Gate opened to road to indepdendence referendum

The agreement being signed now, 15th October 2012, by UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, is the formal opening of the gate to a single track road to a referendum on Scottish independence to be held in the Autumn of 2014.

The agreement confers upon Scotland the Section 30 powers legally to hold such a referendum, with the wording of the single Yes/No question and by the Electoral Commission and issues around campaign spending conducted under advice from the Electoral Commission.

The referendum will be held in 2014 and must be held by December 2014.

16 and 17 year olds will be permitted to vote.

Both the Scottish and UK governments are committing themselves to work for the future of Scotland – whatever the outcome – which binds each of them to positivity in the case of either result.

There is now no reason why a specific date should not be set on which this vote will be held. Will it be announced at the coming SNP Conference? That might focus minds away from the division on NATO membership.

We have around two years between now and this referendum – a marathon for all concerned.

During that time it is to be hoped that the Scottish Government drops the extreme tedium of its present campaign mode.

Just about every press release and every government minister’s statement on pretty well anything carries a version of the mantra that whatever Scotland cannot do, whatever unsatisfactory action its government may have taken or whatever problems it faces – it’s Westminster’s fault.

With two years to go and with planning for this event going on since 2007, what we need over this prolonged period is not endless reruns of praise and blame but hard facts. They must be known by now. If not, why not? They must be prepared and published.

We need to see the detail of what even bringing independence about would cost – with the severance of all of the unified systems managing records – on, amongst others,  taxes, immigration, passports, driving licences – with complex data transfers and the creation of separate organisations and record keeping systems for Scotland.

We need to see the detail and the specific costs of an independence deal – what would we have to pay, for instance, towards a national debt run up, in part, on our behalf? We would need to accept a fair and agreed proportion of that debt burden which we ourselves would have to finance. Independence cannot be seen as a plan to take a nation into administration.

We need to understand what sort of  border controls we would have and what these would cost us. The rest of the UK has an interest in this because if Scotland cannot afford the sort of defence services we have had or if its border controls are unenforceable, our borders then become a point of vulnerability for our sister countries.

At an experiential level, border controls will simultaneously create physical independence and physical isolation.

Currency is a borders issue, certainly in terms of reinforcing a specific identity. If, as seems currently planned, Scotland keeps the GBP, this does raise issues of the meaning of ‘independence’ but would create fewer problems and costs at a practical and an experiential level. When the Republic of Ireland broke parity with the pound sterling, I lived through the painful consequences in finding that, when I crossed the largely unmarked border into the south, I had to go to foreign exchange counters in banks. There was nothing unmarked about that alienation in a country where I had lived the sense of belonging in every part of it.

On its current spending levels, Scotland needs subsidy. Where, post-independence, would that subsidy come from?

We need to understand what we would no longer have, post-independence, because we could not afford it – such as the spectrum of universal benefits we enjoy. We need to be part of deciding what the priorities for benefits in an independent Scotland would be, because they will have to be prioritised. It is arguable that this will have to be the case in the UK too.

We need a detailed and costed balance sheet – our traditional spending needs are known but much of our earning power is projected. The accuracy and the sustainability of revenue generating projections needs to be tested by being given and interrogated. Wish lists will not cut it.

Whatever each individual spiritually prefers, union or independence, no one would vote for hardship.

Assurances of prosperity need to be replaced with the credibility of robust facts and figures that withstand the most hostile interrogation. Nothing else is good enough for Scotland. This is, rightly, a secure and hard headed nation, not one that can, overall, be sold a blindfold adventure to a largely unknown destination on a wing and a prayer.

Campaigning for independence requires the highest responsibility from our government because independence is a one way road.

We can choose to leave. We cannot choose to come back if it doesn’t work.

Therefore we have to know and be assured of the security of the detail of the consequences before we make our minds up.

We are entitled to expect the government to deliver the necessary detail of consequences; just as we are equally entitled to expect the UK government to put forwards costed details of possible political regeneration within the UK.

Whichever route we choose, nothing will be the same again after this vote; and that is an issue with which the unionists need to engage at a level of hard facts just as much as do the nationalists.

It is not just the future of Scotland that is in the hands of Scottish voters. It is the future of the UK.

One issue which marks irrevocable change as a result of the independence referendum now agreed is that 16 and 17 year olds are to be given the right to vote in it.

Yet the Prime Minister is saying that, nevertheless,  these teenagers will not, be permitted to vote in UK general elections, This seems inconsistent to the point of being indefensible.

How can you argue that these young virgin voters may vote on the issue of taking a nation to independence in perpetuity – but cannot vote to elect a government to serve for a five year term.

If Scotland votes to stay in the union, how do you put these 16 and 17 year olds back in the box for a year or two? How can you logically regard them as worthy of carrying the weightiest responsibility one day but not to be trusted with a much lesser responsibility the next?

