When divisions are so hardened that proponents do not listen to one another, facts and analysis don’t matter. All that will be heard is that which cannot be refuted: people’s experiences, feelings, and beliefs. As a Scot who has spent years working in international development, please allow me to share mine with you.
I believe that independence is an illusion. We are interdependent. Our fortunes are tied to the fortunes of England, America, India, Indonesia, Colombia, and Mali. We can escape into utopian visions of independence, or we can accept that we live in an interdependent - and imperfect - world. We all suffer from the impact of the financial crisis, subjugation of women, and the challenge of providing free services with limited resources.
I believe that nationalism is a dangerous political philosophy. I’ve spent the last seven years working in war-torn countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. In every case, this is how war starts: a charismatic leader convinces a group of people that their economic hardship is caused by another group which dominates state institutions. The answer is to bring down those institutions and drive the ‘other’ group out. Neighbours are pit against one another. Conflict erupts into violence. The economy collapses, and in come people like me.
I believe that being British is a tremendous advantage. Growing up in a Union essentially ‘trains’ you for the new world which is coming into existence. It is a world where national boundaries matter less and less. They matter less to us personally: we can live, work, and connect across boundaries. They also matter less politically: what matters now is the power we wield in international and regional organisations.
It’s because I’m British that I’ve been able to live and work on four continents. And it’s because I’m British that I’ve wanted to. My mother is Welsh, my father is Scottish, and I grew up hearing three languages: Gaelic, English and Welsh. I am Scottish. I am Welsh. I am British. Growing up in Britain taught me to help people who suffer, wherever they are in the world.
Scottish independence: What will happen to key British institutions?
Scottish independence: What will happen to key British institutions?
1/7 The 2015 General Election
If it votes for independence, Scotland won’t leave the union until 2016 meaning, under current arrangements, that if Scots decide to go it alone they will still vote in the 2015 general election. The possibility of Scotland swinging the vote in favour of the government with which it will negotiate their independence has led some to call for the elections to be delayed. Downing Street has said, however, that it has no plans to postpone the election despite claims a yes vote could lead to a constitutional crisis.
2/7 The NHS
Alex Salmond has said a Yes vote in the referendum is the only way to save Scotland’s National Health Service. This claim was undermined, however, yesterday when research published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies determined that Scotland’s devolved government spent less in real terms on its health service than England. Despite this, the splitting up of the NHS would be more straightforward than other institutions, as it is already managed from Holyrood.
3/7 The BBC
The Licence fee in Scotland currently raises around £230m which the Yes campaign says it would use, along with the assets of BBC Scotland, to create a Scottish Broadcasting Service or SBS. It says the SBS would continue to provide original content to the BBC and Scotland would receive access to all current programming, including BBC1, BBC2 and national radio stations. The government has said since February that an independent Scotland would lose any automatic rights to BBC programming.
4/7 The Pound
The No Campaign is hoping that doubts over whether or not Scotland will be able to keep the pound will sway the referendum in its favour. George Osborne has said that the UK will not let Scotland keep the pound if it votes to leave the union and the leader of the Better Together coalition, former Chancellor Alistair Darling, has called the Yes campaign’s suggestion that it keep the currency “mad”. Alex Salmond has claimed repeatedly that Scotland will be able to retain the pound and has said speculation to the contrary is little more than fear mongering.
5/7 The Army
Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war and the stationing of the Trident Nuclear fleet north of the border are unpopular in Scotland. The Scottish Nationalists have railed against the war saying they would scrap Trident and create a new Scottish defence force based on existing Scottish regiments.
6/7 The Royal Family
Scotland would keep the Queen as a head of state under current plans proposed by the Yes campaign, as Elizabeth Queen of Scots. It would also remain part of the Commonwealth. However a second referendum could be held to determine what form a new Scottish state would take.
Scotland’s Rugby and Football teams would remain as they are if Scotland voted to leave the UK but the British and Irish Lions could be forced into a name change. What would happen to the British Olympic Association also remains up for debate. Scotland’s most successful Olympian Sir Chris Hoy has said he is wary of independence because of the number of Scottish athletes living and training in England and what their status would be.
Britain was the major force behind almost every step towards making our world a more peaceful and just: the human rights movement, the women’s rights movement, the end of fascism. Today, Britain is a major supporter of international humanitarian and development efforts, investing more than £11 billion a year to help the poorest people in the world.
That investment matters tremendously, but it’s not just about the money and political capital Britain invests. We model unity and tolerance and justice to countries which are struggling with these things. We show them how to establish inclusive state institutions, and give them hope that different people can live along side one another.
That is why the UK has such great power within international and regional organisations. If we break this union, we will lose that.
I don’t want to live in a country that isn’t able to effectively influence international law and policy. Most of all, I don’t want the world to lose a powerful voice for unity and the rule of law.
The material that has poured through our letterboxes implies that ‘Westminster’ is the source of all our problems. Because I’ve seen how Britain works around the world to help end poverty and oppression, I don’t believe this.
I believe the reason for this referendum is that we Scots have an enemy image of England. I’ve heard ‘Flower of Scotland’ more in the last two weeks than in my whole life to date. I understand it. I’m a MacDonald from the Isle of Islay. My ancestors were allies of Robert Bruce and fought at Bannockburn. They also suffered the Highland Clearances. And when I moved to England aged seven, I was bullied for my Scottish accent. But I had to get over it. We can’t move into a peaceful and just future while we carry these resentments.
Because it doesn’t matter how you talk. What matters is what you have to say, what you stand for, and who you stand with. I stand with anyone who believes in unity, peace, and justice among the peoples of this earth.