Should we stay or should we go now?
Watching Monday night’s debate and the resulting media coverage I was struck by one crucial question – is there more that binds us together than separates us; Scotland on its own or part of the United Kingdom?
As a proud Scottish voter it was clear from the debate that there are no clean cut answers here but there are some hard questions both Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling need to answer as we move three weeks on Thursday to cast an irreversible vote on Scotland’s future.
Importantly, for me at least, I’m trying to stay objective and ignore the personalities, after all Salmond and Darling will be long gone as we face up to the consequences of our decision. This is not about who won the TV debate, but which option presents the best, viable future for our children and their children’s children.
It strikes me that most Scot’s believe in social justice, civil society, an NHS we can be proud of and of course in taking care of those incapable of caring for themselves. We also enjoy free education, prescriptions and care for the elderly, all things considered we’re not doing too badly but we want to do better and rightly so, Scotland is a nation of ambition.
And in absolute terms I think we all saw the bedroom tax as an abomination hitting the poorest hardest, but Alex Salmond and his Government solved that within the Union – well done. I’m sure they could and should in my view solve the issue of food banks now and not wait for a yes or no; I’ve never met anyone who sees them as anything other than a humiliating stain on our society.
However as a fundamental let’s remember that Government doesn’t make money it spends it. Its down to business and industry to generate jobs, wealth and prosperity; Government is there to define policies that let business thrive and then to allocate the taxes generated by successful industry. So we need to ask will Scotland’s industry be better or worse off in or out of the UK?
For me then there are a number of questions for the Yes and No camps that need clear categorical answers in order to provide clarity around that question.
Firstly Alistair Darling cannot, as he did on Monday night, avoid the specifics of what will be on offer if we vote to stay in the Union.
Darling levels the claim against Salmond of ‘it’ll be alright on the night if we trust Alex’. Well Alistair that swings both ways. At a fundamental level you have to bring all the parties campaigning for the Union together and offer an absolute guarantee of what’s on offer if we decide to stay with it. And you can’t say this cant be done, you did it with devolution you need to step up and do that again.
Because only then can we Scots make a direct comparison of what Yes or No has to offer us. Will we get control of the welfare state? Taxation? Benefits system? As Alex grinds these points out we need sight of what it is you are offering in counter to them?
Likewise Alex with the exception of defence I’d like you to spell out point by point precisely what it is we can only do in a separate nation that we could not do as part of the Union, how much that would cost and what the clear benefits analysis is.
And at a fundamental level let’s boil the currency union down so everyone understands this. Should, as Alex believes, the Unionist parties agree to such a currency plan do we all understand what that means?
It means this – the Bank of England would necessarily have control over Scotland’s interest rates, fiscal policies and borrowing abilities. That to me doesn’t sound like Scotland as an independent state – is that what Yes voters want? We all know the three Plan B’s on currency are not preferred choices and will inevitably be in the cost side of the equation to an independent Scotland, but does currency union deliver independence?
According to any poll you read the majority of Scots, me included, want Scotland to have more control, more power, more autonomy the question now is to what degree – greater devolved power or full independence?
To answer that question we need a clear and guaranteed offer from the No camp, to date we have not had one.
This is unacceptable on every level and our politicians do democracy a disservice in not providing a cast iron tri-party agreement on additional powers for Scotland before we go to the polls on the 18th of September.
The vote on the 18th of September for some will be carried by emotion, for some logic and analysis. To date we the voter have been bombarded with claim and counter claim, statistic versus statistic. The Yes camp offer us a vision for our future but fail to say precisely just how we’d get there and at what real cost. The No Thanks camp offer up a cloudy confused offering of more power but no detail.
Scots voters, but more importantly our children and their children deserve better as we cast a vote to determine the next 300 years of our nation’s future.
Sir Tom Hunter is an entrepreneur and philanthropist. He established scotlandseptember18.com to provide objective analysis on the referendum and a free book, Scotland’s Decision is downloadable at that site.