Red Herrings

Time and again, the Scottish independence debate is side-tracked by irrelevant and short-lived matters.  Future independence has significance far beyond the political hot-topics of today and beyond the public figures who presently support or oppose it.

We should be thinking about the kind of place we want Scotland to be for decades to come.  We can only do that by looking beyond party politics, beyond today’s personalities and beyond the ‘burning’ issues of the moment that won’t even be remembered in a short while. We need an open and objective discussion about the kind of Scotland future generations could inherit.

There have been mischievous attempts to push the idea that post-independence Scotland will be some sort of one-party state. The Yes Campaign has united an inspiringly diverse range of people and groups – public, political, business leaders and so on – who agree that independence is the way forward. We would enjoy a more representative society, where Scotland gets the government Scotland votes for – a situation infinitely preferable, for example, to being ruled by Westminster Tories despite Scots electing only a solitary Conservative MP.

Now that David Cameron and Alex Salmond have signed the Edinburgh Agreement to hold the referendum, I hope the Prime Minister will take up the First Minister’s invitation of an independence debate.  I am sure I would not be alone in thinking it extraordinary if the leader of the United Kingdom will not share a stage with the Scottish leader to debate the two sides of the argument that they represent.

Indeed, we have yet to hear an objective or positive case for the union from any of the anti-independence camp. Perhaps they could tell us how remaining in the union would benefit the 19% of Scots children (and 19% in Fife) living in poverty?  What would Westminster do to ease the ever-escalating misery of households living in fuel poverty in our, ironically, energy rich country?  The last figures stand at 33% but do not take into account the latest outrageous round of price rises. What will Westminster do to rein in the banks that Labour deregulated, besides imposing years of austerity to pay for the resulting mess?

If the anti-independence case consists merely of a ‘better together’ soundbite, it is not very convincing.

The above was originally written for Bill’s Dunfermline Press column. This version may vary slightly.

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