My Summary of #Indyref
20 September 2014
I came into the referendum campaign as a Scottish nationalist, someone who believed in an independent Scotland for it's own sake.
But as the campaign grew and our arguments developed in order to persuade others, I found they persuaded me and clarified my thoughts instead.
These arguments are not those about oil revenues or currency. They're not even those about EU membership or Trident. The arguments which matter to me are about democracy, fairness and social justice.
Once I'd understood that, I could no longer consider myself a Scottish nationalist. Instead, perfectly consistently, I came to believe in a Yes result because I saw it as the best, perhaps only way to achieve reasonable levels of democracy and equality where I live.
The UK is horribly broken. First past the post and the unelected House of Lords are no way to run a country in the 21st century. They have created a country which I truly believe is more unequal than any other western country. They have created a country in which far, far too large a percentage of the population no longer believe they have any input into the democratic process, that their vote counts for nothing. They have created a country in which a grotesquely large proportion of the wealth is held around one small part of its geographic area.
I'm 53 years old now. We have 650 MPs in the UK - up until a couple of months ago when I met Angus Robertson in a village hall, I had never met an MP. In over half a century I have never met a Lord. To my knowledge no MP or Lord lives in my street, comes from the village I do or even went to the secondary school I did*. There are seats in this democracy which women are barred from; seats which can only be occupied by members of the aristocracy, and 2 entire chambers where you're 7 times more likely to be a member if you were privately educated than if you were educated by the state. The three leaders of the major parties are white, male, privately educated millionaires who have never had a proper job between them. Individually of course each has as much right as anyone else to be in that position, but there's something wrong with our system when they are all from such a small section of society. Instead of a referendum on independence FOR Scotland, I believe if you held a UK wide referendum on independence FROM Westminster (whatever that means) it would be winnable. One thing the people of Scotland share with the north of England, the Midlands, the south-west, Wales and NI is a complete political detachment from the establishment in the SE.
So, now that I'm no longer campaigning for a Yes vote and the decision has been made it's time to give Westminster a chance to reform itself. In order to be seen to fulfil the vow of the 3 largest parties Westminster is going to have to look very carefully at the way the country works. Not considering myself a 'Scottish nationalist' any more, I could be happy living in the UK if it were trying to become a fair country. IF!.
If I were given a blank sheet and asked to create a new structure for the UK I'd introduce PR and abolish the House of Lords. I'd create a new devolved parliament for England, basing it in the north of the country which would soon resolve much of the geographic inequality in the UK. Westminster, however constituted would become a much reduced national UK parliament. Perhaps devolution for London and Cornwall would be worth looking at, although I have sympathy with many in England who don't want to see their country 'broken up'.
I'd certainly introduce votes at 16 - the SNP have supported this for a decade, it wasn't just a tactic for this referendum and it has proven to be a fantastic success.
I know my wishlist is unrealistic, but Westminster will need to show an understanding of the problems and some willingness to change if it genuinely wants to reconnect with me, the 45% who voted Yes, those who voted No expecting change and those in the rest of the UK who have lost interest in politics.
To repeat myself, the root of all the UK's problems is First Past the Post. Get rid of that and, slowly, the UK's problems will fall, one by one. Keep it and people just won't vote.
On the politicians
I'm a cynical sort of chap. It would have been quite possible for me to live my whole life never having any respect for any politician in a position of power over me. But I lived in South Africa in the years when FW de Klerk transferred power to majority rule and Nelson Mandela and greatly admired the two of them. I despaired of ever feeling that way about a UK politician. Alex Salmond saved me from that - smart, principled, inspiring and entertaining, I doubt I'll ever feel the same about any other politician here.
I'll probably continue to vote for and be a member of the SNP. They have an excellent team both at Holyrood and Westminster. They hold to principles I can be proud of such as avoiding the House of Lords, not voting on English-only matters and the aforementioned votes at 16.
I could be tempted to vote Green though, Patrick Harvie has been a real star.
The Tories went up a little in my estimation over the campaign - Annabel Goldie is missed as leader, and Jackson Carlow and Murdo Fraser both seem like good guys.
I'm sure there's a good guy inside Willie Rennie somewhere too. And we should commend Tommy Sheridan for what he excels at, even if many can't forgive him for other reasons. The tireless work of Jim Sillars, and in my area John Finnie and Jean Urquhart also deserve recognition.
In a spirit of reconciliation I'd like to say something nice about Scottish Labour, but my God it's hard. From the Twitter based meltdowns of Ian Smart and Mike Dailly to the utter lack of talent or charisma amongst their Holyrood and Westminster teams they have been absolutely, unremittingly dire, to the extent that they had to ask George Galloway of all people to represent them in a debate. OK, not all dire - if they have a few more young folk like Jenny Marra coming through the ranks there might be a glimmer of hope for them.
On Twitter and the Media
I have absolutely no doubt that if the referendum had been held 5 years ago, without Twitter, Facebook and the rise of Blogging to counter the media we'd have struggled to get above 30%. I hope and expect that online engagement in politics continues and grows, and whilst I strongly support good journalism I believe the media will become less and less important in forming opinion and guiding votes. Wings over Scotland has been a revelation, and the baseless demonisation of Rev Stu by the No camp reflected how scared the establishment are when challenged by the grass roots.
I've always been a big supporter of the BBC and the license fee. I'll continue to be so, but there's no doubt in my mind that it's coverage WAS heavily slanted towards preserving the union.
Almost everyone on the Yes side have been great to deal with, but there are far, far too many to name. I will name my friend @zarkwan aka Indy Poster Boy who spent much of the last year creating graphics and blowing lots of his own money on printing them. On the No side I've made a number of friends whose views I respect; @keithrsteele, @ghmltn, @jsteve372, @MajorDMalpas, @JonMarcStanley and @effiedeans to name a bare minimum. And it's also been great to chat with folk furth of Scotland like @elliotkane who've expressed a genuine interest in the debate.
On the Campaign
The involvement of young people and those who never vote has been amazing. Quite simply, it's been brilliant!
* Turns out David Maclean, Baron Blencathra went to Fortrose Academy. (update 20/10/14)