Ray McRobbie has his own blog, but dropped us a line to ask whether we’d be interested in hearing from someone who used to be anti-independence but now resides in the “undecided” camp. We said we’d be delighted. Take it away, Ray.
I’ve written a wee bit on the issue of Scottish independence in the past, without explicitly outlining my own view. A couple of years ago I was quick to criticise the Scottish National Party, and I’m not exactly a fan of Alex Salmond. Since then I’ve seen a lot, heard a lot and read a lot. I’ve studied the issue in some depth for my dissertation at university, and I figure I’ll be reading and writing a bit more in the lead up to the 2014 referendum. So I decided at some point I should actually outline where I stand. At least for the moment.
As it happens, I’m not really a decisive person. I usually like to have all the facts on something before I make a choice. A yes/no question is not often easy for me as I might pick the “wrong” option. This is a strategy I cannot depend on when it comes to Scottish independence. The referendum will most likely boil down to a yes or a no, but in reality it’s much more than that.
Another thing I’m not is a fierce patriot. Growing up, I enjoyed a Scottish win in football or rugby or snooker or squash. I’d put on a Scotland top and support the team or the sportsman, but I wouldn’t get depressed for a week afterwards if they failed, unlike many others. I don’t know when it happened but now I’m not fussed what the result is – I just want to see a good game. It’s a shame Scotland haven’t qualified for a major football tournament since 1998 but if they’d truly deserved it they’d have been there.
A patriot is devoted to a place or a way or life, so says George Orwell anyway, and that’s something I wouldn’t call myself. I like Scotland, I enjoy living here, all my friends are here and I haven’t explored nearly enough of it, but I’m not devoted to it. If my family decided to up and leave for whatever reason, we wouldn’t think twice about it if it meant having a happier life or a great experience.
Scottish radio, television and news coverage has not really been my cup of tea. I enjoy listening to English-based radio, enjoy following the English Premier League, I like to follow politics in many other countries, even if I’m not completely sure what the hell they’re going on about. I prefer to watch TV shows, news and sports from other countries around the world. Scotland is where I live but it’s not where I get most of my entertainment from, such is the greatness of the globalisation of Earth.
On the other hand, am I a nationalist? Do I want Scotland to gain more power in the world, to be able to stand on its own, to be able to build its own prestige and reputation and look after its own responsibilities? Probably. I’m pretty sure that Scotland already does have a reputation and decent enough standing in the world, but I’m not 100% sure if we can look after our own responsibilities. But that’s not the point. How can you prove that until you give it a try?
One of the more disappointing aspects of the whole independence debate for me has been the politics of it. Scottish independence is huge. It’s long-term, it’s fundamental, it’s massive. Yet what we get in debate between top party leaders, and anyone else in a political party, is short-term gibberish – politicians toeing the party line, saying or doing things simply to boost their own party and their short-term aims.
One only has to watch First Minister’s Questions from this week, when Alex Salmond was subjected to every other major party leader using their question time not to ask about local issues, or not to ask about the long-term future of the country, not even to ask about the elections happening the very next day. Nope, the First Minister had to respond to Johann Lamont, Willie Rennie and Ruth Davidson going on and on nonsensically about the SNP’s links to Rupert Murdoch and News International.
Now as I said earlier, I’m no Alex Salmond fan. He has questions to answer, and he says he will (in his own time of course). I’m not quite sure why he hadn’t already revealed if his phone had been hacked or not – plenty of other people did so before being brought in front of an inquiry. Salmond often looks very smug and arrogant during these spats and John Swinney was laughing his head off and slapping his thighs and generally just looking like a moron. The First Minister, for once, looked a little uncomfortable with some of the statements he made and refused to answer most questions, not that that’s a new thing during these events.
Still, I can forgive these theatrics because what riles me more are a group of party leaders, in parliament, with the job of asking questions the public want asked and holding the government to account in a way that is relevant and important to the voters. Instead what we get are the opposition party leaders avoiding all discussion of things the public want to know, and avoiding all discussion of the elections because they all got decimated last year. They all aimed at Salmond with the same rambling questions that had already been addressed, questions they already knew were never going to be answered any differently than before, questions used in an attempt to portray the SNP as a party with something to hide. Short-term tactics to protect their parties, and an absolute disgrace.
There is, and was always going to be, a strand of negativity to these debates. It’s the SNP versus everyone else in what appears to be an incoherent mess. Outside Scotland, it’s Alex Salmond versus everyone else because not many outside Scotland know anything about any other SNP member. Which is fair enough – I couldn’t name many politicians in the Welsh or Northern Irish assemblies.
