Well, the “YES” campaign is well under way, there’s a sort of sense of the inevitable about it these days.
We’ve known since May 5th 2011 that we’ll be having a referendum. We’ve known that the nation will divide for two years or so as we ramp up to the final vote, and we know that there will be [at least] two campaigns, one for each camp. We still don’t know for certain that all the Unionist forces will declare as one camp, though that’s looking increasingly likely.
We heard that the “YES” campaign had its guns spiked by Alistair Darling’s poll, showing barely 1/3 of Scots even have any interest in independence, closer two 2/3 of us are very firmly opposed and a small percentage of us remain fence sitters.
The salvo by Darling effectively launched the “NO” campaign. It can be strongly inferred the funding for the poll and choice of pollster was determined over the tea and scones at the Darling’s residence recently. A bigger question for supporters of the Union would be why they didn’t pick a more credible pollster. Yougov has acknowledged its own criteria simply “don’t work for Scotland”. The only logical reason to select Yougov therefore, would be the fact it is more likely to give the result preferred by the person or group commissioning the poll, Mr. Darling’s nay-sayers.
The second key to the launch was the specific lack of policies for a post independent Scotland. This lack was immediately pounced upon by Westminster’s supporters as highlighting a massive void in the independence argument. It’s seen as a void worth exploitation, a black hole to be highlighted, and a lack of substance to be pounded into the collective consciousness of the electorate.
The reality of the situation is that 2014 is simply a choice for better democracy.
We can have our individual democratic value increased ten-fold.
We can have our input into the democratic system increased ten-fold.
We can have our Parliament represent 5 million, not 65 million; that places it more than a dozen times closer to each and every one of us. It will be geographically closer; it can be more easily bound to do our bidding.
Policies for post independence, that’s also where our individual democratic might increases, but the creation and issuance of those policies is not for now. Right now, in the run up to the referendum it’s about democracy. It’s about the value of democracy.
After 2014 if the SNP say “no nuclear”, if the SNP say “green energy” or if the SNP say “re-industrialisation”, it’s great to know these policies will be on the table. Right now the SNP are driving home the policies they were elected upon. Nuclear, alternative energy, protecting the NHS and freezing council tax amongst others. That and providing a referendum was their mandate, nothing more, nothing less. If the referendum delivers a pro-democracy vote, then we implicitly expect the SNP to negotiate with Westminster on our behalf, that’s where the remit ends.
The only additional thing the SNP need to do is to set forth their policies for the next term, as an independent parliament or as part of the UK. It is an enhancement to the debate should they do this as its good to know what our present party of government would have us do in either case. It is not relevant to the fundamental structure of the debate itself as the SNP has no guarantee of being elected at the poll after the referendum.
I checked the wording of the question again, “do you agree Scotland should be an independent country”, at no point does it ask “do you agree that Scotland’s next government shall be SNP”, that’s a different question for another day.
While the SNP can’t be the sole face of the “YES” campaign, we all know it is their baby, and they are the acclaimed vehicle of independent minded Scots. The independence campaign must be a broad church.
While the supporters are a broad church, the detractors must also be prepared to fight on a single question. In or Out. They must coalesce as a unified force. The fact that the Union itself can’t even unite over a policy about just one question speaks volumes.
It is this lack of Union within the Union that makes SNP policy post referendum largely irrelevant.
Without knowing what we’re voting for if we vote “NO”, what does it matter what the SNP policy is, as many Scots for whatever reasons will never vote SNP.
What Scots need from the Labour, Liberal Democrats and Conservative parties in Scotland is an irrevocable decade long guarantee that if they win the referendum then these are the policies that Scots can anticipate being implemented in Scotland. Scots need to know that if these guarantees are broken the price will be triggering a second referendum.
Scots would also like to know what policies these Westminster supporting parties propose, and will hold to for the next decade or so, whatever happens in the referendum. These parties should be consistent. As part of the UK, this is what you’ll get. As an independent nation this is what you can get.
The surprising thing, at first glance, is that none of the Union parties have sprung into action on this basis, yet they expect the SNP to provide all the answers to questions that simply aren’t being asked of them in 2014.
In reality, it’s not surprising at all. Politicians at Westminster largely do and say what it takes to get elected. Events change, circumstances change. London parties claim they cannot be tied to electoral pledges; they abandon them liberally when in office. The London parties nonetheless expect Holyrood to live to a higher standard, to not vary, to make no allowance for “circumstances”.
Effectively Westminster demanding that Holyrood, the SNP, does something which it cannot or will not. Effectively Westminster is telling Holyrood to act honourably as it pulls every dirty trick in the book, and that Holyrood should act so regardless of any future consequence for the Scottish people. Then again, London has form when it comes to acting without regard for the Consequences north of the border.
2014 might as well have on the ballot, Democracy, more or less.
Unless both sides of the argument over future policy are on the table there is no argument to be judged.
Absent both sides of the argument and with the SNP not guaranteed a 2016 electoral victory the arguments are pointless. They’re simply a distraction created by the “NO” campaign, fuelled by fear and disseminated by a compliant media who are irredeemably beyond the level of even requesting balance, never mind requiring it.
If the argument is pointless, although a little advance knowledge of what could be expected might be nice, the SNP policies post independence are, and will remain irrelevant to the debate.