Referendum Comment: A Response to Ming Campbell

Politics is a bit like professional football: a lot of people try to make a career from it but many don’t make it past being a trialist. Then, having gone through a fairly arduous process, most that do make it to professional status are typically known to a relatively limited audience (as someone who followed Hamilton Accies in my youth and has had a lifelong interest in politics, I’m familiar with the role of being a limited audience member).  Every so often though, there will be an individual who earns an esteemed status and is known to a larger audience.

Few politicians have been ever-present through my life, but Menzies (Ming) Campbell is one of them and he generally speaks to a larger audience.  He wrote in the Guardian recently that he will be voting no because he loves Scotland and then tried to offer his rationale. I can start my response on the same premise as Ming Campbell here – I also love Scotland, it is my home and it is where my heart is.  Thereafter our opinions differ, in fact the comments that Ming Campbell offers are so false that it seems his judgement on Scotland’s constitutional possibilities has been compromised by his party position.  Unfortunately the Lib Dems contribute to the debate on Scotland’s constitution in the same way that they did to voting reform for Westminster.  In pursuing a half-baked proposal they jeopardised the urgent and certain need for electoral reform, and ultimately set UK democracy back a step.  The Lib Dems propose a federal setup for the UK when dealing with the governance of Scotland.  However, pursuing a No vote in the hope of delivering their proposal is utter folly as there’s no desire for federalism in Westminster (or the House of Lords that would have to ratify such a process).  It is worth noting that Ming Campbell didn’t even attempt to pretend that the Lib Dems proposed ‘federalism’ of the UK is a realistic option in his article, he opted for a series of false claims.

Ming Campbell starts with an interesting observation, he looks at the 300years of union and boasts that Scotland & England have not suffered invasion or civil war (except the Jacobite rebellion – damn those exceptions).  However, surely he is aware of the fact that in that time frame our union built an Empire that was formed by invasion and resulted in countless civil wars around the planet, along with shameful wars such as the Opium Wars (where Britain essentially set up an organised drug trade into China in a bid to open up their borders which had been closed to legitimate trade, and also initiated a series of attacks which killed tens of thousands).  No, our 300year shared history can’t be promoted for its peaceful nature – the level of ignorance to the Empire is scandalous in itself, the atrocities in Kenya that Monbiot details in this Guardian article happened in my parents’ lifetime and yet it is a part of our history that is hidden from British citizens.

Looking at Scotland’s current constitutional arrangement, we are currently a member of 2 political unions – the EU has in many ways superseded the UK in functional form of standardising workers’ rights etc but the point on peace is an important one here.  The EU should be recognised for the stable peace that this political union has brought to its citizens, and this has happened with no centralised defence policy (long may that continue!).  If Ming Campbell has concerns about Scotland remaining in the EU after democratically choosing to remove ourselves from the antiquated UK structure then he may want to do some soul searching on the principles that the EU stands on.  He needn’t be concerned though as Graham Avery has gone to lengths to detail to the Scottish Parliament (watch or read).

The claim that our ‘political system envied and copied around the world’ is quite simply wrong.  No other 2 nations have ever formed a political union equivalent to the UK.  It is one of the fascinating aspects of the debate for me – if such a union is principally sound, why do the Canadians not cede the sovereignty of their parliament and send their taxes to a key decisions to Washington DC or likewise why does Austria chose independence rather than cede their powers to the German parliament? Quite frankly, it is a ludicrous proposition.

Ming Campbell goes on to list some recent Scottish MPs who he feels have shown that Scots have a loud voice in the UK.  The problem with this is that it fails to recognise that the problem with the UK is that it is a horrendously elitist system, where the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow at an alarming rate.  This isn’t just a London versus The Rest problem as is often portrayed; the elite can be found across the isles, but that doesn’t mean that they represent the social interests of their childhood neighbours.  A couple of the men listed have shown principle in government (notably Robin Cook in his protest against the Iraq war) but it is the system at large that governs our politics, and it is so grossly centralised that it fails to represent societies across the British Isles.  For government structures in the modern global world, the efficiency shown by governments of nations of equivalent size to Scotland are consistently heading the tables for social and economic status – as I previously posted, a smaller political system presents a fantastic opportunity for Scotland to raise the standard of living for all our people by using a different model from that used at Westminster.

Scotland’s independence movement is one that is driven from the reality of democratic deficit – the fact is that the 59 MPs that we have do not have a mandate to influence the policy of the Westminster chamber of 650 MPs. This is why we get policies imposed on us that our parliamentarians reject such as Royal Mail privatisation or the Bedroom Tax and we also have the situation where are representatives opt not to reflect the wishes of Scotland’s electorate because they are whipped into line by their Westminster leadership (Iraq war, nuclear weapons, austerity etc).

