THE WHISKEY REPUBLIC?
A critical guide to Scottish independence
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAz_UvnUeuU SCOTLAAAAAAAAND ! FREEEEEEEEDOM !
Why do the Scots want independence.
The Scottish National Party managed to gain a majority of seats in the Holyrood parliament in Edinburgh earlier last year despite the fact that polls at the time suggested that two thirds of Scots did not want an independent state. Up until May 2011 there had long been talks of independence, and the SNP had a strong presence in parliament but only recently had it become a realistic possibility.
The election of the SNP in the first place can partly be credited to a lack of choice of parties to vote for. Unlike in England where voting tends to be an old battle of traditions between Labour and Conservative, the latter is not even an option in Scotland while the sacrifice of the north on Thatcher’s Tory alter is still in living memory. The country has long been a Labour stronghold, but voters were disenchanted with Miliband’s damp efforts to reconcile party relations with the country after the fall of the Labour cabinet in Westminster. The smattering of liberal and socialist votes were not enough to keep the Nationalists from their majority and thus the SNP seemed like a safe option for ensuring the interests of Scotland would come first and foremost.
The SNP’s victory over Labour can also be partly credited to the role of charismatic leadership. The so called Uncrowned King of Scotland Alex Salmond is a fairly charismatic character, able to out talk Jeremy Paxman and keep his private life entirely press and controversy free. Although his popularity has plunged and rocketed during his political career at present, he stands as a relatively well liked public figure. Although there is also a large percentage of the population that consider him egotistic and incompetent.
Scotland is often characterised as the ex- wife or teenage child of England who must be appeased and have a certain nice lifestyle maintained. This metaphor is fairly realistic. The Scottish people enjoy many privileges not afforded to the English such as free higher education, more subsidies on the NHS and their own uniquely Scottish parliament. Pro independence supporters suggest that Scotland can support these privileges without the aid of England where as many unionist supporters appreciate that the Scots have their cake and are eating it and believe that there is no need to overthrow the status quo as Scotland would not realistically be able to fund the “lifestyle”.
There are understandably grumbles south of the border where there is a notion of greedy Scottish people wanting more and more despite their already advantageous position. The English are also unhappy about the ability for Scotland, England and Northern Ireland who have their own parliaments and assemblies with autonomous decision making powers to also have a voice over uniquely English matters. The Scottish can vote on English bills, and yet English politicians have are not able to influence Scottish policy. The English discontent that resulted from these inequalities has given rise to some questions relating to voting reforms.
Where does independence stand now?
At present, talks are ongoing with Cameron and the Westminster government concerning the technicalities of a referendum. Party leaders have pledged their co-operation in maintaining a union. There is a certain desire in Westminster to call Salmond’s bluff and a belief that the SNP are more comfortable to talk about a referendum, but have no true confidence in staging one. Cameron has been attempting to push the referendum for 2013, but the SNP have planned for August 2014, a symbolic date on the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.
Could there be a multi option vote?
It’s certainly a possibility. There have been discussions about the possibility for a number of choices on the ballot paper but it’s deemed to be something of a political risk. There are a number of options in between full independence and maintaining the status quo that would offer more political power to Holyrood.
The vote for a union. The status quo voter believes that Scotland is better off as part of Britain, an economic, military and political superpower with whom we share common values, histories and traditions. We will be safer, more prosperous and stronger united.
Complete control of fiscal and political decision making. The devo max voter prioritises escaping the pocket money system that currently prevails in the Scottish parliament.
Softer increase of Holyrood powers giving Scotland more fiscal responsibility and freedom. Defence, and foreign affairs will still be dealt with on UK levels.
A diluted version of full sovereignty with full separation from England and its institutions, but maintenance of already established co-operation such as defence issues and the currency union.
Scotland would become a fully sovereign state controlling its own taxes, laws, natural resources, defence arrangements and conducting it’s own foreign affairs. Under current drafted plans Scotland would keep the pound sterling and the Queen, although this is hotly contested amongst many Scots who believe that an independent Scotland must be a true republic.
Learning from the Republic of Ireland?
If Scotland were to become independent it would have some advantage in that it can learn from the mistakes and successes of the Republic of Ireland. Scotland would not be the first country to break away from the United Kingdom and so much of the legal framework could potentially be recycled. Scottish independence will dramatically differ from the Irish situation as it will be an entirely peaceful process.
The Scottish referendum also draws some parallels with a rising interest in independence in the provence of Quebec, Canada. A referendum was held in 1995 putting the question to citizens of whether they would like to secede from Canada and become an independent and sovereign state or remain a part of Canada. After a lengthy campaign a 50.58% “No” vote meant that the referendum failed after being 53,000 votes short. The SNP party has been in talks with Parti Québecois which still enjoys a significant following taking advice and lessons in independence campaigning.
The Reality of the situation?
Polls are quite difficult to gauge. The SNP suggest that up to 51% of the population are pro independence, where as other sources would claim that it is significantly less at around 30- 33 % One concern would be if there was a very slight majority voted in favor and an angry large minority feeling like they have had a large piece of their identity and security pulled away from beneath them. Would democracy be a fair and satisfactory solution? It seems unlikely. Independence is likely to rest on the campaign put forward by the SNP. At the moment, as the situation stands in 2012, it seems more likely than not that the union will remain intact, but politics is a fickle business, and an utterly unpredictable entity, so Scotland, England and the United Kingdom as a whole will have to hang on and wait and see. It is a topic we shall be hearing much about in the near future.
