The decision on Scottish independence could have the most far-reaching effects of any vote taken in the last 300 years. It will not just have consequences for the Scottish people but will affect everyone in the United Kingdom and in Europe. And yet it is being treated as just another piece of politics, a game of yah boo and gotcha. The voters deserve better.
Alex Salmond has the opportunity to cast himself as a statesman and father of a nation. Instead he appears not to be able to resist acting the wily manipulative politician. I would be far more likely to vote for independence if I felt that Salmond was telling me it as it is and not just giving me another spin. He should take the moral high ground and tell us the whole story warts and all.
What are the pros and cons of the currency question? Do we stick with the £? In the long run might a European currency be it the Euro or its potential replacement be more in tune with our fiscal future? What are the pessimistic as well as the optimistic forecasts for our future economic viability? Give us the facts but also say what your policies would be. Treat us as adults and let us make up our own minds.
Should we keep the Queen as Head of State? The British Commonwealth was originally the residue of the British Empire, the ownership of many territories overseas. Its purpose was to keep together countries with large British populations such as Canada, Australia and others. And yet it has grown and a good few nations with no connection to the old Empire have joined in recent years. This cannot be merely to take tea with the Queen at Commonwealth meetings. They must see an advantage in it for them. Scotland needs to explore the implications carefully. We also need to be sure of our position in the EU. Will we need to apply to join or can we gain automatic membership? We can do without vague blandishments.
I sense that Scotland is already leaning towards a social democratic future so independence will accelerate that trend whereas a No vote will tie us to Westminster and parties of all persuasions who are more right wing and enamoured at present with private provision of public services such as in the NHS. This too is a very fundamental question with far reaching consequences.
The division of existing UK assets and debts should be discussed openly. What proportion of the current national deficit would Scotland inherit? Is our projected demographic structure and the likely ratio of productive workers to the dependent population a cause for concern or not? How will our foreign relationships function; do we need our own defence forces and diplomatic and border services? And not least, we have a unitary national parliament at present. Will politicians expect to form a second chamber to enhance their own status and career opportunities?
Immigration is a hot potato. In demographic terms we are more likely to welcome immigrants than England. Our transport links go through England; we are not able to sustain a ferry link with Europe and we need to use English airports as hubs. This makes us very dependent on English goodwill. Could we expect them to maintain the road system North of Newcastle? Would England expect us to maintain a border guard either around our coastline or at the Scottish English border to protect them from politically disastrous immigration? This could be a constant source of friction which might make transport links more difficult to agree about.
If Alex Salmond and now Nicola Sturgeon can answer all this truthfully and let us know where doubts and ambiguities exist they are far more likely to win the referendum.