Amy Shipway (Writer): Independence Will Provide Local Solutions For Local Problems

But where will they arrive with all, boat, city, earth, like them, afloat?’

Edwin Morgan, Sonnets From Scotland

As the outgoing president of the Scottish Literature Society at Glasgow University, I have witnessed some inspiring conversations about Scottish independence. While I would never suggest that our society is in any way united on the issue of independence, quite the opposite in fact, I do strongly believe in the importance of creating a safe space where we can have the independence conversation, which I feel is too often ‘off limits’ due to fears of offending or alienating our peers. I am currently a third year student of Scottish Literature MA(Hons) at Glasgow with a particular interest in sixteenth century Scottish poetry, and gender issues in modern Scottish fiction. I believe that literature and language are absolutely central to the issue of Scottish independence, and my most recent project analysed the use of positive and negative language in the independence debate. I have worked as an editor for my colleagues on the MFA programme at the Glasgow School of Art proofing and editing their blog entries and projects that deal with text. Passionate about all creative pursuits, I have also worked as an assistant to a number of community art initiatives overseas.

I am keen to join National Collective because I want to play an active role in exploding many of the myths against Scottish independence that often arise from a general attitude of suspicion towards it. I hear many people say that they would not vote for Scottish independence because they do not like the SNP or Alex Salmond. The good news for them is a vote for independence is neither a vote for the SNP nor a vote for Alex Salmond. It is a vote for democracy. If the Scottish electorate wish to vote for independence, we may later choose to elect a Labour, Liberal or even a Conservative government. That is what a democracy is. Democracy is not being ruled by a remote government that doesn’t reflect the preferences of the voters.

The Scottish Parliament has been a fantastic step towards achieving democracy in Scotland, but I believe we need to be independent, if we are to achieve a fairer society. Despite the fact that we currently have a parliament whose existence is overwhelmingly supported, many voted against Scottish devolution in 1979 and 1997 as many politicians actively campaigned against it. The most challenging thing is envisaging changes to our society, but after those changes take place it will be hard to imagine it any other way. Would anyone argue now that we should hand the decision making powers of Holyrood back to Westminster? I doubt it. Does anyone argue that the Irish, Americans or Australians shouldn’t have independence? No. Does Westminster waste any time claiming that the Republic of Ireland would have been better off if they had stayed in the Union? No. They are simply allowed to get own with running their own affairs.

In the UK at the moment we are in a situation where the needs of the Scottish people are not being met by Westminster. Democracy is when a people may elect the government that they choose, but the Scots did not vote for the current coalition.

We are sold the myth that we are a nation of scroungers, whose subsidised higher education and free prescriptions are a drain on the UK economy. It is attitudes such as these that tighten Westminster’s grip on the Scottish electorate, by convincing us that we are dependent on the UK state for economic stability. But the argument for independence should not simply be an economic one. As time goes on I am realising more and more that the differences between the needs of the Scottish electorate and the rest of the UK are becoming more nuanced. Since the autonomy of decision making that devolution has afforded us; it has become more apparent that we are a different society with different needs. The Scots choose to invest in their greatest commodity: people, and if that means providing them with free prescriptions and subsidised education, then it is nobody else’s business.

Like any partnership, it is ok to say that the UK has worked for us. It is also ok to say that it is not working for us anymore and we can all walk away, no hard feelings. We have long since passed the era of empire building, and I believe that an independent Scotland will be able to focus on providing local solutions to local problems, whilst still remaining a progressive partner in the EU and indeed the Commonwealth.

A concept that the Better Together campaign strongly promotes is the idea that the UK as a whole represents a ‘family’ and that we are more secure as a family unit, under one metaphorical roof. But there are many types of family, and a break in the Union of Parliaments does not mean that we will no longer be related. After all, we will still remain under the British monarchy. Despite the fact that we will no longer live under the same ‘roof’, we may still respect and support each other. If we applied Better Together’s notions of security to our own lives, we would be grown adults still living under our parents roofs, not exactly appealing to most. The kind of anxieties that crop up in the discussion of Scottish independence are parallel with the kind of anxieties that arise when we take the first steps to moving out of our parents homes: ‘Will I be able to manage on my own?’ ‘Will I be able to cope financially?’ Despite these anxieties we do not let them hold us back from taking a step our personal freedom, so why should the question of Scottish independence be any different? It should not. We should not be governed by fear.

