Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Reasons for Scottish Independence: Number 2 - We don't need your pity


About this series

Before I get started on this article I'll declare my interests. I am a Yorkshireman, so I suppose that makes me English.

I wish my beautiful region had far more autonomy from Westminster, because perhaps if we had, our local representatives would have fought to protect our vital industries (steel, coal, fishing, transport), rather than letting Westminster deliberately ruin them as part of their insane ideological experiment in turning the UK economy into a supposed "post-industrial society" built around the city of London financial sector (and we all know how that absurd fantasy turned out).

I know there is no chance of Yorkshire achieving regional autonomy from London in my lifetime, but that doesn't mean I begrudge the people of Scotland their opportunity to end London rule, in fact I'm delighted for them. The only concern I have is the possibility that the people of Scotland will decline this magnificent chance to assert their autonomy.

Come September the 18th, I hope I'll be celebrating the rebirth of the Scottish nation. I hope I'll be drinking a toast to "Scotland the brave", not mournfully lamenting for "Scotland the servile".


The "pity the English" argument

One of the most commonly occurring arguments proffered by the "No" camp, is that should Scotland decide to leave the Union, it would condemn the English to perpetual Tory rule.

It is essentially an appeal that Scotland should give up the possibility of autonomy and self-governance in order to mitigate someone else's problem.

The numbers don't add up

The first and most obvious objection to this appeal to self-sacrifice is that the numbers just don't add up. The population of Scotland is about 8% of the UK electorate, so even if 100% of Scottish people turned up to vote, and all of them voted against hardline neoliberal parties like the Tories and UKIP, it will count for nothing if the people of England vote marginally in favour of the hardline neoliberal parties. The UK would still end up with a hardline neoliberal government, and Scotland would end up with a government it overwhelmingly rejected.

It is a fact that the Scottish vote very rarely has any impact on the overall result in General Elections. Between 1979 and 1997 Scotland voted against the Tories, but the English voted in favour, so we all got a Tory government. Between 1997 and 2010 Scotland voted Labour, but so did the rest of the UK, so even if the Scottish votes were discounted, Labour would still have won, and the Tories would still have been out of power.

Ever since the Second World War, the only time the Scottish electorate has played a decisive role in determining the government of the UK is when it comes to hung parliaments, the rest of the time the UK has ended up with the government the people of England have voted for.

The idea that England would be condemned to perpetual Tory rule doesn't stand up to the slightest scrutiny because the Scottish vote very rarely actually changes anything, other than converting what would have been a tiny majority into a hung parliament. Even then, in 2010 the Liberal Democrats enabled the Tories back into power anyway, then supported all of their rotten illiberal legislation (Privatisation of the English NHS, Secret Courts, "Bedroom Tax", the Gagging Law, Retroactive workfare legislation ...).

The law of unintended consequences

The frightening thing is that the next time around it could the nightmare scenario of Scottish votes turning what would have been a small Tory majority into a minority, meaning that the Tories end up having to form a coalition with a gaggle of UKIP MPs to stay in power. Such a scenario would drive the UK even further towards right-wing neoliberal extremism, even though the vast majority of the Scottish votes that caused it were actually cast in support of more social democratic parties.

The law of unintended consequences makes it entirely possible that the Scottish electorate could actually make things a hell of a lot worse by sticking with us and trying to mitigate the Tory voting south-east.

A pointless self-sacrifice

Because the numbers just don't add up, even if Scotland remains in the union and the Scottish electorate votes overwhelmingly against the blue and purple Tories, it simply won't make a difference if the majority of England votes in favour of them.

If the people of England vote for the Tories and UKIP, history has shown that it is extremely unlikely that Scottish votes would be enough to change the overall result and save the UK from the nightmare scenario of another Tory government or (even worse) a Tory-UKIP coalition.

Even if there were just enough votes to deny the Tory-UKIP team a majority, Tory rule would probably happen anyway because the burning Labour party hatred of the SNP would probably prevent them from forming a rainbow coalition as an alternative to the blue and purple Thatcherites.

If Scotland stays in the UK in order to try to protect the English from themselves, it's more than likely to end up as a pointless self sacrifice, where Scotland ends up with yet another government it voted strongly against.

   
Be an example
    Instead of remaining part of the Union in order to fight a losing battle against the neoliberalism of the Tories and UKIP, I believe Scotland would do the English a much bigger favour through independence.

Once Scotland is independent, the political landscape of the country would change dramatically.

Most notably the SNP would lose their raison d'etre (and presumably a lot of their voters) meaning they would need to find a new core principle to unify the party. Independence would also have a reinvigorating effect on the other parties too.

The Scottish Labour party could perhaps step away from the neoliberalism-lite agenda of the Westminster leadership, and offer the people of Scotland the social democratic Labour party of old that they actually want.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats could reform as the Scottish Liberal Party and leave behind the legacy of grotesquely illiberal Tory legislation (secret courts, "Bedroom Tax", the gagging law ... )  that were pushed through parliament with the votes of Nick Clegg's appallingly misnamed party.

Even the Scottish Conservatives could use Independence as an opportunity to abandon the Thatcherite handbook of neoliberal dogma, and perhaps try to offer more of the kind of social democratic Conservatism from the pre-Thatcher era, which was a brand of Conservatism that actually resonated with the people of Scotland.

Should Scotland vote for independence, the country will almost certainly end up with the slightly left of centre social democratic government that the people of Scotland want. This might well be in the best interests of England because it would provide us with an example of how social democracy can be a viable alternative to Thatcherite dogma in the UK.

Instead of abandoning self-determination because you take pity on the English, Scotland could do the English a huge favour by leading by example, and demonstrating that there is a better alternative to the Thatcherite neoliberal dogma favoured by the Westminster establishment.

We don't need your pity

In conclusion, you'd be an absolute fool to vote against independence out of some misguided pity for the English. If you abandon your chance at gaining autonomy over your own affairs, the historical record demonstrates that there's actually very little chance that your votes would make any difference anyway.

If the English have the terrible combination of gullibility and apathy necessary in order to allow the Tories (or a Tory-UKIP coalition) into power in 2015, there's not much the Scottish electorate can do to save us from our own collective stupidity. All you would be able to do is share the appalling consequences with us, despite having voted strongly against it yourselves.

The best thing that the Scottish can do for the English is to vote for independence, then elect a social democratic government of your own. This would show us that there is a viable alternative to hardline neoliberal dogma, and it would show us the value of increased regional autonomy too.

Please don't let pity for the English cloud your decision in the Scottish independence referendum. We don't need your pity and pointless self-sacrifices, what we need is for someone to show us that there is actually a better way of doing things.


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