Tag Archives: independence referendum

Tolerance and politics

There were two big arguments going on in non-party-political politics the past two years: lifting the ban on same-sex marriage (England and Wales, 29th March: Scotland, sometime this autumn after the Commonwealth Games and this other thing: Northern Ireland as soon as they lose the court case).

Scotland: the 17th Country in the world to lift the ban on same-sex marriageMaking it legal for same-sex couples to marry, matters hugely to people in same-sex relationships, obviously, but to everyone else aside from a small number of seriously homophobic fanatics, it’s no big deal: two-thirds of the population of Scotland agreed that gay marriage should be made legal in a 2012 poll.

This other thing that is happening in Scottish politics: the referendum. In the US, where they have referendums whenever they can get enough voters to sign off on one, they went through a phase of holding referenda in which voters were invited to agree that “marriage is between a man and a woman”, which was then held to mean that marriage between a man and a man, or a man and a woman, was unlawful. In the UK we referend much more rarely, and only – so cynics say – when the government thinks they can get the public to vote the way they want.
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Filed under Currency, LGBT Equality, Scottish Politics

Leaning towards No

Scotland's FutureI am undecided between devolution and independence.

But I am leaning towards a No vote on 18th September, because the SNP are pushing currency union. And currency union is not independence. Currency union means that key decisions about the Scottish economy will be made by the Bank of England in the City of London.

The SNP are fond of asking, how many countries which have become independent have ever wanted to go back? But if they asked instead “How many countries which have given up control of their economy to a bank in another country have regretted this?” they’d get a much different answer. And that’s what the SNP are offering.
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Filed under Indyref White Paper, Oil, Scottish Politics

Cameron in Aberdeen

David Cameron is bringing his Cabinet north to Aberdeen today “to highlight the importance to Scotland’s oil industry of staying in the UK.”

Presumably you have to be Scottish to understand why this is such a ludicrously bad idea. Or at least, not an English Conservative who was 25 and working for the Conservative Research Department in London in 1992.

In the 1992 general election, the Conservative Party won 5 seats in Scotland.

It’s been 22 years and that victory remains the highlight of their electoral achievements in the past quarter-century. (Yes, they do have 14 MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, but most of them are “list” MSPs – they represent a region, not a constituency.)

The most effective thing David Cameron could do to win a No vote for independence in Scotland is to stay in England and repeat some variation on “Of course the Scots have a right to hold a referendum on independence: naturally I want Scotland to remain part of the UK but we will respect the democratic will of the Scottish people whatever happens.”

I actually respected Cameron’s decision not to debate Alex Salmond; I assumed his advisors had let him know it would have done neither Cameron or the Better Together campaign any good in Scotland, however well the English Tory Prime Minister comes across in his own electoral territory.

The notion that a Conservative Prime Minister visiting Aberdeen to tell the Scottish people that we’d never be able to cope with our own oil industry if we were independent so we’d much better stay part of the UK…
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Filed under Oil, Scottish Culture, Scottish Politics

SF: what are we voting for?

Scotland's FutureThe SNP published a White Paper on Scottish independence in November, and while the ebook has been sitting on my reader, I haven’t yet pushed my way through it. So. for 2014, I’m embarking on a blogging project. Every Thursday, I hope (with July exemption) to write deconstruction on the SNP’s vision of what we’ll be voting for if we vote Yes.

Scotland’s referendum on 18 September 2014 is a choice between two futures.

This is a splendid opening line. But: one reason for the high turnout in 1992 and 1997 is quite possibly, that on both occasions, Scottish voters wanted the Tories out – and wanted Labour in. After the poll tax and the destruction of heavy industry in Scotland, voters were energised, aware, and hugely angry. We really did feel there was a choice between two futures – the grim grey Toryism that had, by 1997, been plodding on for 18 years of hell, and a bright hopeful New Labour future with Tony Blair. (Yes, I know what that sounds like now. But we did.) And to be fair – I had infinitely rather Labour won in 1997 than we’d had another five years of Conservative rule. Whatever New Labour’s flaws and failures, and they turned out to be huge, the Conservatives had done worse before 1997 and are doing worse now. (And yes, a Tory government would have done exactly what Labour did over the Iraq war, but faster and with bells on.) No other election since has felt like 1997 did.

