Back in January I wrote about how it seemed to me that the question Why? is so much more fundamental to the independence referendum than the question How? Yet the mainstream of the debate has been framed almost entirely by How.
The reason’s not hard to see. It’s simpler to place practical obstacles – in this case mainly economic and political – in someone’s path than to convince them of the moral, philosophical or emotional benefits of the status quo. Yet whichever way you plan to vote you must surely be clear about why you do or don’t want independence before you start to consider how it might or might not come about.
I was reminded of that post this week by a friend at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. It made me think that I myself have been too easily caught up in the How? of late, and that with only four weeks to go it’s time that I reflected again on my personal reasons for supporting independence. In doing so I realise what a long distance I’ve travelled this year. I’ve had to think hard about many issues to which I had never previously given any consideration, and rethink many others. In the end I come down to nine main reasons why I will vote Yes on September 18:
1. Because ever since I can remember I have felt Scottish before anything else, and proud to be so. These days I’m only really reminded of my Britishness by my passport (although once abroad I would never answer ‘Britain’ to the where-do-you-come-from question); by memories of the history I was taught at school; and by the odd ceremonial occasion, most of which I admit to finding faintly ridiculous. This is nothing whatever to do with England where I was educated for five years, subsequently lived for 20, and still have many ties of family and friendship. It’s to do with a feeling of belonging to a place and a people.
2. So that we can be like everyone else. Scotland is an ancient nation. It was ruled by its own kings for nearly 800 years before one of them happened also to become king of England. Over that time, and since long before, we’ve developed our own culture and society, temperament and humour, political outlook and economy. Our landscape is distinct as are our ethnic roots and strands of our language. We enjoy all the unique characteristics that go to make a country and it’s normal for countries to manage their own affairs and determine their own futures. Their own people are those best qualified to shoulder that responsibility.
3. Because I am an optimist and I feel hopeful and excited. Scotland is a wonderful, wealthy country and its potential is enormous. We’re an inventive, practical, resourceful people with fantastic natural resources. There is no question in my mind that we can make a success of our future and I see independence as the chance to start telling a different story about Scotland: one that owes nothing to defeat, occupation, emigration, industrial decline, sickness, poverty and failure; and everything to possibility, to innovation, the will to prosper and flourish culturally, the willingness to make connections beyond our shores, to stake our claim in the global debate.
4. Because I’m concerned about kindness and I believe that Scots have an instinct for fairness and treating one another decently. But the only way we can truly stand a chance of embedding those values in our society is to have control of every aspect of our social policy, including its funding, and thus prevent the widening of the gap between rich and poor. I also believe in the value of immigration. The vast majority of people who come here from other countries work hard, pay tax and enrich our culture.
5. Because I feel a strong affinity for Europe. I love being in France and Spain and speak a little of both languages. My wife was brought up in France and we both feel at home on the continent. This is against a backdrop of Scotland’s centuries-long European connections, through political alliance with France, intellectual exchange with the Low Countries, trade with the Baltic nations, to name but a few. We should be able to bring our own voice, our own concerns, to the European forum and the prospect of being involuntarily isolated, relegated to the margins by a future UK referendum, is not one I want to contemplate.
6. Because I believe in the NHS as a public service. Thirty-four years ago, in London, my oldest daughter’s very young life was saved because we had free access to the best medical expertise available anywhere in the world. For all its shortcomings our NHS is still the envy of the world and the prospect of creeping privatisation south of the border resulting in funding cuts north of it is both a tragedy and a travesty of a fundamental principle.
7. Because I think Trident is pointless, anachronistic and obscene. Who will we fire those missiles at – if we’re still around to fire them? There is something utterly mad about the proposition that the most destructive weapon ever conceived can be an effective agent of world peace. Only eight nations in the world have declared nuclear weapons, while another five have access to them via NATO. That is a club whose founding principles seem to me to be perversity and bravado. I do not want to belong to it.
8. Because I think it will shake up our press. Scotland today is served by 37 daily newspapers. Not one supports independence. The only one that does is a weekly, The Sunday Herald. No one says that any individual title must be unbiased, but a healthy democracy has a press that overall reflects the current spectrum of opinion. Post-independence I would hope to see changes in our media landscape, with people turning more and more to some of the more thoughtful, and truly independent, online sources of information and opinion.
9. Because I can see independence placing the whole current system of government in Scotland, central and local, under the microscope and inviting us to take a hard look at what works and what doesn’t. The referendum campaign has demanded of us all that we look deep within as individuals. A Yes vote will require that we look deep within as a self-governing nation. Perhaps that’s the most important reason of all.
Click here for a collection of all my posts on the referendum to date.
Jamie, if everyone who votes on the 18th September has put as much thought into this momentous decision as you have then we’ll surely come up with the right answer. Wishful thinking perhaps but no-one can say you haven’t done your bit. Thank you and good luck.
