Monday, 18 August 2014

Ticked Off

Now that all the dust has settled on the Commonwealth Games, Scotland is now bracing itself to focus on the upcoming Referendum to decide whether to remain part of the UK or to stand as an independent nation.

I'll lay my cards on the table; I have absolutely no idea which way to vote. As my blog is the nearest thing I have to a personal diary I am planning to record some of my thoughts towards whatever the eventual decision I make will be. It is said that you should never discuss religion or politics in polite company, but an opposing opinion is that views that are not exposed to the light of reality can breed unhealthily. I may not reveal where my X eventually lands but putting my thoughts on virtual paper may help me reach a decision I can live with.

What are my political leanings?
I have none and am actively apolitical and apathetic about the whole process. People interest me, improving our living conditions interests me and the dual notions of being a responsible citizen and having the opportunity to achieve this are important to me. I don't have a political affiliation as I don't believe dogmatically framing society works either in a consequentialist or deontological sense. A political stance doesn't define me.

My simplistic experience is that at each general election all the parties offer great promises in their manifestos, but whoever gets into office always fails to deliver citing the fact the last government left everything in a bigger mess than they expected then asks the country to vote them in again after 4yrs of broken promises as they've now cleared the backlog and can start delivering.

I believe individuals enter politics with high ideals and ethics around improving society. However, I do not believe that an adversarial political arena is the right place to harnesses ideals such as working together for the common good. Perhaps a contemporary parliament in a newly independent country would be something fresh and devoid of traditional bloat.

On a personal level I have no real competitiveness in my nature but am old enough to recognise and value this as a virtue rather than a failing which is probably why political sniping causes my eyeballs to roll backwards all of their own accord.

What is my view of this Referendum?
I think this is quite a massive decision and one that should only be decided 'in the round' after very careful consideration of all the facts. Sadly, facts and figures are not being shared and I find both sides of the campaign evasive, actively scaremongering and unconcerned with putting an intelligent and truthful case to the voters.

I watched the debate between Salmond and Darling the day after on the iplayer. I thought it was a shamefully wasted opportunity and I learnt nothing of value. Similarly, the literature falling through the letterbox has been sparce and not overly helpful.

This is a wonderful opportunity for the Yes campaign to demonstrate a brave new future of how a contemporary, purposeful Scottish national parliament would conduct business. Instead we are facing a hand of cards which we cannot really see. As a devolved government Scotland has made some major societal decisions which have made significant improvements to areas of Scottish life that impact everyone. The NHS in Scotland is far from perfect but it remains far more stable than NHS England which is teetering on the brink of implosion. Schools and social care seem more societally focussed than in England. There are arguments that Scotland draws in more than it gives but, I suspect that even if this is the case, the funding disparity is not so large that it would explain the way that Scotland prioritises budgets towards vulnerable citizen services. The care sector in Scotland is shockingly underfunded and unfit for purpose in many ways but the English comparator is worse. However, can this a government, used to partial decision making on devolved issues, continue to make good decisions when it is fully responsible for all national elements?

The No, or Better Together, side haven't bothered to put together a case at all and seem simply to taunt in a manner of a child withholding a ball unless everyone agrees to play their game. I don't understand the unidentified and undefined promises of greater powers for Scotland if we stay as part of the UK. If we are as wonderful as the Better Together campaign allege why has this not already happened? I am also, as a sentient adult who has attained their majority, deeply offended by the paternalistic element to the manner in which the unionist case is being made. I may not be minded towards the Independence campaign but I will be damned if I am going to patronised into not rocking the boat by the alternative.

Neither side has endeared themselves to me and I have found the poor behaviour by both sides to be most unedifying.

Which side of the fence am I on?
I am resolutely welded to the fence. I can find no compelling reason to choose one over the other. The polls suggest only 7% of people are undecided. No-one I've ever known has formed part of any of these "representative opinion polls" so I'm not surprised that they don't represent my experience or that of the people I associate with. When it has come up in conversation, aside from a few with strong views one way or another, the majority seem perplexed over knowing which are the key variables in the proposition so my view is that the greater majority are in the undecided camp.

What influences me?
I've grown up with the dual national identities of UK/Scottish. I absolutely love my Glasgow/West Coast/Scottish heritage but have never felt any less Scottish by being part of the UK. I think Scotland gets a raw deal from a London centric government but by the same logic so too does Wales, Northern Ireland and the North of England so how far do we go in carving up the country/countries?

It is important to have a sense of history and to learn the lessons of the past but there is a time to move forwards and not keep rehashing old battles. Whether that means keeping a UK union or striking out on our own is unclear to me.

How much of both campaigns is based on fact and how much on scaremongering to coerce my vote. I want to make a positive decision that I am believe to be right. I don't trust politicians in general and neither side is endearing their campaign to me as I need intelligent, evidentially based debate and facts.

I didn't really see the point of devolution beforehand but in the light of experience it has made a huge difference to Scottish public life. So I need to consider may be something of a similar quantity?

This current trend of extending the retirement age means that I'm only just over half-way to retirement. However, I don't want to work beyond 60yrs old and on that calculation I am just about to reach the last quarter of my working life so pensions and living a comfortable third age are my priorities. I have a plan to live some or all of my retirement years in the Peak District and this vision motivates me get out of bed and to work some days. Depending on the result of the referendum I may have to apply for a visa or passport to do this and the economic repercussions may make such a move nonviable. Therefore, I need to know what I am voting for.

I do wish 'celebrities' and others in the public eye would stop burping out their strong views. Most seem not to live in Scotland or have a vote here but that simply doesn't stop them spouting rubbish. I would defend to the death the right of free speech of a strongly held personal belief but as public figures I also believe this places on them a duty to consider where, when and how to wade into a debate in which their views are simply not publically relevant.

