Opinion: Liberal Democrats for independence

Scotland pipers bandHow has our party got swept up into the negativity of Better Together, and how does one reconcile that negativity with the commitment of the Edinburgh agreement to negotiate in a cooperative way?

The problem lies in a probably well-founded belief that discussing possible negotiations cooperatively in advance would lead to a realisation that they’re perfectly practicable, that Scotland could achieve political independence while maintaining close social and other ties to rUK. Hence the refusal to pre-negotiate, the refusal to investigate options – for example, to ask for an official EU position on continued membership for all present EU citizens – in favour of a simple scare story: if you vote Yes you will fall over a cliff.

In contrast, much of the Yes campaign is genuinely grass-roots, and conducted imaginatively, intelligently and with a sense of humour.

It is about self-determination, not nationalism. Indeed it is England that is becoming ever more narrowly nationalistic, as epitomised in the ludicrous promotion of `British values’: apart from being delusional, this concept has no traction in the wider world. We should condemn Islamic State for its gross violations of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights; if we condemn it for its violations of British values we will rightly be laughed at.

A useful test for many of the arguments in the independence debate is to ask how they will look on the 19th September. It seems quite possible that in the event of a Yes vote we might find views on some major issues reversed. To take one example, the pound. We are in a currency union now; so if we vote Yes I would expect the unionists to be negotiating on a basis of minimal change, and arguing – as Alistair Darling did last year – that a currency union is the natural best option. It’s the Scottish side in the negotiations that would be more likely to go for a looser arrangement or a new currency.

Crucially for Liberal Democrats, how will the prospects for further devolution look on 19th September if we vote No? Any progress will depend on Tory or Labour support, and what they are offering is minimal: indeed the limited devolution of income tax could in practice leave us worse off. Our own current policy is much watered down from the original Home Rule concept, with separate parliaments for each country and a federal parliament for foreign affairs and macro-economics. Until we reach that stage the `West Lothian’ problem will just get worse and worse.

If we couldn’t achieve Home Rule 100 years ago, when there was a majority Liberal government and 6/7ths of the Scottish MPs were Liberal, we’re not likely to do so now.

So I’m inclined to go for what is on offer. Currency, EU, NATO, the monarchy, Trident, corporation tax and local government: all are decisions to be taken afterwards, though it would be good to develop a distinctive Lib Dem approach on them. The decision on 18th September is whether to give ourselves those choices.

For me the decision turns on structures: if you have good governance -representative democracy on a human scale – the rest will follow.

And that’s what, potentially, we have with our Scottish parliament: more accessible to the public, and far more democratic than Westminster with its First Past The Post Commons and unelected Lords, stubbornly resistant to reform.

The Scottish Parliament is not perfect of course: for a start, there is work to bedone reversing the SNP’s centralising trend, and getting devolutionright down to local level, as the excellent chapter 4 of MingCampbell’s 2012 report sets out.

The countries that got offered Home Rule around a hundred years ago — such as Canada, Australia, Ireland — all went on to independence, and none have regretted it. So perhaps it’s time to admit that Home Rule is an illusion, or transient at best, and set out a Liberal Democrat vision for an independent Scotland.

If you want to join in forming a “Liberal Democrats for Independence” AO, please get in touch.

* Denis Mollison joined the SDP in 1981 and is an active member of East Lothian Liberal Democrats. He is a former member of Scottish Policy Committee and devised the STV scheme for the UK Parliament put forward by Lib Dems in Parliament (as an amendment to Labour's "Electoral Reform" Bill) in Feb 2010. He is currently a committee member for Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform.

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50 Comments

  • jedibeeftrix 20th Aug '14 - 2:43pm

    “We should condemn Islamic State for its gross violations of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights; if we condemn it for its violations of British values we will rightly be laughed at.”

    Why?

  • You may expect the Unionists to be negotiating on the basis of minimal change re the pound. However your expectations are somewhat incorrect.

  • Because, Jedi, British values* are by definition not universal values, and don’t apply and are not expected to apply to anyone who is not British. I do not suppose that the French or the Swiss or the Swedes share “British values,” and insofar one might claim they do, that itself would be evidence that the values are not, in fact, British at all.