The independence movement isn’t an ambition for one political party; the foundations of the independence movement in Scotland are built on democracy – people want to hold politicians from all parties to account – that is something that we simply can’t do with the Westminster government (ref: Thatcher) but the system of proportional representation at the Scottish level does mean that politics and accountability can be compatible together as they should!  If Ming Campbell wants to see that, I suggest he attends one of the many town hall meetings that are taking place across Scottish communities on a daily basis… (such as the recent Lanarkshire Forum for Independence event with Cat Boyd, Robin McAlpine and Jim Sillars).

Scotland is waking up to the political opportunity that a Yes vote will bring – another Scotland is possible, a better future can be achieved. Only a Yes vote will give us the power to grasp the opportunity.


About stuartmdarling

I live in Motherwell & work in Edinburgh in the Oil & Gas sector, which has been taking me around the world for 15 years now. My passion for politics and music go with me every step of the journey...
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3 Responses to Referendum Comment: A Response to Ming Campbell

  1. The Lib Dems are a mystery:
    1) They talk the talk when it comes to federalism, but given a golden opportunity to make it a possibility they fight with every fibre in their bodies to ensure that that option is excluded from the referendum.
    2) For a party calling itself liberal and democratic it seems so odd that they have spend the years leading up to 2012 fighting with every other last fibre in their bodies to deny the people of Scotland a referendum at all.
    3) And yet still they also tried to deny 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in the Scottish referendum, despite the fact that they claim to be in favour for it in elections (although it is noted that they have not progressed that one while in government).
    On which note:
    4) The Lib Dems pledged to never introduce tuition fees, which they did straight off once they got into power.
    5) The Lib Dems are for further integration into Europe, and yet in government they are supporting the movement towards either a UK partial withdrawal from the fringes of Europe, or indeed a full exit (fine for a referendum on that one though).
    6) They are for reform of the House of Lords, but in government have seen the number of unelected peers in the House of Lords swell.
    7) They are for proportional representation, but they took part in a preposterous two option referendum (first past the post and the alternative vote) where absolutely nobody was interested in the second option, including themselves.
    8) They have sat in government during the most draconian clamp down on the poor and disadvantaged that the UK has ever seen.
    9) They have supported the expansion of the UK’s nuclear arsenal.
    10) They proposed and led the privatisation of the Royal Mail.
    11) They have failed to deliver a fair tax system based on a properly implemented income tax.. etc (That is probably the extent of my knowledge of the CORE principles of the Liberal Democrats)….
    Indeed, the Lib Dems have done the EXACT OPPOSITE of everything that they are supposed to stand for. The strange thing is that they committed suicide, partially by propping up the Tories but mostly because they totally betrayed their voters, and gained no concessions at all.
    They claim to have tamed the Tories a bit, but they have been at the forefront (along with Labour) of the battle against democracy for Scotland.
    When they were in the position of King Maker after the 2010 they should have negotiated ALL of the above. They held the balance of power, but they dropped it into the hands of the Tories.

    Don’t get me wrong though, the Tories are the Tories, dog eat dog while the fat cats get fatter, you know that’s what you are getting, it says it on the tin. Labour on the other hand are more like the Lib Dems, they talk the talk, actually to be more accurate they tell you that they talk the talk (most of the time they don’t even do that), but they do the exact opposite and really do pretty much exactly the same as the Tories at the end of the day. They (Labour) stab you in the back with a nice smile on their face and a comforting hand on your shoulder rather than smashing a brick in your face with the smile of a psychopath (Tories) in their eyes.

    Again for comparison of the three ugly sisters:

    The Tories don’t kid on too much there are any benefits for Scotland to gain by voting No. “The current settlement is a line in the sand”, “Lets have this done with once and for all and move on”, “You can’t have a more powers option on the referendum because you would have to put that to all of the people in the United Kingdom”.. Essentially.

    The Lib Dems still bang on about a federal system, despite having fought against that being an option on the referendum and clearly having made no moves for that.

    Labour promise us that there will be extra powers and that we will be able to raise more money, but tell the people of the North East of England that there will be no additional powers going to Scotland, that Scotland will not be able to raise any extra money, it will simply have more of the burden of responsibility for raising some of the existing money on our own, which goes against much of their arguments of economy of scale and shared resources. So, it is either us in Scotland that are getting stabbed in the back or the long suffering people of the North East of England who are in for the plunging.

  2. AbuEmma says:

    The LibDems are a bit of a busted flush nowadays. The whole Better Together campaign though is pretty much rotten to the core. As you point out if the concept of Better Together was to have any validity, then it would have be of general application. Ireland presumably would benefit from rejoining the UK and Yugoslavia should be reformed for the benefit of all. Austria and Germany as you mention is perhaps the most clear cut example of where the claims of Better Together become exposed for what they are – nonsense. I have previously analysed the BT claims and applied them to Austria and Germany, here –

  3. Pingback: Scottish Independence & Defence: A Welcome Opportunity | Darling Blogs

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