Can Also Be

Yesterday I, like many Scots, received two pamphlets. One from The Scottish Government. One from HM Government. What follows is a few thoughts from someone who has given both a wee read. I claim no objectivity or thoroughness. I’m giving you an impression of my impression.


Scottish – A4 portrait, front and back cover and ten inside pages.

Her Majesty’s – A5 landscape, one piece of A4 folded over

Ethnic backgrounds represented

Scottish – multiple

Her Majesty’s – 1

Reasons for voting Yes/No

Scottish – (YES) 13+

Her Majesty’s – (NO) 5+

Positive statements about Scotland (not UK) as it currently stands (ie not possibilities of independence)

Scottish – 18

Her Majesty’s – 1

Moments of humility

Scottish – 1

Her Majesty’s – 0

Admissions that they are speaking to the agenda of a specific government (i.e. party)

Scottish – 1

Her Majesty’s – 0

Reiteration of the fact that both governments have agreed to respect the result of the referendum either way and will work together in the best interests of the people of Scotland and the UK.

Scottish – 1

Her Majesty’s – 0

Reminders that this is a big decision

Scottish – 0

Her Majesty’s – 1

Statements that address low pay and income disparity

Scottish – 2

Her Majesty’s – 0

Some closing thoughts

For me the debate on all sides has been a little too focused on the economy and highly subjective and inaccurate estimates of how much more money we are individually going to get. I’d like to see more talk about character, imagination and community. Of HM’s 5 ways we’ll benefit by staying in the UK 4 relate to having more or better or shinier money. The fifth point, about having the ‘best of both worlds’, suggests that in Scotland we get to decide ‘important’ (thanks for the reminder Dad, I mean HM’s Government) ‘matters like health and education’ and that being in the UK means ‘we benefit by sharing resources and pooling risks’ and being backed by the ‘strength, stability and security of the UK.’ Would it have killed HM’s Government to think of a few positive terms for the devolved Scottish government? It merely states what it does – not how it does it or how that benefits Scotland. I guess because any reason that is positive about devolution leaves open the door that it could be positive for independence. ‘In Scotland we get to decide important matters like health and education which allows us greater flexibility and to be more engaged in our distinct local areas, or more accessible, or, or…’ Is it too much to grant anything positive about Scotland?

It seems ambivalent about Scottish devolution. Except it says that ‘more powers for Scotland are guaranteed’what are these new powers for Scotland that are guaranteed? Whatever the result of the referendum a large proportion of Scots are going to have been in favour of independence. This is no mandate for a scaling back of devolution and in fact is a call to extend it whatever the result. I affirm a guarantee but before I believe it I would like to see more detail of what exactly is supposedly guaranteed.

HM tells us that public spending in Scotland is around 10% higher than the UK average (it might be interesting to break down that UK average into regions and get a bit more of a picture). Scottish Government tells us ‘Scotland more than pays its way. Estimate show that in each and every one of the last 33 years, we have generated more tax per head than the UK as a whole.’ We can accept that in a less densely populated, differently structured country input and output is not going to squarely match up with the rest of the UK. We cost a bit more, we generate a bit more – essentially more goes on. Let’s move on while there’s still time to talk about what we’d do together with that money, what we’d prioritise, what values would be central.

I lament that so much of the debate has focused on individuals wanting to know if they’re ‘better off’ either way and that it is sidestepping some of the really exciting stuff – which is about thinking and wrestling with how to better do ‘society’. Do they think all we care about is our bank balance? Is a fairer, more open society not worth far more than a few shekels? The part that most strikes me in both these documents is this

‘The vote in September is about all of us having the confidence that our rich country can also be a better society.’

Can you guess which one that came from?


One comment

  1. […] also one of the reasons I appreciate my son’s current series of blog posts, in which he channels his own powerful and generous imagination towards a healthier and more humane […]

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