    If, however, one believes that the mission of the UK is to impose “British values” on the rest of the world, then one should be utterly frank and admit that one really wants to revive Victorian imperialism.

    * Whatever they may be (singing God Save the Queen? Afternoon tea?), though I suspect such a term is a null entity waiting to be filled up by the rhetoric of whatever speaker uses it.

  • Because, Jedi, British values* are by definition not universal values, and don’t apply and are not expected to apply to anyone who is not British

    But the Islamic State isn’t a signatory to the UN, so why should they care any more about the UN Declaration than they do about British values?

  • There is absolutely no reason why British values cannot also be universal values.

  • Sorry fellah, but I don’t want to be responsible for another country’s debt and financial system. If Scotland does want to become independent good for them, but an independent nation has its own currency.

    I don’t really see any other option. I certainly don’t want to see a Euro situation where countries with very different economic and fiscal situations try to share the same currency.

  • @Dav — Obviously they don’t. But we should. Not for legalistic reasons, but because the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a good expression of what mid-20th century liberals believed to be universal rights and values, many of which the world still has not achieved; also, because it’s clearly and concisely expressed, whereas “British values” means whatever you want it to mean.

    The UDHR does not present itself as a document just for members of the United Nations, but “as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.”

  • Alex Dingwall 20th Aug '14 - 4:18pm

    I’ll avoid the sidetracking argument on values and just say Denis that I agree with you that there is little prospect of seeing the Home Rule Commission’s recommendations implemented by either Labour or the Conservatives. Given the opposition to Av and reform of the Lords there is little or no chance of them ceding the level of powers envisaged.

    I do regret that the Scottish party has gone from being federalist to ‘Unionist’ and lined up behind the status quo. The decision not to argue for a third option on the ballot paper may forever haunt the party.

  • jedibeeftrix 20th Aug '14 - 4:22pm

    @David – ” Jedi, British values* are by definition not universal values, and don’t apply and are not expected to apply to anyone who is not British.”

    In the context of the original quote, I.e. condemning Isis: I really do refer to British values when I denounce the actions of the head hackers. There is nothing laughable about that.

  • John Barrett 20th Aug '14 - 4:22pm

    Moving away from the Islamic State debate to the Scottish State. With Federalism not an option in the September 18th referendum and Westminster unlikely to ever deliver, either the voting system, or the many other reforms most Liberal Democrats would like to see, it is understandable that some Liberal Democrats in Scotland will vote for independence as the most likely way to deliver the type of society successive Westminster governments have failed to deliver. Expecting the Labour Party or Conservative Party to deliver in the future something they have never delivered in the past when they have had the power to do so – such as a Federal UK, has left me agreeing with Denis.

  • Ian MacFadyen 20th Aug '14 - 4:30pm

    It is silly to condemn the Better Together campaign for being negative. It exists to oppose a bad idea and ensure that it is voted down in the referendum. Opposing a bad idea that will damage Scotland and the rest of the UK is not being negative. It is being sensible. Only those who have fully bought into Salmond’s utopian nonsense about a Scotland free of troubles in a troubled world, can criticise others for pointing out the flaws in the Yes campaign.

    The emptiness of Salmond’s vision is clear from the way he and the Yes campaign respond to criticism. They never debate, never recognise that others are entitled to an opposing view; they just denounce and condemn, as they did in response to the Australian prime minister.

    The world needs fewer barriers not more, yet the Yes campaign wants to re-create barriers that were abolished centuries ago. How does that make the world or the British Isles safer?

    I write as a proud Scot and proud Briton. I am disenfranchised by Salmond’s manipulation. The Union has served my family well and I want it to continue. The Union has given Scotland peace, freedom, prosperity and a welfare state. For Scotland, for the whole of these islands and for the world beyond, I want the Union to continue.

