Now, in the last few days of the Scottish referendum campaign, the No side promises rather suddenly more political powers and more autonomy for Scotland, seemingly using the very same strategies that had Quebec federalists consolidate their wins in 1980 and 1995.
Owing to the fact that the SNP has comprehensively and definitively presented the rationale behind Scottish independence over the years, what we as international observers from Quebec would like to bring to the debate is our experience of the consequences of a No vote. Our experience has shown that these promises were never kept. We have found that a vote for the status quo, each time, has meant a loss of political power and an increase in our economic dependence to the capital.
In voting No then, we have less political power today to initiate economic projects that would benefit our population, and less ability to offer quality services to them. We lost veto powers, funding of healthcare did not keep pace with our demands and our ability to change the situation has diminished. Education funding is embroiled in administrative tugs of war. Our money is spent outside our borders to develop industry while our own industries decline, and we are in constant danger of receiving Canada’s stockpiled nuclear waste without our consent.
How can we feel confident that if No win Westminster will behave in a fashion similar to what we have experienced? Quite simply, because Westminster enacts the will of the majority of the citizens it represents. Bluntly put: Westminster cannot have Scotland as a priority. If it had ever been in its interest to decentralize powers to Scotland and give it more autonomy it would not need to wait until a few days before the vote, as the Yes side is gaining momentum, to promise this. In fact it could do this more or less irrespective of Scottish consent.
Six shades of Scotland: how would they vote?
Six shades of Scotland: how would they vote?
1/6 SCOT BY RESIDENCE Ceris Aston, 23
Ceris Aston was born in Gloucester and has English parents. She studied at Glasgow University and works in marketing. She lives in Kirkconnel. ‘‘I would have described myself as British by heritage because I am part Welsh, English and Irish. I am as British as you can get in that respect so when I realised I was in favour of independence it made me really question this. Scotland is my home. It is the place I love and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. “Independence will be an amazing opportunity for us. There is so much critical energy already released in the referendum and I don’t think it is going to dissipate. It won’t be an amazing utopia with rainbows and unicorns but we will be able to take decisions over our own resources and create social justice in a way that is totally different from what is envisaged in Westminster.” VOTE: Yes
2/6 RETURNED TO SCOTLAND Peter Krykant, 37
Peter Krykant was born in Falkirk. He lived in the US and England for 12 years and recently returned to Scotland to raise family. “I have always been a patriotic Scot but the referendum has elevated that patriotism. I consider myself Scottish and British – you can be both at the same time. My son was born in England and my wife is American. “The closer this vote gets, the more worried I get. I am concerned about cross-border jobs. My wife is a researcher at Glasgow University, working on a £10m UK government funded project. Part of the reason we chose to live in Scotland is because of the opportunities we as a family can provide for our son. My wife is American but has UK citizenship. How will that be affected? People have said because I have been away that we shouldn’t be allowed to vote and called me a traitor.” VOTE: No
3/6 HALF SCOT Victoria Summerley, 57
Journalist and author Victoria Summerley was born in England. Her father was Scottish and she was educated in Scotland. She lives in the Cotswolds. “Like a lot of Scots, I suspect, I would vote yes with my heart and no with my head. I suppose I have always been something of a sentimental Scot. ‘‘I have watched the campaign with huge interest. Edinburgh has changed so much since I was at university – it used to be a fuddy-duddy place. But then it became this European, cosmopolitan city. The Scots have great links historically to France and consider themselves to be more European than the English. ‘‘I think Scotland could make a go of it, and I think all this nonsense about whether they would be in the EU, or whether companies would pull out, is counter-productive. The Scots just see that as bullying.’’ VOTE: Not eligible
4/6 BORN AND BRED William McMillan, 24
Charity worker William McMillan was born in Lanarkshire. “I just don’t feel as if my questions have been answered. When you ask a question they evade it. I would be very concerned about the future of sterling – what happens if our currency is suddenly halved in value? I am young and I am just starting out. People say the economy is in a bad state but I feel like it is improving and independence could be a backwards step. “I work for a charity that is paid for by public funds. If an independent Scottish government needed to make £6bn in savings they could end up cutting public services and my charity could lose funding. I don’t think the debate has been conducted well. Both sides have been having a go at each other. “It doesn’t make any sense to be backing away when the rest of the world is coming together.” VOTE: No
5/6 SCOT IN EXILE Andrew Travers, 42
Designer Andrew Travers was born in Scotland and has lived and worked in London since 1996. “I would find it very difficult not to go back if Scotland does vote Yes. You don’t get many chances to be there at the start of the recreation of a country. It would be so hard to sit on the sidelines and watch other people doing it. I’m not able to vote but I am completely fine with that. It is more important that the 400,000 English people living in Scotland get the vote rather than the 800,000 Scots that don’t. “There have been two parts to the campaign: the official one, which has been pretty tedious, and the really interesting and exciting stuff, which has been outside the main parties – such as the National Collective or the Radical Independence Campaign which have been going out trying to encourage people to register to vote.” VOTE: Not eligible
6/6 MARRIED TO A SCOT Josh Jefferey, 32
Josh Jeffery works in media sales. He was born in Cheshire. His wife is Scottish and they live in Edinburgh. ‘‘I have always felt British and I think I reflect the majority of English people living in Scotland by wanting to stay part of Britain. I went to university at St Andrews and met my wife here in Scotland a few years later. My job is based at home so I could work from anywhere in England or Scotland. “If the vote is Yes we would stay in Scotland. I really like it here and I feel at home. The people are great and there has never been any issue being English. The biggest concern for me would be the economy. I feel quite passionately that the people of Scotland are being misled. They say it is not about Alex Salmond but it is – he is the person pushing for independence and I think he is trying to hoodwink people.’’ VOTE: No
The referendum campaign on the No side has largely followed the strategies of Quebec federalists up until now. Once the referendum date has passed, the centralized power in Westminster will make its decisions based on a newly renewed power relationship in which the Scots will have voted No. It will then be able to say that, indeed a majority of Scots are in favour of the union. This will give them all the opportunity they need to enact legislative barriers to ensure any repeat referendum enterprises are impossible.
It will also endeavour to increase Scotland's economic dependence towards the UK, diminishing its chances even more for a majority of Scots to feel empowered to initiate change again. Legal barriers to more powers and an increased dependence on London: each strategy designed to make sure the union endures indefinitely.
This bluffing at the final hour just as the Yes vote is moving up the polls is not to be taken seriously in any way. The real power to affect change is not gained by relinquishing it: it cannot be obtained by voting No.
The people of Scotland have everything to gain by securing the right to vote their own laws, manage their own taxes and sign the treaties that tie them to other independent nations of the world including the United Kingdom.
In spite of allegations, oh-so-familiar on this side of the Atlantic, that an independent Scotland would mean an end to a partnership with the UK (monetary or otherwise), this will surely not be the case. Scotland and England will continue to do business together, and sign new political partnerships simply because it will be in their mutual interest. But those new partnerships will be done on the basis of equality; they will be done freely and in full deference to the will of the Scottish people.
We do not want more freedom. We want freedom full stop. And this is our wish for the Scottish nation.
Sol Zanetti is the Leader of Option Nationale and Jean-François Joubert is an Option Nationale campaigner
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