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