting it out for chunks of land. The political Intelligentsia of Scotland claim not to capitalise to this, pointing out quite fairly, that this mentality belittles and undermines the real political debate. But are they truly unaware that this is the mentality of their supporters. I find this very hard to believe.
The people who will vote in favour of independence are not interested in having an adult conversation about Scotland’s future, and the pro independence movement capitalises on this whenever it can. Why else would the voting age for the referendum have been lowered? In short, because any form of idealism, be it nationalism or any other, is a folly of youth.
Be that as it may, whether the motivations behind it are ignorant or educated voting for independence is of course justifiable. There is a democratic argument in favour of Scottish Independence. Scotland did not vote Tory, and therefore has a government it did not vote for. Whichever way you look at it, whether you want to be melodramatic and call it state oppression, or just calmly call it undemocratic, in a modernised developed country; it is odd that a group of people that can be easily defined using map boundaries did not elect their own government.
It seems like a simplistic analysis of a very complicated predicament but if one looks at a map of how constituencies throughout the UK voted in the last general election, then truly, a picture tells a thousand words. From the tip of Cornwall, blue washes over the map of the UK in a fairly elected tide of conservatism, but suddenly crashes against a barrier round about Hadrian’s Wall. In fact there was only one constituency North of the border that voted Tory. Had the UK voted unanimously in the same trend as Scotland, the Tories would have about as many seats as the Greens. With that in mind, it does seem to clearly delineate two groups of people with different political objectives and motivations, and in essence, isn’t that what defines two separate nations?
Nevertheless, pragmatically, one cannot afford to be as romantic as this; choosing independence as a god given right to self-determination. Whether it’s about donning a kilt and charging at a nonexistent enemy that still calls from the middle ages, or whether it’s about cutting ourselves away from the Tories for the preservation of democracy, the fact is that if a sensible debate about independence is to take place, it needs to begin and end in the same way as any other useful discussion in politics. Where is the money for it, and where will it be coming from? This is the only argument I wish to have my vote swayed on, and this is precisely the direct argument that infuriatingly, neither side agree to participate in. The SNP say we can make it, the Unionists disagree.
It begins with the Barnett Formula, an absurdly opaque system reputedly created on a cocktail napkin by which the UK is taxed and the funds are then theoretically redistributed fairly. However, it is not difficult to find sources online clearly showing that in the present situation, Scotland gets more money back per capita than it puts in. Suddenly the argument that England pays our way and we would be doing ourselves a financial disservice in separating from them seems to hold water.
But once again it is not that simple. Scotland has potential in many industries, but undeniably has a financial future, if a little limited, in oil. If all Scottish commerce were taxed by a government in Edinburgh, would that give us the revenue that the more fervent nationalists might claim is “stolen” from us by Westminster? Even if we were to recover this Scottish treasure so harshly plundered from us by the auld enemy, it must be established how much of the government’s income this would represent and whether it would be a better deal than receiving funding from England.
Still, could oil support a nation? Aberdeen is not just the oil capital of the UK, but the entire European Continent, and is a place where a word like “recession” is as quaint and alien sounding as “renewable”. The issue with this, as much as it is the issue with every element of this political debate is a lack of certain facts and figures. A new oil reserve was recently discovered in the North Sea, which sounds terribly exciting and financially secure, but as soon as oil is found it is sold to the highest bidder. As soon as it is discovered it is gone again, and at present, how much of that money goes to Westminster, and how much goes to Holyrood? What is Alex Salmond going to do to guarantee converting this directly into revenue for the Scottish Government? Will he nationalise the oil industry? Looking across the world to the crumbling infrastructure of Venezuela, let’s pray he doesn’t plan on “doing a Hugo”.
Before the voting date of independence is upon us, a proper discourse must be opened, establishing once and for all how Scotland can financially afford to go it alone. If it can be done, it would be foolish to spend one minute longer under an unelected Tory government because, as backward and parochial as it may sound to our neighbours south of the border, they are the English party, and will never shake this identity. However, if our future is that of Greece’s, living in an unsustainable deficit that ends with the country ablaze, then this cannot be allowed to happen just to placate the ego of a political elite living in La-La Land. We Scots taking this decision next year need to look past bagpipes and Braveheart. As tedious as it is, we need to look at the dull and unromantic reality of cold hard cash.