That brings me to the problem of optimism. It seems like a rare trait in my peers. While I am glad that I do not belong to a generation of naïves, I do feel that there is a tendency toward and unhealthy scepticism. Whilst it is important to be sceptical to an extent, I feel that cynicism is not only the easy option for our generation, but also the fashionable one. A sense of ‘Why should I try and make a change, when it won’t make any difference anyway?’ is pervasive.  This time, it can, it will. I’m joining National Collective, because, to use Nicola Sturgeon’s phrase, I don’t want to wake up and wish I had ‘done more’.

A vote No for independence is a vote of confidence for Westminster. It is a vote that says: ‘I like things the way they are, I don’t want them to change.’ I will be voting YES because I believe that things are not fine the way they are there, and that there is much to be gained from change.

Amy Shipway
National Collective 

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There are 17 comments

  1. Anne

    This is probably the wrong forum for such views but in the interests of balanced discussion…

    Given the importance of this decision and the crude, nationalist pride, fist-in-the-air arguments for a Yes vote that many have adopted, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with adopting a bit of healthy scepticism on this issue. If I can be supplied
    with enough facts to convince me that we can survive, and indeed prosper, as an
    independent country then there’s every chance I’ll vote yes, but at the minute
    the only arguments coming from the Yes vote camp are suppositions and hopes,
    assumptions of what could happen rather than facts on what will happen.

    Your article is more measured than most and I appreciate the opportunity to enter into a calm and healthy debate on this issue but I’m afraid I’m still unconvinced by many of the points you make:

    “A vote for independence is neither a vote for the SNP nor a vote for Alex Salmond. It is a vote for democracy. If the Scottish electorate wish to vote for independence, we may later choose to elect a Labour, Liberal or even a Conservative government.”

    Do we know this? Have any of the parties other than SNP outlined an intention to remain in Scotland if it votes for independence? It would fundamentally change how those parties are structured – would Scottish politicians automatically default to a Scotland only version of the party or would they decide to focus their career on Westminster? What kind of political landscape would we enter into as an independent country?

    “The Scots choose to invest in their greatest commodity: people, and if that means providing them with free prescriptions and subsidised education, then it is nobody else’s business.”

    The whole policy of free prescriptions is just another example of how the SNP use crowd pleasing policy to further support for their party, and then use that support to push the independence agenda. I’m all for affordable healthcare and support for the vulnerable in society but it’s ludicrous that every single person in the country should get free prescriptions, regardless of their wealth.

    “The kind of anxieties that crop up in the discussion of Scottish independence are parallel with the kind of anxieties that arise when we take the first steps to moving out of our parents homes: ‘Will I be able to manage on my own?’ ‘Will I be able to cope financially?’ Despite these anxieties we do not let them hold us back from taking a step our personal freedom, so why should the question of Scottish independence be any different?”

    Because for most of us when you leave home you generally do so because you have a student loan/job and think that you can (just about) survive financially. And for most of us it’s done in the knowledge that if things go wrong you can always go back home for a bit…

    “A vote No for independence is a vote of confidence for Westminster. It is a vote that says: ‘I like things the way they are, I don’t want them to change.’”

    That’s a hugely unhelpful way to frame the argument. For many I would think a No vote is a vote that says, ‘I take the future of my country seriously and I have not yet
    been furnished with enough information to convince me that our economy, society,
    political landscape can exist and prosper independently.’

    1. jen

      Very well said, Anne. Especially your point that:
      “For many I would think a No vote is a vote that says, ‘I take the future of my country seriously and I have not yet been furnished with enough information to convince me that our economy, society, political landscape can exist and prosper independently.’”

      1. creature

        Would you empathise with this statement Jen – “I take the future of my country seriously and I have not yet been furnished with enough information to convince me that our economy, society, political landscape can exist and prosper as part of the UK”

      2. David Lister

        Despite the fact that you are already existing in such a country which has patently, and blatantly demonstrated to everyone else in the UK that your current “Country” should have, by this time,furnished you with enough information to convince you (and me and everyone else) that your economy. society, political landscape will crash and burn and drag the rest of us down with it, you question whether it is worth taking a(n informed) risk to escape the carnage and create a better, fairer and more responsible government and society, rather than going down with the ship. I know what I would do.

