Friday 24 May 2013

Reasons for voting YES - 2

Those who follow me on Twitter may be aware of my tweets stating reasons why I will be voting YES in Scotland's independence referendum on 18 September 2014. In this series of short articles I aim to explain and expand upon those short statements. The numbering of the articles should not be taken to suggest any order of preference or importance.

I'll vote YES for reasons quite incomprehensible to those
who imagine I might be persuaded by an "economic argument".

I am often asked what persuaded me that Scotland should be independent. Irritating as it may be to answer a question with another question, I am obliged to respond by asking why I should need to be persuaded. For me, the idea that Scotland is a nation like any other, and should enjoy the same status as other nations, takes precedence over all other arguments. Independence is the starting point for all discussion, not the conclusion.

Anti-independence forces have sought to shape the debate quite differently. They have tried, with considerable success, to frame the constitutional question in such a way that the entirely normal condition of independence is the thing that has to be justified rather than the fact that Scotland is in the position of being an exception to that norm. With the aid of much of the mainstream media, those urging the preservation of the union have managed to promulgate the insidious notion that the whole issue is a matter of hard facts, objective evidence, and cold calculation. Get enough people sufficiently convinced that "certainty" is both possible and necessary and your propaganda effort becomes a trivially simple matter of pointing out the inevitable and glaringly obvious fact that no such certainty has been provided. Hence the incessant stream of scare stories emanating from Better Together, the UK government and the British political parties. Hence too, their obsessive focus on apparently uncountable "questions". It matters not at all that there may be no basis for the scare stories, or that the questions are either totally irrelevant, downright silly or previously answered. All that matters is that uncertainty be generated and aggravated.

In particular, anti-independence propaganda has focused on the economy. There are basically two reasons for this. The received wisdom that all electoral choices are ultimately driven by economic considerations. And the ease with which economic data and analysis can be manipulated to produce the desired scary messages. Unionists want people to accept the idea that, uniquely among the nations of the world, Scotland must pass some sort of contrived and constantly shifting economic test in order to qualify for the right to be independent. They want us to believe that there is some sort of algorithm by which the viability and efficacy of being a normal nation can be calculated if only one is provided with the right inputs.

I reject such notions completely.

Independence is the default status of nations. All other considerations, including economic considerations, are subsidiary and subsequent to this. Even if it were possible to concoct such a thing, Scotland requires no proven economic case to justify independence.

I'll vote Yes on September 18 2014 because I accept the normality of independence and progress from there to consideration of the issues that arise from the transition out of the anomaly of a democratically deficient asymmetric union and into Scotland's rightful status as a sovereign independent nation.
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  1. Peter,

    You write some great stuff, but on this one I beg to differ.

    The economic case for Indy Scotland is solid and irrefutable.

    The perceived wisdom is correct – it is “all about the economy..”

    If we ignore that fact then the YES vote will max out at about 40% IMHO. We will congratulate ourselves on presenting a great case for self-determination, but we will lose the vote.

    There are a substantial number of people who know in their hearts that the ‘self-determination’ argument makes sense, but they will not vote for it because they think we can’t afford it. These are not the committed YES people we talk to every day who ‘get’ the self-determination thing. These are the ‘swing voters’ who need something more than that to make them vote YES.

    But all of the economics arguments are in favour of YES. Whether its currency, pensions, GDP, financial services, revenue vs spending, tax take, foreign investment, oil-volatility, you name it there is solid data and clear arguments that show how economically successful an Indy Scotland would be.

    If we stick to the comfortable ground of simply pushing the ‘self-determination’ argument, if we are too lazy to understand and deploy the economic arguments, then we will not win the vote.

    In fact we are playing into the NO campaign strategy to make people think we are too wee and too poor. By not tackling their misinformation head-on we are also creating the impression that we have something to hide.

