Opinion: Scotland’s Future – a view from the Gallery

I’ve recently had the chance to work in the Scottish Parliament during August, and it’s been a really great experience. On Thursday, I was fortunate enough to get tickets to the final debate before recess, courtesy of Liam McArthur MSP. By the wonders of technology, you can watch it too.

It was an interesting experience. Alex Salmond took the opportunity to note all the good things the Scottish parliament had done, and attempt to be fair to other parties. He did actually manage this; however, his argument that the parliament has done some great things and made some mistakes could apply to every parliament across the world, including Westminster.

The tone of the SNP side was set when Salmond announced something along the lines of this being the first time the people of Scotland have had democratic control over their own destiny. Cue laughter and widespread derision from the opposition benches, as well as SNP applause.
He started talking about his childcare plans. As we already have the power to improve childcare in Scotland, it’s perfectly reasonable that Willie Rennie began to heckle him on the topic.

Johann Lamont set out a reasonable view of backing solidarity with people all across the UK, in a very Labour way. Two things particularly jumped out at me. Firstly, the fact that she wants to see a new non-party focused politics in Scotland, when it is her and Mr Salmond who are the problem in that regard, and secondly that she was stressing the importance of the Yes campaign accepting that if a No vote happened it would be the ‘settled will of the Scottish people’. So, Labour aren’t going to be happy with any further referendum attempts. Quite rightly. I never want to do this again.

Ruth Davidson gave a tour de force of a speech. It was like a student debate and the right wing one knows they’re going to get pilloried but speaks their mind anyway. She’s not wrong that the UK is a force for good in the world, and her description of losing the UK as like losing a key part of herself is exactly how I feel about my identity. I’m sure many Scots feel, as Ruth said, that Britain is not ‘broken, or bad, or wrong.’

It’s a shame that Willie Rennie had to begin his speech by tackling the, as he correctly described it, disgusting behaviour of the SNP members who had heckled Ruth as she spoke of her national identity. He went on to give a great speech reclaiming the language of change and of freedom from the Yes campaign. He’s wholly correct that a No vote is a vote of confidence in the Scottish people and our aspiration to work together to change the world. Although, if he keeps saying that when he cries freedom it’s for individual, not national freedom, I am actually going to get him to yell freedom at some point. Preferably immediately after a No vote on the 19th September.

In the end, we can all agree with Patrick Harvie – perhaps not economically, or about oil, but about his timely reminder of Margo McDonald’s words about being opponents but never enemies. The debate really showed us that if it’s a new politics we want – the people who embodied that on Thursday were Willie, Ruth and Patrick.


* Hannah Bettsworth is a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats Council for Europe, and the Liberal Democrat Federal International Relations Committee. Outside of politics, she works in European affairs consultancy on health policy.

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  • Ian MacFadyen 23rd Aug '14 - 1:46pm

    Hannah, Thank you for this. Thanks especially for drawing attention to Willie Rennie’s saying that a “No” vote is a vote of confidence in the Scottish people. I agree and would add that it’s also a vote of confidence in all the people of our islands, in what we have achieved and what we will achieve together.

  • Equally, a Yes vote is a vote of no-confidence in the present ability of the British state to deliver for the people, wherever they might live and whatever their national, ethnic, religious or political identity.

    Independence probably won’t happen, but can you seriously vote confidence in this obsolete unitary state, where progress has been stalled for a century, with all its hereditary privilege, undemocratic procedure, archaic process and the growing real social discord about which, with the best of intentions, no party has been able to do anything? I certainly cannot.

    Voting Yes is at present the only way for anyone against the status quo to rock the boat, and I would strongly recommend doing so.

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