Category Archives: Political witterings

The burd’s views on the hot potatoes of the day/week/month

Andy Myles: A letter to undecided voters

Dear undecided voter

As a liberal, I have always believed in the sovereignty of the people – and that power should be kept as close to the individual as possible. That’s why I spent thirty years campaigning for a Scottish Parliament. It wasn’t nationalism that motivated me. It was the desire to bring the power of decision making closer to home.

I think the Scottish Parliament we established has been a great success and a huge improvement on a democracy that was becoming far too centralised at Westminster and Whitehall. I hoped that it would provoke many more reforms of the United Kingdom’s constitution. I hoped that it might lead to a fair voting system, an elected House of Lords and – above all – that we might move towards federalism, with equal powers for each part of the “family of nations” that we have in these islands. I wanted to see what David Cameron has called “a partnership of equals”.

I have concluded, with sadness, that I was hoping for too much. There is no sign of further significant reform coming from the South. The “more powers for Scotland” promises are, quite simply, not the answer. They will leave the UK even more unbalanced – and will leave the people across these islands with even more cause for frustration and discontent.

I have, accordingly, thought deeply about how best to pursue decentralisation and federalism in this situation. I have concluded that the best way forward is to vote Yes on September 18th in the referendum.

This will mean that we become “independent” – although we are already autonomous and the border already has a meaning. It is just that that meaning will alter marginally. But it will mean, also, that we can play a part as an equal partner in the emerging federation that is the European Union. It will also mean that we can build new, fairer and more stable relationships with the other nations in our immediate British family.

As a liberal, I am suspicious and wary whenever I see concentrations of power growing. It means that power is being drawn away from ordinary people, and the further away it gets, the less open to control and scrutiny it becomes. This is the foundation of my political views, but it needs to be constantly adapted to the circumstances we find ourselves in. We need to ensure that the EU is kept firmly under control and democratised. We need a wholesale reform of our local government here in Scotland too. In particular, in my opinion, we desperately need to curtail the overwhelming power being accumulated by global businesses.

I didn’t ask for a referendum, but now we have it, this vote presents us all with the opportunity to apply our ideas and principles.

I shall be doing so by voting Yes. I hope you will too.

Yours faithfully
Andy Myles

Andy is a former Chief Executive of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and now works for a network of environmental charities.

Carol Fox: A letter to undecided voters

Dear undecided voter

I’ve a long history of being engaged in politics and was a candidate for Labour in the Scottish Parliament elections of 1999, 2003 and 2007. But last year, I resigned my membership from the party after 30 years. Let me explain why.

I have spent my entire adult life fighting against Tory policies as a social worker, trade union official and an equality lawyer. I was uncomfortable, therefore, to see Scottish Labour working alongside the Tories in Better Together in such a negative campaign.

For me, one of the most important things in a free society is equal pay for men and women. Sadly, Westminster currently controls this crucial area of policy and has failed to deliver even after 40 years of the Equal Pay Act. It became impossible for me to ignore the role of elected Labour politicians, locally and nationally, who failed to speak out or stand up for the interests of ordinary working women. I could not in good conscience remain in a political party which demonstrated such disrespect to many thousands of low paid women.

I want to see some real imagination for the future of Scotland. I believe that imagination can only be found in the positive, exciting vision being offered by the Yes campaign.

With a Yes vote, we will have the power to change things and to make life better for hundreds of thousands of people.

I want to vote Yes to build a better Scotland. A country where equality can become a reality – not only for the women I represent as a lawyer, but for my family and my daughter. My parents are now in their late 70s and they too will be voting Yes. After a lifetime of hard work they want to provide a better future for their children and grandchildren.

I truly believe that we can build a more progressive, democratic and fairer Scotland with greater opportunities for future generations – a country where equality is a founding principle.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We all need to take our courage in our hands to help to build a country where women do not die waiting for equal pay to become a reality. I’m voting Yes on 18 September to achieve this and I hope you will too.

Yours faithfully

Carol Fox
Carol is a former Labour party member, parliamentary candidate and is an equality lawyer.  

Jonathan Sher: Independent Scotland would have a better special relationship with US

This article originally appeared in Monday’s Herald and is reproduced here with kind permission of the author.

The 11th-hour bid by the No camp to offer the possibility of new powers to Scotland absolutely does not include devolving powers over foreign, military and nuclear affairs.

Instead, Scottish voters have been threatened that independence will mean exclusion from the “Special Relationship” between Washington and Westminster. However, upon closer examination, being freed from that suffocating embrace would be a blessing.

As a New Scot from the United States who has moved from undecided to Yes, I understand that Scotland can develop a much fairer, mature relationship with Washington. Independence will create the opportunity to move beyond being the tail of the British dog that consistently follows the lead of the American alpha male.

The US satirical TV show Saturday Night Live featured a character called The Church Lady. Her hyper-pious, condescending response to other people’s views and actions was usually a withering “Well, isn’t that special?” – with “special” meaning awful, ill-informed or simply not in line with her preferences.

I heard the echo of The Church Lady in Resolution 713 tabled within the US House of Representatives. It invokes the “Special Relationship” between the US and UK and encourages continuing the status quo (while expressing “deep friendship toward the Scottish people” and “respecting the right of the Scottish people to make their decision” in the referendum).

On the one hand, it is perfectly reasonable for Washington to assert its own interests by continuing a relationship with Westminster it heavily dominates. On the other hand, it is just as reasonable for Scotland to pursue its own interests in what will inevitably remain a friendly set of connections with America. Profound family, historical, musical, academic and trading ties between my two nations provide a firm foundation upon which we can and will build.

The difference with independence is that our new relationship can become more mutually beneficial at the political level. Scotland is very likely to end up with far greater attention paid by Washington to what the Scottish Government and Scottish people actually want, need, believe and prefer.

While growing up, I wanted to hang out with my much bigger brother and his big friends. Chuck was kindly disposed to me and often allowed his wee brother to tag along. While I could express my opinions, they were never decisive. Inevitably, I ended up following whatever path the big boys chose. One of the joys of maturing and becoming independent was being able to create new connections with my big brother and his big friends on a more equal footing.

The transition from shadowing my brother to being (and being treated as) a real person in my own right – whose voice, vote and choices mattered – did not happen overnight. However, it ended up feeling liberating and brought benefits to all concerned.

Scotland, too, has the chance to escape its tag-along status in favour of a healthier partnership with Washington. AsSeptember 18 draws near, it is worth remembering that our decision about independence carries with it as many certainties as uncertainties. For instance, a No vote absolutely ensures that Scotland will remain subject to, and an afterthought within, the US/UK “Special Relationship”. The illusory “new powers” that might possibly be gifted to Scotland by Westminster, if we vote No, certainly do not include powers over military affairs, foreign policy, nuclear weapons or anything else agreed between Westminster and Washington.

Alistair Darling said “everything that makes sense to decide here” will be in Scotland’s hands, but this conspicuously did not include defence and other international matters “reserved” for Westminster. A majority of Scots may oppose whatever future foreign adventures and military conflicts the US and UK jointly undertake. But, without independence, we will still be dragged into the ones for which Scots have no appetite.

Post-independence, the personal, cultural, tourism and other business ties that bind America and Scotland will inevitably continue and grow stronger. But, it would be Scotland’s own relationship, not a second-hand one via Westminster. That is yet another good reason to vote Yes.

Jonathan Sher was a US citizen who chose to come and live and work in Scotland.  He assumed British citizenship to allow him to vote Yes in Scotland’s independence referendum. He is Scotland Director of WAVE Trust but writes here in a personal capacity.


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