Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Is the SNP deliberately creating confusion?

We are only a week into the referendum campaign and impatience is already beginning to show. It was always a certainty that the cybernats would get peoples' backs up and that the usual drivel about Scotland's "subsidies" from the English taxpayer would be done to death within the first few days. The level of ignorance among English voters is only on a par with the level of duplicity and arrogance of their political leaders and opinion formers. McKenzie, Paxman, Roberts et al should be given wall to wall coverage in Scotland because their superciliousness, to say nothing of their ignorance of Scottish affairs knows no bounds. The level of ignorance of some of the English electorate is really quite frightening.

When teaching, we used to have a wee laugh at the attempts of some of the first year pupils to fill in blank maps, when it became plain some of the wee souls did not know the difference between the land and the sea. They were 11 and 12 year old kids and even then, my Geography colleagues expected much more from them. But their mistakes were as nothing compared to the ignorance of the male contestant from "The Only Way is Essex", currently appearing on Celebrity Big Brother. Never having come into contact with too many Essex girls, I had to take the word of others that generally they were pretty thick. No matter how thick they are, can they really be any worse than Kirk, who was asked to fill in six countries on a blank map of the world? He also had to fill in  Essex on the map of the UK, the only part he got right. At least he will be able to find his way home. He put South Africa on the farthest east coast of Russia, Australia in Canada and hadn't a clue where America was. Some of his comments about the very little of current affais they discussed, were dire.

Bearing all of that in mind, at what level is the debate about the referendum on independence, going to be held? The Scottish electorate needs to be told not just the question about independence, but what independence means, what Devo/Max means. Instead, the debate between the politicians and the pundits has managed to go no further than who has the right to organise the referendum, with charge and counter charge taking us forward not a solitary inch or should that be centimetre? The Prime Minister has the legal right to organise the referendum and he is the only one who has, while the First Minister most definitely has the political mandate to do likewise, while the Prime Minister and his party have almost no political mandate at all in Scotland. Of course that last statement is not strictly true because even if they had no Scottish seats at Westminster and without proportional representation, they would have almost none in the Scotltish Parliament, they would still have a mandate in Scotland because we are part of the Union of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. The SNP has been very good at the rhetoric that paints the Tories as usurpers but legally and politically it doesn't take us very far. The Tories still form the government and Scotland is still the governed, whether we like it or not.

This confusion suits the SNP fine and Salmond will allow it to continue as long as it fulfils his purpose - which is to avoid explaining what independence means for as long as possible. At some point, Salmond is going to have to explain what independene means and what it will mean to use Sterling even in the short term, although the "short term" is likely to last for a long time. Salmond and those who now form the government with him, all supported the UK's (and Scotland's when the time came) membership of the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). When the ERM blew up, they supported the Euro and Scotland's membership of it. That enthusiasm has been tempered somewhat to the current position for membership "when the economic conditions are right", all of which simply signifies that they either have no idea what membership of the Euro would mean for an independent Scotland or they see some "advantage" in membership that has escaped the rest of us. Since they steadfastly refuse to explain their reasons, we just don't know. Some people have already expressed their dismay at the way the debate is being conducted and are already "sick of it". Imagine if the Scottish people were to deny themselves freedom simply because they were scunnered with the process of having to vote for it.

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