Still: if enough of us vote Yes on 18th September, Scotland becomes independent in March 2016, and for good or ill, that is a huge change. So, yes, two futures. Fair enough.

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Filed under Elections, Indyref White Paper, Scottish Politics

Escapism and fantasy

In 2012, I wrote a blogpost here every day. In 2013, for various reasons, I thought it better to cut down and write a blogpost only two or three times a week – with the predictable result that weeks could pass without writing one, when I was busy and nothing in particular came to mind.

For 2014, I plan to write a blogpost a day – though I’m giving myself a big exemption in July, for various reasons that I shall probably discuss in more detail nearer the time. (Anyway, in both 2012 and 2013, July was the month with fewest visitors to the blog.)

Writing a blogpost is not at all like writing a story. But I’ve written blogposts about stories – I wrote one about the end of House MD, and another about Doctor Who’s Christmas, and about the Hobbit, and I wrote four about Sherlock, and certainly plan to write more about the third season of Sherlock. Most of what I write about, here, is politics, with the odd bit of science: and what with 2014 as the Year of Indyref and 2015 a General Election year, I don’t anticipate any shortage of politics to write about.

But I shall still write about fantasy. Because when the world is grim and getting grimmer, we need to think about other things, too. Escapism is not a bad word unless you are a jailer.

Why should a man be scorned, if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using Escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter. just so a Party-spokesman might have labeled departure from the misery of the Fuhrer’s or any other Reich and even criticism of it as treachery …. Not only do they confound the escape of the prisoner with the flight of the deserter; but they would seem to prefer the acquiescence of the “quisling” to the resistance of the patriot.

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Filed under Blog Housekeeping, J. R. R. Tolkien

Undecided Leith

Undecided About ReferendumAt the beginning of October someone tweeted me a link to Yes Edinburgh North & Leith‘s first public meeting, on 3rd October in the Halls on Henderson Street.

Unlike most Yes events, this one was billed explicitly, both in the header and in the text, as for undecided voters – so, unlike with most events organised by Yes Scotland, I felt free to go along. When I got there, about five minutes before the start, I found some Yes activists who’d come anyway were leaving, and people identifying themselves as undecided were being let in on a one-for-one basis (the hall was packed). I got a seat at the front that had been vacated by a Yes voter and was sitting next to two Yes voters who weren’t budging and who didn’t know Leith votes Labour.
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Filed under Elections, Scottish Culture, Scottish Politics

Undecided Scot decides

Alex Salmond: Better Together, that's what I sayI still don’t know how I’ll vote in autumn 2014. But a few days ago, one thing at least was made definite for me: the Better Together vote is going to win. I’m certain enough of that to lay a bet on it, if I were the gambling sort.

What made me so sure?

It’s not just that the SNP are saying blithely that Independence Day will be March 2016, though that is a highly-unrealistic timescale. (It’s also not a binding decision.)

On 11th May I predicted, correctly, that Barack Obama was going to be a two-term President. My certainty was founded in Obama’s own sense of political security: that’s when Obama opted to come out for repealing DOMA and in support of lifting the ban on same-sex marriage recognition: for gay marriage.

For the most part, there are two sorts of politicians who come out for LGBT equality: the very principled, who will stand up for what’s right regardless of what this does to their future career, and the very confident, who are sure of their future career regardless of what they say. Barack Obama is not the first sort of politician (that sort doesn’t become President of the United States) but he is superb at the job of getting elected. I was sure Obama was going to win.

I’m now sure that the SNP leadership is certain they won’t win the referendum in 2014: they can set a date of March 2016 for independence because that’s not in their plans. They can separate off the “Yes Scotland” campaign as officially not-really SNP, and the morning after the votes are counted and the result is published, the SNP can move on with their plans for contesting Scottish seats in the May 2015 Westminster election.
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Filed under Elections, LGBT Equality, Scottish Politics