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.