  • There is a strange assumption in the ‘Yes’ camp that rUK will want have some interest in promoting the interests of Scotland, in some cases over their own, when this is quite patently nonsense.
    In fact, it is, IMO, more likely, that most English (and indeed Welsh) people would be happy to sacrifice a little (only a very little but a little nonetheless) of their own interest just to screw over the Scots. Divorces are rarely amicable, and a ‘yes’ vote by Scotland will be seen in rUK as a little insulting.

    Polling (released today I think) from rUK
    If Scotland votes Yes…
    •“An independent Scotland should be able to continue to use the pound”: 23% agree, 53% disagree
    •“The rest of the UK should support Scotland in applying to join international organisations like the EU and Nato”: 26% agree, 36% disagree
    •“Relations between England and Scotland will improve”: 10% agree, 53% disagree
    •“The UK’s standing in the world will be diminished”: 36% agree, 29% disagree
    •“People should be able to travel between England and Scotland without passport checks”: 69% agree, 13% disagree

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/scottish-independence/scottish-independence-english-people-overwhelmingly-want-scotland-to-stay-in-the-uk-9679439.html

  • Excellent article, Dennis!
    Better Together means aligning with the forces of conservatism, reaction, sectarianism and bigotry like the BNP, UKIP and the Orange Order. If liberals find themselves on the same side as these it is a strong indication in itself that they have got into the wrong camp.

    Neither federalism nor the status quo are on the ballot paper. The choice is between two sorts of change.

    A choice between:

    the “No nightmare” of a scrapped Barnett formula where devolution can be scrapped on Westminster’s whim, deeper austerity cuts leading to a privatised NHS, more people relying on foodbanks, 10,000 more children in poverty, nukes on the Clyde and a probable exit from the EU,
    (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYXhtAQ7IpM) ;

    or a Yes vote and a positive future as a new confident independent nation at the top table of Europe, where Scotland’s wealth allows the Liberal Democrat achievements like free tuition fees and personal care are preserved, where better child care enables more people into jobs and prosperity and gives children a better start in life and where a written constitution limits the power of the state and protects the rights of individuals.

    No wonder more are more current and recently lapsed Liberal Democrat members and voters are realising that a YES vote and Scottish independence offers a fantastic opportunity for Liberalism and for Scotland.

  • John Barett

    Expecting the Labour Party or Conservative Party to deliver in the future something they have never delivered in the past when they have had the power to do so

    An outrageous slur on Labour. They tried to introduce a Federal system to England via Elected Regional Assemblies in 2003/4. This was rejected by the voter at the time.

    There is no reason why Labour should not revisit this proposal, and I’d hope the Liberal Democrats would support them when they do.

  • Also, John Barrett, Labour devolved power to Wales, Scotland and NI, all important steps in creating a federal UK.

    What have the liberal democrats ever done in this regard?

  • the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a good expression of what mid-20th century liberals believed to be universal rights and values

    And ‘British values’ are what Britons have historically believed to be universal rights and values.

    Why pay more attention to one historical group than another? Why impose mid 20th-century liberal values on those who do not wish to live by them?

  • Liberal Neil 20th Aug '14 - 5:20pm

    Most of the points put forward by Denis in the article and in the comment by John Barrett are perfectly reasonable. If people currently on the electoral roll in Scotland take the view that the benefits of self-determination and a smaller scale state outweigh the potential risks that’s fine.

    The argument outlined here is different to many of those put forward by the Yes campaign, and, to an extent, contradictory.

    However your view of whether either side of the referendum campaign is ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ is a subjective one, largely based on the outcome you want. To this exiled part-Scot with no vote the Yes campaign is the negative one and the No campaign is the positive one.

  • Good to see this, agree entirely with the author.
    on currency, the £ sterling is the currency of the UK not of just England – it would be invidious for England to try to keep it for itself just because it’s a bigger country, but if so then it must follow that Scotland could have no responsibility for sterling’s debts. a prime example here of the nay-sayer’s negativity!

  • I like this positive counter view. I see little problem with a most amicable separation that agrees to share wherever this is mutually beneficial.