Is Scotland votes for independence, will 16 and 17 year olds in other parts of the UK accept that they cannot vote, where their peers in Scotland vote? Scotland, once independent, could not feasibly remove this right to vote on much lesser matters like transient governments.

This is a step that will change every part of the UK, whether or not it remains united.

Finally, it remains a matter of incredulity that the percentage of a majority required to enact independence has not been an issue.

When one thinks of the convoluted electoral arrangements made to elect, say, a leader of the UK Labour Party – who may never govern – how can it be deemed acceptable for a single vote to carry a nation to independence?

Lynda Henderson

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64 Responses to Gate opened to road to indepdendence referendum

  1. On its current spending levels, Scotland needs subsidy.
    This is one of the most hotly debated questions, with convincing figures being put forward on both sides of the argument. A bland statement like this is simply not good enough.

    As for how can it be deemed acceptable for a single vote to carry a nation to independence
    – well, that’s how referenda work – unless you want to go back to the dark days of the 1979 referendum on devolution and the 40% rule? That would be a recipe for another twenty years of resentment and constitutional uncertainly.

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    • Scotland’s balance sheet for 2010-11 showed:
      OUT: £63.8 billion for all levels of public sector expenditure. This includes a per capita share of debt interest payment.
      IN: £53.1 billion for all public sector revenue including the most favourable calculation of share of North Sea oil revenue – the illustrative geographical share. [calculations of share of North Sea Oil on a per capita basis loses us £7.2 billion in that year]
      NET FISCAL BALANCE: Deficit -£10.7 billion.

      As North Sea Oil revenues continue to decrease, earnings from other sources will have to increase and come onstream to replace that and reduce the endemic deficit.

      The real challenge is for the referendum on independence to be approached in a way that reduces the resentment that will be felt by whichever side loses.
      The country cannot go forward with a sizeable minority of sore losers.
      Before we get to the vote, we have to have a communal agreement on how we deal together with whatever result we get.

      The vote is the least of the issue. After the vote is the big one, whatever the result

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      • That’s a budget deficit you are talking about, nothing to do with subsidy. The figure came out of UK borrowing, and was not a ‘gift’ from the UK to Scotland. In fact, the boot is on the other foot. The UK as a whole ran a bigger deficit than Scotland for 2010- 2011 in terms of percentage of GDP.

        In 2010-11, Scotland’s estimated net fiscal balance was – as you say – a deficit of £10.7 billion (7.4 per cent of GDP) when a geographical share of North Sea revenue is included.

        In 2010-11, the equivalent UK position including 100 per cent of North Sea revenue, referred to in the UK Public Sector Accounts as ‘net borrowing’, was a deficit of £136.1 billion (or 9.2 per cent of GDP).

        So in fact Scotland did somewhat better than the UK as a whole . . . perhaps Scotland is subsidising the UK?

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  2. erm 2 points newsroom

    16+17 year olds have not been given a vote in this referendum, and the section 30 powers have not been transferred.

    reason i bring this up is the Scottish Government should not be announcing a date for the referendum when they have not as of yet been given the power to hold it, ok it might just be a formality but there is still a process to follow

    same with the 16+17 year olds, this announcement did not give them the vote, it has only given the power for the Scottish Government to give them the vote after they have been given the section 30 powers to hold the referendum.

    and these powers will not be transferred before February 2013 and it will be during the referendum bill due in the Scottish parliament in spring of 2013 that the 16+17 year olds will be confirmed as having a vote

    just pointing out in fairness of giving an accurate reflection of the current situation and not one painted to suit your views

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    • One has to assume that the agreement as signed by both parties will stand and its weight is to enable these arrangements.
      Yes, of course the Scottish Government has the right, under Section 30, to give or not to give16 and 17 year olds the vote – but since it has campaigned for them to vote, it is improbable that it would not allow this.
      It is equally within the rights of the Scottish Government under Section 30 not to go ahead wit the referendum but, as we understand it, these rights under Section 30 are for a limited period so that too is unlikely.
      Our views are simply that both governments concerned should be open with the Scottish electorate and detailed in the information provided to them – on the circumstances of economic and political life after the referendum
      We are concerned that no one votes on a false or disguised prospectus, regardless of the way they vote – and we trust neither government to play a straight bat on this.
      There is a real case for an agreed independent body to be charged with producing economic projections for an independent Scotland based on known figures plus the costs and revenues associated with policies declared by the Scottish Government to be planned for implementation.
      Who would put their shirt on a horse they hadn’t seen?

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      • but my point is you have said they have been given the right to vote. they categorically have not,

        in the past you have made comments and based stories about the exact semantics and wordings of what politicians have said, yet here you are doing the exact same, making the same mistakes that they have, in the past you would have pounced on this sort of thing and demanded it be fixed

        you should practice what you preach

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  3. This is a truly historic day- remember it well as the first day of the demise of Alex Salmond. Salmond has pushed too hard and too fast, and been outwitted by the big boys. Cameron has outplayed him and removed the opportunity for more devolved powers for Scotland.
    A simple yes/ no vote is doomed to failure, even if de kidz are allowed to vote.
    Might as well save us all the agony of two years of mudslinging and get it over with next week.

