I’m resident and employed in Scotland now, yet the debate over independence leaves me on the sidelines as a spectator. I am not going to express an opinion on which way to vote, but I want to consider the process.
This is an issue which is clearly of some importance in the long term, and yet both sides of the argument have been hijacked by politicians who, by their nature, can only think short-term. Just as in an election campaign, one side tries to bribe the electorate (most recently, with increased pensions, which are clearly not affordable), and the other side tries to scare the electorate (with increased taxes).
A few times during the campaign, important issues have been raised: British nuclear submarines, European Union membership, currency, for example. In each case it has been completely clear that neither side had even considered the issue, let alone brought a well-thought-out position to the debate.
More worrying is the Scottish government’s attitude to civil servants (the group of society who will be most affected by any change) and other public figures. This issue is important, and concerns the whole of society; everyone should be able to have their say. Instead, these people have been told to “keep out of politics”. A University principal who questioned whether Scottish academics would be able to apply for grants to a U.K. research council was told to withdraw the question. Surely a symptom of fear?
I would not mind if the electorate voted No to the referendum. This would not preclude a properly-thought-out proposal being brought back at some later stage. [This vote was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the battle of Bannockburn. Unfortunately they have missed the anniversary of Flodden Field, but they might just make Sheriffmuir (an “inconclusive battle”).]
I’ll leave the last word to G. K. Chesterton:
To have a party in favour of union and a party in favour of separation is as absurd as to have a party in favour of going upstairs and a party in favour of going downstairs. The question is not whether we go up or down stairs, but where we are going to, and what we are going for.