    2. Matt

      “Do we know this? Have any of the parties other than SNP outlined an
      intention to remain in Scotland if it votes for independence? It would
      fundamentally change how those parties are structured – would Scottish
      politicians automatically default to a Scotland only version of the
      party or would they decide to focus their career on Westminster? What
      kind of political landscape would we enter into as an independent
      country?”

      I would argue that the last thing we want is to have established political parties. Of course there will be parties and of course we will have representatives who will toe the party line and look out for their career rather than standing up for their constituents, but the more unpredictable the political future is, the better for our politics.

      The big problem with the modern-day Labour party, for example, is that they are part of the establishment. If you want a career in politics, you can go and join the Labour party and they will provide you with a safe seat and a job for life. The widespread cynicism of the electorate ensures that nothing more will be expected from you than to do as you’re told by party HQ.

      On the other hand in a country where the parties are not well-established, where they don’t have ingrained support from people whose parents and grandparents voted for them, then every party and every candidate has to fight for votes; has to fight to show that they understand and care about the challenges that their voters face. How could that be a bad thing?

      If the Scottish branches of the Labour party, the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrat party all cease to exist and all their members go and find something else to do, we will not be left in a one-party-state. Other parties will appear to fill the space, and our additional-member-system ensures that minority parties will always have a chance to make their voices heard. Whatever your views, there will be a very good chance that you can get someone elected who will air them in parliament.

      If we remain in the UK on the other hand, we have a choice between two parties who both support nuclear weapons on the Clyde, who both support attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable on our society, who both support an economic strategy that devastates demand by sucking money away from the people who would actually spend it, who both support a move to circumvent justice and retroactively change a law after the coalition government broke it (in order to attack the poorest in our society). So answer me this Anne, if we vote No next year, who do we vote for in 2015 if we want to stand up for the poor, the vulnerable, the sick and the disabled?

      I always try to provide information to people who genuinely want to hear more about the arguments and facts surrounding the independence debate, but I honestly don’t understand what it is that you are looking for when you express concern over the choices we might have in front of us in an independent Scotland’s general election.

  2. creature

    Anne, I think this is the perfect forum for your views. As Amy suggests in her article there are far too few places to have a safe conversation on this subject without fear of upsetting someone. Bravo for participating.

    I’d like to give a response to your comments.

    ” Have any of the parties other than SNP outlined an intention to remain in Scotland if it votes for independence? It would fundamentally change how those parties are structured – would Scottish politicians automatically default to a Scotland only version of the party or would they decide to focus their career on Westminster? What kind of political landscape would we enter into as an independent country?”

    I think you must mean the 3 main UK parties, as there are several other parties already involved in the Yes campaign. Are you really suggesting that in the event of a Yes vote that all the non-SNP MSP’s will pack their satchels and go home, or head South to forge new careers in Westminster? Or that all of the Councillors we voted for in our local elections will stand down? The most likely scenario is that genuinely “Scottish” versions of the Conservative, Lib-dem, and Labour parties will quickly form. It could be argued that if these “Scottish” parties already existed we would probably be living in a Fiscally Independent Scotland now, rather than facing an Independence referendum.

    “The whole policy of free prescriptions is just another example of how the SNP use crowd pleasing policy to further support for their party, and then use that support to push the independence agenda. I’m all for affordable healthcare and support for the vulnerable in society but it’s ludicrous that every single person in the country should get free prescriptions, regardless of their wealth.”

    It seems a bit mad to criticise a government for a policy which pleases the majority – isn’t that democracy? The alternative to free prescriptions is to means-test this benefit. It’s been shown the cost of this means-testing for free prescriptions is greater than the saving derived from it. What’s worse is that the means-testing process is proven to actually discourages people who are entitled to the benefit, from claiming the benefit – and the most likely people to miss out are the elderly, infirm, and most vulnerable people in our society. Perhaps when viewed from all angles this policy can be regarded as the most efficient way of delivering an important benefit, rather than “a populist vote winner” as it is often described as a way of beating up the SNP?