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    • Is this the same Cameron who has decided that we should celebrate the centenary of the beginning of the First World War? Nothing like using a few million dead as an excuse for a Union Flag waver. Could he not have come up with a better reason to push the “better together” message in 2014? If this is an example of the tactics that the Unionist parties will use then “outplaying” is not the term I would use to describe his antics.

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      • Yes, it is the same Cameron. And commemorating the first world war, giving praise, recognition and remembrance to brave people from all corners of the United Kingdom who laid down their lives in the name of freedom is not a bad thing really (how bitter would you have been had Cameron chosen to ignore it?).
        And, er, what date had Salmond chosen for his referendum anyway?

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        • You commemorate an end to a massacre, not the beginning. And it had nothing to do with freedom or democracy. Read the history books and put off the celebrations until 2018.

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          • I am sure you are very well read Andy, but the Great War was entered into by Britain because of her moral obligation to defend the freedom and democracy of France, made even more certain once Belgium was invaded and the 1839 Treaty of London (article 7)was invoked.
            Ultimately it was too high a price to pay, and generally mishandled by the political and military ‘elite’ and it would do no harm to remember the beginning and the end.

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      • Yes Andy, the celebrating of the beginning of the first world war simply defies belief, shame on them, but will be just one of many despicable levels the desperate unionist parties will stoop to to ensure that they get the opportunity to keep on subsidising us lazy scrounging, unintelligent, backward, drunken, workshy wasters. They’re aw hert!
        I’m not an economist and wouldn’t attempt to number crunch however I do recall David Cameron not long after the SNP’s trouncing of all other parties at the last Scottish elections being interviewed and when backed into a corner (may have been Bernard Ponsonby) and asked whether Scotland could afford to be independent, without coming out with a definate yes, Cameron more or less admitted we could, definately kept well and truelly away from a no then swiftly sidestepped the question by saying he thought we were ‘better together’ stronger in the union like the slippery weasel he is, all the usual grey statements we continually hear from these parties.

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    • As Steven says, important we stick to the facts:

      “I’ve always taken the view that we have to first settle the question, does Scotland want to stay in the United Kingdom. If the answer is yes, then obviously further devolution is possible.” David Cameron, speaking today to the BBC.

      This is consistent with his past statements on the subject.

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      • And once the Scottish people have spoken (after the fanfares, face painting, chest beating and hubris about a brave, new, independent Scotland) with a resounding ‘no thanks, we’ll stay as we are’ do you really trust David (Longshanks) Cameron to say ho hum never mind, but here’s some extra powers as a thankyou?
        I don’t think so.

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  4. At the risk of injecting some dangerous balance into Newsie’s reporting, here are a couple of quotes from an English businessman involved with the community buy-out in Harris:

    “Being [involved with] the buy-out enabled me to witness the immeasurable energy that is released when a community takes ownership of their destiny” and

    “There was something indescribably empowering when standing with a group of people and charting a new, brighter future. And that is the same sentiment that has led me to believe in independence and freedom for Scotland” Ian Scarr-Hall in the Scotsman, 2010.

    It isn’t about whether we will be financially better or worse off, and it is a symptom of how sick our society has become that this seems to have become the over-riding measure against which the debate must be judged.

    How many times did you use the word cost, Newsie? (answer – 6). But did you mention empowerment, self-confidence, pride, fairness, social justice, hope, aspiration? All possible factors in the decision and its consequences (whichever way one votes).

    Even if it was just about the money, as we are always advised by those encouraging us to part with it: “past performance is not indicative of future results”

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  5. What an irresponsible waste of money in very hard times.

    I get up in the morning and I am in Scotland…

    2014:

    After the “Yes or no” I will still get up in the morning in Scotland.

    It’s going to coast a fortune in consulates and embassies if the Yes vote goes through…just noticed the British Government is closing Basra consulate…and saving 6.5 million…I dare say the only folk to prosper will again be the chosen few.

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  6. I think the important question for us Scots is not whether we can afford to become independent but whether we can afford to remain part of the UK?

    This question is not solely economic (though we have to ask why the UK economy is one of the worst performing in Europe – worse than most of the Eurozone countries).

    The more perspicacious of the international commentators have noted that the drive for Scottish independence is not driven by questions of ethnicity or nationalism but rather from a divergence of social ideals north and south of the Border. Simply put, we believe in different values and that divergence is growing on a daily basis.

