Probably unwisely, I have recently been involved in a number of Twitter debates about independence and have seen comments like ‘what’s the benefits of the Union’. What I find particularly irritating about many people who are pro and anti independence is that neither will acknowledge that there are advantages and disadvantages to both positions and we must personally decide on how we trade these off.
1. Economically, there is no question there will be short-term disruption. Business and the markets don’t like risk and they will take the lower risk option of favouring rUK rather than Scotland. If a Scottish Govt demonstrates economic competence, this will sort itself out. In the longer term, it is completely impossible to judge which option is better and both sides are dishonest in this respect in claiming that they can make such a prediction. Issues such as the EU etc. will also sort themselves out in time.
2. The principal benefit of independence is that democracy is localised. A Scottish Govt can make decisions that are legitimised by the people of Scotland. I don’t much like the fact that the current campaign is confusing the issue with all sorts of other policy issues, such as the removal of the Trident base from the Clyde. This is a decision to be taken by the elected Scottish Govt. at the time of independence which will NOT be the current govt.
3. There are two important benefits of maintaining the Union. One is increased resilience – the ability to deal with emergencies be these financial, medical, weather-related, etc. Larger entities always have more resources to do this. Iceland and Ireland are examples of small countries that could not deal with a financial emergency. Denying that emergencies such as financial emergencies won’t happen in future is simply naive.
The other benefit of maintaining the union is that it maintains what is a truly open market rather than the EU’s formally open market but which is no such thing. Each country quite naturally has a tendency to prefer its own goods and services and Scottish providers will lose out. A very obvious example of this is in shipbuilding. Political pressure in England will mean that contracts for navy vessels will not come to Scottish shipyards.
To my mind, these are the key national issues and individuals have to make up their own mind about which they prefer. My preference is for local democracy but (having some professional interest in the area) I am seriously concerned about resilience, in an increasingly uncertain world.
Of course, they are not the only factors that affect voting as individuals in particular situations may vote according to their circumstances. My guess is that very few shipyard workers will vote ‘yes’ because of fears for their jobs.
The other factor that influences voting decisions is a human one – do you trust the people who are representing you? In this respect, I am less torn – I don’t trust the current lot one bit. The truth is that independence will have short-term negative consequences and costs and their inability to acknowledge these and their apparent ignorance of how to negotiate (you NEVER make threats before starting a negotiation as it simply antagonises the other party) is shocking.
Had the Scottish Govt. declared that they would immediately call a general election after a yes vote and that parties could put forward their own positions on independence priorities, I would have had no hesitation in voting ‘yes’. What we are being denied by the current government is local democracy as we are not just voting ‘yes’ to self-government but also to a raft of other policies that we may or may not agree with.
Consequently, I’m tending to ‘no’ but in the unlikely event of an outbreak of honesty from our politicians, I’d be happy to change my mind.