Ten Questions For The No Campaign

The strategy of the British nationalist ‘Better Together’ campaign against Scottish independence is clear: it aims to sow uncertainty. What will happen with the EU? What will the currency be? Etc. The idea is to make people afraid of voting yes. But this misses something key.

As Andrew Tickell of Lallands Peat Worrier fame has pointed out, the very name ‘Better Together’ is absurd. No one thinks the UK is getting better – even the latest Bond film is about its decline: not the gentle decline since the Victorian era, but a new, different, rapid decline. For every doubt about the specifics of how an independent Scotland would run, there is, right now, an equal doubt about the UK.

So, here are my questions for Mr Darling and his friends at Better Together:

1. Erm, Europe?

What with Cameron launching his half decade of debate on how much we hate the French (or whatever it is he’s playing at), this is the obvious question: which Britain will we be staying part of – one which is in the EU, or not?

And we need to delve deeper with this question too. So, 1b) is this: Cameron wants to renegotiate Britain’s place in Europe. So, erm, what will that look like? If we vote no, what are we signing up for?

2. Can the no campaign guarantee that the Westminster government won’t alter the Barnett formula?

Senior Tory MP Priti Patel uttered what many, many on the Tory benches are thinking: The Scottish Parliament should have its funding cut. The Barnett formula – which allocates funding to devolved administrations – should be altered, they say. A quick fiddle with this arrangement would pull vast amounts of money out of Scotland and send it to the English constituencies more likely to vote Conservative.

3. Can the no campaign guarantee a future Westminster government won’t cut public spending even further?

Whatever the changes to funding allocation across Britain, there is also huge uncertainty about the total level of public spending in years to come. Once upon a time, there was a social democratic consensus in the UK. The evenness of the consensus then is matched, perhaps, by the sharpness of the radicalism we see today – with the deepest ever cuts to public spending coming down the line at us, the Britain we all know and love is rapidly being broken.

4. Can the no campaign guarantee that Scots who are sick or disabled won’t have their benefits cut any further by Westminster after 2014? Or that they won’t be driven into forced labour?

How most specific funding cuts might be allocated will be up to Holyrood. But one significant matter which is reserved to Westminster is benefits. The current UK government is already forcing sick and disabled people in Scotland to work for no pay – a policy I cannot imagine spewing from Holyrood even on its most brutal days. What will the Tories force on disabled people next? Can the No campaign guarantee the safety of disabled Scots?

5) Can the no campaign guarantee that Scottish soldiers will never again be sent to die in a war that most Scots oppose?

I need to be upfront about this one. The Scottish Labour party is sufficiently reactionary that the majority of MSPs in 2003 voted in favour of the Iraq war. However, I don’t think anyone sensible thinks that an independent Scotland – with a Labour party freed from its Westminster wrecking-ball and chain – would have sent Scottish troops into that particular calamity.

Can the no campaign guarantee that there will never be another equivalent of the Iraq war?

6. Can the no campaign guarantee that a future Westminster government won’t destroy the BBC?

Another area which is reserved is telecommunications. In my experience, one of the questions people often ask about independence is what will happen to the BBC. So, here is my question: the BBC has been cut by 20%. The BBC World Service has essentially been cut entirely: from 2014, all of its funding will have to squeeze into the same licence fee pot as the rest of the Beeb. The current government has waged a war against public broadcasting – so, if anyone votes no for the sake of the BBC (and I know some people who might) can the no campaign guarantee that the beeb will be saved? Or is their best bet for a public broadcaster to vote yes?

7. Can the no campaign guarantee that a future Westminster government won’t lower the abortion limit?

Various MPs have been calling for this, and only 39% if people in England want to keep or extend the time limit at which abortions are legal. 46% of Scots, on the other hand, want to keep things as they are or extend the limit. As certain breeds of Tory reach for culture war, will Scottish women have their right to choose cut back if we stay in the union?

8. Can the Westminster government guarantee that it will introduce sufficient changes to financial rules to ensure there won’t be another financial collapse?

People sometimes ask whether Scotland alone could have bailed out its banks – the answer to which surely, lies to our North, in Iceland. But let’s ask the reverse question: Scotland was a major centre of global finance, and still hosts many jobs in financial services. The risk to the Scottish economy of failing to properly change the operation of these industries is vast. Yet it is now pretty clear that Westminster has no plans to implement significant changes.

9. Can the no campaign guarantee that a future Westminster government won’t reduce further the number of Scottish MPs?

When Northern Ireland had its own Parliament from 1921-1972, it had fewer MPs per capita at Westminster than the rest of the UK – which was seen as a solution to what later became known as the West Lothian problem (ie that N. Irish MPs could vote on matters which didn’t affect their constituents). Scotland used to have more per-capita than England, but (quite reasonably, I think) this was cut back for the 2005 elections. Once the threat of independence is gone, will this debate rear its head again?

10. Can the no campaign guarantee that a future Westminster government won’t require all immigrants to carry ID papers at all times?

I give just one example, but the general point is the important one: as Britain declines, it is kicking those who are already down harder and harder. Immigrants are all too often those being bludgeoned – something that Scots aren’t nearly as keen on as our English neighbours. International students in Scotland are already having harsh conditions imposed on them by the Westminster governments (both Labour and Tory) despite protests from the Scottish government.

If we stay in Britain, can we expect it to continue to treat immigrants to our country more and more brutally?

