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.
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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