|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Within the left Yes camp there are plenty of choices and voices: the broadly progressive, the Scandinavian-style social democratic, the artistic and creative, and the radical. There are others linked to on my sidebar, and at these sites yet more links. Uniting the political and cultural nationalist left is Bella Caledonia, a site difficult for me to evaluate because I can't read much of it without feeling sick.
There's a conservative case for the union of Scotland and England, ably articulated by (e.g.) Adam Tomkins and more plangently by Simon Schama. For those of us to the left of these scholars there's a lot to disagree with or question in their arguments, and much to consider -- depending on how much importance you attach to the mere material condition of the working class, which on any reckoning will take a big hit from a split. The official Better Together campaign argues along likewise conservative lines. It gets a lot of flack from the Yes side for being negative, a good indicator that being negative works.
There are also radical, left-wing arguments for a No vote. The pro-independence left has high hopes, stirring rhetoric and uplifting visions. Its radical wing is a raft lashed together from the wreckage of three (at the last count) far-left sects. The anti-independence left has page after page of dry facts and figures about ownership, finance, manufacturing, EU laws, employment patterns, energy production, and political and social attitudes. Its radical wing comes from the mainstream left of the labour movement.
The Red Paper group of academics, activists and trade unionists has gone into the details of Scotland's political and economic situation, and published a substantial body of evidence and argument that an independent Scotland would have even less 'control over its own affairs' than it has now, for the obvious reason that the big economic and political decisions would continue to be made outside it. The argument is concisely put by Tom Morrison in today's Morning Star. More of the broad (and some of the narrow) left case along these lines can be found at Socialism First.
The sociologist and media analyst Greg Philo has investigated social consciousness and attitudes north and south of the Border, and found little to cheer about. The prospect of a decade (at least) of bickering and blaming between a newly independent Scotland and an embittered and inward-looking rUK, with national differences deepening by the day, is a grim one for left or even liberal politics.
Ben Jackson, editor of the social-democratic journal Renewal, has published a fascinating analysis of The Political Thought of Scottish Nationalism (PDF), and a cutting and critical account of Alec Salmond's political journey, one that should give pause to those who've turned to the SNP in disappointment with Labour.
All this may be irrelevant to the outcome. Labour lawyer Ian Smart argues (from hard-won experience as an election foot-slogger) that debates, speeches and public meetings serve to enthuse your own side, not to convince the other. All the No campaign has to do, he says, is keep hammering away at the inadequacies of the SNP/Yes campaign, and get out the vote.
As he also likes to remind us, there is no room for complacency. I agree, but like him I still think the outcome will be No. If I'm wrong I'll accept that I'm living in the early days of a worse nation, and continue to work as if I lived in the early days of a better one.