I have decided to take a chance and write a piece on Scottish Independence in the absence of volunteers from our Scottish readers. I feel I must begin by ingratiating myself with my Scottish friends by pointing out that I was born and bred in Cardiff and hold on to my Welsh heritage. I regard myself as a fellow Celt but I also regard myself as British and proud to do so.
I worked for a large part of my career in Scotland and for part of that at the national level. Two of my three children were born in Scotland and continue to live there along with all my grandchildren. I make no bones about it, I love Scotland, the Scots and Scottish culture. So, short of being a Scot I feel I have a considerable feeling for and understanding of Scotland. Now that I have got that off my chest does that pedigree guarantee a balanced article? I will let you decide.
Over the years I have watched the growing debate over independence with great interest along with the building of one the most significant political careers in modern history. Alex Salmond has that canny knack of shielding a ruthless and devoted fervour with the all the charm and humour that is required to disarm people and carry influence. Unfortunately, politics being the business it is, it feeds on such skills and many in parliament practice them be that at Holyrood, Westminster, Stormont or the Welsh Assembly. It is therefore essential that we are all able to separate the rhetoric from the facts in reaching a conclusion on some of the most important political issues facing us.
Scottish independence is not an issue of support for or opposition to Alex Salmond, but I fear it will develop as such. Personalities always emerge as an influential factor, hiding the true facts and objective arguments from our gaze. One MSP has already stated that not supporting the SNP is an expression of anti-Scottishness which, in my view, was a very clumsy attempt at dragging the whole debate down to its lowest common denominator. Alex Salmond has already given us some clues as to his approach by reference to the bullying by Westminster and the interference of David Cameron in an attempt to polarise views on emotive arguments not the facts.
I intend to ensure that I will make up my mind on the merits of Scottish independence on the basis objective arguments not on antagonistic feelings that have their roots in an irrelevant history. Where history does have relevance is the fact that a 300-year-old unity has been to the benefit of the whole of the UK and should not be undone without very good reason.
What might those reasons be? At this stage I am unsure but what I am sure about is that it will centre on such issues as: the legal rights to north sea oil, a Scottish currency and the setting of interest rates, sharing out of national debt, defence and protection of borders, nuclear deterrents, and diminished presence in the UN. These issues, and others are critical to any decision as, combined, they give us the model for government that would emerge and on which we can all express a view. I fear this will not be encouraged from the SNP who will attempt to throw a cloak of invisibility over the arguments especially where they do not suit their purposes. Cameron has already spotted this danger by referring to Salmond’s “neverendum” which he clearly feels is the tactic of keeping the arguments going to wear people down and work out the future as you go along rather than creating the vision from the outset. The lack of clarity is the greatest danger that we face and accepting that I will have no vote in the referendum I nevertheless have a very strong interest in the outcome.
I get the feeling that the Devo Max option is being promoted as the consolation prize but in my view it does actually represent the goal that the SNP holds dear given that they know a positive vote on independence is unlikely. However, the Devo Max option is far from straight forward and is a recipe for further future conflict which plays into the hands of Salmond and his colleagues. It offers power without responsibility. How can anybody be asked to vote on an issue so important without all the facts at their disposal?
We all have preconceived notions on this topic. I am unashamedly in favour of retaining a United Kingdom but am willing to be convinced that it would be in everybody’s interest for Scotland to go its own way