Former MP for Edinburgh West John Barrett has made a surprise intervention in the debate on Scottish independence. Writing in the Scotsman last Saturday, he became the only senior figure so far to say that he doesn’t yet know how he’s going to vote in the referendum on 18th September.
He said that the debate so far has become polarised and is switching people off:
There are good people on both sides, who genuinely believe in what they are arguing for. Unfortunately, as they are entrenched in their own positions, they are often unable to view many important issues in a non-party political way. Far too often, this results in the public switching off from the debate.
He thinks that, as a Federalist, the independence proposal on offer has some things to satisfy him and he talks about the possibility of the UK voting to leave the EU in the next Parliament. Even with all the UKIP hype, I’m still convinced that that will not happen. People will realise how many jobs depend on being part of the EU.
Some of the article makes very difficult reading. He is scathing about the Liberal Democrat participation in the coalition, criticising support for military intervention in Syria and ignoring pleas from the party on issues like the Bedroom Tax. He said that it’s not the party he joined 30 years ago. It’s a bit of a shame that he didn’t recognise any of the good things that the coalition has done, like shared parental leave, raising pensions, cutting taxes and extending childcare and mental health provision in England. He could also have balanced his criticism by mentioning Willie Rennie’s successful campaign to get the Scottish Government to extend nursery provision to 2 year olds.
Having said that, he goes on to critique the issues around independence in a very intelligent way, and says that we all need to take responsibility for the debate being as sterile as it has been.
The Scottish public must also accept their share of responsibility for the current state of affairs. If in the run-up to the referendum they only ask “What is in it for me?”, they will be offered a range of unaffordable promises by both sides and should then not be surprised when those promises are not delivered.
It will not be just the fault of politicians if Scotland does not prosper in the future: we all have a responsibility for the country we live in. It is not a lack of funding that puts a strain on our health service; it is a population with a bad diet, that smokes and drinks too much, while taking little or no exercise – that is at the heart of the problem. Anyone who doubts this should visit an A&E unit at the weekend. If the Scottish public want the option they think will deliver a brighter future without them putting in any effort to improve matters, they are living in a fool’s paradise.
He looks at the sort of Scotland he wants to see and says it can only be delivered if people take responsibility to resolve the problems:
What we should be getting from both sides is a clear picture of the Scotland they want to develop for generations to come. I want to see a fairer country at home, with access to a high quality health and education system for all, regardless of ability to pay; a compassionate and considerate country, where those who are able care for those who are less able; a greener country with sustainable energy production at an affordable price; and an internationalist country supporting peace-keeping obligations and those abroad less fortunate than ourselves, while avoiding any involvement in destructive military interventions, where civilians suffer more than anyone else. If this is the Scotland of the future, it is what I will vote for. It is also something that can only be delivered if Scots are prepared to participate in delivering that future: accepting increased personal responsibility will be part of the bargain.
You can read the whole article here.
* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings