Reform for Reform’s Sake

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For over 300 years, Scotland has been part of a union that accounts for one of the world’s greatest powers. Now, like a disobedient child, it is pushing for independence. With the taste of success still lingering in its mouth after achieving devolution in 1998 and reaping the benefits since, Scotland bears a stark resemblance to a spoilt brat too used to getting its own way. A campaign lead by the Scottish National Party (SNP), means that Scots are to be given a chance to vote for independence. Yet, the consequences and difficulties associated with this impulsive move have been resigned to the sidelines and overshadowed by a futile debate over the nature of the questions to be put forward in a referendum to the Scottish people. Prematurely debating details of a referendum has meant that core issues have been leap-frogged, only now will they receive the attention they deserve.

First, we question the logical sequence of events. After devolution empowered the Scottish Parliament in 1998, the natural order of progression would suggest that the next step would be to extend these powers rather than plunging headlong towards full-blown independence. Although Alex Salmond has raised the question of “devo-max”’,it seems to have been proposed as a scapegoat to insure against the possible failure of a push for independence. In its bid for independence, it seems that an over-confident Scotland has bitten off more than it can chew and defied any notions of gradual development. However, when polls suggest that the Scots are keener on more power than on outright independence [1], maybe it is just Alex Salmond whose eyes are too big for his stomach. On closer inspection, this seems to be the case throughout the movement for Scottish independence, which lacks public support and appears to be a textbook example of ‘tyranny of the minority’.

Hence, now we turn our attention to who should have a say in the Scottish independence debacle. Currently, the question of Scottish independence is exactly that, a question of Scottish independence. However, when the proposals affect the whole of the United Kingdom, surely it should be a question addressed to the British people. James Grant reminds us that the state of the union remains a reserved matter because “it is something that affects everyone in the UK, not just the Scottish people” [2]. The entire drive for Scottish independence can be characterised by the tyrannous rule of a small minority, this is highlighted by the fact that only about a third of Scots favour with breaking the union [3]. Already this minority has brought about an explicitly unfair situation. For example, a growing number of English MPs grumble about subsidising Scotland’s comparatively generous public services [3]. Meanwhile, the issue of the West Lothian Question remains a touchy subject, as Scottish MPs continue to be able to vote on issues that only affect the English people but English MPs are excluded from voting on matters affecting the Scottish people. In fact, research from the IPPR think-tank shows that 79% of English voters want Scottish MPs excluded from English-only laws [4]. This simple example shows that there are more begging issues than Scottish independence. Upholding democratic principles mean siding with the majority and, for now, that means going against the powerful, and particularly loud Scottish minority.

Third, and finally, we question the problem to which Scottish independence is the solution [1]. The reforms that the Scots propose are huge, game-changing projects that would require copious amount of time and money as well as a multitude of other resources, and in the name of what? No great change would occur; there would be no sudden improvement in the lives of citizens across the UK. As far as it obvious, this is reform for reform’s sake, which has emerged from political populism that Alex Salmond and the SNP have utilised to get into office. This time, the issue of Scottish independence seems to be a bridge too far as popular support wains. Maybe this is because certain difficulties have occurred to the general public that the SNP has completely overlooked. What would Scotland’s potential future as an independent state mean for its currency, the monarchy, the NHS, the army or the BBC? These are issues that have been largely forgotten by those pushing for independence and issues that Alex Salmond has no convincing answer to. With a little thought and consideration, maybe those fighting the case for Scottish independence would realise that it causes more problems than it solves.

Ultimately, the whole idea of Scottish independence is one that seems farfetched and ill thought out. Earlier, we illustrated Scotland as a disobedient child trying to break away from the clutches of its loving family. If this is the case, then let us hope that this remains and adolescent phase that will soon pass so normality can be restored.

Article by Joe Austin. Edited by Andrew Tromans.

Further Reading

[1] The Economist (2012) “Clarity, please”, The Economist [online], 14 January, retrieved 9 March, 2012, from: http://www.economist.com/node/21542770

[2] Grant, J. (2011) “Scottish independence is a UK issue”, The Guardian [online], 23 June, retrieved 9 March, 2012, from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/23/scottish-independence-uk-snp-referendum?INTCMP=SRCH

[3] The Economist (2012) “If at first you don’t succeed”, The Economist [online], 14 January, retrieved 9 March, 2012, from: http://www.economist.com/node/21542806

[4] Bagehot, W. (2012) “Now come the calls for the English to be given a say”, The Economist [online], 16 January, retrieved 9 March, 2012, from: http://www.economist.com/blogs/bagehot/2012/01/independence-debate-scotland-1

  • http://www.peterabell.net Peter A Bell

    If Joe Austin is genuinely seeking to understand the factors driving the growing demands for normalisation of Scotland’s constitutional status – which I very much doubt – he could do worse than look to his own arrogant, patronising, disrespectful and massively ill-informed little rant.

    • Eric Mac

      Peter, Well done. You echoed my thoughts exactly. This piece is so biased, ill informed and down right dishonest that it doesn’t actually deserve a rebuttal that might re-educate.
      The author needs to do some decent research before posting such patronising rhetoric. I am going to use this piece as another example of Unionist bile and another great reason for voting ‘Yes’
      I reckon I can convert another few dozen people just by spreading this article.

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  • Shirley gibb

    Has Joe Austin ever been to Scotland? Has he actually spoken to any Scottish people? As a supporter of Independence, I am happy to listen to sensible arguments from unionists, but this article is complete nonsense.

    Far from the present campaign being “an impulsive move”, people both within and outside the SNP have been working for decades towards Independence.

    Surely a “logical sequence of events” is precisely what we have – devolution, followed by a desire to become fully Independent.

    And as for the “the tyrannous rule of a small minority” – is he referring to the Scottish Government, voted into office last year by a landslide victory in a democratic election?

    And Scotland is not subsidised by England.

    I could go on, but don’t have time. Anyway, this sort of article is actually grist to the mill of the Independence movement, so much so that I wonder if Joe Austin is a closet supporter of Scottish Independence.

  • pete geddes

    Why is it that some English people believe in the self determination of all peoples except Scots.

  • Eric Mac

    And continuing from my previous comments, Andrew Tromans you should be ashamed of himself being party to such lies and bias. But I guess you are only following your party leader who has also traded in half truths and empty rhetoric recently. If you wish to debate the piece you have posted without regard to a growing number of independence supporters in Scotland, let me know. You have done your party no favours with this piece of drivel.
    But then again, you are about to crash and burn anyway… so why bother?!

    eric.mclean@gmail.com

  • A. Tromans

    Thank you for commenting on this piece Eric it is always great to get some debate going. I did not think it necessary to point this out but I will anyway: editors do not necessarily hold the same views as contributors. If you found any of the content distasteful,I can only apologize but it is Canvas policy to leave as much as the article intact as possible whilst editing.

    regards

    Andrew Tromans