I used to say it was a ‘Head or Heart’ thing. I don’t think, any more, that it is. For, not only Heart, but Head says, weighing up the arguments – it is possible, so go, YES.
If you haven’t already guessed, I’m talking about the Scottish Referendum.
At first, I thought it was romanticism versus pragmatism, but knew that ‘romanticism’ – the ‘heart’ bit – had for me a good grip. I remember my father once saying, to some friends of mine very many years ago, that I was a practical romantic, that being the ‘worst’ kind. Not worst in terms of anything negative, worst in terms of trying to talk around. But today, having seen what I have of both campaigns, head and heart are pulling together.
Head says, this is possible. Head says, the figures, the economy makes it possible. Head says, check out all the figures, all the possibilities, all the political arguments on both sides. Head says, look at what you don’t necessarily ‘like’ – look at the debates from the right and from the left. Look at the levels of detail given, in places you may not expect.
Heart says, the economy should not be the main reason to vote, simply because the economy does make it possible. That’s possible, not necessarily easy.
Head and Heart together say that after a YES vote, there will be work. Not everybody will be better off, certainly not instantly. But the main argument for me is that having choice, having the chance of change, having the chance to create a more equal society, opens an opportunity that has to be taken. And that is now, for me, at least as much Head as Heart.
I’ve just been watching the BBC news, and was rather disgusted by the (to me) ‘No’ slant placed on Salmond’s new Declaration at Arbroath: disgusted not just because the news was spun that way, but more because the ‘no’ campaign – as reported – is so intensely negative. Why? The parties who claim we are ‘better together’ cannot agree, for reasons which are historical and political, on what their vision of Scotland is. Many, alas, in these parties (south of the border) appear to see Scotland as an irrelevance, and add-on, and this view appears shared by much of the so-called ‘national’ broadcasting. During the time I lived in England, the only time Scotland – one tenth of the UK population and very considerably more of its land-mass – was mentioned in ‘national’ news was when there was some kind of problem. At least, the referendum has changed that somewhat. But even today, we are bombarded with ‘national’ things which turn out to be English things; as, this week, discussion of English/Welsh/Northern Irish A-levels results. This was in turn mostly about English students – all this being fine and dandy (if the potential student populations of Wales and N. Ireland agree they had fair representation?) except that one-tenth of the university-headed population of the ‘UK’ had been doing something else, with results already posted, which had been reported as a ‘regional news’ thing.)
But back to the ‘no’ campaign. If ‘no’ predominates, what happens then? We do not know. However much they talk about Salmond (who is not my favourite politician, by the way) refusing to articulate a ‘plan B’, there is no sense that I can make out of what would happen to Scotland following a ‘no’ vote. One party – one only – supports a Federal system, and has done so for a century or more. But it’s too late for that. If we drift back, conceptually, to the time of the Act of Union, a Federal Union seems to have been the favoured version within Scotland – but it did not happen, instead of which we had an incorporating union with some caveats and modifications – reassurances about the Scottish legal system and the Scottish Kirk. At the time of union, a federal system might well have worked, with a ratio of around 1:3 between the populations of Scotland and England. Even 272 years later, at the time of the 1979 Scottish Assembly referendum (at which a Yes vote predominated but was discounted) a devolved Scottish Assembly had potential to lead gradually to a federal system. But what followed that vote was an increasing focus on London, the drawing off of young Scots south, the continued depletion of our country, despite the resources that had become evident.
I think that we cannot now go back. A federal system is not a possible goal, or at least not through a ‘no’ vote. The main English parties do not favour this, and the ‘powers’ promised need to be regarded with great caution. After all, we have that model of the failed 1979 vote and the promises made at that point that ‘something better’ would be proposed if we voted ‘no’ then. How long did it take! How many people did not vote because they were led to expect that ‘something better’?
So for me, today, ‘head’ says that an independent Scotland is possible – and that there are a range of views within the Yes campaign, people from different positions in the political spectrum (yes, including conservatives), who are presenting their approaches. After a YES vote they are pledged to work together to enable and negotiate the ‘first version’ of our Scotland. Then, an election in 2016, in which the different political stripes argue their cases, but all based in the terms which have been negotiated after September 18th 2014 by the joint team, we vote for who we want to represent us in Edinburgh.
And, ‘heart’ cautions me that there are many people who do not wish to be separated, in a ‘different country’, from their children, their siblings, their cousins who are now in England for jobs and have their families there. I can feel this, sympathise. But the phenomenon of ‘The Scot Abroad’ is one that has lasted for many years and we have kin in many places – in my own case most closely in Canada, but also in Australia and New Zealand, in South Africa and India, as well as those now in England. So, we may need to find a way to deal with Heart, while knowing, from financial evidence and from the lack of cohesion of ‘no’, that Head says a resounding YES.