    You will need all your fingers and toes to list the range of topics where Scotland embodies different social values and priorities from England (the situation is confused by the fact that the Welsh Assembly also have divergent priorities while Stormont is in a wee world all of its own). Creeping privatisation of the NHS, immigration and the treatment of asylum seekers, possession of weapons of mass destruction; the right to education based on merit not wealth, Europe, inequality, welfare, land reform – indeed just pick a topic, any topic and think how attitudes differ between the north and the south.

    With independence comes the ability to prioritise our spending to our needs and, perhaps more importantly, our aspirations. Again, it is interesting to see ourselves as others see us. Many Danes are particularly keen to see an independent Scotland as they see us as a similar nation to their own, not just in terms of demography but, crucially, in terms of social values and thus a new ally for them within Europe. Significantly, they do not view the UK as a whole as sharing these values.

    I hope my country, my nation has the vision and the cajones to vote yes in almost exactly two year’s time; to hold to what is right against what will by then be a banshee torrent of negativity coming from unionists (cost of embassies indeed!). Independence will safeguard the values and ambitions that we hold dear and allow us, as a nation, to express our will and desires on the international stage as well as at home.

    Let the “lang sang” be heard once more and in full voice.

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    • …less access to medication for the treatment of cancer, less access to huge sums of government money for rescue when the country’s banks go bust…

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      • Oh come on Lowry, you can do better than that. Scotland is currently looking into the possibility of a cancer drugs fund for non-approved medicines (which is what you are talking about) but this would of course encourage yet more obscene profit-taking by the pharmaceutical companies.

        Have a look at this BBC article for a more balanced overview of this issue.

        And as for the banks – well, I am a bit worried that you apparently expect catastrophic bank failures to be a regular feature of future life in the UK. All the more reason for Scotland to go her own financial way perhaps?

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  7. The smug Fat Controller chose the 2014 date deliberately so let’s have no more nonsense about Cameron doing exactly the same.

    As for the referendum – we have two years of argument and counter-argument ahead of us. We have those like “doc” who speak eloquently and persuasively about a different value base that seemingly exists in Scotland and those who just shout their ridiculous ‘Freedom’ slogan wave as if that will somehow make everything ok.

    I’m just not sure about this different value base argument – it strikes me that when you suggest Wales and Scotland (and Northern Ireland) are somehow different you remain rooted in that particular perspective that still blames England for all out failings.

    For me also it is not a question of whether we could make a fist of governing ourselves, of course we could, that’s a given – so I don’t need to subscribe to national inferiority complex and/or the need to ‘prove’ ourselves.

    For me it’s about – what is in the best interest for the future of our country? Would the majority of us be better off economically, socially and educationally in an independent Scotland? Would we be safer in the world and in our streets by being independent? Would this be a more equal Scotland? Would an independent Scotland be able to afford a thriving NHS? Would we look after our old people or will we rush to take away their winter allowance, bus passes and dignity as soon as the need for that particular referendum bribe was over?

    From these perspectives it seems to me that independence is and remains a gamble; a gamble that really has little to offer as an upside but a whole lot to lose on the downside.

    (In fact one of the ONLY reasons I could think in favour of independendce is that it would remove that safety-crutch immediately; but of course even after an independced we would still blame England – it’s in our nature)

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  8. What would the postal service look like – will it cost more to send to the rest of the UK? What about the BBC? Surely we can’t all be expected to endure only Alba TV.

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  9. Hurrah! An actual attempt to debate the issues (and from “Simon” too).

    You raise a number of issues but rather than try and reply to all of them (vita brevis and all that), let me expand on this theme of value systems.

    My mentioning of Wales and Northern Ireland was not some attempt to blame England (for what exactly?) but rather to point out that there is growing differences between the devolved governments and Westminster. I didn’t want to write “between Scotland and the rest of the UK” because that would ignore what is happening in the other devolved governments (eg free prescriptions in Wales).

    I haven’t noticed a lot of “blaming the English” since devolution but I have noticed an increasing feeling that Westminster is pretty irrelevant to most people’s lives in Scotland – at least until the last UK election.

    “What!”, I hear the cries: “don’t the SNP use every opportunity to blame the English for all our ills?”. Unionists say that the SNP do and occasionally there is a bit of Westminster bashing but the dominant theme has not been that it is Westminster’s fault but rather that Scotland lacks the tools to tackle whatever the problem is as the issue is reserved to Westminster. This is a very different argument and an entirely legitimate one (though it does become a bit boring with repetition).

    Back to values. The differences between England and Scotland have become most apparent since the last Uk and Scottish elections. Indeed the elections themselves provide hard evidence of that shift. In England, there was a shift to the Tories while in Scotland Labour actually increased their share of the vote. If you look at England in isolation, the Tories have an absolute majority, whereas in Scotland labour have an absolute majority. These voting differences reflect not just traditional voting patterns but also deeply held value systems.

