These past couple of weeks have been an interesting time to be visiting Scotland as they prepare to vote in two days on their independence. Scottish Independence! Kind of a big deal, I know. Thankfully as tourists, Britnee and I can sit back, watch the news, listen to some debate and enjoy the spectacle of history being made.

I say thankfully because for some of the locals, including old friends of mine, constant discussion of the topic has become unbearable. A vote for independence seemed unheard of 21 years ago when I left the country and my remaining Scottish friends, while tired of talking about it, are not taking it lightly.

It’s just that most of them have already made up their minds for their own well-examined reasons, yet are still forced to defend themselves, in person and online, whenever the topic is brought up. It happens more frequently than they like and their stress reminded me of similar heated debates when Barack Obama ran for the presidency in 2008, or arguments of gun control that arise after every mass shooting back home in the U.S. Only a vote for your country’s independence on a Thursday seems a much bigger deal.

Scottish Independence, Scotland, Referendum, Aye, YES, No Thank You, Scotland Votes, Alex Salmond, Scottish National Party, SNP, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, UK, David CameronI haven’t been back in Scotland long enough to say for sure which is the right choice—a YES or a “NO Thank You”—but being the overly-cautious pessimist that I am, I’ve been leaning toward the latter. Of all the opinions I’ve heard, those siding with #BetterTogether—showing concern over the loss of businesses in Scotland, fretting the long and potentially expensive transition and doubting that an independent Scottish government would end up being anymore trustworthy than “Team Westminster”—I find more agreeable.

A close friend in Glasgow is voting NO after spending the past 15 years working for a company with business split between Scotland and England. A YES vote could produce a financial and logistical nightmare for her in an uncertain future. However, in talking with YES supporters from Glasgow to Kinlochbervie, I found they make good arguments of their own including better management of North Sea oil and fishing wealth and a desire to be excluded from the UK’s current unpopular foreign policy.

“Oh aye, I made up my mind long ago,” chuckled our tow truck driver, in a thick Glaswegian accent, as he drove us and our broken down rental car through Ullapool. He, like others we met in the northern Highlands, was a definite YES.

Not wanting to base my own opinion on the words of a few, I opted for a little light reading and picked up literature from campaign offices in Portree and Inverness; although it’s of the basic pamphlet/booklet form intended to sway an undecided vote in the final week before a decision worthy of far more in-depth study. The Wee Blue Book-The Facts the Papers Leave Out, produced by Wings Over Scotland, appears to be the required reading of the YES campaign.

*Disclaimer-They didn’t get off to a good start with me by insulting journalists everywhere by stating, “Newspapers have no duty to be fair or balanced…” Ouch!

Scottish Independence, Scotland, Referendum, Aye, YES, No Thank You, Scotland Votes, Alex Salmond, Scottish National Party, SNP, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, UK, David CameronThe booklet did make a number of good points, the first being that Scotland has voted Labour in every Westminster election since 1955 but have had Conservative governments for 38 of the last 68 years. As stated in an article by CNN that quoted Dauvit Broun, a professor of Scottish history at the University of Glasgow, there is a widening gulf between the policies pursued by the coalition UK government in Westminster and what the Scottish people want.

“Many Scots are strongly opposed to the current Westminster government’s attempts to reform — or in their eyes dismantle — the welfare state and say it was not elected by them. Illustrating that sentiment, there’s only one Conservative MP in Scotland at present, leading humorists to point out that even giant pandas are better represented.”

Scotland’s oil wealth in the North Sea was also well covered in the Wee Blue Book, saying it would be more beneficial if the country could manage it themselves. A listed Sunday Times article suggested an independent Scotland’s revenues in 2017-2019 would be almost £32 billion, double that forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility. But while they liked to boast about oil money being missed by Scotland, they didn’t really touch on many other questions surrounding the subjectThe rest of the argument on Scottish oil was basically finger pointing for past mismanagement and criticism of reports that the oil could be running out–which is still being debated.

