Friday, 4 July 2014

Please stay: A response to Jim Sillars's essay in the Daily Record

Jim Sillars: A concerned grandfather
Jim Sillars is, of course, fully justified in being deeply concerned about the consequences for Scotland of a No vote that will empower people whose purpose is to keep power from the people.

I was among the first to write about what a No vote would mean for Scotland more than two years ago when such "negativity" was generally frowned upon within the Yes campaign. I have had no reason to revise my views since then, other than to acknowledge that the aftermath of a No vote is likely to be even worse than I supposed back in June 2012.

As the referendum has come closer minds are increasingly focused on the question of what happens if we vote No. A question that the anti-independence campaign has determinedly avoided addressing in any meaningful way, and an issue that the mainstream media has almost totally ignored in favour of an unthinking assumption that a No vote would mean a return to the status quo ante of the late 20th century.

This is obvious folly. The referendum process has wrought a transformation in Scottish politics - and there's no going back. The genie of political activism is well and truly out of the bottle and it is not going back in. Scotland's people have found a voice and awakened to their own power. The British state will have to silence that voice and crush that power. That's not scare-mongering. It's just realpolitik.

The first targets will be the Scottish Parliament and NHS Scotland. The parliament because it represents a challenge to the power of Westminster. Our NHS because it stands as arguably the most potent symbol of Scotland's distinctive political culture. The parliament will slowly, but inexorably be emasculated while Westminster uses its control of Scotland's finances to force a privatisation of the health service to bring it into line with England. Those who want all healthcare services sold off to the private sector, whether for reasons of personal gain or hidebound ideology, cannot afford to have a functioning example of a genuine public health service just across the border.

It won't stop there. But just as Thatcher chose to attack the miners so as to break the whole labour collective so Cameron (or Miliband, it doesn't matter) will go for our parliament and our NHS in the hope of breaking the people of Scotland. Those intending to vote No should bear this in mind.

So, i find myself in total agreement with Jim Sillars on that point. A No vote will inevitably be massively detrimental to Scotland. where I part company with him is in the suggestion that the situation will be hopeless.

I take the view that independence is now inevitable and that a No vote can only postpone it for five or maybe ten years. I take this view not only because I believe that the spirit of progressive activism that has been arisen in Scotland will not be suppressed, but also because I recognise that the response of the British state to a No vote will, itself, provide greater impetus for the independence movement. My concern is not that the restoration of Scotland's rightful constitutional status will not be achieved but that, in the interim, irreversible harm will have been done to Scotland's institutions and that serious, perhaps irreparable damage will have been done to the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Unionists/British nationalists do not care about any of this. Some because they lack the foresight to see what will happen. All too many because they reckon Scotland deserves to be punished for exercising its right of self-determination. Almost all because they hold as an article of faith that the British state must be preserved at any cost to the people of these islands.

In advising his grandchildren to leave I don't doubt for one moment that Jim Sillars is acting as a loving grandparent. Being able to adopt a more detached perspective, I would urge all who wish Scotland well to remain. I would implore them to tough it out during the political and economic onslaught that will surely follow a No vote. I would ask that, should that need arise, they lend themselves to the peaceful, democratic, constitutional fight to restore Scotland's self-respect and standing in the world following the humiliation of rejecting our own independence and denying our own sovereignty. And I would tell those young people that we will need all of Scotland's talents in order to do that.


  1. I agree absolutely Peter. This is pretty much as I see it.

  2. Where I diverge with your opinion is your belief that independence would still follow in 5 or 10 years. I am convinced that the FIRST thing that will happen is that Westminster will act to ensure than another referendum cannot be called in order to be sure that does not happen. And if you look at the situation with Scotland's population overall, while I sympathise with your discomfort with Mr. Sillars' advice, it is what has been happening in Scotland for 300 years. Sadly, if anything a No vote would accelerate that.

  3. Great article Peter. But...

  4. I do not think it would necessarily require another referendum. Parties could stand on an independence ticket for both Holyrood and Westminster and they would win. Personally I think the Scottish unionist parties are finished at Holyrood and staring down the barrel of a gun at Westminster. The union is irrevocably broken. I do, however, believe that we will win the vote in September.