    Nevertheless, in all likelihood the outcome will be a NO, but the consequences of our engagement with negativity of the Unionist Better Together campaign may well hurt Liberal Democrats more than other parties. There is no use denying the negativity that has been further underlined by Future of England Survey reported today in The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/aug/20/scottish-independence-referendum-english-attitudes

    Real problems will remain as this article makes clear and in the wake of a NO result I would expect a marked backlash in Scotland that will exacerbate an already difficult campaign in 2015.

    There really does need to be a new distinctive Lib Dem position, however I fear that Danny Alexander in particular has nailed himself so firmly to the Unionist position which speaks out so firmly against amicable cooperation, that we have lost a persuasive pro devolution position.

    An independent Scotland working closely with the rest of the UK and within the EU could have been to the benefit of both. I am sorry the Lib Dem position has become so entrenched. What is the Party’s strategy following a rejection of independence?

  • John Barrett 20th Aug '14 - 6:12pm

    All the polls still predict a No result in the referendum and I have never seen a majority vote for independence in any Scottish vote or poll in my thirty plus years involvement with the Liberal Party and now the Liberal Democrats. However, we should remember that not winning a majority in any vote is something that we have plenty experience of and that a principled stand on any issue does not always carry the majority of voters with it.

  • Ian MacFadyen 20th Aug '14 - 6:46pm

    Why is it negative and tainted to oppose a proposal to tear our country apart and turn people like me into a foreigner in my own country?

    Why is it negative and tainted to opose the destruction of the longest standing voluntary political union that has brought peace, prosperity, freedom and the welfare state?

    Why is it negative and tainted to want to keep our country intact and not destroyed to appease nationalism that liberals abhor wherever else in the world it occurs.

    If it is negative and tainted to want to save the country I love, I shall be proud to be called negative and tainted, but shame on you nationalist fellow travellers.

  • @Dav: “And ‘British values’ are what Britons have historically believed to be universal rights and values. ”

    Oddly, one of the things the British have historically believed in is chopping off other people’s heads — though I believe that was reserved for the nobility, while the even more barbaric practice of hanging, drawing, and quartering was reserved for the commoners. Some 90 Scots rebels were sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered after the Forty-five, and most of those sentences were carried out. To denounce IS in the name of “historic British values” is ridiculous.

    “Why pay more attention to one historical group than another? ”

    Because liberal values are, I should think, of particular interest to Liberals.

    “Why impose mid 20th-century liberal values on those who do not wish to live by them?”

    This lovely false equivalence has been seen so often that I’m sure everyone is tired of it. The fact is that liberal values uniquely do not impose anything on anybody — rather, they prevent the imposition of authoritarian values on those who don’t share them. The terrorists and murderers of IS are perfectly free to cut off their own heads, if they can manage it; they simply don’t have the right to do it to anybody else.

    Liberal values are easily regarded as universal because they can be universalised; everyone has maximum freedom when nobody is trying to interfere with anybody else. If everybody were like IS, then we’d all be busily fighting each other and executing our prisoners until we were all dead. While the values in the UDHR are not perfect, due to the time in which they were written (women are barely mentioned, and gay rights get no consideration at all) they are still far better than what had gone before — including “British values,” which from the viewpoint of the Tasmanians or the Indians or the Irish have never looked quite so universal.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Aug '14 - 7:27pm

    I don’t agree with much of the article, besides its main point: that Lib Dems should welcome people who want Scottish Independence.

    The strategic decision to try to turn us into a unionist party on both the Scottish and the European front has been a disaster and it was clear it was going to be from the beginning. It suggests a lack of electoral ambition and more of a concern for ideological purity.

  • paul barker 20th Aug '14 - 9:11pm

    I cannot imagine any version of Liberalism that includes Nationalism in any form. The UK is not an Empire & Scotland isnt a Colony. The future of Our Worls lies in more co-operation not chasing 19th Century myths of Independence.

  • Little Jackie Paper 20th Aug '14 - 9:14pm

    Johnmc – ‘the £ sterling is the currency of the UK not of just England’

    Yes, and it is the UK that Scotland may leave. Independence is just that – independence from the institutions of the UK. There are entirely good reasons why the rUK would want some pretty serious political union as a part of any currency union. And, very possibly a referendum too. As for questions of debt, Scotland would not pursue the zero option – I can’t see any interest that would serve. I can’t think of a single successful example of a country that took the zero option. The ex-Yugoslav countries were able to agree a debt allocation and launch new currencies, and they were in a civil war so there is no reason it can’t happen with Scotland.

