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Opinions/Politics

Newsletter editorial, Nov '13: Scotland's choice

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Newsletter editorial, Nov '13: Scotland's choice

Postby Dave » Sun 1 Dec 2013 11:27 GMT

This month's newsletter editorial was about the referendum on Scottish independence, where a rather disappointing debate so far may hopefully liven up at last now that the Scottish Government's White Paper on independence has been published.

What do you think about Scottish independence? Would you welcome the chance for Scotland to decide its own affairs? Or do you think that both Scotland and the rest of the UK are indeed better together?

Why not let us know? We'd love to hear from you! :-)
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Postby brockles » Sun 1 Dec 2013 12:44 GMT

Scotland has been part of the UK for over 300 years - united for about 12 generations. Isn't it rather presumptuous for the 13th generation to think they should determine the landscape of Scotland for all the generations of Scots to come? There is nothing wrong with self-determination, but perhaps a series of 3 referenda 10 years apart, which if all were won by the 'yes' camp, would reflect a real and lasting wish for independence - rather than this knee-jerk opportunism, which even denies ex-pat Scots from any say in the matter!
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Postby SteveGill » Sun 1 Dec 2013 13:09 GMT

Not sure that the citizens of Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Czech Republic etc etc would agree with you on that one.

Making a decision over 30 years would bridge quite a few generations - can't see that happening.

Hope its OK to post this link but you can rely on channel 5 to provide an educated and mature debate on the subject (cough): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xm5EBDa42ck
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Postby brockles » Sun 1 Dec 2013 14:40 GMT

As they say, horses for courses. The former Soviet satellite countries you mention were annexed. Scotland was not, it freely united with England - and together these nations built the largest empire the world has ever known, leaving a legacy of civilization and respect that still remains today. Fortunately British politics are reversible through the ballot box. I am not sure that an 'at a whim' vote for independence can be.
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Postby Dave » Sun 1 Dec 2013 15:47 GMT

brockles, you're right in that Estonia and Latvia were annexed by the USSR. But that still leaves the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which came together freely after the First World War from territories that had historically been ruled under separate crowns.

Is it really true to say that Scotland freely united with England? That would suggest that the Parliament of Scotland represented the will of the people and that there was no coercion on the part of the English - neither of which was the case, given that very few Scots actually had the vote in the early eighteenth century and that the English used a combination of bribery, economic warfare (Darien) and hostile legislation (Alien Act 1705) to drag Scotland into union.

As for the three referenda (which presumably would be over 20 years rather than 30), it's an interesting idea, but would cause riots if there were a decisive majority after the first referendum - people wouldn't take kindly to their popular will being denied for 20 years after they'd expressed it.

Finally, whatever your view on the merits of the case of independence, it's inaccurate and rather patronising to describe the movement for independence as "knee-jerk", "opportunist" and "at a whim". The SNP haven't just appeared overnight; they've been around for the best part of a century. The central plank of their manifesto in all that time has been clear, and they were elected by an absolute majority (under proportional representation, so it really was an absolute majority) with a mandate to legislate for a referendum on independence. It's not a measure they've suddenly dreamt up because the Westminster government happens to be a bit unpopular in Scotland just now - it's the natural consequence of decades of political campaigning.
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Postby brockles » Sun 1 Dec 2013 18:26 GMT

A stimulating way to pass some of a miserable Maltese afternoon! Thanks for your knowledge and comments. I agree that 'at a whim' was not appropriate, but I would certainly stick with 'opportunist' - just as pulling out a saltire behind the PM's back at Wimbledon might be!

Anyway, after Sunday's late lunch, which consisted of English Pheasant (yes available in Malta) casseroled in Aberlour 10 year and a fair measure of potion to boot, I will resign myself to a draw result - and hope that others will join the debate!

Thanks again.
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Postby JJ » Mon 2 Dec 2013 00:53 GMT

Dave: I suggest that there's a difference when there are still family members who remember previous independence (Baltics etc.) and when it's consigned to folklore.

