Well, this has all been the best thing that’s happened to democracy & politics on this island for 300 years and if I were living in Scotland I would be sorely tempted to vote ‘Yes’ for independence, however many English Council leaders have been brandishing Saltires to try and persuade me otherwise.I hear the doubts and threats being issued from the English press about the currency and economy and I would never confuse myself with being an isolated Nationalist, but I still think it’s time, time for Scotland to be fully itself. And currently half of the people in Scotland seem to feel the same way. So whatever the referendum result, the Union of 1707 now seems likely to be radically renegotiated.
Now I’m not writing this as an expert on Scotland. I’m not. Since devolution I’ve worked in Glasgow and Edinburgh and had holidays in Dumfries, Galloway and several of the Hebrides. So even thinking that Mull is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to in my life doesn’t make me an expert. But I am a citizen of this Union, which is still a democracy, and it looks like it’s about to change, so I’m entitled to an opinion.
One of the main things that makes me lean towards independence is the way the Westminster governments of the past many years have steadily removed money and power from local democracies all over Britain. Including the way the current incumbents have somehow managed to set up a system where the Labour cities are being disproportionately punished by austerity politics compared to the Tory towns. So that here in Liverpool, for the want of £2.5m – less than a banker’s bonus or two – we’re having to consider closing 11 libraries, for example.
Not that my leaning towards independence is a party political issue. It isn’t. What I think I am is anti-establishment. And the Westminster establishment has been in full-on panic mode the last few weeks. When you find Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg all agreeing with each other and agreeing that the best solution to any problem is Gordon Brown, then you know that our cosy political establishment is seriously worried that it’s members only club is in mortal danger.
Unlike England’s regions Scotland has had a degree of devolution since 1998 and so it’s no surprise that it now looks like it wants more. Because the fact is it is a separate place, with its own very definite sense of place. It doesn’t vote like the rest of the UK and yet it still finds itself being governed from afar by governments it consistently doesn’t elect. But who knows? In the end a degree of conservatism and a display of naked power may just about pull off a ‘No’ vote. But it will be close. Close enough to change the nature of our Union for good.
And maybe that will be good for the rest of us. Maybe our own cities and regions will then take back the powers and cash that Westminster has been gathering for itself all these years. Maybe we could once again raise the levels of real political debate and engagement across the lands? Raise the woeful qualities of all of our major parties and build alternatives better than the fruitcakes of UKIP?
Who knows, maybe we can all become a little more independent?