    The basic problem with currency is that there really aren’t any good options. Logically the euro might be the longer-term plan, but it’s not a short-term answer. I don’t know how the euro polls with the Scottish public.

  • I have to admit, whenever I see a Better Together speaker, I just end up being extremely angry at them for being exceedingly negative and patronising. Sadly, that campaigning tactic does work in referenda.

    At the same time, although I am increasingly sympathetic to independence, it’s not my call to make. I’m not Scottish, and this is about Scottish self-determination. Better Together should resist the temptation to appear as Westminster activists being bussed in, as that’ll only drive people towards a Yes vote.

  • Tony Greaves 20th Aug '14 - 9:28pm

    A very good commentary, Denis.

    Tony

  • They tried to introduce a Federal system to England via Elected Regional Assemblies in 2003/4. This was rejected by the voter at the time.

    There is no reason why Labour should not revisit this proposal

    We’re a democracy. Isn’t the fact that the voters rejected a proposal a very good reason not to revisit it?

  • Richard Sangster 21st Aug '14 - 7:57am

    The independence issue is diverting the party from consideration of other matters.

    We are not a unionist party in the way that the Conservative and Unionist Association are..

    What the Conservatives call British values are in fact universal values.

    Of course, we could co-exist with Scotland as an independetn country.

    The question could alternatively be phrased: Better off together in Europe with Alex Salmond or better off together in an isolated UK with Nigel Farage

  • John Barrett 21st Aug '14 - 8:17am

    Richard – If that is the option that unfolds, it will not only be a Scotland in Europe, it will still be a country with no tuition fees and probably no nuclear weapons. It will have a much higher percentage of electricity produced from renewables with no need for new nuclear power stations and little likely-hood of it following the USA into foreign wars like Iraq.

    The Scottish Liberal Democrats will still exist and might even influence a future Scottish government in a coalition. Who knows?

    There is uncertainty if the result goes either way and those in the Yes and No camps who say they know exactly what the future holds (including from our own party) are not being honest with the electorate.

  • Having spent a large chunk of my life helping to address the appalling situation created by the battling nationalisms within Ireland (now hopefully at last gradually healing) I am deeply worried about the airy advocacy by many such as my namesake here of the tearing asunder of the United Kingdom. Indeed much of the advocacy involves bland assurances that it will not really be a breach at all but merely a kind of new United Kingdom with just a few details changed – including demanding that Europe and the world at large extend to the tiny new state of Scotland privileges and strength judgements that assume it is still really kind of part of the UK.

    In fact there are all sorts of dangers and risks here well beyond the usual arguments about economics and national culture and pride. I mentioned above that Ireland’s wounds were hopefully now healing. Has anyone considered what a “yes” vote in this referendum might do to Ireland? Northern Ireland – always rather more linked in many ways to Scotland than to England – would become an isolated entity. Just look at the map of the so-called rUK. Many Republicans would begin to renew their arguments as to the logic of merger of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland. The entire settlement set out in the Good Friday Agreement could be attacked. It is not too dystopian a suggestion that this could lead towards re-arming by Loyalist extremists.

    This is just one of many potential problems that could emerge if Scottish voters were not to recognise the enormity of the change that Salmond and Co. are trying to lead them into.

