I’ve always wanted to think of myself as a political pragmatist. Rule number one: no affiliation to any party. Party affiliation tends to compromise your ability to make a fully informed decision on which way to vote, as it often precludes you from considering the other alternatives that may exist. In my weaker moments I’m able to delude myself that I’m immune to partisanship. I may not belong to a party, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not opposed to others. The BNP and UKIP are givens, but – to use a legitimate example – I could never vote Tory. I would never consider it and I haven’t had to, and I find it hard to envision a scenario where I would even contemplate it.
At local and general elections I’ve vacillated between voting SNP and Green. There are people who have their party allegiance, and then use that as the basis to search for a reason, or reasons, to vote for said party, rather than those who look to vote for the best policies, irrespective of party. I fall somewhere in between these two extremes, and it creates a deeply unsatisfactory process when choosing which way to cast my vote.
The difference with the Yes/No vote is that existing party political allegiances or antipathies (if you have any) shouldn’t necessarily be synonymous with the way you will vote. You’re not voting for someone or their party, you’re voting for something much bigger than that. We’re voting for independence, for true powers to be shifted from Westminster to Holyrood, or not.
I’m not completely naïve of course, political parties and their members, by their very nature, are shady entities, with vested interests. Their members will all conform to the side of the campaign which suits the leadership’s agenda and the party’s political prosperity. It could be the case that many elected individuals won’t be representing their own position or perhaps that of the majority of their constituents during this referendum. So it’s up to us voters to represent ourselves.
So armed with that reality, and in my search for an idealistic voting equilibrium, I hoped that The Yes/No vote would provide the perfect apparatus to truly test my impartiality, as I’ve never entered a vote completely open minded to all the possibilities. I could weigh up all the options, consider all the arguments, for and against, and then make an informed decision. Simple.
After the date of the referendum was finally set I began to weigh up whether I was going to be voting Yes or No. It was during this process that I started to run into problems.
This took the form of two questions; what exactly are the reasons to vote No? And more to the point what are the reasons for me to vote No?
So far I haven’t found any.
And one reason for that is I haven’t found a ‘No’ campaign. It doesn’t exist.
Well, okay that’s not accurate. It just seems that way. It does exist, but as a nebulous conglomerate of spin, misinformation, platitudes and clichéd doublespeak.
This perpetually regurgitated guff isn’t even the No campaign’s biggest problem, that it is essentially fronted, to steal a quote from Jeremy Paxman, by ‘a coalition of losers’, is. Front and centre we have Call-Me-Dave who, as a dyed-in-the-wool-privatise-your-mother-if-he-could Tory bastard, virtually everyone hates by now. Among most Scots that was probably the prevailing sentiment before he initiated any policies as PM. It certainly doesn’t help the No campaign that its biggest face is heading a government flush with failing policies from the book of pure, vile Thatcherism – exhibit one: The Bedroom Tax. That said dragging Britain further and needlessly into an eye watering deficit has probably superseded everything else at this point. This has given the Yes campaign a massive advantage. Unlike Wales, Northern Ireland and many northern and or inner city parts of England, Scotland has the chance to break free from this failing plan relatively quickly. It might partly explain why, at this point in time, Cameron’s (rightly) too scared to commit to a one-on-one debate with Alex Salmond. This is the kind of cut-throat forum where Call-Me-Dave’s premiership and general fecklessness will come under serious scrutiny. Ed Miliband Alex Salmond is not.
Then we have Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown, who are both tarred with the brush of recent failure. The Yes campaign must’ve thought Christmas had come early when Brown decided to enter the fray on behalf of the No campaign. This is the man who lost to Cameron, or better yet, couldn’t prevent the ghastly coalition that was formed. Brown is a smart man, and he always struck me as a decent fella, but politicians, more than any kind of public figure, are subject to the exasperating hypocrisy of artificially slanted perceptions. His isn’t good. He’s closely linked to Tony Blair and is unfairly seen as a bumbling, dour curmudgeon. Darling’s economic policy wasn’t as draconian and therefore likely as damaging as the ghastly George Osborne’s has proven to be, but that’s damning with faint praise. His voice isn’t credible either. I could mention the Lib Dems in some detail, but that would mean they’re still relevant, in any context.