Having studied some newspapers and their reporting of the issue for uni work, it initially seemed to me that the more Salmond is mentioned and quoted in the media, the more people will get sick of him. However, the context of the articles involving the First Minister could possibly have a different effect, and I feel this is what has happened with me – the more he is attacked and the more the opposition avoid the substance of the issues, the more people will back him.
The opposition parties can attack Alex Salmond fairly if they wish – there has been plenty his administration have gotten wrong in the past or achievements they failed to reach – but if they’re going to go down the negative route of bleating on about links to the media and/or other supposed scandals when all we care about actually are real issues, then they must remember that they will be painting themselves as absolute hypocrites at the same time.
Looking at the “British” media, the pro-independence view is less mainstream but there are plenty of decent websites and blogs out there which strive to provide the other side of the story. Some are a bit more partisan than others and can forget that political leaders and government heads being attacked is somewhat of a natural thing. These sites also stress the bias of the mainstream media but quite often look down on a differing opinion on their pages, opinions which will be ridiculed unfairly with vile language or just simply deleted. Childish nonsense occurs on both sides.
But these sites are important. Mainstream articles on independence are nearly always vague because there’s simply too many issues to discuss and they have no time or space for it but feel the need to publish something. People don’t go to national British newspapers or their online counterparts for Scottish news. So they concentrate on the “big” things – the use of the Euro in Scotland, the monarchy, military, the future of oil and other assets – but cannot provide much solution or anything actually new because nobody knows what the outcome to any of those issues will be.
Having spent the last four years studying journalism (and by studying I mean sitting in pubs all day with a newspaper… Ha! I’m kidding, we don’t read newspapers), perhaps I’m indecisive because I like to have both sides of the story and I sometimes like to be impartial.
However, one thing is clear in all this. If Scottish independence is to occur in our lifetime, from purely a journalistic perspective, it’s the best thing that can happen. This would be the biggest event in this country for over 300 years. For the media, it’s a treasure chest of upheaval, violent debate, bad news, complaints, fierce patriotism and harking back to historical events. It’s cool to be alive when stuff happens.
From a regular perspective, it’s possibly a nightmare. Upheaval, violent debate, career and/or financial uncertainty, bad news, xenophobia, unpleasantness. Yes, it can also lead to a great feeling of freedom and positive nationalism and taking a country by the scruff of the neck and making it your own. But this will follow years (possibly longer) of haggling, negotiating, arguing and huffing and puffing over every single molecule owned by the United Kingdom.
It could get exhausting. Some people may really want independence, but will a majority of people want it that much that the best years of their lives are interrupted by the constitutional earthquake that is separating from, and breaking up, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
I was initially against Scottish independence but for no real reason. I had what I call a David Cameron view on it: Gosh, it’s all just a bit of a hassle, isn’t it? I just didn’t think it would make much difference. I do agree that it would be better for Scotland to gain more powers because everything is increasingly London-centred and that is not healthy. Businesses and industries need to be created or rejuvenated in Scotland and nations should be able to have the chance to take responsibility for themselves if they wish.
But will it lead to everlasting happiness? Will anything major really change? At the moment I’d have to say no. An independent Scotland, at its most basic, will go from London-centred to Central Belt-centred. An independent Scotland will still have good economic years and bad. Scotland will still have corrupt politicians looking out for themselves and the short-term. Scotland will still have a lack of sun. Scotland will still have council budget problems, strikes, protests, taxes, unemployment, road deaths, crime, football hooliganism, alcoholism, smear campaigns, and so much more.
On the other hand, Scotland will still have fascinating scenery, plenty of whisky, interesting castles and other monuments, beautiful lochs, pretty wee villages, shops, bars, workplaces, churches, banks, and other things that make you smile or give you money or take up your recreational time.
The fact is, if all the negotiation over assets happens after we all vote, how in the world are indecisive buggers like me meant to take a strict position on this? How do we know that politicians who aim to do one thing and promise to achieve this or that in the event of a ‘yes’ vote actually follow through with those promises afterwards, or are stopped from doing so?
Because as I see it right now, I don’t think there will be too much difference for the normal Scottish citizen. Whatever the outcome, we’ll go to work, have a beer afterwards, maybe be a little poorer at one point, then perhaps a little richer at another point, then we’ll get old and moan about pensions and the price of milk and so forth, then we’ll die, and nothing will really matter, because we’ll be dead.
And perhaps most importantly, whatever the outcome, after we’re gone our kids and grandkids will call Scotland Scotland, just like the majority of us now call Scotland Scotland, and if they want to be proud of the country they were born in just like some of us are today, I’m sure they will be.
So yes, if you’re asking, you can put me down as a “Don’t Know”.