I felt I needed to set down the reasons why I personally voted No in the recent referendum on Scottish independence.
Firstly, I thought that trying to force the rest of the UK into a currency union which all the major political parties said they did not want was likely to be problematic. England had not been given a say; I felt there may be some goodwill lost. The negotiating stances that were being set out seemed likely to lead to confrontation. If the eventual settlement was disadvantageous to Scotland, I felt the English would be blamed and it could lead to rancour and division.
Secondly, it seemed to me that the position the SNP was taking over Europe was not realistic. The rules of the EU have changed since the UK joined. New countries joining have to use the Euro and to have a central bank. It seemed probable that Spain or Italy or even some of the smaller countries which have their own breakaway movements would insist on Scotland sticking to the rules. After all, Spain is currently refusing to recognise Catalonia’s referendum on independence. The Catalans and the Basques were demonstrating in Edinburgh in the run up to the referendum. I thought the ‘Yes’ campaign’s position that this could all be settled in 18 months and that Scotland’s membership on similar terms was virtually assured was unconvincing.
Thirdly, it seemed to me that if the eventual result of the negotiations on these two important areas was a poor one for Scotland, the people would not be given a say in the form of another vote; we would have to take what we were being offered.
Fourthly, I felt that making such a massive change on the basis of a marginal ‘Yes’ may create a divided country. The new independent Scotland could have proved a breeding ground for the extreme right. There appeared to be increased activity from far right parties in Scotland in the run up to the vote; I saw a possibility of a backlash from unionists which could have led to an upsurge in violence.
Fifthly, I was personally alienated by what seemed to me some cult-like aspects of the ‘Yes’ campaign. There seemed to me to be an atmosphere of intimidation; group-think. Rational arguments were shouted down. People who intended to vote ‘No’ were accused of various personal and political failings; immigrants were told they had no right to stop Scotland becoming independent. Journalists doing their jobs were inappropriately accused of bias. Some were personally villified.
Sixthly, I have not been sufficiently impressed by the achievements of our political class in Scotland and the the Holyrood Parliament to want to hand over to them all of the powers they wish to hold. Particularly since 2011, I think the record of the Scottish government has been underwhelming. Holyrood does not seem good at holding the government to account. I have some issues in particular with what I see as a lack of respect for individual liberty; ie the effect of the anti-sectarian legislation, the imposition of child guardians, the national police authority’s constant stopping and searching of children and young people.
Seventhly, I did not accept that the ‘Yes’ campaign’s vision of a fairer country with a greater degree of social justice was likely to come to pass. I thought creating such a high degree of economic uncertainty and turmoil was likely to lead to increased poverty and hardship for many.
As well as these many problems and issues with the offer by the ‘Yes campaign, I concluded after much thought – and despite having started from a position of sympathy with the cause of Scottish independence – that in the modern world, fragmentation is a dubious strategy. The UK is one of the alliances of which Scotland is a part. It is an important alliance and I did not feel that removing Scotland from it at this time or in the foreseeable future is desirable or necessary. I decided that my values are more consistent with creating better structures within the existing alliances; sharing sovereignty; building on the past; working towards unity and cooperation.