    Of course, there are people in England who share very similar value systems to people in Scotland and this is even more true when you look at regions of England (such as the North) but en masse, the English are rapidly developing value systems that seem odd, often unfair and even alien to Scots. You can see this across a wide range of topics. In education, the concept that people should be educated to as high a degree as possible based on merit rather than income is deeply held: hence the popularity of resisting the introduction of university tuition fees in Scotland. Look at the numbers of children educated in the State sector in Scotland with those educated privately then compare this with the English averages. Compare also the almost universal delivery of school education through comprehensive schools in Scotland with the melange of academies, grammar schools, free schools, faith schools and, of course, the large private sector.

    Of course, education is an area where there has long been differences in culture and tradition between England and Scotland. However, if we look at a much more modern institution such as the NHS then there is less reason to expect there to be differences between the two countries. But here again we see enormous differences in approach not just to the delivery of health care through the NHS but also in terms of its very philosophy, with the SG moving resources towards preventative medicine. We see a strengthening of the NHS as a universal service free at the point of need in Scotland and a retreat from this principle in England. “Free” prescriptions” tend to get the attention but “free” eye tests are a great idea in health protection and save much more than they cost in early detection of not only eye disease but also conditions such as diabetes.

    In England, private health care is much more common than in Scotland and it is difficult not to acknowledge the gradual dismantling of the NHS south of the border.

    Of course, there are many values that Scots and English (and I use the terms in their national rather than any pseudo racial context) that are shared. But that is also true of many Europeans – indeed you could argue that Scots are more closely aligned to some of the nations in Europe with a strong social democratic tradition.

    I’ll end this with another question: what do you think will happen to English-Scottish relations if Scotland does NOT vote for independence? Do you think this will end the taunts of the Scots being whingeing subsidy junkies? Do you think it will lead to a more respectful English press recognising the rights and dignity of the devolved nations?

    By 2014, I suspect the only way the Union will survive is if the Unionist parties bring forward a programme for further devolution that guarantees a federal structure in the UK with Scotland receiving all of its tax revenues and control over all government functions other than defence, international affairs and social welfare. Even here though, the Scots may look at the Tories’ attempts to dismantle the Welfare State and their determination to retain Trident and decide that enough is enough.

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  10. “doc” – “The differences between England and Scotland have become most apparent since the last Uk and Scottish elections” don’t agree the biggest difference was during the Thatcher years. However, I do agree that when we (the Scots) talk about England in pejorative terms that tends to be the south of England rather than our more like minded Englsish cousins in the North.

    That said, whislt you can argue that there are more private schools and private health users in England I rather suspect that is probably has as much to do with a much larger population and a wealthier class (in the South at least) as with anything else.

    As far as taunts of ‘subsidy junkie’ are concerned they will probably fall away every bit as quickly as our ‘Freedom!!’ loving crew stoping suggesting in every use of the word ‘English’ that their parents were not married.

    Respectful English press? Oh come on that’s surely a contradictionj in terms ? They are there to sell newspapers and in that cause don’t care if they are respectful or not. They frenzy-feed at the drop of hat (Sir Jimmy Saville anyone???) and for example, can in the course of two weeks, lambast Harry for wiggling his wonka at a party in the USA and then praise him for serving in Afghansitan – albeit with his own protection squad.

    So if you are waiting for them to ‘recognise the rights and dignity of the devolved nations’ don’t haud yer breath, look at their horrible nasty attitude to the French for gawd’s sake! Their allies in the lasty European war!!

    I go back to my conclusion – even the most hardened snp supporter will have to recognise that there are significant risks for Scots and Scotland attached to independence. However, whilst at best the upside benefits attached to those risks are in reality marginal – let’s be quite honest here the downside risks are at quite significant and might yet prove to be catostrophic.

    Right now I genuinely believe we are better together. :)

    ps I cheerfully admit that I’m a bit of Jim Sillars ’90 min patriot’ and all that. (even though we’ll probably get humped again tonight) And there is nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong either with people lile Billy Bragg being a proud and decent Englishman.

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    • And my argument is that there are significant risks involved in staying within the Union. And I could argue that while the risks from Independence are rather abstract and hypothetical, the risks from staying in the Union are becoming more and more apparent with each passing day. Did you not listen to the Tories’ speeches at their conference? Were they articulating the sort of society you want to be part of?

      And England’s propensity for private education and health is not simply a demographic consequence of England being larger than Scotland – as a percentage basis there is much more private sector displacement of what we consider public in Scotland (and don’t forget about water).

      I’m not condemning the English for having different social priorities and values from the Scots: that’s their right. But I do think that our focus on community over the individual is worth fighting for… and judging by your own recent posts, so do you.

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  11. The problem is that it’s not for the pro-unionists to come up with the answers because it’s not them that want change. The questions above can only be answered by the SNP. i.e will we have passport control at the board?

