What is wrong with the Scottish Independence debate
The debates coming up between Darling and Salmond inspire very few people. Many will feel a sense of frustration that it has endured for so long, the best description of the referendum is that of an episode of newsnight which lasted for two years. According to TNS 53% believe they have not been given sufficient facts about the referendum.
There is an extent to which the facts are unclear with one side just rebounding off another. One side says ‘Scotland are net contributors’ and the other replies ‘independent surveys show Scotland will begin life on a deficit’. With the European Union yes say ‘Scotland will get back in, the real danger is the Tory in out referendum’. The No side’s response ‘there’s no guarantee you will get back in, other states have an interest in showing the danger of separatism’.
This alone cannot explain the poor quality of the debate. It looks like Darling will win, just because Salmond cannot give a plan B. This must cause despair among elder statesmen of Scottish Independence. After many years of campaigning all Alex Salmond could do was pledge to maintain the status quo. Currency is all though, he ought to have been able to show via the currency arrangements that Scotland was disadvantaged by being in the U.K., he has not been able to do so.
What explains the lack of quality in the debate is that it has been monopolised entirely by the left. This may have been inevitable given the last Tory win in Scotland was before the Beatles. In the entirety of the debate all that is discussed how best to spend money. Nobody has raised the question of how to generate wealth. Perhaps this is intended from the corporation tax cut which the SNP have pledged, but it is never really made.
The debate then comes to oil, but we all know oil will be gone by 2050. Salmond has attempted to run this like a general election, he’d have love it to be SNP vs Conservatives, hence his preference for debating David Cameron. He’ll settle for it being SNP vs Labour. Nobody has claimed why Scotland will function when oil has run out, how will Scotland be better in 2060 other than ‘the people of Scotland will run it’.
In an ordinary general election the right faces off against the left, generally speaking, on issues of efficiency against equality. This is in itself a far-fetched ideal, Peter Oborne details well in The Triumph of the Political Class how right wing eurosceptics and old Labour left wingers alike have been shifted out of the debate in U.K. elections. The SNP have shut the debate down in order to try and suit their parameters, narrowing the goalposts rather than getting a better goalkeeper.
An example of this includes when the Henry Jackson society think tank raised the issue that the majority of Scottish soldiers would opt to remain in the army of the United Kingdom rather than serve in any separate Scottish army. The SNP dismissed them as ‘neoconservative’. This does not negate the issue. They have done this in other more vulgar ways, dismissing Scots who has moved away and saying to people who do not have an address in Scotland that their opinion is relevant. A comment in the referendum debate from an audience member whether Darling has an address in Scotland did not come from nowhere (he does, but so what if he doesn’t, does that mean having no plan b for a currency is fine?)
The problem then with their parameters of debate is that essentially Scottish Labour and the SNP agree on so much. They agree that Government spending money is wonderful, they just disagree about the best way to have more money and how to best spend it. Who best can deliver a social democratic Scotland? This may be why some have felt excluded. There are not no Tories in Scotland, 416,000 voters in Scotland is not nothing. UKIP, despite it not being popular to say so, has some support in Scotland. Many in the SNP are ex Tories, as social attitudes show a similarity in their attitudes.
Rather than a general election where virtues are disputed, a monopoly on virtue has been had. The virtues are social democracy and government spending, within that the only practicalities discussed are how best to obtain those ends. Many of the biggest issues facing Scotland faces have been neglected. It is generally agreed Scotland will need lots of immigration to sustain its pensions, with its working age population not growing at a fast enough rate. A right wing perspective would have asked why certain sections of Scottish society has been left workless. He may be a figure of loathing, but there is no doubt that Iain Duncan Smith went back to politics after initial humiliation because he saw the ruination of life in Easterhouse. Perhaps if the SNP had not narrowed the debate so much people may have asked what the fate of communities were life expectancy is below sixty will be under independence and perhaps this would have left more people satisfied with the debate.