Honestly, would you make the decision on whether to cleave a nation in two or not on the basis of the opinion of a celebrity hairdresser such as Nicky Clarke who neither lives here or has a right to vote because he tells you he thinks Scots are too thick to make the decision? Much more impressive today was David Tennant who says he has forfeited his right to a public opinion as he no longer lives here and it should be up to the politicians to make the case and Scots to decide. Although I am choosing to make my personal views public I am not seeking to alter anyone's opinion or make a case either way. Instead this is a means of recording my thoughts regarding a potentially momentous historic event, which it will be, no matter what the outcome.

What will my eventual choice say about me?
Come what may I will cast my vote and I hope it will speak of an informed choice made on soul and conscience. How I will achieve this is less clear.

10 comments:

  1. I don't envy you the decision. We've heard little of the arguments here in England (and I listen to radio 4 so I'm not completelt ignorant of the news) and don't know how much more you've had. As a graduate who studied the Eu I tensively, I'm hoping that wenever have a referendum on the EU. I don't meam to call people thick, they're not, but the information in the public arena is too scant for people to make a real decision. Pulling out would kill Britain off. It worries me that the real effects and consequences of the Scottish referendum are likewise being withheld from the public, so how can anyone make a real decision.

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  2. Apologies for the typos - typing on a touchscreen is not one of my skills!

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  3. It's that careful thought vs intense emotions problem again. Do you 'follow your heart' which I think for a lot of Scots would be to proudly shout their scottishness or follow common sense which says that the bigger countries seem to do better economically usually so stay as part of a working unit? I don't know what I'd do, so you have my best wishes for a sensible decision! I should say if there was a North South referendum I'd probably be voting for Northern devolution, rather than independence.

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  4. And add that even if Scotland votes for separation I'll be reading your blog still so it makes no difference to us!

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  5. I am heartily sick of the whole discussion to be honest, but for what it's worth (& I too was brought up never to discuss politics, religion or sex in public) I don't think Scotland has the economic, political or intellectual might to go it alone. We may not have the perfect government in London (clearly we don't), but nevertheless live in a comparatively advanced country. We have been part of the UK for over 300 years, I think if separation from the UK was a good idea, it would have happened before now. The SNP are unable to provide answers to basic questions of currency, the economy etc. Alex Salmond is insisting that we WILL keep the pound, but determination and bluster does not alter the fact that the pound is a UK currency and we would no longer be part of the UK if we voted for separation, and that the pieces of metal and paper we currently use would be invalid from that point. He clearly has no plan in place for currency (That's CURRENCY, the thing upon which our working lives, leisure activities, mortgages, food payments, and family lives depend) otherwise he would have told us what they are. North Sea Oil is being touted as the saviour of Scotland with the wicked English currently siphoning off 'our' resources, but NS oil is a very finite resource, and is not something on which to base the future of Scotland in the long term. Where is the money to come from to pay for all the things we are promised will be free? Nationalism has never been a force for good; it closes down, rather than opens up, minds, hearts and intellects. Patriotism, is of course, different. I am Scottish, and I love the country, esp the highlands where I grew up, but the fact is I am also British, and I don't want to have to hand over a passport when I travel within the 'former UK' should the vote for separation be carried. I too watched the pitiful 'debate' on TV, and whilst Alistair Darling was not scintillating, he was at least sincere. I was shocked by Alex Salmond's infantile, personal attacks, quoting out of context, and out of date newspaper articles. Surely as the potential future Prime Minister of an independent country, he should have been taking the opportunity to spell out with care and attention,the Facts of his campaign and manifesto. Instead we were treated to an exercise in snide remarks and face pulling. I am not a political person, but common sense will guide my hand on Referendum Day and my cross will definitely be in the 'No' box. As you might have guessed! Anyway, good for you for blogging about the referendum, it will be very interesting to see what opinions you garner. X

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  6. Such a lot to think about. So many reasons to stay and reasons to go but I can not help you a bit as here in the US, we have heard very little of the situation and I would have not thoughts either way. I wish you luck with your exploration of the subject and your final decision. Here in the US we have really two parties, and I am always voting for the people and their needs, which makes me a democrat, I am not all that conservative or into big business. So it is easy for me to make up my mind.
    Hugs to you,
    Meredith

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  7. Good to read your post, and knowing that you will make an educated and informed decision on the 18th - I fear there are too many who are not bothering to give it as much thought. xx

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  8. It is very interesting to read your thoughts whilst you try and work through this and I admire you for considering this so carefully and with so much thought as many will not. I hope that you can reach a decision that you are happy with. xx

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  9. My comment just disappeared into the ether, probably for good reason. I almost got sucked into 'discussing' this - in particular to address some of Pennys views, but this is not the time nor the place and I think many of us in Scotland feel the same way as you do, certainly most of the people I know are very wary of the misinformation being bandied about at the moment. It's a huge responsibility and I can't wait to see the back of it, whatever the outcome. I hope you eventually manage to make a decision you're happy with! Good luck.

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  10. Oh dear. You could almost be describing one of our presidential elections. Are all world politics the same? Full of baseless rhetoric aimed at a credulous, presumably non-thinking public?

    I too am resolutely apolitical. The blend of good and not-so-good in both politicians and their proposals makes it very hard to say that any one party is right.

    Best of luck as you ponder this vote!

    P.S. What waves of consternation must be running through the world of heraldry over this. Will the thistle and the unicorn disappear from the royal coat of arms?

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