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  12. Ireland? Iceland? Both of whom The Fat Controller was praising up to the hilt – right up until they went bust.Strangely enough hew shut up about them after that…

    £5 a pint in Ireland, you pay before you get an appointment to see a doctor and ther is humumgous prescription charge.

    ps In case anyone is interested I also absolutely detest yon anti-English flower of scotland dirge that is claimed as our national anthem. Almost as bad as GSTQ and of course the snp would retain the Queen as head of stage.

    Pftttttttttt. They don’t even have the cojones to go for a republic!

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    • Iceland is making a rapid recovery. Unemployment is only 7.2%, and GDP growth is expected to come in at 2.4% this year. All three of the major ratings agencies have upgraded the country.

      That is not what I meant when I asked for a prec edent however. I meant show us a European country that has become independent and gone down the tubes.

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    • Ach, there you go again “Simon”: a post full of things we can agree with. Personally, I would ditch the monarchy as an irrelevance to a modern, forward looking State and I would hope that out National Anthem is something a lot better than “Flower of Scotland”, whose merits are confined to the fact that it is not GSTQ and was a product of the wonderful Corries.

      Ireland and Iceland both suffered heavily in the banking crisis and both are now doing better than the UK in terms of GDP and growth. Are the Irish clamouring to be part of the UK again or the Icelanders begging the Danes to take over again?

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  13. Scots renewables – the nanosecond I posted that I realised I’d not answered your question – but only in one respect. Both of these countries made a gigantic keech of monummental proportions. The nationalist side is at least they made it themselves which is of not much comfort to both countries whose young people leave in alarming numbers.

    The truth is that if the much-maligned Gordon Brown had not taken the firm action he had then 000s in the UK would have lost their money in the Iceland bank fix.

    And of course the Fat Controller stopped referring to them as great examples ….

    By the way – I’ve bet Scotland tonight – just in case you don’t think I’m a romantic at heart. ;)

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  14. I think there is another issue being overlooked in this discussion.

    If you subscribe to the point of view (which I do) that the world is increasingly becoming subject to resource constraints – be they oil, food, water, or simply space for an ever expanding population – then you accept that there is an urgent need for society to ‘re-fashion’ itself to cope with these issues, in a controlled and equitable way.

    This new reality will affect every aspect of our lives, from our financial systems (one which needs perpetual growth is clearly unsustainable), to a move away from consumerism, to an increase in local resilience, amongst many other things.

    So what has this got to do with the independence debate?

    Well, despite having been aware of these looming issues for decades, preparations for an orderly transition have basically been ignored by the political classes who cannot think beyond the next 4 or 5 years.

    The question therefore is, will continued minor tinkering in the way we do things, properly address these looming issues? Or do we need a step-change, where we quite literally re-examine every aspect of our society’s structure & function?

    If the latter, it might be that independence offers the best chance to engage with people across the board in the complete re-design of our systems, as we may well have to do that anyway, as other posters have commented. I suspect that is why independence appeals to those groups who feel our current ways are unsustainable eg the Greens.

    Having said all of that, I would be much more confident of the future upside of independence if our current politicians were actively articulating this particular argument, and using such powers as they already have to begin the necessary change. Sadly, on issues as diverse as transport and land reform, the current government has pursued a very conventional and conservative (with a small c!) approach.

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    • This debate seems to be bringing out some really good points of view, but – at the risk of devaluing the discussion – I have to say that I wouldn’t so much as buy a second hand car from either Cameron or Salmond.
      Over time my votes have drifted from LibDem to SNP, but the interventions of Mr Salmond on events in the Aberdeen area in recent years have convinced me that – despite his undoubted skills as a political operator – he’s unfit to run this country.
      If others share my view I wonder if this could effect the outcome of a referendum that’s about something way more important than individual political personalities.

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    • I agree with a lot of what you have written Jamie, good post this. Generally we the public, our political parties bar the Greens concentrate on money, personal gain, oil etc. all things I believe must take more of a back seat in future years in order to tackle issues such as inequality capitalism contributes to, consumerism and its drawbacks along with the others you mention. It’s all to easy to get wrapped up in my party is better than yours, petty squabbling about pros and cons of Scottish independence, myself included I should say. Good to see things from another angle, a very pertinent and thought provoking one at that.

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    • I’m not objecting to the terms (everyone is entitled to their opinions) but if the only information you give is that you think it is tripe or tosh then the only response I can make is the Panto-esque “Oh not it’s not”. Which hardly advances the debate.

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  15. Doc, your item strikes me as a load of your oppinions (which you are entitled to) dressed up to look like facts.

    The resality is that there is little to discuss until the Fat Controller gives us hard information such as:-
    EU or no EU?
    Currency?
    Commonwealth or no Commonwealth?
    Monarchy or Republic?
    etc etc.

    We have nibbbled at the edges of subjects like this endlessly in other threads.