Something completely different that struck me last night though was how quickly Scotland could complete its infrastructure or whether its master plan (I've only read a couple of thousand word overview of the white paper) will rely on buying essential services from England for some years. Such as the Air Accident Investigation Bureau, without which aircraft won't be able to fly from, to or over Scotland or its territorial waters?
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Postby Dave » Mon 2 Dec 2013 01:41 GMT

I would think they'd have to buy some services in for a while after independence - in fact, from what I've read of the White Paper so far they seem to be planning on the basis of pooled services anyway.

The "problem" - and just how big the problem really is seems to be at the core of the debate so far - is that the SNP seem to be taking it as read that everyone else will be happy to agree to whatever Scotland wants, whereas the Unionists seem to be assuming that the negotiations will all be very difficult. I reckon the truth will be somewhere between the two, if indeed it comes to it - the Scots won't get everything they ask for, but they'll get a reasonable deal.
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Postby brockles » Mon 2 Dec 2013 03:23 GMT

The first poll since the white paper, conducted by Progressive Scottish Opinion – the first firm to correctly predict the SNP majority victory in the 2011 Holyrood elections - published on Sunday, showed that:

"Two thirds of the unemployed in Scotland intend to vote yes, whereas 3 in 4 of those in full-time employment intended to vote no."

Should the magnitude of deciding the long-term future of a great nation be determined by the current economic circumstances of the voters?
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Postby Graeme » Mon 2 Dec 2013 05:03 GMT

Here in Canada the idea of separation (the Quebecers want to leave Canada) keeps rearing its ugly head. The Quebecers keep threatening to leave and have held a vote (which failed 51 to 49 against) and then hold that threat to the government for more funding etc. Sometimes I wish they'd just leave as they take far more from the rest of Canada than they put in. How they would survive post separation is a mystery. Will a separatist Scotland be in the same boat coming back to the English for another hand out, just to tide them over? And, maybe another later on when they can't pay back the first one. I really hope they have thought it through as they will look like real twits if it doesn't work.
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Postby Dave » Mon 2 Dec 2013 09:39 GMT

Thanks for your kind words, brockles. :)

brockles wrote:Should the magnitude of deciding the long-term future of a great nation be determined by the current economic circumstances of the voters?

It's a fair question. My answer is: In part, yes. Inasmuch as the population's circumstances are determined by the governmental set-up of the nation, it's a legitimate concern - just as it is in a general election, where it's the policies of those elected to power that determine the population's circumstances. If there's good reason for unemployed people in Scotland to believe that government from Holyrood would give them better chances of prosperity than does government from Westminster, then why shouldn't that be a legitimate reason to vote for independence?

JJ wrote:Dave: I suggest that there's a difference when there are still family members who remember previous independence (Baltics etc.) and when it's consigned to folklore.

Sure. I don't think there can ever be a "one size fits all" when it comes to self-determination movements - history gets in the way.

The Velvet Divorce in Czechoslovakia is interesting, though. The Czech lands and Slovakia have a lot of common history, and were under a "union of the crowns" (like England and Scotland from 1603 to 1707) for several centuries before being united in 1918.

The Slovaks (and indeed the Sudeten Germans in the inter-war period) weren't terribly happy at the dominance of the central government by the interests of the majority Czechs. (Hitler exploited this in 1938-39 to achieve the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia - absorbing Bohemia and Moravia into Greater Germany as a "protectorate" and setting up Slovakia as a puppet state.)

But the decision to split at the end of 1992 wasn't taken by a popular vote at all. In fact opinion polls in September 1992, just after the governments of each half had agreed in principle to dissolve the federation, suggested that only just over a third of Czechs and of Slovaks wanted the split.

Graeme, I don't know that much about the circumstances of Quebec with regard to the rest of Canada. But the SNP have been highlighting the fact that Scotland's per capita GDP is not far off the UK average even without taking oil and gas into account. They also claim that Scotland contributes more per capita in tax revenue to the UK than the UK average - although there they include oil revenue, which distorts the picture somewhat.
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Postby Kay » Mon 8 Sep 2014 20:06 GMT

I don't know if the polls can be believed but apparently it now looks as though Scottish independence is a real possibility. The City appeared to believe it anyway as share prices fell and panic spread. Hmm.

Meanwhile, I fould this amusing opinion piece on the subject.
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