One of the hardest hitting points for me was that the independence movement was strictly opposed to continuing military involvement in overseas conflicts. They stated the only reason Scotland is at risk for terrorism is because of the UK’s involvement in Iraq and poor foreign policy decisions.

“The biggest single step Scotland could take to improve its domestic security would be to extricate itself from the UK foreign policy, saving billions of pounds in the process as well as many lives.”

If only Utah could do the same.

Most other arguments in The Wee Blue Book seemed an attempt to defend against points made by the NO campaign including: effects on currency, (can they keep the pound? from what I’ve read possibly not); pensions, (they would still be received, but are they well protected?); culture, (supposedly Scotland can keep the BBC and keep getting their Dr. Who for cheaper); EU membership, (resource-rich Scotland would supposedly never be denied. supposedly); and required border barriers, (“The UK government claims that an independent Scotland would have to sign up to Schengen which would in turn require border posts… to comply with the Agreement’s rules and to protect the rUK against mass illegal immigration through Scotland).

Scottish Independence, Scotland, Referendum, Aye, YES, No Thank You, Scotland Votes, Alex Salmond, Scottish National Party, SNP, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, UK, David CameronIn all, according to the author(s) of this book, Scotland will obviously be “a wealthier, fairer, happier place.” BUT… one picks up the Better Together campaign’s pamphlet of “The Facts You Need,” and there are some bold numbers and hard facts presented immediately:

Scottish economy = 152 billion pounds; Royal Bank of Scotland bailout by UK taxpayers = 320 billion pounds. 

“The Governor of the Bank of England has said sharing the UK Pound without sharing a tax system won’t work.”

Interest rates could climb 1% to 2% and everyday shopping costs could rise 16% if compared to what neighboring Ireland has to pay for the same goods at Tesco.

Scottish exports to the rest of the UK totaled 47.5 billion pounds, while all other exports to the rest of the world was nearly half that. For now, the five million people of Scotland get to sell their goods to a home market of 60 million. 

UK pensions and benefits are guaranteed by those same 60 million and one of the biggest economies in the world. Independence could seriously risk disruption of payments to this who rely on them. 

Scotland already has a devolved parliament making decisions on education, NHS, police and transports. 

*There was, however, no mention of IRN BRU revenue in there. 

The booklet struck fear into my heart about the future of and independent Scotland and I don’t even live here. Like David Cameron stressed in his visit to Edinburgh last week and in Aberdeen just yesterday, words of warning leapt off the page, “The decision we make in the referendum will be irreversible. There will be no going back. That is why we have to be 100% sure of the facts before we vote.”

Better Together might just be playing up peoples fears of the unknown, but if someone really is relying on a pamphlet like this to sway their vote, then maybe they shouldn’t be at the polls to begin with. Hopefully those voting have been a part of the discussion far longer than I have because for every point one side made in their booklet, the other had already countered it.

Scottish Independence, Scotland, Referendum, Aye, YES, No Thank You, Scotland Votes, Alex Salmond, Scottish National Party, SNP, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, UK, David CameronIn a few days time I might feel sorry for the opposing side if the YES campaign wins. They will have to prepare for what seems like a rather uncertain future with so many questions still floating around unanswered. For now I’ll feel sorry for those stuck in between as politicians fuel fires and deepen divides between friends and neighbors. In closing I’ll just leave them with a little Peter Baker wisdom before anyone else decides to unfriend my friend who is a friend on Facebook over this-

“…It never fails to astonish me how emotional people get about politics, the ugly hyperbole it inspires and the hate-filled exchanges that take place between people who just happen to disagree about certain things. If the machine is going to work, ideas need to be tried out that some people will disagree with… It’s not supposed to be a smooth process. It’s supposed to involve argument, disagreement, mistakes and self-correction.

“But twenty-first-century political debate doesn’t have to include the demonization of the people who don’t agree with you… We are all part of, and rely upon, a collective decision-making mechanism which nobody is in a position to maintain on their own. Nourishing that mechanism’s vibrancy is an unending process. Humanity will always need to be introspective about what it’s doing and why.”

The Jolly Pilgrim, pg 294.

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