Lessons from the Scottish Independence Debate


It looks like it is 50:50 as to whether Scotland will vote yes to independence. As I have previously said, I don’t much mind what they do and can see selfish benefits to England from them leaving – assuming that they are not allowed currency union. What does concern me is that a serious debate with many fundamentally important facts to be debated seems to have been hijacked by emotion. I believe that the media, particularly TV journalism has colluded with this. Unsurprisingly, most politicians have been utterly uninspiring and ineffective – if you’re relying on Gordon Brown to make your points then you know you’re in deep trouble.

The fundamental question for the Nationalists to answer is what currency they would use. If is absurd for Salmond to claim that a yes vote gives him a mandate to obtain a currency union. Such a union would be politically suicidal for any UK government, and financially unjustifiable. All that had to be done was all three UK political leaders (four if you want to include Farrage) to state, unequivocally, that there would be no currency union. Full stop.

Salmond’s argument was that if so Scotland would accept none of the UK’s debt. To which the four should have pointed out that as the lending world considered apportionment on population head fair he was now proposing to launch the Thistle (or whatever) with a default. Good luck.

That no politician managed to make these points is depressing. Notwithstanding the huge benefit that the separation of Scotland would give to the Tories, it is incumbent on the prime minister of the UK to ensure that any debate on a referendum that he created is sensible. Whether Scotland stays or goes, Cameron has failed.

Instead we have been seeing a rush to offer extra devolution from Westminster, the so called “devo-max” that Salmond reportedly wanted. This has, of course, been Labour led because the absence of Scotland removes the last bastion of visceral socialism that keeps them electorally viable. But it should not have happed. Cameron should have pointed out that there is already a rolling devolution programme within the UK and that this vote is not about that. It’s in or out, and if it’s out you will not have Sterling.

I suppose that, given the low calibre and lower expectations of our current politicians it was too much to expect an intelligent debate. But the abject failure of TV to pin the participants to a point and expose their contradictions is profoundly depressing. How can democracy work if most people don’t read newspapers and TV can’t provide sensible, objective and rational debate? Even the most educated humans are more emotional than rational (c.f. house purchase). Those less educated have no immediate source of information. So now, 500 years after the enlightenment and almost a century after universal suffrage this country faces government produced by emotional response to inaccurate messages rather than intelligent response to rational debate. It’s alarmingly like Brave New World.

If Scotland leaves then it’s not my problem. But the explicit demonstration of the failed state of democracy in this country is. At the moment my only response is to vote UKIP (although I can’t stand many of their candidates – such as the ghastly Hamiltons) on the grounds that it breaks up the establishment. But it’s going to take much more than that.

I suspect emigration may be a better solution. But not to Scotland.