    Scotland IS the 8th wealthiest country in the world, our GDP IS 17% higher than the UK average. Oil volatility is an opportunity, not a problem. We ARE a rich country. We should not tire of making that a central part of our argument for YES

    Believe me, once people understand that then getting them to vote for self-determination will be a walk in the park.

    1. I do not now, nor did I ever, deny that the economic case is "solid and irrefutable". What I reject is the contention that it is both necessary and sufficient. Scotland's claim to independence stands without any other argument. It is not critically dependent on the nation and it's people passing any kind of test.

      Persuading people to vote Yes on 18 September 2014 is a separate matter altogether. In order to do that, all manner of arguments will have to be advanced. My point is that independence is the default status of all nations and that the starting point for debate about Scotland's constitutional status must be an assumption that Scotland is as entitled to this default status as any other nation.

      To put it another way, it is not that we must prove Scotland's viability as an independent nation. Such proof is not, and cannot be a pre-condition of normal constitutional status. What we will be required to do is refute arguments that Scotland fails a test that nobody has a right to impose.

      I'll be voting Yes, not because independence satisfies some economic calculation, but because it is right.

      Accept the the idea that economic viability must be proved to some kind of scientific standard and you accept defeat. Because economics is not a precise science founded on a basis of universal laws, no such proof can ever be possible.

      The ONLY requirement for the restoration of Scotland's rightful constitutional status is the expressed will of its people. We DO NOT have to make an economic case. We only have to prevent unionists using scare stories about economic disaster to frighten people away from asserting a claim to what is already theirs by right.

      This may seem like a subtle distinction. But it is far from inconsequential. It is question of attitude. It is the difference between saying two very different things.

      "Please may I have that! If I can justify my claim to it to your satisfaction!"

      "That's mine! You justify withholding it from me! Tell me why I should forfeit it!"

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  3. Peter,

    I don’t disagree with your premise about the default status of a nation. I suspect about 30% of the electorate agree with you too. And with a lot of hard work that might rise to 40%,

    But the reality is there is no point being right if you don’t win. And the problem is the ‘swing voters’ (the 40% in the middle) are tuned -out largely because they don’t think an Independent Scotland will be economically viable. They don’t get as far as considering the self-determination argument because they think it’s just the fantasy of some narrow nationalists that don’t have the money to pay for it.

    I don’t think winning the economic arguments is a sufficient condition, but I do think it is a necessary condition.

    I state again (and you don’t disagree with me) the economic case is irrefutable.

    Now we might not get to everyone with that message, and we might not be able to refute every scare story that comes from the Unionists. But you cannot begin to refute the scare stories without recourse to the data that shows the strength of the Scottish economy. And we do have the ammunition to shoot down all of the economic scare stories if we chose to deploy it.

    We need to be on the front foot in this space, going on the offensive and challenging the No campaign to justify why the people of Scotland should fork-out significant amounts of wealth for the privilege of staying in the Union. Rather than wait for another treasury carpet bombing like we got a few weeks back on currency and pensions, we need to pre-empt that and make the positive economic case for Indy Scotland.

    Scotland generates £10,700 per head in Tax compared to a UK average of £9,000: ‘The Price of the Union’ – is it worth it?

    An Indy Scotland is in much better financial shape to protect your pension than a bankrupt UK government with £1.6trillion of debt.

    That is the kind of ammunition we need to be firing day in and day to win this thing.

    "Please may I have that! If I can justify my claim to it to your satisfaction!"

    "That's mine! You justify withholding it from me! Tell me why I should forfeit it!"

    The problem is that if people think that the ‘that’’ to which you refer is a poisoned chalice that’s going to cost them dear then they might decide they don’t want ‘that’.

    You have to make it clear to them that ‘that’ is worth getting out of bed and going to the polling booth for.

    Anyway, we may have to agree to disagree on this for now.

    At least we're all agreed on the destination, even if we have different views on the best route to take.

    I'm going back onto some neutral forums now to try and convince more undecideds.