  • Martin Pierce 21st Aug '14 - 10:57am

    I haven’t got a strong view about Scottish independence, other than that as a liberal I believe in self-determination and so if the will of the Scottish people is for independence the rest of the UK should make it cordial and wish them well. We would still have lots and lots in common and would be major partners in trade and all kinds of other things, as we are with the Republic of Ireland even though the break there was less amicably won. So I was mystified and somewhat taken aback to receive an email from the Party the other day informing me that apparently a Yes vote would be ‘a catastrophe for our country and for our party’ and asking me immediately to donate as apparently there are only x days left to save the Union. What exactly the catastrophe would be I can’t immediately tell as the email didn’t go on to set that out. What it would be is a triumph of peaceful self-determination through the ballot box. I can’t help thinking this is long way from the thinking at the time of the Scottish Convention in the 90s – which no doubt lots of people could also have set out as a ‘catastrophe’ had they wanted to. The one very major and real downside I can see of Scottish independence is that it would make it much easier for the Tories to win General Elections for the rest of the UK – but strangely this wasn’t mentioned in the email, maybe partly because we have spent the last 4 years giving them a majority anyway even when they don’t win one?

  • Ian MacFadyen 21st Aug '14 - 12:53pm

    Denis: “The countries that got offered Home Rule around a hundred years ago — such as Canada, Australia, Ireland — all went on to independence, and none have regretted it.” Your dates are out. These countries achieved effective independence, not home rule in the UK sense. One gave it up after 26 years – Newfoundland, which reverted to London rule and 15 years later, after a referendum, became part of an unwilling Canada, thwarting American ambition. It has never regained its independence.

    g: “Labour… tried to introduce a Federal system to England via Elected Regional Assemblies in 2003/4. This was rejected by the voter at the time.” This was not federalism or regionalism. It was an intended consolidation of existing local government powers to regional centres without transferring any powers from Whitehall and Westminister. The voters in the English North East were canny and rejected it.

  • Im afraid the arrogance of those who simplyfy the ‘no’ vote as a vote for negativity reminds me of exactly the same arrogance that was shown towards those who opposed AV – and look where that gets you……

  • I like Denis, he’s one of the good guys, but 3 years after it became clear there would be a referendum, is he seriously suggesting that a “Scottish Liberal Democrats for Independence” group be set up four weeks before polling day (and one week before the postal votes land)?

  • Nigel Lindsay 21st Aug '14 - 10:28pm

    You are one of the good guys, too, Kevin, and your campaign in 2010 was one of the best I’ve worked in. You were robbed! But give Denis his due, he has been pushing for a change in the Party’s stance for a long time now. What is really worrying is the way that the leadership has attached itself to a Unionist position. We are not Conservatives, nor are we Unionists. Many members are uneasy about the way the divide between these philosophies and ours has been blurred recently. I agree with John Barrett that neither Labour nor the Conservatives have any intention of delivering the answers for Scotland that Liberals have campaigned for over the years. A resounding “No” vote is likely to block positive constitutional change for many years because – despite the lures – there is no agreement between the parties on what changes should be made in the event of a “No” vote. One of the best things about the referendum campaign has been the open discussion of what sort of Scotland we want to live in. LibDems in England and Wales might find it invigorating to initiate such “big picture” debates in their countries too, going back to first principles and looking beyond immediate issues. I accept that the polls show there is very unlikely to be a majority for independence. But it seems to me that the best way of keeping alive our aspirations for a Liberal Scotland is a “Yes” vote high enough to discomfit those whose real aim is a unitary, centralised state, with no awkward questions from the edges!

  • Denis Mollison 22nd Aug '14 - 12:26am

    My thanks to all for their coments, and particular thanks to David-1 for expanding on what I said about ethical values and the UDHR so well; it sent me back to wikipedia to recall the admirable Eleanor Roosevelt who chaired the UN Commission that drew it up.

    A few commentators still don’t seem to accept that the referendum is about political independence, not social separation. I have family and friends across the UK, Europe and the Commonwealth; distances affect
    my relations with them, but having different governments makes no difference at all.

    As to my namesake’s worries over Ireland: first, the history is very different; second, it was the unionist resistance to
    granting Home Rule that eventually led to violence; and third, Scotland’s independence could offer opportunites as well as threats for Northern Ireland’s constitutional status.

    As to the way forward for Liberal Democrats, I take Kevin’s point that I am writing three years later than I should have. But I thought it important to set out the claim that supporting independence is quite compatible with Liberal Democrat values (thanks to jedi for the reference to civic nationalism), and that we should be able to discuss the pros and cons within the party without exaggeration,
    distortion or rancour.

