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