“I’m a patriot, a chauvinist at worst, but not a nationalist.” That’s the message the pro union campaigners need to be getting across those made to feel like “bad Scots” by the SNP for not wanting an independent state. David Cameron summed it up quite nicely when he said that “not only can you love Scotland and love the United Kingdom, not only can you drape yourself in the Saltire and the Union Jack, but you can be prouder of your Scottish heritage than your British heritage – as many in Scotland are – and still believe that Scotland is better off in Britain”. Still, the nationalists are grumbling, “All English conspiracy ! End London rule ! Shake off the shackles of our cruel English oppressors and fight for FREEDOM” Shout the men who wouldn’t know oppression if they were sat in the belly of a North Korean prison.
I am a British Scot, or a Scottish Brit, the order makes no real difference to me, I am also a staunch unionist, and frightened of what the future holds for my beloved country. I’m frightened because I know that if the Royal Bank of Scotland or the Halifax Bank of Scotland were to fail again, we would be in a worse state than Greece, I am frightened because I know we would struggle to defend ourselves and to keep our oil and gas reserves safe, and most of all, I am frightened because this whole circus is being orchestrated by an egotistic half wit, who cares more about what the Chinese backers of his party want than the people of Scotland, (beautifully illustrated by his refusal to meet the Dali Lama earlier on in the year) and who’s whole independence campaign is based on cheesy romanticised notions of a Hollywood nonexistent battle with our neighbors.
Maintaining the union is set to be a battle of tactics and PR. The British identity and our shared common values must be promoted, but there is a certain way to do this and a way that must be avoided.
Over the last year and a half. There have been three events that have inspired much flag waving, red white and blue, British patriotic pride and spirit. The royal wedding, the Jubilee and the London Olympics all reflected true, good natured eccentric, whimsical, light and polite British humor, and allowed it to glow at its absolute brightest as an international beacon. The world’s attention has been focused on these green and pleasant lands several times in the last two years, and we have have come off just smashing. The French offer us (back handed) praise and for once the Americans are the ones shouting “That’s our special friend” ! For our size, we pull off some mean feats and yield some real power, our chests can swell with earned and deserved pride.
The Scottish and the English share both similarities and differences, humor, culture, history, cuisine, society, attitudes; we have shared elements, these are the elements that join us as one mass of British people, and we have differences, and this defines our Scottishness, our Englishness and indeed, our Welshness or Irishness. Two of the three big British events of 2011 and 2012 did not help in the promotion of unity but in fact had an isolating effect for those north of the border. These were the Royal occasions, the wedding and the Jubilee. One may have thought that the chauvinistic, good spirited merriment, all the bunting, Queen masks and copy cat Kate hair dos, street parties renditions of God Save the Queen would have crept their way up north but most of us miserable surly Scots failed to have our hearts warmed. In fact, there was a distinct irritation about the BBC’s inability to report on anything other than the wedding of a glorified housewife and it was apparent that the average American was more interested than the vast majority of the Scottish population combined. Again with the jubilee, there was little patience for columnists in national news papers sycophantic simpering about our Queen’s noble and unselfish service. This isn’t to say that there is a strong anti monarch sentiment, just a widespread and general, raging, indifference. The contrast between the delighted English and the nonchalant Scots highlighted these national differences and the “us and them” divide.
The royal family and the monarchy is an English hobby. In Scotland we are not staunchly against it, most of us just don’t identify with it. Contrary to popular opinion, this is less to do with historical romanticism and centuries old Jacobite grudges, but rather the socio cultural norms. Scotland has long had socialist leanings and voting patterns tend to be left leaning, the concept of one ruling family, no matter how insignificant and symbolic their power is an uncomfortable one for the Scots. The marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge makes a statement that this couple are superior, more important than other couples, their wedding is more important than your wedding and when they have a child it will be more important than your child. It’s different from celebrity culture where all eyes are on Hello Magazine because it is official, “my baby is superior to your baby”. It’s institutionalised inequality and the celebration of life milestones of people you will never meet that is so hard to swallow in Scotland.
The royal wedding teamed with the jubilee seemed to have effect on independence polls. According to the UK polling report, in early 2011, 29% of Scots supported independence, this has since crept up to 32%. There has also been a small rise in floating voters now unsure where they were once opposed. The exemption of Scotland from these British celebrations seemed to swell Hadrian’s wall.
It’s not all negative though. If the royal events had done much to isolate the Scots at a delicate time the 2012 London Olympics surely repaired the damage. There was much speculation on how exactly the Olympics would impact polls. The SNP were quick off the mark suggesting that the medals earned by athletes such as Andy Murray, Chris Hoy and Michael Jamieson should have been Scottish. However the reality of the matter seems to have had a more disastrous impact on the nationalist cause. Writing in the Scotsman newspaper, the Labour MP and former cabinet minister Douglas Alexander declared that the Olympics had allowed the Scottish people to “celebrate again what we share across the United Kingdom. The SNP story of separateness lost, and lost badly, not just on the TV screens, but in the consciousness of millions of Scots”
The Olympics were an undeniably British affair ! The humor, the history, the state of mind, the silliness and fun- the enthusiasm of the volunteers, our heads of state and political leaders, Boris the Beckhams and Bond, our soldiers stepping in to cover security and of course our athletes, the English, the northern Irish, the Scottish and the Welsh, our talented and victorious British athletes. With twenty five of the sixty five British medal haul being earned by British athletes out with England what can stand as a better and prouder reminder that together we are not just strong, we are mighty. This is the phenomenon that the unionists need to pounce on and to keep the momentum rolling.