Friday 20 June 2014

The identity and the future of the nation

Last night I watched Prof Tom Devine, one of Scotland's greatest living historians, on TV.

I like Tom Devine and I like what he has to say. He has as fine an understanding of Scotland and what it is to be Scottish as anyone. Talking about the Independence Referendum we take part in, in three month's time he said, "This is about the identity and the future of the nation". I agree with Tom Devine on this.

He described how a collective sentiment of 'the people of Scotland as a nation' exists. He also described how our sense of Scottishness and Britishness changes over time too. For it is a duality that we have, and it is elastic and adaptable to different times. But nonetheless it is a duality of identity.

I believed 2 years ago and believe today that this referendum is a head and heart thing. That while there are many factors for each of us to consider, it is at root about two things - the practicalities of economics and our identity as a nation. Are we simply Scottish or is that duality of Britishness and Scottishness still relevant?

I believe that that duality is still relevant and therefore a devolved settlement with a structure that is as federal as possible is the way forward. For me independence is not the way. It is not a solution that is either practical or best reflects who we are.


  1. Interestingly, I too consider myself both Scottish AND British. But I think that independence is the best way forward.

    I don't see the debate in terms of identity. I think it's about accountability and democracy.

    1. If it’s about accountability and democracy then surely a NO vote is the way forward. The YES campaign is overwhelmingly dominated by a single party, one which has majority control at Holyrood with no checks and balances whatsoever. Surely a situation without parallel in any democratic country.

      The Presiding Officer is drawn from the ruling party and shows partiality towards them. Committees are packed so as to ensure a majority for that party. The civil service has been browbeaten and cowed into submission to the ruling party. Local government has been neutered by the ruling party. Local control of public services no longer exists thanks to centralization – the tightest in the Western world.

      Government ministers can act with impunity and without fear of resignation or sacking if they act inappropriately by issuing instructions pertinent to their own constituencies instead of declaring an interest and standing aside.

      Senior officials can traduce the reputations of opponents without fear of consequences with information gleaned from a hate-filled “source” Where civil service guidelines clearly demand dismissal for such breaches of the civil service code, these can be ignored at the whim of the First Minister, who is thus in a position to defend what should be the indefensible.

      A referendum is being undertaken on withdrawal from a union of four countries and the proposed new constitution embeds this as irreversible. The same document also offers no opportunity to vote on continuance or withdrawal from 28 countries and also embeds this in the constitution. The document also declares the people are sovereign while denying them not only the chance to ever vote again on the first union and the opportunity to vote at all on the second but also denies the people the opportunity to determine the Head of State.

      The proposed constitution would split families of the almost 20% of Scots who live elsewhere into separate nationalities without those families being allowed a say in the matter.

      Everything is predicated on the principle that Scots will never be ruled by those they didn’t vote for yet the last two Holyrood elections have produced governments elected by a minority of voters.

      What should be issues of policy are to be included in the constitution. Whatever anyone thinks of the rights or wrongs of aspects of education or defence policies, they are precisely that- They are policies which the electorate should be able to debate and make a decision on, not unalterable holy writ.

      How this constitution can be amended is left vague and unclear. Some might suggest this is deliberate.

      None of this is accountable. None of this is democratic

      There are those who believe this situation can be changed after independence. This ignores reality. In a post-independent Scotland with the declaration of said independence to take place at the beginning of campaigning for the 2016 elections the main pro-union parties will be in no position to recover from defeat. There are no pro-independence parties in a position to challenge the ruling party and indeed some would not want to, having acted as ‘front’ organisations in the referendum campaign. In this way, Scotland is prepared for at least fourteen years of rule (2007-2021) by a government Scotland “didn’t vote for.”

      Accountability would not exist in many areas. Democracy would be lessened in others.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.