    The Scot’s sense of community is more of an illusioon than a reality (in my opinion of course). As just one example I give you the owner of a tatty and valueless road who appears to be holding the country to ransom.

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    • I am assuming that an independent Scottish Parliament would have to make the final decision on these issues – so at present any SNP proposals are simply ‘suggestions’.

      For them to be more definite than this would imply an SNP majority in a future independent parliament, something I think is probably less likely than independence itself.

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    • JimB: I would prefer the term: “evidenced opinion” .That there are differences in social attitudes, values, priorities and aspirations between Scotland and England is a demonstrable fact. Where the debate lies is in the scale and significance of these differences. Are they enough to justify Scotland becoming independent? There are, after all, differences between different parts of England.

      My opinion is that these differences are good reasons for Scotland to become independent so we can protect and nurture those things that we feel are important but which our neighbours in England do not.
      I had to smile when I read in the Herald that the latest Unionist argument against Independence was that we might not be able to get “Strictly Come Dancing”! (Not true but at least it is funny).

      As to the subjects you list, Mr Salmond has already made it clear what the SNP’s position on all of these is and the policies the SNP would pursue post-independence. However, as Ian Bell eloquently argued today in the Herald, the SNP are not guaranteed to be the party in Government post-independence. We are not being asked to vote on whether (or not) to keep the Monarchy, the Commonwealth, the Pound etc. Instead, we are being asked the infinitely simpler question: do you want the power to decide on these issues? The SNP’s position is that Independence changes very little immediately as we retain the status quo in most cases (the exception being Trident and even then it will take time to get rid of the things) but we gain the ability to decide on these issues in the future, something that we as Scots do not have the unilateral ability to do so at the moment. Scots making decisions for Scotland based on our priorities and resources.

      A last comment: why is it acceptable for Unionists to constantly make comments about Mr Salmond’s appearance? If I made comments about Johann Lamont’s physical appearance or about Mr Cameron being an upper class twit then I’m sure there would be howls of outrage so why is it OK to mock Mr Salmond’s appearance? Let him who is in no need of shedding a few pounds cast the first stone I say (and that has nothing to do with Easdale).

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  16. “doc” – you asked “why is it acceptable for Unionists to constantly make comments about Mr Salmond’s appearance?”.

    Well according to Jim Sillarsa former deputy leader of the snp “The SNP has become “intellectually dumb” thanks to Alex Salmond’s success in creating a “totalitarian” party that quashes all internal dissent”.

    There seems little doubt that Salmond is quashing internal debate and striving to prevent anyone going off message (witness Alex O’Neil’s quickly shutting up about abortion).

    He is let’s face it – a control freak. And whilst I can understand his view that he needs to keep his (and his Party’s) eye on his top priority – the referendum. However I rather suspect that whilst he will try oversee a increasingly frentic campaign he might just find that the closer the referendum gets the more disagreements and fractures might start to appear within his party as his politicos jostle for position post-referendum – whatever the result.

    That deals with the Controller bit.

    As far as Fat is concerned – he has certainly piled on the pounds as he has eaten tirelessly for Scotland and like a lot of unfit Scotsmen he is now really quite obese. Or fat as we plain speakers prefer to call it ;)

    And of course the reference to the The Fat Controller in Thomas the Tank was just too good to resist…. :)

    Have a nice evening.

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    • I have to say, as someone a bit closer to the SNP than you presumably are, I don’t recognise the description of it as totalitarian. Disciplined yes but, as the debate on NATO shows, the SNP is one of the few parties that publicly debates its policies. If the proposed motion to reverse the current policy on NATO membership is defeated at the party conference then don’t expect to see the SNP leadership over-ruling that decision. Can you say that of your party of choice?

      As to Mr Salmond, I muse on what the difference between control freakery and strong leadership is? I would say that the latter is when those subjected to it agree with its necessity, are focussed on the goal and respect the “chain of command”; the former is when someone tries to control events and thinking purely for their own ends, ego or because of insecurity.

      Mr Salmond is not without his faults and I agree that he is not everyone’s cup of tea but I suspect that when the history books are written he will be viewed as one of the most influential and important figures in UK politics from the late 20th, early 21st centuries. Churchill, after all, was hardly everyone’s cup of tea and remains a controversial figure. Bit of a control freak too.

      As to making derogatory remarks on someone’s appearance: that’s just childish and certainly irrelevant to political debate.

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  17. What ever “doc” whatever.

    Still, at least Jim Sillars didn’t stoop to derogatory remarks – he just called it as he saw it [the snp] “intellectually dumb……and totalitarian.

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    • I have huge respect for Jim Sillars but you have to take his comments about Mr Salmond with a pinch of salt. The two fell out over policy many years back (over 20 years ago now). His wife, Margo MacDonald (another person worthy of respect) is also no fan of Alex Salmond and says similar things about him.

