I’m English, so why am I voting Yes in the Scottish Independence Referendum?

I’m English, I’ve lived most of my life in England apart from a few years in my infancy and the last 6 years when I’ve lived in Scotland. So why am I going to vote yes in the upcoming Scottish referendum?
Perhaps paradoxically I’m not a nationalist of any persuasion, I am in fact vehemently anti-nationalist. So how does this translate into support for Scottish independence? The Westminster based national politics is (British) nationalist anyway (otherwise why would they be so opposed to Scotland leaving the Union) – vote for a Westminster politician and you are voting for a nationalist, and on the basis that one nationalist is as bad as another I lose nothing voting for Scottish rather than British nationalists. I am, however, a fervent European, that is how I choose to describe myself. With future Westminster governments committed to an in/out referendum after the next general election (those that aren’t now will be before the election to try and prevent UKIP stealing their votes), a vote for independence and Scottish membership of the EU is my best bet for living in a country that sees itself as European (and thus diluting nationalism).
The second part of this is about bringing government closer to the community. Since my university days as a libertarian anarchist I have believed that that the closer the governors are to the governed, the more they are likely to serve those they govern. By voting for independence I not only vote for a government that is closer to the people in Scotland but for future governments that will be closer to the people in the rest of the UK. The constitutional crisis that Scotland leaving the Union will precipitate will result in calls from other parts of the UK for more independence, more regional autonomy. These voices are already being heard before the vote. As a bonus, even if the people of Scotland vote no to independence some progress will be made along this road as the Westminster parties propose the ‘devo-max’ solution to prevent a yes vote. Again, the voices saying ‘if them, why not us’ are already being heard. So in true anarchist tradition, a yes vote helps to destroy the old order to allow something new to emerge. Additionally there is what will happen to politics in an independent Scotland. I believe that fairly quickly new parties will emerge. There is already a perceived regional difference between the Central Belt where the majority of the population live and the rest of Scotland, between the islanders of the Hebrides and the rest of Scotland, between Orkney and Shetland and the rest of Scotland, and between the prosperous area around Aberdeen and the populous cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. These will, in short order, transform into political divisions who want their own voice in a Scottish Parliament. We will see a fragmentation of both the Labour and Nationalist parties. Given that the Scottish Parliament uses a form of proportional voting (and will continue to do so) we will see coalition government in Scotland that will bring politics (and politicians) closer to the communities they serve.
Won’t I be worse off financially in an independent Scotland? Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Whatever the politicians of either side say, they don’t really know; there are far too many unknowns to be able to say at this stage. What I do know is that however rich or poor Scotland is as an independent nation, what wealth there is will be better distributed than it currently is within the United Kingdom. A fairer society is something that I wholeheartedly support, even if it means I’m a bit worse off as an individual. Hand in hand with a fairer distribution of wealth will be a greater emphasis on health and welfare services, as an ‘older person’ I’ll probably be better cared for in later years. As I am fond of saying, whatever happens ‘the sky won’t fall on our heads’. The Greeks may have had hard times following the Euro crisis of a couple of years ago, but they are still there, their world hasn’t ended. A similar situation in Scotland is about the worse that could be expected, but with the bonus that at least the destiny of the people living in Scotland would be in their own hands.
What about currency? Well I have no emotional attachment to the UK currency – after all it is just a means of exchange. There are many solutions to this problem – the simplest being having a currency that is pegged to the pound in such a way that the exchange rate is ‘one to one’. You could even invent a whole range of currencies that would apply to different things – I read an article somewhere recently that argued that the current notion of traditionally based currencies were outmoded and not fit for purpose anyway (can’t find the link unfortunately). If you don’t believe this, look at bitcoin – an algorithm based currency. This issue is emotional not economic – there are viable solutions.
What about defence and the armed forces? Here I can only see benefits – for me it would be infinitely better to be living in a country without nuclear weapons, even if this was merely symbolic – symbols can be important. There are other huge benefits as well – the UK has both in total and per capita one of the biggest military budgets in the world based on a view that the UK needs to be a ‘world power’ rather than on a rational assessment of what it’s defence needs are and what is affordable. In the near future the Westminster government (of whatever persuasion) will embark on the process of replacing its current nuclear weapon capability at ruinous cost to the economy and the taxpayer. A Scottish government is pledged to remove nuclear weapons from Scotland and would have no part in the modernisation. Rather it would have a defence force tailored to its needs (protecting fisheries, oil platforms and a proportional contribution to NATO/European forces). It may even go down the Swiss road of a citizen army with a small professional core. Defence would be a much reduced proportion of government spending, freeing up money to build the economy and support welfare – swords into ploughshares anyone?
Are there any downsides? Of course there are, as there are risks. Postal and telecommunications are going to be more expensive – it would be naive to think corporations such as BT and a privatised Post Office , let alone the private courier services wouldn’t take the opportunity to put up their delivery prices to a ‘foreign country’. I might even lose my beloved specialist internet provider as its owner has already said that doing business across a border might be too difficult and expensive for his small business. Travel shouldn’t be a problem – there is already an open border in Ireland, I can’t see it would be any different here on the mainland. The biggest risks are the costs of setting up separate institutions and the negotiations over asset transfer. The current Scottish politicians are, I feel, a bit inexperienced and naive in this area and currently seem to think that separation will take place in an atmosphere of cooperation and geniality. I think they will be cut throat and bad tempered (I’ve negotiated with Whitehall departments in my past work life and it is exceptionally difficult). The impact of these issues though are relatively short term – in 10/20/30 years time they will not matter.
What about the offers from Westminster for greater powers if the Scottish people vote no. The biggest problem here is credibility. We have 3 parties all with differing ideas as to what powers Scotland should have – a no vote is as much a vote for uncertainty as a yes vote on this basis. Let me sketch out a scenario for you. In the next general election in May 2015 the Lib Dems are wiped out – they only get 1 or 2 seats because they have been supporting Tory austerity measures for the past 5 years. Both Labour and Tories lose seats to UKIP over Europe and the prospect of the further devolved powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that UKIP portray as the breakup of the UK. Neither Labour nor the Tories have a majority and need to form a coalition. The price UKIP demand for coalition is an early vote on Europe and drastically reduced devolved powers for Scotland (in particular), Wales and Northern Ireland to which one of the 2 main parties agree in order to be able to form a government. Is this too far fetched a situation? I don’t think it is. On this basis a no vote is a vote for no or minimal change.

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