    “That’s a hugely unhelpful way to frame the argument. For many I would think a No vote is a vote that says, ‘I take the future of my country seriously and I have not yet
    been furnished with enough information to convince me that our economy, society,
    political landscape can exist and prosper independently.’”

    There are lots of sources of information which point to a very successful future for an independent Scotland. By their very nature they are of course “forecasts”. There is no such thing as a “fact” about the future, but if we take a look around at the non-political voices, there seems to me that there is a growing consensus that there is nothing stopping us from achieving what you wish for. Except ourselves.

  3. Anne

    I think my main point through all of this is that currently I personally haven’t been given enough information and asking for more information is somehow painted as support for the No campaign. In all honesty I’m surprised anyone feels well enough informed to say a definitive Yes at this stage.

    With regards to the 3 main UK parties and how they will play a part in an independent Scotland – my point is that we don’t know yet and it’s as daft to suggest they’ll no longer be in Scotland as it is to simply assume they will. None of them have outlined how they will restructure and they will need to do that. Would all Scottish politicians automatically leave Westminster and only be involved in the Scottish version of their party? Might some want to remain in UK cabinet? What would this mean for Scottish politics? These are questions that can be answered.

    There are as many facts about the future that we can have answers to (currency, EU membership, borders, etc) as there are scenarios we can only forecast against and it’s not churlish to want those answers before we make our decision.

    1. creature

      Anne, I wouldn’t dare to suggest that asking for more information, and more clarity, is churlish. It’s only sensible, and is an echo of the advice from the Electoral Commission. You may remember all of the 3 main UK parties, and the No campaign all chorusing, for weeks, that the EC advice MUST be followed in FULL by the Scottish Government. The SG did so. Sadly those same No voices have not heeded their own demands, and since then the UK government has refused SG requests to officially ask the EU for it’s view on what would happen if Scotland votes Yes.

      Only this week we find that the UK government has said that it will NOT publish a new National Asset Register of everything it owns, leading to claims that the document has been cancelled to prevent the SNP government from using it as a basis for forming a negotiating position. The SG find themselves in the curious position of having no proper access to the facts which can prove our ability to look after ourselves, and at the same time being berated for not providing facts by the very same people preventing access to the facts.

      I think your concern over what our elected politicians decide to do after a Yes vote is touching, but seriously, do we really need the tribal party politics which goes with the 3 main UK parties? I would prefer to see our elected representatives do precisely that – represent their constituents views, and be damned with what their party policy is. Isn’t that what is supposed to happen?

      You need to ask those 3 main UK parties your question about where they’ll be after a Yes vote – it’s not something you can expect anyone else to answer. I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for your answers though.

      There are just as many questions to ask the 3 main UK parties, about what happens after a No vote. Were you aware for example that the Labour party wouldn’t repeal the bedroom tax if they got into power? Or that the continued privatisation of the NHS in England will ultimately mean the same thing for Scotland? Or that tuition fees will be introduced for Scottish students ( last year after the introduction of 9k tuition fees in England, 15k fewer students applied for university, and I don’t suppose it was all the rich ones?) Or that £100 billion pounds will be spent on Trident which will remain in Scotland. Or that we will probably leave the EU. Or that pensions will be reduced. There’s a very scary article on wingsoverscotland today which covers about 40 “what happens if you vote No” points, and every one is referenced. That should give you a whole lot of information to think about. You did ask.

      You are correct in asking for more information, but maybe you should expect the answers from everyone, not just the Yes campaigners.

      1. Anne

        I absolutely agree on your last point and indeed I do expect answers from everyone, not just the Yes campaign.

        My main point is that the simple act of asking questions and expecting answers not assumptions (from every side) is being wrongly and unhelpfully framed by many in the Yes campaign as support for a No vote, which, in my case certainly, it isn’t.

        Regards your ‘touching’ remark (thanks for the patronising tone) I’m not personally concerned for what these people do, I only want to know what the political landscape of Scotland will be and which parties intend to stick around (they didn’t all do so in Ireland if we want to use that comparison). We certainly won’t escape a party political system, no matter how many of us might prefer it.