Now, obviously, no one knows the answers to these questions. But my point, if it isn’t clear, is this: there is no certainty in a no vote. That the union has, in recent years, been one way does not mean it will be. The question asked in Scotland’s referendum is not about stability – unfolding history is never stable.

It is about which future gives us more hope.

Adam Ramsay
Co-Editor of Bright Green Scotland
brightgreenscotland.org

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There are 12 comments

  1. Cyril Matvech

    -“The question asked in Scotland’s referendum is not about stability – unfolding history is never stable. It is about which future gives us more hope?”-

    What a wonderful line to end this superb article with! Thank you.

  2. Michael Dempster

    Vote no – Acquiesce to the status quo.

    By voting no it is important to note that it is not a vote for no change. It is voting to abandon all contest of the rights of the Scottish people. The onus should be put on the no campaign to define what potentially contestable rights we are giving up by voting no.

    “In law, acquiescence occurs when a person knowingly stands by
    without raising any objection to the infringement of their rights, while
    someone else unknowingly and without malice aforethought
    makes a claim on their rights. Consequently, the person whose rights
    are infringed loses the ability to make a claim against the infringer,
    or succeed in an injunction suit due to the infringer’s conduct. The
    term is most generally a kind of “permission” given by silence or passiveness.” – Wikipedia (not an ideal source, I grant you, but it suitably illustrates the point.)

  3. William Steele

    These are good questions to ask. I find it sad, however that Adam Ramsay does not speak up for the most basic right of the weakest and most dependent human beings in Scotland, or the world.

  4. Mark

    Well written, but I’m wary about point 7. I wouldn’t like to see abortion become a referendum issue. There’s significant scientific evidence that babies develop much quicker in the womb than previously thought, and with improvements in infant care making it possible for babies to survive much earlier when born prematurely, I think there is a case for lowering the limit.

  5. phil doherty

    These are totally redundant questions – no government can guarantee what another government may do in the future. Don’t you understand how democracy works! No Parliament is bound by the decisions of the previous Parliament… epic fail

    1. Tris

      So with that logic the better together arguments are totally redundant. That’s the whole point of the article its showing how absurd the better together campaign is. No government can guarantee what another government may do in the future. Don’t you understand how democracy works! Same goes for after independence!
      Epic fail Phil!

      1. phil doherty

        in what way does any of the above show the no campaign to be redundant? Those are the author’s questions and the author’s answers!!!! It is these questions which are redundant – and I might add not even accurate. They are redundant questions because all of them can be answered with the same answer. Furthermore, let’s just say that Scotland leaves the UK – which it clearly won’t be – you could ask exactly the same questions of the Scottish administration and you’d get the same answer – “no parliament can be bound by the decisions of a previous parliament”. They do no not show anything at all about the No campaign only the author’s political niavety…

  6. Wayne Brown

    Your basic idea is fine – WE have to start asking questions – but preferably questions we know the answers to or, at the very least, aren’t going to argue about amongst ourselves. Below is part of a post I left at Burdzeyeview

    (http://burdzeyeview.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/yes-scotland-too-many-chiefs/#comments)

    It’s time the SNP and the Yes campaign stopped answering irrelevant questions and started asking relevant questions of the no side.

    How about this – we live in a collection of countries with one parliament – one of these countries has a population 5 times greater than the other three put together and has overwhelming representation in that parliament – this means that the biggest country can have it’s way anytime it wants, it is effectively independent. TRUE or FALSE.

    This isn’t a policy – it’s a statement of fact and I don’t see where there would be any disagreement about this among any political parties or individuals who support independence. There are many other things that follow from the population point – domination of BBC programme making, being able to decide where to put nuclear weapons while underspending on conventional defence in Scotland, being able allocate yourselves a London allowance or spend £4b on your sewage/water infrastructure from a ‘national’ fund without having to ask anybody else etc etc. Let’s concentrate on ideas we can all agree on and which will be very difficult for the no side to deny or argue against.

    Independence is about being able to make our own decisions, not what decisions we will make – that comes after.

    1. phil doherty

      Except the Scotland is control of everything except defence, corporation tax etc. And there is no representation for England as it doesn’t have its own Parliament. The UK government governs on behalf of all the UK not just England (why are are you separatists obsessed with England? What about Wales and Northern Ireland).

      1. Wayne Brown

        Hi Phil

        Let’s start with this –

        ‘we live in a collection of countries with one parliament – one of these countries has a population 5 times greater than the other three put together and has overwhelming representation in that parliament – this means that the biggest country can have it’s way anytime it wants’

        Which bit do you disagree with?

        I am not obsessed with any country, including Scotland. And the sentence above, quite deliberately, mentions no country at all. Try treating it as hypothetical situation.

        1. phil doherty

          Except that the bigger country does not impose its will on the smaller parts because the parliament you are referring to is the national parliament of all. In fact the only country which does NOT have any representation for itself is the big country. And as most of the things that people care about – health, education etc – are devolved to the other parts it can easily be argued that the smaller parts have an even bigger say in both their own areas and that of the bigger country. For example tuition fees (I have to commend the SNP for NOT doing this) – Scottish MPs voted to increase tuition fees in the bigger country while in Scotland they were abolished (to a degree). And, as the smaller country has its own laws, court system etc the fundamentals are not decided by the bigger country…

          1. Wayne Brown

            Hi Phil

            ‘Except that the bigger country does not impose its will on the smaller parts because the parliament you are referring to is the national parliament of all.’

            Anybody who believes that sentence is living in an alternative hypothetical landscape where it’s possible to ignore the elephant.

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