      However, there is evidence that this is in part sour grapes going all the way back to that argument in the early 90′s. Jim Sillars has long been a critic not only of Mr Salmond’s style but also of the policy direction of the SNP. However, Mr Salmond’s strategy has delivered to the SNP control of the Scottish Parliament and has increased popular support for the SNP to an all time high. It has also delivered a referendum on independence. It is hard when your opponents turn out to be right an I think this does stick in Mr Sillars’ craw, which is a shame.

      I think Mr Salmond has matured considerably over the years as a politician and as a party leader. The SNP leadership certainly contains people who could be described as Salmond “loyalists” but it also contains people such as Alex Neil who cannot be described as such.

      I have in the past said things on here that are critical of the SG’s policies on energy, in particular its support for coal fired generation and the continued and unconditional opposition to new nuclear power stations. I’m also not convinced that the policy over sterling and the monarchy are teh best (though I recognise why the SNP leadership are pursuing these). However, I can assure you that no-one in the SNP has ever tried to tone me down or restrict me in what I say.

      The SNP is a very broad church and, in my experience, is much more inclusive than totalitarian. There are certainly no cliques working away within the SNP to remove Mr Salmond as leader and how many of the other leaders of their political parties can make the same claim?

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  18. It all looks totalitaraen to me.

    A national Police Force being set up being one example. How does this fit in with your rose cloured view of Scottish society Doc? One of the strengths of local police forces was local control. The SNP activists make much of control of Scotland by the people of Scotland – the Police are now to become an arm of the government even more so than they were in the days of the loathsome Thatcher.

    Then there is the erosion of local democracy at Local Government level. The SG has tied the councils down financially so that they are no longer allowed to increase the Council Tax to meet local needs. This is surely an attack on local democracy.

    Destroying local democracy and taking control over the Police nationally. A strong and controlling leader in charge of the country – where have I heard that before?
    Ah Germany in the 1930s!

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    • When the SNP set up a uniformed para-military arm then you might have a case but I think what you are articulating here is just yet more of the ridiculously over-the-top hysteria that is emanating from the Unionist camp. Today we were also told that an Independent Scotland wouldn’t be welcome in NATO (even if we want to remain in it); that child abduction would increase and that terrorists would use the “distraction” of independence to launch attacks on the UK! I await the plague of frogs with interest.

      Do you not see the glaring contradiction in your argument? You are against the SNP for wanting more “local” control over Scotland’s affairs and yet you condemn them for wanting less local control over regional affairs (allegedly).

      Given the population of Scotland (similar to Yorkshire), rationalisation of our emergency services and local councils is long overdue, Who can, hand on heart, really claim that Scotland needs 31 local councils?

      Anyway, off to polish my jack boots in preparation of the Leader’s opening speech to SNP Rally. Really looking forward to the introduction of the new Nationalist salute.

      On a serious note, if you want to see the really worrying side of fascism in Europe, have a look at this story about Greece on the BBC:
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19983575

      That is no laughing matter.

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  19. Independence is double edged sword and a bizarre debate. Ask the Scots and you get a fierce polarisation, those totally in support, those totally against.
    Ask the English, and frankly I’d suspect the majority are indifferent and look at Scotland as being the heavily supported neighbour (rightly or wrongly – I don’t think anyone really knows).
    But that is the biggest risk. Should independence deliver all the Salmond predictions we’ll be laughing. It will be a great move.

    BUT, should we get independence and things don’t go quite to plan… oil revenues decline (which they absolutely will at some point), we can only attract investment by supporting, subsidizing and incentivising businesses to relocate, the public sector explodes as all the institutions Scotland draws on from the UK has to be replicated despite what “we’ll have a mature discussion with England about using the DVLA” Sturgeon says (what if they say ‘yes’, but the price is x, or ‘no’, you wanted a nation, create one. Do we tap on the door of Holland / Belgium / ROI / France to beg to piggy back on their institutions????)
    What if the free this and that starts to sink the economy, tax needs to rise, VAT needs to rise?
    Yes, Mr Salmond, Norway is a great example to look to…. apart from that they created nationalised companies to get the best opportunity from oil, have saved for 30 years and to fund a great public service have eyewatering tax levels – none of which I can see an independent Scotland doing. Our best comparator is Shetland, who built lots of swimming pools and health centres and laid on cheap or free ferries and are now probably within 10 years of going bust as they now can’t afford to keep it all running.

    The risk is that it won’t be Scotland’s choice to come back into the Union if it all goes wrong. Look at how the EU single currency experiment is falling apart before our eyes – just a decade in. England, quite rightly, should have the choice at that point and its quite conceivable that the answer would be an overwhelming “No, you wanted out, live with it”.

    My view? The SNP as a Scottish focused parliamentary party is a good thing although the quality of debates at Holyrood are generally woeful, mainly thanks to inexperienced politicians. But independence is a one way road with a huge risk premium attached.

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