Monday, July 21, 2014

Who Are the Scots?

"Who are the Scots? "

Those who live and work in Scotland - those who contribute to it and depend on it - are those who ought to have the governing say in who runs the place. These are the electorate both for the future and for the current campaign.  These are the people we say are "sovereign" - to be entrusted now and in future with our political decision making.

That is, we say that : - 

a) Scotland constitutes a "polity", a political entity, and that

b) democracy is in principle and practice the best way to run a polity. 


c)  we ought to have an elected parliament in Edinburgh that can actually take the decisions on taxation and welfare and war and peace that the parliament of any other, "normal" political entity should expect to do.

We believe that if one accepts that Scotland is a real country, and that democracy is the best (least worst) form of government, then, within that definition,  a Yes vote is logically the inescapable choice to make.  We are, perhaps unreasonably, bewildered, frankly, that anyone thinks differently. 

To vote No on September the 18th you have to contend either that Scotland does NOT constitute a polity or that democracy is too good for it. 

Normality? What's that when it's at home?

We in the Yes camp argue, that is, from a position of what we perceive as "normality"  - not that Scotland is a BETTER place than anywhere else, but that it is most definitely a "place" and that those of us who live here ought really, normally, to make the decisions as to what happens here.

Our current political situation is not "normal." Normality is not normal.  It doesn't exist yet.  We have to argue"as if." That "as if" is both the strength and weakness of our position. But people in Scotland are beginning to look at "how things are"as being rather peculiar. 

The No campaign have been reduced, more or less, to repeated variations on a theme of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" or "why take the risk of change?" or "don't rock the boat". 

We can say : "Tell them that at the Food Bank!"

Or "Look at the level of child poverty in wealthy Scotland"

Or "Look at our disabled people being subjected to the agenda of "austerity plus terrorism" regime currently run by the now hateful and privatised government departments charged with their welfare. "

"But what guarantee is there that any of that would be better with independence?" is the question No voters ask.

And Yes voters should answer:  "WE are the guarantee.  YOU are the guarantee. If, WE, the Scottish electorate elected then re-elected a government that did this to our people, then hell mend us. But do you really think we would do that? The point is not WHAT we would choose, but the fact that WE would have the choice. And if it we found that a government wasn't to our choice any more, we could vote against the cruelty and incompetence and hatred were doing all this to us...and, unlike now,  it would make a difference. It would matter what we did and what we chose. The government would actually change. Right now, we can't do anything except complain about it  in the pub.  We want to make sure that our opinions count.  We want to make sure that YOUR opinions count. Come with us!"

Democracy too dangerous

The only real argument the No side have got is that democratic choice like that is too dangerous for us. The real powers in the world will punish  wee Scotland if we insist on our self determination.  In terms of trade, the EU, the currency...all that...a newly independent Scotland will find itself more less at war with the rest of the world, they say..and we'd lose. 

Underlying almost all of Project Fear is this very specific injunction that we mustn't vote "against" Britain, we mustn't vote "against" the neighbours because otherwise "they might hurt us".

This seems to be  a very negative opinion to hold of the character of the "neighbours" if you really think that their response to our self-determination and adulthood will be one of vengeance and spite.   Apparently it's not the nationalists who have a low opinion of our cousins.  It doesn't make much a positive case for the Union! Yes voters have much more faith that the rest of the UK and the rest of the world will behave pragmatically.

When I've been working in England, I find that most people don't really understand what's going on, but they don't wish us any harm - they don't think we wish them any harm - and they're sure "It'll all work out."

I expect nothing less of our neighbours.

As for us, I believe that if we say No to self government, it will almost immediately seem like an absurd thing to have turned down. This is because regardless of the product of the referendum, the process of the referendum campaign has established popular sovereignty in Scotland once and for all . 

Besides, as I've argued elsewhere, I don't believe that a No vote in September constitutes the foundation for anything like a sustainable political settlement. I think from philosophical first principles of democratic practice it is an accident waiting to happen.

Autonomy/self-rule/sovereignty - What's in a name? 

From first principles, then ; we, as free individuals, autonomous, "sovereign" individuals choose to pool our individual autonomy at our chosen levels of administrative convenience and democratic accountability.  

We do this in cities, regions, nation-states and associations of nation states. 

The new "normal" that has emerged during this campaign surely redefines "the Scots" as what, by any criteria, does indeed constitute a polity or nation.  We have defined ourselves.  The process of this campaign, and especially the huge popular swell of enthusiasm and hope and purposeful thinking it has unleashed all over the country and in every social sphere has entirely confirmed our perception of ourselves as being sovereign in our own country.

The future doesn't come with guarantees.  We know that.  But a Yes vote can guarantee  that the choice would remain in our hands.  

Are we really going to give that away on September 18th?  Are we really going to vote to leave the power in these islands exactly where it is?  Are we really going back to Westminster to ask for another a loan of political power when we have experienced having political power ourselves? Are we really going to vote to give all this away?  

Isn't it time to think about devolving power in the other direction.  To begin thinking, and acting "as if" all power comes form the people, and that we loan that power to governments of our own choosing?  Isn't it time to be citizens and not subjects? Sovereigns and not beggars?

Our cultural distinction as Scots is now entrenched not in tartan and shortbread but in how we read and experience the world every day.  We are already independent in everything except the name.

We are already a nation.  Not "again" but for the very first time. A nation in the 21st century. Who are the Scots? We are.  And we are not climbing back in the bottle.

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