Moore: Independence could alter every aspect of Scottish life

If you listen to the Nationalist camp, you would think that independence is just a bit of tidying up round the edges. Scots can happily separate from the UK and we won’t really notice the difference. We’ll still have the Queen and we’ll still have the pound. Life will go on, pretty much as normal.

You have to ask, though, if it’s not going to make that much difference, why Scotland has to spend 3 years debating it. Nationalists may want to play down the consequences of next September’s vote but that position doesn’t make sense.

Michael Moore is giving a major speech in Dunfermline this morning in which he will remind us that, actually, independence is a massive shift, whether you believe in it or not. He’ll say:

It’s just over 400 days until those of us living here in Scotland will make our biggest ever collective decision.
It’s a big, bold moment, offering us the choice between staying within the most successful partnership of nations the world has seen, or an irreversible decision to leave the United Kingdom and go our own, separate way.
We’ve looked carefully at the Scottish Government’s overarching arguments and their approach, and you have to give them credit for some creative thinking about what independence means.
I have always taken it to mean a separate country making its way in the world, choosing new and different policy paths, which the proponents of independence have argued are necessary.
The simple truth is if we break up the United Kingdom, we will have turned our backs on our shared interests, so that we can instead develop separate interests.
Doing things differently and creating differences is at the heart of separating Scotland from the rest of the UK.
It is the inherent logic of creating a separate Scottish state, even if the advocates of independence spend rather a lot of time trying to assure us that all the good things we have as part of the United Kingdom can be maintained under independence – that there will be no change to speak of. That is a creative approach, but it doesn’t really add up.
Those who advocate independence are surely not saying to people in Scotland – vote for independence to keep everything the same as it is now?
And more to the point it is something that they cannot faithfully promise or deliver.
Indeed – even its own supporters are starting to question this vision of independence as a pale imitation of what they used to dream of.
The UK Government’s Scotland Analysis series of papers has laid out some of the changes and uncertainties that independence would bring. These have really framed the debate in the last six months and will continue to do so. They will be joined by the Scottish Government’s White Paper in the Autumn which will apparently give us the answers to all our questions. What I’m most looking forward to, though, is the return of Jim Naughtie to present the Scottish equivalent of the Today programme two days a week. Both sides should be terrified because he will not let them away with any unfounded assertion. He’ll bring a degree of scrutiny to the debate that has so far been lacking.
After Mike’s speech today, it won’t be long for the pro-independence camp to dismiss it as scaremongering. To me, it’s a Statement of the Bleedin’ Obvious. It is not credible to suggest that breaking up one country and building a new one is something that we can just seamlessly do without noticing the difference.
The one thing I would be a bit wary of is that it’s not realistic to expect the nationalist camp to come up with just one vision of independence. They can’t. The nationalist movement is by its nature going to be full of people with a diversity of views. Should Scotland choose separation, there would be little point in the SNP as a party. There would be nothing to hold it together after the first effort to build the new nation.  There are liberals, socialists, greens, republicans, right wingers within it. They would most likely join other parties or start new ones.
Update: the whole speech is now available here on my own blog.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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6 Comments

  • “The one thing I would be a bit wary of is that it’s not realistic to expect the nationalist camp to come up with just one vision of independence. They can’t. The nationalist movement is by its nature going to be full of people with a diversity of views. Should Scotland choose separation, there would be little point in the SNP as a party. There would be nothing to hold it together after the first effort to build the new nation. There are liberals, socialists, greens, republicans, right wingers within it. They would most likely join other parties or start new ones.”

    The first part is perfectly true. But you say the latter point like that’s a bad thing?

    However, the most concerning thing for me in the Liberal Democrat approach to the referendum is how often arguments are used which can equally undermine our case for federalism were this being made on another day in other circumstances.

    “Doing things differently” is at the heart of creating a federal UK just as much as it is, as Mike correctly points out, in an independent Scotland.

    We desperately need to make an argument for a No vote which does not undermine our own aspirations.

  • Al McIntosh 31st Jul '13 - 2:27pm

    This is the clearest message that the pro-Trident no campaign is a campaign for no change. It is a campaign for a stagnant status quo. It is a campaign for and by the forces of conservatism in Scottish politics. This also explains why the no campaign opposed a third question on Devo-Max or federalism. The reality is that they are opposed to change of any kind. Only Yes Scotland offers Scotland positive change and a progressive vision of the future.

    Independence is the only option on the ballot paper that gives Scotland control over the election of its government and control over its finances.

    The case for independence is one of democracy and of finance. Over the last few decades, Scotland has had the government it voted for less than half the time. It used to be a fundamental tenet of liberalism that the best people to choose how a country is governed is the people who live there. Only a yes vote can turn that liberal principle into reality for Scotland.

    Independence is also about control of Scotland’s finances. Scotland only controls less than 10% of its own revenue base. Independence would change that so that it controls 100% of its own revenue. This would bring positive benefits to Scotland. In the last 5 years alone, Scotland contributed £8,000 million more to the rest of the UK than it received back in spending. That is £1,600 for every Scot. Even if it did not have a financial benefit the point, founded in liberal principle, remains that Scotland can manage its own affairs better than letting Westminster do it for them.

    A more concrete example of the positive change that independence would bring is that Scots would not have to face the bedroom tax. Westminster has refused to cede any powers over welfare despite polls repeatedly showing that an overwhelming majority of Scots think that welfare should be determined by the Scottish Government.

    Independence is the only way to remove Trident from the Clyde. It is the only way to escape the Westminster consensus in favour of Trident. Scrapping Trident will save £100,000 million over its life cycle adding to the financial dividend of independence. A no vote is a vote for Trident.

    With independence Scotland can project its own image abroad and promote its own interests better than Whitehall’s FCO can do for us. Scotland will be a responsible world citizen with a strong independent voice in the world. Scotland would be free to build up and develop its portfolio of renewable energy expertise. In contrast, a no vote condemns Scotland to being a peripheral part of an isolationist UK that is plunging into uncertainty over its membership of the EU.

    Not only that but there are uniquely liberal attractions of an independent Scotland. The new state would need a written constitution that would set out the responsibilities of the state and the limits its power and the rights of citizens. This is a process that liberals should be engaging with. Constitutional change that liberals have fought and campaigned for over decades are within grasp in an independent Scotland that do not look possible within the UK inside our lifetimes. In contrast, Westminster remains stubbornly resistant to even reforming its house of lords!

    There are far more benefits and positive changes that flow from a yes vote than can be put into one comment. Rather than stick with the status quo, stick with Trident, the bedroom tax, a democratic deficit and years of externally imposed austerity, say “Yes”, lets change things and change them for the better! Yes, lets do things differently than Westminster. Yes, lets be independent!

  • Which is precisely why SNP office-holders (as distinct from the rank and file) have no particular interest in *winning* the referendum. They have to *hold* the referendum just so they can say they did, because their base expects them to; but actually achieving Scottish independence would be a political disaster for them. Of course, holding the referendum and losing will probably have negative aftereffects as well.

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