Agreed on every one of your nine points, Jamie. Connected to, or perhaps part of, point nine, I see independence as a chance to challenge, expose and subject to serious scrutiny some of Scotland’s institutions and elites. The legal profession, for example, enjoys a very privileged and comfortable position, and although devolution has made the justice system more democratically accountable than ever before it still, far too often, does not deliver justice in a fair and open way. In particular the Crown Office remains in many ways a law unto itself. Devolution has done something to adjust issues of land ownership but much more needs to be done to release the vast majority of our land from the grip of a tiny minority of owners. I’d like to see the elite private education system, which does so much to create or reinforce lifelong inequalities of wealth and opportunity, restructured and gradually brought in to play as an integrated part of our public education system – in a spirit of universal benefit not of envy or revenge. These are just some examples of the areas of life that we could seek to reform and make work for the good of all. There is not a snowball’s chance in hell of this kind of thing happening under the status quo.
I very much identify with your nine points, Jamie. Well thought through and equally well-presented.
Arising out of our re-examination of what works and what doesn’t, I would add a 10th point: the writing of a constitution that frames the rights and duties of citizenship within our distinctly Scottish “culture and society, temperament and humour, political outlook”.
The idea that the NHS is being compromised and will follow suit in Scotland is to me the most angering thing in this debate. It is totally untrue. Health care is devolved and Scotland has full power to fund it the way it wishes to.
The doctor I most respect and works quite high up is voting No cause he thinks it is best for Scottish NHS and Scotland as a whole!
As to trident, of course nuclear disarmament is the ideal. But as Danny Alexander very coherently argued, the best way forward to do that is by being one of the nuclear powers and work toward mutual disarmament. By your argument, Jamie, you don’t want to be part of NATO then, who are an alliance of a nuclear power?
Sorry to reply so late… Just couldn’t resist in the end.
May the debate continue….. And long after the votes are cast!!!
Forgot to tick that I want email notifications… So trying again. 🙂
As the Mainstream Media (MSM) is overwhelmingly pro-Unionist and Tory (the Telegraph has constantly promoted an anti-independence stance without balancing it with any pro-Independence viewpoint).
While the running of the NHS is devolved to the Scottish Government its funding is not. Reductions in funding in EWNI will lead to a reduction in funding for Scotland (there are as many, if not more Scottish Doctors who are voting YES than NO) which in conjunction with the scrapping or cutting of the Barnett Formula will lead to creeping privatisation of the NHS in Scotland.
Out of NATO members, just how many have nuclear weapons? How many have American missiles (and let’s be honest, Trident is leased from the USA and cannot be fired without their permission)? Spain is part of NATO and made the US remove its nuclear weapons from Spanish soil. Norway and Iceland are non-nuclear members of NATO.
I have yet to hear Danny Alexander make any cogent argument let alone over Trident. As for his position that the best way to remove Trident from the Clyde is to do it through membership of the WMD Club, this supposes that it is all right to have nuclear weapons stored within 30 miles from Scotland’s largest city and an area between with a population greater than that of Plymouth (where it has been argued it would be too dangerous to store Trident). Independence may well remove these not-fit-for-purpose weapons from the UK.
For me, the best chance for change for the better is Independence, the only alternative is that the UK is OK and this is as good as it is going to get.
Reblogged this on Gyro Consulting Services and commented:
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” ~ Nelson Mandela
The current Scottish Independence campaign has highlighted many questions and parallels with the world of leadership and inspiration. Reading this post about the importance of Getting Back to Why, I was reminded of Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. People are inspired by “Why” and not by “What” or “How”. To gain a greater understanding of how the golden circle model works, this TED talk is well worth watching.
The independence campaign has almost exclusively been conducted on the question of How. “How will Scotland run its economy?” “How will it balance its books?” “How will it ensure its security?” How…! How…! How…! Questions that do not inspire, that do not contribute answers, and which, in the main, generate doubt, uncertainty and fear. It is little surprise, therefore, that a predominantly pro-union press and media have allowed the how question to dominate the campaign.
Simon Sinek has shown that the great companies, organisations, politicians and leaders inspire, generate energy and instil hope with Why. Martin Luther King did not start his speeches by telling people How everything would work in a world after civil-rights was achieved, he started by telling people about his Dreams. Inspiration and hope comes not from having all the details known beforehand, but by being clear on the bigger vision, the grand purpose. No major change in history has ever been made where people have known clearly what lay ahead beforehand. They rarely know how things will work out, but they have known why they wanted to make the change. When purpose and vision is clear, then anything becomes possible. Being clear on the how is of less significance. Those details will emerge, they will evolve, driven by the energies of an inspired and optimistic people who know clearly why they want change to happen.