After a week in Scotland it has become clear to me that the debate about independence here is unfathomably confusing. The main argument of the Better Together campaign seems to be that an independent Scotland won’t be allowed to use the pound, as if this means they’ll have no currency so will have to forage for berries and boil their pandas for soup.
Without the pound the Scottish will have to drink North Sea oil and huddle under curling stones for warmth, because an independent country can’t possibly come up with its own currency, which is why since the Americans became independent the dollar has been such a disaster and is now worthless compared with the mighty sixpence.
Next they’ll say that an independent Scotland can’t use British clouds, so all rain will become the property of the Meteorological Office, turning Scotland into a desert overrun by wolves in 2018. Nor will they be allowed to keep the British religion, so the Holy Ghost will stop at Carlisle and everyone in Scotland will be forced to worship Zeus.
Yesterday Margaret Curran MP announced that another reason to vote No was that “an independent Scotland would lose access to some BBC programmes.” Is this the level of the debate as a nation decides its destiny? When Gandhi was fighting for the liberation of India did he tell his supporters, “Not only will we become a free and self-governing people, proud at last to determine our own future, but we’ll still be able to watch Homes Under the Hammer?”
Also yesterday, one anti-independence paper declared that “businessman Jack Perry has worked out an independent Scotland will face cuts above the £6bn already predicted”. Because some people might think, “I’m not put off by cuts of six billion, but six billion and a bit, sod that for a lark.”
One common argument among the English who oppose independence is that the rest of us will be consigned to perpetual Conservative government. This doesn’t seem fair for Scotland to put up with Tory governments that hardly any of them vote for, just so they can top up the anti-Tory vote in England. You might as well say we should invade Cuba and make it part of Basildon, as that should ensure a key marginal always goes to Labour.
But the campaign for independence doesn’t always appear very dynamic either. How did Alex Salmond manage to lose a debate with Alistair Darling? Most of us never manage to stay awake throughout an Alistair Darling sentence, never mind agree with it. Whenever an interviewer responds to one of his comments by challenging his figures, it feels a more suitable response should be, “What? Oh I’m sorry I completely drifted off, I was wondering whether I’ve any fish fingers left in the fridge, I do apologise.”
One problem for the Yes campaign might be that it assures everyone an independent Scotland will keep the pound and stay in the EU and Nato and the slogan seems to be, “Take this opportunity to vote for enormous change because you can be sure nothing much will change. But we will get our own entry in the Eurovision Song Contest.”
Top of the SNP pledges for an independent Scotland is that “we will be committed to creating jobs and opportunities for Scots old and new”. What a shame William Wallace didn’t think to shout something as inspiring as that as he was being executed by Edward Longshanks, instead of “Freedom!”.
Perhaps this is why, for a country making such a decision, it feels strangely sedate. A few people wear Yes badges, but it hardly feels like the crescendo of a movement for nationhood. I don’t suppose leaders of liberation armies in Ireland in 1919, or Algeria in 1959, made speeches that went, “Our mighty nation of brothers and sisters stands in glorious opposition to our oppressors. The colonialist dogs must know their brutal rule is at an end, for this morning I counted no fewer than five window posters, and two people said they hadn’t made their mind up yet but they’d certainly read my leaflet.”
One explanation could be that Scotland hasn’t been a subject of England’s empire in the same way as Ireland or India. Instead the Scottish helped to run the empire, so the recent growth in nationalism that led to the increase in support for the SNP, and the referendum, must spring from a different sentiment to the sort that fuelled the anti-colonial movements.
It has probably been a result of the SNP becoming the party most hostile to the British government, in ways such as opposing the war in Iraq and refusing to introduce tuition fees.
This is why we should be grateful to the group whose tactic is to be furious with anyone English, and with anyone who doesn’t despise the English, for their lively thoughts. You’ll hear from these if you make any public comment on the matter, so you could write on Twitter that “Edinburgh is a little colder than London, being some distance to the north” and you’ll get 400 replies along the lines of “Typical ignorant English twatface temperature fascist arseknob balls to latitude why does BBC never mention Drumnadrochit?!!?!”
I look forward to reading them all later.