    I believe there’s scope for a group within the party whether the outcome next month is Yes or No. If Yes, to contribute to negotiations and the constitution. If No, to press for a real federal alternative, which to my mind involves getting rid of Scottish MPs, at least in their present roles – they could perhaps move to a Federal Parliament, which – and here I find myself agreeing with a recent speech of Gordon Brown! – should replace the House of Lords. That is almost certainly a step too far for all the unionist parties, but the public of rUK appear to favour it, so it may be possible.

    I’ll try to arrange a meeting in late September for anyone interested. We can let the exact name of any group formed depend on the outcome of the referendum!

    Thanks again to all who’ve contributed to this discussion.

  • Denis Mollison 22nd Aug '14 - 9:28am

    PS I have just seen Tom Devine’s thoughtful piece on why I now say yes to Independence for Scotland; as you would expect from such a fine historian this describes the context of the referendum better than I could.

  • @Ian MacFadyen: “Why is it negative and tainted to oppose a proposal to tear our country apart and turn people like me into a foreigner in my own country?”

    It’s bizarre that you can espouse a view like this, and then in the same post go on to condemn the very concept of “nationalism”.

  • Derek Young 23rd Aug '14 - 8:32pm

    I find the whole argument extremely odd that “we are not unionists” and that the distinction between the status quo and federalism has been blurred. Of course it has. This referendum involves a binary choice between being part of the UK and not. I am and always have been an advocate for political reform of the UK; but this position presupposes the continued existence of the UK to begin with. You can be both a unionist and a federalist; you cannot with credibility be both a federalist and a Yes voter – they are wholly incongruous. I will happily promote federalism in any forum with anyone, but the whole question becomes redundant if there is a Yes vote. We have to resolve firstly which country we are in. Only then can you have a reasonable debate about how power is exercised within it.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Aug '14 - 9:19pm

    Hi Derek, you make a good point that federalism is incompatible with a yes vote, but if we take the federal principle to the absolute then it means all Lib Dems should be in favour of rapid expansion of the EU. It becomes politically unrealistic and there are some good moral arguments against it too.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Aug '14 - 11:51pm

    Hi Jedi, I understand, I just don’t think throwing us in with Better Together has been a good move. It is similar with the EU question where Lib Dems fervour for federal structures comes out with things such as The Party of IN. A lot of people liked this strategy, but I never. The Scottish question is a bit different, but not massively so.

  • @ David

    “Oddly, one of the things the British have historically believed in is chopping off other people’s heads — though I believe that was reserved for the nobility, while the even more barbaric practice of hanging, drawing, and quartering was reserved for the commoners. Some 90 Scots rebels were sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered after the Forty-five, and most of those sentences were carried out. To denounce IS in the name of “historic British values” is ridiculous.”

    A culture and society’s values evolve over time, self evidently, I would have thought. You are talking about SEVENTEEN forty five. Before the French Revolution and the American War of Independence. In other words an utterly different world. Moreover, to your point about judicial beheadings, the last one I can find after a short search was Sir John Fenwick THREE HUNDRED AND TWENTY ONE years ago.

    Nowadays we take the view that public beheadings are unutterably barbaric and against British values.. At least I do, don’t you?

    Why are you so afraid of standing up for them against IS by claiming they don’t exist when we both know that you and I share them, as does everyone reading this site?

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  • User AvatarEd Shepherd 17th Oct - 6:46am
    Large numbers of well-off older people were never highly educated. They grew up in period where there were plentiful permanent jobs,, full-time work, pension schemes,...
  • User AvatarDenis Loretto 17th Oct - 1:04am
    @Martin I am only too well aware of the lack of any viable idea as to a way forward for the Irish border. What I...
  • User AvatarGlenn 17th Oct - 12:58am
    Frankie. I'm just pointing out the irony of these kinds of youth and internationalist orientated arguments . I don't see Brexit a cliff edge. I...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 17th Oct - 12:33am
    Lorenzo is right to remind everyone of the diversity of reasons which caused people to vote Leave, but it follows that there are no easy...