Referendum Debate – Better Together

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Owen Mooney
Glasgow Student

Independence is not a blank slate onto which the dreams of anyone and everyone can be drawn.  A Yes vote won’t make political and economic realities disappear. A Yes vote doesn’t opt out of the political pressures and trade-offs that exist at a UK level; it simply moves these to a different arena. As much as its proponents often like to deny it, a Yes vote is not a vote for whatever you want it to be, but for a specific political programme.

This is the programme set out by the SNP in the White Paper on Scottish Independence. Negations will be completed before the next election, meaning that it will be the current SNP government and Alex Salmond negotiating on their own terms. This means they will seek a currency union that leaves control of economic policy in the hands of the Bank of England, without any democratic input into it. Furthermore, an independent Scotland needs continuing membership of the EU far more than the EU needs Scotland’s membership to function. An independent Scotland would just not have the same weight in EU negotiations that the UK does.

The SNP’s plan for Scotland is a viciously regressive one. The sole redistributive policy in the White Paper is a policy designed to take wealth from the rest of society and give it to shareholders of large businesses, by means of cutting corporation tax. The SNP only opposed the bedroom tax so that they could try to get people to vote Yes, leaving innocent people to suffer to drum up support for their own nationalist fantasies. Then when the vote came to abolish it in Westminster, only a third of their MPs bothered to show up. The SNP don’t care what the future looks like; so long as it’s a Saltire that flies over government buildings and not a Union Jack they’re happy.

The retort is often thrown out, “what hope is there for change at Westminster?” A Yes vote is depicted as a vote to get rid of this current government. Firstly, given that Scotland wouldn’t become independent until 2016, this government will still rule until the end of its term; getting rid of it still requires voting it out in 2015, as in the event of a No vote. Secondly, progressive policies like the minimum wage, the equal pay act, equal marriage have all happened in Westminster The problem isn’t really Westminster, or the fact that English voters are included in the electorate. The problem is right wing politics and the influence of capital which still exists in Scotland.

Independence will last forever; there is no going back. You cannot make a better society by walking away from those you disagree with; you have to convince them. The only way forward is to vote No, to make sure that Scotland still has input into the economic decisions that affect it, and to ensure that those who want a better society in Scotland and the UK are able to work together to challenge the international forces that ultimately supply the pressure for austerity.

Johann Lamont
Scottish Labout Leader

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All sides of the referendum debate agree that sovereignty lies with the Scottish people and it is for them to determine who should exercise power on their behalf.

But this debate has created new dividing lines in Scottish politics. It’s not longer a debate between nationalists and unionists but between the nationalists and those who argue that the best future for Scotland is found in sharing our sovereignty with our neighbours to tackle the big challenges.

The Yes campaign are trying to portray the referendum as choice between Scotland going it alone  or rule from Westminster, but the reality is more complex.

When a decision made by a banker in New York can send shockwaves around the global economy it makes sense that we pool our resources and act collectively in the interest of ordinary people. When the challenges of a family in Liverpool are the same as those faced by a family in Linlithgow, it makes sense that they work together to find shared solutions.

Nothing illustrates this clearer than pensioner poverty. When Labour came to power at Westminster in 1997, and began our devolution journey, three million pensioners lived in poverty. Working across the UK that Labour government halved that number and lifted one million children out of the most desperate conditions.

The Scottish Parliament has added to our ability to bring about meaningful social change across these islands. We set our own path for our NHS, our legal system and our schools and universities, but we pool and share resources to fund social security. This means spending in Scotland is higher £1400 per person every year. More money to spend on the services we value and the security of being backed by one of the largest economies in the world.

Sharing sovereignty with the rest of the United Kingdom is a point even the SNP has conceded. They concede the necessity to keep sharing the pound with our friends and neighbours, with a plan that would have us lose any and all control over our fiscal and monetary policy. They concede that we should share a common energy market, but with a plan that would see Scottish renewable energy companies lose access to UK wide funding.

In a globalised inter-dependent world it’s this view of shared sovereignty which will win out. Gone are the days of old fashioned nation states. Tomorrow is the day when solutions will be found in the shared actions and and collective decisions made between and within nations.

So the real question before us on September 18th, is what kind of progress we want for our nation? Do we focus on inwards, ignoring collective solutions to our shared problems, or do we look outwards? Proud of our distinct Scottish Parliament and playing our part as Scots in leading not leaving the UK and the world.