Sunday, 9 February 2014

Showing solidarity?

One of the reasons put forward by those wishing a 'no' vote is the idea of solidarity. This argument appears to be kinder than some that we've had to respond to but nevertheless continues the myth that our only value comes from us being run from Westminster. We'll get to that later, but first let's look at the logic:
'If Scotland were to vote Yes, then the remainder of the UK would be forced to endure perpetual Tory governments.'

In a practical sense, Scotland does not make that much of a difference. We can influence the size of any Labour or Conservative majority, but only twice in the last 70 years has seats from Scotland changed which party formed the government at Westminster, both when we had more representatives. And the number of MPs we are to have will be reduced further from 74 in 1940's, to 59 today, to 52 at the next election, making us less important than we already are.
The First Past the Post system championed by Westminster and the 'no' campaign means that elections are decided in a handful of marginal seats, and because Scotland has been politically stable for so long, and the number of marginal seats here are therefore so few, our significance is further lessened.
"We found that in 195 seats (30% of the total) no money was spent on public meetings by any candidate. In those seats the average majority was four points higher. In five seats nothing was spent on advertising. Of these five seats only one, Knowsley, had any money (£40) spent on public meetings at all.
These figures reflect the reality of a system where your vote counts more depending on where you live. As the loss of safe seats is rare, parties target resources on a small number of floating voters in marginal seats. This means that some voters are much more valued by the parties than others, calling into question the fundamental principle of democracy – that all votes are created equal." - Democratic Audit UK
Another fault of the First Past the Post system is that people tend to vote against who they fear instead of for who they want. This makes both parties (Labour and Conservative) afraid to offer any radical policies, and this stifles debate. Why risk wholesale reform when all you need to do to get in is trash the reputation of the opposition?

Because of this, it does not make that much difference which half of Westminster is elected. There has been much written in recent years about how similar the modern Labour and Conservatives Parties are to one another. Here are links to some of them:
Scottish independence and the English working class
Labour and Tories - two cheeks of the same arse?
UK economy: Tories and Labour now have almost identical policies - be afraid
The no campaign highlights another Tory-Labour pact
"Yet in the midst of what is quite clearly a systemic failure of the economics that Thatcher championed, Labour’s reaction to it – and to the ideology of austerity that is being promoted as the route back to “business as usual”  -remains shot through with fear.  Faced with the effect of cuts, Ed Balls’ response is to promise that Labour will keep the cuts and possibly make more of its own.  Faced with the effective destruction of state education, Stephen Twigg’s response is a near-Trappist silence.
Faced with an unprecedented assault on the living standards of the poor and disabled, Liam Byrne’s reaction is to parrot Tory language of sanction and desert, of “hard-working families” rather than citizens empowered as of right. Faced with a society in which low pay is endemic and living standards in free-fall, it falls back on vague language about “predistribution” which, as far as I can see, amounts to little more than asking big business to play nice (some chance).  This is an opposition that could not get its Peers out to amend the Health and Social Care Bill, but whips its MPs into line to attend Parliament’s tributes to Thatcher." - Neil Schofield (Notes from a broken society)
If our staying with Westminster makes almost no difference to which party gets in, no difference to the voting system, and no difference to the policies of future governments, then how exactly does this kind of solidarity help anyone? And even if that weren't the case, is it right that Scotland forces upon the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland a government which they do not want? Do they not have the responsibility to create a system which fits their needs?

I believe that Scotland can influence the world through deeds. I believe that ending Westminster's wasteful expenditure, from basing military personnel concurrently in over 80 countries around the world, to endless foreign wars, to useless nuclear weapons, will inspire those in the north of England and elsewhere to demand more from their governments. I believe the creation of a codified constitution, written by the people themselves, will guarantee the rights of future generations and inspire other nations to follow suit.
Many in the 'no' campaign disagree with this and suggest that Scotland would lose influence even though we have no direct representation at the UN and countless other international organisations, and the only reasons offered mirror those given against women suffrage in the early 20th century. They believe that we have no intrinsic value without Westminster.
I feel that our unquestioned solidarity with all Westminster policies is misguided. Let's instead show solidarity with Sweden's education system by matching it's level of spending, let's show solidarity with Finland's research and development focus by adopting the same approach, let's show solidarity with Norway on welfare and pensions and let's show solidarity with all the Scandinavian countries when it comes to poverty:
"Let’s look at probably the most important rating for any Western democracy, poverty rates (per Unicef):
United Kingdom – 19.8%
Sweden – 2.6%
Denmark – 5.1%
Norway – 3.9%
Finland – 4.3%
Jeff Breslin - Means to a Referendum"
And most importantly, let's show solidarity with the people who call Scotland home, and not accept those who actively conspire against our interests.

The diplomat and philosopher Joseph de Maistre said: "Every nation gets the government it deserves." It is the responsibility of the people of Wales to get the government they want for Wales, it is the responsibility of the people of Northern England to get the government they want for Northern England, and it is the responsibility of us to get the government we want for Scotland. It is wrong for us to wish to impose on others a government that they do not want just because we think it would be best, just as it is wrong for others to do the same to us. Solidarity is standing alongside others as equals, not meekly agreeing to follow their every command in the hope that somehow they will change.

Let's show what can be done with a focused, representative parliament. Let's vote Yes and display true solidarity with the people of the world.
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