        But again, of course I’m not asking the Yes campaign to answer that question, I’m just pointing out there’s lots of assumptions that need to be clarified before we’re anywhere near equipped enough to take this decision.

        1. creature

          That’s great you agree that answers should be provided by Yes and No campaigns.

          Would you also agree that your initial statement could have read “If I can be supplied with enough facts to convince me that we can survive, and indeed prosper as a part of the UK then I’ll consider voting No?” The fact you didn’t choose to say that will encourage readers, or listeners to “frame” your position as supporting a No vote.

          The problem I have with your initial statement is that you have a default position of No. There are just as many unknowns down the No path as there are down the Yes path.

          My position is that If the No campaign can’t convince me that being part of the UK is best for Scotland, and the people living here, then I will vote Yes. I have no problem with anyone framing this as a Yes, but open to persuasion.

          I haven’t heard a convincing argument from the No campaign yet, but I am not without hope.

          I hope we share the desire for honest answers from everyone involved, and less of the muckraking obfuscation?

          1. Anne

            I do have a default position of no and I’m not sure why you would have a problem with that, I have no problem with your default position of yes. Honest answers are all I ask for, and the opportunity to ask those questions without criticism.

          2. creature

            My problem with your statement (not your position) is that you complain that Yes people accuse you of your No position. Perhaps the reason people assume you support No, is because of the way you frame your own questions and only seem to ask your questions of the Yes campaign.

        2. Jayjay Robertson Somerville

          Anne, this is how Westminster are behaving; http://m.scotsman.com/the-scotsman/politics/post-independence-surplus-could-run-to-billions-1-2843339

          EVERYONE wants the facts but the reality is; Westminster won’t give us any. This is where you’ll have to decide for yourself if you want more
          Labour-Forgive-Forget-Tory-Forgive-Forget-Repeat for another 50yrs. Is Westminster working for you? If it is, vote no, if it isn’t, vote yes! Look at it as Scotland finally being wise enough to move into it’s own
          accommodation. There’ll be ups and downs, but our own to make. Take the leap. Let go of Westminsters hands. Have a positive outlook for your country because it is you who’ll help paint the canvass. No politician should decide for you.

    2. David Lister

      If they want to remain in the UK Cabinet, post independence, they would have to be representing a seat outwith an independent Scotland. If they wanted to be members of an independent Scottish parliament, they would have to put themselves up for election, as their cushy, overpaid Westminster job would disappear, and they would all be on the dole, albeit with a huge golden handshake and pension thanks to all of our taxes. Sooner the better.

  4. David Lister

    My thoughts are that, if you feel comfortable with, or are even undecided, (so lean towards a no vote as a safer bet than to risk a change,) then you are in a position to survive the severe austerity programme of the Coalition government, and the Labour government which will follow with the same austerity measures from 2015. In which case, good luck to you and I hope you do survive. However, I would like you to consider the situation for the millions of the most vulnerable members of our society who haven’t a hope in hell of surviving, in no short measure due to the policies of ALL of the UK political parties since the year dot. They are only interested in their own careers, and the only way to try to secure those are to pander to their “employers”, the bankers. They have no interest in supporting the poor (they proved that with this vicious budget) but are terrified that the departure of Scotland from the union will decimate their employment and pension opportunities. I, however, know that the right thing to do is to vote YES to secure a fairer and more secure future for our citizens and our nation.

  5. BP39

    ‘a vote for independence is neither a vote for the SNP nor a vote for
    Alex Salmond. It is a vote for democracy. If the Scottish electorate
    wish to vote for independence, we may later choose to elect a Labour,
    Liberal or even a Conservative government’.

    While the frist
    sentence there should be true, there is a bit of a problem with this.
    All of these Parties have heaped scorn, ridicule and abuse on the idea
    of Independence. They haven’t said we can produce a better Independent
    Scotland than SNP.They haven’t even produced a viable argument for why
    we should stay in the UK. They started by simply repeating again and
    again that Scotland would fail as an Independent country. Some of this,
    they were forced to retract but then came up with new unfounded negative
    or highly slanted and edited ‘information’.The new tactic is not
    to give better arguments or information but to adopt more effective
    campaign techniques. They are treating this like a By-election rather
    than change to an Independent country.

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