Those are the main players. The subordinates, the small fry, I find to be far more entertaining and depressing. It’s a cast list of wannabees, like Johann Lamont and Anas Sarwar, who are all desperately scrambling, like proper grasping cunts, to appear on Newsnight at every given opportunity. Career politicians eh?
What we can give this bunch credit for is consistency of message.
Their salvation, or intended salvation, is to acquiesce to the umbrella message of ‘better together’, no problem there, it appeals to those who distrust change. Conformity is easy, easy to abide by. It means you don’t have to think for yourself and ergo the referendum and its outcome. One good line can convince a good few to elide the responsibility that having a vote should carry. The medium, as shown above, is an issue, and with most polls suggesting a slight edge to a Yes vote at this point, that means the No campaign will actually have to formulate an argument, or a series of them – let’s just call it an actual strategy – to stand a chance of winning.
Nothing exemplifies their current nothingness better than http://bettertogether.net/ which is well, sparse in content, to say the least.
Still, I’m unwavering in my quest. So what are the reasons to vote ‘No’? Let’s take them one by one:
I’ve been trying to think beyond the stock answers, which you hear ad nauseam – ‘we wouldn’t survive on our own’. Before you can finish your rebuttal of ‘why’ you get another reply – ‘just because’. There’s no in depth political, financial, economical or sociological reason or reasons given, no analysis is offered. It simply boils down to ‘just because…’, or ‘we’re too small’, and that’s the default position of the No campaign as it stands.
Would we be worse off on our own? That’s already been debunked. If the No campaign were clever they would have long ago dropped the flagrantly arrogant insinuation that Scotland is financially propped up by the rest of the union. But having already hanged their hat on this myth as being central to their ‘message’, renouncing it now would appear weak. They’ve trapped themselves into believing their own lie.
Are we too small? Is Iceland? Is Ireland? Is Estonia? Is Denmark? Is Norway? Is Malta? Is Finland? Is any country? How about Wales and Northern Ireland?
Better together? It would be financially beneficial for the rest of the UK, but not for Scotland itself. Westminster could attempt to remove many of the existing devolved powers from Scotland. If a ‘No’ vote comes down it will feel empowered to and vindicated in doing so. This means any of the civilised socialist style safeguards we currently have could be lost, whether that be free University tuition, or avoiding the full NHS sell off that’s occurring in England and Wales.
One thing I have considered is voting altruistically within the context of the Yes/No vote. Does anyone use their vote for the greater good over their own interests? Have I? Can you do both? The only reason that occurred to me to vote ‘No’ was for the benefit of those in the rest of the UK. As an argument it’s flimsy at best and impractical at worst. But it does seem wholly unfair that we in Scotland have the chance to completely rid ourselves of this particular Tory hegemony, and potential future ones, in Westminster, while Wales and Northern Ireland don’t. How Scotland has voted hasn’t swung any General Election, but the removal of the Scottish voting block will remove guaranteed Labour votes in Westminster. In voting ‘Yes’, for the best interests of myself and Scotland, I don’t have to like the fact that I could be helping to condemn the rest of the UK to the continuation of destructive Tory austerity, privatisation and the demonisation of certain social groups.
There will be some who’ll say the rest of the UK deserve what they get with this coalition, after rejecting AV in 2011, but that’s petty, especially as the AV campaign was a fiasco during the electoral reform referendum in 2011. The ironic similarities between the inherent failings of the AV campaign and the No campaign aren’t lost on me. I suppose the rest of the UK could vote for Labour next time, the lesser of two evils, or better yet move up here if and when we vote ‘Yes’ to be sure. They’d be more than welcome.
Right then, back to where I started – what about my once in a lifetime shot at a veritable voting process, where I listen to both sides with an open mind?
I’m afraid that will have to be a ‘No’.