Jake Briggs and I have been friends since I showed up in his P1 class and we ‘chummed’ one another to school. In our late teens, he went off to a financial career in credit cards, retired to Catalonia and has recently been driven back to the UK by repercussions of the 2007 downturn. We clash amicably on Facebook, so his opinions and mine do differ. But, since he recently took the trouble to lay out his position on Indy as both expat Scot and expat Brit, his opinions seem representative of many and merit wider coverage.
First, let me state that I am a floating non voter.
This is my first grizzle, I am Scottish and although I have not lived in Scotland for 40 years, this does not make me any less Scottish. Our local Tesco manager is a genuine bites-yer-bum Glaswegian, promoted to “dahn saff”. No vote for him either. There must be hundreds of thousands of us throughout the world, and we care. By contrast, some eligible voters will not be Scottish, merely working/resident there, possibly with no long term commitment to the country. This cannot be right. When you lived and worked in California, did you consider yourself American ? Unlikely.
Local/General elections come and go. If you don’t like the result, you have the chance to change it in a few years . Not so here—this is a one-off. And how do 16-year-olds get the opportunity to vote, how did this happen? This looks like an equation for a “my game, times my rules, equals my result”. Also there are issues that are not just Scottish matters, but affect the whole of the UK. In fact, the whole Independence issue relates not only to Scotland, but to all of the UK. A ‘Yes’ vote would see 50-odd fewer Labour MP’s in Westminster—a major long term change to the political landscape. As someone said “If the Scots vote to stay, can we have a vote on whether we want to keep them?”
On to the campaigns, starting with the No/Better Together.
This has really been a non-campaign, but in how many different ways can you say ‘No’? Change, keep things as they are, straight ahead. What has worked (or not worked) in the past will work (or not work) in the future. Living standards have generally improved, our health care, education, law and order are fine (this is arguable), so why change? Issues such as currency or EU Membership will be resolved. But, at the moment, the threatening statements from the No campaigners has only served to fuel the perverse ‘see-you-Jimmy’ attitude in the Scottish character, and has possibly worked against its objectives, rather than in favour of them.
Now the Yes/#Indy.
Where to start? I can understand the desire of a country to have control of its destiny and much is made of decisions being taken in London. However, London and Edinburgh are only 400 miles apart, and Scotland sends 59 MP’s to Westminster. Will these MP’s vote differently if they are based in Edinburgh? Even Alex Salmond agrees the first Scottish government could be a Labour Government.
My impression is that some people see this not so much as a pro-Scotland move, but an anti-England move (don’t deny those people exist) and that Independence is an end in itself, the Holy Grail has been achieved, game over. They will find that, after any euphoria, a reality check may well kick in. However, I think there are more pro-Scotland voters with good intentions. There does seem to be a bit of cherry-picking over which bits of the existing situation will not be affected by Independence, topics such as currency, retention of the B of E as lender of last resort. Had Independence happened 10 years ago, could the Scottish economy, on it’s own, have bailed out RBS/BoS?
The yes argument seems to be primarily based round two principal agendas: Norway and Oil. If Norway can do it so can we, possibly, maybe even probably, but not definitely. I can see the similarities, but a lot depends on the political direction the country takes.
As you’ve said, oil prices have stabilised around $110, but this is no indication of future trends, and it is a diminishing resource. Future forecasting is something best avoided, and perhaps not dependent on.
As always, the prime concern will be the economy. Can an Independent Scotland maintain the same spending that it currently enjoys? I have reservations on health (free prescriptions) and education, (free university education). Bearing in mind that the first Independent Scotland government is likely to be Labour-led, and that these governments tend to be tax/borrow/spend, there may be a few gaps somewhere which will need to be plugged.
So, if the magic wand could be waved, and I could be allowed to vote, where would I put my X? I think that, if there is a ‘Yes’ vote, then those not in favour will accept it and get on with it. If there is a ‘No’ vote, then the pro-Indy lobby will still be there, and won’t go away. The preferred option of “let’s give it twenty years and see how we get on” is not available. This may surprise you, but I think I might (and it’s a big might) vote Yes, backed up by my “what if” theory. This states that if you don’t do it, you will always wonder “what if”.
So, go for it, remembering, there are lots of ifs, it’s a big cliff, there’s no parachute, and no-one else to blame if the land of milk and honey fails to materialise.