I’ll be voting for Scottish independence in next month’s referendum, and obviously not for ethnic-nationalist reasons – I have no Scottish blood as far as I’m aware (although the Scots may have some Syrian), and my mixed-up accent is far more English than not. Furthermore, I reject the simplistic ‘Braveheart’ narratives of uninterrupted Scottish victimhood. There’s an ex-mining town not far from here named Patna – after the Indian city – and in Sri Lanka the tea plantations bear Scottish names. Scots played an essential role in the British empire, and over the centuries Scottish as well as English landlords and industrialists have exploited the poorer Scottish classes (at some points driving them off their land en masse).
I’m voting yes because Scotland has a different political culture to England. It doesn’t contain that consmerist-suburban ‘middle England’ mainstream; the mainstream here is social democratic. If the Scots had taken control of their North Sea oil resources in the 1980s they may well have established a national oil fund, as Norway did, and perhaps today Scotland would not be Europe’s murder capital, nor the life expectancy in east Glasgow so depressingly low. What actually happened was that Thatcher spent the oil money in the boom years on privatisation and tax cuts, and used Scotland as a guinea pig for the most unpopular Tory policies, such as the Poll Tax, brought in here a year before England. Scotland has never voted Tory – as Alex Salmond says, there are more pandas in Edinburgh zoo than there are Scottish Conservative MPs – but it keeps suffering Tory governments. This is an evident democratic failure.
Were I a Scottish Conservative, I would be looking forward to the opportunity to delink from the despised English Conservatism. Were I a Scottish Labour supporter, likewise. If independence is declared there will be a thorough realignement of Scottish political forces, and an opportunity for this country’s small population to shape the results, to make government somewhat more responsive. The Scottish National Party, for instance, will lose its present relevance, and space will be made for other visions of independence (this one, for instance).
Fundamentally, I’m voting yes because I think government should be as local as possible, and the state as small. I’d also support independence for London or Birmingham, or for the north of England. After Scotland’s independence I will argue for an independent Galloway, and then for a free Castle Douglas, and always for an independent household. Whatever structure I live within, I insist on an independent Robin Yassin-Kassab.
If I weren’t already decided, I’d have been pushed to vote yes by irritation at the unremitting scaremongering of the No campaign, its grim threats that 10% of Scottish jobs would go immediately if the country became independent, that Scotland would be barred from Europe, or from using the pound, that the elderly would lose their pensions. Of course Scotland is a stable country, rich in skills and resources, which could more than hold its own in the world. But the scaremongering will probably work, alongside the desire of those profiting to sustain the staus quo – alongside too the Protestant anti-English but monarchist and unionist ideology so well described in James Kelman’s novel Kieron Smith, Boy – to ensure the continuation of neo-liberal Great Britain for another generation at least.